News Ticker

Plays

Oresteia (Almeida Theatre)

July 30, 2022

If you have ever seen a play by Aeschylus, you know how static and slow they are, made up entirely of monologues and choral odes with hardly any action. It was Sophocles and Euripides who added what we consider drama to ancient Greek plays. Director Robert Icke’s new version of Aeschylus’ "Oresteia," the only complete Greek trilogy that remains extant, has been adapted into a updated tetralogy that is accessible, easy to identify with, and dramatically exciting. The Almeida Theatre production now at the Park Avenue Armory features magnificent performances by Anastasia Hille (Baptiste's wife Celia in the television series of the same name) and Angus Wright (Claudius, in Icke’s current also modern dress production of "Hamlet" running in repertory with Oresteia) as Klytemnestra and Agamemnon. Presented as a long evening of four plays, this is a commitment for the audience as the running time is three hours and 35 minutes with three intermissions. [more]

Hit the Wall

July 29, 2022

Jake Shore’s "Hit the Wall," though limited in its range, is very successful in its goals. It gives Adam Files and Alexandra Guerrero juicy roles as the aging mentor and the younger student who may have surpassed the master. It also depicts a world unfamiliar to most of us. Whether this world is entirely accurate is another question which only those in the know can tell us. However, the play as it now stands is an impressive but small piece of work. [more]

Happy Life

July 29, 2022

Ng has a far-reaching imagination and spins the many stories and characters of her "Happy Life" with admiral skill and abandon.  But it is just too heavy-handedly, head-scratchingly abstruse, not to mention unnecessarily full of foul language that somehow doesn’t jibe with the characters.  This is Theater of the Absurd put through the David Mamet grinder. [more]

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

July 26, 2022

While the play is rooted in its original 1955 period (its language, social mores, references, three-act form), this revival directed by Joe Rosario has attempted to place it in the present from the contemporary set and clothing and such props as cell phones and a great many uses of the f-word. However, without updating the dialogue, the play does not make sense reset in 2022, particularly in its archaic handling of homosexuality as it was referenced pre-Stonewall. Its themes of deception, greed and “mendacity” (a word made famous by this play) would seem to make the play contemporary but everything else about it including its hothouse atmosphere marks it as dated. [more]

The Kite Runner

July 25, 2022

The second problem is the performance of Amir Arison, star of nine seasons on NBC’s "The Blacklist," and eight Off Broadway dramas, playing both "The Kite Runner"’s narrator and its protagonist Amir. As the narrator, Arison is totally impassive giving little weight to the tumultuous events he describes. He also plays Amir as both a child and as an adult. While he is unconvincing as the child Amir from ages 10 to 12, his mostly unemotional portrayal of the adult Amir undercuts the events he describes. Still more damaging to the story, the violence has been toned down greatly, changing the villainous Assef from a psychopath to just a bully, and leaving out the shocking events in the soccer stadium demonstrating Taliban justice. The story still creates its own spell but is greatly diminished from the strengths of the novel. Luckily most of the supporting cast is quite excellent which saves the play. [more]

A Black and White Cookie

July 19, 2022

The chips fall into place by the end of A Black and White Cookie, perhaps a bit too smoothly, but the path to the ending is well constructed and fascinating. Morgenstein has caught the nuances of each character and his dialogue rings true particularly as inhabited by these five actors who are ably directed by Marcello Rollando who quite wittingly provides the play-by-play radio commentary of the Mets games which Harold listens to throughout the story. [more]

Sex, Grift and Death: An Evening of Plays by Steven Berkoff and Caryl Churchill

July 18, 2022

For its 35th anniversary, PTP/NYC (Potomac Theater Project) continues is exploration of little known British plays by major playwrights with the New York premieres of one acts by Steven Berkoff and Caryl Churchill. The triple bill entitled "Sex, Grift and Death" includes the first local productions of Berkoff’s "Lunch" and Churchill’s "Here We Go," as well as the first NYC revival of Churchill’s "Hot Fudge," last seen here at The Public Theater in 1990. While the productions directed by Richard Romagnoli (Berkoff) and Cheryl Faraone (Churchill) are fine as far as they go, they all seem a little too underheated to be truly theatrical for these in-yer-face, confrontational authors. The evening’s title sums up the themes of this triple bill. [more]

