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Broadway

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]

Thérèse Raquin

November 9, 2015

Roundabout Theatre Company has commissioned yet another new stage adaptation from British playwright Helen Edmondson, whose previous plays also include stage versions of Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina" and George Eliot’s "The Mill on the Floss." In the title role, Keira Knightley who has been associated with period drama in her distinguished film career ("Atonement," "Pride and Prejudice," "Anna Karenina," and, of course, the "Pirates of Caribbean" movies) has chosen to make her Broadway debut. She is supported by Tony Award-winner Gabriel Ebert ("Matilda"), British actor Matt Ryan, and two time Tony Award-winning actress Judith Light ("Lombardi," "Other Desert Cities," "The Assembled Parties.") Unfortunately, director Evan Cabnet has chosen to stage this most French of tales in a bloodless, refined English style which doesn’t serve with the material well. [more]

The Gin Game

October 20, 2015

Now the frail-seeming, but elegant Cicely Tyson and imposing, stout-voiced James Earl Jones have taken on "The Gin Game" and make it totally their own, finding nuances in every line, filling in the silences with the kinds of reactions that make live theater an electric experience. [more]

Old Times

October 13, 2015

The production includes the Broadway debuts of British screen and television stars Clive Owen and Kelly Reilly, and a return of British stage star Eve Best after her Tony Award nominated performance in the 1908 revival of Pinter’s "The Homecoming." Unfortunately, to some extent they are appearing in three different plays so different are their acting styles. Even Constance Hoffman’s costumes take your mind away from the play before you. A pity actually as "Old Times" has not been seen in New York since the Roundabout’s Off Broadway revival which ran from 1983-84 but had an odd combination of American and British actors of film and stage. [more]

Fool for Love

October 13, 2015

This is the fault of director Daniel Aukin who also staged it at The Williamstown Theatre Festival. Besides obtaining just competent performances from his cast, he has chosen a shallow high-tech approach in staging this small-scale but profound masterpiece by a writer at the peak of his powers in a Broadway theater rather then creatively reimagining it with meaningful aesthetic simplicity. [more]

An Act of God

June 9, 2015

This 90-minute intermission-less play is a comic and occasionally serious address to the audience by God who often sits on a large white couch as he revises The Ten Commandments. Some are kept and some are replaced by new ones during his arch analysis of human history. Angels Gabriel and Michael who also go out into the audience to take questions assist God. [more]

Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 35th Marathon of New One-Act Plays: Series A

May 24, 2015

Founded in 1968, this theater company is, “…committed to the discovery and nurturing of new voices, and the continued support and growth of artists throughout their creative lives.” Ensemble Studio Theatre's 35th Marathon of New One-Act Plays: Series A fulfills this noble goal with its enticing and often quite remarkable variety of works. Series B and Series C will follow and all will run through several dates in June. [more]

Airline Highway

April 29, 2015

Unlike D’Amour’s last New York play, "Detroit," a Pulitzer Prize finalist which had four characters and a tight arc, "Airline Highway" is diffuse and sprawling with a large cast of 16 actors ably piloted by director Joe Mantello. Set in the shabby, rundown Hummingbird Motel on New Orleans’ Airline Highway, the play introduces us to a colorful but down-and-out cast of characters just eking out a living: Krista, a now homeless stripper in her 30’s; Tanya, a 62-year-old hooker and drug addict; Terry, an African American handyman always in need of money; Francis, a 50ish poet who seemed to have missed his moment, and Sissy Nan Na, a transvestite bartender and karaoke wrangler on Bourbon Street of African American and Puerto Rican descent. The motel is managed by Wayne, in this late 50’s, always good for a soft touch or ready to tell his life story. [more]

Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two

April 28, 2015

As deftly adapted by British playwright Mike Poulton and vigorously directed by Jeremy Herrin, the plays on the stage of the Winter Garden vividly bring to life the British court and its intrigue during the early sixteenth century, from about 1529 - 1536. Poulton wisely leaves out Cromwell’s childhood and youth described in the first novel and begins with him as lawyer to Cardinal Wolsey where the real story begins. However, like the published books, many of the major events take place between the scenes and the characters meet up to discuss the outcome. These are not plays for those who have not read the novels or are not familiar with the historical events or characters as there are too many people and relationships to keep straight if one doesn’t. Nine of the actors play one character each, the rest play between two and four. [more]

Hand to God

April 16, 2015

Though operating under the guise of a rather nonsensical comedy, Askins’ play is actually a sophisticated examination of how we handle grief. The text depicts two competing sides of a boy newly without a father and in the throes of puberty: while Jason appears too innocent to ever do anything wrong, the sock on his hand offers a convenient outlet for his bad behavior. Laced in this dichotomy are hints of schizophrenia, allusions to autoerotic stimulation, and a critique of the Christian notion that “unholy” behavior exists outside of the pure self and thus can be forgiven and eliminated. The question literally “at hand” is as follows: is the puppet actually possessed or is Jason mentally ill? If the latter, to what extent should the otherwise sweet boy be held responsible for the evil puppet’s actions? [more]

Skylight

April 13, 2015

With its ravishing, precise dialogue, very fine structure, and expertly imparted exposition, Skylight, is a model of accomplished playwriting. Mr. Hare is known for his Leftist political beliefs with which he infuses his plays. Here, in early post-Thatcher Britain, he has his characters eloquently debate their clashing world views, along with differing personal takes on their relationship. [more]

