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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (635 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.

Broadway Bounty Hunter

August 7, 2019

Composer-lyricist Joe Inconis’ follow up to his teen favorite, "Be More Chill," is not only a showcase for musical comedy actress Annie Golden but a tribute to the Blaxploitation and Martial Arts movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s. While "Broadway Bounty Hunter" is very entertaining, it might have been a better show if had not been so anxious to not be a parody or a satire. Written by Iconis and longtime collaborators Lance Rubin and Jason Sweettooth Williams, energetic cast, fully attuned with their concept has been directed and choreographed with fierce energy by Jennifer Werner who has previous created the dances for five of Iconis’ last six shows. [more]

Coriolanus (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

August 6, 2019

While Shakespeare’s "Coriolanus" has a great deal to warn us about as a cautionary tale, it is also not as deep or as poetic a play as his major tragedies. Daniel Sullivan’s production for Free Shakespeare in the Park is fine with the surface values of this historical tragedy but less so with creating the subtext of the story. In his second time around as its titular hero, Jonathan Cake is excellent as the brutal warrior, not so accomplished as the public man wrestling with his own demons. [more]

Summer Shorts 2019: 13th Annual Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2019

Neil LaBute’s “Appomattox” is the most substantial of the three plays and deals with a topic new to his work. Two long-time friends, Frank, black, and Joe, white, are having a picnic in the park without their wives where they get to throw around a football. Joe tells Frank about a story he read in the newspaper that the freshmen at Georgetown University have decided to pay an annual reparation to the families of slaves who were sold off by the college centuries before as collateral to keep the school going. He is impressed that the $27.20 will be annually added to their tuition. For Frank, this is nothing but a symbolic gesture. He would like to see the figure sting a little for 400 years of slavery. [more]

Mojada

August 4, 2019

Following up on Luis Alfaro’s critically acclaimed Chicano retelling of Sophocles’ "Oedipus Rex" called "Oedipus El Rey," The Public Theater now stages his equally relevant and timely "Mojada" which melds Euripides’ "Medea" with the Latinx immigrant experience in the big American cities. Those who know the Greek myth of Jason and Medea will be prepared; those who at the performance under review obviously did not know what was coming were shocked and horrified by the ending. Either way the play is spellbinding theater. Chay Yew, artistic director of Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater who also directed the Public’ production of Oedipus El Rey, has staged the stunning and devastating play with an excellent cast of Hispanic-American actors which is as timely as tomorrow’s headlines. [more]

Summer Shorts 2019: 13th Annual Festival of New American Short Plays: Series A

August 3, 2019

Series A of this year’s Summer Shorts: 13th Festival of New American Short Plays is unified around the theme of death and dying and how it affects the living. Lest you think that this sounds morbid, the three provocative one-act plays that make up this first program are so beautifully handled that this is a superior theatrical evening in three totally different styles. Unlike many evenings of one acts, the productions of all three are worth of your attention and could not be bettered. [more]

The Rolling Stone

July 31, 2019

It is not until the second act of British playwright Chris Urch’s "The Rolling Stone" that the play catches fire but from then on the drama is explosive, compelling and very disturbing. Once the play gets past the introductory exposition that sets up the plot, the production by Saheem Ali (Donja R. Love’s "Sugar in Our Wounds" and "Fireflies," and Christopher Chen’s "Passage") is taut, tense and involving. [more]

Havel: the Passion of Thought

July 24, 2019

The three Havel one acts, known as "The Vanek Plays," though written separately, were originally banned in Czechoslovakia and performed secretly in people’s living rooms as well as being passed around in hand-written copies. They all deal with Vanek, a dissident playwright unable to have his plays produced, who is now working in a menial job, an alter ego for its author and his experiences under Communism. The problem with filling out the program to include both Pinter’s "The New World Order" and Beckett’s "Catastrophe" (dedicated to Havel) is that since the plays all have the same theme and development, it feels like overkill. [more]

