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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (749 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.

Ectoplasm

January 18, 2022

"Ectoplasm" counts among its themes and topics: poetry, women’s rights, prostitution, women’s suffrage, love, death, the paranormal, the supernatural, fraudulent mediums – and the love that dare not speak its name, except here it is openly discussed, circa 1912. Each and every character has an agenda which is too many plot devices, while the actual plot never quite resolves itself. While the play has been given an elegant physical production, the script does not entirely hang together or feel satisfying. [more]

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

January 13, 2022

Her nine years on SNL would seem excellent preparation for "Search" which requires her to portray ten different characters alternately. However, although Strong has tremendous stage presence, she has not yet grown into all of the roles or given all of the characters (nine women and one man) distinct, separate voices. While still a tour de force for one performer, the play seems dated after 37 years with one scene using a coin pay phone and several references to the Equal Right Amendment (ERA), neither of which are in common parlance anymore. On some level, a good deal of the play takes place in the past (Betty Friedan, LSD, Rupert Murdoch, “I mean the Women’s Movement isn’t that old,” etc.) but as no years or dates are mentioned, it feels like it is taking place now which seems like a mistake. Without the intermission, the show presents too many stories to take in all at one sitting. [more]

A Christmas Carol, Oy! Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan

December 25, 2021

Not only is this a puppet show but it is also an extended concert. This year’s vocalists are Valois Mickens, of West African, Celtic, and Native American origin,  and Katarina Vizina, a transplant from Slovakia,  who sing pieces of about 20 carols and songs including “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Silent Night,” and “The Dreidel Song” in the original languages. Occasionally they participate in the action, as well as in the prologue that sets up the show. [more]

Kimberly Akimbo

December 21, 2021

David Lindsay-Abaire’s early plays ("Fuddy Meers," "Kimberly Akimbo" and "Wonder of the World") were all whimsical or at least otherworldly. He has gone on to create musicals based on previously written stories, particularly "Shrek the Musical" with composer Jeanine Tesori. Now they have musicalized his play "Kimberly Akimbo" into a very impressive new show at Atlantic Theater Company which many may find works better than it did as a play due to the music and the songs. With a cast led by Tony Award-winner Victoria Clark in the title role, Jessica Stone’s production becomes more and more involving as it progresses to its satisfying climax. [more]

Flying Over Sunset

December 20, 2021

"Flying Over Sunset," Pulitzer Prize-winning bookwriter/director James Lapine’s new original show, is a “What If?” musical: using historical facts that are known about writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, politician and diplomat Clare Boothe Luce, and actor and film star Cary Grant, he has created a fictitious story about their experimenting with LSD together in the late 1950’s together. The problem seems to be that he doesn’t appear to know much about them so that the results are extremely thin though the musical still manages to run a little under three hours. The songs by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Michael Korie don’t add a great deal and the production design which ought to be psychedelic is subdued and unadventurous. Stars Harry Hadden-Paton as Huxley, Carmen Cusack as Luce and Tony Yazbeck as Grant try valiantly but they can’t breathe life into generic cardboard cutouts. [more]

Company

December 18, 2021

This theatrical genius, responsible for the Tony Award winning plays "War Horse," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and the most recent revival of "Angels in America," knew that this 1970 musical comedy about a man about to turn 35 and having all his coupled friends trying to marry him off would seem dated in 2018 when she conceived of this version in London, in which the gender of the characters are reversed. With the help of another genius, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim who rejiggered his wise and witty lyrics, Elliott has made this old show by bookwriter George Furth seem spanking new as if we had never seen it before even though this is the fourth New York revival. [more]

Is There Still Sex in the City?

