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Plays

The Last of the Love Letters

September 19, 2021

We’re transported to Ms. Chen’s boldly oppressive spacious prison set with bars, an austere bed, a urinal, a tank to vomit in, and a retractable metal staircase for a menacing authority figure to descend from. Here, we meet the incarcerated “You No.2,” the male who gives his side of the romantic breakup during a cryptic and histrionic 40 minutes. We gradually realize he’s an artist being held in a government mental institution for crimes against the state. The finale strives for an emotionally resonant Twilight Zone-style twist ending, but it doesn’t make much impact, like the rest of this synthetic play. [more]

Pass Over

September 19, 2021

The spartan set design by Wilson Chin features a large tin can, a tall streetlamp, a very large tire, a milk crate, and a high basketball net. The first two actors, Jon Michael Hill (as Moses) and Namir Smallwood (as Kitch) take shifting turns sitting on the large can and the milk crate. But when we initially meet them, they’re running rapidly in place. They’re also speaking what eventually becomes a tedious and redundant black vernacular, without seeming to have much to say to each other or to us, even as they traffic in racist clichés. As indicated by the character named Moses, Pass Over is riddled with Biblical references. It’s 28 minutes into the play when they’re joined by Mister (although I kept hearing them call him “Master,” which under the circumstances, would have made more sense). He also removes an enormous amount of food from the straw basket he brings with him, which he was ostensibly taking to his mother, as he also sings, “What a Wonderful World.” Mister is played by Gabriel Ebert, who also plays “Ossifer,” an alcoholic’s way of pronouncing “Officer.” [more]

My Mother’s Severed Head

September 16, 2021

Sadly, these promises aren’t kept in this mishmash of plots and characters that never quite meshes into a viable whole; it remains an unsteady comedy/fantasy never morphing into a smooth-running play.  Cissel awkwardly interrupts the play, alternating reality—such as it is—with colorful dance/mime sequences.   The characters—including the Mother/aka Severed Head—yell at each other, most often about that poor, ubiquitous head, garishly made up for the Mexican celebration of El Día de los Muertos. Every time the head speaks her mind the play comes to impudent life. [more]

What Happened? The Michaels Abroad

September 12, 2021

The new play, ironically, does not take place in Rhinebeck, New York, like the preceeding 11 plays but as explained in its subtitle it concerns “Conversations in Angers, France,” the home of the Centre National de Danse Contemporaire (CNDC). Like the previous Michael play, it is set on the eve of a dance festival honoring American dancer and choreographer Rose Michael who has passed away about six months before this play begins. However, unlike the earlier play which was about the art of creation, this play is mainly about living with the Covid pandemic and our adaptations to it, as well as the hermetically sealed world of dancers. While the play tells a lot of anecdotes about dancers and does a certain amount of name dropping of such people as Trisha (Brown), Merce (Cunningham), Dan (Wagoner), it eventually attempts to wax philosophical with such remarks as “there is no life without death,” and “life doesn’t last. Art doesn’t last. And it doesn’t matter…”; and “we dance differently at sixty.” [more]

Ni Mi Madre

September 6, 2021

As his mother Bete (pronounced Bet–chi), Soria is bigger than life without a great deal of assistance from props, costuming or make-up. When he enters carrying an offering to the stage which is set up like a tropical altar to Iemanja, the Afro-Cuban diety whose picture is on the wall center stage, he is wearing a white linen skirt which he suddenly pulls up and it becomes his mother’s dress (designed by Haydee Zelideth). In English punctuated with pungent Spanish and Portuguese, sometime translated, often as not left unexplained, Bete tells us of her three marriages, each one unfulfilling, and of her children, her difficult son Arturo who from a young age wanted to dance ballet and was always getting into trouble, and his sister who always liked sports. We learn of her unconventional child rearing practices which was as much a tug of war with her children as it was a series of lessons in living, and marked Arturo for life. [more]

