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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (958 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.

Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two

April 28, 2015

As deftly adapted by British playwright Mike Poulton and vigorously directed by Jeremy Herrin, the plays on the stage of the Winter Garden vividly bring to life the British court and its intrigue during the early sixteenth century, from about 1529 - 1536. Poulton wisely leaves out Cromwell’s childhood and youth described in the first novel and begins with him as lawyer to Cardinal Wolsey where the real story begins. However, like the published books, many of the major events take place between the scenes and the characters meet up to discuss the outcome. These are not plays for those who have not read the novels or are not familiar with the historical events or characters as there are too many people and relationships to keep straight if one doesn’t. Nine of the actors play one character each, the rest play between two and four. [more]

Gigi the Musical

April 21, 2015

Though this sophisticated story was intended for equally sophisticated adults as part of the mores and manners of a society and culture gone with the wind, the stylish and colorful Broadway revival has solved all these problems with Heidi ("Call the Midwife," "Cranford," "Upstairs Downstairs") Thomas’ new adaptation of the Alan Jay Lerner book and the casting of Disney heroine Vanessa Hudgens in the title role. Gigi is now over 18 and Gaston is in his 20’s, which puts a decidedly different complexion on things. “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” is now sung by Gigi’s grandmother Mamita and her Aunt Alicia. All decidedly right and proper and the word courtesan (which is what this is about) is never once mentioned. Sex is never even an issue. Here love is simply a game. So what are we left with? [more]

Hamlet

April 17, 2015

The first problem is the attractive modern setting by Walt Spengler of the wedding breakfast of Claudius and Gertrude with a huge cake in the background. The issue is that the table and the cake remain on stage for the entire evening, a terrible distraction. Does this palace have only one public room? The next situation is that Pendleton has chosen to cut both ghost scenes so that the audience is never told that Gertrude had an affair with her brother-in-law or that Claudius poisoned his brother Old Hamlet. The problem that this creates is that young Hamlet has to be played as paranoid as we have no way of knowing what the off-stage ghost told him, nor do we know what is bothering him when he acts so badly to his mother and step-father. [more]

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now

April 15, 2015

Like Laura Eason’s "Sex with Strangers" seen at The Second Stage last summer, "The Undeniable Sound of Right Now," her new play having its world premiere in New York in a joint production of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Women’s Project Theater, has a pulsating urgency that pulls you into it from the moment the lights come up. Director Kirsten Kelly, another long time Chicago resident along with Eason, has obtained dynamic characterizations from her cast of six including Jeb Brown, Margo Seibert and Daniel Abeles. While the play has a rather abrupt and unsatisfying ending as well as its clunky though accurate title, it brims with the authority of real life rather than theatrical artifice. [more]

Pardon My English

April 10, 2015

Ironically, the only script that has survived is the original one by Hebert Fields (Annie Get Your Gun) and Morrie Ryskind (Pulitzer Prize for Of Thee I Sing). Musicals Tonight! is giving this pleasing confection its second outing since New York City Center Encores! reclaimed it in 2004 with a delightful revival marked by a top-notch cast of comedians. This rarely heard Gershwin score (which premiered “The Lorelei,” Isn’t a Pity,” and “My Cousin in Milwaukee”) is filled with musical riches, both famous and forgotten including two witty songs cut out of town, “Freud and Jung and Adler” and “He’s Oversexed.” [more]

Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon

April 9, 2015

ERC’s unusual evening includes music by Ernest Chausson, Cécile Chaminade and Jacques Offenbach, video taken from George Méliès’ silent film A Trip to the Moon and the Apollo rocket launch and moon landing, and choral singing of songs by Stephen Foster. Co-artistic director Eve Wolf’s text which makes up the theatrical parts of the evening is based on letters, interviews and memoirs and presents Jonathan Hadary as Jules Verne, Jayne Atkinson as his wife Honorine, and Samantha Hill as intrepid American reporter Nellie Bly. A heady evening of fascinating treasures. [more]

