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Off-Broadway

On Set with Theda Bara

February 6, 2023

David Greenspan, the shape-shifting thespian, has taken on yet another multi-character play, as if his one-man "Strange Interlude" and his more recent "Four Saints in Three Acts" whet his appetite for Joey Merlo’s "On Set with Theda Bara," a mysterious take on the life of the silent picture era vamp and her intrusion into a family whose lives become a film noir.  Directed smartly by Jack Serio, the surreal play, just one hour long, took the audience on a colorful journey that included a truly spooky séance. [more]

Sugar Daddy

February 5, 2023

Sam Morrison’s poignant "Sugar Daddy" has been “on the boards” for just under a year, but first coming to prominence at last year’s East to Edinburgh presentations at 59 East 59th Street Theatres as the Brits say “with a proper sendoff” before he struck gold at the Edinburgh Festival in August. It was only a matter of time before this jewel of a show received a longer run here in New York. It is truly a comfortable fit at SoHo Playhouse, with the only pity being it doesn’t have an open-ended run. "Sugar Daddy" is so many things. It is an off-beat love story; it is an expression of love as much as it is an expression of grief. Most importantly, it is an intensely personal story that he has chosen to share with total strangers, yet we don’t feel like strangers when he’s done. [more]

Asi Wind’s Inner Circle

January 30, 2023

"Ari Wind’s Inner Circle" is so incredible that it defies the imagination. Can these be called sleights of hand when we see everything that happens at all times? It is the sort of show that you just have to see for yourself and experience firsthand to believe. Not even magicians have been able to explain many - or all - of the tricks. It would be unfair to describe the tricks more completely – though how they are handled will completely amaze and dazzle you. [more]

Without You

January 26, 2023

And that's the agonizing tension in "Without You;" in his lyrical responses to Larson, Rapp is well aware that it's not a back-and-forth, that Larson can't say anything more than he has already. But, just as with "Rent," there is still solace, because I'm sure Rapp, the show's impressive five-member band cozily tucked into Southern's set, and the production crew could hear what I did in the audience: lots of crying. It came with a palpable feeling of not being alone in your thoughts for the dearly departed, especially those taken much too soon. A generation or two removed from having attended "Rent," it was an unspoken bond not only worth revisiting but, if I'm being honest with myself, desperately needed. [more]

Field of Mars

January 25, 2023

The set by Sascha van Riel has the feel of an unfinished work, with minimal props and an amateurish feel. His lighting does help in moving the story along, but the play itself doesn’t rise above the blandness of the set. The eleven actors, most of whom are seasoned performers, give an almost affectless reading of the script as if they are working with no direction and no understanding of the characters or the intent of the play. [more]

Colin Quinn: Small Talk

January 24, 2023

"Small Talk," like its title suggests, is less unified than Quinn’s earlier shows. He also uses its format to wander from topic to topic, seemingly randomly without much structure. It allows him to focus on his pet peeves which seem to be the real topic of the show. While some of his earlier shows were big on humor, this one is more interested in provoking thoughts than laughs. [more]

Memorial

January 24, 2023

Not only is Livian Yeh’s "Memorial" revealing in its historic depiction of a recent piece of American history, it is additionally a very satisfying dramatic work. It is also very pertinent now with its depiction of racism against Asians shown to have been just as prevalent 40 years ago, as well as how deeply ingrained our unexpressed prejudices go. Jeff Liu’s direction mines all of the play’s nuances, twists and turns. The superb design adds greatly to bringing the play to life, suggesting more than is actually on the stage. With this world premiere, the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre has a current winner as well as a play that should travel well to other theaters around the country. [more]

Not About Me

January 19, 2023

Eduardo Machado’s 11th play to premiere at Theater for the New City is called "Not About Me" which is a complete misnomer as it is about his life for the last 40 years with his alter ego at its center. Marketed as a “memory play that takes audiences on a haunting journey through the mind of a playwright during Covid-19 lockdown,” in fact, it is about his friends who died during the last pandemic, the mysterious “gay disease” that came to be called AIDS. Other than as a tribute to those lost friends, it is difficult to see the message of the play as it depicts a great deal of risky behavior. [more]

The Dog Show

January 16, 2023

Ivan Faute’s "The Dog Show" is ambitious in trying to tell a story by holding back on the details. Unfortunately, the method has grave, unresolved problems. For most of the first act we have no idea why it has been given this title. Neither the direction nor the script allows the performers to develop their characters who remain at the end the same as at the beginning. There is a play buried in this material but as of now it has not surfaced. [more]

