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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (794 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.

Chains

June 27, 2022

The Mint Theater Company continues its three play mini-festival of the forgotten plays of Elizabeth Baker with "Chains." Given a polished – maybe too polished – production like the earlier "The Price of Thomas Scott," this play is also problematic, but in another way. Unlike her contemporaries John Galsworthy, George Bernard Shaw and Harley Granville-Barker, Baker’s "Chains" has a very narrow focus: the discontents of the lower middle-class white collar folk. All of the characters in the play’s first half (the script’s Act I and II) do nothing but either complain about the grind of their daily six-days-a-week jobs (half-holiday on Saturday) or laugh at those who would give up a steady employment. You would think that back in 1909 when the play was written there wasn’t anything else to talk about. Jenn Thompson’s direction is conventional and sedate where something more animated might have been more to the point. [more]

The Orchard

June 26, 2022

Such an event is the high-tech adaptation at the Baryshnikov Arts Center calling itself "The Orchard," conceived and directed by Igor Golyak, described as based on "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov as translated by Carol Rocamora. If you don’t know the play, you will be entirely at sea. If you know the play, you will marvel at all the totally unnecessary tricks used by the director that do nothing to help with understanding the play or ferreting out its meaning. Although the production has a fine cast headed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jessica Hecht, the actors are swamped by all the unnecessary trappings around them. [more]

The Bedwetter

June 16, 2022

Comedian Sarah Silverman has turned her bestselling memoir, "The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee,"  into a musical with the help of co-book writer Joshua Harmon, author of this year’s award-winning "Prayer for the French Republic," and composer Adam Schlesinger ("Cry-Baby"), who passed away in 2020 just as the show was about to go into rehearsal prior to the pandemic. The new musical, simply called "The Bedwetter," like the book is by turns amusing, first hilarious and later serious. Anne Kauffman’s production has a top-notch cast headed by Bebe Neuwirth, Caissie Levy, Darren Goldstein and Rick Crom. [more]

Mr. Parker

June 8, 2022

"Mr. Parker," the latest play by Michael McKeever whose "Daniel’s Husband" has been produced twice Off Broadway, has been given a stylish production by director Joe Brancato who also directed the earlier play. David Goldstein’s one-room studio set situated in the East Village is elegant and cozy. The costumes by Myra Oney are chic. The acting by its trio of actors is polished and urbane. Even its premise of a gay man dealing with the sudden death of a long-time partner and husband is up-to-date and timely However, as written the play seems superficial and slight. Dramatically it avoids all the big scenes that might have been included. It remains entertaining but without the payoff one wants in such a drama. [more]

Sky of Darkness

June 6, 2022

Following the lead of Francis Ford Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now," Siting Yang has updated Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness" to the present but left the story mainly set in Africa. In "Sky of Darkness" as the narrator Ma Luo (Yang’s new Marlow) is Chinese, the tale is now an exposé of Chinese interference in African affairs both financial and military. However, Yang complicates the story by having it periodically interrupted by The Ghost of Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe who famously gave a lecture criticizing Conrad’s novella in 1975 from an African point of view as racist and stereotyped. But this Achebe doesn’t object to the story as a xenophobic work of post-colonialism but criticizes Conrad for what he says he did not see. He doesn’t take into consideration that Conrad’s story is told by a series of narrators and that Captain Marlow is horrified by the repression he does see by the European rulers (in his time the brutal Belgian occupation). [more]

Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona & Brooklyn

June 1, 2022

"Romeo & Bernadette" is a musical comedy worthy of the name that delivers on all counts. Mark Saltzman’s spoofing of the old story is great fun and his lines are very clever. The score with its famous melodies transformed in new ways is a lush feast for the each particularly as sung by this excellent cast. Under Justin Ross Cohen’s direction the cast brings this far-fetched story to brilliant life. One only hopes that the threat of the real story of Hamlet comes as a follow-up. [more]