Mister Miss America

July 16, 2022

D'Astolfo (that’s duh-STAHL-fo, mkay?), who also wrote the piece, sends Taylor off like a firecracker from the moment he comes onto the stage, speeding through Taylor’s wry and witty dialect so fast, why Mother of Jefferson Davis, he’s passing the fox! D’Astolfo’s dialogue is chock full of delightful West Virginian-isms, gay and regional. Taylor is described in the script as “wide-eyed and winning,” and this definitely describes D'Astolfo in the role. He also adds to the play’s humor in a totally different capacity as the voice of the wry, off-stage announcer and master of ceremonies. [more]

Richard III (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

July 11, 2022

And of his behavior Richard continues to explain, “And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, I am determined to prove a villain.” In this production we see none of this though this speech comes near the beginning of the play. What we are offered is a one-dimensional action production which dilutes the play and entirely throws out historical authenticity. While Dede Ayite’s costumes are mostly period there are entirely modern touches like the two young princes, sons of the previous king, wearing gold sneakers. Instead, Richard is surrounded with people who have disabilities or physical challenges which somehow turns the play on its head: Lady Anne in a wheelchair, two deaf actors use sign language, Richmond (later King Henry VII) has cerebral palsy, and one of the courtiers who plays several roles is a dwarf. Nice to give all of these actors work but in this play it reverses the focus of the story and theme. [more]

Prince Charming, You’re Late

July 5, 2022

If you ever lived through the angst of an unrequited love, a romance impossible for one reason or another, then Billy Hipkins’ "Prince Charming, You’re Late" will hit the spot.  Directed by Perry Dell’Aquila, the monologue flows smoothly and movingly. Hipkins, a forty-something gay man with a gentle, softly sardonic nature, fell for a much younger actor in a Broadway show where he was employed as a dresser. Unfortunately, this was a job that put him up close and personal with the object of his frustrated affections.  Hipkins’ description of this unattainable young man is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, a vision of unattainable perfection in every way. [more]

Hamlet (Almeida Theatre)

July 4, 2022

Modern dress "Hamlet" productions can be problematic when the directors don’t plan out all the details. Robert Icke’s staging for London’s Almeida Theatre now at New York’s Park Avenue Armory is that rare production which has updated the play so well that it appears to be intended to be set in our time all along. Original, surprising and ingenious, the production amazes to the point we wonder why no one has though of these ideas before. The sleek, cool settings and costumes by Hildegard Bechtler brilliantly convey the corridors of power while the video design by Tal Yarden, a sort of closed circuit CNN, make William Shakespeare's tragedy feel up to the minute. This "Hamlet" is also accessible and easy to follow, even at a running time of three hours and 30 minutes. [more]

The Rise and Fall, Then Brief and Modest Rise Followed by a Relative Fall of…Jean Claude Van Damme as Gleaned by a Single Reading of His Wikipedia Page Months Earlier

July 1, 2022

"The Rise and Fall, then Brief and Modest Rise Followed by a Relative Fall of…Jean Claude Van Damme as Gleaned by a Single Reading of His Wikipedia Page Months Earlier" is the brobdinagian title of a tongue-in-cheek, hour-long comic riff on the life of a faded movie star.  The title is almost as long as the play. Timothy Haskell has written what is actually an extended elaborate skit brought to life by Joe Cordaro (perfect as a clueless Van Damme and other characters) and John Harlacher (hilarious as the all-knowing narrator) using puppets designed by co-director Aaron Haskell. The other director is Paul Smithyman who also designed the efficient conglomeration of a set which includes two podiums for the actors and a screen for the snippets of films and slides used to illustrate the story.  In front of the screen is a slotted board into which the actors insert funny two-dimensional stick puppets. [more]

Epiphany

July 1, 2022

Ira Levin’s sense of eerie foreboding initially looms over playwright Brian Watkins’ entrancing drama, "Epiphany." As a reunion dinner party comically unfolds, we anxiously await supernatural surprises and a metaphysical denouement. Instead, as indicated in Mr. Watkins’ script we get a beguiling existential exploration referencing themes, characters, and the snowy atmosphere of James Joyce’s 1914 contemplative long short story, "The Dead." [more]

