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Broadway

Between Riverside and Crazy

February 1, 2023

Living in his "palatial" rent-controlled apartment on one of Manhattan's most stunning architectural stretches, Walter "Pops'' Washington (Stephen McKinley Henderson) is an aging man of aging principles. A Black ex-cop, he presides over a crumbling kingdom from the figurative throne of his dead wife's wheelchair in Stephen Adly Guirgis' Pulitzer-Prize-winning "Between Riverside and Crazy." The gruffly engaging Henderson, along with the rest of the heady ensemble, feast on Guirgis' piquant dialogue that blends the sacred with the profane, the comic with the tragic, and earnest social commentary with intense silliness. It's just unfortunate that Guirgis' shaggily constructed plot inspires doubts about whether a brilliant cast and brilliant writing necessarily equate to a brilliant play. [more]

The Collaboration

January 9, 2023

While Bettany and Pope are each very convincing as Warhol and Basquiat since they are made up to look exactly like they did in life, they seem to be in two different plays, using different acting styles. The other problem with "The Collaboration" is that it feels very superficial, like a laundry list of items for them to discuss, while at least several of the dramatic devices are taken out of context or are relocated in chronology. It is certainly a fascinating premise: an older famous and fabulously successful artist whose star is fading and a younger rising star who has taken the art world by storm and seems to be unstoppable, brought together by their shared dealer. [more]

Ohio State Murders

December 21, 2022

McDonald is mesmerizing as she speaks Kennedy’s strong, clear, poetic and evocative prose. We never forget that McDonald’s Suzanne Alexander is giving a lecture but she changes ages in an instant as she becomes the wide-eyed and innocent college student in love with learning and new ideas, and then return to being the mature author with a shocking story to tell. McDonald shifts beautifully between idyllic scenes of college life, the ugly face of racism in the dorm and on campus, and the off-stage violence that defines the murders. While the play is not told in strict chronological order there is no problem in following the story of these few years in the early 1950’s that shape Suzanne Alexander’s life. [more]

Ain’t No Mo’

December 10, 2022

Jordan E. Cooper’s scathing new racial comedy, "Ain’t No Mo’" has made the successful transition to Broadway with five of the six original actors from the previous Public Theater staging in 2019 and a more elaborate physical production from an almost entirely different design team. Delving into Black life and attitudes now, the play is hilarious, but not laugh-out-loud funny, rather it's impressive because of its cleverness, but its satire does not trigger laughter. However, its outrageous form of satire may not appeal to all theatergoers. [more]

A Christmas Carol (Jefferson Mays)

November 27, 2022

Visually the show pulls out all of the stops continually making stage magic. Every scene offers new scenic effects and things that appear impossible but are right there on stage before you, and disappear in a twinkling of an eye to be replaced by new wonders. Beginning with Marley’s hearse in a flashback to seven years ago, Laffrey’s designs include Scrooge’s gloomy office, Scrooge’s staircase which somehow deposits him in his even darker  bedroom on the second floor, the depressing all-boys school that Scrooge attended as a youth, Fezziwig’s warehouse (Scrooge’s first real job,) a colorful Christmas panorama filled with food and presents, the poor kitchen of the Cratchit family, the lavish dining room of his nephew Fred, and a brightly lit snow-filled cemetery. Using streaming video projection, a revolving stage and seemingly magic acts, as well as fog and snow effects, the production attempts all things that are possible on a stage. [more]

Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & The Pool

November 20, 2022

Still, rest assured, most of what Birbiglia says is funny, even for any fans well aware that Birbiglia is leading us somewhere that is not. Given the eponymous Hemingway allusion, the show's mortal endpoint is obvious, but the journey to it is full of surprising, and sometimes touching, laughs. They begin with an annual health checkup that includes a worrisomely poor performance on a spirometer, the ball-and-hose machine that measures lung function. The results baffle Birbiglia's doctor, since they seem to indicate he was having a heart attack while taking the test. [more]

