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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (497 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.

Othello (Shakespeare in the Park)

June 20, 2018

In the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi’s "Otello," Otello was white which left no reason for his jealousy if he was identical to all the Venetians around him. In the current Shakespeare in the Park production, using color blind casting, Santiago-Hudson chooses to make at least five of the leading characters people of color so that Othello is no longer an outsider, nor are they. The meaning of the theme is diluted in such a reading. It may be politically correct, but in this play about race there is no getting away from its original meaning. Even The Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis’ program notes remark that Othello is only one of two explicitly black characters in all of Shakespeare, the other appearing in "Titus Andronicus." Other than this casting choice, the production offers no new interpretation of the play or characters, making it more like a staged reading than a full production. [more]

The Maid’s Tragedy

June 20, 2018

Director Lucy Gram uses six actors to play 11 roles which has worked for such companies as Bedlam and Fiasco. However, here the four actresses play both men and women, three of them never change their costume, voice or look when they return as their other characters so it is very difficult to keep the roles straight. Aleca Piper playing the roles of Calianax (an elderly man), Lysippus (a younger man) and Dula, a lady-in-waiting, first takes off her white sweater, then puts up her hair, but if you are not following this very carefully, the changes are lost on you. Her use of a loud, booming voice does not help in differentiating her roles or in understanding her lines. Erin Roché and (Ms.) Sydney Battle play men and women alternately with no changes of any kind. [more]

Ivanov (State Theatre of Nations)

June 17, 2018

The chance to see Anton Chekhov’s first produced play, "Ivanov," not only in the original Russian (with English surtitles) but in modern dress proves to be a revelation. Staged by Russia’s State Theatre of Nations and as presented by the Cherry Orchard Festival, this is a rare opportunity to see this usually neglected Chekhov classic, seen in New York in English on only three occasions since it was first written: 1966 on Broadway with Sir John Gielgud, 1998 at Lincoln Center with Kevin Kline, and in 2012 at the Classic Stage Company with Ethan Hawke. Like the recent Australian version of Chekhov’s first written play, "Platonov" (renamed "The Present" in Andrew Upton’s update), Timofey Kulyabin’s production is not only in modern dress but updated to a drama set in our time. [more]

Fruit Trilogy

June 14, 2018

Her newest work, "Fruit Trilogy," an evening of three one acts, “Pomegranate,” “Avocado” and “Coconut,” has all of the strengths and weaknesses of her previous stage plays which include going on at too great length when the audience has already gotten the point. Directed by Mark Rosenblatt who staged the world premiere at the United Kingdom’s West Yorkshire Playhouse, the play features Kiersey Clemons and Liz Mikel who are frightening in their intensity and realism. Although the three settings are unstated, the fact that both actresses are black suggests that the plays may have been inspired by Ensler’s humanitarian work in Africa. Although it will not be immediately obvious to theatergoers, the plays move from two women enslaved, to a woman traveling to freedom, to finally a woman finding liberation through her own body. [more]

Secret Life of Humans

June 12, 2018

Though it wouldn’t be fair to reveal it here for audiences about to see the play, the “secret” actually turns out to be one that has been widely known for some time as it is all over the Internet. The play’s assertion that Bronowski died immediately after his November 1973 television appearance is inaccurate as he died the following summer while visiting friends on Long Island. Nor is there evidence that there was ever a locked room. As Bronowski had four daughters, it is unlikely that one of them was a grandson named “Jamie Bronowski.” The frequent use of technology in the play like having actors walk on the wall as if traversing photographs has been done much more effectively by Cirque du Soleil and others. The quality of the black and white video clips leaves much to be desired. [more]

Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart

June 4, 2018

The letters alternate with the musical portions played by Ji on piano, Ari Evan on cello and Stephanie Zyzak on violin in various combinations which are beautiful but it is never clear in what way the selections relate to Madame von Meck except for the Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50, which Tchaikovsky reveals at the beginning of the second act that he is writing for her. It is not stated whether the two excerpts from The Nutcracker, for violin and piano, and for solo piano were created for her. [more]