Chains

June 27, 2022

The Mint Theater Company continues its three play mini-festival of the forgotten plays of Elizabeth Baker with "Chains." Given a polished – maybe too polished – production like the earlier "The Price of Thomas Scott," this play is also problematic, but in another way. Unlike her contemporaries John Galsworthy, George Bernard Shaw and Harley Granville-Barker, Baker’s "Chains" has a very narrow focus: the discontents of the lower middle-class white collar folk. All of the characters in the play’s first half (the script’s Act I and II) do nothing but either complain about the grind of their daily six-days-a-week jobs (half-holiday on Saturday) or laugh at those who would give up a steady employment. You would think that back in 1909 when the play was written there wasn’t anything else to talk about. Jenn Thompson’s direction is conventional and sedate where something more animated might have been more to the point. [more]

The Orchard

June 26, 2022

Such an event is the high-tech adaptation at the Baryshnikov Arts Center calling itself "The Orchard," conceived and directed by Igor Golyak, described as based on "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov as translated by Carol Rocamora. If you don’t know the play, you will be entirely at sea. If you know the play, you will marvel at all the totally unnecessary tricks used by the director that do nothing to help with understanding the play or ferreting out its meaning. Although the production has a fine cast headed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jessica Hecht, the actors are swamped by all the unnecessary trappings around them. [more]

Lessons in Survival: 1971

June 26, 2022

Originally broadcast on "Soul!," an early PBS program dedicated to showcasing Black arts and politics, Baldwin and Giovanni's one-on-one echoes contemporary concerns while also remaining decidedly of its era. Unearthed by a theater collective and other trapped-at-home artists during the pandemic for an online recreation, it has now been transformed again, this time into a staged adaptation titled "Lessons in Survival: 1971." In truth, "googled" is likely the more appropriate verb for how someone found the Baldwin-and-Giovanni conservation, since it is entirely available on YouTube, where, to be honest, it is best experienced, not least because in that digital form it can be rewound for another listen, which a few of Baldwin and Giovanni's complex, unannotated arguments definitely require. [more]

Corsicana

June 23, 2022

"Corsicana" is a heartfelt and absorbing family drama that’s been given a pretentiously distracting production: just for starters, its cryptic houselights up preamble is at odds with the play’s naturalism. Playwright Will Arbery is a Pulitzer Prize-finalist for his heralded oddball right-wing political exploration, "Heroes of the Fourth Turning." Here, he offers a mostly conventional present-day clash of siblings’ tale which he has stated is autobiographical. [more]

Circle Jerk

June 22, 2022

In 'Circle Jerk," this cocky duo confidently preen, bray and cavort while donning various wigs and flamboyant costumes as multiple fey stock characters for over two numbing hours of their self-congratulatory twaddle. Their grating characterizations are achieved by intently staring into the camera, making faces, raising eyebrows and doing voices. It’s not "Your Show of Shows," but a niche audience of friends, relatives and trustafarians who could be amused by their antics. Cat Rodríguez appears in several female roles with campy flair. [more]

Garden of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story

June 22, 2022

Romy Nordlinger has written and is performing the monodrama, "Garden of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story," at the TheaterLab.  Directed by Lorca Peress, "Garden of Alla" gives us this eccentrically talented artist up close and personal. Nordlinger has a history of portraying Nazimova and has honed her interpretation to the point that it fits her like a second skin, helped by Peress’ sense of pacing and stagecraft. [more]

Queen

June 19, 2022

Shekar’s script is extremely smart, funny at just the right moments, and morally gripping. Her characterizations of Ariel and Sanam are fully formed, uniquely individual and carefully complementary:  Ariel is a crunchy-granola, bee-loving, single mom who’s desperate to prove Monsanto’s guilt, and Sanam is intense, strong-minded and honest to a fault. Through the character of Arvind, Shekar introduces the notion to Sanam that she and Ariel are looking at their study through the impartial lens of confirmation bias. The character of Dr. Hayes adds just the right amount of antagonism, almost sinister. Although there’s lots of statistics jargon in the script, it never impedes the progress of the story, thanks to the actors and director Aneesha Kudtarkar, who skillfully shapes the piece, finely intertwining the performances to maximum impact. [more]