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

April 8, 2015

Since Bedlam theatre company arrives on the radar in 2013, theatergoers have left their performances as devoted fans. Beginning with acclaimed productions of "Hamlet" and "Saint Joan" in the fall of 2013 and an extended run in the spring of 2014 with casts of only four actors, they returned last fall with a delightfully faithful and inventive stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s "Sense and Sensibility." The same four actors who appeared in Bedlam’s "Hamlet" and "Saint Joan" are back (along with Susannah Millonzi) in two alternate versions of the same Shakespeare comedy, one titled "Twelfth Night" and the other, "What You Will." Minimalist and clever to the nth degree, the "Twelfth Night" performance under review brought the audience to its feet at the end of the two (ingenious and intermission-less) hours. [more]

The Tempest Songbook

April 8, 2015

Gotham Chamber Opera's hour-long program at the Metropolitan Museum, entitled "The Tempest Songbook," took these truisms into account by alternating Shakespeare settings by the contemporary Finnish master Kajia Saariaho, with Baroque-era settings attributed to Purcell. Those who found Saariaho's language unfamiliar or taxing were given a reassuring figured bass to fall back on, while those who found the typical Baroque Aria da Capo form tediously repetitious were never more than a few minutes away from the next of Saariaho's elegant and colorful modernist miniatures. Soprano Jennifer Zetlan and bass-baritone Thomas Richards were both excellent, sounding completely at ease and consistently expressive in this sometimes challenging music. The ensemble of Baroque instruments was conducted with élan by Neal Goren, and the production directed and choreographed elegantly by Luca Veggetti. [more]

On the Twentieth Century

April 3, 2015

The best revival of the season to date, Roundabout’s On the Twentieth Century is as streamlined and fast-paced as the actual train and twice as much fun. For her soon to be legendary performance, Chenoweth should assuredly win her first and long-delayed Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Don’t miss this show. It will be one for the record books. [more]

The Mystery of Love & Sex

March 23, 2015

Bathsheba Doran’s new drama, "The Mystery of Love & Sex," now at Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi E. Newhouse, is yet another play whose title is a misnomer. The story is really about friendship and self-identity for a young college-age couple who grew up together in a Southern suburb. Along the way, the play brings in racism, sexism, homophobia and religious mania, as well as the confusions of youth, as the couple try to maintain their close relationship while falling in love with other people. Although director Sam Gold’s cast is made up of veteran actors Diane Lane and Tony Shalhoub and newcomers Mamoudou Athie and Gayle Rankin doing fine work, the play’s first act is entirely exposition and is basically used to set up the situation. This is a play that would do well to lose its intermission as it really doesn’t begin until its second act. [more]

John & Jen

March 23, 2015

"John & Jen" has very little dialog and almost no action that isn't described in the lyrics, so it's only fair to point out that it probably delivers as much on recording or in concert as it does here. That said, this production directed by Jonathan Silverstein with musical staging by Christine O’Grady is unfussy and effective. Scenic designer Steven C. Kemp provides a few static pieces which function as bed, hillside, or fence as needed, and it's a credit to all that their changing roles are never unclear. Given the small playing area, the nicely varied lighting by Josh Bradford helped much in avoiding monotony. [more]

Fish in the Dark

March 22, 2015

Director Anna D. Shapiro, usually associated with heavier dramas from such authors as Kenneth Lonergan, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Tracy Letts, Bruce Norris and John Steinbeck, has surrounded David with an A-List of stage and screen stars (Jayne Houdyshell, Rita Wilson, Rosie Perez, Lewis J. Stadlen, Marylouise Burke, etc.), as well as some rising stars and performers to watch (Molly Ranson, Jonny Orsini, and Jake Cannavale). Part of her assignment is to direct the traffic of the very large cast (18 in all) of the Drexel clan on the four sets and keep out of the way of these pros doing what they do best. At this, Shapiro does a superb job. [more]

