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Broadway

Prayer for the French Republic

January 15, 2024

Harmon meticulously fuses the domestic ups and downs of this bright, well-educated extended family with the overwhelming and unavoidable social upheavals that surround them whether it’s the Nazi persecutions or the rise in anti-Jewish violence and rhetoric in contemporary France.   Their story is epic, but intimate. David Cromer, the director, isn’t afraid to keep "Prayer" flowing in a deliberate, unhurried pace, or pausing at times letting the play breathe.  He makes the epic quite human scale. "Prayer for the French Republic" is monumental, yet human scaled, addressing a resurgent scourge with intelligence and warmth. [more]

Appropriate

January 10, 2024

Not only is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ "Appropriate" a classic American family drama with a new wrinkle, it is also a trenchant and scorching look at American racism which is just under the surface. So fine a playwright has Jacob-Jenkins become that every line of dialogue develops character and plot. What is most shocking about the play is how little the younger generation depicted knows about its American history, things we all should be aware of. Lila Neugebauer’s production for Second Stage mines all of the play’s nuances and her staging is smooth and effortless. The cast led by stage, screen and television stars Sarah Paulson, Corey Stoll and Elle Fanning (in her Broadway debut) make the most of their many opportunities. "Appropriate" is the most satisfying new American play on Broadway at this time and should not be missed. The running time may seem long but the rising tension and periodic revelations make the play feel like it could even be longer. [more]

I Need That

November 12, 2023

A repetitively thin outlook on grief, "I Need That" ostensibly concludes with an image of healing, but I'm not sure why, or if it actually does. It's possible the famously prolific Rebeck had another play to write and figured DeVito would leave the audience feeling better no matter what she put on the page. That wasn't a bad bet, I suppose, but not everyone has the privilege of casting DeVito to pull attention away from writing that ultimately falls prey to a cheaply metaphoric sunrise (no knock on lighting designer Yi Zhao who was just doing his job). [more]

Jaja’s African Hair Braiding

October 10, 2023

"Jaja" is quite different from Bioh's other plays in that it is also very revealing about life in NYC for African immigrants. Directed by Whitney White who has piloted several major new Black plays in recent years, the play is funny, poignant and illustrative. The excellent and compelling cast of 11 includes six fine actors making their Broadway debuts. David Zinn’s detailed hair salon puts every inch of Jada’s Harlem African Hair Braiding parlor on stage down to the last braid and bobby pin. [more]

Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

October 5, 2023

In 1961, Ossie Davis channeled the hurt of growing up in segregated Georgia into "Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through The Cotton Patch," humorously attacking the cause of his suffering rather than giving into it. A Broadway revival of the play, the first since those heady days of the modern Civil Rights Movement, is a current reminder that it's possible to smile through the pain. That it's a needed one is the tragedy. [more]

The Shark Is Broken

August 17, 2023

As for what's in a name, yes, Ian Shaw is Robert's son, returning the life-giving favor not just through his words but also bodily, portraying his father in "The Shark Is Broken" with a candid empathy (and astonishing physical resemblance) that highlights the elder Shaw's strengths while giving context to his weaknesses, too. Because of ongoing technical difficulties with Spielberg's monstrous mechanical fish, known as Bruce, there was protracted downtime during the filming of "Jaws," which the play fills with imagined conversations between Robert and his co-stars Richard Dreyfuss (Alex Brightman) and Roy Scheider (Colin Donnell). Despite set designer Duncan Henderson's remarkable recreation of the Orca, the movie's barely seaworthy boat, hardcore Jaws fans might feel as if they've been bait-and-switched, since, in the final tally, they only get one early image of a not-so-ominous shark fin to satiate their thrill-and-chill-seeking expectations. In keeping with what's on the marquee, it quickly malfunctions, sinking into video designer Nina Dunn (for PixelLux)'s vast ocean backdrop, never to be seen again. [more]

The Cottage

July 31, 2023

Although Sandy Rustin’s "The Cottage," now arrived at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theater, bills itself as “A Romantic and (Not Quite) Murderous Comedy of Manners,” it is devoid of the two requirements of drawing room comedy: wit and quotable one-liners. Although its hard-working stable of stars including Eric McCormack, Laura Bell Bundy, Lilli Cooper and Alex Moffat, have been directed by television star Jason Alexander to behave as though the play is comic, there are hardly any laughs. [more]

Grey House

June 6, 2023

Eerie and irritating in equal measure, Levi Holloway’s "Grey House" at the Lyceum Theatre dredges up the classic plot device of many horror films:  strangers stumbling into a den of oddballs and suffering the consequences. The couple that does, indeed, invade the eponymous domicile, Max and Henry (Claire Karpen – subbing for Tatiana Maslany - and Paul Sparks, both excellent) actually refer to this conceit and even joke that the results are always bad. Sometimes this premise results in hilarity as in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and sometimes, as in "Grey House," it causes unintended hilarity for its obvious stunts (faces at a window, smoke emanating from a scary basement) along with some gruesome imagery, too bloody to describe here; but suffice it to say Henry, whose left leg is injured in a snowstorm-caused car/deer collision, suffers in a ghastly manner.  That the car was driven by his wife doesn’t help matters. [more]

