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Plays

Long Day’s Journey into Night (Bristol Old Vic)

May 22, 2018

Unlike many of the recent New York stagings, Eyre’s production makes it clear that the thrust of this four act play is an attempt for the Tyrones to exorcise their demons in one alcoholic infused night. Before it is over, each and every character will have bared his or her soul in one night of regret, guilt, despair and anger. So much gets revealed, there does not seem to be anything left unsaid by the final devastating curtain. He also has staged the first two acts (before the one intermission) with the characters talking so fast that it as if they do not want to have to stop and notice what they are running away from. Although Rob Howell’s bright and airy set (at least until night falls and the darkness creeps in) seems huge, all of the characters seemed to be caged animals pacing back and forth in forced confinement. [more]

She-She-She

May 22, 2018

Conceived by Carrie Heitman and written by Cynthia Babak it was developed in workshops over the last three years by the Hook & Eye Theater company. According to Chad Lindsey’s director’s note, “I wanted to let the performers create characters and situations that answered some of our creative questions and satisfied their curiosity about themselves and the historical women at the play’s core. What emerged is best described as a rhapsody….” [more]

Time’s Journey through a Room

May 21, 2018

In the spirit of the loquacious Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s "Happy Days," the animated Yuki Kawahisa beautifully portrays Honoka with sunny depth. Maho Honda as Arisa, the play’s unifying figure, is brilliantly wistful.  Veering from low key to emotionally volatile Kensaku Shinohara richly conveys Kazuki’s angst and anguish. This trio’s rapport and chemistry is palpable and is integral to the production’s success. [more]

Marlowe’s Fate

May 21, 2018

Hodges’ play is quite lively with each scene dramatizing one point and the cast of characters made up entirely of real people, not all of them still famous. The real problem is with the unsubtle and one-dimensional acting of the mostly deficient cast. The play also assumes that the audience is familiar with a great many Elizabethan names and personages like poet Michael Drayton and courtier and literary patron Sir Thomas Walsingham. "Marlowe’s Fate" dramatizes the “last nights” of both first Marlowe and then Shakespeare 23 years later, plus a spirited "Punch and Judy" interlude between Marlowe and Shakespeare for credit to the plays published under Shakespeare’s name. [more]

Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water

May 20, 2018

"Hercules Didn't Wade in the Water" is the winner of the Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.’s 2017 Emerging Playwrights Competition and this is its premiere. Michael A. Jones’ passionate eloquence and the strong performances compensate for the production’s limited presentational values.  [more]

The Gentleman Caller

May 20, 2018

Every once in a while the exactly right actor is matched with the right role and magic occurs. Such is the case with Juan Francisco Villa as the 34-year-old Tennessee Williams (before he became famous) in Philip Dawkins’ "The Gentleman Caller." Looking exactly like the playwright did at that age and sporting Williams’ well-known Southern accent, Villa is so ebullient, irrepressible and high-spirited that one has the feeling one has met the playwright himself. With perfect timing for Williams’ verbal comeback, many of which are taken from his own letters, quotes and diaries, Villa gives an extraordinarily three-dimensional performance in a role that has been depicted in other recent plays and one-man shows about the author. Some of the credit must go to director Tony Speciale for helping to craft this remarkable portrayal. [more]

Operation Crucible

May 18, 2018

While it’s meant to be helpful, a glossary of local jargon ("Operation Crucible" is set in Sheffield, England) in the program is usually a surefire sign that you’re going to have difficulty following the play. Adding to the confusion is that the often dimly lit play leaves us in the dark, in both senses of the phrase. Given the circumstances of the plot, it’s understandable that both director Bryony Shanahan and lighting designer Seth Rook Williams wanted to have many of the rapid-fire scenes unfold in utter pitch black. But it doesn’t abet in our comprehending what’s happening to Bob, Tommy, Phil, and Arthur (the last character is misrepresented as Andrew, in the program) most of the time. [more]

Bump

May 18, 2018

Ms. Atik complements her engaging contemporary scenario with creative theatricality. Interspersed are vignettes with six performers depicting the members of a nationwide pregnancy Internet message board. Atik also has contrasting sequences set in 1790 in rural Maine between Mary, a sheltered 19-year-old woman about to give birth for the first time.  Her husband is out of the way in the town’s tavern and an experienced midwife arrives to assist her. [more]

