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Broadway

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]

True West

February 6, 2019

Having seen it at least four times before, I can say with certainty that Sam Shepard’s "True West" (1980) is a firm and solid play: a play to be pondered both while you’re watching it and afterwards, when you consider what you saw. But the current Roundabout production leaves more than just a little to be desired: it’s slow and plodding and contemplative, instead of explosive, which is what it’s designed to be. [more]

Choir Boy

January 15, 2019

Now playing at the MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway, "Choir Boy" is set at The Charles R Drew Preparatory School for Boys, a Catholic academy for young men of color. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney (who shared the 2017 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Moonlight), the problem with the play is that Pharus’ colleagues and choir mates prove as generic as the student uniforms they all wear: blue blazers, white shirts, striped ties, and beige trousers. (The costume designer is David Zinn, who also did the scenery.) [more]

Network

December 21, 2018

Director Ivo Van Hove’s stage version of the Paddy Chayefsky cult film "Network" gives Bryan Cranston the role of a lifetime as Howard Beale, the UBS news commentator who has a nervous breakdown on air and then becomes a media messiah. The high tech production designed by long-time van Hove associate Jan Versweyveld with video design by Tal Yarden is riveting throughout its two hour intermission-less running time by putting the audience in the news studio and making us complicit in the action. [more]

The Lifespan of a Fact

November 30, 2018

In a time of fake news, these timely and topical questions are raised in the delightful new Broadway play "The Lifespan of a Fact," a dramatization by Jeremy Kareken & David Murrell and Gordon Farrell of the essay/book by writer John D’Agata and fact checker Jim Fingal, both who appear as two of the three characters in this play. Stars of stage and screen Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale are having a field day in this amusing and provocative romp in roles that they have played before and are not too taxing but are played by them to the hilt. The fact that this is based on a true story adds to the piquancy of the play – although to be absolutely truthful the original editing job took seven years while only five days go by in the play. [more]

The New One on Broadway

November 18, 2018

"The New One," directed by Seth Barrish, is about Birbiglia and his wife’s decision to become parents, the struggles they go through to arrive at pregnancy, and his fretfulness about how becoming a family man will change his life and identity. This is familiar comedic territory but Birbiglia gives it new energy, thanks to the telling details in his stories. For instance, we’ve all heard jokes or seen sitcom bits about how clinics use pornography to help guys produce lab samples of sperm. Birbiglia’s response to the situation is unexpected: he takes the experience mostly in stride, but he is both bemused and amused by the extreme genres of porn provided at the clinic he visits. [more]

American Son

November 15, 2018

“That’s it?” is likely to be one’s reaction at the conclusion of playwright Christopher Demos-Brown’s tidy topical 90-minute racial drama "American Son." Theater enthusiasts often rhapsodize about Broadway’s Golden Age, the 1920’s to the 1960’s, when straight plays filled theaters. Mr. Demos-Brown’s effort does harken back to that era by crafting a well-constructed minor vehicle for actors of the sort that could have played a season, then toured, was made into movie and was forgotten. Kerry Washington and the fine cast make the most of their choice roles under Kenny Leon’s solid direction. [more]

The Waverly Gallery

November 7, 2018

Even with the indelible impression of Eileen Heckart’s magnificent, original Gladys intact, Elaine May overcomes any comparisons as the current Gladys. There is nothing inventive or even artful about her performance: May simply is Gladys and Gladys is May, tracing her deterioration into senility with a remarkable realism. [more]

The Ferryman

October 31, 2018

Imported from London, with a number of the original cast members, "The Ferryman" takes place in rural County Armagh, in Northern Ireland in 1981, during a rise of violence of the IRA, right in the middle of The Troubles, the decades-long fight for Irish independence from Great Britain.  Butterworth (represented previously in New York by "The River" and "Jerusalem") brilliantly relates the tension, violence and dread that rocked Ireland by focusing on a single, extended family, incisively using this domestic microcosm to illuminate the complexities of a society at war with itself. [more]

The Nap

October 7, 2018

It isn’t revealing too much to say that the play culminates with a real Snooker match between two men vying ultimately for the world championship and ostensibly being watched by 23 millions viewers all over the world. And since they’re playing in real time, Bean had to come up with alternate dialogue, depending on which of them wins. Those two men are the local Sheffield champ, Dylan (Ben Schnetzer), and his competitor Abdul, who is played by world-class Snooker champion Ahmed Aly Elsayed. (Elsayed actually won the Egyptian Snooker Championship for three consecutive years before moving to the USA and winning US National Snooker Championships for another three consecutive years.) [more]

