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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (676 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 Half-Life of Marie Curie

December 4, 2019

Having won the 2014 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award for "I and You," this is the fourth production of a Lauren Gunderson play in New York since then including her solo play "Natural Shocks" on domestic abuse which was produced in 100 American theaters in 2018. A specialist in biographical plays, her "The Half-Life of Marie Curie" is of particular interest in that it tells a little-known story of a very famous figure. It is also notable for the vivid performances of Kate Mulgrew and Francesca Faridany. Although Gunderson is not yet a household name, she has been the most produced American playwright since 2016. [more]

Cyrano

December 2, 2019

For those younger members of the audience who do not know Edmond Rostand’s classic French play, "Cyrano de Bergerac," the new musical "Cyrano" presented by The New Group at the Darryl Roth Theatre may be entertaining enough. However, for those of us who know the original, the compromises and excisions from the text make it a shadow of its former itself. Don’t blame film and television star Peter Dinklage who gives a vigorous performance in the title role. However, he is hampered by the adaptation by director Erica Schmidt who happens to be his wife. [more]

Fefu and Her Friends

November 30, 2019

While María Irene Fornés' "Fefu and Her Friends" is considered a feminist statement, in performance the play seems not to be very revealing about women or their positions other than the fact that the cast is entirely female. Set among the very rich in the 1930’s, the play is liberated only to the extent that the women have enough money to do what they wish. With its attractive sets and stylish clothes and the novelty of moving from one set to the other, the play seems to be rather a period piece than a statement of women’s lib. Unlike such all-female plays as Hazel Ellis’ "Women without Men," Clare Boothe’s "The Women" and Jane Chambers’ "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove," "Fefu and Her Friends" does not have a lot to say although it remains entertaining throughout. Of course, it is possible that a women critic might have a very different take on this work. [more]

Let ‘Em Eat Cake

November 29, 2019

Having had a success with Of Thee I Sing in 2017, MasterVoices had chosen to stage the sequel with an equally starry cast made up of most of the singers from the previous show in the same roles. With a chorus of 125 voices in this most choral of musicals and nine stars, "Let ’Em Eat Cake" was gloriously sung. The orchestra of St. Luke’s under the baton of artistic director Ted Sperling gave the complex score a vigorous reading, suggesting that it is more than just a musical. While the story is quite silly (the White House gets painted blue, among other things), it is also quite dark predicting a fascist takeover of the American presidency - which may explain its quick failure in its own time. Topical in 1933, many of the topics and issues are currently in the headlines again as Washington deals with an imperial White House. The musical also offered a great many unfamiliar Gershwin songs aside from its one hit “Mine,” and familiar and unfamiliar reprises from "Of Thee I Sing" like “Wintergreen for President.” [more]

The Crucible (Bedlam)

November 25, 2019

As produced by Bedlam in association with The Nora, Arthur Miller’s 1953 tragedy, "The Crucible," based on the Salem Witch Trials proves to be both riveting and relevant all over again. In the past, the play was seen as a cautionary tale about the McCarthy Era witch hunt that destroyed so many lives. Now in 2019 it becomes a story of truth and lies, fiction and fact. One of the judges refers to the situation in Salem as “this swamp.” In the age of Trump, Miller’s play has new meaning for our time. You could hear a pin drop during Eric Tucker’s unfussy production which becomes more and more scary as the Salem witch trials progress and the townspeople become entirely carried away by the hysteria. [more]

Einstein’s Dreams

November 22, 2019

Alan Lightman’s 1992 internationally best-selling novel "Einstein’s Dreams" would seem like an unlikely choice for stage adaptation as the original book is made up of 30 variations on theories of time but includes no plot. However, as adapted by Joanne Sydney Lessner (book and lyrics) and Joshua Rosenblum (music and lyrics) it is a charming period musical that makes Einstein’s theories (at least the ten dramatized) quite accessible to audiences not made up of physicists. Its lovely score and excellent production directed by Prospect Theater Company’s Cara Reichel led by Zal Owen and Alexandra Silber are both entertaining and mind-expanding. Its deficiencies are ones that were also true of the novel. [more]

Truffles: Music! Mushrooms! Murder!!!

