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Broadway

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]

Grand Horizons

February 10, 2020

Bess Wohl's "Grand Horizons" opens with a pas de deux of marital inertia as Nancy (Jane Alexander) and Bill (James Cromwell), two near-octogenarians wasting their twilight days in a so-called independent living community, wordlessly go through the motions of sitting down to dinner. Their silence, and apparently 50-year marriage, are finally both broken when Nancy dispassionately declares that she "would like a divorce" and with equal nonchalance Bill responds, "All right." Confidently staged, or rather choreographed, by director Leigh Silverman, it's an extraordinary scene that, in truth, could stand alone as its own very brief play with the audience, possibly to its experiential chagrin, imaginatively filling in everything that came before. [more]

A Soldier’s Play

February 5, 2020

David Alan Grier, Blair Underwood and Billy Eugene Jones in a scene from Charles Fuller’s “A [more]

My Name Is Lucy Barton

January 28, 2020

Laura Linney is never one to avoid a challenge. When she last appeared at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre she was alternating in the roles of “Regina” and “Birdie” in the revival of Lillian Hellman’s "The Little Foxes" and won a Tony Award for Best Actress for her efforts.  Now she is back in an adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s novel "My Name is Lucy Barton" where she plays both the title character and her mother and is the only performer on stage. Directed as she was in the London production by Richard Eyre, she beautifully captures the tone and voice of Strout’s heroine. [more]

The Inheritance

December 24, 2019

Samuel H. Levine, Kyle Soller and Andrew Burnap in a scene from Matthew Lopez’s “The [more]

A Christmas Carol

November 26, 2019

Campbell Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge and Dashiell Eaves as Bob Cratchit in a scene from Jack [more]

Slava’s Snowshow

November 18, 2019

"Slava’s Snowshow" is a unique experience. It is clowning of a sophisticated sort with its wordless skits which takes it beyond language. Its set pieces are outrageous enough to transcend anything other clown shows are doing at present. At 110 minutes, it is just long enough to not overstay its welcome. The audience participation sequences will make you feel that you are part of the show and the clowns play off of audience reactions throughout. However, as the clowns are more somber than playful it may not be for people easily depressed or very young children who have not seen the magic of theater before. [more]

The Great Society

November 6, 2019

LBJ’s ambitious social programs in the United States of the 1960’s being sidetracked by the folly of the Vietnam War and his mishandling of the unrest caused by the Civil Rights Movement, have been the subject of books, documentaries and television docudramas. Playwright Schenkkan’s stage treatment of this material is a clumsy waxworks affair of a multitude of forgotten and remembered personages spouting off during two choppy acts.  [more]

The Sound Inside

October 30, 2019

On Broadway every once in a while writing, acting, directing and the technical production come together to profound, memorable effect.  Adam Rapp’s "The Sound Inside" at Studio 54 is a superb example of this phenomenon.  Originally staged at the Williamstown Theater Festival, the move to Broadway, and a much larger theater, works incredibly well. [more]

The Rose Tattoo

October 28, 2019

To be sure, Serafina and Alvaro's romance is less than credible, but director Trip Cullman wisely commits to it completely, recognizing that Williams really hasn't given him any other choice. Luckily for Cullman, he has the ebullient Tomei to portray Serafina and keep the audience from losing faith that the character's happy ending is just over that lovely Gulf Coast horizon, no matter what miseries she's endured. [more]

Linda Vista

October 25, 2019

Tracy Letts’ latest play to reach New York via the Chicago Steppenwolf production is the comedy drama, "Linda Vista," in which a 50-year-old white man in San Diego going through a messy divorce finds his life spiraling downward as he attempts to deal with his personal demons in a major midlife crisis. Presented in New York by Second Stage Theater, the play delineates a case of toxic masculinity and will most likely fascinate men and infuriate women. While Dick Wheeler played by Ian Barford, longtime Steppenwolf ensemble member, is reprehensible in the comic first act, he is redeemed by the end of the poignant second act where one’s sympathies finally go out to him. [more]

Is This a Room

October 25, 2019

The performances as well as the dialogue are cool and unemotional as you might expect from four professionals used to doing their jobs, until about three quarters of the way through when Winner confesses to having mailed out the document that they have been asking her about after admitting that she had printed it out to read it. From then on for the last 15 minutes, the tension rises as it become obvious that Winner will not be allowed to go home. [more]

Slave Play

October 14, 2019

A mulatto slave is sodomized with a large black dildo while in a canopy bed by his master’s wife who is decked out in Madonna-style dominatrix regalia. A white indentured servant fellates the boot of his black overseer after they’ve performed a balletic dance in their underwear. A snarling whip- wielding white overseer is abusive to a female black slave as she cleans his shack while twerking to Rihanna’s “Work.” Welcome to playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ overblown and overrated racial, social and sexual satire, "Slave Play." Striving for hilarity, it’s painfully unfunny.  The wan shock value is more in the spirit of Mel Brooks than Jean Genet. [more]

