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Plays

Proof of Love

May 24, 2019

Never really losing her cool, Pressley always commands the stage even though scenic designer Alexis Distler has made it difficult by creating a huge private room, beautiful in its understated way in blues and beiges, but difficult for one person to fill the space. Yes, Maurice is presumed to be in his hospital bed on stage right, and Lashonda is on the smartphone, but Pressley must negotiate the entire stage herself. Director Jade King Carroll has found reasons for her to move around from chair to sofa to a chair on the other side of the room, but has not helped much in making the play build an arc. The effective lighting by Mary Louise Geiger subtly shifts from afternoon to evening light without our realizing how much time has passed. [more]

Feral

May 23, 2019

All of this is brought to life via digital camera, which captures the movement of the figures on a quickly assembled “set” that is, in effect, a whole miniature seaside town, with businesses and homes through which the various human, animal and automotive figures navigate. At one very “meta” point, we even see a Punch and Judy show at a town festival: puppets putting on a puppet show! [more]

Posting Letters to the Moon

May 21, 2019

The epistolary "Posting Letters to the Moon" may, on the face of it, make one think of A. R. Gurney’s "Love Letters" or Helene Hanff’s "84 Charing Cross Road. "But unlike those two memorable plays, PLTTM as “compiled” by Lucy Fleming, whose mother was the British actress Celia Johnson and whose father Peter Fleming was a travel writer--as well as the older brother of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming--never really tells a story nor conveys what her parents’ relationship was like. [more]

BLKS

May 20, 2019

Poet Aziza Barnes’ first play, "BLKS," now at MCC Theater Space is raucous, vulgar, outrageous and contemporary in Robert O’Hara’s hilarious, over-the-top production. Following the adventures of three black women roommates from Brooklyn over a day and a half, it shows us how the Girls are living today - Lena Dunham would approve. However, the loud and busy production in the Newman Mills Theater stage will thrill twenty and thirty somethings, while older people may not be in tune with it. It is an insightful view of modern life today from the black female perspective and as liberated as a play can get at this moment in time. There is likely to be a generational divide to this comedy which pushes the envelope. [more]

Happy Talk

May 19, 2019

Abrasive as a subpar episode of Maude and reaching a sour psychological thriller-style finale out of Craig’s Wife, Happy Talk is playwright Jesse Eisenberg’s muddled family drama.  It’s the 1990’s and the New Jersey Jewish matron Lorraine is playing Blood Mary in a community theater production of South Pacific and so in addition to the jokey title we get a barrage of painfully cute musical comedy references. Scene transitions are accompanied by blaring snippets of Mitzi Gaynor who played Nellie Forbush in the film version. The combination of Mr. Eisenberg’s smug sensibility, inane contrivances, shtick-ridden dialogue, condescended-to characters, and slack construction all make it a tiresome one hour and 45 minutes. [more]

Passage

May 18, 2019

Christopher Chen’s exquisite and mystical "Passage" being produced by the Soho Rep is inspired by E.M. Forster’s "A Passage to India," borrowing its plot and character relationships. But while Forster’s novel was simply about the British colonization of India, Chen has something bigger in mind. Chen calls the two locales Country X and Country Y so that the audience can fill in whatever two countries they wish in whatever time. Director Saheem Ali’s superb multicultural cast offers the maximum in diversity. And in this age of nations all over the world cracking down on immigrants and immigration, the play is an investigation into our complicated feelings about The Other. [more]

The Pink Unicorn

May 18, 2019

Alice Ripley (Best Actress Tony Award winner for "Next to Normal") is, in a word, astounding. Her Trisha is brimming with curiosity, honesty, humor and grace; she is inspiring to watch and simply amazing. Edie’s characterization of Trisha is delicate and poignant, funny and sincere; her illuminating script is sheer writing perfection. [more]

#yourmemorial

May 14, 2019

The black-accented stage has a raised runway platform, a square platform, a bench and some furniture. From these basic elements, scenic designer Susannah Hyde crafts an ideal landscape for this non-realistic piece that allows its times and locations to shift smoothly. Ms. Hyde’s outstanding projection design of social media imagery and illustrative photos is shown on the stage’s back wall.Resourcefully working on a minimalist level, director Emily Lyon achieves fluidity, some lovely stage pictures and the fine performances with her inspired staging.  Sammy Jelinek’s dreamy lighting design and Carsen Joenk’s beating sound design contribute to an otherworldly dimension. [more]