November 19, 2019

"Truffles: Music! Mushrooms! Murder!!!" is a dinner theater musical mystery set in the very restaurant (The Secret Room) where the audience is having dinner. This return engagement of the long-running show originally conceived by Sonia Carrion has been extensively rewritten by Gregg Ostrin inspired by characters initially created by Billy Manton, Carrion and Hal Galardi. This mildly amusing evening includes dinner (if you so choose), a score with 11 clever songs, and a murder mystery which keeps morphing into various other genres. [more]

Slava’s Snowshow

November 18, 2019

"Slava’s Snowshow" is a unique experience. It is clowning of a sophisticated sort with its wordless skits which takes it beyond language. Its set pieces are outrageous enough to transcend anything other clown shows are doing at present. At 110 minutes, it is just long enough to not overstay its welcome. The audience participation sequences will make you feel that you are part of the show and the clowns play off of audience reactions throughout. However, as the clowns are more somber than playful it may not be for people easily depressed or very young children who have not seen the magic of theater before. [more]

Broadbend, Arkansas

November 15, 2019

Produced by Transport Group in association with The Public Theater and directed with precision, clarity and simplicity by Transport Group’s artistic director Jack Cummings III, this story of three generations of an African American family grappling with of racism, violence and inequality in the South is as moving and trenchant as a story by Harper Lee. Each act is a monodrama exquisitely acted, sung and directed for a very discerning audience. While there is dialogue in both halves, the extraordinary music makes it feel sung through. [more]

Scotland, PA

November 10, 2019

There have been many adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth but none of them probably as entertaining as the new musical "Scotland, PA." Presented in the cartoon style of "Little Shop of Horrors," the show does not break any new ground but proves to be a fun evening. However, director Lonny Price who has staged musicals both big ("Sunset Boulevard)" and small ("Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill") gives the interest high and the show bubbling. [more]

The Michaels

November 10, 2019

Richard Nelson’s latest play, "The Michaels" (subtitled a “Conversation During Difficult Times”) is a thing of beauty. Low-key like his "Apple Family" quartet and his "The Gabriels" trilogy, it is Chekhovian in the best sense of the word: very little happens but life passes by. The characters who sit in a Rhinebeck, New York,  kitchen (also the setting for the other seven plays) talk of life and death, love and desire, memories and accomplishments. They reveal secrets and ponder changes and ultimately make decisions. Not much takes place but then again all of life occurs in the course of the play’s two hours. [more]

Seared

November 8, 2019

As directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, the play is fast-paced and engrossing and the smell of garlic coming from the stage convinces us that real cooking is going on. The completely working industrial kitchen designed by Tim Mackabee is a wonder of economy on the small stage of the Susan & Ronald Frankel Theater at The Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space as we watch many meals get prepared in record time. The flaw in the play is that Esparza’s Harry spends so much time ranting about his beliefs and requirements that he becomes both tiresome and unsympathetic. Harry may be an artist fighting capitalist necessities, but he also sabotages his own success. We eventually discover that he is not as ethical as he pretends to be even though he claims not to care about money – or adulations. And as none of the money in the restaurant is his, ultimately he has no say in what is decided. [more]

Dr. Ride’s American Beach House

November 7, 2019

Plays about lives of quiet desperation are difficult to pull off because you run the risk of boring the audience. Liza Birkenmeier’s “Dr. Ride’s American Beach House” has all the elements of a fascinating drama but as presented by Ars Nova at Greenwich House it is all about subtext and undercurrents which may go right over the heads of many audience members. Little happens but there is much tedious talk which is a cover-up for what goes unsaid. [more]