The Piano Lesson

November 14, 2022

LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson’s wife) has directed in a desultory fashion.  Long, revealing monologues, the backbone of this particular play, are delivered directly to the audience rather than to the other characters, making them more speeches than important character revelations.  She also chose to overdo the ending, which includes an ill-advised exorcism and won’t be ruined here. [more]

Topdog/Underdog

November 4, 2022

The 20th anniversary revival of Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "Topdog/Underdog," is just as powerful and absorbing as before with its story of two African American brothers Booth and Lincoln who are searching for the American Dream in opposite ways. Under the astute but leisurely direction of Kenny Leon (Tony Award Best Revivals of "A Soldier’s Play," "A Raisin in the Sun" and "Fences"), rising stars Corey Hawkins (Tony nominated for "Six Degrees of Separation," and appearances in the film versions of "In the Heights" and "The Tragedy of Macbeth") and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Emmy Award winner for HBO’s "Watchmen" as well as ensemble awards for the cast of "The Trial of the Chicago 7") give riveted performances in this two-hander. [more]

Walking with Ghosts

November 1, 2022

"Walking with Ghosts" is a decidedly intimate experience, one that seems tailor-made for an off-Broadway theater like the Irish Rep. Price and his production team try to expand the show to Broadway proportions through McKenna's lighting and aforementioned set and Sinéad Diskin's vivid sound design. But its true scale is human, which means all that's required is Byrne and his bravery. [more]

Death of a Salesman

October 19, 2022

To be clear, the casting isn't colorblind; it's just casting, with director Miranda Cromwell delicately drawing out a different set of lived experiences from Miller's almost untouched words. The play's West-End co-director Marianne Elliott has not  made the journey across the pond with its ongoing contributors, all of whom deserve kudos for the revelatory production, especially Wendell Pierce ("Broke-ology," "The Wire," "Treme") as Willy and Sharon D. Clarke ("Caroline, or Change") as Linda, his long-suffering wife. Though Pierce devastatingly pulls Willy apart in front of our eyes until all that's left is his sense of failure, it's Clarke who gives Willy's downfall its saddest dimension, convincing the audience, beyond any doubt, that the very-flawed Willy is loved. If seeing previous productions of "Death of a Salesman" has inured you to Willy's ultimate fate, this one should bring back the tears, and Clarke deserves a lot of credit for that difficult gift. [more]

Leopoldstadt

October 17, 2022

Tom Stoppard’s "Leopoldstadt" is a powerful achievement, a history of our time as well as a cautionary tale. In depicting Jewish life in Vienna from 1899 - 1955, It also reveals a way of life and a culture rarely seen on our stage. Patrick Marber’s superb production keeps the story progressing at just the right tempo both to follow the plot as well as reflect family life as it is really lived. There is not a weak link among the 36 actors in which all of the children’s roles are double cast. The excellent design team puts four generations of Vienna on stage of Broadway’s Longacre Theatre. [more]

Cost of Living

October 12, 2022

Perhaps because of its prestigious accolade, or just undeniable merit, "Cost of Living" is the first of Majok's heartfelt efforts to make the journey from off-Broadway to on-Broadway in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production, a transition that, thanks to director Jo Bonney's returning and unflinching guidance, hasn't diminished any of the play's intimacy or daring. If anything, on Wilson Chin's Bergman-meets-Bayonne turntable set, gloomily lit in unrelenting twilight by Jeff Croiter, "Cost of Living" has become even more persuasive and poetic. Invaluably serving that dramatic growth are actors Gregg Mozgala and Katy Sullivan, repeating their roles from the play's 2017 New York City Center premiere by MTC. [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]

American Buffalo

May 8, 2022

The 1975 play "American Buffalo," now onstage at the Circle in the Square Theatre in a crackling revival, remains the quintessential Mamet experience, the one that should be seen to fully appreciate what has been lost. Essentially a two-hander masquerading as a three-hander, it's a character study short on plot and long on self-delusion as a couple of small-time crooks imagine themselves as much more than they are while planning an ambitious heist. To say they're all talk gets to the satirical heart of Mamet's play. [more]