Fat Ham

May 30, 2022

James Ijames’ "Fat Ham" (all puns intended) is the latest and most successful modern riff on the Bard turning Hamlet into an expression of the Black experience while at the same time having much fun at Hamlet’s expense. As one of the few comedies to ever win the Pulitzer Prize, we should be hearing more soon from this talented playwright whose "Kill Move Paradise" in 2017 appears to be his only other New York credit, also directed by Saheem Ali. Already an associate artistic director/resident director with The Public Theater, Ali has previously worked wonders with "Merry Wives," "Nollywood Dreams," "Shipwreck," "Fires in the Mirror," "The Rolling Stone," "Passage," and "Fireflies," among others at various theaters around town. As usual his casting choices are perfect to the nth degree. [more]

Golden Shield

May 23, 2022

Although playwright Anchuli Felicia King’s plays have been performed in London, Washington, D.C., Staunton (Virginia), Melbourne, and Sydney, her Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-nominated "Golden Shield" appears to be her first New York main stage production. Ostensibly about a young, idealistic lawyer’s attempt to bring her sister on board as a translator in a risky legal battle with a multinational tech corporation, the play is about half a dozen other things as well: sibling rivalry, child abuse, ethical turpitude, human rights issues, governmental suppression of the internet, legal loopholes, and corporate greed. The play actually conflates two different very real lawsuits (against internet giants Yahoo and Cisco) which may explain why it is initially so complicated. [more]

Three Sisters

May 22, 2022

While this is not an in-depth interpretation and at times seems a bit superficial, Will Pomerantz’s production of "Three Sisters" is a true ensemble making it appear that these people have lived together for years. His new adaptation in contemporary idiom is easy on the ears and easy to comprehend. The pacing of the production is always on the move which is saying a good deal when it comes to Three Sisters which is often performed in a glacial style to mirror the characters’ boredom and disappointments. Here the characters complain about their fate but get on with their lives. [more]

The Karpovsky Variations

May 17, 2022

Adam Kraar’s new drama, "The Karpovsky Variations," is a memory play about a dysfunctional family of driven people and the music that inspired them. Unfortunately, in its current form it is both confused and confusing. Without a family tree, it is difficult to keep straight all of the names of characters both seen and mentioned. Director Tasha Gordon-Solmon has eliminated almost all of the scenic elements described in the script which does not make it any easier to follow. There is a fascinating story hidden in this material but it hasn’t been allowed to surface yet. [more]

¡Americano!

May 12, 2022

Tony Valdovinos who grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, was 18 before he found out that he was an undocumented immigrant. The new musical "¡Americano!" is based on the true story of his life and challenges. Impassioned and spirited with an animated cast that seems to be living their roles rather than acting them, the show is a superior musical entertainment. Staged with vigor and energy by Michael Barnard, artistic director of The Phoenix Theatre Company where the show premiered in 2020, and choreographer Sergio Mejia, ¡Americano! is both moving and entertaining, moving along with the speed of an express train with never a minute wasted in its urgent storytelling. [more]

Paradise Square

May 11, 2022

Based on historical facts, the new and exciting musical "Paradise Square" tells a story of fictional characters caught up in real events which lead up to the Draft Riots that occurred in Manhattan in July 1863. Set in the notorious neighborhood known as Five Points, renowned as the most dangerous place to live in the United States, it takes place mainly in the fictional Paradise Square Saloon in the real Paradise Square. Aside from the sensational dancing by choreographer Bill T. Jones and a rousing score by composer Jason Howland who also conducts, the show stars Joaquina Kalukango giving a show-stopping performance in the leading role. However, she is also surrounded by a great many leading characters played by actors at the top of their game. Like an epic adventure, Paradise Square will keep you engrossed until the very last moment. [more]

Wedding Band

May 9, 2022

Alice Childress’ "Wedding Band," which is a difficult play to stage due to its shifts in tone, is a major rediscovery. However, it straddles a thin line between realism and romance and its poetry needs to be handled very carefully. Unlike the tamer "Trouble in Mind," "Wedding Band" has a very strong message and a good deal to say about racism in American in telling its sensitive interracial love story about a time when it was a love that dared not speak its name. While this production makes some problematic choices, the time has certainly arrived for this play to be returned to the American stage. [more]

