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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (536 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.

Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe

February 13, 2015

Nevermore, a pop operetta written, composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson, presents us with a biography of Edgar Allen Poe. The mostly sung-through piece is given visual delight by production designer Bretta Gerecke via a steampunk-inspired amalgam of styles: punk hair, goth makeup, and Victorian corsets, to which are added fanciful skirts and hats which appear to have been made from found objects. (Gerecke is responsible for sets, costumes, and lighting.) The cast of seven, featuring Scott Shpeley as Poe himself, are all excellent, dedicated and imaginative. Christenson’s direction works hand-in-glove with Laura Krewski’s choreography, all movement so thoughtfully and consistently stylized that it's both acting and dancing at every instant. It's subtitled "The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe," and that life is outlined well. [more]

Texas in Paris

February 13, 2015

While Alan Govenar’s "Texas in Paris" is not a musical in the traditional sense, it is definitely a concert in the literal sense. It is also an engrossing and subtle play about race relations and the misunderstandings that separate people. Under the restrained and assured direction by Akin Babatundé, the performances by Lillias White and Scott Wakefield are poignant and authentic. [more]

City Of

February 10, 2015

Unlike Strindberg’s "Dream Play," it is not always possible tell what is real and what is dreamed from what the main characters say. Aside from the ghosts and the painting that comes to life, the additional characters (played by two actors) including a gargoyle on the top of the Cathedral of Notre Dame who has fallen in love with a pigeon, the Green Fairy that is the essence of Absinthe, the ghost of Dash’s mother, and a talking sewer rat. Along with the story of the horny curator of the Musée de l’Homme (an actual but obscure tourist site), it often feels like there are too many stories and quests going on at the same time - unless the point is that for the author Paris is a city of journeys. With much of the dialogue in poetry, "City Of" is often too precious for its own good. [more]

Into the Woods

February 6, 2015

Why another stage production of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine "Into the Woods" while the film version is currently playing? The Roundabout Theatre Company is hosting the ingenious, clever and witty Fiasco Theater production (previously seen at the McCarter Theatre Center in 2014) of this iconic musical using fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm which is the best musical revival in town. This is what every revival should be – a reinvention of the original material making it new enough that it wipes out memories of the original. If you did not see Fiasco’s six-character version of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline which had an extended run Off Broadway in 2011, then you are in for a delightfully surprising treat. [more]

Winners

February 4, 2015

Although I was never bored, at 135 minutes (including intermission) the play is quite long for the story it's telling. The animals, as fun as they are, get a considerable amount of stage time but never move the narrative forward. They even get solo spots where they recite beat poetry, which are brilliant and amusing but stop the show dead. Even money says that if the parents’ through line was clarified and strengthened this play would slim down easily to a more appropriate length. [more]

The Road to Damascus

January 29, 2015

Set at some time in the near future, Tom Dulack’s The Road to Damascus (not to be confused with Strindberg’s play of similar name) is set in a world not that different from our own, with terrorism and civil wars still the major problem for political leaders. A parable of 9/11 and the Bush Adminstration’s reaction to it, "The Road to Damascus" depicts a time when Miami and New York have been attacked by terrorists, with St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue the major casualties. The play posits the first third party president in American history and the first Black African pope, a not inconceivable event in the near future. [more]

Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance

January 27, 2015

Although the play is written in the retro form of upper middle class drawing room comedy, it has a serious message and theme. The fear or terror that Edna (Higgins) and Harry (Balaban) bring to the home of Agnes (Close) and Tobias (Lithgow) is that which all people have to deal with: loneliness, abandonment, illness, ageing, death. When asked what one of his plays was about, Harold Pinter, a playwright with a similar sensibility to Albee, declared, “The weasel under the cocktail cabinet.” On a surface level, this flippant remark appears meaningless, but on deeper level it means the hidden fears that lurk in the dark corners of our lives to which we avoid giving a name. This also sums up the theme of Albee’s play which is couched in difficult set pieces and elliptical dialogue. [more]