Barabbas

July 3, 2019

While Will T.F. Carter’s "Barabbas" is very outspoken on the topic of political corruption in Peru, the play is dramatically weak as so much of it is exposition. In each scene we learn a little bit more about the men’s lives, but little that is new happens in the play’s 90 minutes. The tepid direction by Eduardo Machado gives us too much time to consider the play’s deficiencies and makes the play seem longer than it is. Carter’s anger at what is going on in Peru is commendable, but Barabbas does not utilize that indignation except on an intellectual basis. [more]

The Comedian’s Tragedy

June 30, 2019

Matthew Amendt’s new play "The Comedian’s Tragedy" asks the burning question why did Aristophanes, the master of Greek comedy, never write any tragedies. Socrates in Plato’s "Symposium" equated comedy and tragedy with Aristophanes present, but the question does not seem to have been asked these 2,400 years. While Amendt attempts to pass off his play as history, he plays fast and loose with the actual facts. Director Bill McCallum’s production does not help things by having the actors from ancient Athens mainly in contemporary clothing and having several historically male characters played by women. As most of the people in the play are not household names except to Greek scholars, this makes the play much more difficult to follow let alone recall what one should know about life in the days of Socrates and Aristophanes. [more]

Toni Stone

June 30, 2019

Lydia R. Diamond’s "Toni Stone" is a tour de force for one actress and Obie Award winner April Matthis gives a bravura performance as the first woman to play professional baseball as part of the Negro League. Although she is backed by eight men who from time to time make up the teams she was on, this is basically a one-woman show. In fact, this might have been a better play if Toni was the only character we had to follow on stage. However, director Pam MacKinnon excellently defines each character as we meet them in various combination; we just don’t know who they are most of the time. [more]

The Secret Life of Bees

June 27, 2019

Nottage’s book is faithful to the novel while at the same time reducing some of the melodrama and streamlining the story to reduce the number of characters to a cast of 13. Sheik’s score may be his most lush and melodic and the use of guitar and cello gives the music an appropriate folk feeling. The songs are a mix of gospel, R&B and pop which gives each of the main characters a song that explains their deepest thoughts. The rousing gospel numbers, “River of Melting Sun,” “Tek a Hol a My Soul” “Hold This House Together, “Our Lady of Chains,” make use of a great many beautiful voices in unison. [more]

The Mountains Look Different

June 23, 2019

A mash-up of Eugene O’Neill’s "Anna Christie" (set in Manhattan and off the coasts of Provincetown and Boston) and "Desire under the Elms "(with a rural New England setting), the play is set on a farm in the West of Ireland. With its fallen woman theme, this play could have been written any time since 1880. First time director Aidan Redmond has staged the play by the numbers and has given his actors little help. Some of the character interpretations undercut the play. However, the play does have a melodramatic but smashing and startling ending. [more]

Handbagged

June 22, 2019

Although director Indhu Rubasingham’s production is engrossing and entertaining, this talky and dense play may be difficult to follow for Americans who either do not know or have forgotten the details of Thatcher’s 11 year career as the first woman British prime minster and the longest serving P.M. of the 20th century. Among characters depicted by the male actors whom Americans may have trouble placing are Kenneth Kaunda, Neil Kinnock, Michael Shay, Kenneth Clarke, Arthur Scargil, Peter Carrington and Michael Heseltine. Many of these men were Thatcher’s cabinet ministers who are no longer on the political scene. However, with two actresses playing each of the women in both younger and older incarnation, it is quite remarkable how much they reflect the real life people they play. [more]

Much Ado About Nothing (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

June 20, 2019

Director Kenny Leon has made his reputation with trenchant productions of contemporary and new plays by such authors as Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, Katori Hall and Lydia R. Diamond. Now with his delightful all-black modern dress version of "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Delacorte Theater for Free Shakespeare in the Park he demonstrates a light touch with classic plays. Led by Danielle Brooks, star of "Orange is the New Black" and Tony nominated for her performance as Sofia in the 2015 revival of "The Color Purple," the generally youthful cast is up to the requirements of this witty Shakespeare comedy. [more]

