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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (455 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.

X: Or, Betty Shabazz V. the Nation

February 20, 2018

Marcus Gardley’s "X: Or, Betty Shabazz V. The Nation" is a powerful indictment of forces within a movement which help to destroy it. Performed by The Acting Company under the direction of Ian Belknap, their artistic director, the play is riveting throughout while it follows its investigation where it may. It also requires a good deal of knowledge of the events of the 1960’s which many contemporary theatergoers may not come equipped to follow it. [more]

The Boys from Syracuse

February 18, 2018

The cast seems to have been mostly chosen for their comic skills rather than their singing skills. Nevertheless, Josh Waldren and Matthew Fairless as the visiting travelers turn “Dear Old Syracuse” into a delightful soft shoe number complete with straw hats and canes, and Walden has a lovely duet with Darrell Morris, Jr. as Luciana to “This Can’t Be Love (Because I Feel So Well).” Shapiro's Luce  and Ian Fairlee as Dromio of Ephesus have a big success with the witty, “He and She,” a comic specialty number. However, much of the show has been eroticized and there is a “wink wink” feeling to the overall approach. [more]

[Porto]

February 16, 2018

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: three people walk into a bar where they are known by the drinks they order. Only in Kate Benson’s new play "[Porto]," the unnamed bar is in a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, and is defined as a “boushy bar,” a portmanteau word made up of "bourgeois" and "douchey." We know that because it serves “serious food, serious beer, serious wine, serious spirits.” And what of the story the play tells? Like an episode of "Seinfeld," 'Friends" or "Girls," it will probably please Millennials most, those who are living the life of spending evenings in trendy bars to find companionship. The second play this year following "Miles for Mary" to transfer from Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr to Manhattan, [Porto] is now at the WP Theater for an Off Broadway run. [more]

Bar Mitzvah Boy

February 15, 2018

"Bar Mitzvah Boy" may not be a top-drawer Jule Styne musical, but Jack Rosenthal’s original story and David Thompson’s new book are excellently observed to have the ring of truth. The family chaos in planning the affair and problems precipitated by the young son’s behavior are sharply and shrewdly detailed enough to be absorbing in a way that all can relate to. Annette Jolles’ production for The York Theatre Company gets a great deal out of the material even in a version without the trappings of a full production. It is also a pleasant surprise to see an unfamiliar musical by major talents which fills in a gap in their careers. [more]

Miles for Mary

February 9, 2018

Playwrights Horizons has a real winner with the first entry in its new Redux Series bringing back worthy Off Off Broadway plays for a longer run Off Broadway. First up is "Miles for Mary," a company project from The Mad Ones, a New York City-based troupe dedicated to creating “ensemble-driven highly detailed theatrical experiences that examine and illuminate American nostalgia.” Seen previously at The Bushwick Starr during the 2016-17 season, "Miles for Mary" is a brilliant satire on group dynamics in an ongoing school fund-raising committee told in real time. While hilarity abounds as the committee does its pedantic and minimal work, an inevitable explosion is promised by the end and it is a doozie when it finally occurs. [more]

Imperfect Love

February 7, 2018

We are never told the name of the play being rehearsed or who the characters in the play within the play are. In the second act, the performers dressed in their costumes for Gabriele’s play reveal that it is a Renaissance costume drama but we still learn nothing about it. Nothing much is revealed about Italian theater of the time though the play being rehearsed does not seem to be in the naturalistic mode of drama that was creeping into the legitimate stage in 1899. And why did the author pick that year? No clues are given. [more]

He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box

February 6, 2018

Whereas Kennedy became famous with plays that use myth, history, surrealism and Theater of the Absurd to tell their stories, this play tells a realistic tale in poetic form, its very brevity belying its depth of feeling. The play incorporates the styles of romantic drama, Elizabethan tragedy, old-fashioned operetta, a murder mystery, and recent history of the not so distant past. Events in the play were suggested by Kennedy’s mother and her own visits to her grandparents in the Jim Crow South. [more]

Hindle Wakes

February 4, 2018

Stanley Houghton’s once controversial "Hindle Wakes" explodes everything you have ever been taught about the double standard and the place of women in society. The irrefutable logic of the characters in this play can only leave you with one conclusion. Gus Kaikkonen’s superb production for the Mint Theater Company restores this forgotten play to its rightful place in British drama. Had the playwright not died prematurely the year after "Hindle Wakes"’ premiere, the play would most likely have not fallen into an almost 100 year eclipse. Ironically, the Me-Too movement reminds us that the philosophy that “boys will be boys” is both immoral and indefensible. [more]

