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Articles by David Kaufman

David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (26 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 Artificial Jungle

June 11, 2017

Ludlam also starred in "Artificial Jungle," his last of 29 plays, which he also directed. It took its inspiration from Emile Zola’s "Therese Raquin," which had already inspired James M. Cain to write "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Double Indemnity," each of which became a hit film. Ludlam also set out, with Jungle, to write a crowd-pleaser, and he succeeded with critics and theatergoers alike. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “From Camelot to California: The Worlds of Lerner and Loewe”

June 7, 2017

The show’s writer and host, Rob Berman, introduced many of the songs and, essentially, gave us the story of Lerner and Loewe’s difficult, on-again, off-again partnership. Referring to them, at one point, as an “odd couple,” Berman explained that the composer Frederick (or “Fritz”) Loewe was an “old world” European, and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner a “New York sophisticate,” who was educated in England. Berman also claimed that the common denominator for all of their musicals was a kind of “idealism,” making the pair “dreamers.” [more]

Can You Forgive Her?

June 3, 2017

While most of the audience remained stony-faced, my companion and I were laughing hysterically throughout much of "Can You Forgive Her?", a black comedy if ever there was one, by Gina Gionfriddo at the Vineyard Theatre. It may be that many in the audience failed to recognize it was a comedy, and took it far too seriously, which is somewhat understandable, given the seemingly earnest yet cockamamie story--or rather stories--that unfold. [more]

Rotterdam

May 27, 2017

An import from the United Kingdom, as part of the 2017 Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters, Jon Brittain’s "Rotterdam" is not based on a true story relating to events in the eponymous Dutch city. It rather focuses on a British lesbian couple, one of whom decides at the beginning of the play that she’s really a man and really wants to become transgender. The crux of the drama is between Alice and her lover Fiona, who, in the course of the play, becomes Adrian. But why the two of them moved to Rotterdam seven years ago, is never really answered in the play--rather posed as a recurring question--along with the question of whether or not they’re going to remain there. [more]

Derren Brown: Secret

May 24, 2017

It quickly becomes apparent that Brown is a master at reading body language--no less than facial and vocal expressions--to manipulate the many audience-members who participate and to read their inner thoughts. Brown’s patter is also built on an almost glib sort of false modesty, such as his saying, near the end, “This only works because we are story-focusing creatures.” Any given interaction doesn’t “work” because we’re focusing on the “story,” but because he knows just exactly how to get us all to see only what he wants us to. [more]

Spamilton

May 18, 2017

Chris Anthony Giles, Nicholas Edwards, Dan Rosales, Juwan Crawley and Nora Schell (original cast) [more]

The View UpStairs

May 15, 2017

On the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in 1973, an arsonist set fire to a gay bar in New Orleans, killing 32 people. This tragic yet forgotten episode in gay history is not only part of a Harvey Fierstein monologue in "Gently Down the Stream"—currently playing at the Public Theater--but also the subject of "The View UpStairs," a new Off Broadway musical that has a lot of spark, but ultimately not enough fire. [more]

Fossils

May 9, 2017

Though the printed script, such as it is, is credited to Nel Crouch, Crouch is listed in the program as only the director, and "Fossils" is rather “By” Bucket Club, described as an “associate company.” Such confusion is perpetrated throughout the production: it’s hard to say if, in the end of this extremely low-tech presentation, Vanessa has actually encountered the Monster--and/or her father--or not. "Fossils" is apparently more about what doesn’t happen than what does. [more]

Oslo

May 4, 2017

The clarity of this new play by J.T. Rogers does not only rely on the smart yet surefire way it’s written, but also on the masterful staging by Bartlett Sher, who, after recent productions of both "South Pacific" and "The King and I," is no stranger to directing gargantuan shows at Lincoln Center. Given its subject--the Oslo Accord or peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) in 1993--Oslo is ultimately, an enormous play. But it is told in intimate terms. [more]

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

May 1, 2017

But the Broadway version of Charlie doesn’t really come alive until we’re introduced to Augustus Gloop (F. Michael Hayne), the fat little German boy who finds the first of the five gold tickets, and whose mother (Kathy Fitzgerald) sings along with him--as wurst links burst forth from his pockets, and the almost always, lively choreography by Joshua Bergasse, suddenly features clogging steps, with dirndls and lederhosen. [more]

The Antipodes

April 28, 2017

Every new play by Annie Baker is a marvel over the play before. It’s been nothing less than a privilege to accompany her on her journey, as she has been joining ranks with the best American playwrights. Part of what makes Baker the “best,” is that she has her own voice. Whether with "Circle-Mirror Transformation," the marvelous "The Flick," or her latest and current, "The Antipodes," Baker seems to devote a certain amount of attention to group dynamics, which is, after all, the basis of any drama. And how can I have left out reference to John, Baker’s play from last year, which was her first as part of her enrollment with the Signature Theater, and arguably the best of all? [more]

