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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (720 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.

Yeah, But Not Right Now

September 25, 2021

Holmes’ songs include clever lyrics particularly “Facebook,” “I Can Be That Guy” and "Beautiful Girl in the Front Row.” His expert playing on the keyboard allows him to have duets with himself and making it sounds like many instruments. He also accompanies himself on the guitar and a drum. The show is a confessional in which Holmes reveals the worst, most embarrassing parts of himself which seems to be the latest thing with comedians, except this show is partly sung. However, it is bright and upbeat even when telling unlikable characteristics. Craig Bundy’s sound design is usually clear, but occasionally makes it difficult to catch the lyrics. Director Caitlin Cook keeps this one-man show moving swiftly along. [more]

Sun & Sea

September 17, 2021

Performed by a cast of 15 singers and enacted in pantomime by numerous local volunteers all dressed in swimwear, Sun & Sea is a typical day at the beach in which we hear the thoughts of the singers, some of whom worry about the state of the world while others are entirely oblivious to it. Not only is it opera lite and a great deal of fun without being funny, it is also a very subversive way to communicate a message on as serious a subject as climate change. While the singers communicate their thoughts, the beachgoers frolic and enjoy their day oblivious to us but not to each other. The cast is a cross-section of all ages and races, including young children and two well behaved dogs – but no vendors. The totally realistic action (aside from the singing) includes reading, texting, eating, chatting, drinking, walking, cuddling, tanning, playing ball or games, while the children dig in the sand and build sandcastles. Some sit on beach chairs or chaise lounges while most lie on blankets on the sand or stand. [more]

What Happened? The Michaels Abroad

September 12, 2021

The new play, ironically, does not take place in Rhinebeck, New York, like the preceeding 11 plays but as explained in its subtitle it concerns “Conversations in Angers, France,” the home of the Centre National de Danse Contemporaire (CNDC). Like the previous Michael play, it is set on the eve of a dance festival honoring American dancer and choreographer Rose Michael who has passed away about six months before this play begins. However, unlike the earlier play which was about the art of creation, this play is mainly about living with the Covid pandemic and our adaptations to it, as well as the hermetically sealed world of dancers. While the play tells a lot of anecdotes about dancers and does a certain amount of name dropping of such people as Trisha (Brown), Merce (Cunningham), Dan (Wagoner), it eventually attempts to wax philosophical with such remarks as “there is no life without death,” and “life doesn’t last. Art doesn’t last. And it doesn’t matter…”; and “we dance differently at sixty.” [more]

Ni Mi Madre

September 6, 2021

As his mother Bete (pronounced Bet–chi), Soria is bigger than life without a great deal of assistance from props, costuming or make-up. When he enters carrying an offering to the stage which is set up like a tropical altar to Iemanja, the Afro-Cuban diety whose picture is on the wall center stage, he is wearing a white linen skirt which he suddenly pulls up and it becomes his mother’s dress (designed by Haydee Zelideth). In English punctuated with pungent Spanish and Portuguese, sometime translated, often as not left unexplained, Bete tells us of her three marriages, each one unfulfilling, and of her children, her difficult son Arturo who from a young age wanted to dance ballet and was always getting into trouble, and his sister who always liked sports. We learn of her unconventional child rearing practices which was as much a tug of war with her children as it was a series of lessons in living, and marked Arturo for life. [more]

Semblance

August 18, 2021

Written and directed by White who is the Obie and Lily Award winning director of "Our Dear Dead Drug Lord" (WP Theater) and "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" (Public Theater, BAM Fisher and Playwrights Horizons), a NYTW Usual Suspect and former NYTW 2050 Fellow, among other impressive credits, "Semblance" asks the question: in your everyday life, how do you encounter Black women? What do you see and what do you assume? Nikiya Mathis plays seven women from all walks of life, six of them depicted in various jobs and careers and each in her own setting. The women address us directly: a line worker in a salad take-out restaurant, a nanny and caretaker with her charge in Prospect Park, a chart-topping artist preparing for a music video, an unemployed mother getting her nails done in a salon, a public figure such as a politician about to be interviewed on a news program, a bus driver on her run on an MTA bus, a medium to low level consultant in an office, and finally the actress herself as she removes her makeup. [more]

