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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (415 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 Home Place

October 19, 2017

It is possible to enjoy Brian Friel’s "The Home Place" without knowing the background to this historical play set in rural Ireland in 1878 as a Chekhovian representation of a world about to come to an end. However, the play will be much more meaningful if one knows the historical events that have led up to this turn of events. Charlotte Moore’s handsome and genteel production will be enjoyed most by those who understand the play’s undercurrents and implications. The low-key staging of this subtle play which does not spell everything out requires the audience to be adept at reading between the lines. [more]

Mud

October 18, 2017

While the acting is compelling, the threesome does not reveal many layers to their characters; they establish a persona and stick to it, without divulging any further information. As Mae, Nicole Villamil is both stoical and passive, a rather flat reading of this ambitious though down-trodden young woman. Julian Elijah Martinez’s Lloyd definitely comes from the lower depths with his vulgar language, his self-pity and his inability to help himself. However, there is little variety in his performance and we have no idea what his relationship with Mae has been up to this time. He does get noticeable stronger after he begins taking the pills the clinic has prescribed. Unaccountably dressed in a sport jacket and a tie in Sarita Fellows’ costume design, Nelson Avidon’s Henry is the biggest enigma of the three. At first reticent and later lascivious, he tells us little about his attraction to Mae - or where he comes from. [more]

Desperate Measures

October 13, 2017

While not all musicals from Shakespeare have worked and updates are particularly risky, "Desperate Measures" avoids all of the pitfalls and is a refreshing and satisfying work in its own right. The catchy score has superb songs in the vein of the Broadway western musical.  It is hoped the show has a long life beyond this production, like its young hero, in years to come. [more]

Androboros: Villain of the State

October 13, 2017

Director Ralph Lewis, apparently not trusting the material – or finding the play too dated – has staged a carnival-esque version (adapted by S.M. Dale in June 2016) which includes 16 songs and musical numbers and making contemporary references to the Trump Administration, as well as current New York City politics. The result, a series of Saturday Night Live political skits, is neither faithful to the original nor witty for a modern audience, more of a confused jumble than a historical rediscovery. [more]

The Apple Tree

October 10, 2017

Part of the problem is the lack of innovation in Ray Roderick’s staging in this show which calls out for invention and clever handling of sets and props. Devin Vogel’s colorless stage design (making use mainly of a ladder in the first and third stories) and Hope Salvan’s equally colorless costumes for most of the show (pale grey and blue tee-shirts and jeans for the first one-act) do not help bring any atmosphere to the three separate stories which span the time scheme from Biblical days up to the present. All three stories are narrated or introduced by The Balladeer who also plays the Snake in the first story. While such songs as the catchy “Forbidden Fruit,” the lovely “What Makes Me Love Him?,” the sultry “I’ve Got What You Want,” and the folk-rock ballad, “You Are Not Real” still impress, the musical staging is lacking in showmanship and pizzazz. [more]

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord

October 10, 2017

Although director Kimberly Senior who also piloted the Chicago production has staged the play with elegance, she never really turns up the heat so that there are not many sparks in Carter’s debate. Discord, yes; but no fireworks which might have made the discussion more dramatic. The play uses titles on the back wall to name each of the 14 scenes much in the manner of Brecht’s alienation effect. This breaks up the play but is not very informative. The device of the invisible fourth wall being a mirror in Wilson Chin’s all blue-grey interrogation room seems a gimmick to allow the men to face the audience directly for much of the play. [more]

The Show-Off

October 5, 2017

The central character is actually Mrs. Fisher who worries about her children and plots to open Amy’s eyes to her husband’s faults. Unfortunately, Annette O’Toole has been directed to play her as shrill, strident and hysterical, rather than as a wise middle-aged lady who has no illusions about life. Given a great many ethnic prejudices in her dialogue which in 1924 defined her as a suburban provincial, played this way she simply comes across as a bigot. We ought to be rooting for her against the barbarian invasion but O’Toole makes her almost as bad as Aubrey. [more]

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic

October 4, 2017

The new story concerns Wayne Hopkins, an American boy whose parents die tragically and his Uncle Dave informs him that he is a wizard and must attend a special school in England. Wayne is sorted into The Puffs which he discovers is the house for the losers, rejects and nerds who never win at anything. His one goal is to be a hero at something – eventually – while getting through magic school. There he meets the dashing older student Cedric (Andy Miller) several years ahead, as well as another American, the nerdy math prodigy Oliver Rivers (Langston Belton) who can’t seem to succeed at magic, and Megan Jones (Julie Ann Earls), who wears Goth make-up, all black clothing and resents being there. Megan is particularly angry because her mother is a prisoner and in thrall to the Dark Lord. [more]