The Heidi Chronicles

March 22, 2015

The maternal ending was considered problematical in 1988, but seems less of a copout in 2015. In fact, the feminist thrust of the play has also dulled in the ensuing decades, making Ms. Wasserstein’s play far less effective as an instructive tool. " The Heidi Chronicles" has always been weighed down by too much polemic passed off as drama. What keeps this production afloat now is the incredible filigreed and witty lines that so quickly delineate each character’s foibles and feelings. [more]

Fish in the Dark

March 22, 2015

Director Anna D. Shapiro, usually associated with heavier dramas from such authors as Kenneth Lonergan, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Tracy Letts, Bruce Norris and John Steinbeck, has surrounded David with an A-List of stage and screen stars (Jayne Houdyshell, Rita Wilson, Rosie Perez, Lewis J. Stadlen, Marylouise Burke, etc.), as well as some rising stars and performers to watch (Molly Ranson, Jonny Orsini, and Jake Cannavale). Part of her assignment is to direct the traffic of the very large cast (18 in all) of the Drexel clan on the four sets and keep out of the way of these pros doing what they do best. At this, Shapiro does a superb job. [more]

The Audience

March 14, 2015

This play was originally produced in London’s West End in 2013. Ms. Mirren was awarded The Olivier and Evening Standard Award as best actress. She is repeating this acclaimed performance on Broadway with a cast made up of actors from the London production and newly selected Americans. With star quality, crisp authority and sheer talent, she compellingly portrays Elizabeth II from her ascension to the throne at the age of 25, to the very present with references to President Obama. [more]

Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance

January 27, 2015

Although the play is written in the retro form of upper middle class drawing room comedy, it has a serious message and theme. The fear or terror that Edna (Higgins) and Harry (Balaban) bring to the home of Agnes (Close) and Tobias (Lithgow) is that which all people have to deal with: loneliness, abandonment, illness, ageing, death. When asked what one of his plays was about, Harold Pinter, a playwright with a similar sensibility to Albee, declared, “The weasel under the cocktail cabinet.” On a surface level, this flippant remark appears meaningless, but on deeper level it means the hidden fears that lurk in the dark corners of our lives to which we avoid giving a name. This also sums up the theme of Albee’s play which is couched in difficult set pieces and elliptical dialogue. [more]

Constellations

January 18, 2015

With "Constellations," Nick Payne has deftly created a unique and very moving romantic work in the tradition of modern British playwrights that is universally appealing. [more]

The Elephant Man

December 24, 2014

This third Broadway outing of Bernard Pomerance’s "The Elephant Man" has its strengths and its weaknesses. On the one hand, it has Bradley Cooper’s magnificent, commanding performance in the title role. On the other, Scott Ellis’ production is a times superficial when it ought to be trenchant and facile when it ought to be caustic. However, like actors in profound classic texts, the performances in this 19th century tale many deepen over time. [more]

It’s Only a Play

November 27, 2014

The revival of Terrence McNally's theater comedy, It's Only a Play, has the starriest cast in town. It reunites Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick for the third time, and throws in for good measure Oscar Award winner F. Murray Abraham, Tony Award winner Stockard Channing, Harry Potter regular Rupert Grint, and Emmy Award winner Megan Mullally. This is probably just as well as this 1985 farce was slight in its Off Broadway production and in its first Broadway appearance, drastically updated, it seems even thinner. Jack O'Brien, who usually directs stronger stuff, pilots the expert cast around their paces. [more]

The River

November 21, 2014

Hugh Jackman's charismatic, sinister and charming performance is the only reason to see Jez Butterworth's delicate but thin play, The River, Butterworth's next Broadway play after Jerusalem. Unlike Jerusalem, The River doesn't have much story or much in way of a message, though in its form and structure it is a mystery. However, Jackman (in another role in which he is onstage almost throughout the play) commands our attention in a way few actors can and you can hear a pin drop at any moment during the 85 minute evening. [more]

Disgraced

November 3, 2014

That such a devastating scramble of lives can happen in as handsome a setting as John Lee Beatty, magic set designer, manages to evoke, heightens the irony of what takes place there. The rest of the superb production is of equal caliber: Jennifer Von Mayrhauser's so right costuming, Kenneth Posner's so apt lighting, Jill BC Cu Boff's sound. But is this who we are? Where do we go from here? You don't want to miss Disgraced. How are you going to know what the title means? [more]

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

October 20, 2014

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is the sort of very special play that only comes along once in a very great while. It is a play that will not only astonish you while you are in the theater but will also stay with you for a long time after you have left. In addition, you will come away with a much greater understanding of people with autism and how their minds work. [more]

You Can’t Take It with You

October 17, 2014

This new production of "You Can't Take It with You" proves that not only has the comedy passed the test of time, it also remains a wonderful evening in the theater. It may be set in the 1930's but America in 2014 needs to hear its message all over again. And it is still joyful and uproarious as it shows up real human foibles of which people are still prone. [more]

This Is Our Youth

October 15, 2014

details a specific subset of affluent, privileged, urban teenagers with no concepts for independence or ambition. In the larger context, the characters' problems are mostly petty and self-inflicted; consequently, the subject matter is difficult to relate to. I cannot speak for everyone, but the careless spending, rampant drug use, and overinflated egos presented in Lonergan's play were certainly not characteristic of my youth. [more]
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