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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (656 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.

Round Table

October 15, 2019

The problem with Vaynberg’s play, now being given its Off Broadway premiere, in which she plays the lead female role, is that it has so many interlocking plots that it can give you a headache trying to keep them straight. And as all of the actors play two and five roles it is difficult to always know who is who. While director Geordie Broadwater keeps the pace zipping along, this often makes it more of a strain to follow the convoluted plotting. Plus the extensive quoting from Tennyson’s Arthurian narrative poem, Idylls of the King (not identified until late in the play) doesn’t help a bit. [more]

The Height of the Storm

October 14, 2019

What is evident is that Zeller writes tremendous roles for actors. Frank Langella won the Tony Award back in 2016 for the title role of "The Father," and "The Height of the Storm" may well win others. The current production includes all but one of the British cast from Jonathan Kent’s London presentation and two-time Tony Award winner Jonathan Pryce and three-time Olivier Award winner Eileen Atkins give the kind of performances that legends are made of. As André, Pryce is like a lion in winter: confused, detached, incoherent at times, yet raging due to his loss of power, and completely bereft when his wife is not in the room. His anger is always palpable and makes him seem bigger than his actual stature. [more]

runboyrun & In Old Age

October 9, 2019

Despite the fine writing and acting, these two plays do not stand alone: we are given no backstory to understand the context for these relationships in the longer saga; both plays dealing with a character’s depression, they are too similar in the theme of being haunted by the past; and thirdly, as they are basically two-character plays, both are too long for the limited story and plot lines they contain. Unlike the first two plays, these use two different directors (Loretta Greco for "runboyrun," and Awoye Timpo for "In Old Age"), ironically making them seem quite similar in style. [more]

Caesar and Cleopatra

October 7, 2019

When the Gingold Theatrical Group’s revival of Bernard Shaw’s epic "Caesar and Cleopatra" begins, the characters are wearing white contemporary clothes and sitting on what looks like an excavation site which might give one pause. Like David Staller’s revival of "Heartbreak House" last year, his Caesar and Cleopatra tries to give this 1898 play a more contemporary relevance, but unlike Heartbreak House which pointlessly updated that play to W.W. II rather than the usual W.W. I setting, this modern approach works extremely well and proves to be quite charming. [more]

Fifty Million Frenchmen

October 3, 2019

Still delightful, mainly due to Porter’s score, the book by Herbert Fields (who went on to write six more Porter shows) has its charms with its snappy Jazz Age dialogue which makes fun of the ugly Americans in Paris, loaded with money but making one faux pas after another while mangling the French language. The version being used by the York Theatre production is that of the 1991 Tommy Krasker/Evans Haile adaptation for the Cole Porter Centennial first performed at the French Institute/Alliance Française which reduces the cast from 100 to a manageable eleven. It also reallocates some of the songs and includes some of the songs cut both on the road and after the opening. [more]

Why?

October 1, 2019

Legendary director Peter Brook has always investigated the big questions. In recent years his productions have become more intimate and the questions bigger. In "Why?", written and directed by Brook and his collaborator of four decades, Marie-Hélène Estienne, the performance takes place on a nearly empty stage and uses only three actors to tell its story. While the performance is mesmerizing, the play seems unfocused, beginning with the question why do we do theater and ending with the political dangers to theater artists who create experimental theater. [more]

Novenas for a Lost Hospital

September 24, 2019

Cusi Cram’s "Novenas for a Lost Hospital" (with dramaturgy by Guy Lancaster) presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is an unusual site-specific theatrical event that pays tribute to the now defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital which for 161 years was situated three blocks from the theater’s location. Directed by Daniella Topol, the play is both uneven and scattershot in its non-linear format and content. However, it conveys a great deal of information in an entertaining manner and has some affecting scenes of life in the hospital in two eras: the 1849 cholera epidemic when it was founded in the mid-19th century and the AIDS crisis in the final years of its tenure in the late 20th century. [more]

Freemove Dance: “ …it’s time…”

September 23, 2019

Co-presented by The Theater at the 14th Street Y, '…it’s time…" explored the dynamics of a small group of five—excellent—performers whose existence appeared to be controlled by a large digital countdown clock that frowned down upon them from the back wall. They were all dressed in tight outfits in shades of yellow, uniforms designed by Mondo Morales.To a stark, ingenious percussive score by Dani Markham, co-arranged and played brilliantly by drummer Price McGuffey situated high above the stage in his own cubbyhole, the dancers meandered onto a stage occupied only by five red folding chairs in a neat row.  The score ranged from clicks to drum rolls to bossa nova rhythms. [more]

Sincerity Forever & Bad Penny (Mac Wellman Festival: Perfect Catastrophes)

September 21, 2019

The Flea Theater is honoring one of its co-founding members, playwright Mac Wellman, with a five play festival called “Perfect Catastrophes” which includes two world premieres and three revivals, with casts made up of The Bats, The Flea’s youthful resident company. First up are the one-act plays, "Sincerity Forever" and "Bad Penny," which require separate admissions but can be seen back to back on the same evening or afternoon. Any two of the plays in this festival are an immersive view of the avant-garde playwright who has created new works for almost 50 years and has won three Obie Awards. [more]

L.O.V.E.R.

