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Plays

Horse

June 26, 2017

Ms. Bentley has vibrantly coordinated all of the presentational elements into an intriguing 75-minute production with her commanding staging. The present, the past, and inner lives all converge through the flawless unison of movement, dance and stage effects. [more]

Underground

June 25, 2017

Two likeable people, James (Michael Jinks) and Claire (Bebe Sanders) meet online, have dinner in a local pub owned by Steve (Andrew McDonald) and take the Underground home. That’s about it. Of course, that’s only the basic, very basic, outline. What makes "Underground" a quiet delight is the way van Tricht takes this trite situation and beefs it up with insightful conversation, intriguing situations that border on the fantastic and a clear empathy with her characters. [more]

The Traveling Lady

June 23, 2017

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Foote (1916-2009) was acclaimed for his cycle of plays that celebrated his native, rural Texas that included "The Trip to Bountiful."  In "The Traveling Lady," he characteristically depicts the human condition with everyday conflicts, regional dialogue, and richly delineated and lovingly rendered characters.  Those qualities make these vivid roles for actors. [more]

Invincible

June 23, 2017

Betts' "Invincible" has been compared to Alan Ayckbourn’s work.  Although there are similarities, particularly in Betts’ ear for capturing the jargon of his characters and his feel for social class distinctions, Ayckbourn’s plays are more delicately constructed and make their points—whether social or emotional—more cleverly than Betts.   Even so, Invincible—the title a football reference—is satisfying as both a comedy and a drama, breaking more than a few hearts. [more]

That Which Remains

June 20, 2017

Ms. Donovan’s enthralling opening sequence sets the tone for the production. Behind the curtains are actors in silhouette with their shadows on view.  Other cast members appear to the side of the auditorium and proceed on to the stage.  There are numerous gorgeous stage pictures and compelling movement and dance numbers.  The play’s infamous violent set pieces are boldly realized.  [more]

Death Comes for the War Poets

June 17, 2017

In the play which is billed as “a dramatic verse tapestry,” playwright Joseph Pearce ably weaves together poems and diary entries by Sassoon and Owen with extracts of other writers of the era.  Though Mr. Pearce identifies the characters as the English Sassoon and Owen, he provides scant biographical details about them. From this treatment, they could be any British young men of that time.  [more]

A Hunger Artist

June 16, 2017

"A Hunger Artist" takes morbid subject matter and turns it into a metaphorical look at obsession and human suffering.  By focusing on one hunger artist, Luxenberg and Levin manage to make a universal statement that leaves the audience bereft, images of unbelievable suffering lingering long after leaving the theater. [more]

Zero Hour

June 14, 2017

Bearded, stocky and with that distinctive, wild comb-over of salt and pepper hair and wearing an artist’s smock, Brochu vividly conveys the visual, vocal and personality characteristics of the Broadway legend. For 90 enthralling minutes, he dramatizes and enacts the remarkable life and career of that unforgettable performer. [more]

Maps For A War Tourist

June 11, 2017

Created by the documentarian theatre company Sister Sylvester, "Maps for a War Tourist" was intended to be a biographical exploration of the life of Deniz Karacagil. A former Turkish art student, Ms. Karacagil was arrested three years ago for wearing a red scarf outside. That was interpreted by the authorities as a provocative gesture in support of socialism. [more]

The Artificial Jungle

June 11, 2017

Ludlam also starred in "Artificial Jungle," his last of 29 plays, which he also directed. It took its inspiration from Emile Zola’s "Therese Raquin," which had already inspired James M. Cain to write "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Double Indemnity," each of which became a hit film. Ludlam also set out, with Jungle, to write a crowd-pleaser, and he succeeded with critics and theatergoers alike. [more]

Remembering Evangeline

June 10, 2017

Carlo Adinolfi plays John, the performance artist. With his British accent and wiry physicality he has an intense presence but possesses limited charisma. Mr. Adinolfi’s simple but inspired scenic design with its aesthetically arranged white sheets and white bench and white cabinet with wigs provides a compelling landscape for the actions. [more]

On Strivers Row

June 9, 2017

Like in a Noel Coward comedy, the witty zingers come fast and furious: “That her big white Cadillac looks like a pregnant Frigidaire,” “Did you say she was from Newark or Noah’s Ark?”, “Harlem has gotten to be such a cesspool of nobodies,” “You can’t raise a rose in a junkyard,” “The ribbon around your neck is loose. Tighten it.” It also offers some very wise statements on the relationships between men and women: “women grow old from neglect and not from age,” “Regardless of how bad we women look in the morning, Oscar, we never wake up needing a shave,” “She loves the ground he staggers on.” However, the play also makes clear the rivalry between various Black enclaves: Harlem, Brooklyn and Washington, D.C. Dolly, Tillie and Mrs. Pace make pronouncements on the classiness of each. [more]

Great Again

June 7, 2017

The goal of their three week Women in Theatre Festival is “a direct response to gender disparity in theatre leadership, casting, and production, the objective of WIT is to broaden the opportunities for women artists, engage with an audience who seek an indie theatre experience, and add to the canon of women playwrights writing roles for women actors.” "Great Again" quite successfully fulfills these commendable aspirations. [more]

The End of Longing

June 6, 2017

Mr. Perry has certainly followed the maxim, “write what you know.” We follow the romantic and personal travails of four stereotypical, contemporary Los Angles types who have the financial resources for incessant self-examination. It’s a universe of meet cutes, overwrought emotional exchanges and happy endings. [more]

The Whirligig

June 6, 2017

Say this for actor Hamish Linklater: he writes juicy parts for his fellow actors. He also knows how to set up a sense of community. The New Group production directed by its artistic director Scott Elliott has a fine cast led by two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz and Zosia Mamet, just off six seasons of the recently ended HBO television series, Girls. [more]

Can You Forgive Her?