The Refugees

June 13, 2022

Kaliski attempts a clever conceit marrying "The Oresteia" characters to the modern tragic story of the homeless hordes. Does "The Oresteia" provide an effective jumping off point to explore this timely and heartbreaking issue? Sadly, the answer is no.  Kaliski has written a play whose subject matter is only tangentially connected to the characters Orestes, Electra and Clytemnestra who, in Greek mythology, lived in ancient Argos. Their stories of patricide and matricide and other ‘cides have no connection—emotional or situational—to the problem at hand and Kaliski doesn’t try very hard to splice the two subject matters together. [more]

Five By Tenn: An Evening of Short Plays by Tennessee Williams

June 11, 2022

Tennessee Williams’ full-length play’s titles, characters and dialogue have been part of the consciousness since "The Glass Menagerie"’s 1944 premiere. During his peak years of the 1940’s and 1950’s, he also wrote many one-acts, exploring his familiar concerns, chiefly the naïve preyed upon by the worldly. "Five By Tenn" is an enchanting program drawn from these, which are uniformly satisfying. This modest Off-Off-Broadway production is presented by the Out of the Box Theatre Company, whose members are artists mostly over the age of 50. The show serves as an introduction to rarely performed obscure Williams works, all of which take place in drab bedrooms, and as a showcase for the talented mature cast. [more]

Gratitude

June 10, 2022

The animated Aline Salloum fearlessly embraces all of Najaf’s unsettling complexities, delivering a riveting performance. In the early sexually frank verbal exchanges, Ms. Salloum marvelously recalls Elaine May’s matter of fact comedic brilliance. With his captivating boy next door presence, Erik Larsson as Drew offers a smashing characterization combining naiveté and Machiavellianism. As Josh and Ben, the equally commanding and personable Jalen Ford and Jake Bryan Guthrie wonderfully evoke boyish randiness and adolescent confusion. Though clearly not teens, this youthful quartet are totally and effortlessly believable in their roles. [more]

Mr. Parker

June 8, 2022

"Mr. Parker," the latest play by Michael McKeever whose "Daniel’s Husband" has been produced twice Off Broadway, has been given a stylish production by director Joe Brancato who also directed the earlier play. David Goldstein’s one-room studio set situated in the East Village is elegant and cozy. The costumes by Myra Oney are chic. The acting by its trio of actors is polished and urbane. Even its premise of a gay man dealing with the sudden death of a long-time partner and husband is up-to-date and timely However, as written the play seems superficial and slight. Dramatically it avoids all the big scenes that might have been included. It remains entertaining but without the payoff one wants in such a drama. [more]

A Healthy House

June 7, 2022

Diriwachter is particularly skilled in writing working class vernacular.  The Father and Tim speak the same language and he catches all the subtleties of decades of ups and downs.  He also is wonderful with the two salesmen, cleverly finding the rhythm of their spiels that build up to the final pitches.  His salespeople are written as clever but not unfeeling so that the audience never totally believes that the Father and son are being betrayed and cheated. [more]

B-Boy Blues The Play

June 7, 2022

Can a 27-year-old Black gay professional journalist and a 21-year-old Blatino bicycle messenger with an out of wedlock son find love and happiness together in Brooklyn? That is the crux of author James Earl Hardy’s compelling class-conscious drama "B-Boy Blues The Play," where all of its characters are confident of their varied sexuality. Mr. Hardy, an accomplished entertainment reporter, published his novel, "B-Boy Blues: A Seriously Sexy, Fiercely Funny, Black-on-Black Love Story," in 1994. It led to five sequels, a short story and an upcoming film version. Hardy’s stage adaptation premiered at New York City’s 2013 Downtown Urban Arts Festival (DUAF), which is also presenting this production. [more]

Sky of Darkness

June 6, 2022

Following the lead of Francis Ford Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now," Siting Yang has updated Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness" to the present but left the story mainly set in Africa. In "Sky of Darkness" as the narrator Ma Luo (Yang’s new Marlow) is Chinese, the tale is now an exposé of Chinese interference in African affairs both financial and military. However, Yang complicates the story by having it periodically interrupted by The Ghost of Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe who famously gave a lecture criticizing Conrad’s novella in 1975 from an African point of view as racist and stereotyped. But this Achebe doesn’t object to the story as a xenophobic work of post-colonialism but criticizes Conrad for what he says he did not see. He doesn’t take into consideration that Conrad’s story is told by a series of narrators and that Captain Marlow is horrified by the repression he does see by the European rulers (in his time the brutal Belgian occupation). [more]