A Brief History of Women

May 17, 2018

Although the title covers part of the plot, the play is really a trenchant social history of Britain from 1925 – 1985 in four short sequences, showing the changes that take place in one house over 60 years and following the career of one everyman, Anthony Spates, known familiarly as Tony. It also follows the women in Tony’s life who help him, love him and leave him in each of four decades. While Antony Eden plays the phlegmatic Tony at four stages in his life (17, 37, 57 and 77) with equal aplomb, the rest of the cast play four characters each, a remarkable feat, as time marches on.  "A Brief History of Women" has the depth of a novel and the breath of an epic. [more]

Alternating Currents

May 15, 2018

Despite the complexity of the interactions of the people of Electchester and the poor folk at Pomonok, Kraar manages to end on a promising note.  "Alternating Currents," produced under the auspices of the Working Theater, is a diverting look what happens to an idyllic place after decades of reality intrude. [more]

The Jewish King Lear

May 14, 2018

Aside from being a tight domestic drama, The Jewish King Lear has several other differences from Shakespeare’s tragedy. Gordin’s Lear has a wife who is sorely put upon and under her husband’s thumb, as well as the old traditions. Gloucester and his sons are eliminated and Kent and the Fool are combined as Trytel, the steward, who often “rhymes like a real wedding jester.” Taybele, the Cordelia character, gets ahead through education and science rather than marriage to a noble. Gordin’s Lear is not only an advocate for the Jewish traditions of his forefathers he is also very much opposed to scientific advances and education for women, shades of Ibsen who was writing at the same time as Gordin. Dovidl’s heath speech does not take place outdoors but in his own house, now ruled by his son-in-law who has replaced him. [more]

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

May 14, 2018

There’s a brilliant play buried somewhere in Caryl Churchill’s "Light Shining in Buckinghamshire," a bottom-up historical epic about the English Civil War that the acclaimed British writer developed collaboratively with director Max Stafford-Clark and a group of actors back in 1976. Fifteen years later, it premiered stateside at the New York Theatre Workshop, where it has just returned for a ploddingly drawn-out second go-around that yielded a lot of empty second-act seats on the night I attended. [more]

Summer and Smoke

May 10, 2018

When Tennessee Williams started writing "Summer and Smoke," his working title for the play was "Chart of Anatomy," taken from a poem by Hart Crane. An anatomical chart becomes one of the very few props in the current Classic Stage Company and Transport Group revival of the 1948 play. Under the circumstances, the many players (a dozen in all) are often reduced to charades, as they describe a new gaudy hat, or a jigsaw puzzle, or gloves. For that matter there’s not really a set at all, only a large white platform in the center of the playing area, echoed by a large white rectangle hanging above--a kind of ceiling for the platform--and shortly after the prologue, six chairs, two of which will, at times, serve as a bench or a sofa. [more]

Transparent Falsehood: An American Travesty

May 10, 2018

The one bright spot is the 15-minute segment “Without Precedent.” It’s the title of Trump’s imaginary HBO comedy special and is the highlight of Ezra Barnes’ terrific performance as Trump. Kofman’s strategy is that less is more when comes to depicting Trump and so Mr. Barnes does not attempt to replicate his vocal or physical mannerisms. Instead with his slim physique and mellow voice Barnes is more like Fred Rogers on speed. [more]

Replay

May 10, 2018

To be sure, there are examples of talented playwrights who have also been able to tread the boards without tripping over their feet, or tongues. Harold Pinter, Noël Coward, Tracy Letts: they all come quickly to mind. Some theater historians have even argued that Shakespeare might have been a pretty good actor, too. But, still, it’s exceedingly rare to find a playwright like Nicola Wren, who can bring her words to life with as much passion and grace as she set them down. [more]

Dance Nation

May 9, 2018

Ms. Barron’s conception is more of an agenda driven fantastical tract rather than a well-crafted play with a cohesive plot. Her tone is of exaggeration and artifice with mannered dialogue that is intended to be hilarious yet thoughtful. A brief gag about "A Chorus Line" and a reference to the actual Telsey & Company Casting are some of the smug inside humor tossed in. [more]

