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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (708 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.

Girl from the North Country (Broadway)

March 19, 2020

Set in a dark time, "Girl from the North Country" creates a community on stage as do the best plays and musicals. Its tale of lost souls attempting to keep their heads above water is universal in both its message and its approach. Conor McPherson has never written so accessible a play before for Americans, and Bob Dylan’s songs have never sounded so poignant. Girl from the North Country is both unforgettable and not to be missed. [more]

Coal Country

March 17, 2020

For "Coal Country," an investigation into the April 5, 2010 West Virginia disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine which killed 29 men, authors Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen based their documentary play on first person interviews with the families of many of the victims, sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, nephews. Powerful in the piling up of evidence and malfeasance just as they had done in "The Exonerated," the play undercuts its dramatic power by revealing the end of the story at the very beginning so that the ultimate court decision comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, the individual stories told by seven actors speaking the real words of family members are very compelling. [more]

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

March 15, 2020

Although director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall has given the Transport Group production staged at The Abroms Arts Center a rousing production, the major problem still exists with the story: Molly goes from tomboy to wife to social activist but always seems to be the same. Basically Malone changes her outfits (costumes by Sky Switser) and becomes more mature and more sophisticated but never really changes from the girl at heart who wants riches and gaudy things. Costar David Aron Damane, with his powerful baritone, who plays J.J. Brown, the miner who strikes it rich and proceeds to give Molly almost everything she wants, helps a good deal but their love story is not made entirely believable, possibly because the stalwart Damane is still made to be a very retiring hero, a man of few words. [more]

About Love

March 12, 2020

The inspiration for "About Love" is Ivan Turgenev’s "First Love," one of the greatest of all novellas. Subtitled “a play with songs and music,” that is exactly what it is: a dramatic presentation with five songs and underscoring by jazz musician and composer Nancy Harrow. However, unlike Harrow’s adaptation of Hawthorne’s "The Marble Faun," retitled "For the Last Time," director Will Pomerantz’s text appears to be taken directly from a translation from the original Russian without anything additional. The lovely show is best described as story theater in which all of the characters narrate at one time or another, at times alternating a single event, and all but the hero and heroine playing multiple roles. If one is looking for a musical, this is not it, but it eventually is a captivating staging of the story, if a bit on the long side. [more]

Mr. Toole

March 10, 2020

Vivian Neuwirth’s "Mr. Toole" is a fitting tribute to a charismatic teacher and a brilliant author. However, the play, in the form it currently is in, seems to have been shoehorned into a shape it doesn’t entirely want to take. It is possible that it would be more successful as a screenplay opened up a bit. At any rate, it is a play that will be of interest to students of American fiction and those who know the two novels of John Kennedy Toole. The play may do something in the way of making Toole and his work better known. It will probably make you want to read one or both of his two novels, "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "The Neon Bible." [more]

Cambodian Rock Band

March 8, 2020

Mixing fiction and fact, new Signature Theatre Residency playwright Lauren Yee’s "Cambodian Rock Band" is an engrossing, entertaining and appalling  investigation into the Khmer Rouge’s genocide in Cambodia in the 1970’s and its aftermath. Using authentic Cambodian rock music from the 1960’s and 70’s as well as the songs of Dengue Fever, the Los Angeles-based Cambodian American band, the play is emceed by the genial Duch played by Francis Jue who turns out to be the play’s greatest villain and a real person now in prison. Chay Yew’s production is one that does not require prior knowledge to get caught up in the fictional play and the ugly, true history of Cambodia. [more]

No Strings

March 3, 2020

Following its opening production of Cy Coleman’s equally rarely seen "Seesaw," J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company is presenting a fully staged version of "No Strings" as the second production of its inaugural season. While No Strings, set in the Paris world of high fashion and the French watering holes of the very rich, would need a much more lavish staging to do it justice, Deidre Goodwin’s production does have its charms though the show’s book by playwright Samuel Taylor seems particularly thin by today's standards. The songs are melodic and hummable though there is no breakout winner among the 14 musical numbers. [more]