Lionboy

January 27, 2015

Shadow puppetry, audience participation, actors as animals, talking lions, ladders as boats, a circus with a trapeze artist and a bearded lady, a live drums and percussion score, a hot air balloon, and storytelling in the style of Harry Potter. Complicite, Britian’s acclaimed collaborative theater company, has devised its first family-oriented production, "Lionboy," based on the best-selling young adult trilogy by Zizou Corder, and the exciting results of this U.S. premiere are now on display at The New Victory Theater. This engrossing storytelling experience, suitable for all ages, combines science fiction, fantasy, economics, science and a futuristic dystopia to tell a fascinating adventure tale using all of the techniques of storytelling by a company of eight versatile actors. [more]

Film Chinois

January 23, 2015

While "Film Chinois" certainly has an interesting premise to create a stage film noir set in turbulent postwar China, the play fails to deliver on its promise to entertain as well as thrill with a coherent story. Though the play has all the elements of the genre, here they are confusing rather than organic to the material. The elegantly staged production never remembers to turn up the heat. [more]

Gigi

January 21, 2015

Not only does Anita Loos’ adaptation of "Gigi" not make us miss the famous Lerner and Loewe songs, its intimacy and sophistication make it a fine play in its own right. This first major New York revival staged by Peter Dobbins captures the perfect graceful style needed and keeps us entertained at all times. Under his astute direction, Connie Castanzo in the title role and Kathleen Huber and Evangelia Kingsley as her sophisticated relatives give memorably evocative performances. [more]

Rap Guide to Religion

January 16, 2015

Performer-scholar Baba Brinkman has done a series of shows which follow the same basic format, essentially a lecture with rap interludes. A recent example seen at the Soho Playhouse was his Rap Guide to Evolution, in which he posited that if we wanted the welfare of the human race to improve, our watch cry needs to be “don’t sleep with mean people.” At the end he gave out buttons with this phrase (I still have mine). His current show is the very entertaining (and informative) "Rap Guide to Religion." [more]

Dying For It

January 14, 2015

Dying for It, Moira Buffini’s free adaptation of The Suicide, is fine as a drama but the premise makes it a classic farce. Unfortunately, the Atlantic Theater Company production fails to find the humor in this dark comedy. As such the contemporary parallels to our own time do not become obvious as either satire or humor. [more]

Every Brilliant Thing

January 9, 2015

"Every Brilliant Thing" is a wonderful evening in the theater and a reminder that though life may offer bad or unhappy episodes, that there are wonderful things to live for and new surprises every day. Making his New York debut, Jonny Donahoe proves himself to be a charismatic performer and makes this a memorable and inventive show. At 65 minutes, the show is just the right length to make its point without overstaying its welcome. [more]

The Elephant Man

December 24, 2014

This third Broadway outing of Bernard Pomerance’s "The Elephant Man" has its strengths and its weaknesses. On the one hand, it has Bradley Cooper’s magnificent, commanding performance in the title role. On the other, Scott Ellis’ production is a times superficial when it ought to be trenchant and facile when it ought to be caustic. However, like actors in profound classic texts, the performances in this 19th century tale many deepen over time. [more]

The Invisible Hand

December 22, 2014

Pakistani-American playwright Ayad Akhtar has been having a very good year. His second play, "The Who and the What," had its premiere this summer at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theatre as part of the LC3 season. His 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner "Disgraced" reopened on Broadway on October 23 at the Lyceum Theatre to critical acclaim. And now New York Theatre Workshop is giving the New York premiere of his play "The Invisible Hand," under the direction of Ken Rus Schmoll. While the first two plays took place in the United States, this new play takes place in Pakistan. The play suggests that the roots of terrorism are not religious but monetary. [more]

A Christmas Carol – Titan Theatre Company

December 15, 2014

While the use of 44 characters (with at least one actor playing as many as five roles) may make this show a bit difficult for the younger children to follow, the softening of the story suggests that the show is intended for family viewing. Kevin Loomis, who has appeared on Broadway in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and Inherit the Wind, plays Scrooge as so hearty a character that he doesn’t have far to go to reform. We never get the feeling that he is as miserly or as stingy as he is described by the story. Even more evident is the extremely bright lighting by Alan Piotrowicz that leaves out the sinister nature of the story. Where Scrooge’s rooms at midnight with his tiny fire should be in deep shadows so that the ghosts take us by surprise, Piotrowicz has them flooded with lighting. While this makes the show less scary for young children, it also keeps this from being a true ghost story. [more]