Roles and Rules of Comedy

September 6, 2021

"Roles and Rules of Comedy," six short comedic bits of fluff written and directed by Harold Dean James is a character-driven view of contemporary New York City.  Presented at the elegant Players Club on Gramercy Park by We Three Productions, James deals mostly with down-to-earth people like Donna (Donna Kennedy) and Jaymie (Sharon Fogarty) who meet at a bus stop awaiting a ride that never seems to arrive in “At the Bus Stop Part 5.” [more]

The Book of Moron

August 23, 2021

“Do I believe in heaven and hell or another parallel universe? If I parallel park in a parallel universe will I be double parking?” muses the affable performer Robert Dubac during his clever self-written comic solo show, "The Book of Moron." Dressed in gray trousers, a black shirt and a black jacket, the seasoned Mr. Dubac holds forth for 80 minutes with his appealing persona that recalls Mort Sahl’s topicality, David Steinberg’s impishness and George Carlin’s profundity. [more]

Semblance

August 18, 2021

Written and directed by White who is the Obie and Lily Award winning director of "Our Dear Dead Drug Lord" (WP Theater) and "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" (Public Theater, BAM Fisher and Playwrights Horizons), a NYTW Usual Suspect and former NYTW 2050 Fellow, among other impressive credits, "Semblance" asks the question: in your everyday life, how do you encounter Black women? What do you see and what do you assume? Nikiya Mathis plays seven women from all walks of life, six of them depicted in various jobs and careers and each in her own setting. The women address us directly: a line worker in a salad take-out restaurant, a nanny and caretaker with her charge in Prospect Park, a chart-topping artist preparing for a music video, an unemployed mother getting her nails done in a salon, a public figure such as a politician about to be interviewed on a news program, a bus driver on her run on an MTA bus, a medium to low level consultant in an office, and finally the actress herself as she removes her makeup. [more]

Alma Baya

August 18, 2021

"Alma Baya" is distinguished by its impressive production design which wondrously theatricalizes what we’re used to from experiencing science fiction on the screen and television. Scenic designer Mike Mroch’s multi-level configuration of geometric white pieces adorned with gadgets is awesome. Besides the striking space suit and helmet, costume designer Ramona Ponce provides snazzy shimmering gray outfits reminiscent of Pierre Cardin. Federico Restrepo’s lighting design in collaboration Hao Bai is a jolting assemblage of hues, colors and tones. Before the show begins, Mark T Bruckner’s sound design is already arresting with its droning electric cords, later there’s the grand whooshing of air locks opening and closing. [more]

The Karens

August 17, 2021

Fortunately, good things come to those who wait, even after an hour and a half. The play suddenly takes a turn when Karen X has a breakdown behind a dumpster at Whole Foods. Karen X may have been talking about her complexion in the opening scene when she tells Karen Y that “black don’t crack,” but in this scene it is her core that is cracked open, when she realizes her life is as empty and pointless as she’s always feared. “#influence me, please?,” she begs of God, as flies buzz around her head. It is a brilliant scene, and Day is brilliant in it. [more]

Trial on the Potomac: The Impeachment of Richard Nixon

August 12, 2021

Rich Little, belatedly making his New York stage debut in the role of Richard Nixon is the show’s magnetic anchor. Playwright George Bugatti crafts a wild scenario, meshing Allen Drury’s sense of political intrigue with Jules Feiffer’s absurdism. [more]

Judgment Day

July 27, 2021

As Sammy, Jason Alexander’s exquisite comic genius delivers like gangbusters, a delivery which gets even richer in some subtler moments when Sammy surprises himself with some honest emotions. Father Michael is superbly acted by Santino Fontana, who is the perfect straight man to Alexander’s dastardly Sammy. Justina Machado gives a fiery, honest and earnest portrayal as Tracy, the abandoned wife, standing up to Sammy and shining in her own light. Julian Emile Lerner is spot on as the moody Casper; together, he and Alexander strike an excellent rapport as father and son. Patti LuPone deliciously cackles her way through the modestly sized part of Sister Margaret, making every moment count. Loretta Devine also provides some gratifying deadpan moments as Sammy’s secretary Della. [more]