All the Natalie Portmans

March 2, 2020

MCC Theater’s New York premiere of C.A. Johnson’s new play "All the Natalie Portmans" is a lovely work which resembles other such modern coming of age plays from Carson McCullers’ "The Member of the Wedding" to Lynn Nottage’s "Crumbs from the Table of Joy" as well as moments from Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie" in its depiction of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive. While the play is not entirely fresh, the characters are so honestly drawn that director Kate Whoriskey’s cast not only holds our interest but makes us worry about their futures. The play does not contain many surprises as the family is obviously on a downward spiral but we hope against hope that Keyonna and Samuel will survive the battle. [more]

Blues for an Alabama Sky

February 26, 2020

Pearl Cleage’s "Blues for an Alabama Sky" gets a belated New York premiere courtesy of Keen Company in its 20th season. Although seen in many regional theaters since its 1995 premiere at the Alliance Theatre Company in Atlanta with Phyllicia Rashad in the leading role, it has long been overdue in New York even though Cleage is also a successful and acclaimed novelist. Framed as a domestic drama, the play manages to take in the topics of racism, sexism, homophobia, birth control and abortion, poverty, alcoholism, and extreme religious points of view among the bohemians of Harlem, circa 1930. [more]

Dracula (Classic Stage Company)

February 24, 2020

As the centerpiece of its spring season, Classic Stage Company is presenting a repertory of adaptations of two legendary Gothic horror stories: Bram Stoker’s "Dracula" and Mary Shelley’s "Frankenstein" in new stage versions. Kate Hamill, go-to playwright for adaptations of 19th century literature, has given her take on "Dracula" a delightful comic slant. The sexism in the novel has been diluted by making this a feminist revenge fantasy. Turning Doctor Van Helsing, vampire hunter, and Renfield (under the sway of the vampire) into women changes the dynamic quite a bit giving the play a modern viewpoint. Director Sarna Lapine, who has worked with Hamill before on her "Little Women" and "The Scarlet Letter" adaptations, keeps the pace brisk and the humor buoyant as the women are given the best of the story. [more]

a photograph / lovers in motion

February 21, 2020

Now that The Public Theater’s 2019 revival of the late Nzotake Shange’s "for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf" has been critically acclaimed once again, The Negro Ensemble Company is reviving her only dialogue play, "a photograph / lovers in motion," in a new version. Originally produced at The Public Theater in 1977 as "a photograph / lovers in cruelty," the play was later revised and renamed for a 1982 production at the Houston Ensemble Theatre. The new version adapted and directed by Ifa Bayeza, the playwright’s sister, makes the play more of a choreopoem like Shange’s other plays and shifts the focus from the photographer Sean David to Michael, a female poet and dancer, adding poems for her to recite. The two titles of the play are still applicable as according to the director the relationship between Sean and Michael is both a duel and a duet. [more]

Seesaw

February 18, 2020

Although J2 Spotlight’s artistic director Robert W. Schneider who staged this show has given it a vigorous production and cast a delightful Gittel in Stephanie Israelson, he is unable to disguise the show’s flaws. He is not helped by the trite, derivative choreography by Caitlin Belcik for a show that is mainly dance and has eight dancers out of a cast of nine. The many production numbers are both busy and familiar, and keep the ensemble composed of Kyle Caress, Chaz Alexander Coffin, Katie Griffith, Caleb Grochalski, Morgan Hecker and Halle Mastroberardino spinning throughout the show. [more]

Stew

February 16, 2020

In making her professional stage debut courtesy of Page 73, Zora Howard has written a powerful kitchen sink drama in 'Stew," as much about making a literal stew as about the emotional stew the four women in the Tucker family of Mt. Vernon find themselves in. While many of the elements are family, Howard combines them in new ways so that the play seems both new and true. With a terrific cast headed by Portia ("The Rose Tattoo," "Ruined," "Rinse Repeat," "Our Lady of 121st Street") as the family matriarch, director Colette Robert keeps the temperature continually simmering on a low boil until all of the secrets and events have been revealed. This is an American tragedy as well as a study in how we live in this era. [more]

Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories

February 13, 2020

The Mint Theater Company has rediscovered and championed British actor/playwright Miles Malleson with Conflict and Yours Unfaithfully. Now they have combined two of his one acts adapted from great short story writers in an evening called "Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories" in their premiere pairing. While the production directed by Jonathan Bank and Jane Shaw (each directing one play) is able to be performed on basically the same set, the two plays have little to do with each other and represent love in two different ways. Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy are major writers, but the adaptations appear to be minor and do not show off their authors at their best. Although the Chekhov story is basically an anecdote, the Tolstoy tale is a fable with a message. [more]

