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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (397 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.

Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series B

August 12, 2017

While the three plays in Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series B have been given proficient productions each seems ultimately unsatisfactory. All seem like first drafts rather than completely fulfilling their potential. The three authors could learn a lesson from the three plays in Series A which all hit their marks. Interesting experiments but failures nevertheless. [more]

A Parallelogram

August 11, 2017

Bruce Norris’ "A Parallelogram" endeavors to explore some sobering facts about the effect of the future on the present and responsibility to others. Unfortunately, the play ends up being laborious and tiresome - without being revealing or challenging. Too many of the fantasy elements have not been worked out so that much must be taken on faith or not considered. Norris wants to say something deep but this 2010 play having its belated New York premiere is more confused than meaningful. [more]

Jerry’s Girls

August 8, 2017

The revival at the York is being seen in yet a new version of the show that began as a cabaret in 1981 and went to Broadway in 1985. Created by director Larry Alford, choreographer Wayne Alford and composer Herman, the original show included new songs written especially for the show, only one of which remains in the revival. However, as directed by Pamela Hunt ("The Musical of Musicals"), this version of "Jerry’s Girls" organizes the songs more faithfully by around each show and includes the greatest hits from "Hello, Dolly!," "Mack and Mabel," "Milk and Honey," "Mame," two numbers from "Dear World," and ending with a medley from "La Cage aux Folles." Along the way are also two unfamiliar numbers from Herman’s 1960’s revue "Parade." [more]

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare in the Park)

August 5, 2017

Although the physical production has been well-thought-out, the script seems to have no interpretation other than a great deal of slapstick comedy which does not much register. The cast varies greatly in having found the core of their roles. Phylicia Rashad’s Titania is romantic and authoritative, while Richard Poe’s Oberon is wryly arch but ineffectual. Their fairy attendants are played by white haired and balding senior citizens but nothing much is made of this unusual casting. As Puck usually played by a youth or a dancer, Kristine Nielsen’s regular mannerisms are kept to a minimum but she seems much more amused by her mischief than the audience does. [more]

Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series A

August 2, 2017

"Acolyte" by Graham Moore, Academy Award winner for his 2013 screenplay for "The Imitation Game," is a more substantial play than the other two. Based on an historical occurrence in 1954, it brings together two couples, Ayn Rand (founder of Objectivism) and her husband Frank O’Connor and her follower, Nathaniel Branden and his wife Barbara, for one of her weekly dinner parties. Rand has asked the Brandens to remain after all the guests have left following a vigorous debate on Aristotelean principles versus Platonic realism. [more]

Singing Beach

July 31, 2017

Aside from the destructive nature of the storm and that the "Pegasus" eventually arrives at a desert shore, there isn’t much to be learned about climate change. We never know if Sleeper lost his ability to speak as a result of his strokes or has chosen not to speak after the death of his wife, which is an entirely different state of affairs. The cast of characters is made up of a great many creative people who are simply labels as we learn nothing about their work or their careers: novelist Merrie, classical scholar Owen, artist Sebastian, poet Ashton, scientist Miss Blake. The thinness of both the characters and the story keeps the play from making any important points. [more]

Pipeline

July 30, 2017

From Dominique Morisseau, the author of the critically acclaimed Skeleton Crew, Detroit ’67 and Sunset Baby, comes another powerfully provocative and riveting, but overwrought, play which investigates black rage, racial stereotyping, and parental mistakes. Just try to take your eyes off the high octane production by Lileana Blain-Cruz, which has been brilliantly cast with its six actors, all but Karen Pittman (the Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced) making their Lincoln Center Theater debuts. Morisseau may not have all the answers but she certainly looks at the questions from all angles. The play’s title is a reference to the metaphor for “the school to prison pipeline” that describes the blighted lives of so many ghetto youths who fail before they finish their education and was the topic of Anna Deavere Smith’s "Notes from the Field" seen Off Broadway last fall. [more]