The Archbishop’s Ceiling

May 13, 2019

As president of International PEN, the worldwide association of writers, from 1966 – 1969, playwright Arthur Miller moved about Eastern Europe freely and witnessed a great many troubling events concerning writers of all genres. These occurrences led to his writing "The Archbishop’s Ceiling," his most political play, which was presented at the Kennedy Center in 1977. Revised after the failure of this production, it had its world premiere at the Cleveland Playhouse in 1984 but was not picked up for a New York production. Since then it has been seen in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986, Budapest in 1989, Westport, Ct., in 2006 and Denver in 2015. It has finally made it to New York courtesy of Regeneration Theatre in residence at Urban Stages. [more]

The Buffalo Play

May 13, 2019

Folks, this is no ordinary play, and it's not for everyone. Call it an absurd commentary, a daydream, a nightmare, a fantasia, a memory play--come see it and decide what you want to call it. [more]

Around the World in 80 Days

May 12, 2019

Laughter and oohs and ahs abound from an audience of all ages during this exuberant and wildly theatrical stage adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel "Around the World in 80 Days." A gray cloth transforming into an elephant, model ships held aloft and actors wearing headdresses portraying a herd of buffalo are among the dazzling low-tech pieces of stagecraft on display. [more]

Caroline’s Kitchen

May 11, 2019

In "Caroline’s Kitchen," British playwright Torben Betts ("Invincible," "The Unconquered," "Muswell Hill") has written a state of the nation farce which has no laughs. As the play under the title "Monogamy" has been very successful in England, it is possible that it just too British for American audiences. Similar to the plays of Alan Ayckbourn in dealing with middle-class people confronted with chaos not entirely of their own making, "Caroline’s Kitchen" unfortunately has only unlikable, self-absorbed characters caught up in a series of situations that simply get worse without having us on their side. Don’t blame the actors in this Original Theatre Company and Ghost Light Theatre co-production if Betts’ characters are unsympathetic although that may be his take on the nation at this moment in time. [more]

Original Sound

May 10, 2019

The eternal heartbreak of show business is given a fresh spin in playwright Adam Seidel’s exhilarating contemporary drama, "Original Sound" that skewers the music industry. Mr. Seidel’s scenario has many familiar elements, but the writing is impeccable, the performances are superior, and it's electrically presented. [more]

Mary, Mary

May 8, 2019

Retro Productions which has staged both old and new plays has turned its attention to this unjustly neglected comedy from 1961 which has not had a New York revival that made it into the record books.  Shay Gines’ production proves that it is still witty and literate and has a great many quotable one-liners. A window on the 1960’s, the problem for younger people will be the number of household names that aren’t well-known anymore like Orville Prescott, Elizabeth Arden, Jack Warner, Louella Parsons, Gerold Frank, Jackie Coogan and David Susskind, pioneers who should not have been forgotten. The show program conveniently has a Pop Culture Glossary in the back which explains them all. The problem for older people is that the pacing is a bit slow where it should be played at farce tempo which would make  the repartee all that much more scintillating. [more]

Friendly’s Fire

May 8, 2019

Viewing the abstract configuration onstage that could be from a Whitney Biennial before "Friendly's Fire" begins instantly informs us we’ll be in a fantasyland. Indeed, playwright John Patrick Bray offers a surrealistic odyssey fusing together the dreams and battlefield memories of a disaffected Gulf War veteran with aspects of Hollywood Westerns and other pop culture genres. Mr. Bray’s writing is intense, often striving for absurdist comedy, and has a great sense of purpose. It’s all rather baffling, somewhat interesting and mildly entertaining. [more]

King Lear

May 7, 2019

As the elderly king of Britain who deludedly decides to give up his kingdom to his three daughters, Goneril and Regan, the two older married ones, and Cordelia, his younger unmarried daughter, in exchange for their regaling him before his court with how much they love him, the 83-year-old Jackson dressed in Ann Roth’s fitted tuxedo and with a severe masculine haircut would seem believable casting. However in the first half of the evening (Acts I-III) which take about two hours, Jackson is nothing but haughty, sarcastic and arrogant, with little or no variety. In the production’s second half when the king who has been turned out of the castles of both married daughters (Cordelia having left the country to marry the King of France), Jackson seems mad but wise and more compassionate, turning the king’s anger on himself, but it is too little, too late. [more]

The Plough and the Stars

May 7, 2019

The Irish Repertory Theatre ends its thirtieth season by going back to the beginning, with a sturdy revival of Sean O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars." An historical prequel to the other two plays in O'Casey's Dublin Trilogy, it was also the Irish Rep's inaugural production, a daring choice that essentially served as an artistic mission statement, signalling a commitment not to shy away from Ireland's ever-contested past. [more]