Cardinal

February 2, 2018

Greg Pierce, the author of "Slowgirl" and "Kid Champion," has often tackled hot button issues. Here in Cardinal being given its world premiere at Second Stage Theater, he takes on urban renewal, Chinese entrepreneurs, racism and amateurs in politics, all worthy of investigation, in comic fashion. However, in this satire his plot seems to reinvent itself in every other scene, with twists and turns you can’t see coming. The three sets of characters (Lydia and Jeff, Nancy and Nat Prenchel, owners of the Bread & Button Bakery, and Chinese businessman Li-Wei Chen and his son Jason) seem totally separate until he brings them together in a rather improbable finale. He also loads the deck with such plot complications as Lydia and Jeff beginning an affair (as she looks so much like her sister who he dated in high school and hasn’t gotten over.) [more]

Hallelujah, Baby!

January 31, 2018

While the new cut-down version (performed concert style with book in hand) with nine actors instead of the original 36, now covers 100 years, rather than the sixty in the original show, it still remains a shorthand version of the history of the movement as well as the trials and tribulations of African American performers in show business. Originally written with Lena Horne in mind, when she turned it down the starring role of Georgina Franklin went to newcomer Leslie Uggams and was subsequently revised to accommodate her softer, girl-next-door persona. Although her perky, animated performance won her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, Laurents was never happy with the compromises made to the show. The more tightly written show which now focuses on four main characters still doesn’t solve all the problems inherent in the material, as directed by Gerry McIntyre it does make for fast-paced musical entertainment with a great many unfamiliar songs. [more]

Party Face

January 31, 2018

The best reason to see Isobel Mahon’s "Party Face" is to see the ever-lovely Hayley Mills who used to play mischievous teens and now is playing busy-body mothers. The play is diverting though it has nothing new to say about women and their contemporary roles. Under Amanda Bearse’s direction, the play also gives Klea Blackhurst another off-beat comic role in which she shines.  [more]

Jericho

January 26, 2018

The problem with Laura Braza’s production is the lack of chemistry between Vasile Flutur’s Jericho and Hannah Sloat’s Julie. While Jericho should be charming and seductive, Flutur is only sinister and arrogant. Sloat is convincing at the innocent young girl routine but less so as the self-sacrificing woman in love where she comes off as rather bland. Just as McDonald walked off with the honors as Julie’s friend Carrie in the last Broadway revival of "Carousel," Ginna M. Doyle is most believable as the friend here called Mary (Marie in Molnár’s version.) Vivacious and sparkling, Doyle lights up the stage every time she appears as a woman in love with an ambitious but conventional doorman who climbs the ladder of success. So too Jack Sochet as Jericho’s criminal friend, here called Tynk, devious to his last breath and as wily as a coyote, appears to be living inside of his character. [more]

Disco Pigs

January 18, 2018

John Haidar’s energized production turns this material into a tour de force for Campbell and Lynch who are continually moving about spewing volumes of words, almost choreographed by movement director Naomi Said. Deeply in character, they seem to be living their adventures which include humor, fantasy and violence. However, American audiences will have difficulty with the thick Cork accents and Irish slang, as well as Pig and Runt’s private language which often resembles baby talk when it doesn’t sound like street poetry. [more]

BrouHaHa

January 8, 2018

Washington, D.C.’s acclaimed Happenstance Theater is making is New York debut with its 2015 show "BrouHaHa," which has been seen previously in Baltimore, Maine and New Haven. Taking for its theme what would you do if the world were about to end, this “clownesque escapade collaboratively devised and performed by the ensemble” follows the company of six through a series of skits and journeys almost all of which lead to death but from which the actors bounce back. While the company members are extremely talented, the material lacks impact and structure and cries out for both a playwright and a director. Although intended to be comic, there are no laughs in this show though it may provoke smiles. [more]

H.M.S. Pinafore (NYGASP)

December 30, 2017

Along with some contemporary updating which always gets a laugh, Albert Bergeret’s direction is sharp and shrewd and his conducting of Sullivan’s sprightly and animated score is equally assured as well. The diction is crystal clear, a must for Gilbert’s intricate and clever lyrics. With an attractive and realistic setting by Albère and pleasingly color-coordinated costumes in blue, white and red (the colors of the Union Jack) by Gail J. Wofford, this is a delectable and entertaining revival for both those familiar with it and others discovering its pleasures for the first time. [more]