Mandela

July 20, 2021

Nelson Mandela’s inestimable value to humanity in general and to the abolishment of apartheid in particular cannot be thoroughly assessed or overestimated, nor are they in a new play that bears his name. As written by Yolanda Brooks & John Ruiz Miranda, who also directs, Mandela is a meandering miasma of information. It also suffers by an utterly amateurish performance by Robert Greene in the title role. One winning asset, however, is the portrayal of Mandela’s wife, Winnie, by Nadijah A.K. Also to its credit is the evocative lighting design by Maarten Cornelis, which, more than merely illuminating the play, gives it a kind of life. [more]

The Two Noble Kinsmen

July 18, 2021

Hamilton Clancy, the artistic director of The Drilling Company, joins forces with his assistant director Karla Hendrick to stage The Two Noble Kinsmen in a modern-dress version that makes the plot of the play more accessible to the al fresco audience but tends to devalue the Elizabethan language.  They have even added a few very modern turns of phrases and pop tunes to elicit laughs during the few lighter moments of the plot. [more]

The Wake of Dorcas Kelly

July 17, 2021

Early in the play, songs are sung by various members of the cast including the anachronistic “The House of the Rising Sun,” (sung twice) set in New Orleans in the twentieth century. The cast members use various accents even though all are supposed to be Irish. Characters come and go for no motivated reason and too many events happen more than once. The acting though vigorous is uneven and inconsistent, but this is mainly due to several underwritten roles which give the performers little to do and not enough backstory. The production’s pacing is deficient as parts of the play come fast and furious while others are slow, talky and languid. [more]

The Importance of Being Earnestly LGBTQ+

July 15, 2021

For "The Importance of Being Earnestly LGBTQ+" which wildly lives up to its title, director Maarten Cornelis updates Wilde’s scenario to present day New York City. Currency is in dollars; Manhattan landmarks replace London ones, though the fabled cucumber sandwiches remain. Amanda Scanze’s splendorous fashionista-type costume design and Martina Duque’s artfully basic scenic and projection design are all contemporary. Mr. Cornelis places us in an affectionate fantasyland true to the spirit of Wilde where logical inconsistencies and anachronisms are to be taken in stride. Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing are still upper-class charmers pretending to be named Ernest to romance their eccentric objects of desire. Instead of Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax, here we get Cecil and Gwyn. This production’s chief virtue is its matter of fact and sensual depiction of same-sex attraction. That is achieved through Cornelis’ skillful direction, his otherworldly lighting design and his energetic ensemble. [more]

Charmed Life: From Soul Singing to Opera Star

July 15, 2021

She gets to sing everything from the Patsy Kline classic “Crazy,” “Respect” (made famous by Aretha Franklin), and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess to generous, beautifully acted scenes from Bizet’s Carmen, her favorite role and the highlight of the show. The setting, a comfortable, slightly formal room (by Jaime Terrazzino) also includes a convenient grand piano played by John DiPinto (who alternates with Allison Brewster Franzetti), clearly delighting in collaborating with this warm-hearted diva. [more]

Fruma-Sarah (Waiting in the Wings)

July 9, 2021

In what might just be the best stage role of her career, Jackie Hoffman plays the multi-faceted Ariana in E. Dale Smith’s "Fruma-Sarah (Waiting in the Wings)" at Nancy Manocherian’s the cell theatre in Chelsea.  Sitting in place, attached to a hefty rope, she takes the audience and her co-star, Kelly Kinsella as Margo Peterson, “substitute fly captain,” on a journey of a life not well, but interestingly, lived. [more]

