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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (624 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

The 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]

All My Sons

April 29, 2019

Unfortunately in a play that is already crammed full of ominous hints, O’Brien’s production is very heavy-handed, underscoring the foreshadowing with a double line under each and every clue and signal of things to come. While the play has been given a most realistic production for the backyard of a house on the outskirts of an Ohio town by set designer Douglas W. Schmidt and costumes by designer Jane Greenwood that are redolent of the late 1949’s, the actors have been allowed to emote from the moment the curtain goes up. If you don’t guess the surprise ending in this production, you haven’t been paying attention. This may be intended to suggest Greek tragedy by the final curtain but there is no need to make it look like an antique production of "Medea," "Electra" or "Oedipus the King" – which would probably be more subtly staged today. [more]

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

April 26, 2019

Playwright Taylor Mac’s Broadway debut, "Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus," comes with a great many pluses: three consummate clowns, Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen and Julie White, directed by George C. Wolfe, and a terrific set by Santo Loquasto. This ribald yet philosophical downtown comedy is making its debut at the Booth Theatre, usually home to sedate, serious dramas. While low humor seems to be the name of the game, the play also has a good deal to say on various topics like comedy and tragedy, political systems, class structure, the little people who generally do the dirty work, and parodying Elizabethan revenge plays. The humor in Gary is not for everyone, but those who relish low comedy will have a ball as do the actors on stage. [more]

Hillary and Clinton

April 23, 2019

Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow are such consummate stage performers that they could read the phone book and keep us mesmerized. As directed by Joe Mantello in Lucas Hnath’s "Hillary and Clinton," they have the kind of rapport of actors who have worked together for years. Unfortunately Hnath, who gave Metcalf a Tony Award winning role in his "A Doll House, Part II" in 2017, hasn’t given them much to work with. True, his play inspired by real people is entirely supposition with enough true facts to make us curious. But at 80 minutes playing time, Hillary and Clinton seems padded, and set in 2008 there isn’t a lot to wait for as we all know it how turned out. [more]

Be More Chill on Broadway

April 19, 2019

"Be More Chill," the dazzling and inventive musical based on the cult Young Adult novel by Ned Vizzini, has made a successful transfer to Broadway Lyceum Theater with the same cast and an expanded production team after a tryout production at Two Rivers Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey in 2014, and a YouTube soundtrack that has had over 150,000,000 hits which led to an Off Broadway production at the Pershing Square Signature Theatre Center during the summer of 2018. If memory serves after ten months, in some ways the show is strong and in other ways weaker. Bobby Frederick Tilley II’s costumes are more colorful, while Charlie Rosen’s orchestrations seem to be less so. On the plus side the performances of Will Roland as Jeremy, Jason Tam as the Squip, Tiffany Mann as Jenna and Lauren Marcus as Brooke have deepened. The show seems less comfortable at the Lyceum Theatre than it was at the Irene Diamond Stage but a good many more fans can now get to see the show at each performance. [more]

Oklahoma!

April 17, 2019

Like John Doyle’s reconceived musical revivals ("Allegro," "Passion," "Pacific Overtures," "Carmen Jones," "The Cradle Will Rock"), Fish’s production is minimalist but with a difference. While Doyle strips away the trappings both of sets and costumes and offers nothing in their place, Fish has turned his "Oklahoma!" into environmental and communal theater. When the audience enters the Circle in the Square, they are confronted with set designer Laura Jellinek’s giant dance hall with long tables around the perimeter with red crock pots on the center of each. The plywood walls of the theater are covered with rifles, the kind used by real cowboys on the range. The bluegrass band is located in a pit off center, at one end of the circular stage. Some lucky audience members sit at the first row of tables with a ringside view. Scott Zielinski’s lighting is kept on for most of the show so not only does every member of the audience see every other one but it is as though we are part of the show, not just audience members. This communal feeling is continued during the intermission when the audience is invited onto the stage to taste corn bread (that we watched Aunt Eller and Laurey preparing in the opening scene) and chili. [more]

Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie

April 15, 2019

Those who loved The Mad Ones’ "Miles for Mary" which had an extended run at Playwrights Horizons last year after its premiere at The Brooklyn Starr in 2016, will be greatly disappointed by their latest group effort called "Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie." The beautifully renovated Greenwich House offers the first play of the Ars Nova residency a lovely venue for this new play and the Lila Neugebauer production is impeccable acted and designed. However, this fictional recreation of a focus group, like most cinema verité, has no discernable dramatic event, making it a long 90 minutes. [more]

Ain’t No Mo’

April 14, 2019

Delving into black life and attitudes now, the play is hilarious - but not laugh-out-loud funny. Unfortunately, in Stevie Walker-Webb’s fine production at The Public’s LuEsther Theater, the sketches go on too, long, way past their due date and long after we have gotten the point of the satire. Of the talented cast of six African American actors, five are all in the majority of the scenes while playwright Cooper appears in three solo sketches. [more]

Sincerely, Oscar

April 11, 2019

The show also uses the 3D holographic technology called IceMagic which attempts to bring us the late Oscar Hammerstein II as a hologram enacted and spoken by actor Bob Meenan. Aside from an incorrect accent for Hammerstein, a native Manhattanite, the new technology does not seem to allow much latitude. He is either seen sitting at a desk, standing before it, or seated in a rocking chair. Although the text that he is saying claims to be drawn from “personal correspondence, unpublished lyrics, interviews and rare memoirs,” it has been taken from his most banal remarks usually around the word “Dream” which is spelled for us on a screen before him. One learns nothing about the man or his work from the texts chosen by Ms. Taylor. [more]

The Lehman Trilogy

April 10, 2019

A three and half hour play with only three actors spanning 163 years might not be your idea of entertainment, but the National Theatre’s production of "The Lehman Trilogy" is one of the most exciting theatrical events to be seen in New York in over 50 years. Making its North American premiere at the Park Avenue Armory, Sam Mendes’ swiftly paced production of Stefano Massini’s play features Simon Russell Beale (often called the finest classical actor of his generation), Ben Miles (Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare’s production of "Wolf Hall"), and Adam Godley (Broadway’s 2002 "Private Lives" and 2011 "Anything Goes"), three of the most versatile British actors alive today. While "The Lehman Trilogy" tells the story of the three brothers who founded the family institution that eventually became one of the leading financial firms on Wall Street and later precipitated the crash of 2008, it also recounts the story of the rise of modern banking with the financial history of the last 150 years. [more]

Do You Feel Anger?

April 7, 2019

In Mara Nelson-Greenberg’s new play, "Do You Feel Anger?," which had its world premiere at the 2018 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, she has attempted to write a Theater of the Absurd dark comedy about sexism in the workplace. Starting out offbeat and humorous, it quickly devolves into repeating itself endlessly without enough new material to keep us amused or shocked. In the Vineyard Theatre production, director Margot Bordelon and the high powered cast of seven are fully in tune with the author’s sensibility. Unfortunately, there are not enough surprises in this schematic play to keep us interested although the subject matter is eminently topical. [more]

The White Devil

April 5, 2019

Not seen in New York since 1965, John Webster’s Jacobean revenge play, "The White Devil," has been given a juicy, vigorous modern dress production by Red Bull Theater which specializes in Elizabethan and post-Shakespearean dramas. While not as great as Webster’s "The Duchess of Malfi" or Shakespeare’s psychological dramas, this second-rung tragedy from 1612 has been directed by Louisa Proske with live video and contemporary trappings in a style that is always riveting, always engrossing, particularly notable for a play that will be unfamiliar to most theatergoers. [more]
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