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Broadway

A Doll’s House, Part 2

May 12, 2017

Hnath’s new story is absorbing and twisty, interestingly creating an entirely new set of ethical and social questions than was handled by Ibsen in 1879. He has handled it in a similar fashion to Bergman’s "Scenes from a Marriage" but without the painful emotional fireworks. It is 15 years since Nora had left her husband, stating he had no further claim on her. She has not been heard from since. Having become a famous feminist author with advanced ideas writing under a pseudonym, she has recently discovered due to a blackmail attempt that Torvald has never divorced her which she assumed he had done. Having lived as a single woman, signing contracts, controlling her own money, and having relationships with men not her husband, she is guilty of a criminal offense under Norway’s laws at the time and can be sent to jail. She arrives at his door to obtain her divorce to really be a free woman. [more]

Six Degrees of Separation

May 9, 2017

All the acting is sharp, from the upper-crusters taken in by Paul (Lisa Emery, Michael Countryman and Ned Eisenberg) to their kids (Colby Minifie, Keenan Jolliff, Ned Riseley, and Cody Kostro), Chris Perfetti as Trent who, sexually intoxicated by Paul, fills him in on the ways and means of all the people he will eventually swindle, and finally, to the young lovers (Peter Mark Kendall and Sarah Mezzanotte) whose fate reveals just how psychologically damaging Paul can be. [more]

Oslo

May 4, 2017

The clarity of this new play by J.T. Rogers does not only rely on the smart yet surefire way it’s written, but also on the masterful staging by Bartlett Sher, who, after recent productions of both "South Pacific" and "The King and I," is no stranger to directing gargantuan shows at Lincoln Center. Given its subject--the Oslo Accord or peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) in 1993--Oslo is ultimately, an enormous play. But it is told in intimate terms. [more]

Indecent

April 25, 2017

"Indecent" is, on the surface, the history of Yiddish writer Sholem Asch’s brave Yiddish play "God of Vengeance" which was—incredibly, considering its wise understanding of the Jewish demimonde—written in 1906 during the height of anti-Jewish pogroms. (Asch actually witnessed a pogrom and its ugliness tainted his life thereafter.) It is far more, though. The play is a look at the sweep of Jewish life in the twentieth century using Asch’s creation as the hook. [more]

Present Laughter

April 23, 2017

As the ageing matinee idol who never forgets to check his appearance in the mirror, Kline plays a man who is always acting, both on stage and off. His animated physicality in his roles has always been in evidence but here he outdoes himself. Using his arms, hands, head, face and body as his canvas, he is almost never still showing us what can be done on each and every line. He makes even an ordinary line into a witticism and his comebacks wither with every additional jibe. He cajoles, seduces, emotes, wheedles and at the same time suggests he pities himself. He creates a bigger than life character (is John Barrymore his model?) and watching him is a lesson in consummate acting. So completely does he make Garry Essendine his own, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role – although among other New York revivals he has been played by such stars as George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Victor Garber and Coward himself. [more]

The Play That Goes Wrong

April 12, 2017

While the non-stop buffoonery is reminiscent of Charles Ludlam and his Ridiculous Theatrical Company, this British import (produced by London’s Mischief Theater, no less) immediately evokes inevitable comparisons with "Noises Off," Michael Frayn’s divine and (admittedly, more) sophisticated farce about a community theater company putting on a play--perhaps the most hilarious, theatrical farce that has ever been devised by a playwright. But the present offering also has less of an agenda, settling for the sheer mayhem of putting together a group of people on a stage, during an ongoing performance, when absolutely everything that can possibly go wrong, does. It’s a surefire setup for the comic and rewarding chaos that ensues. In the end, and basically throughout, "The Play that Goes Wrong" has gone very right, indeed. [more]

Sweat

April 3, 2017

"Sweat" is a classic, “well-made”--or carefully constructed--play, with a focus on the dwindling work for people in the middle of the country, prompting them to install Trump in the White House--to the ongoing dismay of the rest of the world. It couldn’t be more topical even as it helps us understand just exactly what’s been happening to bring us all to this sorry state. It was also based on Nottage’s extensive interviews with many actual residents of Reading, fueling the drama’s impact. [more]