POTUS, Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive

May 8, 2022

In "POTUS," Selina Fillinger’s first Broadway comedy, all is revealed by its unwieldy subtitle (“Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive”) which leaves little room for development or surprise. The repeated statement “that’s the eternal question” in answer to why none of these women are President may be the real message behind this play. As staged by famed choreographer and director Susan Stroman, POTUS is frenzied rather than funny, a problem in farce. The seven famous actresses are undone by their one-note characters which give them little to play off of or expand on. A pity considering how few Broadway comedies there are these days and the quantity of talent on stage at the Shubert Theatre. [more]

The Skin of Our Teeth

May 4, 2022

You would think that at the tail end of a pandemic Thornton Wilder’s 1943 Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Skin of Our Teeth" would be the perfect play for our moment. This experimental play which pays tribute to the resilience of the human race offers hope in time of adversity. The experimental nature of the play uses techniques promulgated by James Joyce, Luigi Pirandello and Bertolt Brecht, none of which are so new or unfamiliar anymore: actors addressing the audience directly and stepping out of character, anachronistic events or references, etc. There are allusions to the Old and New Testament, Greek Mythology and Shakespeare. Writing in the middle of World War II, Wilder presciently made use of such themes as the problems of climate change, refugees, dysfunctional marriages, nepotism and political corruption, which remain at the forefront today. Even after 80 years, Wilder’s play seems eternally forward-looking, eternally novel, and continues to be an important piece of American theater. [more]

Macbeth

May 2, 2022

This 2022 "Macbeth" appears to be entirely a director’s project, but Sam Gold has done his actors no service with the busy activity he has added to the play. Fine actors like Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga who have demonstrated their top-flight acting chops on stage elsewhere have not been aided by the bizarre direction. Ironically, Shakespeare’s name is nowhere to be seen in the ads for the production. If this was to rope in the fans of Craig’s James Bond, this production gives them no help in following the play, a story of ambition and revenge, which should have been the point of the updating. Even if you are well-versed in the play, you will find yourself adrift much of the time. [more]

Hangmen

April 29, 2022

Taking the law into your own hands can be a risky business as Harry Wade and friends find out in Martin McDonagh’s hilarious dark comedy "Hangmen" which finally made its Broadway debut after being delayed two years by the pandemic. The cast of this Royal Court Theatre/Atlantic Theater Company production is somewhat different from the one that debuted Off Broadway in 2018 with four members of the original 11 person company remaining. British film star David Threlfall who made his New York stage debut in 1980 in his Tony Award nominated performance as “Smike” in "Nicholas Nickleby" returns to Broadway for the first time since 1997 in the leading role as Harry, the second most famous hangman in the United Kingdom. [more]

The Minutes

April 24, 2022

Tracy Letts’ "The Minutes" is both a fine political comedy as well as an indictment of how most Americans live today. It ultimately asks us to look at our values as well as our connection to the society around us. It will not make you so much as talk about it after you have seen it, but ask yourself if the indictment includes you. Continuing her connection to playwright Tracy Letts which began with "August: Osage County" in 2007, director Anna D. Shapiro adds another excellent contemporary play to her resumé. [more]

Cyrano de Bergerac

April 19, 2022

Playwright Martin Crimp, an adherent of the ”in-yer-face” school of British playwriting, has taken Edmond Rostand’s turn-of-the-last century verse drama, Cyrano de Bergerac, and not only blown off the cobwebs but exploded it into an entirely new 21st century experience. Staged by innovative director Jamie Lloyd, it has become a showcase for titanic Scottish stage and screen actor James McAvoy making an unforgettable New York stage debut in the title role as the 17th century poet and soldier. [more]

Harmony

April 18, 2022

Although 25 years have gone by since "Harmony" first tried out at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, the Barry Manilow/Bruce Sussman musical about the Comedian Harmonists is still relevant and timely. This historical musical based on true events which took place mainly in Germany from 1927- 1935 is a necessary reminder of the rise of Nazism and the naïve people who thought it would blow over. Produced by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, "Harmony" could not be in a more fitting setting to tell this story. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical has been given a big Broadway-style production for its first New York appearance starring Chip Zien and Sierra Boggess as well as a cast of featured players. [more]