Travesties

May 8, 2018

The play is narrated by Carr through his memories as an doddering 80-year-old man, returning him (and us) to his days as a 30-year-old resident of Zurich. As such he both unreliable, altering his story as he narrates his life, with “time turns” allowing us to see the same scene in an alternate form. Travesties is set in both his apartment as well as the then new Zurich Public Library simultaneously, while scenes from "The Importance of Being Earnest" keep intruding into his story both in literally as well as satirical form with Tzara as Ernest Worthing, Joyce as Lady Bracknell and Carr playing his original stage role of Algernon Moncrieff. Shades of Oscar Wilde, his sister named Gwendolyn is Joyce’s secretary as he writes his novel "Ulysses," while the librarian who is helping Lenin on his book is named Cecily. Gwendolyn and Cecily also play out the breakfast scenes from Wilde’s play around the tea table. A knowledge of Wilde’s comedy is mandatory. [more]

Saint Joan

May 8, 2018

After "Ruined" and then last year’s "A Doll’s House, Part 2," Condola Rashad is fast establishing herself as one of our finest young actresses. She is presently back on Broadway, offering a steely and, shall we say, saintly performance as the title character in George Bernard Shaw’s "Saint Joan" at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. [more]

The Iceman Cometh

May 7, 2018

Denzel Washington, the raison d’être of this production (coming way too soon after several recent stagings), gives a boisterous, almost pleasant performance as Theodore Hickman, aka Hickey, who is the “Godot” of "Iceman," in whom the godforsaken characters put too much faith, a faith that, by the end of the play, is shown to be clearly misplaced. There is absolutely no foreboding in his interpretation.  He takes the glad-handing aspect of Hickey too literally so it is difficult to understand his sway over the denizens of Harry Hope’s saloon.  True, these depressives look forward to his regular visits, but Washington’s Hickey simply doesn’t fit in. He’s more worshiped than embraced. [more]

The Rainmaker

May 6, 2018

“Never judge a heifer by the flick of her tail” is just one of the many kernels of down home wisdom in playwright N. Richard Nash’s lovely piece of Americana, The Rainmaker. It’s been tenderly revived by the Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company with every role perfectly cast. [more]

Judas

May 1, 2018

With a contemporary sensibility, Mr. Patrick dramatizes the familiar situations with simplicity, lively dialogue and tasteful irreverence. There is also excessive philosophical speechifying during some long-winded debates but these static Shavian bits are offset by the superior production and strong performances. [more]

Transfers

May 1, 2018

As Cristofer, Juan Castano is riveting in his honesty and his assurance. You could hear a pin drop during several of his monologue confessions as to why he didn’t do as well as he might have. His performance is almost frightening in its intensity. As the bookish Clarence, Ato Blankson-Wood is his diametric opposite, well-spoken, sensitive to other people, politically correct, well-mannered and able to hold his own in an intellectual conversation. He is equally intense in a quieter, more refined manner. Although both young actors have impressive New York credits, they should be better known after this. [more]

Daybreak

April 28, 2018

A speech of Madame Arcati’s from Noël Coward’s "Blithe" Spirit recited in Armenian is just one of the many highlights of Nicole Ansari’s awesome performance as Victoria.  The long-haired and physically graceful Ms. Ansari’s crystalline presence, twinkling eyes and tremulous voice are a joy to behold especially when she is supposed to be 90 years old. Ansari’s brilliance is showcased as she simultaneously conveys the character’s despair, resilience and humor as the production’s riveting centerpiece. [more]

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

April 28, 2018

"The Shakespeare Conspiracy" is based on Ted Bacino’s novel of the same title that he and Rufus Cadigan have adapted for the stage. Their effort is not in the league of such highly skilled dramatists as Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard and David Hare who used speculatively historical backgrounds for some of their esteemed works.  Instead, Mr. Bacino and Mr. Cadigan offer a choppy series of overheated episodes and vignettes spanning 40 years, from 1593 to 1633 chiefly taking place in England with plentiful and heavy-handed dialogue. [more]

The Metromaniacs

April 26, 2018

To add that "The Metromaniacs" also contains a play within the play, in which all of the characters are apparently playing themselves, might begin to suggest how confusing it all becomes, especially since they all enter and exit with a rapidity as if there were indeed a fire in the house--meaning Francalou’s no less than The Duke Theater on 42nd Street. [more]