As You Like It (CSC)

October 2, 2017

Known as the Shakespeare play with the most song lyrics, the production also includes a deliciously bouncy new score by Stephen Schwartz in different musical styles from the 1920’s – 1950’s, including setting some of Orlando’s mash notes to Rosalind which are usually spoken in verse. The musical numbers are mostly reassigned to the musical theater veterans like de Shields and Stillman who plays an onstage, upright piano, with Leenya Rideout on violin and double bass, and other members of the cast occasionally joining in on guitar and triangle. All of this adds to the festive, light-hearted atmosphere. Originally announced as a Jazz Age interpretation, that concept seems to have gone by the wayside. [more]

Charm

September 28, 2017

Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins makes a memorable New York debut with an involving and engrossing play which at the performance under review you could have heard a pin drop, so rapt was the audience. The play is, indeed, flawed by its avoiding real confrontations time and again, always stopping short of out and out war. Inspired by the true story of Miss Gloria Allen who volunteered to teach a class in etiquette at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, "Charm" is both a fascinating story and it covers unexplored territory on our stages. As Mama Andrews, the elegant Sandra Caldwell is both charismatic and compelling, never fazed by the behavior of the class even when they pay her no mind or reject her teachings. [more]

The Climbers

September 23, 2017

The play isn’t just about social climbers but those who want to game the system and live beyond their income, and their sense of entitlement rivals that of the 1990’s. However, this is 1901 and there is also a social hierarchy of who is in and who hasn’t made it yet. And these aren’t the robber barons with unlimited incomes, but people further down the economic scale hoping to make a killing by speculating on the market. Like a novel by Henry James or Edith Wharton, this turn of the century social drama encompasses a good many characters and events and includes both comedy and tragedy. The current almost three hour time length would have been longer at the beginning of the last century as there would have been more intermissions in this four act play, but in those days playgoers liked getting their money’s worth. [more]

On the Shore of the Wide World

September 21, 2017

Neil Pepe’s production of Simon Stephens’ "On the Shore of the Wide World" will not please all. The pace is consciously slow – like the life lived by these characters. However, the wait is worth the effort. By the end when the family reunites for Sunday dinner, the play has become both powerful and poignant. The title, incidentally, comes from the next to the last line of John Keats’ sonnet, “When I have fears that I may cease to be” in which the speaker worries about missing out on love, fulfillment, fame and success, apt summation of Simon Stephens' play.  [more]

The Sorcerer (New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players)

September 17, 2017

This 1877 operetta, now celebrating its 140th anniversary, has been reduced to the nine major roles and the chorus has been eliminated. The result is a streamlined version that moves along at a steady pace under Albert Bergeret’s music and stage direction. The problem with the production is that although this is listed as a comedy, the new NYGASP revival wasn’t very funny except for several contemporary references such as “Amazon Prime” and the “changes at the White House.” [more]

Loveless Texas

September 17, 2017

Although the plot has been reset in Loveless, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, circa 1929, it is an improvement over the original story as a romantic comedy: Shakespeare’s version ends with a death and four pairs of lovers departing and agreeing to meet in a year’s time. Loveless, Texas puts the funeral at the end of the first act, and brings all four couples, plus two more, together by the final curtain, which is much more satisfying. (No spoiler this as it is obvious what will happen – just not so obvious how they will get there.) [more]

The Baroness – Isak Dinesen’s Final Affair

September 13, 2017

As Blixen, Pelletier is riveting as she wraps her cocoon around the unsuspecting but susceptible young man. Catlike and sinuous as she stalks him and the stage, she is cajoling, seductive, mysterious, wise all at the same time, as they discuss writing, poetry, philosophy, beliefs, memories, desire, and how to live one’s life. Impeccably dressed by Stine Martinsen, she exudes glamour as well as baring her soul. She inhabits the role making us think that we have met the real Karen Blixen. [more]

La Fanciulla del West (New York City Opera)

September 10, 2017

The newly reconstituted New York City Opera opened its second full season with a shared production of Puccini’s rarely performed "La Fanciulla del West" created in collaboration with the Teatro di Giglio di Lucca, Italy; Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Sardinia; and Opera Carolina of Charlotte, North Carolina. Ivan Stefanutti’s production is solid but old-fashioned and traditional except for huge projections that fill the back wall of the three sets, some which work and some which don’t. Conducted by James Meena, Opera Carolina’s general director and principal conductor, with a cast led by soprano Kristin Sampson in the title role, both the orchestra and cast gave sturdy though only intermittently exciting performances in this unusual Italian opera. [more]

