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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (571 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 Trial of the Catonsville Nine

February 14, 2019

The 1970 play was originally adapted by playwright Saul Levitt (who previously turned the Pulitzer Prize winning novel "Andersonville" into a successful trial play) from Berrigan’s free verse version based exclusively on the trial transcript. Not seen in New York in 30 years, "The Trial of the Catonsville Nine" has been reimagined in a new version making use of additional sources by Jack Cummings III, artistic director of the innovative Transport Group theater company. A powerful experience, the revival proves to be a provocative investigation of what a citizen should do when he or she feels that the government is engaged in immoral actions. [more]

The Day Before Spring

February 12, 2019

The York production has been directed and adapted by Marc Acito who has condensed the original two act script into a long one-acter. Realizing that the original setting of 1948 for a tenth year college reunion with no reference to W.W. II or returning veterans does not make a lot of sense, he has moved the romantic comedy plot up to 1959 with some new appropriate references to the fifties (Davy Crockett caps, McCarthyism). Although the story seems to flow well enough the new problem is that with the deletion of some of the plot and dialogue, the characters seem to have been reduced to one-dimensional stereotypes which gives the actors a great deal more to do in order to make them real. [more]

God Said This

February 11, 2019

If this family seems familiar, Winkler wrote about them in her 2016 play, "Kentucky," set seven years ago, when Hiro returned home for the first time from NYC in order to stop her sister’s wedding. Author Winkler, a Japanese-American, wrote the play sitting by her mother’s bedside in a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, while her mother dealt with an aggressive form of cancer and she does have a sister who is a born-again Christian, though nothing like Sophie. While the play has an air of authenticity, most of the family are so unpleasant and unlikable that it is hard to penetrate behind their armor and facades. [more]

A Man for All Seasons

February 8, 2019

In recent years the play has not fared with such acclaim. A 2008 Broadway revival starring Frank Langella eliminated the narrator character of The Common Man, the play’s cleverest device, and was not well received. Now Fellowship for the Performing Arts has brought the play to the Theater Row’s Acorn Theatre directed by Christa Scott-Reed, who also staged FPA’s revival of Shadowlands last season. Unfortunately, the academic and unimaginative production fails to bring the ideas and the tensions in the play to a boil. [more]

Carmelina

January 31, 2019

Though not in the same class with Alan Jay Lerner’s masterpiece, "My Fair Lady," "Carmelina" has a similar theme: how a young woman reinvents herself. While the three soldiers are under the impression that they invented Carmelina Campbell in the classic Pygmalion and Galatea fashion, in fact Carmelina has reinvented herself, also a major theme in the Lerner canon, along with "Coco" and "Dance a Little Closer." This charming musical comedy also features a Tony Award nominated score which deserves a second and a third hearing. [more]

The Convent

January 31, 2019

While Jessica Dickey’s "The Convent" may not have any new answers and may cover familiar material, it does so with such vitality and theatricality, that it becomes a memorable experience. Under the direction of Daniel Talbott, the seven actresses led by Samantha Soule and Wendy vanden Heuvel are compelling and expressive. By the time the play is over, the audience have experienced much that the inmates of the retreat have gone through. [more]

Wickedest Woman

January 24, 2019

Six actors, three men and three women, in a company of seven, play many roles in this fluid production designed by Anna Driftmier that uses several different doorways,  on-stage props and furniture that is rolled out swiftly to tell Ann’s story from age 16 in 1828 to her untimely death at 66 in 1878. Jessica O’Hara-Baker is a towering Ann Lohman, aka Madame Restell, level-headed, goal-directed yet humorless as she sees a need and methodically goes about taking care of it, caring little for the mores of times or proscribed women’s roles. Narrated by Ann and including newspaper headlines read by the other cast members as well as period songs of 19th century ballads sung and played by the company, "Wickedest Woman" begins with her 1848 trial which is interrupted repeatedly in order to tell the story in chronological order. [more]

About Alice

January 24, 2019

Humorist and journalist Calvin Trillin has made his wife Alice Stewart Trillin, educator, writer, mother and muse, famous from such books as "Alice, Let’s Eat," "Travels with Alice" and "Family Man." When she passed away in 2001, many readers felt they knew her well enough to send Trillin condolence notes. His acclaimed 2006 memoir, "About Alice," introduced her to a wider audience. Now Theatre for a New Audience has commissioned Trillin to dramatize the book as a two hander under the direction of Leonard Foglia. The play with Jeffrey Bean as Calvin and Carrie Paff as Alice is quite charming but Alice herself remains elusive. [more]