Friends! The Musical Parody

July 28, 2021

The problem with the show now at The Jerry Orbach Theater is director Tim Drucker’s frenetic, over-the-top staging and the artificially broad presentational style of the acting, similar to - but beyond - what he did in his 2019 production of "Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody" at the same theater. It is as though he does not trust the material. Matthew Fischer’s sound design for the taped score by composer Assaf Gleizner (to Gleizner’s orchestrations) is overly loud and fast, overpowering the clever lyrics which are well worth hearing for their stinging barbs at the television series. It also makes all of the songs sound the same, except for some short, slower folk ballads set to guitar accompaniment which are mostly oddball numbers for Phoebe to play in her gig as a folksinger. [more]

The Wake of Dorcas Kelly

July 17, 2021

Early in the play, songs are sung by various members of the cast including the anachronistic “The House of the Rising Sun,” (sung twice) set in New Orleans in the twentieth century. The cast members use various accents even though all are supposed to be Irish. Characters come and go for no motivated reason and too many events happen more than once. The acting though vigorous is uneven and inconsistent, but this is mainly due to several underwritten roles which give the performers little to do and not enough backstory. The production’s pacing is deficient as parts of the play come fast and furious while others are slow, talky and languid. [more]

The Alcestiad

June 19, 2021

Aside from the unevenness of the acting, Drance’s production has no consistent tone, shifting from comedy to drama to tragedy and back again. Not all of his interesting ideas are carried through: the first two acts have different performers playing Admetus and Alcestis which demonstrates the shift of 12 years; however, in the third act when Alcestis should be an old woman, the same actress who played her in her prime continues in the part. While the costumes by Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte and Mark Tambella are serviceable they are rather bland and unprepossessing. The uncredited sound design and the original music by Sara Galassini are muddy and unclear as broadcast from the one speaker on the left side of the audience. While there is no lighting design as the play is performed in broad daylight at this time of year starting at 7 PM, by the time the play is ending it is twilight and the fading light will make it painful for some viewers. [more]

Blindness

June 9, 2021

Read by unseen British stage star Juliet Stevenson, "Blindness" is as timely as Albert Camus’ "The Plague" with its story of an epidemic which affects first a community, then a city and finally an entire country. With the audience sitting in socially distanced pods of two, and listening on binaural headphones, the space has been equipped with bars of light both horizontal and vertical which turn either red, green, amber, blue or white and are raised and lowered at various times. However, since the story takes place in a city in which the inhabitants are struck blind, much of the play is performed in total darkness. [more]

Lilies, or The Revival of a Romantic Drama

May 19, 2021

"Lilies" is an attempt at old-fashioned theater or to couch a modern story in old-fashioned trappings. The problem with the play for modern audiences may be stated in its subtitle, “The Revival of a Romantic Drama.” Unfortunately, the first New York production of veteran Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s controversial play neither does it justice nor is it very convincing. The gay triangle and the insidious homophobia appear up to date but the trapping of the play are that of another era, one that is foreign to most actors alive today, and certainly more operatic than most theater audiences expect. [more]

Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams

May 17, 2021

While the chronology is somewhat convoluted as the text occasionally skips around grouping some similar events (such as two trips to New York City), if you follow along, the script depicts Williams’ steady rise to success in the six years before "Menagerie" landed on Broadway. Many of the anecdotes are amusing, others are surprising tales of little known facts (a trip to Europe with his grandfather, meeting D. H. Lawrence’s widow on a trip to Taos, New Mexico.) Always engrossing, always believable, "Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams" accomplishes in spades what it sets out to do: revealing the trials and tribulations of a great playwright on the verge of his first success. [more]

Two Sisters and a Piano

April 26, 2021

Directed by the author, "Two Sisters and a Piano" reveals its roots as a radio play from its reliance on poetry and language: this is a cat-and-mouse game in which the participants use words to circle each other in order to achieve their goals. But who is the cat and who is the mouse? Set in 1991 in Havana during the Pan-American Games and while the Russians are pulling out of Cuba, we meet sisters Maria Celia, a well-known novelist (played by Florencia Lozano), and Sofia, a pianist (Rubin-Vega), both under house arrest in the crumbling premises that they grew up in. As a punishment for a petition that Maria initiated and signed, the sisters were first place in prison and now are confined to their childhood home, and have not received any of their mail for months. [more]