Inanimate

September 3, 2017

Performed by The Bats, the resident company of The Flea Theater, the world premiere of "Inanimate" is the inaugural production in their new home on Thomas Street, between Church and Broadway, several blocks south of their original premises. Performed in The Siggy, named after founder and patron Sigourney Weaver, a house with 46 permanent seats, it is the first of the three new theaters to open prior to the complex’s grand opening on September 28. It has been given a sharp, assured staging by director Courtney Ulrich with engrossing performances by its cast of seven. [more]

The Suitcase Under the Bed

August 27, 2017

Exquisitely produced by the Mint Theater, Jonathan Bank’s direction is leisurely and slow, which undercuts the theatricality of all but the last and the most satisfying one, 'The King of Spain’s Daughter," originally given four separate stage productions at the Abbey from 1935-1939 and two in London in 1939. Using a company of seven, the actors appear in varying combinations while all appear in the third play, "Holiday House. " Two of the plays end too abruptly calling out for a more substantial length, while one of the plays seems to go on too long. [more]

Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series B

August 12, 2017

While the three plays in Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series B have been given proficient productions each seems ultimately unsatisfactory. All seem like first drafts rather than completely fulfilling their potential. The three authors could learn a lesson from the three plays in Series A which all hit their marks. Interesting experiments but failures nevertheless. [more]

A Parallelogram

August 11, 2017

Bruce Norris’ "A Parallelogram" endeavors to explore some sobering facts about the effect of the future on the present and responsibility to others. Unfortunately, the play ends up being laborious and tiresome - without being revealing or challenging. Too many of the fantasy elements have not been worked out so that much must be taken on faith or not considered. Norris wants to say something deep but this 2010 play having its belated New York premiere is more confused than meaningful. [more]

Jerry’s Girls

August 8, 2017

The revival at the York is being seen in yet a new version of the show that began as a cabaret in 1981 and went to Broadway in 1985. Created by director Larry Alford, choreographer Wayne Alford and composer Herman, the original show included new songs written especially for the show, only one of which remains in the revival. However, as directed by Pamela Hunt ("The Musical of Musicals"), this version of "Jerry’s Girls" organizes the songs more faithfully by around each show and includes the greatest hits from "Hello, Dolly!," "Mack and Mabel," "Milk and Honey," "Mame," two numbers from "Dear World," and ending with a medley from "La Cage aux Folles." Along the way are also two unfamiliar numbers from Herman’s 1960’s revue "Parade." [more]

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare in the Park)

August 5, 2017

Although the physical production has been well-thought-out, the script seems to have no interpretation other than a great deal of slapstick comedy which does not much register. The cast varies greatly in having found the core of their roles. Phylicia Rashad’s Titania is romantic and authoritative, while Richard Poe’s Oberon is wryly arch but ineffectual. Their fairy attendants are played by white haired and balding senior citizens but nothing much is made of this unusual casting. As Puck usually played by a youth or a dancer, Kristine Nielsen’s regular mannerisms are kept to a minimum but she seems much more amused by her mischief than the audience does. [more]

Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series A

August 2, 2017

"Acolyte" by Graham Moore, Academy Award winner for his 2013 screenplay for "The Imitation Game," is a more substantial play than the other two. Based on an historical occurrence in 1954, it brings together two couples, Ayn Rand (founder of Objectivism) and her husband Frank O’Connor and her follower, Nathaniel Branden and his wife Barbara, for one of her weekly dinner parties. Rand has asked the Brandens to remain after all the guests have left following a vigorous debate on Aristotelean principles versus Platonic realism. [more]

Singing Beach

July 31, 2017

Aside from the destructive nature of the storm and that the "Pegasus" eventually arrives at a desert shore, there isn’t much to be learned about climate change. We never know if Sleeper lost his ability to speak as a result of his strokes or has chosen not to speak after the death of his wife, which is an entirely different state of affairs. The cast of characters is made up of a great many creative people who are simply labels as we learn nothing about their work or their careers: novelist Merrie, classical scholar Owen, artist Sebastian, poet Ashton, scientist Miss Blake. The thinness of both the characters and the story keeps the play from making any important points. [more]

Pipeline

July 30, 2017

From Dominique Morisseau, the author of the critically acclaimed Skeleton Crew, Detroit ’67 and Sunset Baby, comes another powerfully provocative and riveting, but overwrought, play which investigates black rage, racial stereotyping, and parental mistakes. Just try to take your eyes off the high octane production by Lileana Blain-Cruz, which has been brilliantly cast with its six actors, all but Karen Pittman (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced) making their Lincoln Center Theater debuts. Morisseau may not have all the answers but she certainly looks at the questions from all angles. The play’s title is a reference to the metaphor for “the school to prison pipeline” that describes the blighted lives of so many ghetto youths who fail before they finish their education and was the topic of Anna Deavere Smith’s "Notes from the Field" seen Off Broadway last fall. [more]

