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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (970 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 Reef (opera workshop)

April 13, 2024

On April 10, 2024, Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center presented a tantalizing teaser of a musical evening with the world premiere workshop of only the first act of 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis’ new opera, "The Reef." With a libretto adapted by Joan Ross Sorkin, from the 1912 novel by Edith Wharton, this was the first time that the work has been adapted for the stage, though it has been filmed as Passion’s Way. The workshop was sponsored by the Berkshire Opera Festival using a cast of emerging artists all of whom were vocally capable of singing the work. [more]

Fish

April 12, 2024

Aside from its attempt to cover too much at one time (drug addiction, pregnancy, incarceration, high school dropouts, gun violence, lack of health care, underfunded ghetto schools), "Fish" does not tell us anything we don’t already know. It will come as no surprise that public schools teach to the test, truancy is a big problem and students fall asleep in class after working jobs at night to help pay the rent, or that charter schools are better funded than public schools. Nor does it have any answers other than that teachers should be more understanding of students’ home situations and help to do something about inadequate facilities and supplies – other than pay for missing supplies themselves. [more]

Water for Elephants

April 8, 2024

Playwright/bookwriter Rick Elice has written the greatest jukebox musical (so far) in his 2005 Jersey Boys. In his adaptation of Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel Water for Elephants, he may just have written the best stage musical about circuses by making the animals as real as the human characters. The indie folk band Pigpen Theatre Co. has written a varied collection of songs, ingeniously orchestrated, that are always exciting as they both forward the story and reveal the emotions of the people who sing them. However, it is director Jessica Stone assisted with circus design by Shana Carroll who has done the most inventive and original work. [more]

The Notebook: The Musical

April 4, 2024

While the characters age, the use of diversity here has them switch races, so that while one couple has a Black Allie and a white Noah, another has a white Allie and a Black Noah, as well as Allie’s parents being played by an interracial couple. Although it is easy to follow, it is somewhat distracting until one gets used to it. The setting has also been updated from the 1940’s to the 1960’s so that Noah fights in Vietnam now rather than World War II. Brunstetter’s book is faithful to both the novel and the movie, except that while the earlier two versions were recounted by the older Noah reading to his increasingly distracted wife from the notebook that she wrote in chronological order, here there are flashbacks within flashbacks, backtracking some of the events. Brunstetter has also made the ending more explicit than either the book or the film, as well as keeping much of the original sentimentality at bay. [more]

An Enemy of the People

March 31, 2024

The concept of alternate facts was not created under the Trump Administration. In 1882 Henrik Ibsen wrote "An Enemy of the People" in which a medical report that a town’s new spa is polluted by toxic bacteria which will cause an epidemic is contradicted by financial and political interests which will be brought down by the revelation. Amy Herzog’s new American adaptation could not be timelier after the pandemic which we just underwent. This forceful and vigorous production led by television stars Jeremy Strong ("Succession"; "Masters of Sex") and Michael Imperioli ("The Sopranos"; "The White Lotus") is robustly staged by Herzog’s own husband, controversial director Sam Gold. This is a play that has been staged when needed at various times in our history such as Arthur Miller’s adaptation during the McCarthy Era. [more]

Eddie Izzard: Hamlet

March 30, 2024

In this tour de force, Izzard has come up with a different voice and stance for each character: King Claudius is a baritone, Lord Polonius has a limp, Lady Ophelia has a somewhat breathy speech pattern while Queen Gertrude is very emotional. The gravediggers are given two different lower class accents and the humor in the scene is still very vivid. The courtier Osric, who is usually played as somewhat fey, waves his hands around a great deal. The duel scene between Hamlet and Laertes in the last act is mostly successful but eventually it becomes difficult to figure out who is winning and who is losing. [more]

Corruption

March 28, 2024

Playwright J.T. Rogers ("Oslo", 2017 Tony Award for Best Play) specializes in dramatizing the backstories to true scandals of which the real details behind the facts never made the news. His latest play, "Corruption" at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, is based on the book Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman, the story of the widespread hacking scandal by the News of the World in Britain by two of the main characters in his play. While "Corruption" is fascinating in its evil details and frightening in its all-inclusiveness (no one was exempt neither government ministers, the metropolitan police, the royal family, celebrities or the general public), it is also extremely dense in its characters, has too many scenes, and is very difficult to wrap your head around all of the facts. Bartlett Sher’s production keeps the 46 characters played by 13 actors distinct but his staging is somewhat hampered by the Newhouse’s round configuration and Michael Yeargan’s unit set which has to stand in for a great many places in and around London. [more]