Good Night, Oscar

May 9, 2023

Sean Hayes, up till now best known for his Emmy Award-winning performance as Jack McFarland on "Will and Grace," gives a titanic performance as humorist, raconteur and pianist Oscar Levant once called the wittiest man in America, in Doug Wright’s new play "Good Night, Oscar." Although Levant is not much remembered today, you can enjoy this character study and depiction of early late night television even if you have never heard of him before. While "Will and Grace" has made evident Hayes’ way with one-liners, "Good Night, Oscar" demonstrates that Hayes is able to dig deep in a character portrayal as well. Credit must go to director Lisa Peterson for inspiring this memorable performance. [more]

Summer, 1976

May 5, 2023

Auburn (Pulitzer Prize winner for Proof) has a knack for writing complex female characters.  That knack hasn’t failed him in "Summer, 1976."  Diane, the lustrous Laura Linney, is an aloof artist/university professor who meets Alice, the warm and magnetic Jessica Hecht, a stay-at-home mom, via their very young daughters.  Alice’s husband, the unseen, but occasionally heard, Doug, an economist on the tenure track at the university where Diane also teaches, devised a babysitting co-op that involved coupons exchanged for hours of babysitting, a system that eventually breaks down quite humorously. [more]

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

May 1, 2023

The Company soon loses its way as bunk beds self-destruct, lines get mangled, Peter Pan flails about in failed attempts to fly and crocodiles and mermaids parade about on skateboards. If this sounds like a normal production of Barrie’s classic tale, then I am telling it wrong. The main problem with "Peter Pan Goes Wrong" is that virtually all the jokes are physical, an unending series of scenic disasters that become not just predictable, but tiresome.  Even the great physical comedians of the silent film era knew when enough was enough. [more]

Prima Facie

May 1, 2023

The mesmerizing Jodie Comer, making her Broadway debut in the Olivier Award-winning best new play after starring in the genre-subverting BBC show Killing Eve, portrays Tessa (for which Comer also won an Olivier in her West End bow) with stunning fidelity to the pain she causes and endures. While the tension between these two aspects of Tessa's personal history eventually ignite a fervent reassessment of who she has been, who she is now, and who she should be, Comer never gets ahead of herself in the performance. Early on, as Tessa recounts, in predatory terms, conducting a cross-examination that frees a rapist, Comer convinces us, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Tessa not only perceives practicing law as a "game" but also is emotionless about the outcome, no matter the consequences for others. At this point, in hearing Tessa trumpet her job so blithely, the horror is ours alone, because, for Tessa, everything she's saying is just another day at the office. [more]

The Thanksgiving Play

May 1, 2023

Larissa Fasthorse’s "The Thanksgiving Play" gives a good tweaking to those who are so hung up on political correctness that they dare not make a decision. On the other hand, the play reminds us how difficult it is to be fair to all sides of the historical spectrum. The erasure of the Native American point of view is made clear by their very absence from the play, while the problem of educators knowing how to walk the fine line between inclusion and suitability is given a rare airing in this delightful parody. The use of in jokes, theatrical, historical and educational notwithstanding, "The Thanksgiving Play" is a satire that entertains while it makes some very real and needed points about political correctness when dealing with unpleasant American history. [more]

Fat Ham

April 19, 2023

When it comes to modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays, many theatergoers tend to treat them like a test, mentally annotating plot and character correlations as if their high school English teachers were going to tap them on the shoulders and ask, "Did you catch that one?" If you suffer from this same hang up, then consider James Ijames' Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fat Ham" therapy, not only encouraging its audience to break free from fawning fidelity to the Bard but also, more poignantly, tragic endings. Simply put, for Ijames' insightfully idiosyncratic take on Hamlet, we're not in Elsinore anymore, and that's a good thing. [more]

Life of Pi

April 7, 2023

"Life of Pi" is a unique theatrical experience with its animal puppetry, depiction of days on the ocean, and bringing to life an Indian city, circa 1977. It tells a fantastical story with brio and flair making use of all of the theatrical arts. With a cast led by Olivier Award winner Hiran Abeysekera, you could not imagine anyone else in these roles. However, the playwriting and the production do have their flaws which are eventually overcome by its theatricality and storytelling. Kudos to director Max Webster for orchestrating the production so well. [more]

A Doll’s House

March 19, 2023

Like Ivo van Hove’s pared-down revival of Arthur Miller’s "A View from the Bridge," Jamie Lloyd’s new Broadway production of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 "A Doll’s House" uses no sets or props and all black costumes for the entire cast. Going even further than van Hove, he has the heroine Nora Helmer played by film star Jessica Chastain seated almost for the entire length of this intermission-less three-act play. Using a new version by Amy Herzog recast in spare modern vernacular, this Doll’s House proves to be riveting and intense, even if you know the play very well,  focusing our attention on the dialogue, the acting and emotion, rather than the décor and the historical trappings of 19th century Norway as we usually do. [more]

Pictures from Home

February 19, 2023

"Pictures from Home," a stark, but eventually moving vision of a family, is based on the photo memoir of the same name by Larry Sultan.  Sharr White, the playwright, has taken Sultan’s expansive volume of family remembrances and reduced its literary and visual extravagances to the size of the stage of Studio 54. The director Bartlett Sher and his colleagues have fashioned a microcosmic look at a mother, father and son, all hiding behind façades carefully sculpted over decades.  That they are played by three terrific theater veterans—Nathan Lane, Zoë Wanamaker and Danny Burstein—helps spin this play into theatrical gold, an intimate, human-scale work that stands out in a season of blaring musicals. [more]

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]
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