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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (599 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.

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]

The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

April 3, 2019

Shakespeare’s politically charged Roman tragedy, "Julius Caesar," has always been a touchstone for inflaming emotions. In earlier times, monarchs used to ban the play when uprisings were imminent. In the 1930’s, the play was presented as an anti-Fascist rallying cry. In our own era, it has been presented with various American presidents as the stand-in for Caesar. While Shana Cooper’s production for Theatre for a New Audience here called "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar" is vigorous, lusty and lucid, it offers no political point of view. We never understand why the conspirators want to get rid of Caesar nor what they want to replace him with instead. [more]

Southern Promises

April 1, 2019

Playwright Thomas Bradshaw seems to have taken literally the dictum in theater to “Astonish!” His plays like "Burning," "Intimacy," "Job," and "Fulfillment," to name only a few seen in New York in recent years, are shocking, disturbing and an assault on both the actors and audience. In The Flea Theater revival of his 2008 play, "Southern Promises," director Niegel Smith seems to have taken this one step further. In this play about race relationship between masters and slaves set in 1848 Virginia, an antidote to the theory of the benevolent slave owner, the ten-member cast of The Bats, The Flea’s young repertory company, informs us that they are all people of color and that they do not have legacy of confronting slavery on their terms. Several of them reveal that they have had DNA tests performed and discovered that they are of mixed blood, making them both black and white. [more]

Nantucket Sleigh Ride

March 31, 2019

John Guare’s career as a playwright has had three stages. His early plays were examples of Theater of the Absurd with an American accent. Later his plays became more realistic, sometimes based on a true story or historic characters. In his new play "Nantucket Sleigh Ride" now at Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi E. Newhouse, he has returned to his absurdist roots with a wild comedy, configured in the form of a memory play by a former playwright which returns him to the summer of 1975. With a cast led by Broadway stars John Larroquette, Will Swenson and Douglas Sills, the play initially has a fascinating premise but goes off the deep end in its second half. Don’t blame the actors who work very hard to try to keep the play on the rails. [more]

Fleabag

March 28, 2019

If Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s "Fleabag" sounds familiar, it may be because of the cult television show now in its second season adapted from this one-woman play. Having premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013 and having had three successful London runs, it finally arrives in New York with its author-star in a sold out production at the SoHo Playhouse. Not only is this a riveting, liberated evening in the theater, it marks the local debut of a supremely talented actress and writer. [more]

After

March 26, 2019

You can hear a pin drop during Michael McKeever’s "After," an exciting, riveting play about the aftereffects of bullying. During the final scene in Jo Brancato’s production now at 59E59 Theaters, the tension is so thick that no one in the audience seems to be breathing to see how it will play out. Like McKeever’s "Daniel’s Husband," the author wants us to see the events from more than one side but his message is clear by the end: parents make excuses for their children and allow for bullying to go on unchecked. Bad parenting is as bad as bullying children. [more]

Superhero

March 19, 2019

Although there is a great deal of talent behind the new musical Superhero at Second Stage Theater, it unfortunately makes little impact. It doesn’t help that the thin book by Tony Award winning playwright John Logan ("Red") is a little too much like the smash hit "Dear Evan Hansen" which goes much deeper with similar material. Pulitzer Prize winning composer Tom Kitt ("Next to Normal") has written his own lyrics for the first time and they mainly tell us what we know in pedestrian rhymes and phrases. Don’t blame the hard-working cast led by Tony Award nominees Kate Baldwin and Bryce Pinkham. You want to like "Superhero "with its heart in the right place but it is missing the wow factor and never takes us by surprise. [more]

The Mother

March 17, 2019

Huppert, the consummate actress, commands the stage at all times, making all the other performers pale in comparison. As Anne, she travels from familiar to sarcastic to manic to depressed to suicidal. Initially her heavily French accented English and her staccato rhythms are difficult to follow, but eventually it becomes accessible, even appropriate to this very French play. While the role does not require much action, Huppert has found all sorts of ways of building her character: stretching out on the sofa as if sleeping, playing with a cigarette, dancing with her son in manic fashion, examining herself in a mirror. Anita Yavich’s chic costumes fit her to perfection: the severe grey turtleneck and black shirt that we first see her in, and later the short red party dress with black stockings that looks like it might be a throwback to her youth. [more]

The Cake

March 17, 2019

Brunstetter overloads the issue in the play by making Jen have doubts about being in love with a woman against her parents’ religious teachings, even though she cannot imagine life without the caring, compassionate, uninhibited Macy. Additionally, when Della quotes the Bible to Macy, Macy retaliates by pointing out that as a childless woman Della has not fulfilled her religious duty as a wife. The plot then goes in another direction to show us Della and her husband Tim who has lost interest in sex since he discovered he had too low a sperm count. The play builds to Jen revealing her real childhood feelings to Macy, as well as Della demanding that after years of estrangement Tim make passionate love to her as he did at the beginning of their marriage. Ultimately, Brunstetter wants to have it both ways with an ending that does not resolve the religious question at all. [more]