Lockdown

May 7, 2019

Ernie Morris is a middle-aged widowed African-American writer who arrives  at a contemporary unnamed prison to be a volunteer. A young corrections officer explains in great detail all of the rules and regulations. The inmate she becomes closest to is James “Hakeem” Jamerson, nicknamed Wise. He is a 62-year-old African-American man who has been incarcerated for 46 years for shooting and killing a police officer during a pawn shop holdup when he was 16. Over his many years of imprisonment, he’s matured, having gotten a college degree and leading an education program. He’s been continually turned down for parole and Ernie agrees to help him with his statement for the next parole board hearing. Will they succeed? [more]

Hans Christian Andersen: Tales Real & Imagined

May 7, 2019

Eve Wolf’s new play for the Ensemble for the Romantic Century, titled "Hans Christian Andersen: Tales Real & Imagined," suggests that the real-life Andersen might actually have appreciated whitewashed depictions of his life, maybe even the Kaye movie. The Andersen that Wolf gives us is an unattractive and unhappy misfit. We hear, though, more than once, his mantra of self-assuring optimism—which, it seems, fooled no one, including the storyteller himself: [more]

The Brothers Paranormal

May 5, 2019

Is a young Asian woman a ghost or a melancholiac’s hallucination? That is the haunting question vividly answered in playwright Prince Gomolvilas’ gripping thriller "The Brothers Paranormal" which crackles with tension from start to finish. It’s a masterfully written synthesis of "Blithe Spirit," "The Amityville Horror" and "The Sixth Sense" with shades of Stephen King. Comedy gives way to terror as its Asian and African-American characters also battle their own personal demons. A floating pillow is a frightening sight and Ella Fitzgerald’s 1960 live Berlin recording of “Mack the Knife” becomes a spooky touchstone. [more]

Paul Swan Is Dead and Gone

May 4, 2019

Claire Kiechel’s "Paul Swan Is Dead and Gone" (directed by Steve Cosson) gives audiences a glimpse of the last stand of the author’s great grand-uncle, a dancer-actor-painter-sculptor who was once proclaimed “The Most Beautiful Man in the World.” Tony Torn gives a brave and memorable turn as Swan (1883-1972) in an immersive-ish production at Torn Page, a studio, salon and classroom in what was once the Manhattan home of Torn’s celebrated actor parents, Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. [more]

The Bigot

May 3, 2019

"The Bigot"’s mouthpiece is the splendid Stephen Payne. Scruffy and silver-haired, Mr. Payne revels in Jim’s cantankerousness and physical decrepitude. Bellowing in his resonant twangy voice as if in a Sam Shepard play, Payne is able to make the most corrosive statements sound funny while expressing emotion. His vivid characterization emits humanity, making the crusty Jim much more than just an ogre. By the end of the play, the role has accumulated the impact of an Arthur Miller-type figure due to Payne’s intense performance. [more]

The Battles of Richmond Hill

May 3, 2019

It is a well crafted story of a feisty seventy-something Sheila O’Connor (Nora Chester who does feisty beautifully) whose grandson, physician Brian O’Connor (an earnest Jordan Ahnquist), who worries about her believes she would be better off in a retirement community in New Jersey.  Brian tries to force the issue by telling Sheila that he has packed her a suitcase and is parked down the block waiting for her to accompany him to New Jersey. [more]

Ink

May 3, 2019

In the final analysis, "Ink" is too swift and too slick for its own good--or should I say, for our good? Even if you know some of the details it traffics in, they zoom by at such a rapid clip, that it’s sometimes hard to follow. Director Goold is to be faulted for the pace, no less than the playwright, Graham: it’s as if they both wanted to cram in too much information; and, despite the rave reviews this play and production continue to receive, some of it was lost on this particular reviewer. [more]

Socrates

May 3, 2019

For all you philosophy junkies out there—and you know who you are—Tim Blake Nelson’s world premiere "Socrates" at The Public Theater, the shining light of The Public’s Onassis Festival, is a treasure trove of ideas bantered, tossed, shredded and otherwise analyzed by a stage-full of ancient Greeks, led by the title character played with dignity and passion by the phenomenal Michael Stuhlbarg (the father in the film "Call Me By Your Name") and a cast of 16 mostly playing multiple roles. [more]