Slow Dusk & Markheim

December 11, 2014

Two one-act operas by Carlisle Floyd are being presented by The Little Opera Theater of NY, newly arranged for chamber orchestra. One is a very early work, the other is mature, and for those who are interested in the material this is a worthwhile presentation of music you're unlikely to encounter elsewhere anytime soon. [more]

El gato con botas

December 10, 2014

Whether you regularly go to the opera or not, the Gotham Chamber Opera and Tectonic Theater Project's co-production of El gato con botos is an enchanting theater event that will leaving you smiling. It is also an extremely clever use of multimedia sure to amaze all theatergoers. Moisés Kaufman proves himself to be an ingenious director of music theater. [more]

Rollo’s Wild Oat

December 9, 2014

Michael Hardart, who piloted Metropolitan Playhouse's successful productions of "Within the Law," "A Man's World," "The Great Divide" and "Under the Gaslight," has staged this play as a drawing room comedy. However, as the plot will demonstrate the play is a farce and should be staged as such. While the play remains amusing, a great many of the jokes do not land as they ought to while some of the acting is much too genteel for this sort of play. [more]

Sense and Sensibility

December 3, 2014

Janeites, arise! Take yourself to The Gym at Judson for Bedlam Theatre Company's world premiere stage adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" that is inventive, faithful, clever and hilarious. Using a cast of ten versatile actors (playing 17 roles) under the brilliant and ingenious direction of artistic director Eric Tucker, the minimalist production contains all of the key scenes of the book while at the same time skillfully delineating the social fabric of the times. You may never have guessed how funny this story really is. Kate Hamill's marvelous play is one of the finest stage adaptations of a literary classic. Our Jane would have expressed her approval. [more]

Allegro

December 2, 2014

"Allegro" was inspired by Thornton Wilder's Our Town which also uses no scenery and uses the actors as a chorus commenting on the action. Aside from the actors all playing stringed instruments when the show begins (as well as other instruments in the course of the show such as piano, clarinets, oboe, etc.) in Mary-Mitchell Campbell's folksy new orchestrations, they remain on stage throughout as they both narrate and give advice to its hero Joseph Taylor, Jr. [more]

Sticks and Bones

December 1, 2014

With "Sticks and Bones"' theme of the displacement of the returning American army veteran once again topical due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the play would seem to be entirely relevant once again. Unfortunately, Scott Elliott's production which has a shifting tone throughout does not make a very convincing case for this Vietnam era family drama. Holly Hunter, Bill Pullman, Richard Chamberlain and company are fine actors left adrift by a flawed and confused production. [more]

Side Show

November 27, 2014

There are a lot of words being wasted on what this show is not. This argument occurs because book writer and lyricist Bill Russell and composer Henry Krieger brought it to Broadway in 1997 without figuring out what story it was trying to tell. This new Side Show is a very substantial rewrite. It's no longer sung-through, it has additional material by director Bill Condon, as well as lots of new songs. [more]

It’s Only a Play

November 27, 2014

The revival of Terrence McNally's theater comedy, It's Only a Play, has the starriest cast in town. It reunites Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick for the third time, and throws in for good measure Oscar Award winner F. Murray Abraham, Tony Award winner Stockard Channing, Harry Potter regular Rupert Grint, and Emmy Award winner Megan Mullally. This is probably just as well as this 1985 farce was slight in its Off Broadway production and in its first Broadway appearance, drastically updated, it seems even thinner. Jack O'Brien, who usually directs stronger stuff, pilots the expert cast around their paces. [more]

Major Barbara

November 25, 2014

In the hands of David Staller, founding artistic director of the Gingold Theatrical Group, and The Pearl Theatre ensemble, Shaw's play of ideas becomes a delightfully provocative comedy. This witty 1905 play, in a deliciously acted and designed production which concerns the age-old conflict between "God and salvation" versus "money and gunpowder," has become relevant all over again with its exploration of economic inequality. When the play was written this was heresy – today most people agree with Shaw that poverty is the biggest crime. Dan Daily, Carol Schultz and Richard Gallagher give memorably rich and impressive performances in a production that you will be sorry when it ends. [more]