A Kid Like Rishi

June 4, 2022

Origin Theatre Company’s stark production of Kees Roorda’s A Kid Like Rishi is a totally involving Rashomon-like take on a real-life tragedy:  In November of 2012, 17-year-old Rishi Chandrikasing, a young man of Indian descent, was shot and killed at a train station in the Hague by a policeman. Was it a case of racial profiling? A justified shooting? Accidental? In the English translation by Tom Johnston, Roorda thoroughly examines the event through the testimony of twenty or so witnesses all played by three disparate, but complementary actors:  Sung Yun Cho, Atandwa Kani and Kaili Vernoff, all three quietly intense. The cell theatre’s well-known flexibility was put to good use by the scenic designer Guy de Lancey who placed the audience on four sides of a long wooden table around and upon which the actors performed Koorda’s sad docudrama. [more]

…what the end will be

June 2, 2022

In four scenes spanning a few months, Ra renders his gay family trio’s life events, medical situations, numerous clashes and resolutions with pungent topicality. The pandemic is referenced, gender and pronouns are discussed, and cultural bromides are stated: “Black people can’t be racist. I read that on the Facebook.” Ra’s characters are given rich portrayals by the splendid cast. With his melodious voice, priceless facial expressions and stage presence, veteran actor Keith Randolph Smith grounds the production with his towering performance as Bartholomew. As Maxwell, the fiery Emerson Brooks supremely conveys the character’s bottled-up emotions, offering a moving psychological portrait. The personable Gerald Caesar’s Tony is a vivid take on adolescent struggle. Randy Harrison as Charles offers a winning take on the supportive spouse with his straightforward vocal delivery and calm manner. Lithe, animated and spunky Ryan Jamaal Swain hilariously and poignantly tranmits all of Antoine’s facets. The radiant Tiffany Villarin combines levity and warmth as the noble Chloe. [more]

Fat Ham

May 30, 2022

James Ijames’ "Fat Ham" (all puns intended) is the latest and most successful modern riff on the Bard turning Hamlet into an expression of the Black experience while at the same time having much fun at Hamlet’s expense. As one of the few comedies to ever win the Pulitzer Prize, we should be hearing more soon from this talented playwright whose "Kill Move Paradise" in 2017 appears to be his only other New York credit, also directed by Saheem Ali. Already an associate artistic director/resident director with The Public Theater, Ali has previously worked wonders with "Merry Wives," "Nollywood Dreams," "Shipwreck," "Fires in the Mirror," "The Rolling Stone," "Passage," and "Fireflies," among others at various theaters around town. As usual his casting choices are perfect to the nth degree. [more]

The Legend of the Waitress & The Robber

May 27, 2022

Written by Renee Philippi, this witty mockery of authoritarianism is derived from Friedrich Schiller’s play "The Robbers" and the Korean novel "The Story of Hong Gildong." Composer and lyricist Lewis Flinn’s smart original score joyously recall’s Kurt Weil’s galvanizing melodies and Bertolt Brecht’s biting lyrics. It’s rousingly rendered by musical directors Jacob Kerzner and Hee Eun Kim. [more]

Jews, God, and History (Not Necessarily in That Order)

May 25, 2022

Takiff is a skilled performer who never loses the audience no matter how angry or sardonic he gets.  He is helped by the mood setting lighting of Elizabeth M. Stewart and the sound and video contributions of Matthew Chilton.  Mark Mindek provides some minor, but effective, dance bits. Brian Lane Green’s direction made all of pieces fit together into a cogent whole. As difficult as the subject matter is, "Jews, God, and History (Not Necessarily in That Order)" should be seen as a fresh, in depth consideration of the subject matter. [more]

Golden Shield

May 23, 2022

Although playwright Anchuli Felicia King’s plays have been performed in London, Washington, D.C., Staunton (Virginia), Melbourne, and Sydney, her Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-nominated "Golden Shield" appears to be her first New York main stage production. Ostensibly about a young, idealistic lawyer’s attempt to bring her sister on board as a translator in a risky legal battle with a multinational tech corporation, the play is about half a dozen other things as well: sibling rivalry, child abuse, ethical turpitude, human rights issues, governmental suppression of the internet, legal loopholes, and corporate greed. The play actually conflates two different very real lawsuits (against internet giants Yahoo and Cisco) which may explain why it is initially so complicated. [more]
1 2 3 51