POTUS, Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive

May 8, 2022

In "POTUS," Selina Fillinger’s first Broadway comedy, all is revealed by its unwieldy subtitle (“Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive”) which leaves little room for development or surprise. The repeated statement “that’s the eternal question” in answer to why none of these women are President may be the real message behind this play. As staged by famed choreographer and director Susan Stroman, POTUS is frenzied rather than funny, a problem in farce. The seven famous actresses are undone by their one-note characters which give them little to play off of or expand on. A pity considering how few Broadway comedies there are these days and the quantity of talent on stage at the Shubert Theatre. [more]

The Skin of Our Teeth

May 4, 2022

You would think that at the tail end of a pandemic Thornton Wilder’s 1943 Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Skin of Our Teeth" would be the perfect play for our moment. This experimental play which pays tribute to the resilience of the human race offers hope in time of adversity. The experimental nature of the play uses techniques promulgated by James Joyce, Luigi Pirandello and Bertolt Brecht, none of which are so new or unfamiliar anymore: actors addressing the audience directly and stepping out of character, anachronistic events or references, etc. There are allusions to the Old and New Testament, Greek Mythology and Shakespeare. Writing in the middle of World War II, Wilder presciently made use of such themes as the problems of climate change, refugees, dysfunctional marriages, nepotism and political corruption, which remain at the forefront today. Even after 80 years, Wilder’s play seems eternally forward-looking, eternally novel, and continues to be an important piece of American theater. [more]

Macbeth

May 2, 2022

This 2022 "Macbeth" appears to be entirely a director’s project, but Sam Gold has done his actors no service with the busy activity he has added to the play. Fine actors like Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga who have demonstrated their top-flight acting chops on stage elsewhere have not been aided by the bizarre direction. Ironically, Shakespeare’s name is nowhere to be seen in the ads for the production. If this was to rope in the fans of Craig’s James Bond, this production gives them no help in following the play, a story of ambition and revenge, which should have been the point of the updating. Even if you are well-versed in the play, you will find yourself adrift much of the time. [more]

for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf

April 30, 2022

This Broadway production, a godchild of a recent 2019 production at The Public Theater (directed by Leah C. Gardiner), is directed and choreographed by modern dance luminary Camille A. Brown (who choreographed The Public Theater version, hence the pedigree).  Her take on Shange’s work is more matter of fact and streetwise than previous productions, her choreographic vision adding depth to the playwright’s vernacular, profane expressions of the consciences of a community of hard-pressed women. [more]

Hangmen

April 29, 2022

Taking the law into your own hands can be a risky business as Harry Wade and friends find out in Martin McDonagh’s hilarious dark comedy "Hangmen" which finally made its Broadway debut after being delayed two years by the pandemic. The cast of this Royal Court Theatre/Atlantic Theater Company production is somewhat different from the one that debuted Off Broadway in 2018 with four members of the original 11 person company remaining. British film star David Threlfall who made his New York stage debut in 1980 in his Tony Award nominated performance as “Smike” in "Nicholas Nickleby" returns to Broadway for the first time since 1997 in the leading role as Harry, the second most famous hangman in the United Kingdom. [more]

The Minutes

April 24, 2022

Tracy Letts’ "The Minutes" is both a fine political comedy as well as an indictment of how most Americans live today. It ultimately asks us to look at our values as well as our connection to the society around us. It will not make you so much as talk about it after you have seen it, but ask yourself if the indictment includes you. Continuing her connection to playwright Tracy Letts which began with "August: Osage County" in 2007, director Anna D. Shapiro adds another excellent contemporary play to her resumé. [more]

