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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (515 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

The New One

August 17, 2018

Comedian/monologist Mike Birbiglia, best known for "Sleepwalk with Me," has the remarkable knack of finding humor in autobiographical crises that shouldn’t be funny but in his hands are uproarious. His latest show, "The New One," is just as hilarious as the previous ones. When Mike and his wife, the poet Jennifer Hope Stein, got married he pointedly told her that he did not ever want to have children, and she agreed. Ten years later Jen has changed her mind and tells him, “A baby wouldn’t have to change the way we live our lives,” probably the understatement of the century. [more]

Twelfth Night 2018 (Free Shakespeare in the Park & Public Works)

August 10, 2018

Shaina Taub’s joyful and sunny updated musical version of Shakespeare’s comedy, "Twelfth Night," is back in a full production courtesy of Free Shakespeare in the Park and Public Works which premiered an earlier production for four performances during Labor Day Weekend 2016. This slightly trimmed and tightened version is even more entertaining and the witty contemporary lyrics make this fun for young and old, as well as Shakespeare veterans and novices. [more]

Head Over Heels

August 9, 2018

Under Michael Mayer’s fast-paced direction, "Head Over Heels" starts badly and busily but eventually slows down to a delightful Elizabethan parody on love and gender. While not all of The Go-Go’s songs are suitable for the storyline and the period, enough of them fit perfectly to make this a superior light entertainment. The cast is first rate and may make stars of the ingenious Andrew Durand and the classy and stylish Peppermint. Aside from introducing The Go-Go’s song catalog to Broadway, "Head Over Heels" covers a great many firsts of all kinds. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Plays: Series A

August 8, 2018

Along with its twists and turns, Bohjalian’s "Grounded" is so fully explored that it is hard to believe that it is a first play. On the long wait on the runway at Kennedy Airport for a flight bound for London, stewardess Karen discovers that her co-worker, 24-year-old Emily who has been in this line of work for two years, has a fear of flying and has never flown over the ocean. When Emily begins her story she reveals that her life coach thought she was too grounded and dared her to become a stewardess. [more]

The House That Will Not Stand

August 7, 2018

Gardley makes use of a little known piece of American history: while Louisiana was under Spanish and later French rule, it had a three-tiered racial system. Aside from white settlers and black slaves, there was a third class: free women of color (mostly Creoles) could enter into a relationship with white men as common-law wives. Their children could inherit part of their estates. Some of these so-called “colored” women became extremely rich. This system was called plaçage and such women were known as placeés. The lighter the woman’s skin color the higher her social caste. However, when Louisiana was sold to the new United States in 1803, this system was frowned upon and eventually went out of style around 1813 due to legal challenges. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2018

The plays in Summer Shorts 2018 - Festival of New American Short Plays have often had a theme running through all the offerings in one evening, however they were concealed or obscured. This year’s Series B is about two-character relationships at a tense moment in their developments, sort of sparring partners as one of the plays calls it. Unfortunately, the plays in this series by Neil LaBute, Claire Zajdel, and Eric Lane all need further work as they are premises rather than finished plays. [more]

American Players Theatre: Midwest Summer Theater Destination

August 3, 2018

Having added the 200-seat indoor Touchstone Theatre in 2009 to the outdoor Hill Theater with a capacity of 1,089, the season which began on June 14 now runs until November 18. It currently serves 110,000 patrons annually, one of the largest audiences for classical outdoor theater in the United States. Another perk of visiting the neighborhood is to tour Taliesin East, Frank Lloyd Wright’s fascinating private home as well as his school for architects, both of which are only one mile away from the theater. [more]

The Possibilities & The After-Dinner Joke

July 25, 2018

If "The After-Dinner Joke"’s 66 scenes seem cinematic, that is due to the fact that it originally was a teleplay commissioned by BBC for the series "Plays for Today" examining public issues. Churchill chose to deal with the politics of charitable institutions. Selby, personal secretary to the sales manager, decides that she gets no fulfillment from her work and tells her boss Mr. Price that she is resigning to be a do-gooder. Price offers her a job at the same salary working as a campaign organizer raising funds in towns throughout Britain for one of the charities that he has founded. [more]