Illinoise

March 21, 2024

While "Illinoise" does not seem bigger than its individual parts nor transcend them, it is both satisfying and moving. Peck’s inventive and derivative choreography at the same time seems to pay homage to his teachers and sources but also is in his own style. Some will find "Illinoise" an emotional experience; others will be impressed by the vigor and high spirits of the dancers and singers. Several of the dancers should be come much better known through their roles in this work. Last but not least, Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 score is remarkable in its continued vitality after all these years. [more]

The Effect

March 20, 2024

Soutra Gilmour’s setting is a sort of empty runway with the audience sitting on either side. The other props are two black chairs at either end for the two doctors. Scenes are created entirely by Jon Clark’s impressive lighting which turns a portion of the stage into a white square, the rest being kept in darkness. Since Connie and Tristan meet in various dorm rooms, doctor’s offices, examination rooms, etc., there is no sense of place. The problem is that each scene looks the same as the previous one and the many scenes covering the four weeks tend to become tiresome without an intermission to break the mood. Gilmour’s costumes which put the doctors in all black and the patients in all white are equally monotonous. [more]

Bedlam’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar as Told by William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw

March 17, 2024

The play is treated like a rehearsal (a conceit also used by Bedlam in their incomprehensible and lame "Henry IV" workshop in Brooklyn in 2023) with the director (Andrew Rothenberg who also plays Shaw’s Caesar) stopping the action periodically and breaking the mood. The costumes (production designed by director/adapter Eric Tucker, wardrobe supervisor Damarius Kennedy) are contemporary; whether this is supposed to be rehearsal clothes or a modern dress version is never made clear. (It is obviously cheaper than having to create period correct Egyptian and Roman costumes.) In terms of continuity, there are two Caesars: Rajesh Bose as Shakespeare’s Caesar and Rothenberg as Shaw’s which destroys any transition from one play to another. In fact, the segues from one text to the other are non-existent with one scene following another from the other play without any transition. [more]

The Ally

March 10, 2024

Itamar Moses’ 'The Ally" is a play of ideas not only torn from today’s headlines but tomorrow’s as well. Ostensibly dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian question on college campuses today, it also deals with censorship, anti-Semitism, racism, capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and white supremacy. The play protagonist, a Jewish liberal teacher on a college campus, is asked to sign a social justice manifesto and finds that it challenges his political, marital, academic, American and Jewish beliefs. This is a good deal for one play to take on, possibly too much, but Lila Neugebauer’s production for The Public Theater almost gets all of it right for this provocative and heady play, with one caveat. [more]

Brooklyn Laundry

March 9, 2024

John Patrick Shanley has become our poet of lonely, desperate working class people trying to make a connection despite their inadequacies and hang-ups in such plays as "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," "Savage in Limbo," "the dreamer examines his pillow," "The Big Funk" and "Outside Mullinger" and, of course, in his Academy Award-winning script for "Moonstruck." In all of these works, the pair makes an unlikely couple who fight against their very attachment as outside of the realm of possibility. In his latest play, the bittersweet "Brooklyn Laundry," he creates another lovely story of an unlikely couple Fran and Owen who find each other just when they need someone most. [more]

The Script in the Closet

March 4, 2024

Playwright Joyce Griffen’s idea of farce in her new play "The Script in the Closet" is a series of 48, mostly very short scenes in which to keep the plot going she continually introduces new characters both onstage and offstage as well as new events. Some of the scenes are less than a minute. A good deal of the play happens over the telephone with characters we never meet. The plot is made more and more complicated by new contrivances that have less and less to do with the original premise. Farces usually trigger laughter and have much physical comedy, none of which is present here. [more]

The Seven Year Disappear

February 29, 2024

While "The Seven Year Disappear" may challenge and confuse many theatergoers, people used to performance art may get the in-jokes. Jordan Seavey whose play "Homos, or Everyone in America" was seen in 2016 in the Labyrinth Theater Company at the Bank Street Theater is a sophisticated, seasoned playwright and he and director Scott Elliott make no concessions to their audience. "The Seven Year Disappear" may be most appreciated by devotees of experimental theater but it does make one hungry for Seavey’s next play. [more]

