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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (433 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 Parisian Woman

December 12, 2017

Inspired by Henri Becque’s notorious 1885 "La Parisienne," credited as the first Naturalistic French play, Willimon has taken its plot, characters and themes of sex, adultery, betrayal and power. To this he has added modern politics as it is being practiced in Trump’s Washington. Tom, a high-powered Beltway tax lawyer who works with both Democrats and Republicans, and Chloe, his socialite wife, are in an open marriage. While she is attempting to break up with her lover Peter, a banker, Tom asks for his help in getting the nomination for an appointment on the circuit court though he has never been a judge before. When it looks like Tom is no longer in the running, Chloe decides to act on her own and approaches her new friend Jeanette, the President’s choice for Chair of the Federal Reserve, a staunch Republican power broker and contributor. How this plays out shows the ins and outs of Washington negotiating. While none of this is particularly new, Willimon uses some of the latest contemporary wrinkles. [more]

Indians

December 4, 2017

In the central character of Buffalo Bill Cody, Michael Hardart plays only the one role. The play seems to be his coming to terms with the mythologizing of his achievements. Although twice he is given the line about fearing death in his makeup, there is no sense that he gains any self-awareness in the course of the play. As a result, he does not become a tragic hero with a fatal flaw. His bland, tame performance fails to hold the play and its many scenes together. [more]

20th Century Blues

November 30, 2017

There is nothing much very wrong with Susan Miller’s '20th Century Blues" that a few more revelations or dustups wouldn’t solve. Beth Dixon, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Polly Draper, Kathryn Grody and Ellen Parker play believable, recognizable women at a plateau in their lives when some taking stock is in order as they approach the age of being considered senior citizens. A pleasant evening in this form, but Miller’s play gives an aftertaste that will leave you hungry for more. It seems that in order not to offend, she is playing it too safe. [more]

Pride and Prejudice

November 27, 2017

While this is not a Bedlam production as was Hamill’s hugely successful stage version of Austen’s second published novel, "Sense and Sensibility," director Amanda Dehnert has staged the play in their inimitable style for this co-production of Primary Stages and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and has created a clever 19th century entertainment with a decidedly 21st century sensibility. The versatile Hamill has also given herself the plum role of Elizabeth Bennet, here known as Lizzy. [more]

Peter Pan (Bedlam)

November 25, 2017

Such changes as Captain Hook being a woman or Tinker Bell speaking French are neither explained nor meaningful, while some of the doubling simply makes the play hard to follow as the characters are not listed in the programs which are given out after the performance. A voice-over which appears to read stage directions from the original is both intrusive and inconsistent: why some characters but not others? There is a dark psychological story hidden in Barrie’s tale of a boy who refuses to grow up but this isn’t it. Whereas the original play is joyful, Bedlam’s Peter Pan is a glum affair in which no one seems to be having a very good time. Where is the Bedlam which brought such purposeful insight and visual dazzle to its previous work? The actors, mostly playing children, try hard but fail to bring the work to life. [more]

Office Hour

November 20, 2017

Not only is Julia Cho’s "Office Hour" rivetingly acted by Sue Jean Kim and Ki Hong Lee, it is one of the few plays in recent memory to tackle a major social problem and offer an explanation or answer to society’s needs. Under Neel Keller’s astute direction and the production team’s superb physical production, "Office Hour" is both an important play and a compelling event in the theater. You may not agree with Cho’s conclusions but you will not be bored for a moment. [more]

Illyria

November 17, 2017

The conversations revolve around the topics of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s poor finances in 1958, Vaughan’s defection to the Phoenix Theatre which was paying a living wage while the NYSF was not, the choice of Mary Bennett (Vaughan’s choice) or Peggy Papp (Papp’s choice) to play Olivia, George C. Scott’s defection to the movies in his unnamed first film, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee appearances by both Papp and Gersten which has put their jobs in jeopardy, and whether Free Shakespeare in the Park can survive without charging admission. However, none of these conversations are allowed to erupt into real conflict. We are placed in the center of the action as though we are in the room where it happened, but the dialogue remains on the level of chit-chat rather than life or death threatening decisions. The problems never seem to be resolved and the play moves on to its next topic. [more]

M. Butterfly

November 15, 2017

Inspired by the true case of an affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu from 1960 – 1986 which led to a trial for espionage, Hwang’s problem in 2017 was that the story has become so well-known that the reveal at the end of the play is no longer a surprise. As a result, Hwang has worked to come up with new elements taken from the true case to make the play more startling for audiences that already know the tale. Director Julie Taymor who has in the past done wonderful work with exotic material ("The Transposed Heads," "The Green Bird," "The Lion King") does not give the play as much help as it needs, making it much too literal for its own good. [more]

Prague, 1912 (The Savoy Café Yiddish Theatre)

November 13, 2017

There is a fascinating story to be told in Franz Kafka’s involvement with the Yiddish theater in Prague during 1912 but Lu Hauser’s play isn’t it. "Prague, 1912 (The Savoy Café Yiddish Theatre)" is both episodic and repetitious without being clear as to the point that it is making. It simply seems to be a collection of scenes on the same themes that endlessly repeats itself. As Paula Vogel’s "Indecent" has demonstrated, there is a renewed interest in the Yiddish theater but "Prague, 1912" has not brought to life this world that is now gone with the wind. [more]

