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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (555 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 Apple Boys: A Barbershop Quartet Musical

December 13, 2018

The world premiere of "The Apple Boys: A Barbershop Quartet Musical" is a delightful show that pays tribute to this uniquely American art form. In a mash-up of history it also recognizes a great many famous New Yorkers placing them at Coney Island or Central Park at the same time. With a clever book by Jonothon Lyons (one of the quartet of talented actors who appear in the show) and melodic music and lyrics by Ben Bonnema, The Apple Boys is great fun with ample puns that almost get by you, accomplished close harmony by its cast of four playing all 40 characters, and a plot so far-fetched that it could have been true in the manner of tall tales. [more]

The Hello Girls

December 12, 2018

One of the beauties of the book by Mills and Reichel is that all of the characters in the large dramatis personae are very well defined and we have no trouble knowing who is who. Reichel’s direction and staging make the characterizations clear and consistent. Fishman’s Grace is efficient, fair-minded and heroic, always coming up with good ideas to make sure that things run more smoothly and we root for her throughout the story. As the assured, ambitious Suzanne, Skyler Volpe is very feisty, witty and acerbic, in the manner of an Eve Arden role. Chanel Karimkhani’s Helen, the farm girl, is constantly getting into trouble, not least of which is her problem being late most of the time and her naïveté and lack of sophistication. As the oldest operator and a married woman, Lili Thomas’ Bertha is a rock of stability when others are falling apart. Cathryn Wake’s very French Louise is a firecracker, always speaking her mind - even if it gets her into trouble. Christine O’Grady’s choreography for the dance hall scenes for the women and the doughboys is redolent of ballroom dances of the period. The show’s one flaw is that there is not enough tension until almost the very end when the war comes a little too close for comfort. [more]

The Hard Problem

December 6, 2018

Tom Stoppard, our most cerebral modern playwright, has finally written a play that one would have expected from him all along. "The Hard Problem," his first play in ten years, is literally about concepts in neuroscience and its characters are psychologists, scientists and mathematicians all studying the brain. While the story and its outcome are intriguing, like many Stoppard plays, the characters are not likeable and you will find yourself not rooting for anyone. (Most likely, many real scientists aren’t lovable people either.) Jack O’Brien, who has previously directed Stoppard’s "The Coast of Utopia," "The Invention of Love," and "Hapgood," all for Lincoln Center Theater, has chosen his LCT cast without household names just as did the original London production in 2015 by Nicholas Hytner for Britain’s National Theatre. [more]

Quicksand

December 5, 2018

"Quicksand," Nella Larsen’s 1928 award-winning first novel, has been given an ambitious, epical stage adaptation by Everyday Inferno Theatre Company working out of the IRT Theater. While Regina Robbins’ script for this Harlem Renaissance literary work basically is an assigning of the text of the novel to a company of 13 actors, it is the work of director Anaïs Koivisto who makes this swirling production feel adventurous in creating both a community and a specific world. EITC’s mission statement is to create “adventurous theatrical productions of new or rarely produced texts that tell women's stories in a unique, entertaining, and accessible manner,” and this lives up to its goal. [more]

The Lifespan of a Fact

November 30, 2018

In a time of fake news, these timely and topical questions are raised in the delightful new Broadway play "The Lifespan of a Fact," a dramatization by Jeremy Kareken & David Murrell and Gordon Farrell of the essay/book by writer John D’Agata and fact checker Jim Fingal, both who appear as two of the three characters in this play. Stars of stage and screen Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale are having a field day in this amusing and provocative romp in roles that they have played before and are not too taxing but are played by them to the hilt. The fact that this is based on a true story adds to the piquancy of the play – although to be absolutely truthful the original editing job took seven years while only five days go by in the play. [more]

Lewiston/Clarkston

November 28, 2018

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is presenting a theatrical event by Idaho theater poet Samuel D. Hunter ("The Whale," "A Bright New Boise," "The Few," "Pocatello," "The Healing," "The Harvest"): a long one-act masterpiece (Clarkston), a 40-minute communal dinner served on picnic tables of what the characters would be eating and a curtain raiser, "Lewiston," which has the same themes and symbols as the later play. Taken as a whole this is a remarkable achievement, probably the best Hunter has created so far. Director David McCallum must be given some of the credit for this magnificent evening, and in particular actor Edmund Donovan who isn’t so much performing as living his character of Chris in "Clarkston." [more]

Shadow of Heroes

November 26, 2018

While Alex Roe’s minimalist production is both sharp and engrossing, the play offers viewers several problems. Aside from the three main characters, the play has 23 other speaking roles with actors doubling and tripling in multiple roles. Those unfamiliar with the Hungarian names as well as the history may have trouble following the twisty drama as the events pile up. Ardrey uses the awkward device of a narrator actually called the “Author” (played by Joel Rainwater) which helps a greatly but this also leads to a good deal of excess information. At almost three hours, "Shadow of Heroes" is an investment in time but it does pay off in the end. There are very few plays since Shakespeare which attempt as this one does to dramatize such a large chunk of history on stage. [more]