A Woman of the World

November 3, 2019

Kathleen Chalfant adds another feather to her cap as Emily Dickinson’s posthumous editor Mabel Loomis Todd in the world premiere of Rebecca Gilman’s new one-woman play, "A Woman of the World," presented by The Acting Company in association with Miranda Theatre Company at 59E59 Theaters. Staged by Miranda’s artistic director Valentina Fratti with elegant assurance, Chalfant is both fascinating and seductive as this real life woman who in the 1880’s and 1890’s scandalized conventional Amherst, Massachusetts, with her liberated and bohemian behavior long before such goings on became acceptable for women – or men. [more]

The Lightning Thief – The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway

November 2, 2019

"The Lightning Thief - The Percy Jackson Musical" settles down a bit more in the second act and becomes more engrossing but the damage has been done. The actors in the first act all seem to be racing for a train and the sound levels continue to damage many of the songs throughout the show. The show remains an excellent introduction to Greek mythology made relevant for our own time. Faithful to the source material, it may please both teens who have read the book and those who have not. The five of the seven-member cast playing 28 roles demonstrates their versatility as they change from one colorful three-dimensional character to another. If only the director and the production had trusted the original show and did not feel it necessary to make it bigger and better for Broadway, a common complaint when shows make the move from their smaller Off Broadway venues. [more]

Panama Hattie

October 29, 2019

While the original production had a great many one-of-a-kind stars supporting Merman, one of the distinctions of the York production is its cast: Montel has been able to obtain the services of Klea Blackhurst for Hattie Maloney, the Ethel Merman role. Blackhurst, you may know, has specialized in Merman for years including her tribute show "Everything  the Traffic Will Allow" as well as appearing in the Merman roles in revivals of "Anything Goes," "Red, Hot and Blue," "Call Me Madam" and The York’s staging of "Happy Hunting." Montel has also surrounded her with seasoned theater veterans including Stephen Bogardus, Simon Jones, Gordon Stanley and David Green. The members of the singing and dancing chorus are equally talented. [more]

Macbeth (Classic Stage Company)

October 28, 2019

There has been a recent trend to perform Shakespeare as minimally as possible and with as few actors as possible. However, the question arises what is gained? When the doubling of roles proves confusing so that when actors appear it is difficult to know who they are playing, what is the point? Here the two actors who play the murderers Macbeth hires to kill Banquo report to him and then take their seats with the guests at his banquet which is quite disconcerting. In Doyle’s version, Macbeth himself kills Lady Macduff and her children rather than his henchmen – so who is minding the palace? Antonio Michael Woodard, the young man who plays Banquo’s son Fleance, appears in this scene as Macduff’s son but we know we have seen him before. [more]

Linda Vista

October 25, 2019

Tracy Letts’ latest play to reach New York via the Chicago Steppenwolf production is the comedy drama, "Linda Vista," in which a 50-year-old white man in San Diego going through a messy divorce finds his life spiraling downward as he attempts to deal with his personal demons in a major midlife crisis. Presented in New York by Second Stage Theater, the play delineates a case of toxic masculinity and will most likely fascinate men and infuriate women. While Dick Wheeler played by Ian Barford, longtime Steppenwolf ensemble member, is reprehensible in the comic first act, he is redeemed by the end of the poignant second act where one’s sympathies finally go out to him. [more]

Is This a Room

October 25, 2019

The performances as well as the dialogue are cool and unemotional as you might expect from four professionals used to doing their jobs, until about three quarters of the way through when Winner confesses to having mailed out the document that they have been asking her about after admitting that she had printed it out to read it. From then on for the last 15 minutes, the tension rises as it become obvious that Winner will not be allowed to go home. [more]

The Decline and Fall of the Entire World As Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter

October 18, 2019

As part of its Fall 2019 Musicals in Mufti Cole Porter Series, The York Theatre Company has smartly revived this 1965 Ben Bagley - Cole Porter revue not seen in New York in 54 years. Pamela Hunt’s delightfully sophisticated production uses four talented performers at the height of their powers: Danny Gardner, Lauren Molina, Diane Phelan and Tony Award nominee Lee Roy Reams, with the estimable Eric Svejcar at the piano. Hunt has tweaked the show a bit eliminating five of the songs which have inappropriate lyrics for modern sensibility and handed Reams the role of speaking Bagley’s droll narration rather than dividing it up between the original five performers. Although the Muftis are performed concert style with book in hand, these performers appear to be letter perfect and hardly look at their sheet music. [more]