Offal Endings

January 16, 2023

"Offal Endings" is billed as "a dark comedy" but it is more of a drama with some comedic elements. It grapples with complicated subjects and is not always successful. It "reads" better than it plays, which is not to say that it is a bad play, just that it needs more structure in its story development and execution. The topics it touches on are important given the increased commercialization in the delivery of medical care and, more importantly, psychological care in the complex socio-political environment of the present and near future economy. It presents challenging ideas but doesn’t clarify the challenges those ideas represent. [more]

Truth’s a Dog Must to Kennel

January 3, 2023

Under the direction of Karl Janes and Andy Smith, Tim Crouch is a very commanding performer, using his resonant baritone to paint pictures with words, holding our attention at all times. Narrating alone he makes us see all he describes from the theater, to the audience, to the landscape on stage and the other unseen actors. However, the play is not for all theatergoers simply because the format is complex and hard to follow and knowledge of the plot of "King Lear" is mandatory. On the other hand, for those who are into experimental theater, this is an exemplary model of the genre boldly pushing the envelope to what is possible. [more]

Darkness After Night: Ukraine

December 27, 2022

"Darkness: unfolds in many very short scenes with some confusing transitions.  Dubashin, the traitor to Russia, finally gets to confront Number One in a knock-down personal battle.  The only thing that can be said for this denouement is that it is wishful thinking of the highest order. There is more than a whiff of a vanity production here, leavened by Morrow’s “good intentions.”  Morrow is, perhaps, a tad self-indulgent to have put himself in the action hero part of a military do-gooder and he could use a dramaturg who could shape the disparate scenes into a well-oiled whole. [more]

Des Moines

December 20, 2022

Michael Shannon, Hari Nef, Heather Alicia Simms, Arliss Howard and Johanna Day in a scene from [more]

Betsy: Wisdom of a Brighton Whore

December 20, 2022

Sommerville gives an exquisite reading of Betsy's emotional highs and lows, embracing the difficult range of expression so that the audience can experience the intensity of the feelings being shown. She also provides vivid characterizations of the people who populate her story, bringing them to life as it unfolds. Sommerville seduces the audience into empathizing and sympathizing with Betsy. She uses certain physical mannerisms in her presentation that may go overboard at times, but they do add truthfulness to the depth of emotions being shown. However, please make no mistake: this is ultimately a tragic story. [more]

The Wildly Inappropriate Poetry of Arthur Greenleaf Holmes

December 19, 2022

While Arthur Greenleaf Holmes is the creation of a talented comedian Gordon Boudreau as is Holmes poetry, the presentation is very much true to the era being presented. It is funny. It is bawdy, in the broadest sense of that word. Nevertheless, it is thought-provoking for those who are interested in the skillful use of language. It is not for those who may be offended by ribald, and some may call filthy imagery and poetic descriptions of bodily functions, but it is an immensely entertaining time in the theater. [more]

Becky Nurse of Salem

December 18, 2022

In any event, Ruhl has not written a play set in 1692 or a sequel to "The Crucible" but a comedy about free-spirited Becky Nurse, a descendant of the accused witch Rebecca Nurse, a pious 71-year-old woman who had nine children and was hard of hearing, who wishes to set the record straight. Although a fascinating premise, the problem with play is that it throws in everything except the kitchen sink – but, in fact, it makes use of metal freestanding toilet. The play attempts to cover multiple themes and topics: revisionist history, the opioid crisis, the generation gap, teenage suicide, the Salem Witch Trial, unemployment, medical care, the supernatural, adultery, and office harassment. Conceived and written between 2016 - 2019, the play also tries to connect Trump Rallies in which the crowds shouted “Lock her up” and Trump’s repeated use of the words “witch hunt” and his attempt to appear the victim to the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trial in 1692. All of this is too much weight for any one play. Director Rebecca Taichman’s uneven production does not help, though much of that is the fault of the shift in tone in the writing. [more]

The Far Country

December 15, 2022

All of the above occurs prior to the intermission and, if "The Far Country" has a shortcoming, it's that the second half feels like a sequel to what came before rather than a continuation of the same play, despite the sensitive efforts of director Eric Ting to emotionally stitch everything together. In part, that's because characters disappear entirely after Suh's story resumes, though the more salient cause is the relatively late introduction of Yuen (Shannon Tyo), a desperate, but still strong-willed, young woman to whom Gyet proposes marriage after returning to China with his U.S. citizenship, essentially replicating Gee's offer to him with an even more intimate bond. [more]

The Weak and the Strong

December 12, 2022

Erik Ehn’s title "The Weak and the Strong" taken from St. Paul may refer to the bad choices that some people make that others avoid, but it seems to only reinforce the clichés of most western films. The storytelling and production are mostly so obscure that the play becomes tedious as it is so difficult to follow. With a 70-minute first act, the play seems extremely long and overwritten. It is to be hoped that the play finds an audience that can follow its circuitous path to its conclusion and in its poetic speech and metaphors. [more]

