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Articles by David Kaufman

David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (108 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.

Julie Madly Deeply

June 19, 2019

Andrews’ worldwide success with the films "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins" is well represented here, as is the Broadway musical that established her in the first place, "My Fair Lady," even if "The Boyfriend" preceded it. The current run of "Julie Madly Deeply" at 59E59 Theaters follows its playing first in London’s West End and then in Toronto. It was written by Young, with contributions from Russell Lucas, who has also directed the show in a full-steam-ahead mode. [more]

Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune

June 15, 2019

Given references to "Prizzi’s Honor," "Looking for Mr. Goodbar, " Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond, and VCRs, the otherwise effective revival of "Frankie and Johnny"--now on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre--can feel rather dated. The play debuted, after all, in 1987, and McNally’s ambition for realism makes such references natural, if not exactly necessary. But it’s still a substantial look at a one-night stand between Frankie, a waitress, and Johnny, a short-order cook at the same off-stage restaurant. [more]

Posting Letters to the Moon

May 21, 2019

The epistolary "Posting Letters to the Moon" may, on the face of it, make one think of A. R. Gurney’s "Love Letters" or Helene Hanff’s "84 Charing Cross Road. "But unlike those two memorable plays, PLTTM as “compiled” by Lucy Fleming, whose mother was the British actress Celia Johnson and whose father Peter Fleming was a travel writer--as well as the older brother of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming--never really tells a story nor conveys what her parents’ relationship was like. [more]

Ink

May 3, 2019

In the final analysis, "Ink" is too swift and too slick for its own good--or should I say, for our good? Even if you know some of the details it traffics in, they zoom by at such a rapid clip, that it’s sometimes hard to follow. Director Goold is to be faulted for the pace, no less than the playwright, Graham: it’s as if they both wanted to cram in too much information; and, despite the rave reviews this play and production continue to receive, some of it was lost on this particular reviewer. [more]

Burn This

April 28, 2019

For one thing, it takes far too long for Pale, Wilson’s most outrageous and flamboyant creation, to arrive on the scene. (Malkovitch was Pale in the original production and Adam Driver is Pale now, with different but equally effective results.) For another, the premise of the play requires Anna to be overly reserved and subdued, in contrast with Pale’s constantly explosive character. The customarily sure-fire director Michael Mayer somehow seems to have accentuated those problems with lethargic consequences. [more]

White Noise

April 18, 2019

After she won the Pulitzer Prize for "Topdog/Underdog," one approached a new play by Suzan-Lori Parks with great expectations--expectations that are strongly rewarded by her latest work, "White Noise." While the title refers specifically to the hissing sound made by sleep machines, meant to lull and keep you asleep, it also hints at the many racist issues this new, smart work traffics in. [more]

I Carry Your Heart

April 10, 2019

Though playwright Kelly strives for poetry at times--in addition to that last quote, consider Josh’s mother calling him a “terminal optimist” and also learning that the play’s title is taken from e. e. cummings--it’s more or less done in by her contrivances. She also conveys too much of the exposition through her biggest contrivance of all: Debra, an author, has left behind a memoir for Phoebe to read, and she reads it aloud to Blake, thereby imparting much of Debra’s story. [more]

The Cradle Will Rock

April 6, 2019

Many of Blitzstein’s melodic tunes are plunked out on the piano by several of the players at various points. But the fault is not only due to Doyle’s direction: what’s missing from Blitzstein’s "The Cradle Will Rock" is the heart and or soul that every musical requires. It’s a wannabe musical or opera that, ironically, lacks substance, given its heavy-hitting intentions. [more]

Kiss Me, Kate

March 29, 2019

While many of the greats have tackled Kate over the years ever since it premiered in 1948, O’Hara brings a subdued charm to the usually more boisterous part of Lilli, even if she is positively beaming when she first arrives on stage. The first was Patricia Morison, and the most recent on Broadway--before O’Hara--was the late Marin Mazzie, who received a Tony Award for the 1999 revival, as did the revival itself. And then there was Kathryn Grayson in the 1953 film version. [more]

Hurricane Diane

March 7, 2019

Some plays are simply too complicated for their own good, defying comprehension. This is certainly the case with Madeleine George’s "Hurricane Diane," in which the God Dionysus or Bacchus, famously incorporating both male and female characteristics--he went by many names--returns to earth--as a woman--at the present time, in Monmouth County no less, to haunt a bevy of what can best be summarized as “New Jersey Housewives.” [more]