The Originalist

July 23, 2018

n what easily could have become a one-man show, playwright Strand has cleverly created dramatic tension by first introducing us to a second character and later a third. Set during the 2012-2013 term of the Supreme Court, the play begins with a lecture by Scalia to a law class where he explains his philosophy of being an “originalist,” that is, someone who interprets the Constitution as it was originally written and understood by its drafters in 1789. This presupposes that it is not a living document that should reflect each era, but something carved in stone which does not change but may need interpretation. [more]

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

July 9, 2018

Charlotte Moore’s version streamlines the plot somewhat from Lerner’s original by eliminating Daisy’s fiancé for whom she wants to quit smoking as well as a subplot with Greek shipping magnate Themistocles Kriakos who wishes to fund a study to prove that reincarnation is real. Mark’s brother Dr. Paul Bruckner becomes his colleague Dr Conrad Fuller in this latest version, and the clinic is no longer a family business. The songs, “Tosy and Cosh” and “Don’t Tamper with My Sister,” have been cut, shortening the 18th century story, and two songs added from the National Tour subsequent to the original Broadway run: “Solicitor’s Song” and Daisy’s “He Wasn’t You,” a female version of Edward’s later “She Wasn’t You.” Finally, “Who Is There Among Us Who Knows” (written for the film version but left on the cutting room floor) opens the second act instead of Kriakos’ “When I’m Being Born Again.” [more]

Teenage Dick

July 8, 2018

Add to this list Mike Lew’s new witty and clever "Teenage Dick" (being given its world premiere by Ma-Yi Theater Company in association with the Public Theater), both an update and a parody of Richard III now set in Roseland High School. However, while most of these other adaptations just want to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan stories, "Teenage Dick" has an additional agenda: does society’s bullying lead to defining the personalities of those with disabilities? [more]

Cyprus Avenue

July 6, 2018

Sixtyish Eric Miller is an angry white man, hating Catholics, Blacks, homosexuals, women, and other groups. He has also become very nationalistic. He not only wants to tell the world, he thinks he should act on it. Middle America in the age of Trump? Actually, the same problem appears to be happening in Northern Ireland according to David Ireland’s dark play, "Cyprus Avenue," having its American premiere at the Public Theater courtesy of a co-production by The Abbey Theatre (Dublin) and Royal Court Theatre (London). Problem is for all the sound and fury, Cyprus Avenue, which is a brilliant character study, outlives its welcome long before it is over in this 100 minute play. [more]

Little Rock

July 3, 2018

Using a tremendously talented and versatile cast of nine actors (three black male actors, three black female actors, as well as three white performers) playing from three roles to 12, the story of the year these heroic teenagers spent integrating the previously segregated high school becomes high drama. Rasean Davonte Johnson’s unit setting with its banks of stairs makes copious use of Wendall K. Harrington’s projection design for the many locations in the city of Little Rock, inside and outside of the school and the homes of the participants, as well as historical footage of the events and the people. "Little Rock" also includes snatches of 14 songs, some sung as choruses and others as solos including “Eyes on the Prize” and “We Shall Overcome,” which add a human dimension to the often startling events depicted. [more]

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]

Conflict

June 30, 2018

With Miles Malleson’s 1925 "Conflict," being given its New York premiere, the Mint has uncovered a brilliant political and social drama which has tremendous relevance for today with its dissection of conservative and liberal points of view. It resembles Shaw and Tom Stoppard in its debate of ideas and Galsworthy and Arthur Miller in its moral integrity. Superbly directed by Jenn Thompson ("Women Without Men") with a crackerjack cast, this is not only one of the Mint’s best offerings, it is also the most satisfying play in town. Framed as both a thriller and a romantic comedy, Conflict is absorbing and exciting theater throughout, the sort of play that has you hanging on every word to see which way it will go. [more]