The Watering Hole

July 2, 2021

There are installations, written words, video projections, and recorded spoken word. One setting is intended as a break area where patrons can dance or play with beachballs. Other interactive projects involve writing answers to questions and pinning them to a piece. To give specific descriptions of these clever inventions would be to spoil surprises. This one is memorable and representative of the exhibition. [more]

Aporia: “Icarus and Amina”

July 2, 2021

The Icarus of Icarus and Amina is a poster of Henri Matisse’s brilliantly colorful abstraction of that Greek mythological character who soared too close to the sun, and Amina (Sidney Caruth who skillfully balances sweetness and strength) is a Bangladeshi who has just this day graduated from a Catholic high school.  Because Amina hasn’t made any real friends even after four years of school, she gravitates to Sister Tre’s classroom ostensibly to say good-bye, a farewell that morphs into a bit of soul searching. Rachel McCain (a walking illustration of “still waters run deep”) plays Sister Tre, a Filipina nun and Amina’s favorite teacher and mentor who cautiously welcomes Amina into her classroom as she does some end-of-term tidying up. [more]

Aporia: “Morning Was Safe”

June 30, 2021

Two police detective partners have breakfast while working a case at a generic U.S.A. hotel in author Gabriel Nathan’s electric 15-minute play Morning Was Safe. Mr. Nathan’s dialogue crackles with vernacular authenticity and his psychological scenario is a heated slice of life which briefly takes us into the heads of the two officers. It’s as if Samuel Beckett wrote an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." There’s Netflix recommendations, personal information, and a reverie about bacon recalling The Holocaust. It’s a grand vehicle for its two actors. [more]

Audience (The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre)

June 25, 2021

Havel’s Audience represents CAMT’s first foray into modern Czech literature having previously staged imaginative productions of folk material.  This visit to contemporary theater, unfortunately, wasn’t as successful as most of CAMT’s fairytale presentations.  The combination of whimsical marionettes and psychologically sophisticated drama didn’t gel. The autobiographical Audience pits Havel’s alter-ego, Ferdinand Vanĕk (played by Vít Hořejš who also translated and directed the play), against The Brewmaster (Theresa Linnihan) in what initially seemed to be casual, directionless banter during a workday at a beer brewing company. Preceding the actual play were a series of historic newsreels—prepared by Suzanna Halsey—showing how Czechoslovakia (when it was still called Czechoslovakia) descended from the high hopes of 1968—euphemistically called the Prague Spring—to the depths of despair following the Soviet Union’s crushing invasion to put down what they perceived as a pro-West revolution.  The newsreel images were far more frightening than Havel’s two hander which is clearly meant to reveal in everyday terms just how nefariously the communist, totalistic credo infiltrated daily life in Prague. [more]

The Alcestiad

June 19, 2021

Aside from the unevenness of the acting, Drance’s production has no consistent tone, shifting from comedy to drama to tragedy and back again. Not all of his interesting ideas are carried through: the first two acts have different performers playing Admetus and Alcestis which demonstrates the shift of 12 years; however, in the third act when Alcestis should be an old woman, the same actress who played her in her prime continues in the part. While the costumes by Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte and Mark Tambella are serviceable they are rather bland and unprepossessing. The uncredited sound design and the original music by Sara Galassini are muddy and unclear as broadcast from the one speaker on the left side of the audience. While there is no lighting design as the play is performed in broad daylight at this time of year starting at 7 PM, by the time the play is ending it is twilight and the fading light will make it painful for some viewers. [more]

Blindness

June 9, 2021

Read by unseen British stage star Juliet Stevenson, "Blindness" is as timely as Albert Camus’ "The Plague" with its story of an epidemic which affects first a community, then a city and finally an entire country. With the audience sitting in socially distanced pods of two, and listening on binaural headphones, the space has been equipped with bars of light both horizontal and vertical which turn either red, green, amber, blue or white and are raised and lowered at various times. However, since the story takes place in a city in which the inhabitants are struck blind, much of the play is performed in total darkness. [more]