1984

July 13, 2017

Icke and MacMillan’s version is tricked up with much multimedia, sound and lights, and disorientation. Faithful to the book, it claims to be the first adaptation to include Orwell’s appendix supposedly written years after the events of the novel. The first third of the play which mixes past, present and future would be very hard to follow for someone who has not read the book. For two-thirds of the play, Chloe Lamford’s set is a wood paneled library or reading room which must make do for an office cubicle, an office cafeteria, an antique shop, a meeting room, a path through a forest, and the home of the hero, Winston Smith. The last third of the play which depicts the reeducation of Winston, i.e. torture and brainwashing, is very graphic and as such difficult to sit through; the book’s description, however, which drew a curtain over the actual violence made it seem like it went on for months or years. [more]

Napoli, Brooklyn

July 12, 2017

True, here these Italian American sisters growing up in Park Slope, 1960, don’t want to get to some place as much as get away from someplace else. As they exit their teens, their home has been made a war zone by their brutal and violent Neapolitan father Nic Muscolino who cannot deal with these women (including his Italian born wife) who think for themselves and want to follow different paths than the traditional roles defined for them. [more]

Of Human Bondage

July 10, 2017

Director Albert Schultz’s program note explains that the production set itself two challenges: first, that Philip Carey would never leave the 16-foot red square center stage, and that all of the sound (vocal, musical or atmospheric) would be made by the 11 other actors in view of the audience. This may have made for an interesting artistic experiment, but it is not so effective for the audience. While the 16-foot square makes the play claustrophobic (a metaphor for Philip’s life), it also means that scenery has to be carted around for each and every scene. Nevertheless, in Lorenzo Savoini’s clever set design, the transitions between the many scenes are smooth and flowing. The sound effects are made by the actors on stage ultimately become very distracting from the action of the play. Faithful to the novel but necessarily telescoped, Thiessen’s adaptation is fragmented into a series of vignettes which though not disjointed suggest that much is missing. [more]

Bastard Jones

July 9, 2017

Bastard Jones is surprisingly accessible for a contemporary musical based on a long and episodic 18th century novel. Sophisticated and off-color, naughty but nice, it proves to be a sharp and irreverent entertainment. With a terrific cast and a star making performance by Evan Ruggiero, witty and clever, Bastard Jones is both a delightful 18th century and 21st century evening in the theater. [more]

Ovo (Cirque du Soleil)

July 7, 2017

The Wall is also used by the performers who climb on it, disappear into it, and use it as both a platform and a launching pad. The most remarkable act is the finale – the “Trampo Wall” performed by the ten Crickets in green. A colony of Crickets run, jump, and travel straight up the four story vertical wall without artificial support. They also use air track and trampolines to take flight from the back of the stage to the very apron. One watches with bated breath in absolute disbelief. [more]

Measure for Measure (Theatre for a New Audience)

July 2, 2017

He has updated the play to a contemporary city rife with decadence and corruption. The audience enters the theater from backstage in order to visit Mistress Overdone’s brothel with sex toys and rooms for peep shows on display. Twelve members of the audience sit on either side of the thrust stage, a jury for morality one would suspect. The second act begins in a night club called "The Moated Grange” where Mariana is now a singer with the on-stage band. Six audience members are invited up to sit at the café tables that now dot the stage. [more]

In a Word

July 1, 2017

Told mainly in reenacted flashbacks, In a Word plays multiple language games. It also proves the limits of language. Can you really describe exactly what happens at any given moment? And if you misunderstand a word or take it to mean something else the whole meaning changes. After two years, Guy wants to know what Fiona didn’t tell him on the day Tristan disappeared. Fiona brings evidence to the detective but fails to be exact in her suspicions. Tristan misunderstands things he is not meant to hear and proceeds on his own explanations. [more]

Cost of Living

June 30, 2017

The play is enlightening for a physically abled audience as to the needs of the disabled both physically and emotionally. Both stories include a tender, poignant bathing scene as the caretakers learn how to adapt to their charges. However, there is more to Majok’s story. Both Jess and Eddie are dealing with their own problems. We discover that Jess is a first generation Princeton graduate down on her luck, all of her family having returned to her native country, never named. Eddie has been a long time alcoholic (which probably wrecked his marriage) and has lost his license and his job after a DUI charge. Ultimately, we discover that Jess and Eddie are coping less well than their charges and adversity is just around the corner. [more]
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