Skintight

June 29, 2018

Harmon’s new play resembles "Admissions," his last New York offering seen at Lincoln Center this March, in that it debates a topic from many sides but then fails to give us the author’s point of view on it at the end. Like all of his four plays so far it offers a strong character who has a very big gripe with the way things are and who attempts to change people accordingly. And like the others, "Skintight" is very funny while it deals with a serious topic but ultimately seems rather superficial, though here that maybe because of the extremely wealthy milieu in which money is no object and things magically appear via live-in servants. As is Harmon’s wont, the acerbic repartee is tossed about plentifully and as directed by Daniel Aukin, the six actors get the most out of their snappy lines. [more]

Fairview

June 27, 2018

Jackie Sibblies Drury is a unique new voice in the American theater. Her use of metatheater is all her own. "Fairview" has a great deal to say about race in America and the angle you see things from and she is able to cleverly shift it from scene to scene. However, this new play is a bit too long for its content, with scenes overstaying their welcome. Nevertheless, Drury is a playwright well worth watching. [more]

The Property

June 25, 2018

Although the advance publicity for Ben Josephson’s "The Property" refers to it as a comedy, there is nothing funny about it, neither jokes nor comic situations. In fact, the heroine’s desperate need for security ends up destroying five people. The themes are relevant in an era when people are downsized after many years of work and have trouble paying their mortgages but the stilted artificial dialogue and the melodramatic events damage the serious issues at stake. While veteran director Robert Kalfin has staged the play as though it were a drawing room comedy, its content presupposed that it is a tragedy on the lines of such better plays as George Kelley’s Pulitzer Prize winning "Craig’s Wife" and William Inge’s "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs." [more]

Othello (Shakespeare in the Park)

June 20, 2018

In the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi’s "Otello," Otello was white which left no reason for his jealousy if he was identical to all the Venetians around him. In the current Shakespeare in the Park production, using color blind casting, Santiago-Hudson chooses to make at least five of the leading characters people of color so that Othello is no longer an outsider, nor are they. The meaning of the theme is diluted in such a reading. It may be politically correct, but in this play about race there is no getting away from its original meaning. Even The Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis’ program notes remark that Othello is only one of two explicitly black characters in all of Shakespeare, the other appearing in "Titus Andronicus." Other than this casting choice, the production offers no new interpretation of the play or characters, making it more like a staged reading than a full production. [more]

The Maid’s Tragedy

June 20, 2018

Director Lucy Gram uses six actors to play 11 roles which has worked for such companies as Bedlam and Fiasco. However, here the four actresses play both men and women, three of them never change their costume, voice or look when they return as their other characters so it is very difficult to keep the roles straight. Aleca Piper playing the roles of Calianax (an elderly man), Lysippus (a younger man) and Dula, a lady-in-waiting, first takes off her white sweater, then puts up her hair, but if you are not following this very carefully, the changes are lost on you. Her use of a loud, booming voice does not help in differentiating her roles or in understanding her lines. Erin Roché and (Ms.) Sydney Battle play men and women alternately with no changes of any kind. [more]

Ivanov (State Theatre of Nations)

June 17, 2018

The chance to see Anton Chekhov’s first produced play, "Ivanov," not only in the original Russian (with English surtitles) but in modern dress proves to be a revelation. Staged by Russia’s State Theatre of Nations and as presented by the Cherry Orchard Festival, this is a rare opportunity to see this usually neglected Chekhov classic, seen in New York in English on only three occasions since it was first written: 1966 on Broadway with Sir John Gielgud, 1998 at Lincoln Center with Kevin Kline, and in 2012 at the Classic Stage Company with Ethan Hawke. Like the recent Australian version of Chekhov’s first written play, "Platonov" (renamed "The Present" in Andrew Upton’s update), Timofey Kulyabin’s production is not only in modern dress but updated to a drama set in our time. [more]