Brokeback Mountain

June 3, 2018

While "Brokeback Mountain" impresses in its sincerity, it does not move which is a serious problem considering the romantic and tragic plot. Director Jacopo Spirei’s cast is in fine form as singers though the music and its libretto fail to fulfill this story’s potential. Daniel Okulitch and Glenn Seven Allen as the two doomed lovers make indelible impressions of men in a repressed society which does not allow them freedom of expression - even though they are not given the kind of music that can move the heart to tears. Brokeback Mountain which is fine as far as it goes offers the same disappointment of many new modern operas in that its writing falls short of its high-reaching intentions. [more]

The Beast in the Jungle

May 28, 2018

While "The Beast in the Jungle" is a musical for our time it contains a message that was dear to the heart of writer Henry James, that of the unlived life. Ultimately very moving when the story reaches its conclusion, the exquisite Vineyard Theatre production is for elite tastes but all dedicated theatergoers, not the casual entertainment seekers, should see it. It may well start a new trend in theatre musicals, one in which the emotional sections are danced rather than sung. [more]

Molasses in January

May 28, 2018

Standing in the way of the show’s success is the workshop-like production. Some of Pellegrino’s melodies are pleasant but musical director Michael Wittenberg’s piano playing drowns out many of the weak voices. The lyrics tend to be very thin and extremely repetitious. The uncredited set is actually that of another show with unnecessary portions covered over in brown cloth, giving the look of the show no atmosphere whatever. The uncredited costumes are mainly coordinated in bland brown and white which does not help recall the period one bit. Stone’s choreography is extremely basic and not very decorative. If you sit on the left side of the theater, you are likely to be blinded periodically by designer Christina Verde’s two spotlights aimed right into the eyes of the viewers. [more]

Peace for Mary Frances

May 27, 2018

We learn a great deal about hospice, possibly more than one might want to know in a play. While most death watch plays like Edward Albee’s "All Over" and Scott McPherson's "Marvin’s Room," take place in another room from where the elderly person is dying, Mary Frances alternates between the downstairs living room/dining room and the upstairs bedroom of her split-level house. Unfortunately, this 21-scened play with at least a dozen more scenes which switch between Mary Frances’ bedroom and the living room where the rest of the family eat or watch television requires endless jump cuts like a film and endless lighting cues from designer Tyler Micoleau. [more]

Twelfth Night

May 23, 2018

Played as older than either Viola or Sebastian, Elizabeth Heflin is charmingly eccentric as the strong cougar who becomes lovesick and yielding at the sight of Cesario and then Sebastian. In the role of the melancholy Duke Orsino who is often played as dull and sluggish, tall handsome Matthew Greer is both dashing and athletic, seen both coming from hunting and athletics. Surprisingly Susanna Stahlmann as Viola/Cesario is very bland and colorless, but this may be intentional: it allows the other characters to read into her/him what they wish. As her twin brother Sebastian made up to look like her mirror image, John Skelley is both avid and keen, willing to go along with a seeming jest though he does not know where it will take him. [more]

Long Day’s Journey into Night (Bristol Old Vic)

May 22, 2018

Unlike many of the recent New York stagings, Eyre’s production makes it clear that the thrust of this four act play is an attempt for the Tyrones to exorcise their demons in one alcoholic infused night. Before it is over, each and every character will have bared his or her soul in one night of regret, guilt, despair and anger. So much gets revealed, there does not seem to be anything left unsaid by the final devastating curtain. He also has staged the first two acts (before the one intermission) with the characters talking so fast that it as if they do not want to have to stop and notice what they are running away from. Although Rob Howell’s bright and airy set (at least until night falls and the darkness creeps in) seems huge, all of the characters seemed to be caged animals pacing back and forth in forced confinement. [more]

Marlowe’s Fate

May 21, 2018

Hodges’ play is quite lively with each scene dramatizing one point and the cast of characters made up entirely of real people, not all of them still famous. The real problem is with the unsubtle and one-dimensional acting of the mostly deficient cast. The play also assumes that the audience is familiar with a great many Elizabethan names and personages like poet Michael Drayton and courtier and literary patron Sir Thomas Walsingham. "Marlowe’s Fate" dramatizes the “last nights” of both first Marlowe and then Shakespeare 23 years later, plus a spirited "Punch and Judy" interlude between Marlowe and Shakespeare for credit to the plays published under Shakespeare’s name. [more]

