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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (534 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.

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]

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

September 9, 2018

Using a format that has worked for him before in his George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein evenings, Hershey Felder has returned to 59E59 Theaters in a charming biographical musical as legendary songwriter Irving Berlin. As Felder narrates his story becoming Berlin, he also sings and plays over 30 of his most famous songs, as well as some not so familiar today, including “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas” and the iconic, “God Bless America’. [more]

Smokey’s Joe’s Café: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller

August 31, 2018

Although "Smokey Joe’s Café" has been seen in New York before, the new production now at Stage 42 is an entirely different incarnation of the show that still holds the record for Broadway musical revues having racked up 2,036 performances. The new version which again uses nine talented and dynamic singers and dancers, five men and four women, has deleted five songs and added five, rearranged the song list for a new total of 40, and eliminated the intermission. It is now a more streamlined version of the 1995 show. [more]

1969: The Second Man

August 30, 2018

The mellow sound of Brandt’s score proves to be easy listening, but the individual musical numbers do not build to any dramatic climaxes so that the show seems tamer than material concerning depression and alcoholism suggests it should be. However, the ballad forms and guitar/violin instrumentation are pleasant to the ear. Some of Giles’ dialogue which is not part of Aldrin’s story seems extraneous and the show takes a while to get started. "1969: The Second Man" is entertaining enough in this concert form, but needs some work before going to the next level. Jacob Brandt, however, proves to be a talented new musical voice. [more]

Days to Come

August 29, 2018

"Days to Come" fills in the gap in Hellman’s career between her first play, the controversial "The Children’s Hour," and the immediate successors, the hugely commercial hit and often revived, "The Little Foxes" and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award-winning "Watch on the Rhine." Completists will want to see this play which has not been seen in New York for over 40 years. The Mint Theater Company’s revival of "Days to Come" is an example of a worthy, lost play whose problems haven’t yet been solved – if they ever will. See it now as there probably will not be another chance anytime soon. The Mint is to be applauded for taking a chance on this rarely seen, but estimable failure. You will not be bored but you may not be convinced. [more]

Be More Chill

August 27, 2018

"Be More Chill" is an impressive musical version of Ned Vizzini’s cult novel. Not only does it reproduce the plot on stage, it also gives it a high tech look that dramatizes the story where the novel left it to the imagination. Joe Iconis, long thought to be one of the most promising new theater composers, makes good on that promise, and Joe Tracz demonstrates for a second time that he can put difficult material on the stage. While Ryan Rumery’s overly loud sound design will turn off older theatergoers who are not more chill, those in the swing of things will have a memorable evening in the musical theater. [more]

Neurosis

August 23, 2018

The clever invention is that each of them has a best friend who only they can see and hear: Neurosis (Brennan Caldwell) is Frank’s best buddy, a more cautious, nervous version of Frank, and Neurosalina (Morgan Weed) is Abby’s neurosis, a mean girl who Abby can’t get out of her head. Both of them need help but are not getting it from their neuroses who are always giving them bad advice and are stopping them from moving on. The show is bookended by musical advice from Samantha (Lacretta), a therapist, who takes on the task of freeing Frank from his problems: his overbearing Jewish mother Geri (Susan J. Jacks), his “underbearing” father Kenny (Joel Blum), his low self-esteem, and his lack of poise around women. [more]

Gettin’ the Band Back Together

August 20, 2018

If the show plays like it was written by a committee, in fact, it has been. The book is by producer/ writer Ken Davenport and The Grundleshotz who turn out to be a group of performers and writers who originally workshopped the show in a series of improvised rehearsals. For the record, they are Sebastian Arcelus, Fred Berman, Michael Hirstreet, Jenna Coker Jones, Craig Jorczak, Nathan Kaufman, Emily McNamara, Jennifer Miller, Bhavesh Patel, Sarah Saltzberg (who is credited with additional material), Michael Tester, as well as Jay Kaitz who plays the second male lead in the show, Bart Vickers as though he were auditioning for Dewey, the laid-back music teacher in "School of Rock." [more]

The New One

August 17, 2018

Comedian/monologist Mike Birbiglia, best known for "Sleepwalk with Me," has the remarkable knack of finding humor in autobiographical crises that shouldn’t be funny but in his hands are uproarious. His latest show, "The New One," is just as hilarious as the previous ones. When Mike and his wife, the poet Jennifer Hope Stein, got married he pointedly told her that he did not ever want to have children, and she agreed. Ten years later Jen has changed her mind and tells him, “A baby wouldn’t have to change the way we live our lives,” probably the understatement of the century. [more]

Twelfth Night 2018 (Free Shakespeare in the Park & Public Works)

August 10, 2018

Shaina Taub’s joyful and sunny updated musical version of Shakespeare’s comedy, "Twelfth Night," is back in a full production courtesy of Free Shakespeare in the Park and Public Works which premiered an earlier production for four performances during Labor Day Weekend 2016. This slightly trimmed and tightened version is even more entertaining and the witty contemporary lyrics make this fun for young and old, as well as Shakespeare veterans and novices. [more]

Head Over Heels

August 9, 2018

Under Michael Mayer’s fast-paced direction, "Head Over Heels" starts badly and busily but eventually slows down to a delightful Elizabethan parody on love and gender. While not all of The Go-Go’s songs are suitable for the storyline and the period, enough of them fit perfectly to make this a superior light entertainment. The cast is first rate and may make stars of the ingenious Andrew Durand and the classy and stylish Peppermint. Aside from introducing The Go-Go’s song catalog to Broadway, "Head Over Heels" covers a great many firsts of all kinds. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Plays: Series A

