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Articles by David Kaufman

David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (88 Articles)
David Kaufman has been covering the theater in New York since 1981. A former theater critic for the New York Daily News, he was also a long-time contributor to the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and the New York Times. He is also the author of the award-winning Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, the best-selling Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, and his most recent biography, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

November 17, 2018

The Classic Stage Company's current revival of Bertolt Brecht’s "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" is not the first to draw comparisons between the sitting president and Hitler. In 2002, or the year after 9/11, National Theatre of Actors presented an all-star production in downtown Manhattan – featuring Al Pacino, no less - comparing Ui to Hitler and President George W. Bush. [more]

The Waverly Gallery

November 7, 2018

Even with the indelible impression of Eileen Heckart’s magnificent, original Gladys intact, Elaine May overcomes any comparisons as the current Gladys. There is nothing inventive or even artful about her performance: May simply is Gladys and Gladys is May, tracing her deterioration into senility with a remarkable realism. [more]

Sakina’s Restaurant

October 31, 2018

In an apparent effort to demonstrate that he’s become one of us, Mandvi arrives in the theater by walking down the central aisle at the Minetta Lane Theatre, wide-eyed, as he peers and takes in the audience, on his way to the stage. And indeed, Azgi’s had at least 20 years to become increasingly assimilated: "Sakina’s Restaurant" was originally presented at the American Place Theatre in 1998. [more]

Goodbody

October 26, 2018

From its dramatic opening, there’s nowhere for "Goodbody" to go but down, even if Ernst keeps raising the stakes with complicated backstories and developments that leave one breathlessly confused. The production, however, is a good one, with rapid-fire direction by Melissa Firlit, the aforementioned set and lighting by McCarren, the apt and pertinent costumes by Dan Morrison, fight choreography by Cliff Williams III, and a strong ensemble performance, all in the tiny Theater C space at 59 East 59th Street Theaters. [more]

Apologia

October 23, 2018

Channing is by turns aggressive, assertive, jittery, neurotic, imperious, and even petulant in the first act, only to become bewildered and subdued in the second. To rewrite Dorothy Parker’s notorious put-down of Katherine Hepburn, Channing runs the gamut of emotions from A to Z in "Apologia," even as she takes us along for the ride. [more]

Hitler’s Tasters

October 17, 2018

Though its title couldn’t be clearer or more transparent, "Hitler’s Tasters" proves anything but that, as it merges the past, when Hitler was still alive, with the present, when fresh autocrats are popping up all over the world, including in our neck of the woods. [more]

The Nap

October 7, 2018

It isn’t revealing too much to say that the play culminates with a real Snooker match between two men vying ultimately for the world championship and ostensibly being watched by 23 millions viewers all over the world. And since they’re playing in real time, Bean had to come up with alternate dialogue, depending on which of them wins. Those two men are the local Sheffield champ, Dylan (Ben Schnetzer), and his competitor Abdul, who is played by world-class Snooker champion Ahmed Aly Elsayed. (Elsayed actually won the Egyptian Snooker Championship for three consecutive years before moving to the USA and winning US National Snooker Championships for another three consecutive years.) [more]

The Other Day

September 21, 2018

A play that tends to say or do too much can often end up saying too little. Such is the case with "The Other Day," a play in which one development after another keeps cancelling each other out. In the opening scene, which also marks the beginning of their relationship, Mark and Santo don’t exactly meet cute, but they do get right to their problems relating to life--and to each other. They are, after all, at a “Narcotics Anonymous Meeting, divulging their addictions and their problems. [more]

Separate and Equal

September 15, 2018

Though the large ensemble of 11 actors is uniformly first rate--whether going through their balletic paces or tossing the invisible basketball and grasping it by clapping their hands, Pamela Afesi gives a particularly strong performance as Calvin’s mother, Viola, as does Barbra Wengerd as Edgar’s mother, Annabelle. Indeed, the crux of the play comes during an overlapping exchange with these two mothers--whose husbands abandoned their families--and their sons. [more]

Heist!

August 23, 2018

What’s missing from the nondescript music is originality, soul or spirit, and the same can be said about the book. Under the guidance of director James Will McBride, the cast, however, features some strong performances. In addition to Bober, Irion, and Sabulis, these include especially the red-haired Claire Leyden as Cynthia--with a strong, soprano, operatic voice-- and alto Blair Medina as Patricia, who plays the “Femme Fatale” in Three Card Monte. [more]

Less Than 50%

August 17, 2018

Though there are recurring references to Woody Allen and more specifically to "Annie Hall" during the 90-minute piece, "Less Than 50%" bears as much resemblance to that Oscar-winning film as Gianmarco does to a matinee idol. (According to Gianmarco, his play is not a “rip-off” of "Annie Hall," as Laura says it is, but an “homage.”) It’s telling that instead of the hysterical scene with lobsters in the kitchen in "Annie Hall," we have to contend with a mouse and a mousetrap in "Less than 50%." [more]