Bernhardt/Hamlet

October 3, 2018

"Bernhardt/Hamlet" is structured as a backstage comedy. Sarah rehearses with French stage star Constant Coquelin playing both The Ghost and Polonius, worries that she is losing 29-year-old lover, playwright Rostand to his wife – or to his new play "Cyrano de Bergerac," and frets over her son Maurice, at 29 years old still a college student who in need of money. Added to her troubles her illustrator Alphonse Mucha whose posters of her productions have added to her fame and glory is unable to make a sketch of her as Hamlet which suits them both. Worse still all the men in her life – including the Parisian critical establishment – plus the women of Paris are saying that it is not appropriate for her to play Hamlet in breeches as it is a man’s domain. Although the new play is not entirely about women in a man’s world, Rebeck does give this theme major importance. Ultimately, Sarah receives a visit from Rostand’s clever wife Rosamund which leads to the play’s denouement. [more]

Straight White Men

August 10, 2018

Given how physically playful the brothers are with each other--and with their father--"Straight White Men" is that rare play that even has a credited choreographer, Faye Driscoll. In addition to making good on the promise he made in last year’s "Call Me By Your Name," that he was an actor to be watched--and not only because he’s so attractive--Armie Hammer proves especially deft with Driscoll’s many maneuvers, like leaping on or off the sofa or the coffee table. [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]

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]

Three Tall Women

April 3, 2018

If you pay any attention to the Rialto, then you knew that Jackson was going to be in the play--the play that salvaged Albee’s reputation in 1993 and won him his third Pulitzer Prize--since it was announced last year. And I’m pleased to report, if you were anticipating Jackson doing "Three Tall Women" with high expectations, you will not be disappointed. She surpasses whatever you were expecting with a kind of fierce and cold glory, appropriate to the 92-year-old A. From B’s servitude as A’s nurse, in the first part, to her becoming the somewhat haughty, 52-year-old A, in Part 2, Laurie Metcalf negotiates the character’s huge emotional shift with ease and naturalness. [more]

John Lithgow: Stories by Heart

January 15, 2018

But in John Lithgow: Stories by Heart, Lithgow tells an even more compelling tale about growing up with his father Arthur Lithgow, an actor who taught Shakespeare even as he opened and ran Shakespeare festivals throughout the Midwest. Lithgow’s peripatetic experience with this show is not unlike, in other words, his father’s experiences when his son John was growing up. Though it’s truly sui generis, "Stories by Heart" is reminiscent of Lynn Redgrave’s tribute to her father, Sir Michael. [more]

Meteor Shower

December 27, 2017

Steve Martin’s old/new wonderful comedy, "Meteor Shower," is about two California couples getting together for the first time--again, and again, and again. Like "Groundhog Day," it keeps starting all over again, with ensuing variations. And in the course of its brief, 80-minute, intermission-less duration, the couples have exchanged more than just words and ideas. By the end, they seem to have exchanged their personalities as well. The passive Corky has become more aggressive, and the overly assertive Laura has become less sure of herself. Similar reversals could be said about their respective husbands, Norm and Gerald. As Norm even says of Gerald, he’s “kind of two people.” [more]

Farinelli and the King

December 23, 2017

Giving a performance of the caliber of his earlier Shakespeare’s Globe portrayals of the Countess Olivia in "Twelfth Night" and the title role of "Richard III" which also played Broadway’s Belasco Theatre, Rylance is mesmerizing. He is one of a handful of actors who when they are on stage you cannot take your eyes off them. Playing the gamut of emotions, as well as playing off of the audience, Rylance continually takes us by surprise at his choices. His famous speech pattern which includes hesitation is perfect for the mad king who often seems to change direction midsentence. Even when he is silent he commands the stage. As we listen to Farinelli sing, we watch Rylance’s face to see his joyful reaction which tells us all we need to know. It is no wonder that he is often called the greatest stage actor of his generation. [more]

The Children

December 17, 2017

Despite a brilliant display of achingly detailed acting—reason enough for connoisseurs of acting to rush to this production directed by James Macdonald—its uneasy blend of a frightening nuclear apocalypse and an ugly romantic triangle might be an obstacle for some.  "The Children" is a quiet, whispered scream of a drama that takes viewers by surprise even as the characters bleed and brood. [more]