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

February 11, 2020

Bookwriter Jonathan Marc Sherman has wisely kept the story in its period. However, his dialogue is almost word for word lifted from the screenplay which is rather old hat for those of us have heard it in the movie. The score with music by Sheik and lyrics by Sheik and Amanda Green makes all the songs sound the same in Sheik’s orchestration played by a combo of four. The lyrics are both pedestrian and trite, telling us only what we already know. The songs which are not listed in the program include a great many reprises. Many of the tableaux and setups recreate exact visual moments from the film. [more]

Medea (Brooklyn Academy of Music)

February 9, 2020

While Simon Stone’s adaptation is engrossing for its surprising updates, it never captures the emotions, seeming more like a gimmick that a reworking of the Greek tragedy. With most of the actors underplaying their roles, the emotional temperature never really heats up even when the audience is confronted with various horrors. The use of the video screen and the all-white set somewhat distances the audience from the events on stage which undercuts the tragedy unfolding. Don’t blame Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale, who have given much more impassioned performances elsewhere, as they seem to be pawns of Stone’s concept. [more]

Sister Calling My Name

February 7, 2020

An author can be too close to his or her material so that the real story fails to be revealed. Inspired by his own family events, Buzz McLaughlin’s Sister Calling My Name has a fascinating premise but that is not enough. In relating a faith-based story of Michael, a man who has avoided for 18 years his mentally disabled sister Lindsey, a ward of the state since being a teenager, McLaughlin repeats lines and plot points endlessly while failing to give us enough details to bring the characters to life. The play seems to go round and round in a circle. The script note that Lindsay’s disability manifests itself in simply locking into an idea and going with it until another takes its place does not help an audience who must listen to the same dialogue over and over. Peter Dobbins’ production for Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre does little to make the characters more than labels. [more]

The New York Pops: “Find Your Dream: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein”

January 31, 2020

The New York Pops’ latest concert, Find Your Dream, was a glorious tribute to nostalgia. Not only was it an evening of the beloved songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein with selectionsfrom all 11 of their collaborations, it also recreated a performance first presented five years ago by The Pops. The guests artists on the evening of January 24 were British musical theater star Laura Michelle Kelly (Broadway’s "Mary Poppins" and "Finding Neverland") first seen in a flaming red, off the shoulders gown and American musical theater star Max Von Essen (Broadway’s "An American in Paris" and "Anastasia") in a midnight blue jacket. Joining The Pops as usual was Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA who were an integral part of the show with the famous choral numbers. [more]

My Name Is Lucy Barton

January 28, 2020

Laura Linney is never one to avoid a challenge. When she last appeared at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre she was alternating in the roles of “Regina” and “Birdie” in the revival of Lillian Hellman’s "The Little Foxes" and won a Tony Award for Best Actress for her efforts.  Now she is back in an adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s novel "My Name is Lucy Barton" where she plays both the title character and her mother and is the only performer on stage. Directed as she was in the London production by Richard Eyre, she beautifully captures the tone and voice of Strout’s heroine. [more]

Paradise Lost

January 27, 2020

When a playwright adapts a famous, well-known story for the stage the problem becomes how to tell it in a new way that makes it seem unfamiliar and fresh. Otherwise, why bother retelling it once again? Unfortunately, Tom Dulack’s "Paradise Lost," “inspired by the poem by John Milton,” retells the story of Lucifer’s fall from Heaven into Hell, and the eventual banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden without any surprises. Using only contemporary language, Dulack’s play lifts the skeletal plot of Milton but lacks the poetry, as well as those elements which made this epic controversial in the 17th century (rejection of the divine right of kings, embracing divorce and marriage equality, etc.) It resembles a Sunday Bible sermon or dramatization meant for youth. [more]

Timon of Athens (Theatre for a New Audience)

January 23, 2020

On paper the concept should not work: scenes and characters have been cut, a Shakespeare sonnet has been added set to music, as well as a Greek song, and four characters originally written for men are played by women. Nevertheless, the streamlining of this modern dress production in the edition prepared by Emily Burns and Godwin makes this tragedy very accessible and eliminating subplots makes the play quite linear. The addition of women gives the play an almost contemporary feeling. The scenic and costume design by Soutra Gilmour for the first half of the play is simply dazzling, while the second half has its own visual display. [more]

