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Broadway

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]

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]
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