How I Learned to Drive

April 22, 2022

A lure of this Broadway premiere revival is 25 years later experiencing the acclaimed performances of much of its original cast. Being a memory play, their current ages are irrelevant, especially when their talents are impeccable. With her renowned charismatic stage presence, Mary-Louise Parker is monumental as Lil’ Bit. Ms. Parker’s drawling vocal delivery and magnetism fully and poignantly realizes the character from the perspective of an older woman looking back on her dysfunctional adolescence. The soft-spoken and shattering David Morse soulfully embodies Uncle Peck, a delusional W.W. II veteran who has descended into alcoholism and pedophilia. [more]

The Little Prince

April 18, 2022

Essentially, Mouron boils the story down to a couple lines about love and beauty, while eliding any sense of the loss, isolation, and dread that the novella also poetically conveys. Her little prince is a man-child incapable of engaging with life's pain rather than Saint-Ex's courageously inquisitive child-man who can't help but look for happiness in sorrow and vice versa. In the absence of this existential heft, the production makes room for co-director Anne Tournié's, admittedly, often charming choreography. A pas de deux between Zalachas and Sulty is particularly lovely, thanks in part to the latter's stunning, and protean, red dress from costume designer Peggy Housset. [more]

Birthday Candles

April 15, 2022

"Birthday Candles" also has an unusual theatrical device: we follow Ernestine Ashford from 17 to 107 meeting her on her various birthdays that are depicted.  The other characters come and go (by death, moving away, or dropping out of her life). Inspired by Thornton Wilder’s 1931 "The Long Christmas Dinner" which like "Birthday Candles" covers 90 years in one family, Wilder’s landmark play has also inspired Paul Vogel’s "The Long Christmas Ride Home" and Dan LeFranc’s "The Big Meal," as well as the breakfast table scene in Orson Welles’ "Citizen Kane." While Vivienne Benesch’s production for the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre is beautifully done giving Debra Messing a bravura role as Ernestine Ashworth in which she is onstage throughout, the play is devoid of surprises in covering 90 years in 90 minutes in the life of one woman, too predictable to feel fresh. And once the characters are introduced, they pretty much stay the same throughout the rest of the play. [more]

Take Me Out

April 11, 2022

As the most respected player in baseball, Williams has a quiet dignity and charm as a man of few words and few outward motions. While his wry remarks do not often come through as humor, he is very endearing as a man who has always had everything go his way but for the first time in his life must deal with events he cannot control. Ferguson in the role of Mason Marzac which won creator Denis O’Hare a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in 2003 makes the role his own. His social awkwardness as well as his delight at being close to the superstar is patently palpable. He also has a handle on the volubility and articulateness of this clearly deep thinking man. As the narrator Kippy who is also a member of the team, Adams holds our interest as a compassionate man who uses big words and is known as an intellectual among his teammates. He has the task of doing a great deal of explaining both to his teammates and us and he does an excellent job without making it seem like exposition. [more]

Skeleton Crew

January 29, 2022

Set in the breakroom of a stamping plant in 2008, Ms. Morisseau achieves a high level of dramatic writing with this well observed exploration of Black working-class life. Each of the short scenes is perfectly crafted, imparting exposition, plot points and narrative momentum. Morisseau also has created four vivid, appealing and humane characters who speak her authentically rich dialogue and who are majestically performed. [more]

Clyde’s

December 4, 2021

As the manager of the restaurant, Aduba gives one of those big performances which are larger than life, but we have all met that type of people. She batters, insults, cajoles, berates her staff: is it to drive them to new heights or she is paying the world back for her tough life? Is she an incarnation of the devil or Satan? The gas fires that shoot out of the stage periodically make us wonder. When they receive a rave review in a local newspaper she belittles them as though they had nothing to do with the restaurant’s success. Wearing a new and colorful skintight outfit by Jennifer Moeller and multiple hairdos by Cookie Jordan each time she enters through the swings doors from the restaurant into the kitchen, she is a bigger and bigger surprise by what she says and what she threatens. As the dangerous and intimidating Clyde, she gives an indelible performance; just try to take your eyes off of her when she is onstage. [more]