Birthday Candles

April 15, 2022

"Birthday Candles" also has an unusual theatrical device: we follow Ernestine Ashford from 17 to 107 meeting her on her various birthdays that are depicted.  The other characters come and go (by death, moving away, or dropping out of her life). Inspired by Thornton Wilder’s 1931 "The Long Christmas Dinner" which like "Birthday Candles" covers 90 years in one family, Wilder’s landmark play has also inspired Paul Vogel’s "The Long Christmas Ride Home" and Dan LeFranc’s "The Big Meal," as well as the breakfast table scene in Orson Welles’ "Citizen Kane." While Vivienne Benesch’s production for the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre is beautifully done giving Debra Messing a bravura role as Ernestine Ashworth in which she is onstage throughout, the play is devoid of surprises in covering 90 years in 90 minutes in the life of one woman, too predictable to feel fresh. And once the characters are introduced, they pretty much stay the same throughout the rest of the play. [more]

Take Me Out

April 11, 2022

As the most respected player in baseball, Williams has a quiet dignity and charm as a man of few words and few outward motions. While his wry remarks do not often come through as humor, he is very endearing as a man who has always had everything go his way but for the first time in his life must deal with events he cannot control. Ferguson in the role of Mason Marzac which won creator Denis O’Hare a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in 2003 makes the role his own. His social awkwardness as well as his delight at being close to the superstar is patently palpable. He also has a handle on the volubility and articulateness of this clearly deep thinking man. As the narrator Kippy who is also a member of the team, Adams holds our interest as a compassionate man who uses big words and is known as an intellectual among his teammates. He has the task of doing a great deal of explaining both to his teammates and us and he does an excellent job without making it seem like exposition. [more]

Penelope, Or How the Odyssey Was Really Written

April 7, 2022

The musical gets a great deal of mileage out of its humor particular in its parody of recognizable tropes. "Penelope, Or How The Odyssey Was Really Written" is an entertaining musical comedy which turns into a feminist statement in the final scenes between husband and wife at the end of the show which gives this ancient Greek tale a modern sensibility. From the way the audience greeted the new musical comedy "Penelope" at the preview performance under review, The York Theatre Company may have a big hit on their hands. [more]

Gong Lum’s Legacy

April 3, 2022

On one level, "Gong Lum’s Legacy" is revealing in that it demonstrates Southern racism against not only African Americans but also Chinese immigrants who were given the same treatment. On another hand, the script which moves rather slowly with its 18 scenes over a period of two years would be more effective if it was less like a screenplay and more stageworthy. The play would also be more powerful if the historic Gong Lum made appearances in the play to tell his own story rather than reporting it as radio news.  Playwright Charles L. White has a fine ear for dialogue but is weak in dramaturgy. [more]

7 Minutes

March 31, 2022

Given one hour to decide and vote, the union committee must come to a decision in real time. On one level the play is very much like Reginald Rose’s "12 Angry Men" in which a group of disparate people must also make a life or death decision. However, unlike that play, the characters in "7 Minutes" are not clearly delineated so that we do not know where many of them stand or who they are. While the production directed by Mei Ann Teo is absorbing for most of its running time placing us in the room where it happens, her staging having the actors move about a great deal makes it difficult to keep most of the 11 women separate from each other. Unlike "12 Angry Men," "7 Minutes" does not offer a great many arguments for and against to warrant its running time, mainly getting into personalities. [more]

Help

March 28, 2022

Poet and Yale professor Rankine’s play makes use of a narrator/interviewer as her stand-in played by April Matthis. According to program notes by Rankine herself, “The text spoken by white people in the piece was primarily culled from responses to the Times article, public statements by men and women in the government and public life; and interviews conducted with white men by civil rights activists and theologian Ruby Sales; or documentary filmmaker Whitney Dow, or myself.” It also includes updates to the original script from “the January 6 insurrection and the global pandemic.” However, as the quotes are out of context they occasionally refer to entirely different issues as in former President Donald Trump’s saying “Such a nasty woman,” that was addressed to then candidate Hillary Clinton during one of the 2016 presidential debates. [more]