Deadly Stages

February 27, 2024

While we could use a good murder mystery stage play, "Deadly Stages" is too derivative to suit the bill. The cast work hard mostly playing multiple roles, but the play seems to have attempted to outdo Charles Busch’s output without having the wit or the cleverness to bring it off. Although "Deadly Stages" has amusing moments, it is a tired retread of better and more subtle works in this genre. [more]

Five, The Parody Musical

February 25, 2024

When she arrives dressed in a white pant suit, Labeija steals the stage with Hillary’s number “Miss Me Now” which trumps them all with a series of Broadway parodies paying tribute to Clinton’s love of the theater, with recognizable quotes from "The Sound of Music," "Company," "Gypsy," "Chicago," "Evita," "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Dreamgirls." However, while all of this is clever, at times the show becomes “can you identify this parody.” A “Six Mixalot” for the company takes the same place as “The Megasix” in "Six." Lena Gabrielle does fine work with the four-person all-female band but the sound design by Bailey Trierweiler, Kevin Heard and Uptown Works is often too loud for this small Off Broadway theater. [more]

Between Two Knees

February 19, 2024

At the performance under review, part of the audience found the show hilariously funny, while others proverbially sat on their hands. The show makes use of history, parody, satire, burlesque, musical comedy and tragicomedy, never being consistent to any one genre. At two and a half hours this kind of parody seems a bit too long. "Between Two Knees" is a noble effort to tell the story of one hundred years of Native American suffering through the Lakota tribe, but it seems to want to cover too much in too parodistic a style. [more]

Warrior Sisters of Wu

February 17, 2024

Inspired by 20th century film and video games based on the classic Chinese novel of the 15th century, 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms," Damon Chua’s delightful and engrossing "Warrior Sisters of Wu" takes two minor female characters and puts them center stage. Using the framework of Jane Austin’s "Pride and Prejudice" with the two best characters, male and female, taking an instant dislike to each other but eventually coming to see each other’s good traits, Warrior Sisters of Wu takes place at the end of the Chinese Han Dynasty in 200 A.D. when war is certain and society is changing. Stylishly directed by Jeff Liu for the Pan-Asian Repertory Theatre with top-notch fight choreography by Michael g. Chin, the play is both exciting and romantic including both vigorous swordfights and tender love scenes. Like Mr. Bennett in Austin’s novel, Lord Qiao has a problem: having only daughters, his estate is entailed to his next male heir, the indolent Cousin Xie who comes to visit in order to see about marrying either sister Wan or Qing, who are accomplished swordswomen. However, like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, Xie is an obnoxious social climber and does not interest either sister, Wan who is engaged to General Zhou Yu in a love match, nor Qing who has not found anyone who is her equal. [more]

The Apiary

February 16, 2024

Unfortunately, at 70 minutes the play seems skimpy. Structured in a great many short scenes, only one thing happens in each, so that there is a sameness to it all. Basically a two character play with two lab assistants Zora (April Matthis) and Pilar (Carmen M. Herlihy) attempting to come up with new solutions to the problem and spoken in the level-headed tone of scientific investigation, the play does not offer climaxes or high points but moves on the same plane. The four actors playing seven characters remain on the same level without developing or changing. Kate Whoriskey’s direction appears to have eschewed raising tension to make the play more interesting or more dramatic, something it sorely needs. [more]

Munich Medea: Happy Family

February 15, 2024

Like its unwieldy title, Corinne Jaber’s "Munich Medea: Happy Family" takes its time getting where it is going but is ultimately powerful and revealing in its almost unspeakable tale. It deals with difficult material but finds a way to tell its shocking story that eventually involves many people. Under Lee Sunday Evans’ direction, Crystal Finn, Kurt Rhoads and especially Heather Raffo impress through their characterizations and the baring of their souls. The play never talks down to us but confides in us as though we were complicit in not putting a stop to these long ago horrifying events. This attempt at a modern Greek tragedy is quite successful in a genre rarely seen these days. [more]

Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy

February 13, 2024

Sarah Gancher’s "Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy" is seemingly torn from the headlines - if this were the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election which pitted Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. In 2024, it seems rather past its due date. Although it calls itself a comedy, it is not very funny but rather outrageous in its depicting of Russian misinformation intended for the American internet to influence the voters to cast their ballot for Trump rather than Clinton. What Gancher has written cannot make up its mind whether it is a comedy, satire, parody, drama or tragedy or a combination of all the above, which is problematic. Under Darko Tresnjak’s direction, don’t blame the hard working cast led by film and stage star Christine Lahti, all of whom throw themselves into their offbeat roles with abandon. [more]