The Gentleman Caller

May 20, 2018

Every once in a while the exactly right actor is matched with the right role and magic occurs. Such is the case with Juan Francisco Villa as the 34-year-old Tennessee Williams (before he became famous) in Philip Dawkins’ "The Gentleman Caller." Looking exactly like the playwright did at that age and sporting Williams’ well-known Southern accent, Villa is so ebullient, irrepressible and high-spirited that one has the feeling one has met the playwright himself. With perfect timing for Williams’ verbal comeback, many of which are taken from his own letters, quotes and diaries, Villa gives an extraordinarily three-dimensional performance in a role that has been depicted in other recent plays and one-man shows about the author. Some of the credit must go to director Tony Speciale for helping to craft this remarkable portrayal. [more]

A Brief History of Women

May 17, 2018

Although the title covers part of the plot, the play is really a trenchant social history of Britain from 1925 – 1985 in four short sequences, showing the changes that take place in one house over 60 years and following the career of one everyman, Anthony Spates, known familiarly as Tony. It also follows the women in Tony’s life who help him, love him and leave him in each of four decades. While Antony Eden plays the phlegmatic Tony at four stages in his life (17, 37, 57 and 77) with equal aplomb, the rest of the cast play four characters each, a remarkable feat, as time marches on.  "A Brief History of Women" has the depth of a novel and the breath of an epic. [more]

The Jewish King Lear

May 14, 2018

Aside from being a tight domestic drama, The Jewish King Lear has several other differences from Shakespeare’s tragedy. Gordin’s Lear has a wife who is sorely put upon and under her husband’s thumb, as well as the old traditions. Gloucester and his sons are eliminated and Kent and the Fool are combined as Trytel, the steward, who often “rhymes like a real wedding jester.” Taybele, the Cordelia character, gets ahead through education and science rather than marriage to a noble. Gordin’s Lear is not only an advocate for the Jewish traditions of his forefathers he is also very much opposed to scientific advances and education for women, shades of Ibsen who was writing at the same time as Gordin. Dovidl’s heath speech does not take place outdoors but in his own house, now ruled by his son-in-law who has replaced him. [more]

Travesties

May 8, 2018

The play is narrated by Carr through his memories as an doddering 80-year-old man, returning him (and us) to his days as a 30-year-old resident of Zurich. As such he both unreliable, altering his story as he narrates his life, with “time turns” allowing us to see the same scene in an alternate form. Travesties is set in both his apartment as well as the then new Zurich Public Library simultaneously, while scenes from "The Importance of Being Earnest" keep intruding into his story both in literally as well as satirical form with Tzara as Ernest Worthing, Joyce as Lady Bracknell and Carr playing his original stage role of Algernon Moncrieff. Shades of Oscar Wilde, his sister named Gwendolyn is Joyce’s secretary as he writes his novel "Ulysses," while the librarian who is helping Lenin on his book is named Cecily. Gwendolyn and Cecily also play out the breakfast scenes from Wilde’s play around the tea table. A knowledge of Wilde’s comedy is mandatory. [more]

Transfers

May 1, 2018

As Cristofer, Juan Castano is riveting in his honesty and his assurance. You could hear a pin drop during several of his monologue confessions as to why he didn’t do as well as he might have. His performance is almost frightening in its intensity. As the bookish Clarence, Ato Blankson-Wood is his diametric opposite, well-spoken, sensitive to other people, politically correct, well-mannered and able to hold his own in an intellectual conversation. He is equally intense in a quieter, more refined manner. Although both young actors have impressive New York credits, they should be better known after this. [more]

Miss You Like Hell

April 27, 2018

What makes the storytelling riveting are the performances by the talented cast. As the free-spirited Beatriz fighting for her life, Rubin-Vega is at her fiercest and she is a memorable three-dimensional character. Jiménez as the confused, angry Olivia is charming as she reveals her best childhood memories, lists her favorite books which have been a refuge, and grows up in the course of the road trip. David Patrick Kelly and Michael Mulheren are suitably touching as a gay couple who have loved each other for 50 years. Danny Bolero is sensitive as the still grieving widower who takes a shine to Beatriz. [more]