Rebel in the Soul

April 23, 2017

If this all sounds a bit over-intellectual, well, so is the play. Though the intelligent script may be based on real people, they are forever describing themselves--and each other--in ways that real people never do. Think about practically any play by George Bernard Shaw, and you begin to get the picture. (Archbishop McQuaid even says, “I do find political theory most compelling.”) And although Moore, as director, has done much to compensate for the tiny stage space on which the expansive story unfolds--particularly with helpful projections by Chris Kateff and a cramped but effective set by John McDermott--she isn’t abetted very much by her actors. [more]

Daniel’s Husband

April 20, 2017

Matthew Montelongo is particularly effective in conveying Mitchell’s anti-marriage convictions, only to make us feel Mitchell’s subsequent anguish. Anna Holbrook is also outstanding as the self-centered Lydia, smartly dressed in Jennifer Caprio’s always dead-on costumes. But it would be an oversight not to also applaud Ryan Spahn as Daniel, Lou Liberatore as Barry, and Leland Wheeler as Trip. If Montelongo and Holbrook somehow emerge as acting victors, it may be because they have, in some respects, the two richest roles. (Mitchell and Lydia duke out their ultimate conflict offstage, in a court of a law.) In an odd way, "Daniel’s Husband" is ultimately the age-old story about THE mother-in-law, which may have given rise to many a comedian’s jokes, but, can often have lethal consequences for any married couple--whether they’ve literally tied the knot or not. [more]

Angel & Echoes

April 18, 2017

Presented together on the same bill, "Angel & Echoes" is part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters (where, it’s worth noting, "Echoes" originally played last year). As written by Naylor, enacted with ferocity and vitality by Avital Lvova, and directed with dispatch by Michael Cabot, "Angel" proves the far more effective (second) half of the evening. That may be because it’s told with an in-your-face immediacy and gumption that elude Echoes, which juxtaposes the lives of two different women, who lived in that region of the world at very different times. [more]

Latin History for Morons

April 16, 2017

While setting out to “undo” our “whole, entire education” of Latin history--and to compensate for the textbook neglect of the impact of the Aztecs and the Incas on our culture and civilization--Leguizamo focuses on his son’s coming to terms with being the son of a Latino celebrity--namely, himself. Given that his wife is Jewish, and therefore, “very intolerant of intolerance,” Leguizamo never imagined that his “son was going to have to go through the same rite of passage that I did,” he says, at the beginning of this, his latest one-man show, which is filling the seats at The Public Theater. [more]

A Gambler’s Guide to Dying

April 14, 2017

“To some he was dad, to some he was mate,” says McNair, at the top of his monologue, “to others he was liar, cheat, addict, hero, story teller.” Over the course of the next 70 minutes, McNair will also do, with modest effects and a modicum of success, other voices including his much younger self, a schoolteacher, mates of Archie’s, and even his own mother. Through it all, the one thing we never lose sight or sound of is his love for his grandfather. [more]

The Play That Goes Wrong

April 12, 2017

While the non-stop buffoonery is reminiscent of Charles Ludlam and his Ridiculous Theatrical Company, this British import (produced by London’s Mischief Theater, no less) immediately evokes inevitable comparisons with "Noises Off," Michael Frayn’s divine and (admittedly, more) sophisticated farce about a community theater company putting on a play--perhaps the most hilarious, theatrical farce that has ever been devised by a playwright. But the present offering also has less of an agenda, settling for the sheer mayhem of putting together a group of people on a stage, during an ongoing performance, when absolutely everything that can possibly go wrong, does. It’s a surefire setup for the comic and rewarding chaos that ensues. In the end, and basically throughout, "The Play that Goes Wrong" has gone very right, indeed. [more]

Sweat

April 3, 2017

"Sweat" is a classic, “well-made”--or carefully constructed--play, with a focus on the dwindling work for people in the middle of the country, prompting them to install Trump in the White House--to the ongoing dismay of the rest of the world. It couldn’t be more topical even as it helps us understand just exactly what’s been happening to bring us all to this sorry state. It was also based on Nottage’s extensive interviews with many actual residents of Reading, fueling the drama’s impact. [more]