Thunder Rock

January 23, 2020

It is not difficult to see what attracted Metropolitan Playhouse to Ardrey’s drama: its message that one cannot shut one’s self off from the problems of the world as the America First movement wants to do is very timely once again as in the 1930’s, and the refugees who appear in the play’s second act and speak of their hopes and dreams in the new land are a stinging rebuke to those who would shut the golden doors to foreigners seeking asylum in the United States in our own time. [more]

Wild Dogs Under My Skirt

January 8, 2020

Speaking alternately, the six women talk of food, traditions, love, family, beliefs, ethics, dreams, abuse and New Zealand men. They speak of their dreams of a future and a better life. The language is earthy, raw, vital, colorful. Even without understanding every word, the gist is conveyed by the inflections and the performances. The evening includes song, dance, and speeches taken from passages in Avia’s book which are at times startling, revealing, amusing and tragic. They are sometimes presented like poetry, at others like dramatic monologues, and at times like choral reading. [more]

London Assurance

December 29, 2019

Dion Boucicault’s "London Assurance" is still a witty and lively play after almost 180 years. With its farcical elements laid over a drawing room comedy plot, Charlotte Moore’s adroit production for the Irish Repertory Theatre mines the play for all of its humor and wisdom concerning the foibles of human nature and self-delusion. With a superb cast, Rachel Pickup is awarded the acting honors for her marvelous depiction of Lady Gay Spanker, a bon vivant who knows how to get the most out of life and other people. [more]

one in two

December 27, 2019

Leland Fowler, Jamyl Dobson and Edward Mawere in a scene from Donja R. Love’s “one in two” in [more]

The Inheritance

December 24, 2019

Samuel H. Levine, Kyle Soller and Andrew Burnap in a scene from Matthew Lopez’s “The [more]

Judgment Day

December 23, 2019

A product of the tumultuous thirties whose work was banned by the Nazis even though he was not Jewish, Von Horváth was particularly interested in social criticism of the middle-class and warnings about the rise of fascism. His major themes include tales of herd psychology and moral responsibility. By dealing with these timely topics, Judgment Day given a monumental visual production design by set designer Paul Steinberg in the cavernous Drill Hall at the Armory, the play seems as powerful and relevant as if it had been written in this decade, not 80 years ago. The production makes this expressionistic drama as contemporary as if this style were newly born. Starring Luke Kirby (Emmy Award for his Lenny Bruce in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel") in the leading role of Stationmaster Thomas Hudetz, the play offers juicy roles to several of the minor characters. [more]

One November Yankee

December 21, 2019

Beloved television stars Harry Hamlin (L.A. Law) and Stefanie Powers (Hart to Hart) return to the New York stage in Joshua Ravetch’s "One November Yankee" which they previously performed at the Delaware Theatre Company, was initially seen in Los Angeles’ NoHo Arts Center Theatre in 2012. It is their star power which keeps this old-fashioned, rather sit-com-ish, interconnected triple bill as lively and as entertaining as it is despite clichéd writing and passé jokes. Playing three different sets of siblings all connected by one plane crash, they manage to be convincing in weak material. [more]

Greater Clements

December 17, 2019

Told in leisurely style, Greater Clements is about the decline (and possible fall) of the American dream. Hunter appears to be saying that this is a long-time coming and its roots go very deep. The play begins with a flashback prologue with Maggie’s son Joe giving a tour of the mine, describing the 1972 fire on the 6,400 foot level that killed 81 men including his grandfather. However, on the weekend that the play takes place Maggie is expecting Billy, her high school beau, a Japanese-American who took her to the prom, now a widower and who is returning to visit 50 years later. Maggie, now 12 years divorced from Caleb who left her for another man, may be at loose ends but this is possibly a new beginning. [more]

The Underlying Chris

December 6, 2019

Another way to look at the play is as the twelve stages of man and woman, going Shakespeare five more steps. Unlike Tracy Letts’ Mary Page Marlowe, in which the heroine was played by a different actress at each stage of her life, here we are asked to adjust to multiple versions of Chris whose name changes in each of the play’s 12 scenes: Chris, Christine, Kris, Christopher, Kristin, Topher, Christoph, Kit, Christina, and finally Khris. [more]

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]
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