Straight White Men

August 10, 2018

Given how physically playful the brothers are with each other--and with their father--"Straight White Men" is that rare play that even has a credited choreographer, Faye Driscoll. In addition to making good on the promise he made in last year’s "Call Me By Your Name," that he was an actor to be watched--and not only because he’s so attractive--Armie Hammer proves especially deft with Driscoll’s many maneuvers, like leaping on or off the sofa or the coffee table. [more]

Fire in Dreamland

July 27, 2018

Built in 1904, Dreamland was considered the most elegant and ambitious of Coney Island’s amusement parks--until it burnt to a crisp in 1911. A new play by Rinne Groff, "Fire in Dreamland" is ostensibly about the disaster, in which no humans but most of the animals perished. But to add that it’s set a little more than a century later--in 2013, or some months after Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast--should begin to suggest that there’s more going on here than, unfortunately, ever meets the eye. [more]

The Saintliness of Margery Kempe

July 19, 2018

The cast list in the program reads more like a medieval phone-directory--even if there were no phones in the Middle Ages--than it does a dramatis personae. And then there’s what happens to the characters during the course of the play which is as hard to say as it is to remember all of their names, let alone pronounce them. [more]

Mary Page Marlowe

July 17, 2018

After establishing himself as one of our finest playwrights with such works as "Killer Joe" and "August: Osage County," Tracy Letts seems to have somewhat lost his way with his more recent "Mary Page Marlowe." Now playing at the Second Stage Theater in New York, "Mary Page Marlowe" premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater two years ago. With six different actresses representing the title character at many different times in her life, it essentially relates a single, long life span, in only 90 long minutes. [more]

Stratford Theatre Festival: Summer 2018

July 8, 2018

"Husband" is also receiving a sublime production this summer at the Stratford Theatre Festival in Ontario, Canada, featuring a bubbly Brad Hodder as the “good-for-nothing” Lord Goring, who “leads such an idle life” and often serves as Wilde’s spokesman. There is also a haughty Bahareh Yaraghi as the shrewd Mrs. Laura Cheveley (who knows “such pleasant scandals about all her friends,” while creating some of her own), a no-nonsense Joseph Ziegler as the Earl of Caversham, Tim Campbell as Sir Robert Chiltern and Sophia Walker as his wife, Lady Gertrude. Though she has the lesser role of Lady Markby, Marion Adler also shines whenever she’s on stage. [more]

Dan Cody’s Yacht

June 18, 2018

Both Kevin and Cara are single parents, which is only the beginning of the many parallels and contrasts at the heart of "Dan Cody’s Yacht." Though it might come to seem overly formulaic, both the play and the production are good enough to rise above such a criticism. If Cara lives in the middle-income, fictional town of Patchett, and Kevin in the upscale, fictional town of Stillwell--“both towns in the far outer ring of suburbs around Boston,” as we’re told in a program note--she also teaches in Stillwell. [more]

The Fourth Wall

June 15, 2018

Though A.R. Gurney chose a familiar definition of the theater as the title for his 1992 play, "The Fourth Wall" ultimately proves less about the theater than about its four characters. And although these four characters are straightforward enough as written by Gurney, director Christopher Burris does not help his cast to locate them in any way, shape or form, in the current Theater Breaking Through Barriers production. [more]

Stage Life

June 1, 2018

The Cast of “Stage Life” (Photo credit: Courtesy of Creative Arts Lab) David Kaufman, Critic As [more]

Tremor

May 25, 2018

While director David Mercatali has them continually circling each other like boxers in a ring--sparring emotionally, if not physically--Sophie and Tom never really connect or even touch each other, except late in the play when they hold each other’s hand for but a moment. Though they remain somewhat aloof and distant from each other no less than from us, they are given vivid life by the actors who portray them: Lisa Diveney as Sophie and Paul Rattray as Tom. [more]

Operation Crucible

May 18, 2018

While it’s meant to be helpful, a glossary of local jargon ("Operation Crucible" is set in Sheffield, England) in the program is usually a surefire sign that you’re going to have difficulty following the play. Adding to the confusion is that the often dimly lit play leaves us in the dark, in both senses of the phrase. Given the circumstances of the plot, it’s understandable that both director Bryony Shanahan and lighting designer Seth Rook Williams wanted to have many of the rapid-fire scenes unfold in utter pitch black. But it doesn’t abet in our comprehending what’s happening to Bob, Tommy, Phil, and Arthur (the last character is misrepresented as Andrew, in the program) most of the time. [more]

My Fair Lady (Lincoln Center Theater)

May 14, 2018

With an enormous painted backdrop depicting London and featuring St. Paul’s Cathedral and a lamppost (the glorious sets have been designed by Michael Yeargan), the musical begins as Covent Garden pivots into view on a revolving stage. Though, from the moment that we see him in the opening scene, Hadden-Paton seems too young as Higgins in comparison to Rex Harrison, who originated the part, he is actually closer in age to Shaw’s intentions. He also sings more melodically than Harrison, who famously song-spoke his way through the role. Though Ambrose’s voice seems weak at first (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”), it gains in strength and stature as she proceeds. [more]

