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Articles by David Kaufman

David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (81 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 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]

Relevance

February 27, 2018

But "Reference" is also about issues of gender, race, age, celebrity, politics, economics, and the inescapable impact of the Internet--and more specifically, social media--on the ways business is done today. That may sound like a lot to digest, or maybe even too ambitious by half--but what’s amazing about "Relevance" is how well it manages to fit all of that into a four-character play that speeds by in only 100 minutes. [more]

Hangmen

February 18, 2018

The sense of good, old-fashioned suspense is heightened by director Matthew Dunster, who also helps delineate the spot-on performances by the four remaining cast members--and regulars at Harry’s pub, with distinctive personalities--Billy Carter, Richard Hollis, John Horton, and David Lansbury. And then there’s the ongoing rain and lightning--with marvelous effects by Ian Dickinson for Autograph, for sound, and Joshua Carr, for lighting. Together, they add significantly to the scare factor of the evening. [more]

Fire and Air

February 4, 2018

Though the production has been designed by its director, John Doyle, there is no scenery to speak of, except for a gold framed mirror on the rear wall, another framed mirror angled and dangling above it, and five gold chairs. It all suggests the opulence for which Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes were known. Opulent, too, are the costumes designed by Ann Hould-Ward with everyone clad in black except for Nijinsky who is in colorful and playful ballet costumes. [more]

Draw the Circle

February 3, 2018

... in Deen’s mad dash to portray Shireern’s elderly Indian father and mother--who live in Connectictut--her girlfriend, Molly, and so many other figures, including even a housecleaner at a Motel 8, where Shireen attempted suicide--he seems to have a different voice and demeanor for every one of them. He even--on his knees and with a little girl’s voice--plays Shireen’s five-year-old niece, Rabia. [more]

The Thing with Feathers

January 28, 2018

Though there’s a major surprise lurking at the top of the second act, and though it’s about how sins of the past can impinge on the present, Scott Organ’s "The Thing with Feathers" is ultimately a play without many virtues. Early references to Emily Dickinson and poetry--the title apparently comes from a bastardization of a Dickinson poem--fail to lift the work out of the made-for-TV movie-of-the-week sensibility that keeps bringing it down. [more]

John Lithgow: Stories by Heart

January 15, 2018

But in John Lithgow: Stories by Heart, Lithgow tells an even more compelling tale about growing up with his father Arthur Lithgow, an actor who taught Shakespeare even as he opened and ran Shakespeare festivals throughout the Midwest. Lithgow’s peripatetic experience with this show is not unlike, in other words, his father’s experiences when his son John was growing up. Though it’s truly sui generis, "Stories by Heart" is reminiscent of Lynn Redgrave’s tribute to her father, Sir Michael. [more]

Meteor Shower

December 27, 2017

Steve Martin’s old/new wonderful comedy, "Meteor Shower," is about two California couples getting together for the first time--again, and again, and again. Like "Groundhog Day," it keeps starting all over again, with ensuing variations. And in the course of its brief, 80-minute, intermission-less duration, the couples have exchanged more than just words and ideas. By the end, they seem to have exchanged their personalities as well. The passive Corky has become more aggressive, and the overly assertive Laura has become less sure of herself. Similar reversals could be said about their respective husbands, Norm and Gerald. As Norm even says of Gerald, he’s “kind of two people.” [more]
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