June 3, 2017

While most of the audience remained stony-faced, my companion and I were laughing hysterically throughout much of "Can You Forgive Her?", a black comedy if ever there was one, by Gina Gionfriddo at the Vineyard Theatre. It may be that many in the audience failed to recognize it was a comedy, and took it far too seriously, which is somewhat understandable, given the seemingly earnest yet cockamamie story--or rather stories--that unfold. [more]

The Government Inspector

June 2, 2017

Director Jesse Berger’s fast-paced staging is an exuberant amalgam of physical and verbal virtuosity combined with visual flair. A highlight is a crowd of characters hurrying into a closet and popping out one by one that’s out of a Marx Brothers movie. There’s also the spectacle of a group of bearded, shabby villagers of various heights storming The Mayor’s house in their flowing garments. [more]

Building the Wall

May 31, 2017

Unlike such political plays as Arthur Miller’s "The Crucible," David Hare’s "Stuff Happens" and the current "Oslo" by J.T. Rogers, Building the Wall is speculative political fiction. Projected into the not-so-distant future, it takes place after a terrorist attack has released a dirty bomb in Times Square irradiating two square blocks. As a result, President Trump has declared Martial Law and begun rounding up millions of immigrants for deportation. This extraordinary move which had gotten out hand has led to his impeachment and exile to Palm Springs. "Building the Wall" takes place in 2019 in a prison meeting room in a federal lock-up in El Paso, Texas. Gloria, an African American historian and college professor, has come to interview Rick, a white man, who is awaiting sentencing for his role as the former warden of a new Magnum Security private prison facility outside of El Paso for illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. It is Rick’s role in the disposal of bodies after a cholera epidemic in the overcrowded facility which has landed him in prison. [more]

Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

May 31, 2017

Expect great things from Udofia in the future. Both plays demonstrate that she writes full-bodied, three-dimensional characters, while "Her Portmanteau" reveals that she can also write a play from the heart whose emotions will pull you in and stay with you long after the final curtain. Also keep your eye on Chinasa Ogbuagu: playing two different women 36 years apart she is totally unrecognizable, you have to read the program to discover that it is the same actress, an extraordinary feat. [more]

Lou

May 30, 2017

The opening scenes augurs well, hinting at the deeper emotional motivation for Salome’s future behavior, her decision to avoid romantic involvement. As the lights gradually rise to reveal Salome, seated at her desk, her back to the audience, she is described by disembodied voices as a contradictory figure who is loved and respected in equal measure. Then Salome, the product of a respectable, well-to-do upbringing, tells a tale of being duped by the kitchen help when she was a child. The look on Mieko Gavia’s face as Lou Salome after revealing this traumatic event makes it clear that she will never be duped again. Ms. Gavia skillfully portrays Lou Salome as a stalwart anti-romantic who, nevertheless, knows that friendships with the influential males of her time were a necessary evil. [more]

The Woman Who Was Me

May 29, 2017

Mr. Grandbois’ engrossing scenario is in the vein of such feminist fantastical works as "Diary of a Mad Housewife" and "Up the Sandbox." An expedition to a salsa dance club, buying a puppy from gypsies behind a Home Depot, watching Clash of The Titans on television with her son and a trip to the zoo are rendered with exquisite literary detail that’s simultaneously comic and moving. Looking into an old mirror becomes a Proustian reverie of Lanie’s recollections of her dead grandmother. [more]

Rotterdam

May 27, 2017

An import from the United Kingdom, as part of the 2017 Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters, Jon Brittain’s "Rotterdam" is not based on a true story relating to events in the eponymous Dutch city. It rather focuses on a British lesbian couple, one of whom decides at the beginning of the play that she’s really a man and really wants to become transgender. The crux of the drama is between Alice and her lover Fiona, who, in the course of the play, becomes Adrian. But why the two of them moved to Rotterdam seven years ago, is never really answered in the play--rather posed as a recurring question--along with the question of whether or not they’re going to remain there. [more]

Reprise

May 27, 2017

Amidst Mr. Maierson’s barrage of mechanical set-ups and punch lines, there are a few amusing jokes and insightful observations. Reprise is in the tradition of substantive romantic comedies such as several of the works of Neil Simon and Bernard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year. However, it lacks the polish and depth of those perennials, and is also mired in bathos. [more]