Trouble in Mind

November 21, 2021

If Alice Childress’ 1955 Off Broadway hit, "Trouble in Mind," had transferred to Broadway in 1957 as it was scheduled to do, it would have been the first play by a Black playwright to reach the main stem. As if happened, the white producers wanted continual softening of the play’s ending and after two years of rewrites Childress threw in the towel. Ironically, this is exactly the theme of her backstage play. As things worked out, the softer Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, less critical of its white audience, became the first play by a Black woman writer to reach Broadway in 1959 and the rest is history. Now history is being remade with the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of "Trouble in Mind" at Broadway’s American Airlines Theatre 64 years later with a fine cast led by Tony Award winners LaChanze and Chuck Cooper. [more]

The Lehman Trilogy

October 22, 2021

Wearing costume designer Katrina Lindsay’s artful business attire is the distinguished British trio of Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester. They initially portray the three Lehman brothers, then in an exhilarating display of superior acting, they play a gallery of other major and incidental characters with Dickensian flair. Whatever the figure’s gender, age or varied social status, each actor offers many full-blooded characterizations emitting force and pathos through their expertly altered voices and grand physicality. Time passes, people die, and we feel sad having gotten to know them through these performers’ indelible depictions. For the Broadway incarnation, Mr. Lester replaces the unavailable Ben Miles who performed in the previous productions. [more]

Thoughts of a Colored Man

October 20, 2021

Keenan Scott II’s engrossing Broadway debut play, Thought of a Colored Man, appears to be a masculine version of Ntozake Shange’s 1976 "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" updated to 2021. Both plays have seven unnamed characters all the same gender, take place in 20 scenes, and mix poetry, prose and dialogue. However, Scott’s play develops characters that each have a through line and they encounter each other as members of the same Brooklyn community. Set on one Friday from 6 AM to 1 AM the next morning in a Brooklyn community experiencing gentrification, we meet seven African American men in various combinations each given a monologue addressed directly at the audience to tell us part of their stories. In the final scene, they announce their names (Love, Happiness, Wisdom, Lust, Passion, Depression and Anger) but by then most of these appellations have become obvious. [more]

Chicken & Biscuits

October 18, 2021

Douglas Lyons’ new comedy, "Chicken & Biscuits" introduces us to the dysfunctional Jenkins/Mabry clan at the funeral of its patriarch Bernard, the former pastor of his New Haven church. Among the various glitches are the arrival of an uninvited family member and the appearance of the gay boyfriend of the son. Sound familiar? The new wrinkle in this Broadway play is that the family is Black.  While the formula may be time-worn and familiar, Lyons’ play directed by Zhailon Levingston (also making his Broadway debut as the youngest Black director in Broadway history) is fast-paced and generally bright and appealing. Veteran stars Norm Lewis and Michael Urie lead a fine cast that includes the Broadway debuts of five performers who may be familiar from television, film or Off Broadway. [more]

Lackawanna Blues

October 15, 2021

Employing his majestic vocal and physical talents, Santiago-Hudson supremely differentiates each of his brief characterizations with specificity and pathos. There’s also a poignant dynamic as he plays himself as a child and now at his current age. Santiago-Hudson’s staging is equally as assured as visually and aurally and the production is impeccable. Blues guitarist Junior Mack is onstage dramatically matching the spoken words with his skillful performing of Bill Sims Jr.’s intense original music. [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]

Dana H.

February 26, 2020

Wearing costume designer Janice Pytel’s arresting black and red ensemble, Ms. O’Connell mostly sits in a chair on scenic designer Andrew Boyce’s authentically detailed drab and ominous motel room set. With her haunting eyes, flowing hair and magnetic countenance, O’Connell vividly channels Higginbotham’s presence. Her lip-synching, gestures and facial expressions are all flawless. The presentation’s conceit is realized by O’Connell’s supreme artistry. [more]
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