Downstairs

November 25, 2018

Ostensibly about domestic abuse, the evidence is all offstage and we must surmise this from the defeated condition of the heroine Irene played by Ms. Daly. Her husband Gerry (John Procaccino) is involved in some shocking, nefarious business revealed to the characters on stage but never revealed to the audience, nor is the confidential project her brother Teddy (Mr. Daly) claims to be working on which will make his fortune. As such, the thrills are all a matter of guesswork, rather than actual events. [more]

Wild Goose Dreams

November 24, 2018

In offering a window on a world most New York theatergoers know little about, Hansol Jung’s Wild Goose Dreams is a fascinating look at Korean culture. On the other hand, what appears to be a Korean obsession with the Internet and smartphones often becomes tedious as it goes on so long without bringing us much that is new. Leigh Siverman’s busy production creates a world of its own but is often overwhelming rather than enveloping. The Public Theater staging, a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse, may be of more interest to Millennials addicted to their electronic devices than the rest of the theatergoing public. However, this may be the trend of the future and older theatergoers may just have to get used to it. [more]

Eve’s Song

November 19, 2018

Both a theatrical surprise and a very accomplished dramatic work, Patricia Ione Lloyd’s "Eve’s Song" is one of the best theatrical experiences to be had in New York at this time. With a cast led by De’Adre Aziza who is well known to Public Theater audiences, director Jo Bonney, totally attuned to the author’s unique style, delivers an exquisite and provocative evening in the theater. It is always a pleasure to herald the arrival of a new and talented writer, particularly one as masterly and sophisticated as newcomer Lloyd. [more]

Days of Rage

November 16, 2018

As proven elsewhere, Steven Levenson is expert at depicting young people in crisis on stage. "Days of Rage" is very real in its handling of a group of people of similar beliefs living together who have forces that are driving them apart, and as such it is engrossing and intriguing. However, the play’s theme seems to be rather opaque or at least vague in its depiction of college-age radicals at the height of the Vietnam War. While some of the characters are thinly drawn, most problematic is that the catalyst to all the action is a character that we want least to hear from. [more]

Natural Shocks

November 14, 2018

Played by Pascale Armand, known for her Tony nominated Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in "Eclipsed," Angela is the heroine of Lauren Gunderson’s new one-woman play, "Natural Shocks," being given its world premiere by the Women’s Project at the WP Theater. The play has previously been given over 100 staged readings in 45 states over a period of two months. As much as one wants to admire this tour de force for an accomplished actress, in its current form the play has several problems. [more]

Daniel’s Husband

November 12, 2018

What begins as light comedy in Michael McKeever’s well-made play "Daniel’s Husband" becomes deadly serious in this cautionary tale. If the plot seems familiar, this is a return engagement of a successful play that appeared at the Cherry Lane Theatre in April 2017. The same engaging and proficient cast returns and while designer Brian Prather remains the same, the costume and lighting designers are now different. The play has been tweaked a bit but you will probably not notice if you have seen it before. It still packs an emotional wallop in the way events turn out. [more]

India Pale Ale

November 8, 2018

Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus made an auspicious splash with her adventurous and inventive 2016 play Men on Boats about Major John Wesley Powell’s 1868 Colorado and Grand Canyon expedition which was played by all women as a satire of the machismo of this all-male trip. In her new play, India Pale Ale, Backhaus, who is part Punjabi, writes of something must closer to home: the Punjabi community in Raymond, Wisconsin. While the play’s authenticity is palpable in both its writing and acting, the play in its four acts seems to be pulling in four different directions. It is not so much that the play does not have much of a plot, but that is inconsistent in its theme and message. [more]

The Book of Merman

November 7, 2018

The witty score with music and lyrics by Schwartz is a collection of both pastiche songs based on numbers Merman made famous and new ones that fit her style that suggest other famous songs. Directed and choreographed by Joe Langworth in a brisk and breezy fashion, "The Book of Merman" is a diverting, entertaining show that will be best enjoyed by musical comedy aficionados who know their Merman from their Mary Martin as there are a great many in-jokes. [more]

Mother of the Maid

November 1, 2018

Jane Anderson’s "Mother of the Maid" would probably not be very compelling without Glenn Close’s Isabelle Arc as the play itself is following the dots in filling in the little that is known with mostly common historic and unsurprising details. (One exception is after Isabelle has seen the unicorn tapestries at the palace, she naively asks if there were any of the animals to be seen.) However, with Close who gives a constrained and moving performance the play becomes something else: a persuasive portrait of a mother and wife who has an awakening to the ways of the world based on what happens to her daughter. [more]