The Price

March 27, 2017

Maybe “fireworks” is too strong a word for a production that is more of a slow burn. The play begins when Mark Ruffalo, as Victor, walks up, into the top floor of the home his family was consigned to, when the Great Depression of 1929 hit and their father lost his fortune. The essence of the conflict between Victor (a policeman) and Walter (a doctor) boils down to economic inequality. (As Walter says to Victor, “It’s very complicated between us.”) Though they both grew up with a chauffeur, the older Walter went on to a successful career while Victor stayed behind to care for their father when everything was lost during the Depression. [more]

Significant Other

March 17, 2017

It’s well constructed, the dialogue is snappy and filled with some funny one-liners. The milieu is that of upper middle class Manhattan white-collar workers. Moderately entertaining, it attempts to explore a prevalent societal issue, but is undermined by its off-putting main character and its rarified sensibility. There is minimal sex talk and that is mostly cute, rather then revelatory. Jordan rhapsodizes about a male co-worker’s body, but doesn’t extoll anything much below the waist. [more]

The Glass Menagerie

March 14, 2017

Sam Gold’s revival of "The Glass Menagerie," the fifth major production of the play in New York since 2005, is such a one. He has decided to remove all of the historical relevance as well as the scenery from this classic Tennessee Williams’ memory play. What he has also done is remove all of the poetry and all of the emotion in a play that on the surface would seem director proof. Ultimately, the production is more a director’s exercise in seeing how much he can cut from a play that tells a realistic story in a lyrical manner. A pity as his cast has two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field returning to Broadway after an absence of 15 years, two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, Finn Wittrock (Theatre World Award and Clarence Derwent Award for "Death of a Salesman"), and debuting actress Madison Ferris. [more]

Jitney

January 28, 2017

Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson has himself won a Tony Award for his performance in Wilson’s "Seven Guitars" and has directed acclaimed Off Broadway revivals of "The Piano Lesson" and "Seven Guitars." He has assembled a cast of nine in which seven of the actors are veterans of Wilson play including Antony Chisholm who appears in the 2000 production. A true ensemble led by John Douglas Thompson and André Holland (currently in "Moonlight"), a better staging could not be imagined of this involving and engrossing play. [more]

The Present

January 21, 2017

Upton’s version solves some problems and creates others. Updated to the 1990’s, the play is no longer about life in Tsarist Russia but the post-Perestroika world of Glasnost. While the original has characters talk about how much better life will be in the future, the new version has the characters wax nostalgic about the recent past but also talk about the challenge of the new Russia in the present. It is not obvious for much of the first scene that the play takes place in the Russian country. [more]

The Front Page

November 14, 2016

Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s "The Front Page" remains the quintessential comedy about the tabloid newspaper racket. Jack O’Brien’s production plays it safe while a more brazen and outrageous style might have obtained more laughs. The current revival with its many recognizable names and faces is still entertaining fun. And it does bring back to the Broadway stage the incomparable Nathan Lane in top form in an unforgettable role. [more]

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

November 9, 2016

Josie Rourke, artisic director of the Donmar Warehouse, understands the game’s complexity and what adroit moves need to be made throughout to maintain a psychological cohesiveness. Her deft hand is evident in her light touch so that the production is not weighed down by nastiness. Where Rourke falls down is casting Schreiber, who is known for his charismatic masculinity and not for being a jocund bon vivant. Valmont needs to be more calculating, as well as, effete. [more]

The Cherry Orchard

October 25, 2016

Directed by high profile new British director Simon Godwin, associate director of the U.K.’s National Theatre, making his New York debut, this "Cherry Orchard" seems to have no interpretation or explanation for a new staging. Stephen Karam, the author of last season’s acclaimed "The Humans," has written a new version which seems to be heavy on American ideas in this Russian play, while both the sets and costume designs get in the way of coherence and understanding. All in all this is a great disappointment considering the talent involved. [more]

Heisenberg

October 22, 2016

Simon Stephens, whose Tony Award winning "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" recently amazed audiences with its razor-sharp take on the inner workings of an autistic boy, is back with "Heisenberg," a two-hander that examines the relationship between a forty-something woman and a seventy-something man, written with the same consummate insight into the foibles of human beings, minus that play’s technical wizardry, here replaced by a sharp ear and eye for the nuances of neediness. [more]