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

March 30, 2017

Marisa Tomei excels as George, the narrator of "How to Transcend…" --and of her own story. Thanks to Tomei’s vocal and visual expressions, we constantly share in George’s ongoing surprise, as she graduates from naivety to knowledge. In the end, it is George who has the most “transcendent,” and religious, experience. (It is not insignificant that we’re told George is the only Catholic in the group.)“It seems like you have omniscience,” says George, in her closing monologue, “when you can talk to the audience in a play.” And talk to us, she does, in the playwright’s smart, yet snappy language. Consider George also telling us that Jenna, “over time forgave us,” after walking in on her parent’s participating in a sex orgy. And “the trauma of seeing her parents’ aberrant sex lives up close--it became an anecdote in a college application.” Or consider David’s saying: “I’m from everywhere. And nowhere. I moved constantly as a child…. as a result, I don’t really believe in nationality.” [more]

The Price

March 27, 2017

Maybe “fireworks” is too strong a word for a production that is more of a slow burn. The play begins when Mark Ruffalo, as Victor, walks up, into the top floor of the home his family was consigned to, when the Great Depression of 1929 hit and their father lost his fortune. The essence of the conflict between Victor (a policeman) and Walter (a doctor) boils down to economic inequality. (As Walter says to Victor, “It’s very complicated between us.”) Though they both grew up with a chauffeur, the older Walter went on to a successful career while Victor stayed behind to care for their father when everything was lost during the Depression. [more]

Angry Young Man

March 24, 2017

The confusion and the rapid pace of the production pretty much engulf--and finally overwhelm--the extremely complicated story of"Angry Young Man." The performers, on the other hand, make this something of a gem of a small, Off Broadway offering, from Urban Stages. The wayward plot eventually takes Youssef to a disco with Patrick, and with Patrick’s girlfriend Alison, where Youssef is confronted by a skin-head, Terry, whom he accidentally kills. “The other customers were almost exclusively male,” says Youssef. “They seemed for the most part to be dressed as Patrick: long-hair, T-shirts, scruffy blue jeans.” [more]

C.S. Lewis On Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert

March 21, 2017

As he impersonates the British writer C.S. Lewis, Max McLean relies on little more than a pipe, a brown suit and tie, and a rather mellifluous voice to become the Anglican philosopher and noted atheist, who famously converted to Christianity in the mid-Twentieth Century. The script was cobbled together by McLean from Lewis’ memoir, letters and books, including other biographies of Lewis, a man who was “intoxicated” by words, which is primarily what this play is about--the mesmerizing effect that words can have, when uttered in an effective sequence. [more]

White Guy on the Bus

March 18, 2017

Musical star Robert Cuccioli has to call upon his experience playing both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to become Ray in "White Guy on the Bus," a first-rate, new play by Bruce Graham, that has more than a stunning surprise or two, as it spreads out the story like a wild brush-fire burning out of control. His complicated and duplicitous “numbers man” character wants, from the beginning, to quit his high-paying job, and, like the French painter Gauguin, escape from the workaday world of banking and finance. “I don’t want to sell the house,” he tells his wife Roz in the opening scene. “I want to sell everything.” [more]

Linda

March 13, 2017

A revolving stage permits set designer Walt Spangler to depict, with dead-on realism and dispatch, not only Linda’s home--including an upstairs bedroom, which her daughters share--but also various offices at Swan Corporation, among numerous other sites. After a certain point, the dizzying, rotating stage becomes akin to a swirling merry-go-round, as director Lynne Meadow has it turning and turning, with different characters walking on and off, and through different doors, without any dialogue whatsoever, in subdued but effective lighting by Jason Lyons. It all becomes part of the accelerating gallop of the play itself, which ultimately spins out of control, as Linda learns that she’s lost her--well, let’s just say, in the end, everything. [more]

The Penitent

March 10, 2017

Perhaps because Mamet-regular Jordan Lage is so effective as Richard, the scenes between Charles and his own attorney prove the most effective. While Laura Bauer’s sensible costumes do all they can to make her seem real, Rebecca Pidgeon proves robotic as Kath, detracting from her character’s constant bewilderment. (Come to think of it, maybe it was a stylized choice for playing the part, because of Kath’s befuddlement and uncertainty, at every turn.) The last scene is set in a rehab room, where Kath has been confined, following a mental collapse or nervous breakdown. [more]

Nibbler

March 6, 2017

Urban may have an admirable mission, in attempting to document the customary passage from youth to adulthood--or high-school to college, to be more precise--as he focuses on five graduating seniors in a middle-class suburb, in 1992, when one of them, Adam, remains behind, without any prospects for a glorious future. But the otherwise realistic play that unfolds quickly veers into surreal territory, as an alien from another planet enters their midst, and the eponymous “Nibbler” becomes ever more real a presence on stage, via a puppet, manipulated by several of the quite visible cast-members. [more]