Tamburlaine, Parts I and II

November 24, 2014

Often credited as the play that proved to the Elizabethans that blank verse was the way to go with stage tragedy, it also heavily influenced contemporary William Shakespeare whose own history plays all followed this play by Marlowe. Performed in three hours with one 30 minute intermission, this Tamburlaine is truly epic in scope. Boyd's production stars John Douglas Thompson who after acclaimed performances in Shakespeare's Othello, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and King Lear, as well as O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, has become one of our finest tragedians. [more]

Lost Lake

November 23, 2014

Auburn doesn't tell us enough about the back stories of these characters so that the portraits aren't fully drawn, and each scene is structured to reveal only one new item for each. However, Hawkes and Thoms fill in a great many of the gaps with their layered performances. [more]

The River

November 21, 2014

Hugh Jackman's charismatic, sinister and charming performance is the only reason to see Jez Butterworth's delicate but thin play, The River, Butterworth's next Broadway play after Jerusalem. Unlike Jerusalem, The River doesn't have much story or much in way of a message, though in its form and structure it is a mystery. However, Jackman (in another role in which he is onstage almost throughout the play) commands our attention in a way few actors can and you can hear a pin drop at any moment during the 85 minute evening. [more]

The Oldest Boy

November 17, 2014

Sarah Ruhl's latest play, The Oldest Boy, having its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse, is a magical spiritual investigation into the relationship between teachers and students, and mothers and sons. Based on a true story told to the author by her Tibetan housekeeper, Rebecca Taichman's production uses dance (choreographed by Barney O'Hanlon), ritual and a puppet (designed and directed by Matt Acheson) for three-year-old Tenzin. The play also has the Mother directly address the audience and features breathtaking and colorful lighting effects by Japhy Weideman on Mimi Lien's minimalist but pleasing setting, as well as beautiful Asian costumes by Anita Yavich. [more]

Lift

November 14, 2014

Lift is billed as novelist Walter Mosley's first play to reach New York. He is a wonderful novelist but not yet a good playwright, and this is student work unworthy of a full 59E59 production. The basic setup will be familiar to anyone who has taken an improv class: Tina Pardon (MaameYaa Boafo) and Theodore "Big Time" Southmore (Biko Eisen-Martin) are two strangers who find themselves stuck in an elevator. What will they do to pass the time? [more]

On the Town

November 13, 2014

This On the Town, with 29 musicians and 31 actors, begins with a huge American flag and the singing of the national anthem, just as would have happened every night of the original run back in the 1940's during World War II. The show begins and ends at 6 A.M. at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Three sailors, Gabey (played by Tony Yazbeck for the third time), Ozzie and Chip have 24 hours shore leave to see all of the Big Apple before shipping out to Europe. Each wants to see the sights, both cultural and female. [more]

A Wake and a Wedding

November 11, 2014

Encompass New Opera Theatre, under longtime director Nancy Rhodes, is presenting the East Coast premiere of Richard Pearson Thomas's chamber opera A Wake or a Wedding at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. The opera is a burlesque of 19th Century melodrama, with stereotypical characters and a series of silly 'revelations' to resolve the convoluted plot. The music uses an accessible mid-century modernist style, conservative but not inappropriately so. [more]

The Girl Who Came to Supper

November 10, 2014

The Girl Who Came to Supper from the 1963-64 Broadway season was Noel Coward's last musical and the only one in which he wrote music and lyrics to another author's story. In this case the musical was the work of playwright and screenwriter Harry Kurnitz, adapted from Terence Rattigan's The Sleeping Prince, which originally premiered in 1953 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Better known in its film version called The Prince and the Showgirl, its plot travels back to June 1911 for the Coronation of George V, grandfather of Elizabeth. The lavishly costumed concert staging by Musicals Tonight! features first-rate leads and an excellent musical ensemble. It also demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of the material. [more]
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