We Live by the Sea

April 26, 2018

Devised collaboratively by Patch of Blue, a London-based theater company, the play also benefits from a talented supporting cast. Alexandra Simonet makes Hannah’s caretaker fatigue evident before she even says a word, but, somehow, you also never doubt her commitment to Katy. And Lizzie Grace is an absolute delight as Paul Williams, especially during a monologue late in the play, in which she pontificates on the importance of imaginary friends and gives insights into Katy that are both touching and profound. As for Ryan, Tom Coliandris does what he can with his character’s tacked-on back-story, but he shines when he’s simply required to be a warm, caring and decent presence. [more]

Mlima’s Tale

April 26, 2018

Structured like Arthur Schnitzler’s wicked "La Ronde," "Mlima" begins with a harrowing hunting scene.  Mlima, the giant elephant, is portrayed with dignity and astonishing physical vitality by Sahr Ngaujah ("Fela!," "Master Harold…and the boys"), in traditional African garb (character-perfect costumes by Jennifer Moeller) and colorful stripes of makeup. His opening moments involve an internal dialogue describing his dire situation chased by hunters.  He speaks of his tight family connections and his regrets just before he is slaughtered. [more]

Dress of Fire

April 23, 2018

The epic myth of the Trojan War gets a fanciful treatment in playwright Nina Kethevan’s "Dress of Fire."  Lasting about 95 minutes, it still packs in a lot of incidents with 12 actors sometimes declaiming classical text often directly to the audience. The visually superb production makes for a rather pleasurable experience even if one can’t keep track of everything, grows restless listening to long soliloquies or is not so enamored of the genre. [more]

Mangled Beams

April 20, 2018

Scenic designer Dedalus Wainwright utilizes a simple assortment of benches and office furniture for the first act. For the second, Mr. Wainwright creates a configuration of gray wood platforms and beams representing Ground Zero that adds an impressive visual and symbolic scope to the small-scale production. [more]

King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company)

April 20, 2018

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest "King Lear," as directed by Gregory Doran, is one that needs no explanation and no program notes. At one and the same time both medieval and contemporary, this production solves many of the questions that often go unanswered. In a glorious cap to his distinguished career, Sir Antony Sher gives a memorably luminous and unambiguous performance in the title role which should stand as a bar by which others will be measured. This is not only the perfect starting point for those unfamiliar with the play but also an excellent and notable interpretation for those who know it well. [more]

The Seafarer

April 19, 2018

Wearing a funereal suit, a black topcoat and a black fedora, Matthew Broderick as Mr. Lockhart has initial dry pleasantness giving way to chilling steeliness as he takes on the persona of a menacing interloper. With his mustache, gray hair and perfect accent Mr. Broderick has the aura of a drab Irish civil servant. It’s a subtly powerful and mature characterization that’s a far cry from his days of Neil Simon and "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" though Broderick occasionally still has that youthfully sly twinkle in his eyes. Broderick makes his second appearance at the Irish Repertory Theatre where he appeared in McPherson’s "Shining City" in 2016. [more]

Children of a Lesser God

April 16, 2018

A regular on the television series "Dawson’s Creek" and currently appearing on "The Affair," the affable Joshua Jackson plays James. Mr. Jackson’s talents are not showcased in this production. Jackson’s speech pattern is monotonous and his lack of sensuality makes the attraction between him and Sarah less than palpable. He gets through the role with professionalism but with little impact. Others in the cast make up for this void but the vacuum of implausibility looms. [more]

Lobby Hero

April 16, 2018

Ethical integrity versus moral turpitude is the theme of Kenneth Lonergan’s "Lobby Hero" now having its Broadway debut at The Second Stage’s newly renovated home, The Helen Hayes Theater. Although Trip Cullman’s production is very leisurely for at least the first half of this talky and long play first seen in New York in 2001, his quartet of impeccably cast players (Michel Cera, Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley and Chris Evans in his Broadway debut) have a field day with these ethically challenged police and security officers. "Lobby Hero" may appear at first to have a great many meaningless conversations, but it all becomes a tight web of intrigue as the tension rises in the second act. [more]
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