Fruit Trilogy

June 14, 2018

Her newest work, "Fruit Trilogy," an evening of three one acts, “Pomegranate,” “Avocado” and “Coconut,” has all of the strengths and weaknesses of her previous stage plays which include going on at too great length when the audience has already gotten the point. Directed by Mark Rosenblatt who staged the world premiere at the United Kingdom’s West Yorkshire Playhouse, the play features Kiersey Clemons and Liz Mikel who are frightening in their intensity and realism. Although the three settings are unstated, the fact that both actresses are black suggests that the plays may have been inspired by Ensler’s humanitarian work in Africa. Although it will not be immediately obvious to theatergoers, the plays move from two women enslaved, to a woman traveling to freedom, to finally a woman finding liberation through her own body. [more]

Secret Life of Humans

June 12, 2018

Though it wouldn’t be fair to reveal it here for audiences about to see the play, the “secret” actually turns out to be one that has been widely known for some time as it is all over the Internet. The play’s assertion that Bronowski died immediately after his November 1973 television appearance is inaccurate as he died the following summer while visiting friends on Long Island. Nor is there evidence that there was ever a locked room. As Bronowski had four daughters, it is unlikely that one of them was a grandson named “Jamie Bronowski.” The frequent use of technology in the play like having actors walk on the wall as if traversing photographs has been done much more effectively by Cirque du Soleil and others. The quality of the black and white video clips leaves much to be desired. [more]

Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart

June 4, 2018

The letters alternate with the musical portions played by Ji on piano, Ari Evan on cello and Stephanie Zyzak on violin in various combinations which are beautiful but it is never clear in what way the selections relate to Madame von Meck except for the Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50, which Tchaikovsky reveals at the beginning of the second act that he is writing for her. It is not stated whether the two excerpts from The Nutcracker, for violin and piano, and for solo piano were created for her. [more]

Brokeback Mountain

June 3, 2018

While "Brokeback Mountain" impresses in its sincerity, it does not move which is a serious problem considering the romantic and tragic plot. Director Jacopo Spirei’s cast is in fine form as singers though the music and its libretto fail to fulfill this story’s potential. Daniel Okulitch and Glenn Seven Allen as the two doomed lovers make indelible impressions of men in a repressed society which does not allow them freedom of expression - even though they are not given the kind of music that can move the heart to tears. Brokeback Mountain which is fine as far as it goes offers the same disappointment of many new modern operas in that its writing falls short of its high-reaching intentions. [more]

The Beast in the Jungle

May 28, 2018

While "The Beast in the Jungle" is a musical for our time it contains a message that was dear to the heart of writer Henry James, that of the unlived life. Ultimately very moving when the story reaches its conclusion, the exquisite Vineyard Theatre production is for elite tastes but all dedicated theatergoers, not the casual entertainment seekers, should see it. It may well start a new trend in theatre musicals, one in which the emotional sections are danced rather than sung. [more]

Molasses in January

May 28, 2018

Standing in the way of the show’s success is the workshop-like production. Some of Pellegrino’s melodies are pleasant but musical director Michael Wittenberg’s piano playing drowns out many of the weak voices. The lyrics tend to be very thin and extremely repetitious. The uncredited set is actually that of another show with unnecessary portions covered over in brown cloth, giving the look of the show no atmosphere whatever. The uncredited costumes are mainly coordinated in bland brown and white which does not help recall the period one bit. Stone’s choreography is extremely basic and not very decorative. If you sit on the left side of the theater, you are likely to be blinded periodically by designer Christina Verde’s two spotlights aimed right into the eyes of the viewers. [more]