December 15, 2021

Although Candace Bushnell’s one-woman show, "Is There Still Sex in the City?," shares the same name with her 2019 novel/self-help book, the stage show now at the Darryl Roth Theatre is her autobiography telling the story of her life and career. Ms. Bushnell proves to be a vivacious performer with a great deal of stage presence, not surprising for a woman who was the model for "Sex and the City"’s Carrie Bradshaw. The show is both entertaining and revealing, correcting many misconceptions about the true adventures of the author. She also gets to change into a dazzling array of outfits by Lisa Zinni in an attractive apartment setting by Anna Louizos which colorfully lit by Travis McHale. And like Carrie Bradshaw she collects shoes which are in evidence in the shelves on the stage. [more]

The Lanford Wilson Project: “The Mound Builders” & “Sympathetic Magic”

December 9, 2021

It appears that the later play was modeled on the earlier one though it may not have been noticed back in 1997 when "Sympathetic Magic" had its New York premiere. Both plays deal with discoveries by scientists: archeologists in "The Mound Builders" looking in the earth and astronomers in "Sympathetic Magic" examining the sky. The themes of both are about ethics in science, in "The Mound Builders" science versus commerce, and in "Sympathetic Magic" science versus fame. Both include a pair of brothers and sisters, and one parent of each is of vital importance, though not seen in both plays. A woman artist appears in each: a famous blocked novelist in "The Mound Builders" and a quickly rising sculptress in "Sympathetic Magic." Each drama has a newly announced pregnancy that is paralleled with the new scientific discovery. Both are ensemble plays dealing with a tightly knit group of people affiliated with a university department. In each a project ends disastrously, as well as a relationship breaks up for differing reasons.  The academic world intrudes on both plots as the scientists are professors at their respective institutions. [more]

Clyde’s

December 4, 2021

As the manager of the restaurant, Aduba gives one of those big performances which are larger than life, but we have all met that type of people. She batters, insults, cajoles, berates her staff: is it to drive them to new heights or she is paying the world back for her tough life? Is she an incarnation of the devil or Satan? The gas fires that shoot out of the stage periodically make us wonder. When they receive a rave review in a local newspaper she belittles them as though they had nothing to do with the restaurant’s success. Wearing a new and colorful skintight outfit by Jennifer Moeller and multiple hairdos by Cookie Jordan each time she enters through the swings doors from the restaurant into the kitchen, she is a bigger and bigger surprise by what she says and what she threatens. As the dangerous and intimidating Clyde, she gives an indelible performance; just try to take your eyes off of her when she is onstage. [more]

Candlelight

December 1, 2021

Playwright John Patrick Shanley has said in interviews that his latest play "Candlelight" is a new departure for him. Described as “A Nuyorican comic romantic tragedy covered with magic and dipped in Brooklyn blood” in its world premiere given by Nylon Fusion Theatre Company, the play follows the tale of ten-year-old Esperanza as she falls in love with a classmate Tito and lets her imagination run away with her. It is one of those plays where the children are played by adults and objects like a mirror, a robe and a sword come to life. Set in a nightmare world of children, the play covers child abuse, sexual assault, drug addiction, violence, all presented as a fairy tale for children. One wonders who the target audience for this is: it is too mature for children but too whimsical for adults. While Lori Kee's production is fine, some of her casting of the children played by adults is not believable though the actors certainly try hard. [more]

A Sherlock Carol

November 30, 2021

Directed by playwright Mark Shanahan, A Sherlock Carol offers six actors playing 23 roles in this entertaining new adaptation. In the iconic role of Sherlock Holmes with so much history behind it and such well-known performances as those by Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, Drew McVety is to be forgiven for seeming a bit bland, though he warms up as the story evolves and he becomes more invested in the solution to the two cases. As the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge, Thom Sesma is a sinister presence, suggesting that he is also the Ghost of Professor Moriarty who has previously haunted Holmes. Memorable is Isabel Keating who is required to use a variety of accents from the American Irene Adler to the Cockney sister of Tiny Tim, as well as singing a beautiful aria as the Countess of Morcar. Keating it may be recalled is the Tony Award nominee and Theatre World winner for her performance as “Judy Garland” in "The Boy from Oz." [more]