Little Women

June 19, 2019

Kate Hamill who has had success with "Sense and Sensibility" (Bedlam), "Pride and Prejudice" (Primary Stages), and "Vanity Fair "(The Pearl Theatre) has now turned her sights to Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel of growing up, "Little Women." With this stage adaptation she seems to want to have it both ways: although still set during the Civil War with the women in long dresses and singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Jo wears men’s clothing and she and Laurie often speak of feeling like they do not fit their gender role. A note in the script states that the play “MUST be cast in an inclusive fashion. It is an American play, and should reflect America today.” As a result, the Primary Stages production makes the March family sisters Hispanic, African American, and Caucasian. This new "Little Women" has a modern sensibility at war with the material. [more]

Dying City

June 12, 2019

Under Shinn’s direction, Winstead making her stage debut is very low-key, almost as an observer in her own story. True she works as a therapist, one who tries not to reveal her personal feelings to her patients, but in her private life she ought to show more emotion given the provocations. In the original production directed by James Macdonald, Pablo Schreiber as both Peter and Craig was devastating, leaving the audience almost quaking in their shoes.  Here Woodell is almost indistinguishable as the twin brothers, thorough dressed in an olive green t-shirt as Peter and a button-down striped flannel shirt as Craig so that we have no trouble keeping them apart. The revelations come periodically but the play and the production seem under heated. It also seems to be too dependent on emails and phone calls, rather than dramatizing the story. [more]

Long Lost

June 11, 2019

The play offers no catharsis as the actors are so low-key throughout, all much too calm even when the stakes are rising. As a result, there is little or no tension even when we realize the pattern that each scene will offer a worse revelation than the one before. Tergesen’s black sheep Billy gives us no clue as to the reason for his malignant behavior. Both AuCoin as his brother David and Parisse as David’s wife Molly are cool and sophisticated when they should be losing their temper. Wolff’s Brown University freshman is too inarticulate, but unfortunately he is straitjacketed by the dialogue he has been given. [more]

Public Servant

June 7, 2019

Bekah Brunstetter’s new play, "Public Servant," has its heart in the right place. It shares with The Cake, seen earlier this year at Manhattan Theatre Club, the first part of a trilogy with the new play, a similar theme: private issues of public figures, with both plays set in North Carolina where the author hails from. Like Della in "The Cake," Ed in "Public Servant" is a well-meaning man whose personal beliefs do not always agree with all members of the community - including his own college-age daughter. Unfortunately, "Public Servant" has many of the same problems and drawbacks that marred "The Cake." [more]

In the Closet

June 4, 2019

G. Austin Allen’s set is a larger-than-life closet draped in purple cloth and which also includes a kitchen. To this room comes the older man in his mid-60’s who has discovered that as his husband Steven is dying of cancer, nursing homes are ambivalent about taking in gay men. Next is a middle-aged man in his mid-40’s who has had an emotional meltdown having realized he is soon to turn 50 and has no partner to fill his lonely life at which he was bartending. And then there is the hunky man in his late 20’s who is in the midst of a trial against his boss and his friend who raped him after a sex party. They are also there to give advice to teenage John, still asleep in the next room, when he wakes up confused after his first gay sexual encounter. [more]

Mac Beth

May 29, 2019

Schmidt’s streamlined adaptation of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy is played by a cast of seven schoolgirls who meet in an abandoned urban field after school without any set up other than that they throw down their book bags before launching into the first scene. Designed by Jessica Pabst, their school uniforms made up of cape with hood, a blazer, a skirt, and tie are made of Scottish tartan which is appropriate for this play. Every prop in the show comes from the backpacks and purses they carry with them. The girls perform the play without reading from the text as though they have studied it in school and are thoroughly versed in it. Once they enter the scene, the girls never exit but sit on the sidelines watching for the rest of the play. [more]

Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico (Cirque du Soleil)

May 28, 2019

"Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico" is Cirque du Soleil’s 38th original production and its 18th performed under The Big Top. The name is a combination of the Spanish word for light (luz) and the word rain (illuvia). Written and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca (co-authored by Julie Hamelin Finzi) with Patricia Ruel as Director of Creation, the colorful show is a surrealistic journey through the various landscapes and arts of the country. Using the frame of a traveler parachuting into a land of memories, the show moves from a movie set to the ocean to a smoky dance hall to the desert. It touches on the music, design, sports, entertainments, animals and mythology of Mexico. [more]