Girl from the North Country (Broadway)

March 19, 2020

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]

Coal Country

March 17, 2020

For "Coal Country," an investigation into the April 5, 2010 West Virginia disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine which killed 29 men, authors Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen based their documentary play on first person interviews with the families of many of the victims, sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, nephews. Powerful in the piling up of evidence and malfeasance just as they had done in "The Exonerated," the play undercuts its dramatic power by revealing the end of the story at the very beginning so that the ultimate court decision comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, the individual stories told by seven actors speaking the real words of family members are very compelling. [more]

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

March 15, 2020

Although director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall has given the Transport Group production staged at The Abroms Arts Center a rousing production, the major problem still exists with the story: Molly goes from tomboy to wife to social activist but always seems to be the same. Basically Malone changes her outfits (costumes by Sky Switser) and becomes more mature and more sophisticated but never really changes from the girl at heart who wants riches and gaudy things. Costar David Aron Damane, with his powerful baritone, who plays J.J. Brown, the miner who strikes it rich and proceeds to give Molly almost everything she wants, helps a good deal but their love story is not made entirely believable, possibly because the stalwart Damane is still made to be a very retiring hero, a man of few words. [more]

About Love

March 12, 2020

The inspiration for "About Love" is Ivan Turgenev’s "First Love," one of the greatest of all novellas. Subtitled “a play with songs and music,” that is exactly what it is: a dramatic presentation with five songs and underscoring by jazz musician and composer Nancy Harrow. However, unlike Harrow’s adaptation of Hawthorne’s "The Marble Faun," retitled "For the Last Time," director Will Pomerantz’s text appears to be taken directly from a translation from the original Russian without anything additional. The lovely show is best described as story theater in which all of the characters narrate at one time or another, at times alternating a single event, and all but the hero and heroine playing multiple roles. If one is looking for a musical, this is not it, but it eventually is a captivating staging of the story, if a bit on the long side. [more]

Mr. Toole

March 10, 2020

Vivian Neuwirth’s "Mr. Toole" is a fitting tribute to a charismatic teacher and a brilliant author. However, the play, in the form it currently is in, seems to have been shoehorned into a shape it doesn’t entirely want to take. It is possible that it would be more successful as a screenplay opened up a bit. At any rate, it is a play that will be of interest to students of American fiction and those who know the two novels of John Kennedy Toole. The play may do something in the way of making Toole and his work better known. It will probably make you want to read one or both of his two novels, "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "The Neon Bible." [more]

Cambodian Rock Band

March 8, 2020

Mixing fiction and fact, new Signature Theatre Residency playwright Lauren Yee’s "Cambodian Rock Band" is an engrossing, entertaining and appalling  investigation into the Khmer Rouge’s genocide in Cambodia in the 1970’s and its aftermath. Using authentic Cambodian rock music from the 1960’s and 70’s as well as the songs of Dengue Fever, the Los Angeles-based Cambodian American band, the play is emceed by the genial Duch played by Francis Jue who turns out to be the play’s greatest villain and a real person now in prison. Chay Yew’s production is one that does not require prior knowledge to get caught up in the fictional play and the ugly, true history of Cambodia. [more]

No Strings

March 3, 2020

Following its opening production of Cy Coleman’s equally rarely seen "Seesaw," J2 Spotlight Musical Theater Company is presenting a fully staged version of "No Strings" as the second production of its inaugural season. While No Strings, set in the Paris world of high fashion and the French watering holes of the very rich, would need a much more lavish staging to do it justice, Deidre Goodwin’s production does have its charms though the show’s book by playwright Samuel Taylor seems particularly thin by today's standards. The songs are melodic and hummable though there is no breakout winner among the 14 musical numbers. [more]

All the Natalie Portmans

March 2, 2020

MCC Theater’s New York premiere of C.A. Johnson’s new play "All the Natalie Portmans" is a lovely work which resembles other such modern coming of age plays from Carson McCullers’ "The Member of the Wedding" to Lynn Nottage’s "Crumbs from the Table of Joy" as well as moments from Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie" in its depiction of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive. While the play is not entirely fresh, the characters are so honestly drawn that director Kate Whoriskey’s cast not only holds our interest but makes us worry about their futures. The play does not contain many surprises as the family is obviously on a downward spiral but we hope against hope that Keyonna and Samuel will survive the battle. [more]