Entangled

May 1, 2019

Culturally relevant, emotionally resonant but languidly conceived, "Entangled" dramatizes the issue of gun violence in the contemporary United States. Playwrights Gabriel Jason Dean and Charly Evon Simpson’s structure is that of alternating monologues for its two characters. The play’s chief flaw is their overly literate dialogue that would be suitable for a graduate writing seminar or one of Edward Albee’s more rococo works.  “Inside, the funeral home smells like potpourri and middle-class despair.” [more]

Fruiting Bodies

May 1, 2019

With "Bodies," playwright Sam Chanse attempts to explore the realities of Japanese-American culture in the 21st century, but gets lost in the process. Bodies is at its core an exploration of familial ties and meaningful human connections, as is made clear by the time it reaches its multiple emotional climaxes. Its monologues about mushrooms and self-worth suggest a more ambitious artistic treatise, but ultimately weaken those other core themes. [more]

The Poor of New York

April 30, 2019

One of the theater's most skilled 19th-century melodramatists, Boucicault was uninterested in the finer points of history, character development, or narrative objectivity which, of course, is why, as the Metropolitan Playhouse's lively revival of "The Poor of New York" demonstrates, his works are often so much fun. That doesn't mean they're untruthful; it's just that Boucicault wasn't prone to letting a bunch of cumbersome details and ho-hum dramaturgical considerations get in the way of a good story or a necessary cause. But if you're aching to learn how Andrew Jackson's monetary policies and the peculiarities of his personality might have contributed to a downturn in the American economy, there's always the hope Aaron Sorkin will eventually write that play. [more]

All My Sons

April 29, 2019

Unfortunately in a play that is already crammed full of ominous hints, O’Brien’s production is very heavy-handed, underscoring the foreshadowing with a double line under each and every clue and signal of things to come. While the play has been given a most realistic production for the backyard of a house on the outskirts of an Ohio town by set designer Douglas W. Schmidt and costumes by designer Jane Greenwood that are redolent of the late 1949’s, the actors have been allowed to emote from the moment the curtain goes up. If you don’t guess the surprise ending in this production, you haven’t been paying attention. This may be intended to suggest Greek tragedy by the final curtain but there is no need to make it look like an antique production of "Medea," "Electra" or "Oedipus the King" – which would probably be more subtly staged today. [more]

Link Link Circus

April 28, 2019

“Welcome to the smallest circus in the world!” exclaims the beaming Isabella Rossellini at the start of her self-written whimsical performance piece "Link Link Circus." “This show is a theatrical conference on the subject of Can animals think, feel, and have emotions?” explains Ms. Rossellini about the aim of this enchanting exploration containing scientific flourishes where she is joined by her dog and a puppeteer for a delightful 80 minutes. [more]

Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain

April 28, 2019

Likability is in short supply nowadays and the three playwright/performers who created this comedy, based on an actual pamphlet handed to Americans during World War II, have spun the dry, inadvertently funny, official publication into a delightfully involving charmer.  (Copies of the actual pamphlet are available in the lobby.) Dan March, James Millard and Matt Sheahan, the actors, along with John Walton, the show’s director and co-author, treat the audience members as the American soldiers on English soil for the first time, totally ignorant of the British customs, language, sports, food, etc.   There’s a lot of winking going on to be sure as Lieutenant Schultz (Millard) and Colonel Atwood (March), Americans, and Major Gibbons (Sheahan), an Englishman, share with us everything we wanted to know about Britain but were afraid to ask. [more]

Burn This

April 28, 2019

For one thing, it takes far too long for Pale, Wilson’s most outrageous and flamboyant creation, to arrive on the scene. (Malkovitch was Pale in the original production and Adam Driver is Pale now, with different but equally effective results.) For another, the premise of the play requires Anna to be overly reserved and subdued, in contrast with Pale’s constantly explosive character. The customarily sure-fire director Michael Mayer somehow seems to have accentuated those problems with lethargic consequences. [more]

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

April 26, 2019

Playwright Taylor Mac’s Broadway debut, "Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus," comes with a great many pluses: three consummate clowns, Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen and Julie White, directed by George C. Wolfe, and a terrific set by Santo Loquasto. This ribald yet philosophical downtown comedy is making its debut at the Booth Theatre, usually home to sedate, serious dramas. While low humor seems to be the name of the game, the play also has a good deal to say on various topics like comedy and tragedy, political systems, class structure, the little people who generally do the dirty work, and parodying Elizabethan revenge plays. The humor in Gary is not for everyone, but those who relish low comedy will have a ball as do the actors on stage. [more]
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