Cullud Wattah

November 27, 2021

All of us are probably aware of the problems of polluted water in Flint, Michigan, owing to civic neglect. However, it might shock you to know that it is still going on. Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winning play, "Cullud Wattah," takes on this crisis through the prism of one family of three generations of Black women living in the same house. The material is powerful and explosive. We learn a great deal about the crisis as well as see how it personally affects all five of these women in one family. Director Candis C. Jones has obtained the kind of performances from her ensemble cast that makes you feel that these actresses have lived and worked together for years when they may have never met before now. [more]

The Alchemist

November 23, 2021

The Red Bull Theater production of Ben Jonson’s "The Alchemist" will most likely introduce a new generation to this classic Jacobean comedy in a form that most will be able to follow due to being put into contemporary American English. Hatcher may well have saved this relatively unknown masterpiece from the literary scrap heap. Red Bull is to be complimented for living up to its mission of bringing “rarely seen classic plays to dynamic new life for contemporary audiences.” [more]

Trouble in Mind

November 21, 2021

If Alice Childress’ 1955 Off Broadway hit, "Trouble in Mind," had transferred to Broadway in 1957 as it was scheduled to do, it would have been the first play by a Black playwright to reach the main stem. As if happened, the white producers wanted continual softening of the play’s ending and after two years of rewrites Childress threw in the towel. Ironically, this is exactly the theme of her backstage play. As things worked out, the softer Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, less critical of its white audience, became the first play by a Black woman writer to reach Broadway in 1959 and the rest is history. Now history is being remade with the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of "Trouble in Mind" at Broadway’s American Airlines Theatre 64 years later with a fine cast led by Tony Award winners LaChanze and Chuck Cooper. [more]

Assassins

November 18, 2021

As always in a John Doyle presentation, the production is professional, polished and accomplished. This time around he has not made changes to the script or the score except to include the climactic song “Something Just Broke” which was not in the original Off Broadway production but was added to the first London version in 1992 and has been used ever since. While the actors give excellent performances, the revival lacks emotion and heart which is strange considering the number of characters who die or who are wounded in the course of the show. It is as though they (and we) are numbed by much depiction of killing. Is there a way to fix this in a show which repeatedly has its cast shooting at presidents of the United States, in this case only in a fun house setting? [more]

Trevor: The Musical

November 16, 2021

The writers seem afraid to state what the story is all about, the word gay being mentioned exactly once. At two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission, today’s audience is way ahead of the plot, knowing exactly what will happen in advance. While the 1994 movie was 23 minutes, the musical seems padded and dragged out. Davis’ music is pleasant enough, but Collins’ lyrics are pedestrian and repetitious. The songs seem to have a limited vocabulary such as children’s books often do, but 13 year olds have a slang and vernacular that is hardly used. The biggest problem with the score is that the dream Diana Ross (played flamboyantly and spiritedly by Yasmeen Sulieman) gets to sing seven of her most iconic songs (“Do You Know?,” "It’s My Turn,” “Upside Down,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Remember Me,” “Endless Love” and “I’m Coming Out”) which are far superior to any of the new songs, always a mistake in a non-jukebox musical. [more]

Morning’s At Seven

November 16, 2021

Dan Wackerman’s revival for The Peccadillo Theater Company and Woodie King, Jr.’s New Federal Theatre has an equally starry cast some of whom have not appeared on New York stages for quite a while: Lindsay Crouse, Alma Cuervo, Tony Roberts, John Rubinstein and West Coast stars Patty McCormack and Alley Mills. Demonstrating the enduring worth of this piece of Americana, the production is as equally delightful as the previous two revivals. It is also graced by a beautifully realistic setting by Harry Feiner for the shared backyard of the two homes where all the action takes place. The new production emphasizes the humor in the dialogue and, if memory serves, it is more dramatic than the previous two revivals. [more]