Hazel Flagg

March 19, 2015

Sometimes stage properties that have been forgotten are lost for a good reason. "Hazel Flagg" is one of those shows. Jule Styne completists, however, will be glad of an opportunity to at last see this 1953 show. The one thing this show will do is send you back to the classic movie to see what all the fuss was about. [more]

Fashions for Men

March 16, 2015

Though totally unknown to Americans, Ferenc Molnár’s "Fashions for Men" is another treasure newly unearthed by the reliable Mint Theater. Davis McCallum’s polished and period-perfect production is not only vastly entertaining and enlightening about the human condition, but it should go a long way to making this play more widely known to the theater-going public. While the play is set in a world that is long gone, its contemporary relevance is based on the fact that it dramatizes the human comedy which will always be in fashion. [more]

The World of Extreme Happiness

March 16, 2015

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s eye-opening The World of Extreme Happiness reveals the urgent problems in contemporary China in which people from rural communities who move to the cities are second class citizens but where protest is quickly stifled, where the one-child policy causes girl children and women workers to be ignored, and the vast numbers of people in the factory cities have little access to education or money. Eric Ting’s powerful co-production for Manhattan Theatre Club and the Goodman Theatre of Chicago deserves to be seen for turning contemporary social science into the stuff of drama. [more]

Whoopee

March 12, 2015

Not seen locally since 1979, Musicals Tonight! is giving this light-hearted romp another outing as a concert staging in the Goodspeed Opera House version which streamlines the plot and adds two additional Donaldson hit songs: “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby” (lyric By Kahn) and “You,” lyric by Harold Adamson. The hit song “Love Me or Leave Me” is reassigned to two of the romantic leads, rather than the unrelated role of Leslie which is eliminated in this version. While the William Anthony McGuire book is as light as helium and just as silly, typical of its era, director Thomas Sabella-Mills’ fast-paced production with a cast of excellent singing comedians does not give the audience much time to think about the plot’s inanities. [more]

The Man of the Hour

March 11, 2015

While Broadhurst is most famous today for the Shubert theater named after him on 44th Street, in his own time he was an expert at light comedy and the author of 48 Broadway plays between 1896 and 1924. While The Man of the Hour is in no way an historical play, it does expose the excesses of New York’s Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party’s political machine, and parallels the election of 1897 in which Tammany Boss Richard Croker engineered the accession of Robert A. Van Wyck to the mayoral chair. Proof that reform of politics is on Broadhurst’s mind is that he refers to progressive leaders Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follett, Missouri governor Joseph W. Folk, and President Theodore Roosevelt, all of whom ran on platforms to clean up corruption. The reading text of The Man of the Hour actually indicates where the play’s Boss Horigan reiterates the policies and dictums of the real life Boss Crocker. [more]

Lives of the Saints

March 9, 2015

The advantage of an evening of one acts is that you are bound to like one, while a single long play may disappoint you. After a series of very successful full-lengths that include Venus in Fur and School for Lies, David Ives has returned to Primary Stages and the one-act form with a new evening, "Lives of the Saints," for the first time since his 1997’s Mere Mortals. Unlike his masterpiece in this genre, "All in the Timing," (also seen in New York at Primary Stages in both 1993 and 2013), out of the six playlets (five of which are receiving their New York premieres), three are terrific ones and three fall flat. Don’t blame the game cast of expert comedians made up of Arnie Burton, Carson Elrod, Rick Holmes, Kelly Hutchinson and Liv Rooth or director John Rando, a longtime Ives collaborator on six New York shows. The best ones are clever premises brilliantly developed, while the minor ones are blackout sketches drawn out to inordinate length. [more]