August 8, 2018

Along with its twists and turns, Bohjalian’s "Grounded" is so fully explored that it is hard to believe that it is a first play. On the long wait on the runway at Kennedy Airport for a flight bound for London, stewardess Karen discovers that her co-worker, 24-year-old Emily who has been in this line of work for two years, has a fear of flying and has never flown over the ocean. When Emily begins her story she reveals that her life coach thought she was too grounded and dared her to become a stewardess. [more]

The House That Will Not Stand

August 7, 2018

Gardley makes use of a little known piece of American history: while Louisiana was under Spanish and later French rule, it had a three-tiered racial system. Aside from white settlers and black slaves, there was a third class: free women of color (mostly Creoles) could enter into a relationship with white men as common-law wives. Their children could inherit part of their estates. Some of these so-called “colored” women became extremely rich. This system was called plaçage and such women were known as placeés. The lighter the woman’s skin color the higher her social caste. However, when Louisiana was sold to the new United States in 1803, this system was frowned upon and eventually went out of style around 1813 due to legal challenges. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2018

The plays in Summer Shorts 2018 - Festival of New American Short Plays have often had a theme running through all the offerings in one evening, however they were concealed or obscured. This year’s Series B is about two-character relationships at a tense moment in their developments, sort of sparring partners as one of the plays calls it. Unfortunately, the plays in this series by Neil LaBute, Claire Zajdel, and Eric Lane all need further work as they are premises rather than finished plays. [more]

American Players Theatre: Midwest Summer Theater Destination

August 3, 2018

Having added the 200-seat indoor Touchstone Theatre in 2009 to the outdoor Hill Theater with a capacity of 1,089, the season which began on June 14 now runs until November 18. It currently serves 110,000 patrons annually, one of the largest audiences for classical outdoor theater in the United States. Another perk of visiting the neighborhood is to tour Taliesin East, Frank Lloyd Wright’s fascinating private home as well as his school for architects, both of which are only one mile away from the theater. [more]

The Possibilities & The After-Dinner Joke

July 25, 2018

If "The After-Dinner Joke"’s 66 scenes seem cinematic, that is due to the fact that it originally was a teleplay commissioned by BBC for the series "Plays for Today" examining public issues. Churchill chose to deal with the politics of charitable institutions. Selby, personal secretary to the sales manager, decides that she gets no fulfillment from her work and tells her boss Mr. Price that she is resigning to be a do-gooder. Price offers her a job at the same salary working as a campaign organizer raising funds in towns throughout Britain for one of the charities that he has founded. [more]

The Originalist

July 23, 2018

n what easily could have become a one-man show, playwright Strand has cleverly created dramatic tension by first introducing us to a second character and later a third. Set during the 2012-2013 term of the Supreme Court, the play begins with a lecture by Scalia to a law class where he explains his philosophy of being an “originalist,” that is, someone who interprets the Constitution as it was originally written and understood by its drafters in 1789. This presupposes that it is not a living document that should reflect each era, but something carved in stone which does not change but may need interpretation. [more]

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever

July 9, 2018

Charlotte Moore’s version streamlines the plot somewhat from Lerner’s original by eliminating Daisy’s fiancé for whom she wants to quit smoking as well as a subplot with Greek shipping magnate Themistocles Kriakos who wishes to fund a study to prove that reincarnation is real. Mark’s brother Dr. Paul Bruckner becomes his colleague Dr Conrad Fuller in this latest version, and the clinic is no longer a family business. The songs, “Tosy and Cosh” and “Don’t Tamper with My Sister,” have been cut, shortening the 18th century story, and two songs added from the National Tour subsequent to the original Broadway run: “Solicitor’s Song” and Daisy’s “He Wasn’t You,” a female version of Edward’s later “She Wasn’t You.” Finally, “Who Is There Among Us Who Knows” (written for the film version but left on the cutting room floor) opens the second act instead of Kriakos’ “When I’m Being Born Again.” [more]

Teenage Dick

July 8, 2018

Add to this list Mike Lew’s new witty and clever "Teenage Dick" (being given its world premiere by Ma-Yi Theater Company in association with the Public Theater), both an update and a parody of Richard III now set in Roseland High School. However, while most of these other adaptations just want to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan stories, "Teenage Dick" has an additional agenda: does society’s bullying lead to defining the personalities of those with disabilities? [more]

Cyprus Avenue

July 6, 2018

Sixtyish Eric Miller is an angry white man, hating Catholics, Blacks, homosexuals, women, and other groups. He has also become very nationalistic. He not only wants to tell the world, he thinks he should act on it. Middle America in the age of Trump? Actually, the same problem appears to be happening in Northern Ireland according to David Ireland’s dark play, "Cyprus Avenue," having its American premiere at the Public Theater courtesy of a co-production by The Abbey Theatre (Dublin) and Royal Court Theatre (London). Problem is for all the sound and fury, Cyprus Avenue, which is a brilliant character study, outlives its welcome long before it is over in this 100 minute play. [more]

Little Rock

July 3, 2018

Using a tremendously talented and versatile cast of nine actors (three black male actors, three black female actors, as well as three white performers) playing from three roles to 12, the story of the year these heroic teenagers spent integrating the previously segregated high school becomes high drama. Rasean Davonte Johnson’s unit setting with its banks of stairs makes copious use of Wendall K. Harrington’s projection design for the many locations in the city of Little Rock, inside and outside of the school and the homes of the participants, as well as historical footage of the events and the people. "Little Rock" also includes snatches of 14 songs, some sung as choruses and others as solos including “Eyes on the Prize” and “We Shall Overcome,” which add a human dimension to the often startling events depicted. [more]

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]
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