Renascence

October 30, 2018

In her own time, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was a rock star and a best-selling author until illness and postwar culture dimmed her luster. Still she fascinates with her bohemian lifestyle, beauty, love affairs with both men and women, feminist views, and effortless sounding poetry. In recent years, her life has again obsessed biographers and playwrights in such works as "Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2001), "Becoming Vincent" (2013) and "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2014). Add to this list the adventurous Transport Group’s world premiere musical "Renascence," with book by Dick Scanlan and lyrics from Millay’s own poems set to music by Carmel Dean. Unfortunately, the new show is often arch and pretentious and the musical settings are entirely in the wrong style for Millay’s lyrics from the 1920’s. [more]

Fireflies

October 28, 2018

Although Donja R. Love describes his new play "Fireflies," his second world premiere in New York in 2018, as a “surrealistic voyage through Queer love during pivotal moments in Black History,” this riveting play is about a great deal more than that: racism, faith, homophobia, domestic abuse, women’s roles, alcohol addiction, infidelity, women’s right to choose, and sexuality. As sharply directed by Saheem Ali, the problem is that until the very end it is difficult to know where the play is going and what its real message is. [more]

Ordinary Days

October 24, 2018

Adam Gwon’s song cycle, "Ordinary Days," became a cult hit when it opened the Roundabout’s Black Box Theatre in 2009 for a run of ten weeks. So successful was the show that it is one of the few Off Broadway musicals of its era to have an original cast album. As so few people were able to see the show, there has been a need for a major revival which Keen Company is now presenting at The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row. While creating a show about commonplace moments offers its own problems, director Jonathan Silverstein’s choices have created new ones. [more]

Emma and Max

October 19, 2018

Solondz’s mordant wit makes this the darkness of tragicomedies. Brooke and Jay’s delusions so typical of white entitlement are entire their own. When we finally hear from Brittany, she turns out to be a keen observer of entitled white behavior and middle-class liberal hypocrisy. Though we never meet Emma and Max except on Brooke’s baby cam, their off-stage presence is felt throughout the play. As Solondz’s movies contain brilliantly written dialogue, he is a natural for the theater. While his movies are made up of mostly two character scenes, this technique transfers beautifully to the stage. The only flaw here is that the monologues which become rants go on a bit too long, long after we get the gist and the characters given their many prejudices away. A bit of skillful trim – or the invention of more ideas would make this an even more powerful play. [more]

Popcorn Falls

October 17, 2018

However, the play’s humor is very mild. The jokes are on the level of “My steeple is drooping! I swear this never happened to me before,” from Pastor Peters, and “George Washington dined on that very land,” “Well, it was a picnic lunch.” Among the gags are that the cord for the mike in the Town Hall has been eaten through as they “can’t afford squirrel traps.” The play is farce but it is not played fast enough to keep all its bubbles in the air. Tim Mackabee’s set is very redolent of small town halls, but does not suggest the other locales. Jeff Croiter’s lighting attempts to add to the atmosphere as the play moves all over town. Heller and Souhrada remain in Joseph La Corte’s single costumes all evening, ones that are suitable for a major and a janitor. [more]

Girl From the North Country

October 12, 2018

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

The Winning Side

October 11, 2018

In dramatizing the story of Wernher von Braun, James Wallert’s "The Winning Side" makes compelling the concept of ethics in science: should we admire a mathematical genius who has had antithetical political ideas or are his scientific achievements too valuable to hold his former political beliefs against him? Though the program notes indicate that the play “is a work of dramatic fiction and liberties have been taken,” The Winning Side does show us a genius at work who was also an opportunist and changed his stories depending on what suited the occasion. As such it has become relevant all over again in an era when truth counts for so little and men of morality are all the more valuable. [more]

Final Follies

October 10, 2018

It would be a pleasure to report that A.R. Gurney’s last play entitled “Final Follies” performed with two early works, is one of his best, but that is not the case. As directed by David Saint on a triple bill celebrating the work of this major satirist who died in 2017, this comedy is minor Gurney. In fact, part of the problem with this evening produced by Primary Stages is that Saint has used three separate acting styles, one for each of the plays, all of which are wrong for the material. Surprising considering that Saint’s 2002 direction of Gurney’s full length, "The Fourth Wall," was quite delicious. However, his touch seems to have deserted him here. [more]