The Parisian Woman

December 12, 2017

Inspired by Henri Becque’s notorious 1885 "La Parisienne," credited as the first Naturalistic French play, Willimon has taken its plot, characters and themes of sex, adultery, betrayal and power. To this he has added modern politics as it is being practiced in Trump’s Washington. Tom, a high-powered Beltway tax lawyer who works with both Democrats and Republicans, and Chloe, his socialite wife, are in an open marriage. While she is attempting to break up with her lover Peter, a banker, Tom asks for his help in getting the nomination for an appointment on the circuit court though he has never been a judge before. When it looks like Tom is no longer in the running, Chloe decides to act on her own and approaches her new friend Jeanette, the President’s choice for Chair of the Federal Reserve, a staunch Republican power broker and contributor. How this plays out shows the ins and outs of Washington negotiating. While none of this is particularly new, Willimon uses some of the latest contemporary wrinkles. [more]

Junk

November 22, 2017

The protagonist of "Junk" is one Robert Merkin (Steven Pasquale), whose name alone is reminiscent of the real-life person he represents, Michael Robert Milken, the “Junk Bond King” of the mid 1980’s, who went to jail in 1990, and whose practices led to the world market crash a decade or so ago. “This is a story of kings, or what passes for kings these days,” says Forbes reporter Judy Chen (Teresa Avia Lim), in the play’s opening lines. “….enthroned in sky-high castles and embroiled in battles over, what else? Money.” [more]

Latin History for Morons

November 21, 2017

After his teenaged son is called a “beaner” by one of his classmates at a WASPy private school, Leguizamo is inspired to educate the rest of the United States about the overlooked achievements of Latin culture. This is done as a wild, stand-up comedy routine where the audience is directly engaged and occasionally heckled, and with a superior theatrical presentation. [more]

M. Butterfly

November 15, 2017

Inspired by the true case of an affair between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and Chinese opera singer Shi Pei Pu from 1960 – 1986 which led to a trial for espionage, Hwang’s problem in 2017 was that the story has become so well-known that the reveal at the end of the play is no longer a surprise. As a result, Hwang has worked to come up with new elements taken from the true case to make the play more startling for audiences that already know the tale. Director Julie Taymor who has in the past done wonderful work with exotic material ("The Transposed Heads," "The Green Bird," "The Lion King") does not give the play as much help as it needs, making it much too literal for its own good. [more]

Torch Song

October 28, 2017

While superficially poignant, "Torch Song" remains what it always was: a fierce play about the need for respect as a gay person, when it was painfully more difficult to come by acceptance, let alone respect. And to that extent, it may seem like a dated work, wedded to when it premiered as three one-act plays that were then put together as one, more than three decades ago. It’s still just as moving and tear-provoking as it comes to focus on a gay man whose mother (“the Sylvia Sydney of Brighton Beach”) has to cope with his adopting a young son. With the marvelous Urie and the always-superb Mercedes Ruehl as the mother, how could anything go wrong? Nothing does. [more]

Time and the Conways

October 23, 2017

Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Parry and Anna Baryshnikov in a scene from J.B.Priestley’s [more]

Marvin’s Room

July 18, 2017

If you saw the original New York production of "Marvin’s Room," you may find yourself feeling that the play was more effective when it was presented in the far more intimate environment of Playwrights Horizons. The otherwise fine cast--which also includes Luca Padovan as Charlie and Carmen Lacivita and Nedra McClyde in various roles-- simply gets lost in the expansive space of the American Airlines Theatre. [more]

1984

July 13, 2017

Icke and MacMillan’s version is tricked up with much multimedia, sound and lights, and disorientation. Faithful to the book, it claims to be the first adaptation to include Orwell’s appendix supposedly written years after the events of the novel. The first third of the play which mixes past, present and future would be very hard to follow for someone who has not read the book. For two-thirds of the play, Chloe Lamford’s set is a wood paneled library or reading room which must make do for an office cubicle, an office cafeteria, an antique shop, a meeting room, a path through a forest, and the home of the hero, Winston Smith. The last third of the play which depicts the reeducation of Winston, i.e. torture and brainwashing, is very graphic and as such difficult to sit through; the book’s description, however, which drew a curtain over the actual violence made it seem like it went on for months or years. [more]
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