Lilies, or The Revival of a Romantic Drama

May 19, 2021

"Lilies" is an attempt at old-fashioned theater or to couch a modern story in old-fashioned trappings. The problem with the play for modern audiences may be stated in its subtitle, “The Revival of a Romantic Drama.” Unfortunately, the first New York production of veteran Canadian playwright Michel Marc Bouchard’s controversial play neither does it justice nor is it very convincing. The gay triangle and the insidious homophobia appear up to date but the trapping of the play are that of another era, one that is foreign to most actors alive today, and certainly more operatic than most theater audiences expect. [more]

Gruesome Playground Injuries

May 19, 2021

Cameron Cueva Clarke and Logan Alexis Troyer , each offer riveting performances energetically rendering the poignant complexities of their dysfunctional characters. Director Tyler Riley’s charged staging in concert with Mr. Clarke’s creative conceptual direction achieves a Brechtian dimension of distance. [more]

Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams

May 17, 2021

While the chronology is somewhat convoluted as the text occasionally skips around grouping some similar events (such as two trips to New York City), if you follow along, the script depicts Williams’ steady rise to success in the six years before "Menagerie" landed on Broadway. Many of the anecdotes are amusing, others are surprising tales of little known facts (a trip to Europe with his grandfather, meeting D. H. Lawrence’s widow on a trip to Taos, New Mexico.) Always engrossing, always believable, "Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams" accomplishes in spades what it sets out to do: revealing the trials and tribulations of a great playwright on the verge of his first success. [more]

Two Sisters and a Piano

April 26, 2021

Directed by the author, "Two Sisters and a Piano" reveals its roots as a radio play from its reliance on poetry and language: this is a cat-and-mouse game in which the participants use words to circle each other in order to achieve their goals. But who is the cat and who is the mouse? Set in 1991 in Havana during the Pan-American Games and while the Russians are pulling out of Cuba, we meet sisters Maria Celia, a well-known novelist (played by Florencia Lozano), and Sofia, a pianist (Rubin-Vega), both under house arrest in the crumbling premises that they grew up in. As a punishment for a petition that Maria initiated and signed, the sisters were first place in prison and now are confined to their childhood home, and have not received any of their mail for months. [more]

Jericho

March 6, 2021

"Jericho" has a great deal going for it.  It is directed by Marsha Mason and features Jill Eikenberry.  These two formidable theater artists’ participation promises quality which is evident from the first scene on to the quietly scathing denouement.  Jericho also has proven itself in a run in 2013 at the 59E59 Theaters.  Its intimate, six character scale lends itself to the close-ups of streaming which Mason deftly juggles with a combination of in-your-face emotion and wit. [more]

A Day

November 18, 2020

Chapdelaine’s writing is funny and sincere, thought-provoking and smart. There is a suggestion in the script that these four individuals could all be different facets of the same person, and in retrospect some staging and props do support that, but the suggestions are so subtle that they are easily dismissed as coincidence, perhaps intentionally. There is so much finely crafted personality in the characters’ dialog and narrative, and the overarching themes of isolation, desperation and loneliness are beautifully presented in the writing, performances and direction. Kudos on a fine production to all, and to the Cherry Artists’ Collective. [more]

Coal Country

March 17, 2020

For "Coal Country," an investigation into the April 5, 2010 West Virginia disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine which killed 29 men, authors Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen based their documentary play on first person interviews with the families of many of the victims, sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, nephews. Powerful in the piling up of evidence and malfeasance just as they had done in "The Exonerated," the play undercuts its dramatic power by revealing the end of the story at the very beginning so that the ultimate court decision comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, the individual stories told by seven actors speaking the real words of family members are very compelling. [more]

The Artist Will Be With You in a Moment

March 12, 2020

With its eloquent nods to conceptual art, good-natured comedic tone and superior performance, "The Artist Will Be With You in a Moment" is an intelligent entertainment. [more]
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