Oh, Hello on Broadway

October 20, 2016

In the guise of two old Upper West Side bachelor geezers, Kroll as failed actor, Gil Faizon, and Mulaney as failed writer, George St. Geegland, wander about Pask’s brilliant combination apartment/beauty salon/TV studio/street set, musing out loud about their lives, wearing dreadful wigs (credit Leah Loukas) and speaking in a bizarre accent which, for example, turns “Broadway” into “broodway,” “an” into “en” and “homage” into “home page.” [more]

The Encounter

October 7, 2016

Headsets are on the backs of the audience’s seats when they arrive and which they are asked to wear throughout the show. The stage is set with a desk, several microphones and many water bottles. The back wall is adorned with foam sound proofing panels. The overall look is that of a cavernous sound studio. [more]

Fully Committed

May 10, 2016

Meet Sam, a struggling New York actor whose day job is as the reservationist for a popular albeit fictional Manhattan restaurant. Seemingly surrounded by phones at every turn, Ferguson’s Sam has devices that connects him to the chef, the hostess, his manager, as well as to the outside World and those looking for a much sought after reservation. Demonstrating a full spectrum of physical and vocal capabilities, Ferguson manipulates his body and voice to bring to life the many characters that Sam interacts with over the phone. [more]

Long Day’s Journey into Night

May 3, 2016

Jessica Lange and Gabriel Byrne joyously enter through a porch door after the sounds of the ocean have been heard. Their love and attraction for each other is palpable. Mr. Byrne embraces her and with his Irish accent says, “You’re a fine armful now, Mary, with those twenty pounds you’ve gained.” It is instantly clear that this revival of "Long Day’s Journey into Night" is going to be beautiful. [more]

The Crucible

April 20, 2016

Van Hove sets his version in a modern classroom. When the curtain goes up we first see the girls who will later accuse various people in Salem, Massachusetts, of having bewitched them, seated at desks and singing in unison. The curtain descends and then the play begins with Miller’s first scene. Puritan Reverend Samuel Parris has caught his daughter, his niece Abigail Williams, his black servant Tituba, and other girls in the community dancing in the forest around a cauldron, all forbidden behaviors. On seeing him, his daughter Betty has become catatonic. When expert witch hunter Reverend Hale, who has been sent for, questions Tituba, she confesses to communing with the devil, an idea he plants in her mind. [more]

The Father

April 18, 2016

Florian Zeller is the most famous French playwright you probably never heard of. He won France’s highest theatrical honor, the Moliere Award, in 2011 for his play, "The Mother," and the Moliere Award again in 2014 for "The Father." This last named international hit is currently running in both Paris and London with major stars in the leading role. Manhattan Theatre Club now brings the Christopher Hampton translation to Broadway with Frank Langella in the title role. As André, an 80-year-old man beset with dementia in which his reality keeps shifting, Langella turns in a virtuoso perform but you won’t be bored for a moment. [more]

Eclipsed

April 16, 2016

An opportunity to see the luminous Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o live on stage may be the reason most people are rushing to the Golden Theatre, but, thrilling as that may be, "Eclipsed" is its own reward, a starkly detailed, microcosmic observation of just one ghastly corner of a ghastly civil war. [more]

Blackbird

April 14, 2016

The problem with the staging begins from the outset. Daniels' Ray, tense and rigid, pushes demanding, triumphant Una into a corporate break room. He is upset to see her, and she is all confidence and gloating. Unfortunately, this scene starts at so high a peak of emotion that the play has nowhere to go. In fact, while their startlingly different accounts of the night they ran off together ought to be the high point of the play, the opening scene is peak of emotion instead. It is a calculated risk and it damages the play. [more]

Hughie

March 5, 2016

When the audience enters, the curtain is up and Christopher Oram’s imposing scenic design of the faded hotel lobby is in view. The visual effect of its industrial greenish walls, dirty stone columns, chipped wooden adornments, ancient elevator, central staircase, frayed threadbare furnishings, severe front desk, and grimy windows is that of a stunning representation of hellish imprisonment. Also on view while the audience waits the play to start is the night clerk staring into space. [more]

Noises Off

January 29, 2016

While Frayn’s roles are juicy parodies of very specific kinds of people, for the laughs to roll in one on top of the other, the play must be performed fast enough that we don’t have time to think about it or what we are laughing at. Consequently, though the production is entertaining for its comic portrayals, it fails to trigger all the laughs inherent in the script or become the laugh riot it is intended to be. Possibly, as the actors have more performances under their belts, the play may pick up speed and more laughs along the way. [more]