Enter Laughing the Musical

May 27, 2019

As David, Chris Dwan does not make one forget the inimitable Grisetti who spun every moment into a comic turn. However, Dwan is charming as the undaunted hero who must deal with problems behind his ken but always comes up with a possible solution even if it doesn’t work out. David Schramm’s alcoholic and hammy Harrison Marlowe is not quite as clipped as that of the late George S. Irving whose signature role this became but his sarcasm and slow burns are still entertaining. Though Farah Alvin’s Angela Marlowe is not as affected as her predecessor as the predatory performer, she still is delicious as an actress who falls in love with all of her co-stars. [more]

Proof of Love

May 24, 2019

Never really losing her cool, Pressley always commands the stage even though scenic designer Alexis Distler has made it difficult by creating a huge private room, beautiful in its understated way in blues and beiges, but difficult for one person to fill the space. Yes, Maurice is presumed to be in his hospital bed on stage right, and Lashonda is on the smartphone, but Pressley must negotiate the entire stage herself. Director Jade King Carroll has found reasons for her to move around from chair to sofa to a chair on the other side of the room, but has not helped much in making the play build an arc. The effective lighting by Mary Louise Geiger subtly shifts from afternoon to evening light without our realizing how much time has passed. [more]

Beetlejuice

May 22, 2019

Not all cult movies need to be made into musicals, particularly those that are dependent on special effects which the cinema does better than the stage. This is demonstrated by the new Broadway musical based on "Beetlejuice," the Tim Burton horror-comedy-fantasy. This theme park-type show is visually a spectacle with a set that does all sort of tricks and changes, but as the adage goes, you can’t go home singing the scenery. And the score by Australian composer/performer Eddie Perfect (whose only other American score has been "King Kong the Musical") is eminently forgettable. In the title role, Alex Brightman, who was charismatic in a similar role in "The School of Rock," is so over-the top that he becomes tiresome very quickly. To paraphrase Mae West, too much of a good thing is not wonderful. [more]

BLKS

May 20, 2019

Poet Aziza Barnes’ first play, "BLKS," now at MCC Theater Space is raucous, vulgar, outrageous and contemporary in Robert O’Hara’s hilarious, over-the-top production. Following the adventures of three black women roommates from Brooklyn over a day and a half, it shows us how the Girls are living today - Lena Dunham would approve. However, the loud and busy production in the Newman Mills Theater stage will thrill twenty and thirty somethings, while older people may not be in tune with it. It is an insightful view of modern life today from the black female perspective and as liberated as a play can get at this moment in time. There is likely to be a generational divide to this comedy which pushes the envelope. [more]

Passage

May 18, 2019

Christopher Chen’s exquisite and mystical "Passage" being produced by the Soho Rep is inspired by E.M. Forster’s "A Passage to India," borrowing its plot and character relationships. But while Forster’s novel was simply about the British colonization of India, Chen has something bigger in mind. Chen calls the two locales Country X and Country Y so that the audience can fill in whatever two countries they wish in whatever time. Director Saheem Ali’s superb multicultural cast offers the maximum in diversity. And in this age of nations all over the world cracking down on immigrants and immigration, the play is an investigation into our complicated feelings about The Other. [more]

Owen Wingrave

May 15, 2019

Witnessing the LOTNY production makes one wonder why "Owen Wingrave" is not performed more often: it has a small cast of eight with juicy roles for all of the characters, evenly divided between men and women’s roles, not true of either of the composer's operas, "Peter Grimes" or "Billy Budd." Although it makes use of the twelve tone scale, its dissonances are not hard on the ear. The plot is simple to follow and it can be performed in a unit set as was demonstrated by Josh Smith’s attractive and flexible design with six playing areas at the GK Arts Center. With the use of video or slide projections and atmospheric lighting, one can make the production as spooky as one wishes for this late Victorian ghost story. [more]