Round Table

October 15, 2019

The problem with Vaynberg’s play, now being given its Off Broadway premiere, in which she plays the lead female role, is that it has so many interlocking plots that it can give you a headache trying to keep them straight. And as all of the actors play two and five roles it is difficult to always know who is who. While director Geordie Broadwater keeps the pace zipping along, this often makes it more of a strain to follow the convoluted plotting. Plus the extensive quoting from Tennyson’s Arthurian narrative poem, Idylls of the King (not identified until late in the play) doesn’t help a bit. [more]

The Height of the Storm

October 14, 2019

What is evident is that Zeller writes tremendous roles for actors. Frank Langella won the Tony Award back in 2016 for the title role of "The Father," and "The Height of the Storm" may well win others. The current production includes all but one of the British cast from Jonathan Kent’s London presentation and two-time Tony Award winner Jonathan Pryce and three-time Olivier Award winner Eileen Atkins give the kind of performances that legends are made of. As André, Pryce is like a lion in winter: confused, detached, incoherent at times, yet raging due to his loss of power, and completely bereft when his wife is not in the room. His anger is always palpable and makes him seem bigger than his actual stature. [more]

runboyrun & In Old Age

October 9, 2019

Despite the fine writing and acting, these two plays do not stand alone: we are given no backstory to understand the context for these relationships in the longer saga; both plays dealing with a character’s depression, they are too similar in the theme of being haunted by the past; and thirdly, as they are basically two-character plays, both are too long for the limited story and plot lines they contain. Unlike the first two plays, these use two different directors (Loretta Greco for "runboyrun," and Awoye Timpo for "In Old Age"), ironically making them seem quite similar in style. [more]

Caesar and Cleopatra

October 7, 2019

When the Gingold Theatrical Group’s revival of Bernard Shaw’s epic "Caesar and Cleopatra" begins, the characters are wearing white contemporary clothes and sitting on what looks like an excavation site which might give one pause. Like David Staller’s revival of "Heartbreak House" last year, his Caesar and Cleopatra tries to give this 1898 play a more contemporary relevance, but unlike Heartbreak House which pointlessly updated that play to W.W. II rather than the usual W.W. I setting, this modern approach works extremely well and proves to be quite charming. [more]

Fifty Million Frenchmen

October 3, 2019

Still delightful, mainly due to Porter’s score, the book by Herbert Fields (who went on to write six more Porter shows) has its charms with its snappy Jazz Age dialogue which makes fun of the ugly Americans in Paris, loaded with money but making one faux pas after another while mangling the French language. The version being used by the York Theatre production is that of the 1991 Tommy Krasker/Evans Haile adaptation for the Cole Porter Centennial first performed at the French Institute/Alliance Française which reduces the cast from 100 to a manageable eleven. It also reallocates some of the songs and includes some of the songs cut both on the road and after the opening. [more]

Why?

October 1, 2019

Legendary director Peter Brook has always investigated the big questions. In recent years his productions have become more intimate and the questions bigger. In "Why?", written and directed by Brook and his collaborator of four decades, Marie-Hélène Estienne, the performance takes place on a nearly empty stage and uses only three actors to tell its story. While the performance is mesmerizing, the play seems unfocused, beginning with the question why do we do theater and ending with the political dangers to theater artists who create experimental theater. [more]