Morning Sun

November 12, 2021

In a departure for him, the three actresses play all of the characters, both female and male, and are listed in the program simply as 1, 2 and 3. While the play feels undramatic and has no high points it does put the entire 67 years of the life of its heroine Charlotte (Charley) McBride played by Falco center stage. This low-key form seems to be the point for Stephens: life is a series of moments, like beads on a string, rather than big explosions or confrontations. With Brown playing her mother Claudette and Marin playing her daughter Tessa, both actresses also take turns narrating and playing other people in Charley’s life: her father Harold, her best friend Casey, her lover Brian, her husband Edward, her Uncle Stanley. Not only is the drama low-key, the characters play ordinary people, a saleswoman at Macy’s, a receptionist at St. Vincent, a janitor at the YMCA, the sort of people one had met or can identify with, unpretentious and unassuming: what most of the world is made up of. [more]

Gnit

November 9, 2021

Will Eno’s wry, contemporary 'Gnit" solves the problem of attempting to stage Ibsen’s unwieldy, five-hour verse play "Peer Gynt." The play given its world premiere at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in 2013 is now making its New York debut at Theater for a New Audience in a production directed by Oliver Butler, a longtime collaborator with Eno. Heavily influenced by the plays of Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco, "Gnit" is a journey of the self to enlightenment with travel throughout the world. Part road movie, part folklore, and part horror story, "Gnit" makes an old play new again. [more]

Disney’s Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Stage Adaptation

November 5, 2021

The question arises who is the intended audience. The 60-minute show is too slow for young children and too repetitious for adults. Possibly this is meant for the nostalgia crowd of which there are apparently legions. The thin story line is a watered-down version of the original A.A. Milne stories that inspired the animated films Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day as well as a tale of Tigger’s infamous bouncing. All of the famous characters put in an appearance: easily frightened Piglet, gloomy Eeyore, cranky Rabbit, wise Owl, energetic Tigger, maternal Kanga and curious Roo. Christopher Robin (played alternately by Kaydn Kuioka, Max Lamberg, and Cooper Lantz) spends the day at school but is reunited with Winnie the Pooh just before the final curtain. Surprisingly, he does not have a British accent. [more]

Radium Girls

November 1, 2021

D.W. Gregory’s docudrama "Radium Girls" being given its New York premiere after a run in New Jersey over 20 years ago attempts to put the story and subsequent lawsuits on stage. Part of the problem with the stage version is the use of ten actors to play 36 parts with five playing up to seven roles each, making it difficult to keep straight who is who. Possibly more damaging is the languid, studied direction by Laura Livingston. The second act which leads up to the lawsuits is somewhat quicker and more engaging but at two hours and 20 minutes the play is too crammed with characters and data for its own good. A recent film based on the same story appears to have been defeated for other reasons. [more]

Mrs. Warren’s Profession

October 28, 2021

George Bernard Shaw’s once-banned problem comedy due to its controversial subject matter concerning prostitution, "Mrs. Warren’s Profession" has been given a stylish and elegant revival by the Gingold Theatrical Group which specializes in the plays of this master. As staged by artistic director David Staller and with a cast led by Karen Ziemba and Robert Cuccioli, the play is an entertaining story investigating hypocrisy in society, mother-daughter relationship, and the rights of women. While most of the shock value has worn off since the play was first written in 1893, the play’s message is still timely and relevant. Banned from the stage for 32 years in England after it was written, the play now seems to have come into its own with previous New York revivals that have starred such legendary actresses as Ruth Gordon, Lynn Redgrave, Uta Hagen and Dana Ivey. [more]