Blues for an Alabama Sky

February 26, 2020

Pearl Cleage’s "Blues for an Alabama Sky" gets a belated New York premiere courtesy of Keen Company in its 20th season. Although seen in many regional theaters since its 1995 premiere at the Alliance Theatre Company in Atlanta with Phyllicia Rashad in the leading role, it has long been overdue in New York even though Cleage is also a successful and acclaimed novelist. Framed as a domestic drama, the play manages to take in the topics of racism, sexism, homophobia, birth control and abortion, poverty, alcoholism, and extreme religious points of view among the bohemians of Harlem, circa 1930. [more]

Dracula (Classic Stage Company)

February 24, 2020

As the centerpiece of its spring season, Classic Stage Company is presenting a repertory of adaptations of two legendary Gothic horror stories: Bram Stoker’s "Dracula" and Mary Shelley’s "Frankenstein" in new stage versions. Kate Hamill, go-to playwright for adaptations of 19th century literature, has given her take on "Dracula" a delightful comic slant. The sexism in the novel has been diluted by making this a feminist revenge fantasy. Turning Doctor Van Helsing, vampire hunter, and Renfield (under the sway of the vampire) into women changes the dynamic quite a bit giving the play a modern viewpoint. Director Sarna Lapine, who has worked with Hamill before on her "Little Women" and "The Scarlet Letter" adaptations, keeps the pace brisk and the humor buoyant as the women are given the best of the story. [more]

a photograph / lovers in motion

February 21, 2020

Now that The Public Theater’s 2019 revival of the late Nzotake Shange’s "for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf" has been critically acclaimed once again, The Negro Ensemble Company is reviving her only dialogue play, "a photograph / lovers in motion," in a new version. Originally produced at The Public Theater in 1977 as "a photograph / lovers in cruelty," the play was later revised and renamed for a 1982 production at the Houston Ensemble Theatre. The new version adapted and directed by Ifa Bayeza, the playwright’s sister, makes the play more of a choreopoem like Shange’s other plays and shifts the focus from the photographer Sean David to Michael, a female poet and dancer, adding poems for her to recite. The two titles of the play are still applicable as according to the director the relationship between Sean and Michael is both a duel and a duet. [more]

Seesaw

February 18, 2020

Although J2 Spotlight’s artistic director Robert W. Schneider who staged this show has given it a vigorous production and cast a delightful Gittel in Stephanie Israelson, he is unable to disguise the show’s flaws. He is not helped by the trite, derivative choreography by Caitlin Belcik for a show that is mainly dance and has eight dancers out of a cast of nine. The many production numbers are both busy and familiar, and keep the ensemble composed of Kyle Caress, Chaz Alexander Coffin, Katie Griffith, Caleb Grochalski, Morgan Hecker and Halle Mastroberardino spinning throughout the show. [more]

Stew

February 16, 2020

In making her professional stage debut courtesy of Page 73, Zora Howard has written a powerful kitchen sink drama in 'Stew," as much about making a literal stew as about the emotional stew the four women in the Tucker family of Mt. Vernon find themselves in. While many of the elements are family, Howard combines them in new ways so that the play seems both new and true. With a terrific cast headed by Portia ("The Rose Tattoo," "Ruined," "Rinse Repeat," "Our Lady of 121st Street") as the family matriarch, director Colette Robert keeps the temperature continually simmering on a low boil until all of the secrets and events have been revealed. This is an American tragedy as well as a study in how we live in this era. [more]

Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories

February 13, 2020

The Mint Theater Company has rediscovered and championed British actor/playwright Miles Malleson with Conflict and Yours Unfaithfully. Now they have combined two of his one acts adapted from great short story writers in an evening called "Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories" in their premiere pairing. While the production directed by Jonathan Bank and Jane Shaw (each directing one play) is able to be performed on basically the same set, the two plays have little to do with each other and represent love in two different ways. Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy are major writers, but the adaptations appear to be minor and do not show off their authors at their best. Although the Chekhov story is basically an anecdote, the Tolstoy tale is a fable with a message. [more]