On Blueberry Hill

January 20, 2019

Irish actors Niall Buggy and David Ganly returning to their original roles play two murderers sharing a cell in Dublin’s Montjoy Jail. The fiftyish PJ (Ganly) and the sixtyish Christy (Buggy) alternate in their tales, eventually becoming one story. One has committed a crime on impulse and can’t even explain why he did it. The other committed a revenge killing, just like one that killed his father when he was a child watching through the front window. Growing up in a suburb of Dublin, PJ tells us he was an only child with a much loved mother. At seminary, he becomes hopelessly infatuated with a younger fellow seminarian “shining with beauty.” [more]

Blue Ridge

January 19, 2019

Ireland gives a big performance that is almost larger than life. From the moment we meet her, she commands the stage. Watch how intently she listens to the others or how you can hear her thoughts clicking away as to how to avoid the rules she doesn’t like. It is almost exhausting following her as she is always doing something with her hands, her body, her voice, her total instrument. This is the sort of complete theatrical commitment that makes legends and would be dangerous for an unstable performer. Try taking your eyes off her while she is on stage – you simply can’t do it. However, unlike her Alma Winemuller in last season’s "Summer and Smoke" where she made all of the other characters disappear, her Alison is held in check by the other actors who have their own axes to grind, pun intended. [more]

Clueless, The Musical

December 29, 2018

While "Clueless, The Musical" is never less than slick and professional in the best possible way, for those who know the iconic film it offers no surprises so slavishly does it follow the original storyline. What was charming in the 1995 movie about Cher’s sense of superiority and wishing to help others less fortunate is no longer as acceptable. What was amusing in the era of excess now seems selfish, elitist, and an example of extravagant wastefulness. Alicia Silverstone’s appeal in the film doesn’t carry over to the musical where Dove Cameron, Disney star of Liv and Maddie, comes across as spoiled rotten by her wealthy single parent father who has given her pretty much everything she wants.  [more]

Slave Play

December 28, 2018

Nothing is what it seems in Jeremy 0. Harris’ startling and explosive "Slave Play" which investigates where race and sexual relationships intersect. What we have been watching in the play’s opening scenes is role playing on Day Four for Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy, “designed to help black partners re-engage intimately with white partners from whom they no longer receive sexual pleasure.” These three couples have chosen to spend a week in this new treatment in order to deal with their "anhedonia" or inability to feel pleasure which has been a problem for them for some time. [more]

Nassim

December 25, 2018

In the course of this unusual performance piece, the actor and the audience learn a bit of Farsi, the author’s native language, and actor and author share stories of their lives and likes, and become friends. There is audience participation and volunteers are called for. The playwright eventually joins the actor on stage but remains silent, communicating by pointing to the script which is projected so that the audience can see the author’s questions and instructions to the actor. The play is a series of exercises, games and tests. [more]

The Mendelssohn Electric

December 24, 2018

Intended for young people and their families, the jokey dialogue will amuse teenagers as well as teach them about the glass ceiling that talented women have had to fight against up until the present. The characters make clever reference to such modern music stars as Duran Duran, Michael Jackson, Berry Gordy, Hall & Oates, while older patrons will recognize the names of earlier music titans Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Rachmaninoff. Among Townsend’s clever devices are choosing members of the audience to play additional characters, and using empty picture frames held up to people’s faces as stand-ins for Hensel’s portraits. [more]

Network

December 21, 2018

Director Ivo Van Hove’s stage version of the Paddy Chayefsky cult film "Network" gives Bryan Cranston the role of a lifetime as Howard Beale, the UBS news commentator who has a nervous breakdown on air and then becomes a media messiah. The high tech production designed by long-time van Hove associate Jan Versweyveld with video design by Tal Yarden is riveting throughout its two hour intermission-less running time by putting the audience in the news studio and making us complicit in the action. [more]

Christmas in Hell

December 19, 2018

The holiday season is in for an irreverent satirizing in Gary Apple’s musical comedy "Christmas in Hell," a rude and entertaining fable for adults. With book, music and lyrics by Apple, a writer/producer for television, the show now being produced by The York Theatre Company is a diverting antidote to all the mindlessly clichéd holiday cheer that is everywhere. With some clever lyrics, hummable tunes and a colorful cast of characters, "Christmas in Hell" is a delightful little musical parody which is a change of pace for the season before us. It does require a good deal of suspension of belief of both kinds. [more]

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]
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