Farinelli and the King

December 23, 2017

Giving a performance of the caliber of his earlier Shakespeare’s Globe portrayals of the Countess Olivia in "Twelfth Night" and the title role of "Richard III" which also played Broadway’s Belasco Theatre, Rylance is mesmerizing. He is one of a handful of actors who when they are on stage you cannot take your eyes off them. Playing the gamut of emotions, as well as playing off of the audience, Rylance continually takes us by surprise at his choices. His famous speech pattern which includes hesitation is perfect for the mad king who often seems to change direction midsentence. Even when he is silent he commands the stage. As we listen to Farinelli sing, we watch Rylance’s face to see his joyful reaction which tells us all we need to know. It is no wonder that he is often called the greatest stage actor of his generation. [more]

Twelfth Night, or What You Will (Fiasco Theater)

December 21, 2017

While not as memorable as several previous Fiasco Theater productions, this "Twelfth Night" takes a while to get where it is going. After winding up the plot in the first half, it settles down to sparkling comedy in its second. A bare-bones production, it focuses attention on the language and the music rather than the usually rich trappings. It is an easy production to follow without being distracted by extraneous interpretations or ideas. [more]

Bulldozer: The Ballad of Robert Moses

December 20, 2017

Moses’ famously crowded and contentious career is glossed over except for his final battle with Jacobs over the Lower Manhattan Expressway. "Bulldozer" doesn’t even give a good summary of his long and length exploits. Although the program lists the time scheme, there is nothing in the show to let us know how much time passes between any of the scenes. The dialogue does a lot of name dropping (Al Smith, Jimmy Walker, Fiorello LaGuardia, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Walter O’Malley) without making any of these people real. Hardly any of the songs forward the plot but instead tell us what we already found out in the preceding dialogue scene. The song lyrics have endlessly repeated refrains and choruses which is typical of rock and pop songs but death in a theatrical presentation in which we expect more information and cleverer wording. [more]

Describe the Night

December 15, 2017

The themes of Rajiv Joseph’s latest political play are not only valid but relevant in today’s climate. However, "Describe the Night" is too convoluted for its own good and attempts to make connections where none actually exist. While the cast led by Danny Burstein and Zach Grenier give solid performances, they never seem to develop in any way even though the play covers 90 years. Such momentous events as the Stalinist Purges and the fall of the Berlin Wall are treated almost in passing without their real significance being explored. Ambitious and epic in scope, Describe the Night becomes tiresome rather than enlightening. [more]

Downtown Race Riot

December 15, 2017

Anton Chekhov once advised that if you show an audience a gun you are required to have it go off. Set on September 8, 1976, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s new play, "Downtown Race Riot," being given it world premiere by The New Group, never takes us to this forgotten event which happened in Washington Square Park but depicts the forces and people involved in the 100 minutes before the riot is to happen. This overheated melodrama which goes on a bit long takes on many important themes (racial hatred, drug addiction, petty crime, sexual identity, financial insecurity, etc.) without making any pertinent point about any of them. While the dialogue and the milieu are gritty, Downtown Race Riot recycles a great many stereotypes and clichés. [more]

Shadowlands

December 13, 2017

William Nicholson’s "Shadowlands" is one of those subtle plays that grows on you as it evolves and weaves its own spell. Based on a true story of one the most improbable love stories of the 20th century, it covers a range of human emotions that should catch you in its web. Under Christa Scott-Reed’s assured and astute direction, Daniel Gerroll gives a memorable performance as theologian and writer C.S. Lewis. A play of ideas on the meaning and varieties of faith, it is challenging as one has to follow its intellectual and spiritual arguments. However, for discriminating theatergoers, this is an added fillip for more than simple entertainment. [more]

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]

Once on This Island

December 7, 2017

Director Arden, a 2005 Juilliard graduate, has impressed with his reinvention of the 2015 Forest of Arden/ Deaf West Theatre revival of "Spring Awakening" for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. Among his clever additions to "Once on This Island" are the use of a chorus of eight to play the Storytellers who relate the tale through Ahrens’ book and lyrics, a new sonic palette for Flaherty’s calypso-tinged score with musical instruments made from found objects, and a set which puts us on the shores of the very island where the story takes place with the audience sitting on all four sides of this newly created beach. His young lovers Ti Moune and Daniel seem a good deal younger than before, making the story that much more romantic and ultimately more tragic. [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]
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