The Archbishop’s Ceiling

May 13, 2019

As president of International PEN, the worldwide association of writers, from 1966 – 1969, playwright Arthur Miller moved about Eastern Europe freely and witnessed a great many troubling events concerning writers of all genres. These occurrences led to his writing "The Archbishop’s Ceiling," his most political play, which was presented at the Kennedy Center in 1977. Revised after the failure of this production, it had its world premiere at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1984 but was not picked up for a New York production. Since then it has been seen in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986, Budapest in 1989, Westport, Ct., in 2006 and Denver in 2015. It has finally made it to New York courtesy of Regeneration Theatre in residence at Urban Stages. [more]

Caroline’s Kitchen

May 11, 2019

In "Caroline’s Kitchen," British playwright Torben Betts ("Invincible," "The Unconquered," "Muswell Hill") has written a state of the nation farce which has no laughs. As the play under the title "Monogamy" has been very successful in England, it is possible that it just too British for American audiences. Similar to the plays of Alan Ayckbourn in dealing with middle-class people confronted with chaos not entirely of their own making, "Caroline’s Kitchen" unfortunately has only unlikable, self-absorbed characters caught up in a series of situations that simply get worse without having us on their side. Don’t blame the actors in this Original Theatre Company and Ghost Light Theatre co-production if Betts’ characters are unsympathetic although that may be his take on the nation at this moment in time. [more]

Lady in the Dark

May 9, 2019

MasterVoices performed a beautifully sung and played rendition of the legendary 1941 musical "Lady in The Dark" as part of New York City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season for three sold-out performances. Conducted and directed by MasterVoices’ artistic director Ted Sperling and starring Tony Award winner Victoria Clark as heroine Liza Elliott, the production offered a world premiere of a new adaptation of the Moss Hart book by Christopher Hart (the author’s son) and Kim Kowalke, and the complete critical edition of the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin score. While the musical portions were excellent, this concert version only made clear the strengths and weaknesses of this rarely revived musical play. [more]

Mary, Mary

May 8, 2019

Retro Productions which has staged both old and new plays has turned its attention to this unjustly neglected comedy from 1961 which has not had a New York revival that made it into the record books.  Shay Gines’ production proves that it is still witty and literate and has a great many quotable one-liners. A window on the 1960’s, the problem for younger people will be the number of household names that aren’t well-known anymore like Orville Prescott, Elizabeth Arden, Jack Warner, Louella Parsons, Gerold Frank, Jackie Coogan and David Susskind, pioneers who should not have been forgotten. The show program conveniently has a Pop Culture Glossary in the back which explains them all. The problem for older people is that the pacing is a bit slow where it should be played at farce tempo which would make  the repartee all that much more scintillating. [more]

King Lear

May 7, 2019

As the elderly king of Britain who deludedly decides to give up his kingdom to his three daughters, Goneril and Regan, the two older married ones, and Cordelia, his younger unmarried daughter, in exchange for their regaling him before his court with how much they love him, the 83-year-old Jackson dressed in Ann Roth’s fitted tuxedo and with a severe masculine haircut would seem believable casting. However in the first half of the evening (Acts I-III) which take about two hours, Jackson is nothing but haughty, sarcastic and arrogant, with little or no variety. In the production’s second half when the king who has been turned out of the castles of both married daughters (Cordelia having left the country to marry the King of France), Jackson seems mad but wise and more compassionate, turning the king’s anger on himself, but it is too little, too late. [more]

Hadestown

April 29, 2019

The dazzling Broadway production of Anais Mitchell’s musical "Hadestown" proves director/developer Rachel Chavkin to be a creative genius. If you had not known it after she fitted her theater-in-the round production of "Natasha and Pierre and the Comet of 1812" into a Broadway theater, it is even more obvious now. This time she has turned her 2016 New York Theatre Workshop staging in the round into a production suitable for Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre with its proscenium stage without losing the sense that the musical takes place in many different places. Along with gripping choreography and movement from David Neumann and an onstage jazz band of six, the show simply takes your breath away, telling the joint stories of Orpheus and Eurydice, and Hades and Persephone. [more]
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