Mean Girls

April 24, 2018

Fey has made two successful changes to theatricalize her original screenplay. The story is now cast as a flashback narrated by best friends Goth Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damian (Grey Henson), described as “almost too gay to function,” to the new freshman class as a cautionary tale as to “how far you would go to be popular and hot.” She has also updated the story to include smartphones, selfies, and reference to current events (the Russians and President Trump’s twitter account.) [more]

One Thousand Nights and One Day

April 23, 2018

In performance, "One Thousand Nights and One Day" is a like a play with songs shoehorned in as none of them forward the story but take the emotional temperature of the characters instead. With all of the actors playing at least two parts, modern and ancient, with little costume change, it is often difficult to be certain where we are at any moment. Some play very similar characters, others play against their earlier incarnation. Erin Ortman’s direction is assured with the characterizations but she cannot solve the problems inherent in the writing. [more]

King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company)

April 20, 2018

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest "King Lear," as directed by Gregory Doran, is one that needs no explanation and no program notes. At one and the same time both medieval and contemporary, this production solves many of the questions that often go unanswered. In a glorious cap to his distinguished career, Sir Antony Sher gives a memorably luminous and unambiguous performance in the title role which should stand as a bar by which others will be measured. This is not only the perfect starting point for those unfamiliar with the play but also an excellent and notable interpretation for those who know it well. [more]

ms. estrada

April 18, 2018

The Q Brothers Collective (made up of GQ, JQ, Jackson Doran and Postell Pringle) is best known in New York for their hip hop variations on Shakespeare: "Othello: The Remix" in 2016 and "The Bomb-itty of Errors" in 2000. As the entire show is in rhyme and rhythm, there are very few discrete songs, but the couplets come so fast that it is at times difficult to make out the clever lyrics. The upside of the new show has all the hijinks of a teen musical but with the unsophistication of a college parody (the downside). It is the latest musical version of Aristophanes’ most famous comedy, but unlike the 2011 "Lysistrata Jones," "ms. estrada" has eliminated all of the politics for an exploration into the social aspects instead. [more]

Lobby Hero

April 16, 2018

Ethical integrity versus moral turpitude is the theme of Kenneth Lonergan’s "Lobby Hero" now having its Broadway debut at The Second Stage’s newly renovated home, The Helen Hayes Theater. Although Trip Cullman’s production is very leisurely for at least the first half of this talky and long play first seen in New York in 2001, his quartet of impeccably cast players (Michel Cera, Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley and Chris Evans in his Broadway debut) have a field day with these ethically challenged police and security officers. "Lobby Hero" may appear at first to have a great many meaningless conversations, but it all becomes a tight web of intrigue as the tension rises in the second act. [more]

The Edge of Our Bodies

April 12, 2018

Rapp’s plays are so different from each other that it is difficult to classify him. As of now he has written conventional dramas, experimental plays, futuristic and science fiction plays, and dramas on hot button social issues, among others. "The Edge of Our Bodies" is in yet another form: a monologue spoken by Bernadette, a 16-year-old girl who has left her boarding school on a Friday afternoon without permission to come to New York City to tell her 19-year-old boyfriend Michael that she is pregnant. Carolyn Molloy, who does not at all look 16, reads her story from a diary for much of the play and her delivery is that of a reading, not a dramatic performance. [more]

Frozen

April 10, 2018

Disney Theatrical Productions’ long anticipated stage version of the beloved animated film "Frozen" has arrived on Broadway in a lavish and faithful version of the screenplay by Jennifer Lee who also wrote the book of the new stage show. The Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez score from the movie (including the Academy Award-winning anthem, “Let It Go”) is intact with the addition of 12 new numbers. The hard-working cast is headed by the commanding Caissie Levy as Princess Elsa and charming Patti Murin as her younger sister, Princess Anna. The real question has been how the musical would put the frozen world of the North on stage. Visually the show is attractive rather than breathtaking, with Christopher Oram’s wing and drop sets resembling those for the ballet rather than a musical. They are eye-filling, but not awe-inspiring. His costumes seem to be conventional 19th century Scandinavian garb. Ironically, the show is stolen by Greg Hildreth as Olaf, the snowman, and Andrew Pirozzi as Sven, the reindeer. [more]