The Height of the Storm

October 14, 2019

What is evident is that Zeller writes tremendous roles for actors. Frank Langella won the Tony Award back in 2016 for the title role of "The Father," and "The Height of the Storm" may well win others. The current production includes all but one of the British cast from Jonathan Kent’s London presentation and two-time Tony Award winner Jonathan Pryce and three-time Olivier Award winner Eileen Atkins give the kind of performances that legends are made of. As André, Pryce is like a lion in winter: confused, detached, incoherent at times, yet raging due to his loss of power, and completely bereft when his wife is not in the room. His anger is always palpable and makes him seem bigger than his actual stature. [more]

Betrayal

September 26, 2019

Imported from London and directed with finesse by Jamie Lloyd, Tom Hiddleston (Robert), Zawe Ashton (Emma), and Charlie Cox (Jerry), all making their Broadway debuts, are practically choreographed as they move about on an otherwise spare if elegant stage that features two simple chairs, a small table and little else. (The startling scenery and apt costumes have been designed by Soutra Gilmour.) That, too, is an appropriate metaphor for three characters that keep shifting their positions. [more]

Derren Brown: Secret on Broadway

September 20, 2019

The shaven-headed, athletic and charismatic Derren Brown is a well-known personality in the United Kingdom due to his award-winning theatrical and television presentations. With his resounding accented voice, engaging showmanship and mystical talents, he commands the stage while appearing in a sleek dark suit, a flowing mystical robe and evening clothes. Mr. Brown discloses that he struggled with his homosexuality before coming out at the age of 31.  This revelation enhances his witty persona, along with other personal data imparted along the way. [more]

Sea Wall / A Life (Broadway)

August 20, 2019

On screen and stage Gyllenhaal has exhibited his talent and star quality to great effect many times. "A Life" is not one of those shining occasions as he is just passable in it. Stammering, shrugging and halting like Woody Allen in Annie Hall’s prologue is how he starts off and later alternates jokiness and histrionic emotionalism as the piece’s lugubrious events unfold. This is simply an opportunity for fans of Gyllenhaal to see him in person and the performance succeeds on that level. [more]

Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune

June 15, 2019

Given references to "Prizzi’s Honor," "Looking for Mr. Goodbar, " Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond, and VCRs, the otherwise effective revival of "Frankie and Johnny"--now on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre--can feel rather dated. The play debuted, after all, in 1987, and McNally’s ambition for realism makes such references natural, if not exactly necessary. But it’s still a substantial look at a one-night stand between Frankie, a waitress, and Johnny, a short-order cook at the same off-stage restaurant. [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]

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]

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]

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]

Hillary and Clinton

April 23, 2019

Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow are such consummate stage performers that they could read the phone book and keep us mesmerized. As directed by Joe Mantello in Lucas Hnath’s "Hillary and Clinton," they have the kind of rapport of actors who have worked together for years. Unfortunately Hnath, who gave Metcalf a Tony Award winning role in his "A Doll House, Part II" in 2017, hasn’t given them much to work with. True, his play inspired by real people is entirely supposition with enough true facts to make us curious. But at 80 minutes playing time, Hillary and Clinton seems padded, and set in 2008 there isn’t a lot to wait for as we all know it how turned out. [more]

What the Constitution Means to Me

April 5, 2019

The premise of the show (directed by Oliver Butler) is that the 2019 Schreck has decided to recreate one of the many presentations she participated in at American Legion halls around the country, back when she was a 15-year-old high-schooler from Wenatchee, Washington. These presentations were apparently oration/debate hybrids. They were vigorous exercises—and lucrative ones. Schreck was able to pay fully for her college education with prize money from these competitions, which centered on the content and implications of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments. Back in the day, young Heidi was a pro-Constitution “zealot.” [more]

To Kill a Mockingbird

February 16, 2019

It has been well publicized that the Harper Lee estate filed a lawsuit in February 2018 alleging that the play deviated too much from the novel. They should not have worried. As directed by Bartlett Sher, Aaron Sorkin’s astutely scripted "To Kill a Mockingbird" with Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch is a magnificent and moving theatrical experience that treats the novel with respect and dignity. The additions and changes from the novel only make the material more stage worthy and a better experience in the new medium. Harper Lee’s justly famous lines about it being a sin to kill a mockingbird and never knowing a person until you walk around in his or her skin brought an audible reaction from the audience at the performance under review, demonstrating that they were with the story all the way. [more]
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