Romantic Trapezoid

November 10, 2017

The problem is that under Albert Bonilla’s stolid and matter-of-fact direction, Elizabeth Ingham and Zack Calhoon's characters never come alive. Just trading quips is not a sophisticated style and as all of their lines are said the same way without variety, it becomes tiresome quite soon. While Donze continually surprises us as Beth, Melissa and Dave remain the same throughout. And the production design doesn’t help much. While the couple discusses what good taste Melissa has in buying Dave’s shirt, Viviane Galloway’s costumes are extremely conservative and colorless, no proof of any special taste whatever. [more]

Of Thee I Sing (MasterVoices)

November 10, 2017

Leave it to George S. Kaufman and collaborator Morrie Ryskind (the Marx Brothers’ "The Cocoanuts," "Animal Crackers," "A Night at the Opera" as well as the Gershwins’ "Strike Up the Band"), lyricist Ira and composer George to come up with the first all satirical political musical and be prophetic as well. Led by Tony Award nominees Bryce Pinkham, Denée Benton, Kevin Chamberlin, Brad Oscar and Tony winner Chuck Cooper, this concert adaptation proves that there is still life in the 86-year-old musical. [more]

Knives in Hens

November 1, 2017

While the script describes the setting as simply a “rural place,” British and European productions apparently have set the play in medieval times. It is definitely pre-industrial as the farmers still need to have their grains ground at a mill and no one has yet seen a pen. Director Paul Takacs, who has staged the equally challenging Dark Vanilla Jungle by Philip Ridley in New York, has reset the play on the American frontier and made use of a multicultural cast. This grounds the play somewhat and makes it easier for Americans to identify with it, but it remains a difficult, challenging play due to its poetic language and its lack of specificity. [more]

Tiny Beautiful Things

October 31, 2017

Cleverly staged by Kail ("In the Heights," "Hamilton," "Dry Powder") on Rachel Hauck’s magnificently realistic set for the ground floor of a suburban house subtly lit by Jennifer Moeller, "Tiny Beautiful Things" is entertaining, poignant and enlightening. You may hear audible sobs at times during the evening as Sugar’s personal stories touch a nerve or a chord in her viewers. Vardalos tells us how she took over the “Dear Sugar” column though she had never written one before nor did she have any training in therapy. Her remarkable success was due to her using her personal experiences as well as her “radical sincerity and open arms.” Her empathy is infinite. [more]

Occupied Territories

October 30, 2017

Well-meaning and sincere," Occupied Territories" is both generic and stereotyped, offering a story television and the movies have been offering for years: the traumatic effect of a father’s Vietnam experience on his family years later. Co-written by Nancy Bannon who appears in the play and Mollye Maxner who directed it, it offers no surprises or new enlightenment. Set in two locales and time frames, the play alternates between scenes in a suburban basement on the day of Stephen Collins’ funeral and scenes from the life of the same man 45 years earlier as a rookie in the jungles of Vietnam. Ironically, the actors playing the soldiers are more convincing than the actresses playing the family members at home in America in the present. [more]

Dolores Claiborne

October 26, 2017

King’s "Dolores Claiborne" would seem a strange choice for dramatization as the book is a monologue told entirely by its protagonist at a police interrogation over a murder on Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine. Though J.D. McClatchy’s streamlined libretto is very faithful to the book (while eliminating some characters and complications), it never approximates the compelling and wry narrative voice in Dolores’ first-person tale which makes her sympathetic and gives a sense of urgency to her story. Mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez creates a believably passive character as a maid/companion to a selfish, rich woman whom she is accused of killing and an abused wife saddled with an alcoholic and brutal husband who died 30 years earlier but she brings no sympathy to the role. She just seems a tired, traumatized woman, not very interesting for the leading character in an opera. [more]

Bells Are Ringing

October 24, 2017

Boycott gets to sing a bounty of scintillating songs including “It’s A Perfect Relationship,” “Is It A Crime?,” “I’m Goin’ Back” and her duets with Heuser in “Better Than a Dream” (written for the film version) and “Long Before I Knew You.” Colgan’s choreography includes witty dance numbers to “Independent,” “I Met a Girl”, “Mu-Cha-Cha,” and “The Midas Touch.” Sue and Otto have a hilarious parody of the operetta aria in “Salzburg (By the Sea),” and the singer and girls of the Pyramid Club do a clever take on a cut-rate Busby Berkeley number to “The Midas Touch.” [more]

Lonely Planet

October 23, 2017

In Jonathan Silverstein’s production, Arnie Burton and Matt McGrath as two friends who handle their fears of an unnamed epidemic in opposite ways do not seem to connect as real friends would. Ironically, while they are both known for their outrageous over-the-top comic performances, here they remain low-key and rather flat. The play may have been more involving if they had been allowed to give the kind of performances which they are most famous for. The play ultimately has a poignant denouement but it takes a long time getting there. [more]

Measure for Measure (Elevator Repair Service)

October 21, 2017

Director John Collins, founder of ERS, has set the play in an office or conference room with three long tables (in Jim Findlay’s design which eventually grows tiresome)  and a great many stick telephones by which the characters often call each other to relay Shakespeare’s lines as if they are working from their offices. The walls of the set become screens for the text to scroll upwards through most of the play; at time we even see it five ways including the ceiling and with four panels in the back as well as on the back wall. Whether this is to remind us that this is a play of language, it is usually distracting and not very revealing. Often the actors speak so fast that it impossible to follow them and then in a brilliant coup de theatre one scene (that between brother and sister Claudio and Isabella) is spoken so slowly that it seems to reveal hidden meanings not noticeable before. [more]

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]
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