1984

July 13, 2017

Icke and MacMillan’s version is tricked up with much multimedia, sound and lights, and disorientation. Faithful to the book, it claims to be the first adaptation to include Orwell’s appendix supposedly written years after the events of the novel. The first third of the play which mixes past, present and future would be very hard to follow for someone who has not read the book. For two-thirds of the play, Chloe Lamford’s set is a wood paneled library or reading room which must make do for an office cubicle, an office cafeteria, an antique shop, a meeting room, a path through a forest, and the home of the hero, Winston Smith. The last third of the play which depicts the reeducation of Winston, i.e. torture and brainwashing, is very graphic and as such difficult to sit through; the book’s description, however, which drew a curtain over the actual violence made it seem like it went on for months or years. [more]

Napoli, Brooklyn

July 12, 2017

True, here these Italian American sisters growing up in Park Slope, 1960, don’t want to get to some place as much as get away from someplace else. As they exit their teens, their home has been made a war zone by their brutal and violent Neapolitan father Nic Muscolino who cannot deal with these women (including his Italian born wife) who think for themselves and want to follow different paths than the traditional roles defined for them. [more]

Of Human Bondage

July 10, 2017

Director Albert Schultz’s program note explains that the production set itself two challenges: first, that Philip Carey would never leave the 16-foot red square center stage, and that all of the sound (vocal, musical or atmospheric) would be made by the 11 other actors in view of the audience. This may have made for an interesting artistic experiment, but it is not so effective for the audience. While the 16-foot square makes the play claustrophobic (a metaphor for Philip’s life), it also means that scenery has to be carted around for each and every scene. Nevertheless, in Lorenzo Savoini’s clever set design, the transitions between the many scenes are smooth and flowing. The sound effects are made by the actors on stage ultimately become very distracting from the action of the play. Faithful to the novel but necessarily telescoped, Thiessen’s adaptation is fragmented into a series of vignettes which though not disjointed suggest that much is missing. [more]

Bastard Jones

July 9, 2017

Bastard Jones is surprisingly accessible for a contemporary musical based on a long and episodic 18th century novel. Sophisticated and off-color, naughty but nice, it proves to be a sharp and irreverent entertainment. With a terrific cast and a star making performance by Evan Ruggiero, witty and clever, Bastard Jones is both a delightful 18th century and 21st century evening in the theater. [more]

Ovo (Cirque du Soleil)

July 7, 2017

The Wall is also used by the performers who climb on it, disappear into it, and use it as both a platform and a launching pad. The most remarkable act is the finale – the “Trampo Wall” performed by the ten Crickets in green. A colony of Crickets run, jump, and travel straight up the four story vertical wall without artificial support. They also use air track and trampolines to take flight from the back of the stage to the very apron. One watches with bated breath in absolute disbelief. [more]

Measure for Measure (Theatre for a New Audience)

July 2, 2017

He has updated the play to a contemporary city rife with decadence and corruption. The audience enters the theater from backstage in order to visit Mistress Overdone’s brothel with sex toys and rooms for peep shows on display. Twelve members of the audience sit on either side of the thrust stage, a jury for morality one would suspect. The second act begins in a night club called "The Moated Grange” where Mariana is now a singer with the on-stage band. Six audience members are invited up to sit at the café tables that now dot the stage. [more]

In a Word

July 1, 2017

Told mainly in reenacted flashbacks, In a Word plays multiple language games. It also proves the limits of language. Can you really describe exactly what happens at any given moment? And if you misunderstand a word or take it to mean something else the whole meaning changes. After two years, Guy wants to know what Fiona didn’t tell him on the day Tristan disappeared. Fiona brings evidence to the detective but fails to be exact in her suspicions. Tristan misunderstands things he is not meant to hear and proceeds on his own explanations. [more]