Peace for Mary Frances

May 27, 2018

We learn a great deal about hospice, possibly more than one might want to know in a play. While most death watch plays like Edward Albee’s "All Over" and Scott McPherson's "Marvin’s Room," take place in another room from where the elderly person is dying, Mary Frances alternates between the downstairs living room/dining room and the upstairs bedroom of her split-level house. Unfortunately, this 21-scened play with at least a dozen more scenes which switch between Mary Frances’ bedroom and the living room where the rest of the family eat or watch television requires endless jump cuts like a film and endless lighting cues from designer Tyler Micoleau. [more]

Twelfth Night

May 23, 2018

Played as older than either Viola or Sebastian, Elizabeth Heflin is charmingly eccentric as the strong cougar who becomes lovesick and yielding at the sight of Cesario and then Sebastian. In the role of the melancholy Duke Orsino who is often played as dull and sluggish, tall handsome Matthew Greer is both dashing and athletic, seen both coming from hunting and athletics. Surprisingly Susanna Stahlmann as Viola/Cesario is very bland and colorless, but this may be intentional: it allows the other characters to read into her/him what they wish. As her twin brother Sebastian made up to look like her mirror image, John Skelley is both avid and keen, willing to go along with a seeming jest though he does not know where it will take him. [more]

Long Day’s Journey into Night (Bristol Old Vic)

May 22, 2018

Unlike many of the recent New York stagings, Eyre’s production makes it clear that the thrust of this four act play is an attempt for the Tyrones to exorcise their demons in one alcoholic infused night. Before it is over, each and every character will have bared his or her soul in one night of regret, guilt, despair and anger. So much gets revealed, there does not seem to be anything left unsaid by the final devastating curtain. He also has staged the first two acts (before the one intermission) with the characters talking so fast that it as if they do not want to have to stop and notice what they are running away from. Although Rob Howell’s bright and airy set (at least until night falls and the darkness creeps in) seems huge, all of the characters seemed to be caged animals pacing back and forth in forced confinement. [more]

Marlowe’s Fate

May 21, 2018

Hodges’ play is quite lively with each scene dramatizing one point and the cast of characters made up entirely of real people, not all of them still famous. The real problem is with the unsubtle and one-dimensional acting of the mostly deficient cast. The play also assumes that the audience is familiar with a great many Elizabethan names and personages like poet Michael Drayton and courtier and literary patron Sir Thomas Walsingham. "Marlowe’s Fate" dramatizes the “last nights” of both first Marlowe and then Shakespeare 23 years later, plus a spirited "Punch and Judy" interlude between Marlowe and Shakespeare for credit to the plays published under Shakespeare’s name. [more]

The Gentleman Caller

May 20, 2018

Every once in a while the exactly right actor is matched with the right role and magic occurs. Such is the case with Juan Francisco Villa as the 34-year-old Tennessee Williams (before he became famous) in Philip Dawkins’ "The Gentleman Caller." Looking exactly like the playwright did at that age and sporting Williams’ well-known Southern accent, Villa is so ebullient, irrepressible and high-spirited that one has the feeling one has met the playwright himself. With perfect timing for Williams’ verbal comeback, many of which are taken from his own letters, quotes and diaries, Villa gives an extraordinarily three-dimensional performance in a role that has been depicted in other recent plays and one-man shows about the author. Some of the credit must go to director Tony Speciale for helping to craft this remarkable portrayal. [more]

A Brief History of Women

May 17, 2018

Although the title covers part of the plot, the play is really a trenchant social history of Britain from 1925 – 1985 in four short sequences, showing the changes that take place in one house over 60 years and following the career of one everyman, Anthony Spates, known familiarly as Tony. It also follows the women in Tony’s life who help him, love him and leave him in each of four decades. While Antony Eden plays the phlegmatic Tony at four stages in his life (17, 37, 57 and 77) with equal aplomb, the rest of the cast play four characters each, a remarkable feat, as time marches on.  "A Brief History of Women" has the depth of a novel and the breath of an epic. [more]
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