Hamilton

March 6, 2015

Alexander Hamilton may have been the unsung hero among the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution but a new musical will change all that. "Hamilton," now at the Public Theater, blows the dust off history and turns his story into the most exciting stage show in town. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, triple-threat creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, librettist and star of the show playing the title role, has had the terrific idea to write Hamilton as a through-composed hip-hop, r & b, rap musical which gives the 200-year-old story a tremendous shot of adrenalin. [more]

The Nether

March 2, 2015

Playwright Jennifer Haley describes her work as delving “into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity and desire.” On the basis of her New York debut with The Nether, we can expect some truly frightening dramas from her in the future. Even now, The Nether is such an extreme cautionary tale of the future of the Internet, that some may have difficulty sitting through it. [more]

The Winter’s Tale

February 27, 2015

"The Winter’s Tale" is classified as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” or “dark comedies” and as such it does not get produced very often. Under the direction of The Shakespeare Society’s Michael Sexton, The Pearl Theatre’s revival is elegant and entertaining. It solves some of the play’s problems while creating new ones. Surprisingly, the contemporary sets by Brett J. Banakis and costumes by Tilly Grimes work amazingly well for a tale told of the 16th century. [more]

The Insurgents

February 24, 2015

Playwright Lucy Thurber is angry about the state of things in America today. As a result she has written an angry play about her feelings and given them to her heroine Sally Wright in "The Insurgents, "now having its New York premiere courtesy of Labyrinth Theater Company. Unfortunately, while her heart may be in the right place, and who would disagree with her about the state of things today, Thurber has not written a play so much as a series of rants which basically say the same thing: no one is doing anything to help the poor and disenfranchised who continue to lose their footing on a downward slope. While the audience is asked to sing a hymn of hope at the end of the evening (the words are provided in the program), the play has no ending and is totally lacking in hope. [more]

Churchill

February 24, 2015

Ronald Keaton gives us an amiable but charmless man. (The latter is arguably authentic.) He replicates faithfully the halting speaking style (young Churchill stammered), but rarely gives the sense of calculated intensity with which Churchill could deliver even the most anodyne remarks. The man of steel who stood up to Hitler without blinking, who rallied Londoners suffering daily loss of life and property from relentless Nazi bombardment--that man is nowhere to be found. [more]

Rasheeda Speaking

February 23, 2015

Under the assured direction of Cynthia Nixon, renowned actresses Tony Pinkins and Diane Wiest turn Joel Drake Johnson’s "Rasheeda Speaking" into an acting tour de force. A play which investigates office politics and concealed racism, Rasheeda Speaking is a provocative work for our times which asks some serious questions. This spellbinding play increases the tension in each scene to an almost unbearable pitch. Just try taking your eyes away from the stage. [more]

The Events

February 18, 2015

New York Theatre Workshop is hosting Britain’s Actors Touring Company production of Scottish playwright David Greig’s acclaimed Edinburgh Festival Fringe hit, "The Events." With the London cast again directed by Ramin Gray, artistic director of ATC, this play inspired by the horrendous massacre in Norway by a lone gunman in 2011, is a powerful drama of communal grief after a mass shooting compellingly depicting the catharsis reached by its leading character, a female Scottish vicar. Unfortunately, where this unusual play falls short is that the audience, while cerebrally involved, does not also undergo a similar catharsis. Among the novel techniques of the production is the use of a different choir at each performance and the use of that choir to play members of the community. [more]

Application Pending

February 16, 2015

Hugely talented singer-comedienne Christina Bianco has become famous for her "Forbidden Broadway" and YouTube appearances where she has performed many impressions. Most notable has been her YouTube clip of her rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in which she impersonates 19 inimitable singers and which has received over seven million views. In the new one-woman, Off Broadway comedy, "Application Pending," she outdoes herself doing 40 voices often at breakneck speed. Bianco is a wonder to listen to. Unfortunately, the show which attempts to satirize the culture that believes that kindergarten classes at fashionable private schools are the only way to get ahead in life is a one-joke plot which becomes tiresome long before its 75 minutes are up. [more]

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]
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