Summer and Smoke

May 10, 2018

When Tennessee Williams started writing "Summer and Smoke," his working title for the play was "Chart of Anatomy," taken from a poem by Hart Crane. An anatomical chart becomes one of the very few props in the current Classic Stage Company and Transport Group revival of the 1948 play. Under the circumstances, the many players (a dozen in all) are often reduced to charades, as they describe a new gaudy hat, or a jigsaw puzzle, or gloves. For that matter there’s not really a set at all, only a large white platform in the center of the playing area, echoed by a large white rectangle hanging above--a kind of ceiling for the platform--and shortly after the prologue, six chairs, two of which will, at times, serve as a bench or a sofa. [more]

Saint Joan

May 8, 2018

After "Ruined" and then last year’s "A Doll’s House, Part 2," Condola Rashad is fast establishing herself as one of our finest young actresses. She is presently back on Broadway, offering a steely and, shall we say, saintly performance as the title character in George Bernard Shaw’s "Saint Joan" at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. [more]

The Metromaniacs

April 26, 2018

To add that "The Metromaniacs" also contains a play within the play, in which all of the characters are apparently playing themselves, might begin to suggest how confusing it all becomes, especially since they all enter and exit with a rapidity as if there were indeed a fire in the house--meaning Francalou’s no less than The Duke Theater on 42nd Street. [more]

Carousel

April 22, 2018

If it seemed like no staging could ever top London’s National Theatre production (which was directed by Nicholas Hytner and came to Lincoln Center in the mid 1990’s), this newer version epitomizes the notorious relationship between anticipation and realization. Though the advance word during the extensive preview period was rather negative, Jack O’Brien’s "Carousel" proves up there with the best. [more]

The Lucky Ones

April 13, 2018

After the first song, “We are in the house where I grew up,” says Abigail, with the bacon and eggs and toast and tea in the morning, on the first day of a new school year. Adding to the confusion are Abigail’s many family members, including her sisters--one of whom is named Emily (Ashley Pérez Flanagan), not to be confused with her new friend Emma (Adina Verson)--her parents, her aunt (the stalwart Maryann Plunkett) and her cousins. Another part of the problem is that there are simply too many people to be contained on the small stage of the Connelly Theater, which may be why the majority of them begin the show in the balcony in the rear of the auditorium. (The Lucky Ones has been directed with an overcrowded zeal by Anne Kauffman.) [more]

Three Tall Women

April 3, 2018

If you pay any attention to the Rialto, then you knew that Jackson was going to be in the play--the play that salvaged Albee’s reputation in 1993 and won him his third Pulitzer Prize--since it was announced last year. And I’m pleased to report, if you were anticipating Jackson doing "Three Tall Women" with high expectations, you will not be disappointed. She surpasses whatever you were expecting with a kind of fierce and cold glory, appropriate to the 92-year-old A. From B’s servitude as A’s nurse, in the first part, to her becoming the somewhat haughty, 52-year-old A, in Part 2, Laurie Metcalf negotiates the character’s huge emotional shift with ease and naturalness. [more]

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

March 22, 2018

Any further comparisons with the Broadway musical "Come From Away" end with the Nova Scotia setting as Chaim and Chaya quickly settle in Montreal where the 19-year-old Chaim marries the 24-year-old Chaya, who lost her husband on the trek from Romania to Russia to escape the pogroms. (Her husband died of typhus, which becomes a recurring theme in the story that unfolds.) To be sure, their tales are “dark” ones, as put together in the play by an apparent descendent Hannah Moscovitch of the real Chaim and Chaya. [more]

Later Life

March 18, 2018

In an “Author’s Note” to his play "Later Life," A.R. Gurney explains that it was inspired by "The Beast in the Jungle," a famous novella by Henry James, about a man who leads a “guarded” life. The sweet but slight resulting play is now in revival by the Keen Company, in a production that does nothing to elevate the play above its overly modest ambitions. [more]

Kings

March 8, 2018

Despite some terrific acting, it’s hard to root for any of the four characters in Kings, even if the play is one long competition between all of them. This smart new work by Sarah Burgess ("Dry Powder") fails to introduce little that’s new about the present state of politicians and lobbyists--and their overly intimate relationships. But it’s also been put together with an admirable efficiency that spells it out clearly for those members of the audience who haven’t been paying enough attention to the daily headlines and all they entail. [more]

Black Light

March 2, 2018

Thus begins the unique show, "Black Light," which is a concert cum confessional. In her sequenced gowns--and there are five costume changes during the 90-minute performance--and with her red lipstick and frizzy, frazzled, dark hair, Jones sometimes provides a strong, alto voice for her intermittent songs, ranging from ballads (“Crossroads”) to hard rock (“Life is motion”). [more]
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