Our Mother’s Brief Affair

January 25, 2016

Linda Lavin wears Anna in Richard Greenberg’s "Our Mother’s Brief Affair" like a chic couture outfit with many layers each of which reveals layers of colorful, woven cloth. There is a constant glow about her as she relates, mostly in flashbacks, the story of an illicit, but exciting affair with a stranger she met many years ago while waiting for her son, Seth (a bemused, but effective Greg Keller) to emerge from his Juilliard viola lessons. [more]

China Doll

January 10, 2016

The title is never explained and remains a cryptic point of thought. Is it the name of the jet that the plot revolves around? Is it a reference to a woman? What could it mean? Knowing the work and personality of David Mamet, perhaps it’s a "House of Games" con device that has no significance at all just like the play itself. Muddled and rambling it comes across as an arrogantly tossed off minor exercise by an eminently established author solely for profit. The dialogue is a grating rehash of his patented style of staccato vulgarisms and explosive tirades interspersed with pauses that result in self-parody. If "Glengarry Glen Ross" was his zenith, "China Doll" is his nadir. [more]

A View from the Bridge

December 23, 2015

Belgian–born director Ivo van Hove has brought his London Young Vic revival of Arthur Miller’s" A View from the Bridge" to Broadway in a production so stripped down to its essentials that it seem to reinvent theater as well as this play. The minimalist director already known in NYC for his seven stagings at the New York Theater Workshop (including "The Little Foxes" and "Scenes from a Marriage") and his five at Brooklyn Academy of Music (including "Angels in America" and "Antigone") has reduced the cast list from 15 to eight, eliminated scenery and props, has the actors go barefoot, and has washed out almost all color from the stage. The result once the plot is wound up has hypnotic power that is rarely seen in our theater. The cast led by British stage star Mark Strong as protagonist Eddie Carbone includes five of the actors from the London production, as well as British stage and screen star Russell Tovey. [more]

Misery

November 23, 2015

The best role in the story is that of sociopath, deranged Annie Wilkes. Metcalf runs the gamut of emotions from bliss to murderous rage and back and turns on a dime. Unlike Willis, she uses her face to show all of her moods both pleased and black. Always interesting to watch, her Annie is revealed as crazier the longer the story goes on. The scenes in which she has to get Paul back into bed suggest that her Annie not only contains tremendous emotional extremes but also enormous strength from years running her farm. Playing the role less childless-like than Kathy Bates did in the movie, she makes Annie Wilkes all her own. As the third member of the cast in the minor role of the sheriff, Brown is completely convincing but he hasn’t been given much to do in his few brief scenes. [more]

King Charles III

November 19, 2015

Admittedly, many of the ideas in the play are hardly new or revolutionary: the first measures to limit the scope of the British monarchy’s power date back to the 1215 Magna Carta and subsequent arguments challenging the divine right of kings include the American Declaration of Independence, drafted in 1776. Rather, this production’s merit lies in the shocking immediacy it brings to the subject. Acutely aware of the fact that the nearly 90 year-old Queen will not live forever, Bartlett takes us into a not-too-distant future where the inevitable change of the empire’s figurehead sends the nation into a state of upheaval. His England is just melodramatic enough that to allow us to see it as fictional yet a shade too realistic to feel truly dystopian. [more]

The Humans

November 12, 2015

For the first half of Stephen Karam’s “The Humans,” the Blake family Thanksgiving seems to be nothing but a banal seasonal gathering. And then suddenly the author’s message comes into focus and the play becomes a haunting drama and unnerving ghost story which is unlike anything you have seen lately. The superb cast headed by Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell under the direction of the always interesting Joe Mantello who has piloted many important new plays turns The Humans into a memorably unique experience. Karam, whose plays include Speech and Debate and Son of the Prophet, has been given a splendid Roundabout Theatre Company production for its third premiere of one of his plays. [more]

Sylvia

November 9, 2015

Directed with comfortable assurance and a leisurely sense of timing, this "Sylvia" benefits from a (mostly) strong cast, including three Tony Award winners: Matthew Broderick (whose wife Sarah Jessica Parker played the title role in the original off-Broadway production), Julie White and Annaleigh Ashford. The brilliant, versatile Robert Sella who expertly and drolly plays three diverse roles, rounds out the cast. [more]
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