Cost of Living

June 30, 2017

The play is enlightening for a physically abled audience as to the needs of the disabled both physically and emotionally. Both stories include a tender, poignant bathing scene as the caretakers learn how to adapt to their charges. However, there is more to Majok’s story. Both Jess and Eddie are dealing with their own problems. We discover that Jess is a first generation Princeton graduate down on her luck, all of her family having returned to her native country, never named. Eddie has been a long time alcoholic (which probably wrecked his marriage) and has lost his license and his job after a DUI charge. Ultimately, we discover that Jess and Eddie are coping less well than their charges and adversity is just around the corner. [more]

Sweetee

June 10, 2017

"Sweetee" is an admirable attempt to depict determination in the face of prejudice in the Deep South 80 years ago. While the cast appears to be older than their characters, they make a valiant attempt to make more out of the material than the show has going for it. Unfortunately, "Sweetee" seems rather thin considering the possibilities inherent in the story line. The score is pleasant but innocuous and unmemorable, always a deal breaker in a musical. Ironically, the most effective musical numbers are the actual interpolated hymns: "Amazing Grace," "This Little Light of Mine," and "Joyful, Joyful." [more]

On Strivers Row

June 9, 2017

Like in a Noel Coward comedy, the witty zingers come fast and furious: “That her big white Cadillac looks like a pregnant Frigidaire,” “Did you say she was from Newark or Noah’s Ark?”, “Harlem has gotten to be such a cesspool of nobodies,” “You can’t raise a rose in a junkyard,” “The ribbon around your neck is loose. Tighten it.” It also offers some very wise statements on the relationships between men and women: “women grow old from neglect and not from age,” “Regardless of how bad we women look in the morning, Oscar, we never wake up needing a shave,” “She loves the ground he staggers on.” However, the play also makes clear the rivalry between various Black enclaves: Harlem, Brooklyn and Washington, D.C. Dolly, Tillie and Mrs. Pace make pronouncements on the classiness of each. [more]

The Whirligig

June 6, 2017

Say this for actor Hamish Linklater: he writes juicy parts for his fellow actors. He also knows how to set up a sense of community. The New Group production directed by its artistic director Scott Elliott has a fine cast led by two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz and Zosia Mamet, just off six seasons of the recently ended HBO television series, Girls. [more]

Building the Wall

May 31, 2017

Unlike such political plays as Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible," David Hare’s "Stuff Happens" and the current "Oslo" by J.T. Rogers, Building the Wall is speculative political fiction. Projected into the not-so-distant future, it takes place after a terrorist attack has released a dirty bomb in Times Square irradiating two square blocks. As a result, President Trump has declared Martial Law and begun rounding up millions of immigrants for deportation. This extraordinary move which had gotten out hand has led to his impeachment and exile to Palm Springs. "Building the Wall" takes place in 2019 in a prison meeting room in a federal lock-up in El Paso, Texas. Gloria, an African American historian and college professor, has come to interview Rick, a white man, who is awaiting sentencing for his role as the former warden of a new Magnum Security private prison facility outside of El Paso for illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. It is Rick’s role in the disposal of bodies after a cholera epidemic in the overcrowded facility which has landed him in prison. [more]

Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

May 31, 2017

Expect great things from Udofia in the future. Both plays demonstrate that she writes full-bodied, three-dimensional characters, while "Her Portmanteau" reveals that she can also write a play from the heart whose emotions will pull you in and stay with you long after the final curtain. Also keep your eye on Chinasa Ogbuagu: playing two different women 36 years apart she is totally unrecognizable, you have to read the program to discover that it is the same actress, an extraordinary feat. [more]

Pacific Overtures

May 23, 2017

The playing space designed by Doyle is a narrow white runway with a stool at one end and at the other, an archway created by continuing the flooring into the air on which Japanese writing appears as on a banner. The audience sits in stadium-type seating on either side of the playing space. Eschewing pageantry, the production puts the cast in very bland outfits of black, grey, white, blue or beige (costumes by Ann Hould-Ward), adding fabric or robes when absolutely necessary. The lighting by Jane Cox occasionally bathes the stage in either red or blue mood lights. [more]