Feeding the Dragon

April 8, 2018

Under the assured direction of Maria Mileaf in a production which started at the Hartford Stage earlier this year, Sharon Washington is a captivating and entertaining presence both as she narrates her story and also gives commentary and hints of her life since then. Told with the innocence of childhood, "Feeding the Dragon" will also enchant readers and nostalgia buffs alike, for the world that she describes does not exist anymore now that libraries are high tech places ruled by computers and other media – and without apartments for a live-in staff at the top of the building. [more]

The Stone Witch

April 6, 2018

Lauria, best known for his work on "The Wonder Years," makes Simon an immensely private and enigmatic figure. His erratic behavior changes by the moment, keeping Peter (and us) guessing. We are never certain whether he had incipient dementia or is faking or is suffering from malnutrition or dehydration living for so long in a cabin in the woods. This is a big performance and Lauria brings great authority to his role. [more]

Bedlam’s Pygmalion

April 4, 2018

Scenic designer John McDermott has turned the black box space at the Sheen Center into an intimate amphitheater with the audience sitting around three sides of Higgins’ laboratory/study with no viewer more than four rows from the action. When Eliza arrives to arrange for lessons on her small income, we discover what we already suspected: this Eliza has been born in India and she is prone to speak in Hindi when she gets excited, just like her father Alfred Doolittle does when he follows her to Wimpole Street to see what he can get out of her good fortune - when she sends for her things but not her clothes. This adds a new, contemporary level to the play: Eliza is an immigrant rather than an East End cockney which contributes to the play’s current relevance. [more]

Babette’s Feast

April 2, 2018

aithful to the story and like the film, this stage adaptation uses narration from Dinesen’s story. However, not only are the actors used as storytellers, some of the characters also narrate themselves. Set in a small town in Berleväg, Norway, the most northern outpost of the continent of Europe, the story takes place in 1883 but flashes back to earlier days using hardly any props, much in the same way that Thornton Wilder’s "Our Town" tells its story. [more]

Admissions

March 27, 2018

"Admissions" is often very funny like when Sherri has to try to explain why Melville’s Moby Dick is not being taught anymore (a book about a white whale by a dead white guy) and when Charlie is annoyed that girls in his class object to reading Willa Cather, a woman and a lesbian rather than a person of  color. Although the play is intended to be unsettling to white liberals, it is too neat in its setup. It would have to be Sherri who has spent 15 years creating diversity at Hillcrest whose son may be affected by affirmative action and Charlie and Perry who have been best friends almost all their lives should be divided by Yale’s admission choices. Perry’s picture in the admissions catalogue is rejected as he photographs white and does not look like a person of color, but to find a group shot demonstrating diversity it ends up having to be staged. And Charlie’s 180 degree change of heart plunges his parents into a great dilemma: do they use their personal contacts to see what can be done, something Sherri and Bill have not been averse to in the admissions office at Hillcrest for others. [more]

Education

March 26, 2018

"Education," Brian Dykstra’s new play, is an incendiary investigation into censorship, free speech and responsibility in electric theater. It purports to be about Art as a Weapon but its themes go much further than that. The protagonist Mick, a biracial 17-year-old high school senior, has a rant that lists all the things wrong with American society at this time which is simply scorching. All high school students should be so articulate. In the astute hands of director Margarett Perry, the play moves like greased lightning. You may be dizzy from the provocative ideas but you will not be bored. [more]

The Low Road

March 20, 2018

Bruce Norris’ plays are so different from each other that you have to take his fingerprints to recognize his hand. His recent New York plays have dealt with racism and gentrification ("Clybourne Park"), politics ("Domesticated"), sexual mores ("The Qualms"), theories of time and space (A Parallelogram), and now in his latest production to reach NYC, "The Low Road" at The Public Theater, he offers a fascinating take on capitalism and the free market told as a picaresque and ribald 18th century tale of colonial America on the brink of statehood. Of course, its real target is today’s untenable global economic situation but his criticism is couched as an historical parable. [more]
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