Novenas for a Lost Hospital

September 24, 2019

Cusi Cram’s "Novenas for a Lost Hospital" (with dramaturgy by Guy Lancaster) presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is an unusual site-specific theatrical event that pays tribute to the now defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital which for 161 years was situated three blocks from the theater’s location. Directed by Daniella Topol, the play is both uneven and scattershot in its non-linear format and content. However, it conveys a great deal of information in an entertaining manner and has some affecting scenes of life in the hospital in two eras: the 1849 cholera epidemic when it was founded in the mid-19th century and the AIDS crisis in the final years of its tenure in the late 20th century. [more]

Freemove Dance: “ …it’s time…”

September 23, 2019

Co-presented by The Theater at the 14th Street Y, '…it’s time…" explored the dynamics of a small group of five—excellent—performers whose existence appeared to be controlled by a large digital countdown clock that frowned down upon them from the back wall. They were all dressed in tight outfits in shades of yellow, uniforms designed by Mondo Morales.To a stark, ingenious percussive score by Dani Markham, co-arranged and played brilliantly by drummer Price McGuffey situated high above the stage in his own cubbyhole, the dancers meandered onto a stage occupied only by five red folding chairs in a neat row.  The score ranged from clicks to drum rolls to bossa nova rhythms. [more]

Sincerity Forever & Bad Penny (Mac Wellman Festival: Perfect Catastrophes)

September 21, 2019

The Flea Theater is honoring one of its co-founding members, playwright Mac Wellman, with a five play festival called “Perfect Catastrophes” which includes two world premieres and three revivals, with casts made up of The Bats, The Flea’s youthful resident company. First up are the one-act plays, "Sincerity Forever" and "Bad Penny," which require separate admissions but can be seen back to back on the same evening or afternoon. Any two of the plays in this festival are an immersive view of the avant-garde playwright who has created new works for almost 50 years and has won three Obie Awards. [more]

L.O.V.E.R.

September 18, 2019

If you are put off by the idea of women defining themselves based on the men in their lives, then Lois Robbins’ one-woman play "L.O.V.E.R." is not for you. However, if you concede that there are women today whose mothers brought them up to believe that they are nothing without a man, then you will find "L.O.V.E.R." entertaining if not enlightening. Last seen Off Broadway in the revival of "Cactus Flower," Robbins proves to be a very personable and genial narrator of this semi-autobiographical story of love, sex and finding contentment. [more]

American Moor

September 16, 2019

Cobb is titanic in this piece bringing his resonant voice and impressive physical presence to bear on the most famous classic role for a Black actor in the canon as well as his thoughts about race and the theater. His justifiable anger when the director tells an anecdote about a woman who drove across the country in diapers to confront her rival as an example of the effects of jealousy is enough to flay one alive. His analysis of the man Othello and his relationship to the white Venetians is a brilliant explication of both character and society. Cobb’s understandable problem with white directors who want to tell him how to play a Black man exposes race in America from a new point of view. American Moor may make you angry but it is always enlightening and right on target. Although Cobb’s passion gets the better of him, you will never feel that he has gone too far or misrepresented things as they are. [more]

Decky Does a Bronco

September 15, 2019

Making is U.S. debut 19 years after its Scottish premiere in an actual park, Douglas Maxwell’s "Decky Does a Bronco" is a worthy addition to the dramatic literature of plays about childhood and the loss of innocence. Under the direction of Ethan Nienaber, the talented cast of five gives indelible performances which remain with the viewer long after the final curtain. The guilty that  the narrator David’s expresses as to what he might have done differently leaves a poignancy that cuts very deep. [more]

Lear: That Old Man I Used to Know

September 14, 2019

Hopkins had added selections from Lewis Carroll (references to the Jabberwock and “The White Knight’s Song: The Aged Age Man,” the poem which gives her the new title), Emily Dickinson (“I’m Nobody! Who are you?”), Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”), and unidentified poems from Dylan Thomas. Aside from the fact that these are several centuries newer, all of these have a different rhythm than Shakespeare’s Lear. The music credits include Satie’s “Gymnopedie” No. 1, Chopin’s “Nocturne in E minor,” excepts from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, and “Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s opera Serse. The most outstanding problem is that we have other associations with this material so that they stick out like a sore thumb. [more]
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