The Following Evening

February 7, 2024

Although written and directed by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone of 600 Highwaymen, "The Following Evening" is a tribute and a summing up of the 50 year career and marriage of experimental theater legends Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet, co-founding members of the Talking Band. In the past they were usually seen at La MaMa ETC, but the new show is part of the inaugural season at the Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC) in the black box theater known as Theater C. The space is perfectly suitable to the minimalist performance piece which includes all four actors. [more]

Jonah

February 3, 2024

The play is best at its mysteries which are only slowly revealed. However, audience members may be confused part of the time as to the sequence of events and the relationships. A great deal is never resolved. The scene transitions are accompanied by blaring sound and flashing lights (sound by Kate Marvin; lighting by Amith Chandrashaker) which at times suggest that at least one or more scenes may be fantasies. The costumes by Kaye Voyce remain basically the same but Gabby Beans as Ana seems to grow in poise and maturity though very subtly from teenager to maturity. Although set at first 20 years ago, the male characters often talk of permission for intimacy, something that was not common parlance that long ago. [more]

The Greatest Hits Down Route 66

January 28, 2024

The title of Michael Aguirre’s "The Greatest Hits Down Route 66," the story of the Franco family’s road trip during the summer of 1999, refers to Carl Sandburg’s 1927 "The American Songbag,' a best-selling collection of early folksongs. Aguirre tells us that “the goal is to use music as a memory, an imprint, incidental. It should carry emotional weight but don’t depend on it to move the plot forward.” And that is the problem with the show: the songs are extraneous to the plot and have little impact as most of the 13 songs sung are so familiar, in the musical arrangements of Grace Yukich and Jennifer C. Dauphinais. There are no surprises in the music played by a three piece band and a lead vocalist, Hannah-Kathryn “HK” Wall. Occasionally, the narrator played by Joél Acosta joins in or sings a song himself. [more]

Our Class

January 26, 2024

Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s "Our Class" is epic in its storytelling and shocking in its specifics. At three hours, the play is never long or boring as every line of dialogue offers new details to be digested as ten lives are laid out for us. While rather busy Igor Golyak’s production is always illuminating, always compelling. The cast of ten mostly young actors, many unfamiliar to New York audiences, are always riveting as they tell their individual and intertwining stories. What may be most shocking is that in Jan Gross’ prose account in his 2001 book "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwadne, Poland" he reveals was that this is not the only Polish town in which these atrocities against the Jews took place. One realizes why the world premiere of "Our Class" took place in Great Britain and not Poland. [more]

Pride House

January 23, 2024

While “Pride” has come to stand for Gay Liberation in contemporary times, Beatrice has named her house after Jane Austen’s novel as it is made clear when she names her new guesthouse “Prejudice” at the end of the play. The play’s cast of characters includes mostly real people under their own names: John Mosher, film critic for The New Yorker Magazine; Arthur Brill, decorator and furniture designer; Natalia Danesi Murray, a Broadway actress and later journalist and editor; and Edwin Marshall, an African American dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies. Unfortunately, neither the play nor the program makes it clear that these were all real people or that they were well known in their time. The play also does a certain amount of name dropping (Eva Le Gallienne, Gypsy Rose Lee, Janet Flanner) that may go over the heads of many of the younger theatergoers today. [more]

Appropriate

January 10, 2024

Not only is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ "Appropriate" a classic American family drama with a new wrinkle, it is also a trenchant and scorching look at American racism which is just under the surface. So fine a playwright has Jacob-Jenkins become that every line of dialogue develops character and plot. What is most shocking about the play is how little the younger generation depicted knows about its American history, things we all should be aware of. Lila Neugebauer’s production for Second Stage mines all of the play’s nuances and her staging is smooth and effortless. The cast led by stage, screen and television stars Sarah Paulson, Corey Stoll and Elle Fanning (in her Broadway debut) make the most of their many opportunities. "Appropriate" is the most satisfying new American play on Broadway at this time and should not be missed. The running time may seem long but the rising tension and periodic revelations make the play feel like it could even be longer. [more]