The Lucky One

May 19, 2017

Director Jesse Marchese has cast the play very strangely. Ari Brand’s Bob is a good deal shorter than his younger brother so that one must continually remind one’s self which is which. As Pamela, Paton Ashbrook also is taller than Bob. Is this a subtle hint that she doesn’t belong with him? Gerald has three friends who are guests in his father’s house. Andrew Fallaize’s Tommy, an idle fellow mad about golf, and his girlfriend Letty, played by Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, seem so much younger than Gerald that it stretches the imagination that they are his close friends. Gerald’s friend Henry Wentworth, a successful barrister played by Michael Frederic, looks so much older that it also seems rather unbelievable that they are bosom buddies. A delightful Cynthia Harris plays wise, compassionate Great Aunt Harriet in such an astute manner that she highlights all the subtext of her lines, the only actor in the production to do so. [more]

T.B. Sheets

May 18, 2017

The opening resembles that of Mann’s novel: a horse and buggy deliver a visitor to a tuberculosis sanitarium on a mountain top overlooking a valley, suggesting that the unspecified time is 100 years ago, prior to W.W. I. Immediately, the doctor discovers that the newcomer has T.B. and needs weeks of rest. This One Who Has Come from the City to Heal meets and interacts with the other denizens, including a healer, a mother of a degenerate child, one who is building a space ship, and one who composes sounds and visions, as well as having the ability to see those who have passed away. [more]

A Doll’s House, Part 2

May 12, 2017

Hnath’s new story is absorbing and twisty, interestingly creating an entirely new set of ethical and social questions than was handled by Ibsen in 1879. He has handled it in a similar fashion to Bergman’s "Scenes from a Marriage" but without the painful emotional fireworks. It is 15 years since Nora had left her husband, stating he had no further claim on her. She has not been heard from since. Having become a famous feminist author with advanced ideas writing under a pseudonym, she has recently discovered due to a blackmail attempt that Torvald has never divorced her which she assumed he had done. Having lived as a single woman, signing contracts, controlling her own money, and having relationships with men not her husband, she is guilty of a criminal offense under Norway’s laws at the time and can be sent to jail. She arrives at his door to obtain her divorce to really be a free woman. [more]

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me

May 12, 2017

McCollum is both charming and charismatic playing among other characters the self-entitled and irresponsible Bruce, the hippie techie Sal, Kat’s spaced-out boss Madison, and the intrepid and heroic Shackleton, although at first it is not obvious that he is all of these characters. It is a bravura performance showing tremendous range as he makes each one entirely different. Vigoda is another story. Her Kat is plucky but is mainly a device to get Shackleton to tell his story. We never learn much about her and she never changes as the adventure unfolds. Her violin playing is excellent but it is a bit of a distraction from her other activities in the musical. [more]

And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little

May 10, 2017

Retro Productions’  50th anniversary revival of Paul Zindel’s "And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" put the spotlight on an almost forgotten play that is worthy of revival. Shay Gines’ production with a game cast of seven is absorbing and compelling theater with characters that are bigger than life. Paul Zindel’s semi-autobiographical play comes alive in their hands. There may be more theatrical treasures to be mined from his collected plays. [more]

Marry Harry

May 8, 2017

The two leads David Spadora and Morgan Cowling are charming but that isn’t really enough to carry the show. The script isn’t too kind to their parents. As Big Harry, Lenny Wolpe is overbearing and possessive and as Sherri’s mom Francine, Robin Skye is controlling and possessive. Both are quite convincing and unpleasant – just as the script wants them to be. As the Village Voices, Chavez, Manocherian and Saunders demonstrate tremendous versatility playing all sorts of roles and are excellent singers. [more]