Fairycakes

October 26, 2021

This mashup proves to be both too convoluted and too long at two hours and 20 minutes. Beane has, however, given the play a top flight send off with a starry cast of some of the most distinctive and unique actors on the New York stage: Julie Halston, Jackie Hoffman, Arnie Burton, Ann Harada, Mo Rocca and rising stars Kristolyn Lloyd (Grammy Award winner for "Dear Evan Hansen") and Jason Tam ("Be More Chill," "Lysistrata Jones," "Marry Me a Little," etc.)  The biggest problem is that as these performers all have their own styles, the production seems to pull in many different directions with no one appearing to be in the same play. Most satisfying are the lavish and eye-filling costumes in a rainbow of fabrics and colors by Gregory Gale which take your mind off the play and should win awards at the end of the season. [more]

Thoughts of a Colored Man

October 20, 2021

Keenan Scott II’s engrossing Broadway debut play, Thought of a Colored Man, appears to be a masculine version of Ntozake Shange’s 1976 "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" updated to 2021. Both plays have seven unnamed characters all the same gender, take place in 20 scenes, and mix poetry, prose and dialogue. However, Scott’s play develops characters that each have a through line and they encounter each other as members of the same Brooklyn community. Set on one Friday from 6 AM to 1 AM the next morning in a Brooklyn community experiencing gentrification, we meet seven African American men in various combinations each given a monologue addressed directly at the audience to tell us part of their stories. In the final scene, they announce their names (Love, Happiness, Wisdom, Lust, Passion, Depression and Anger) but by then most of these appellations have become obvious. [more]

Chicken & Biscuits

October 18, 2021

Douglas Lyons’ new comedy, "Chicken & Biscuits" introduces us to the dysfunctional Jenkins/Mabry clan at the funeral of its patriarch Bernard, the former pastor of his New Haven church. Among the various glitches are the arrival of an uninvited family member and the appearance of the gay boyfriend of the son. Sound familiar? The new wrinkle in this Broadway play is that the family is Black.  While the formula may be time-worn and familiar, Lyons’ play directed by Zhailon Levingston (also making his Broadway debut as the youngest Black director in Broadway history) is fast-paced and generally bright and appealing. Veteran stars Norm Lewis and Michael Urie lead a fine cast that includes the Broadway debuts of five performers who may be familiar from television, film or Off Broadway. [more]

Letters of Suresh

October 13, 2021

Although the characters never meet in person, they communicate mostly through letters that are spoken by the actors directly to the audience, and then halfway through the play, in texting which appears on the back screen as well as Facetime from across the world. Letters of Suresh is the perfect play for the pandemic as its characters are separated from each other across the stage as they declaim their letters, a reminder to all of us that without meeting in person we can communicate in writing. And the letters presented as monologues are never dry or dusty, but vibrant and revealing as if the other person is opposite you on the other side of a room or table. [more]

A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet

October 5, 2021

While Marshall Pailet’s direction is breezy and fastpaced, the dialogue has too many Borscht belt jokes (“Take my Grandma, for instance. No really take her-,” Camp Rosenblatt, “As my Grandma used to say,” etc.”) and lyrics with too many quotes from much better song writers such as Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim and Bock and Harnick. References to Barry Manilow and Hanson don’t really land and the show counts on a great many current memes like making Wyse’s neurotic lyricist gay and Fankhauser’s self-effacing composer straight. Unfortunately, they are rather bland when they should be bigger than life in this three-character musical. The fact that they have no names and are referred to in the program as “Man 2” (there is no “Man 1”) and “Other Man” is pretentious rather than endearing. [more]

Bedlam’s Persuasion

September 29, 2021

Bedlam’s 2014 production of "Sense and Sensibility," adapted by Kate Hamil from the novel by Jane Austen, and directed by Eric Tucker, set the bar so high for cleverness, originality and wit that we have come to expect this level of expectation from all of their future offerings. Unfortunately, their stage version of Austen’s last novel "Persuasion," a tale of mature love and second chances by first time playwright Sarah Rose Kearns, does not work as well. Among the problems are so much doubling and tripling that it becomes difficult to keep the characters separate and a lack of humor and irony that was inherent in the original material. Tucker seems to have forgotten that this should be a comedy of manners. [more]