Heartland

March 27, 2022

While Gabriel Jason Dean’s "Heartland" is an enlightening play about Afghan culture mentioning the classic poet Rumi and the contemporary novelist Atiq Rahimi, some of it will still be opaque to American audiences. On the other hand, it also reveals how American involvement in other countries may have the opposite effect of that which is intended. The fine production, however, makes this a compelling though subtle story of an extended family in its understated way. The play was first produced as part of the National Play Network Rolling World Premiere with four simultaneous productions including the one at The Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York. [more]

what you are now

March 21, 2022

As a play about neuroscience, Sam Chanse’s "what you are now" needs a great deal more data and information. As a play about the plight of Cambodian refugees, what are you now needs to be clearer and less convoluted, although ultimately it is quite powerful and moving. Informative about the startling situation of these refugees, the play needs to be seen and heard, but in this form it defeats its own purposes by being confusing in chronology and not offering the drama behind the science of trauma and memory. [more]

Anyone Can Whistle

March 20, 2022

Although when MasterVoices chose the third of the four Stephen Sondheim/Arthur Laurents collaborations, "Anyone Can Whistle," as part of their 80th season at Carnegie Hall, they had no way of knowing that it would prove to be a memorial to the late Mr. Sondheim rather than a tribute. This rarely revived show, now considered a “cult classic,” a euphemism for a quick flop in 1964 running only nine performances, was ahead of its time, attempting a new form, one that Sondheim has called “the first absurdist musical.” Performed by stars Vanessa Williams, Santino Fontana, Elizabeth Stanley, Douglas Sills, Eddie Cooper, Michael Mulheren, and Joanna Gleason as the narrator, it was beautifully sung under the direction of maestro Ted Sperling, but can’t hide the fact that Laurents’ libretto is extremely scattershot taking on far too many targets for one show. Subtitled “A Musical Fable” in its first publication, the musical is really a cartoon satirizing everything imaginable. The theme is one of individualism versus conformity, a big trope for shows and movies in the turbulent 1960’s, now symbolized by the more famous "King of Hearts" (1966), "Your Own Thing" (1968), "HAIR" (1968) and "Easy Rider" (1969). [more]

Bruise & Thorn

March 17, 2022

C. Julian Jiménez’s "Bruise & Thorn" is not for everyone. Older theatergoers may be put off by both the raw language and street slang that they will not know. However, if you want to know what the younger playwrights and audience members are thinking you cannot afford to miss this over-the-top Queer Ball event. Pipeline Theatre Company’s production has to be seen to be believed. [more]

Man Cave

March 15, 2022

Page 73’s world premiere of John J. Caswell, Jr.’s "Man Cave" is an exciting, riveting supernatural horror story. While at times it seems overwrought and overstuffed with too many issues, Taylor Reynolds’ production works beautifully holding our attention until the final moment. Its satisfying ending seems totally in keeping with the events that precede it and its ensemble of four is completely believable as they attempt to deal with seemingly overwhelming contemporary issues. [more]

This Space Between Us

March 9, 2022

The world premiere of Peter Gil-Sheridan’s "This Space Between Us" gives itself away in its title: it is about a dysfunctional family that does nothing but argue when they get together. Jonathan Silverstein’s production for Keen Company bills itself as a comedy but unfortunately there are few if any laughs. While the author has an ear for realistic dialogue, he demonstrates little talent for plot, with the play as linear and predictable as could be. The only wrinkle in this timeworn theme is that the protagonist’s father is Cuban-born while his mother is American, and his Aunt Pat is a nun. One gets the feeling (possibly misplaced) that there is a semi-autobiographical element and the author is too close to his material. [more]

On Sugarland

March 8, 2022

Aleshea Harris’ third New York stage play following her form-bending "Is God Is" and "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" is epic in all senses of the word: it includes poetry, dance, incantation, comedy and drama. The new play "On Sugarland," an anti-war drama, also harks back to the Greeks, borrowing characters from Sophocles’ "Philoctetes" and Euripides’ "The Trojan Women," as well as the concept of the Chorus. It tells three interwoven stories as well as one communal one and ends with a shocking finale that is the hallmark of Greek tragedy. Director Whitney White’s production with its cast of 14 is quite versatile and lives up to its lofty task. [more]
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