The Roundabout

May 5, 2017

Although the play seems to have something to say about economics and political systems, it is simply a very light romantic comedy making use of elements of change during the Great Depression. Ross’ production is quite proficient and fast-paced, but the characters are generic and we don’t learn much about them. As Lord Kettlewell, Brian Protheroe is the typical crotchety but wise aristocrat, Richenda Carey is most eccentric as the impoverished Lady Knightsbridge, and Lisa Bowerman is level-headed as the previously estranged Lady Kettlewell. Carol Starks’ Mrs. Lancicourt is the manipulative upper-class woman who attempts to dominate all situations. Hugh Sachs is a raisonneur straight out of classic drawing room comedy and would have been as at home in a play by Wilde, Shaw, Pinero or Galsworthy. [more]

War Paint

April 27, 2017

Written by the same team that created the musical version of "Grey Gardens" (Doug Wright, book, Scott Frankel, music, and Michael Korie, lyrics) which gave Ebersole the two best roles of her career, the new show is absorbing, elegant and urbane hewing closely to the facts while at times compressing time and offering a few composite characters. Suggested by the joint biography "War Paint" by Lindy Woodhead and the documentary film, "The Powder and the Glory," the musical tells the parallel stories of the rivalry and careers of these two remarkable women from the 1935 to 1964. As they are never reported to have met, Wright’s book for the musical either alternates their lives or uses a split stage effect to show us both at the same time in their own milieu. Occasionally, they lunch at the St. Regis at the same time but avoid meeting each other seated on their own banquettes. [more]

Present Laughter

April 23, 2017

As the ageing matinee idol who never forgets to check his appearance in the mirror, Kline plays a man who is always acting, both on stage and off. His animated physicality in his roles has always been in evidence but here he outdoes himself. Using his arms, hands, head, face and body as his canvas, he is almost never still showing us what can be done on each and every line. He makes even an ordinary line into a witticism and his comebacks wither with every additional jibe. He cajoles, seduces, emotes, wheedles and at the same time suggests he pities himself. He creates a bigger than life character (is John Barrymore his model?) and watching him is a lesson in consummate acting. So completely does he make Garry Essendine his own, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role – although among other New York revivals he has been played by such stars as George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Victor Garber and Coward himself. [more]

Samara

April 19, 2017

The play seems to be in the genre of the classic Western movie though highly poeticized and slow-paced. It resembles the 60’s films of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah but with much less plot and without the scenic vistas. It follows the rules of the old West but creates a mysterious world of its own. Very little is revealed by the characters about themselves, most of whose names are generic (the Supervisor, the Messenger, the Drunk, the Cowboy, the Beast). Much could be read into the events but they remain opaque and obscure as do the characters who reveal little. This is a Samara of the imagination, not a real geographic place. [more]

Gently Down the Stream

April 17, 2017

In between the scenes between the two men in Beau’s living room, Rufus records Beau’s reminiscences of his life and times. In this way, Sherman gives us a review of what things were like for gay men from 1940 up to the present, from the stories Beau had been told about the war years to his own personal and painful experiences from 1960 on. Beau’s memories include gay life in New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Paris and London and cover police brutality and the rise of AIDS. Besides being flattered to be asked to tell his story, Beau also want to pass on his experiences to the next generation who have had its easier. While the play becomes schematic alternating scenes between the two, Fierstein is so convincing in these authentic but surprising tales of the past that it never becomes simply a device. [more]

The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical

April 15, 2017

Theaterworks NYC’s stage version of Rick Riordan’s best-selling novel, "The Lighting Thief," about Percy Jackson and other demi-gods, first seen in 2014, has returned in an expanded two act format that, from reaction of the audience at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, is sure to become a cult musical. This fast-paced fantasy-adventure story would not seem to be destined for the stage due to the number of special effects needed to tell the story. However, designer Lee Savage and other technicians have come up with a series of clever low tech solutions which are always inventive and always witty. Using masks, puppets and elaborate costuming, five members of the cast of seven play multiple roles which often require quick changes. [more]
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