September 18, 2019

If you are put off by the idea of women defining themselves based on the men in their lives, then Lois Robbins’ one-woman play "L.O.V.E.R." is not for you. However, if you concede that there are women today whose mothers brought them up to believe that they are nothing without a man, then you will find "L.O.V.E.R." entertaining if not enlightening. Last seen Off Broadway in the revival of "Cactus Flower," Robbins proves to be a very personable and genial narrator of this semi-autobiographical story of love, sex and finding contentment. [more]

American Moor

September 16, 2019

Cobb is titanic in this piece bringing his resonant voice and impressive physical presence to bear on the most famous classic role for a Black actor in the canon as well as his thoughts about race and the theater. His justifiable anger when the director tells an anecdote about a woman who drove across the country in diapers to confront her rival as an example of the effects of jealousy is enough to flay one alive. His analysis of the man Othello and his relationship to the white Venetians is a brilliant explication of both character and society. Cobb’s understandable problem with white directors who want to tell him how to play a Black man exposes race in America from a new point of view. American Moor may make you angry but it is always enlightening and right on target. Although Cobb’s passion gets the better of him, you will never feel that he has gone too far or misrepresented things as they are. [more]

Decky Does a Bronco

September 15, 2019

Making is U.S. debut 19 years after its Scottish premiere in an actual park, Douglas Maxwell’s "Decky Does a Bronco" is a worthy addition to the dramatic literature of plays about childhood and the loss of innocence. Under the direction of Ethan Nienaber, the talented cast of five gives indelible performances which remain with the viewer long after the final curtain. The guilty that  the narrator David’s expresses as to what he might have done differently leaves a poignancy that cuts very deep. [more]

Lear: That Old Man I Used to Know

September 14, 2019

Hopkins had added selections from Lewis Carroll (references to the Jabberwock and “The White Knight’s Song: The Aged Age Man,” the poem which gives her the new title), Emily Dickinson (“I’m Nobody! Who are you?”), Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” (“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”), and unidentified poems from Dylan Thomas. Aside from the fact that these are several centuries newer, all of these have a different rhythm than Shakespeare’s Lear. The music credits include Satie’s “Gymnopedie” No. 1, Chopin’s “Nocturne in E minor,” excepts from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, and “Ombra mai fu” from Handel’s opera Serse. The most outstanding problem is that we have other associations with this material so that they stick out like a sore thumb. [more]

The Cooping Theory 1969: Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe?

September 11, 2019

Poseidon Theatre Company’s "The Cooping Theory 1969: Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe?," described as a "new immersive paranormal experience,” is set at the RPM Underground which is more interesting than the play. This interactive event leads the audience through many of the 18 rooms, all of which are different, in this unusual venue by designer Seok Huh. As for the show, it may be “the only story-driven, multi-room immersive experience in the heart of Times Square,” but as written by Nate Raven it is very thin on information about 19th century writer Poe. As conceived and directed by Aaron Salazar it is mainly participation in a séance to reach the author in order to hear his version of his mysterious death, which is neither spooky nor scary. Poe never actually appears except in spirit and not much happens. However, it takes a long time getting there. [more]

Make Believe

September 10, 2019

Bess Wohl’s new play, "Make Believe," is a fascinating study of how the traumas of childhood affect our adult lives, particularly the damage seen and unseen parents inflict on their offspring. Director Michael Greif whose trenchant productions go back to the 1990 "Machinal" at the Public has piloted a fine cast of eight actors both young and mature. Make Believe is at the same time entertaining and enlightening in its dramatizing childhood and its aftermath in an inventive way. [more]

Tech Support

September 9, 2019

Deborah Whitfield’s 'Tech Support" offers a clever idea in order to review feminism in the past century. Unfortunately, her rather superficial approach misses a great many opportunities. The romantic comedy aspect of the play is not entirely believable and works to the detriment of the play’s serious elements. The slick production is entertaining without ever delving below the surface even though it attempts to cover a great many important and serious issues, many of which are not yet solved today. Don’t blame the actors who do their best with the material they have been given. [more]