Venus

May 26, 2017

The adept cast is led by Zainab Jah in the title role. In the one detail in which Parks’ play matches "The Elephant Man," Ms. Jah, a shapely, lovely actress, transforms herself into Venus right in front of the audience, painfully pulling on a padded costume that leaves nothing to the imagination. Ms. Jah’s Venus is a strong figure who rolls with the punches but is no match for the hypocrisy of the powers that be. She is a strong enough actor to keep her head above the fray. [more]

Derren Brown: Secret

May 24, 2017

It quickly becomes apparent that Brown is a master at reading body language--no less than facial and vocal expressions--to manipulate the many audience-members who participate and to read their inner thoughts. Brown’s patter is also built on an almost glib sort of false modesty, such as his saying, near the end, “This only works because we are story-focusing creatures.” Any given interaction doesn’t “work” because we’re focusing on the “story,” but because he knows just exactly how to get us all to see only what he wants us to. [more]

The Lucky One

May 19, 2017

Director Jesse Marchese has cast the play very strangely. Ari Brand’s Bob is a good deal shorter than his younger brother so that one must continually remind one’s self which is which. As Pamela, Paton Ashbrook also is taller than Bob. Is this a subtle hint that she doesn’t belong with him? Gerald has three friends who are guests in his father’s house. Andrew Fallaize’s Tommy, an idle fellow mad about golf, and his girlfriend Letty, played by Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, seem so much younger than Gerald that it stretches the imagination that they are his close friends. Gerald’s friend Henry Wentworth, a successful barrister played by Michael Frederic, looks so much older that it also seems rather unbelievable that they are bosom buddies. A delightful Cynthia Harris plays wise, compassionate Great Aunt Harriet in such an astute manner that she highlights all the subtext of her lines, the only actor in the production to do so. [more]

T.B. Sheets

May 18, 2017

The opening resembles that of Mann’s novel: a horse and buggy deliver a visitor to a tuberculosis sanitarium on a mountain top overlooking a valley, suggesting that the unspecified time is 100 years ago, prior to W.W. I. Immediately, the doctor discovers that the newcomer has T.B. and needs weeks of rest. This One Who Has Come from the City to Heal meets and interacts with the other denizens, including a healer, a mother of a degenerate child, one who is building a space ship, and one who composes sounds and visions, as well as having the ability to see those who have passed away. [more]

They Promised Her the Moon

May 17, 2017

In the ambitious T"hey Promised Her the Moon," playwright Laurel Ollstein explores a relatively untold chapter of American history. Solidly written but unsatisfyingly structured as a clunky series of flashbacks, confrontations and historical exposition, the play snaps to life in its final scenes. There the Salieri versus Mozart-style rivalry of Peter Shaffer’s "Amadeus" that has developed between the two antagonistic central figures is heightened. [more]

Iphigenia in Splott

May 15, 2017

The writing is poetically descriptive and moderately engrossing with plentiful profanity. It is, however, a decidedly grim scenario despite abundant humor. The conclusion is a rhetorical and optimistic rallying cry for social justice. The themes and message are all very well realized in this production. [more]

Seven Spots on the Sun

May 14, 2017

Director Weyni Mengesha’s physical staging is proficient since for 80 minutes the actors are competently placed throughout for a fluid presentation. Unfortunately, Ms. Mengesha has the sound at full blast and that’s distracting. Just as egregiously, Mengesha has the talented cast performing at full throttle, resulting in overwrought and collectively overall ineffective characterizations. [more]

Happy Days

May 13, 2017

At the end of this "Happy Days," it’s difficult not to be heartbroken by Ms. Wiest’s Winnie, particularly when she gets a rare glance at her significant other, Willie, who manages to crawl over the sand to serenade her with the “Merry Widow Waltz.” Jarlath Conroy playing Willie makes the most of his few scenes both behind and on top of the sandy mound. Somehow he even makes something of his slow crawl towards Winnie at the end. Seeing Ms. Wiest’s face at that moment is worth sitting through Beckett’s theatrical obfuscations. [more]

A Doll’s House, Part 2

May 12, 2017

Hnath’s new story is absorbing and twisty, interestingly creating an entirely new set of ethical and social questions than was handled by Ibsen in 1879. He has handled it in a similar fashion to Bergman’s "Scenes from a Marriage" but without the painful emotional fireworks. It is 15 years since Nora had left her husband, stating he had no further claim on her. She has not been heard from since. Having become a famous feminist author with advanced ideas writing under a pseudonym, she has recently discovered due to a blackmail attempt that Torvald has never divorced her which she assumed he had done. Having lived as a single woman, signing contracts, controlling her own money, and having relationships with men not her husband, she is guilty of a criminal offense under Norway’s laws at the time and can be sent to jail. She arrives at his door to obtain her divorce to really be a free woman. [more]

And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little

May 10, 2017

Retro Productions’  50th anniversary revival of Paul Zindel’s "And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little" put the spotlight on an almost forgotten play that is worthy of revival. Shay Gines’ production with a game cast of seven is absorbing and compelling theater with characters that are bigger than life. Paul Zindel’s semi-autobiographical play comes alive in their hands. There may be more theatrical treasures to be mined from his collected plays. [more]
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