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

February 11, 2020

Bookwriter Jonathan Marc Sherman has wisely kept the story in its period. However, his dialogue is almost word for word lifted from the screenplay which is rather old hat for those of us have heard it in the movie. The score with music by Sheik and lyrics by Sheik and Amanda Green makes all the songs sound the same in Sheik’s orchestration played by a combo of four. The lyrics are both pedestrian and trite, telling us only what we already know. The songs which are not listed in the program include a great many reprises. Many of the tableaux and setups recreate exact visual moments from the film. [more]

Medea (Brooklyn Academy of Music)

February 9, 2020

While Simon Stone’s adaptation is engrossing for its surprising updates, it never captures the emotions, seeming more like a gimmick that a reworking of the Greek tragedy. With most of the actors underplaying their roles, the emotional temperature never really heats up even when the audience is confronted with various horrors. The use of the video screen and the all-white set somewhat distances the audience from the events on stage which undercuts the tragedy unfolding. Don’t blame Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale, who have given much more impassioned performances elsewhere, as they seem to be pawns of Stone’s concept. [more]

Sister Calling My Name

February 7, 2020

An author can be too close to his or her material so that the real story fails to be revealed. Inspired by his own family events, Buzz McLaughlin’s Sister Calling My Name has a fascinating premise but that is not enough. In relating a faith-based story of Michael, a man who has avoided for 18 years his mentally disabled sister Lindsey, a ward of the state since being a teenager, McLaughlin repeats lines and plot points endlessly while failing to give us enough details to bring the characters to life. The play seems to go round and round in a circle. The script note that Lindsay’s disability manifests itself in simply locking into an idea and going with it until another takes its place does not help an audience who must listen to the same dialogue over and over. Peter Dobbins’ production for Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre does little to make the characters more than labels. [more]

The New York Pops: “Find Your Dream: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein”

January 31, 2020

The New York Pops’ latest concert, Find Your Dream, was a glorious tribute to nostalgia. Not only was it an evening of the beloved songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein with selectionsfrom all 11 of their collaborations, it also recreated a performance first presented five years ago by The Pops. The guests artists on the evening of January 24 were British musical theater star Laura Michelle Kelly (Broadway’s "Mary Poppins" and "Finding Neverland") first seen in a flaming red, off the shoulders gown and American musical theater star Max Von Essen (Broadway’s "An American in Paris" and "Anastasia") in a midnight blue jacket. Joining The Pops as usual was Judith Clurman’s Essential Voices USA who were an integral part of the show with the famous choral numbers. [more]

My Name Is Lucy Barton

January 28, 2020

Laura Linney is never one to avoid a challenge. When she last appeared at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre she was alternating in the roles of “Regina” and “Birdie” in the revival of Lillian Hellman’s "The Little Foxes" and won a Tony Award for Best Actress for her efforts.  Now she is back in an adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s novel "My Name is Lucy Barton" where she plays both the title character and her mother and is the only performer on stage. Directed as she was in the London production by Richard Eyre, she beautifully captures the tone and voice of Strout’s heroine. [more]

Paradise Lost

January 27, 2020

When a playwright adapts a famous, well-known story for the stage the problem becomes how to tell it in a new way that makes it seem unfamiliar and fresh. Otherwise, why bother retelling it once again? Unfortunately, Tom Dulack’s "Paradise Lost," “inspired by the poem by John Milton,” retells the story of Lucifer’s fall from Heaven into Hell, and the eventual banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden without any surprises. Using only contemporary language, Dulack’s play lifts the skeletal plot of Milton but lacks the poetry, as well as those elements which made this epic controversial in the 17th century (rejection of the divine right of kings, embracing divorce and marriage equality, etc.) It resembles a Sunday Bible sermon or dramatization meant for youth. [more]

Timon of Athens (Theatre for a New Audience)

January 23, 2020

On paper the concept should not work: scenes and characters have been cut, a Shakespeare sonnet has been added set to music, as well as a Greek song, and four characters originally written for men are played by women. Nevertheless, the streamlining of this modern dress production in the edition prepared by Emily Burns and Godwin makes this tragedy very accessible and eliminating subplots makes the play quite linear. The addition of women gives the play an almost contemporary feeling. The scenic and costume design by Soutra Gilmour for the first half of the play is simply dazzling, while the second half has its own visual display. [more]
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