Bernhardt/Hamlet

October 3, 2018

"Bernhardt/Hamlet" is structured as a backstage comedy. Sarah rehearses with French stage star Constant Coquelin playing both The Ghost and Polonius, worries that she is losing 29-year-old lover, playwright Rostand to his wife – or to his new play "Cyrano de Bergerac," and frets over her son Maurice, at 29 years old still a college student who in need of money. Added to her troubles her illustrator Alphonse Mucha whose posters of her productions have added to her fame and glory is unable to make a sketch of her as Hamlet which suits them both. Worse still all the men in her life – including the Parisian critical establishment – plus the women of Paris are saying that it is not appropriate for her to play Hamlet in breeches as it is a man’s domain. Although the new play is not entirely about women in a man’s world, Rebeck does give this theme major importance. Ultimately, Sarah receives a visit from Rostand’s clever wife Rosamund which leads to the play’s denouement. [more]

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

October 1, 2018

What gives "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" its special cachet in the Williams canon is that its storyline and heroine called Dorothea very much suggest a prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire set ten years earlier, when Blanche was still teaching and coping with life, though already needing liquor and pills to get her over her anxieties. Some enterprising theater group ought to schedule these two plays in repertory with the same actress in the leading role in each. [more]

Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet

September 30, 2018

Previous experiments from this adventurous theater group helmed by artistic director Eric Tucker include two versions of Twelfth Night performed in repertory, Hamlet and Saint Joan performed with casts of only four actors, and an updated Pygmalion which was double cast in its smaller roles. In "Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet," Tucker has tried something new: a mashup of both Anton Chekhov’s "Uncle Vanya" and Williams Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet," with scenes from the two alternating. The result is not confusing, but irritating and irrelevant, with neither play gaining from the combination. The advertisement for this show reads “5 actors, 2 plays, 1 performance,” but to what point? [more]

Because I Could Not Stop: An Encounter with Emily Dickinson

September 28, 2018

Stranger still is the choice of Angelica Page to play Dickinson who looks rather too healthy to be the famously thin and sallow-faced writer known from the one famous photograph. She makes Dickinson sarcastic, arrogant, cynical, self-important and haughty which goes against the voice of the woman in the poems. At times she has been given arty stage directions like posing by a mantelpiece or sleeping on the ground next to what we assume is alongside of her father’s grave. [more]

The True

September 27, 2018

If these characters sound familiar, they are based on real people who populated Albany politics four decades ago. "The True," a world premiere play by Sharr White ("The Other Place," "The Snow Goose") gives four-time Emmy and two-time Golden Globe Award winner Edie Falco another bigger-than-life role and she is magnificent. The cast also includes television stars Michael McKean (Mayor Corning) and Peter Scolari (Peter Noonan) as well as Glenn Fitzgerald (Howard C. Nolan) and John Pankow (Charlie Ryan) who under the direction of The New Group’s artistic director Scott Elliott create a true ensemble, making us feel that these people have lived their roles. [more]

Spin Off

September 25, 2018

Considering the repetitiveness of the material and the fancifulness of the play, Megan McQueen as Rosie Ramirez and Kevin Rico Angulo as Det. Jimmy Marks make a great deal more of their characters than is in the writing, while the rest of the actors in underwritten roles do quite a bit less. Both attractive performers, they make us care about their characters though not much is happening. It is to be hoped that they find more substantial roles soon that will showcase their talents. [more]

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties

September 19, 2018

The actual subtitle of Silverman’s play gives one pause: “In Essence, A Queer and Occasionally Hazardous Exploration; Do You Remember When You Were in Middle School and You Read About Shackleton and How He Explored the Antarctic?; Imagine the Antarctic as Pussy and It’s Sort of Like That.” While this might suggest that the play is overwritten and self-indulgent, it belies the concise, tight writing and structure of Silverman’s comic/angry play which is always surprising, always inventive, always inducing laughter. The play does use Brechtian supertitles to announce the scenes but these are comic and informative, rather than didactic or preachy. [more]

You and I

September 17, 2018

While Barry was to become famous writing plays about the very rich, the Whites are of the middle class and live on earned money. In the play’s second act, eight months have passed, and money, not so surprisingly, has become tight for both Maitland and Ricky. However, this would be fine if the artificial style of the play and the dated twenties slang did not seem arch and affected. And while director Michael Hardart’s production is always stylish and graceful, he has not helped greatly with his casting or his mannered and theatrical approach to the material. The characters talk in an elevated, literate language but they are basically very simple people, not the kind who sit around tossing off bon mots. Here they speak Barry’s realistic lines as though they do. [more]

Heartbreak House

September 14, 2018

Gingold Theatrical Group’s "Heartbreak House" is an interesting but misguided attempt to update Shaw’s Edwardian masterpiece and make it seem more relevant to our times. Despite the stellar cast, the unfocused production by the usually reliable David Staller undermines much of the play’s humor and message. While the adept cast is stylish, they never gel into a true ensemble. This new version adapted from Shaw’s earlier 1914 script rather than the more famous 1919 published text will be of interest to Shaw devotees who will have never seen this rendering before. [more]
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