The Whole of Time

January 8, 2024

Aside from the title not being explained, the Jean Graham-Jones translation seems to end very abruptly. Nothing is settled at the end of its short running time and it certainly feels like more is to come, unlike Williams’ play. There are also too many unanswered questions like what does Ursula do that supports the family of three, why has Lorenzo chosen Spain to move to, what event caused Antonia to stop going out, what is the relationship between Lorenzo and Maximiliano, etc. While Ursula is proud of her Hungarian and Mexican heritage we don’t learn much about it. The Whole of Time plays like a sketch of a play that hasn’t been written or that need a second act to deal with all the loose ends. [more]

The New York Pops: The Best Christmas of All with Norm Lewis

December 27, 2023

Joy filled Carnegie Hall with The New York Pops’ annual two-night Christmas concert entitled "The Best Christmas of All" led by genial host, music director and conductor Steven Reineke. This year’s guest artist was Broadway baritone Norm Lewis who was joined by several announced and several surprise guests: soprano Vanessa Williams (Friday night only), Pastor Bobby Lewis (actually a cousin of Norm Lewis), 14-year-old percussionist Jonathan Logan making his third Carnegie Hall appearance, guest conductor Ruthanne Ruzika and the annual visit of Santa Claus with elf Pecan Pie. The program was mainly made up of old favorites and one or two unfamiliar compositions which were greeted with ovation after ovation from the sell-out crowd. [more]

The Night of the Iguana

December 26, 2023

The latest Tennessee Williams revival is the first major New York staging of "The Night of the Iguana" since Roundabout Theatre’s 1996 production. Emily Mann’s version with a great many well-known stage actors (Tim Daly, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lea DeLaria, Austin Pendleton and Jean Lichty) is a solid reading of the play though there is little chemistry between the main characters. Also at almost three hours, the production seems long though it does not drag. Visually the production with Jeff Croiter’s impressionistic lighting is stunning though the set by Beowulf Boritt may be a bit too large for what is basically an intimate play. Nevertheless, the revival is a good introduction to a Williams play not seen too often and best known from the somewhat different 1964 film version by John Huston which gave Richard Burton one of his best screen roles. [more]

Buena Vista Social Club

December 20, 2023

While the exciting new stage musical Buena Vista Social Club shares the same name with the acclaimed 1999 documentary by Wim Wenders, playwright Marco Ramirez’s book for the new show takes a different approach to the true story now under the direction and development of go-to director Saheem Ali (Fat Ham) for new work by people of color. While the film took us to the recording studio and then interviewed or followed the daily lives of the major singers and musicians involved ultimately taking us to their July 1, 1998 Carnegie Hall concert, the stage show instead tells the 1956 backstory of several of the main characters after we meet them at the 1996 recording session. Although the film made the male singers Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo the main characters, the musical puts the focus on recording star Omara Portuondo. Both approaches contain the original songs sung by the Cuban music group of old timers that came together in 1996 to record an album of almost forgotten Cuban songs making both versions documents of the highest authenticity. [more]

Manahatta

December 14, 2023

Mary Kathryn Nagle’s "Manahatta" now at The Public Theater, just blocks from where most of the story takes place, is a fascinating combination of American history and recent events. Nagle who is a Native American has written a play that combines the Dutch purchase of the island of Manhattan in 1626 from the Delaware Lenapes with the Wall Street home-mortgage crisis of 2008 where many disenfranchised people lost their homes. She also includes the contemporary Lenape community living today in Anadarko, Oklahoma, after they had been evicted from their Texas reservation. While the three time-frames of the play run concurrently, they all come together in a devastating ending that indicts the capitalist system as well as how Native Americans have been treated in this country. [more]

Spain

December 13, 2023

Until now it has been believed that the 1937 Joris Ivens-Ernest Hemingway documentary "The Spanish Earth" was paid for by a corporation called Contemporary Historians sponsored by some of the most famous liberal writers of the time: playwright Lillian Hellman, mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, poet, screenwriter and essayist Dorothy Parker and her husband Alan Campbell, poet Archibald MacLeish, novelists John Dos Passos and Hemingway. However, in "Spain," contemporary playwright Jen Silverman has another idea: what if this famously propaganda film was financed by the KGB and that filmmaker Ivens and his girlfriend/editor Helen van Dongen were agents for KGB operatives in New York? [more]
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