Surely Goodness and Mercy

March 14, 2019

Chisa Hutchinson’s "Surely Goodness and Mercy" has its heart in the right place but as produced by Keen Company at the Clurman Theatre it is not a play at all but an after school movie script. We know we are in trouble when we see seven sets side by side on stage on three levels when we first enter the theater. Jessi D. Hill has directed her adept cast to believable characterizations but the script is so short at 73 minutes (plus a totally unnecessary intermission) and the 30 scenes so brief (some no more than four exchanges) that we never learn enough about them. It is as though the whole story has been told in a kind of shorthand and we are expected to fill in the dots. [more]

“Daddy”

March 13, 2019

Jeremy O. Harris’ “Daddy” is the work of a unique voice, a little self-indulgent in its length, and a little underwritten in its characterizations. It attempts to shock with its use of nudity and sadomasochistic sex, but nothing we have not seen before. The play’s message is not entirely clear but the play is provocative nevertheless. It is a work for the mature playgoer who wants to see a new direction that our theater is heading. [more]

Sea Wall/A Life

March 8, 2019

Both plays deal with young husbands who are coping with new fatherhood as well as their new responsibilities and their relationships with the dominant male figures in their lives. In Stephens’ "Sea Wall," Sturridge speaks admiringly of his father-in-law, while in Payne’s "A Life," Gyllenhaal speaks with love of his own father.  Both men are madly in love with their wives who they could not consider living without. These plays are ultimately tragedies of the accidental kind, events that one has no control over and cannot see coming. The double bill is performed on a basically empty stage with a brick wall behind (designed by Laura Jellinek), on which Peter Kaczorowski’s poetic and atmospheric lighting is a kind of additional onstage character. Carrie Cracknell's assured direction pilots both plays. [more]

Rocco, Chelsea, Adriana, Sean, Claudia, Gianna, Alex

March 4, 2019

Being described as a “theatre event,” the unwieldy titled "Rocco, Chelsea, Adriana, Sean, Claudia, Gianna, Alex" is a throwback to the happenings and performance art of the 1960’s, without having the same visceral effect. Based on original work by the devising company, playwright Dan Hasse attempts to be up to the minute by including a great many hot button issues, but the endless scenes and vignettes seem to be part of a checkoff list of items to include rather than any great need to link these disparate topics. [more]

Alice By Heart

March 4, 2019

Molly Gordon and Colton Ryan in a scene from MCC Theater’s new musical “Alice By Heart” [more]

The Price of Thomas Scott

March 1, 2019

However, the play may not be to the taste of regular Mint theatergoers as it seems much more dated that the usual lost masterpieces rediscovered at this esteemed venue. Thomas Scott is so rigid in his thinking that he is against not only dancing beer, and theater, but also the Literary Society which has put on "Twelfth Night," a Shakespeare comedy in which the young lady playing Viola had to wear pants. In general except for singing hymns, Scott is against all pleasures. A great many of his neighbors no longer take exception to these activities and his own family could desperately use the money they are being offered to better themselves. [more]

State of the Union

February 28, 2019

Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s 1946 Pulitzer Prize winning political play, "State of the Union," should be, by all accounts, dated in its depiction of the 1948 presidential political campaign with 1940’s references to people no longer household names. However, it seems more relevant than ever thanks in part to Laura Livingston’s smart and sassy revival for Metropolitan Playhouse, whose mission is to explore America’s diverse theatrical heritage. Her crackerjack production of this fast-paced political and romantic comedy moves like a house on fire and lands every one of its jokes. In addition, the play is so wise about the ways of backroom politics and Lindsay and Crouse have isolated a great many post-W.W. II issues that are now front page news again that this well-written and well-crafted comedy, although a period piece, has a great deal to say once more. Great fun will be had by all, both Republicans and Democrats, as well as independents. [more]

Lolita, My Love

February 26, 2019

The York Theatre Company is to be applauded for taking the risk of staging this famously controversial musical in its New York premiere. It is also fulfilling its mission to bring to the stage musicals of quality that might not be done elsewhere. As Alan Jay Lerner is one of the legendary giants of the musical theater, it is a pleasure to be able to see this lost musical in a workable version. However, despite the excellent staging by director Emily Maltby, "Lolita, My Love," the casting still seems problematic and the musical is ultimately disappointing. And while music director Deniz Cordell has performed yeoman's work reconstructing the score and playing it entirely solo at the piano, John Barry’s music is not aided by being heard in this cut-down orchestration. [more]

Switzerland

February 22, 2019

Mystery writer Patricia Highsmith ("Strangers on a Train," "Carol," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") was famously alcoholic, depressive, misogynistic and racist. She was unique as an internationally famous writer who had created in Tom Ripley the only serial killer ever created by a woman writer. In "Switzerland," Joanna Murray-Smith, one of Australia’s most successful playwrights, has written a play about the last days of this reclusive writer’s life. Directed by Dan Foster, the initially fascinating premise takes a sharp turn into territory that requires a good deal of suspension of disbelief. [more]