Merrily We Roll Along

February 27, 2019

Usually considered one of Sondheim’s lesser musicals, albeit with one of his best scores--and needless to say, that’s saying a lot--this production provides a heft and a story that are sorely lacking in previous versions. There is no denying or gainsaying its power to impress, as each and every song comes through with its capacity to build characters and tell stories. If the stories are less than satisfying in earlier productions, that’s due more to bookwriter George Furth (adapting the original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart) than to Sondheim or to his other collaborators, each of who has provided an impeccable contribution to the current enterprise. [more]

The Waiting Game

February 18, 2019

Welcome to "The Waiting Game," a play by Charles Gershman, which has the makings for a meaningful drama, but never really amounts to much. A large part of the problem is the nondescript and dull staging, as directed by Nathan Wright, which doesn’t really bring any of the characters alive. And then there’s the writing, also nondescript and dull, does nothing to make the characters real--nor does it contain anything resembling exposition. [more]

Mies Julie

February 12, 2019

Yaël Farber’s adaptation of Strindberg’s classic "Miss Julie," "Mies Julie" shifts the scene and setting from 1880’s Sweden to the Karoo in South Africa on Freedom Day in 2012--or the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994--which is long after apartheid was outlawed. Such changes shift Strindberg’s focus on the class system to matters of racism and apartheid today, when, despite any suggestions that we’ve transcended such problems, racist incidents continue to be in the news every day. They also make the play far more relevant than the antique penned by Strindberg, although ironically, it was far ahead of its time when it was written. [more]

True West

February 6, 2019

Having seen it at least four times before, I can say with certainty that Sam Shepard’s "True West" (1980) is a firm and solid play: a play to be pondered both while you’re watching it and afterwards, when you consider what you saw. But the current Roundabout production leaves more than just a little to be desired: it’s slow and plodding and contemplative, instead of explosive, which is what it’s designed to be. [more]

Trick or Treat

January 24, 2019

The lit pumpkin on a ledge in the living room aptly suits the title of "Trick or Treat," a new play by Jack Neary. But despite the skeleton positioned on yet another shelf, the play’s title refers to more than just Halloween, as the plot that unfolds is full of reversals and shocking developments that keep tricking you into thinking that you know what’s going on, and treating you to some characters who don’t. It isn’t until the very end that you apprehend a story you thought you were following all along. There are startling surprises all along the way. [more]

Choir Boy

January 15, 2019

Now playing at the MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway, "Choir Boy" is set at The Charles R Drew Preparatory School for Boys, a Catholic academy for young men of color. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney (who shared the 2017 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight), the problem with the play is that Pharus’ colleagues and choir mates prove as generic as the student uniforms they all wear: blue blazers, white shirts, striped ties, and beige trousers. (The costume designer is David Zinn, who also did the scenery.) [more]

The Prom

December 28, 2018

"The Prom" is giving Broadway something it’s been lacking for years, which is a high-spirited, old-fashioned musical comedy, where the cast’s energy spills out over the footlights, and is then reflected in all the smiling faces you encounter as you leave the theater. It’s the equivalent of a standing ovation that moves out into the streets. [more]

C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

December 21, 2018

Some novels are more stage-worthy than others, and "C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters" is not among those that are. As adapted for the stage by Max McLean--who also directs the production with a flair for the grotesque--and Jeffrey Fiske, "C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters" is an unfortunate jumble of gibberish and gobbledygook, told at breakneck speed by Brent Harris, who is playing His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape. [more]

Bitter Greens

December 18, 2018

Though it was common practice centuries ago, perhaps the final take-away from "Bitter Greens"--a new play by Clea DeCrane--is that an actor should not perform in her own work. In the play, DeCrane portrays Reyna, a character that is both confused and confusing. She’s also more than a little aloof. When Reyna announces that she’s going “to go on a cleanse,” another character, Caitlin (Jessica Darrow), asks her, “A cleanse from what, vegan bites and vitamin water?” [more]

Two by Friel

November 27, 2018

The attempt to draw comparisons between two disparate one-act plays by Brian Friel proves forced and effortful. In a program note for "Two by Friel," now playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre, director Conor Bagley writes, “Although written over three decades apart, 'Lovers: Winners' and 'The Yalta Game' speak to each other in sacred whisperings.” In the event of seeing them performed back-to-back, those 'whisperings' prove so faint, they can barely be heard. [more]

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]
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