Eureka Day

September 6, 2019

Jonathan Spector’s "Eureka Day" now having its East Coast premiere at Walkerspace is a blisteringly satiric and provocative play torn right out of the headlines. Ostensibly about how one progressive elementary school handles a case of mumps due to many anti-vaxxers, the play also tackles many other hot button topics. Ultimately, the play’s message is that with too much sensitivity and too much political correctness nothing can be accomplished. It is a wake-up call for all of us. [more]

Da Vinci & Michelangelo: The Titans Experience

August 28, 2019

Described as a multimedia production, "Da Vinci & Michelangelo: The Titans Experience" is actually a lecture by art historian Mark Rodgers to slides of the masterpieces of these two geniuses. Both enlightening and dense, the performance by this animated and exuberant lecturer tells you a bit more than you can take in in one sitting. It is a little like two art classes back to back. However, one comes out of the show with an even higher respect for these two Renaissance men who were far ahead of their time and are still at the top of their professions after 500 years. [more]

The Exes

August 25, 2019

Lenore Skomal’s "The Exes" wants to revive the Broadway-style sex comedies of the 1950’s and 60’s, earlier called boulevard comedy. Unfortunately, not only is the formula passé but television sit-com now does it better. The play is also too heavily plotted with two main characters with the same name and a great many petulant, entitled people. Worse still, the play fails to deliver any witty or clever lines, instead giving us quotes and references from much better works without much point. Directed by Magda S. Nyiri, "The Exes" has at least two false endings before it comes to an unearned conclusion. [more]

Midsummer: A Banquet

August 10, 2019

"Midsummer: A Banquet" is an auditory and oral treat, a light entertainment for this time of year. Using Zach Morris and Victoria Rae Sook’s skillfully adapted abridgment of Shakespeare’s comedy, the evening of dinner theater is a delightful way to experience the Bard. The meal designed by Emilie Baltz contains various surprises that coincide with the events in the play and are tasty enough to be a filling repast. Shakespeare as dinner theater may not be a new idea but this is an evening of many pleasures. [more]

Native Son

August 9, 2019

Kelley’s adaptation begins with the murder of Mary which avoids preparing us for the limited life of opportunity that Bigger leads in the Black Belt of Chicago. Told in a fragmentary form often with flashbacks within flashbacks, it is only possible to put the chronology together if one knows the novel. Kelley has also eliminated the powerful speech to the jury by Bigger’s lawyer which is one of the most famous of all statements on social racism and the constricted environmental influences on people living in the ghetto. [more]

Broadway Bounty Hunter

August 7, 2019

Composer-lyricist Joe Inconis’ follow up to his teen favorite, "Be More Chill," is not only a showcase for musical comedy actress Annie Golden but a tribute to the Blaxploitation and Martial Arts movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s. While "Broadway Bounty Hunter" is very entertaining, it might have been a better show if had not been so anxious to not be a parody or a satire. Written by Iconis and longtime collaborators Lance Rubin and Jason Sweettooth Williams, energetic cast, fully attuned with their concept has been directed and choreographed with fierce energy by Jennifer Werner who has previous created the dances for five of Iconis’ last six shows. [more]

Coriolanus (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

August 6, 2019

While Shakespeare’s "Coriolanus" has a great deal to warn us about as a cautionary tale, it is also not as deep or as poetic a play as his major tragedies. Daniel Sullivan’s production for Free Shakespeare in the Park is fine with the surface values of this historical tragedy but less so with creating the subtext of the story. In his second time around as its titular hero, Jonathan Cake is excellent as the brutal warrior, not so accomplished as the public man wrestling with his own demons. [more]

Summer Shorts 2019: 13th Annual Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2019

Neil LaBute’s “Appomattox” is the most substantial of the three plays and deals with a topic new to his work. Two long-time friends, Frank, black, and Joe, white, are having a picnic in the park without their wives where they get to throw around a football. Joe tells Frank about a story he read in the newspaper that the freshmen at Georgetown University have decided to pay an annual reparation to the families of slaves who were sold off by the college centuries before as collateral to keep the school going. He is impressed that the $27.20 will be annually added to their tuition. For Frank, this is nothing but a symbolic gesture. He would like to see the figure sting a little for 400 years of slavery. [more]

Mojada

August 4, 2019

Following up on Luis Alfaro’s critically acclaimed Chicano retelling of Sophocles’ "Oedipus Rex" called "Oedipus El Rey," The Public Theater now stages his equally relevant and timely "Mojada" which melds Euripides’ "Medea" with the Latinx immigrant experience in the big American cities. Those who know the Greek myth of Jason and Medea will be prepared; those who at the performance under review obviously did not know what was coming were shocked and horrified by the ending. Either way the play is spellbinding theater. Chay Yew, artistic director of Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater who also directed the Public’ production of Oedipus El Rey, has staged the stunning and devastating play with an excellent cast of Hispanic-American actors which is as timely as tomorrow’s headlines. [more]