The Light

February 20, 2019

With the audience sitting ringside on three sides of the new theater, and performed by Masden and Belcher at the top of their game, The Light is thrilling theater. Their Gen and Rashad are both sympathetic, attractive characters and their story and their dilemma is entirely gripping. As the former football star (and a boxing pro in The Royale seen at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater,) Belcher has a tremendous physical presence. Masden is so articulate as the school principal that she elevates the debate to a high level of drama. Even if there are coincidences or sudden revelations that are hard to believe, this play that makes use of the themes of both the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements is cracklingly provocative theater. And like an excellent boxing match, director Vaughn has her actors come out ready to spar from the moment they enter the stage. [more]

The Dance of Death

February 16, 2019

Clark has chosen to direct the play as though it were drawing room comedy. Beginning and ending the play with a game of cards, there is the suggestion that for Edgar and Alice this is all a series of games. Outsiders cannot understand this, particularly her cousin Kurt who visits them for the first time in 15 years. Whether this is the fault of the new translation or the belief that modern audiences unfamiliar with Strindberg’s psychological nightmares would have trouble sitting through this disturbing ritual, the effect is to make "The Dance of Death" seem very superficial, as though Neil Simon had chosen to rewrite an Eugene O’Neill tragedy simply for laughs. [more]

To Kill a Mockingbird

February 16, 2019

It has been well publicized that the Harper Lee estate filed a lawsuit in February 2018 alleging that the play deviated too much from the novel. They should not have worried. As directed by Bartlett Sher, Aaron Sorkin’s astutely scripted "To Kill a Mockingbird" with Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch is a magnificent and moving theatrical experience that treats the novel with respect and dignity. The additions and changes from the novel only make the material more stage worthy and a better experience in the new medium. Harper Lee’s justly famous lines about it being a sin to kill a mockingbird and never knowing a person until you walk around in his or her skin brought an audible reaction from the audience at the performance under review, demonstrating that they were with the story all the way. [more]

The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

February 14, 2019

The 1970 play was originally adapted by playwright Saul Levitt (who previously turned the Pulitzer Prize winning novel "Andersonville" into a successful trial play) from Berrigan’s free verse version based exclusively on the trial transcript. Not seen in New York in 30 years, "The Trial of the Catonsville Nine" has been reimagined in a new version making use of additional sources by Jack Cummings III, artistic director of the innovative Transport Group theater company. A powerful experience, the revival proves to be a provocative investigation of what a citizen should do when he or she feels that the government is engaged in immoral actions. [more]

The Day Before Spring

February 12, 2019

The York production has been directed and adapted by Marc Acito who has condensed the original two act script into a long one-acter. Realizing that the original setting of 1948 for a tenth year college reunion with no reference to W.W. II or returning veterans does not make a lot of sense, he has moved the romantic comedy plot up to 1959 with some new appropriate references to the fifties (Davy Crockett caps, McCarthyism). Although the story seems to flow well enough the new problem is that with the deletion of some of the plot and dialogue, the characters seem to have been reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes which gives the actors a great deal more to do in order to make them real. [more]

God Said This

February 11, 2019

If this family seems familiar, Winkler wrote about them in her 2016 play, "Kentucky," set seven years ago, when Hiro returned home for the first time from NYC in order to stop her sister’s wedding. Author Winkler, a Japanese-American, wrote the play sitting by her mother’s bedside in a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, while her mother dealt with an aggressive form of cancer and she does have a sister who is a born-again Christian, though nothing like Sophie. While the play has an air of authenticity, most of the family are so unpleasant and unlikable that it is hard to penetrate behind their armor and facades. [more]

A Man for All Seasons

February 8, 2019

In recent years the play has not fared with such acclaim. A 2008 Broadway revival starring Frank Langella eliminated the narrator character of The Common Man, the play’s cleverest device, and was not well received. Now Fellowship for the Performing Arts has brought the play to the Theater Row’s Acorn Theatre directed by Christa Scott-Reed, who also staged FPA’s revival of Shadowlands last season. Unfortunately, the academic and unimaginative production fails to bring the ideas and the tensions in the play to a boil. [more]

Carmelina

January 31, 2019

Though not in the same class with Alan Jay Lerner’s masterpiece, "My Fair Lady," "Carmelina" has a similar theme: how a young woman reinvents herself. While the three soldiers are under the impression that they invented Carmelina Campbell in the classic Pygmalion and Galatea fashion, in fact Carmelina has reinvented herself, also a major theme in the Lerner canon, along with "Coco" and "Dance a Little Closer." This charming musical comedy also features a Tony Award nominated score which deserves a second and a third hearing. [more]
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