Sanctuary City

September 28, 2021

Martyna Majok writes powerfully and brilliantly about marginalized people, particularly undocumented immigrants living in Northern New Jersey, as in "Ironbound" and her 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winner "Cost of Living." Her new play, "Sanctuary City," set in Newark, now being given its world premiere production by the New York Theatre Workshop at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, is the same only different. While the characters could be cousins to others in her previous plays (as well as her 2018 "queens"), the structure and format is quite audacious and unusual, making the play a bit off-putting. [more]

Yeah, But Not Right Now

September 25, 2021

Holmes’ songs include clever lyrics particularly “Facebook,” “I Can Be That Guy” and "Beautiful Girl in the Front Row.” His expert playing on the keyboard allows him to have duets with himself and making it sounds like many instruments. He also accompanies himself on the guitar and a drum. The show is a confessional in which Holmes reveals the worst, most embarrassing parts of himself which seems to be the latest thing with comedians, except this show is partly sung. However, it is bright and upbeat even when telling unlikable characteristics. Craig Bundy’s sound design is usually clear, but occasionally makes it difficult to catch the lyrics. Director Caitlin Cook keeps this one-man show moving swiftly along. [more]

Sun & Sea

September 17, 2021

Performed by a cast of 15 singers and enacted in pantomime by numerous local volunteers all dressed in swimwear, Sun & Sea is a typical day at the beach in which we hear the thoughts of the singers, some of whom worry about the state of the world while others are entirely oblivious to it. Not only is it opera lite and a great deal of fun without being funny, it is also a very subversive way to communicate a message on as serious a subject as climate change. While the singers communicate their thoughts, the beachgoers frolic and enjoy their day oblivious to us but not to each other. The cast is a cross-section of all ages and races, including young children and two well behaved dogs – but no vendors. The totally realistic action (aside from the singing) includes reading, texting, eating, chatting, drinking, walking, cuddling, tanning, playing ball or games, while the children dig in the sand and build sandcastles. Some sit on beach chairs or chaise lounges while most lie on blankets on the sand or stand. [more]

What Happened? The Michaels Abroad

September 12, 2021

The new play, ironically, does not take place in Rhinebeck, New York, like the preceeding 11 plays but as explained in its subtitle it concerns “Conversations in Angers, France,” the home of the Centre National de Danse Contemporaire (CNDC). Like the previous Michael play, it is set on the eve of a dance festival honoring American dancer and choreographer Rose Michael who has passed away about six months before this play begins. However, unlike the earlier play which was about the art of creation, this play is mainly about living with the Covid pandemic and our adaptations to it, as well as the hermetically sealed world of dancers. While the play tells a lot of anecdotes about dancers and does a certain amount of name dropping of such people as Trisha (Brown), Merce (Cunningham), Dan (Wagoner), it eventually attempts to wax philosophical with such remarks as “there is no life without death,” and “life doesn’t last. Art doesn’t last. And it doesn’t matter…”; and “we dance differently at sixty.” [more]

Ni Mi Madre

September 6, 2021

As his mother Bete (pronounced Bet–chi), Soria is bigger than life without a great deal of assistance from props, costuming or make-up. When he enters carrying an offering to the stage which is set up like a tropical altar to Iemanja, the Afro-Cuban diety whose picture is on the wall center stage, he is wearing a white linen skirt which he suddenly pulls up and it becomes his mother’s dress (designed by Haydee Zelideth). In English punctuated with pungent Spanish and Portuguese, sometime translated, often as not left unexplained, Bete tells us of her three marriages, each one unfulfilling, and of her children, her difficult son Arturo who from a young age wanted to dance ballet and was always getting into trouble, and his sister who always liked sports. We learn of her unconventional child rearing practices which was as much a tug of war with her children as it was a series of lessons in living, and marked Arturo for life. [more]
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