Summer Shorts 2019: 13th Annual Festival of New American Short Plays: Series A

August 3, 2019

Series A of this year’s Summer Shorts: 13th Festival of New American Short Plays is unified around the theme of death and dying and how it affects the living. Lest you think that this sounds morbid, the three provocative one-act plays that make up this first program are so beautifully handled that this is a superior theatrical evening in three totally different styles. Unlike many evenings of one acts, the productions of all three are worth of your attention and could not be bettered. [more]

The Rolling Stone

July 31, 2019

It is not until the second act of British playwright Chris Urch’s "The Rolling Stone" that the play catches fire but from then on the drama is explosive, compelling and very disturbing. Once the play gets past the introductory exposition that sets up the plot, the production by Saheem Ali (Donja R. Love’s "Sugar in Our Wounds" and "Fireflies," and Christopher Chen’s "Passage") is taut, tense and involving. [more]

Havel: the Passion of Thought

July 24, 2019

The three Havel one acts, known as "The Vanek Plays," though written separately, were originally banned in Czechoslovakia and performed secretly in people’s living rooms as well as being passed around in hand-written copies. They all deal with Vanek, a dissident playwright unable to have his plays produced, who is now working in a menial job, an alter ego for its author and his experiences under Communism. The problem with filling out the program to include both Pinter’s "The New World Order" and Beckett’s "Catastrophe" (dedicated to Havel) is that since the plays all have the same theme and development, it feels like overkill. [more]

Barabbas

July 3, 2019

While Will T.F. Carter’s "Barabbas" is very outspoken on the topic of political corruption in Peru, the play is dramatically weak as so much of it is exposition. In each scene we learn a little bit more about the men’s lives, but little that is new happens in the play’s 90 minutes. The tepid direction by Eduardo Machado gives us too much time to consider the play’s deficiencies and makes the play seem longer than it is. Carter’s anger at what is going on in Peru is commendable, but Barabbas does not utilize that indignation except on an intellectual basis. [more]

The Comedian’s Tragedy

June 30, 2019

Matthew Amendt’s new play "The Comedian’s Tragedy" asks the burning question why did Aristophanes, the master of Greek comedy, never write any tragedies. Socrates in Plato’s "Symposium" equated comedy and tragedy with Aristophanes present, but the question does not seem to have been asked these 2,400 years. While Amendt attempts to pass off his play as history, he plays fast and loose with the actual facts. Director Bill McCallum’s production does not help things by having the actors from ancient Athens mainly in contemporary clothing and having several historically male characters played by women. As most of the people in the play are not household names except to Greek scholars, this makes the play much more difficult to follow let alone recall what one should know about life in the days of Socrates and Aristophanes. [more]

Toni Stone

June 30, 2019

Lydia R. Diamond’s "Toni Stone" is a tour de force for one actress and Obie Award winner April Matthis gives a bravura performance as the first woman to play professional baseball as part of the Negro League. Although she is backed by eight men who from time to time make up the teams she was on, this is basically a one-woman show. In fact, this might have been a better play if Toni was the only character we had to follow on stage. However, director Pam MacKinnon excellently defines each character as we meet them in various combination; we just don’t know who they are most of the time. [more]

The Secret Life of Bees

June 27, 2019

Nottage’s book is faithful to the novel while at the same time reducing some of the melodrama and streamlining the story to reduce the number of characters to a cast of 13. Sheik’s score may be his most lush and melodic and the use of guitar and cello gives the music an appropriate folk feeling. The songs are a mix of gospel, R&B and pop which gives each of the main characters a song that explains their deepest thoughts. The rousing gospel numbers, “River of Melting Sun,” “Tek a Hol a My Soul” “Hold This House Together, “Our Lady of Chains,” make use of a great many beautiful voices in unison. [more]

The Mountains Look Different

June 23, 2019

A mash-up of Eugene O’Neill’s "Anna Christie" (set in Manhattan and off the coasts of Provincetown and Boston) and "Desire under the Elms "(with a rural New England setting), the play is set on a farm in the West of Ireland. With its fallen woman theme, this play could have been written any time since 1880. First time director Aidan Redmond has staged the play by the numbers and has given his actors little help. Some of the character interpretations undercut the play. However, the play does have a melodramatic but smashing and startling ending. [more]
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