La Race

December 9, 2022

Taylor Reynolds has directed an excellent ensemble in bringing this play to life in an engaging, thought-provoking, and heartfelt way, but not without some issues. Through his direction and the actors' performances, "La Race" challenges the audience with clearly articulated and impactful ideas. However, the success in presenting those ideas depends on how they are performed, which is one of the problematic areas. Expressing strong emotions about an issue is challenging without being preachy or strident. There are scenes where certain key characters go into rants about racism, sexism, and gentrification that seem out of place with the carefully constructed plot lines that approach those issues in a less strident and more thoughtful way. [more]

A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx

December 7, 2022

Under the permissive direction of Garfield-Szita—who also designed the costumes—the cast comes across more as members of a sitcom than a serious drama, not helped by Morgenstein’s dependence on shtick and clichés. The actors work hard to find some emotional resonance in their dialogue, particularly Kusher, O’Brien and Roche who occasionally rise above their lines.  Bell Wolff as Gladys is in a world of her own.  Her voice is a colorful instrument that takes Tomato into an almost surreal place. Morgenstein does have a good feel for what drives each of his characters.  A sweet scene on a fire escape between Eleanor and Sammy shows that the playwright can be subtle and incisive. [more]

Underneath the Skin

December 6, 2022

Famed performance artist John Kelly has brought his latest show, "Underneath the Skin" to La MaMa, subtitled “A Penetrative Portrayal of a Queer Giant Based on the life and work of Samuel Steward 1909-1993.” Steward had a remarkable life in the first three-quarters of the 20th century as a college professor, a tattoo artist, a pornographer, an unofficial collaborator at the Kinsey Institute and a sexual renegade. He was also a friend of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Thomas Mann, André Gide, had trysts with Rudolph Valentino and Lord Alfred Douglas, and became the lover of Thornton Wilder. Underneath the Skin is a fascinating and engrossing blend of theater, dance, video, erotic art and a gay history of the 20th century. [more]

Eleanor and Alice: Conversations Between Two Remarkable Roosevelts

November 28, 2022

Ellen Abrams’ new play "Eleanor and Alice – Conversations Between Two Remarkable Roosevelts" explores their superficial courtesies in a series of conversations spanning 1904 until 1962, agreeable conversations that reveal an often disagreeable, if not downright adversarial relationship. Scenic designer Frank J. Oliva has divided the stage at Urban Stages into two discrete areas, one representing the Roosevelt estate, Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, Long Island, and the other Eleanor Roosevelt’s charmingly simple home, Val-Kill, in Hyde Park, New York.  Kyle Artone’s costumes are simple representations of the two women as they travel their different paths through history. [more]

Sandra

November 26, 2022

Cale’s story uses many film noir devices from the 1940’s: exotic locale, strange encounters, searching down unknown streets, disappearing characters, a sexy stranger, danger signals avoided, clues that don’t add up, information that turns out to be fallacious, a damsel in distress, stolen objects, moments of high passion, etc. Yet all seem to be used as if for the first time. The elements are time tested, but the story is new. Cale is an excellent storyteller pulling us in with enough hints and clues to keep us interested until the very end. There are moments that sag but he always pulls out us into something new and unexpected. [more]

Evanston Salt Costs Climbing

November 25, 2022

Will Arbery’s Evanston "Salt Costs Climbing" (set in the city in which the author received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in 2015) is a perplexing experience as it shifts from realism to absurdism to surrealism. Its worthy topics of ecology and climate change notwithstanding, the play’s repetitiousness and unprepared-for events are frustrating as well as the missing backstories. While it begins interestingly enough , it very quickly turns tedious and inexplicable. A noble experiment, "Evanston Salt Costs Climbing" is either for the select few or needs a rewrite or second draft. [more]

Cocoon

November 25, 2022

Director Kotryna Gesait’s direction does not have the necessary distance from the material to realize that actors speaking simultaneously will blur content and intentions for the audience. Scenic design of Chantal Marks provides the obligatory cocoon-like fabrics draped from the ceiling as well as on the walls. Heather Crocker’s lighting design is supportive of the many changing moods of the piece from scene to scene. The sound design of Nadav Rayman underlines key shifts beautifully. [more]

Camp Siegfried

November 24, 2022

"Camp Siegfried" is a new departure for the author of "Small Mouth Sounds," "Continuity," "Make Believe" and "Grand Horizons." Depicting an important piece of history in an age when hate speech is on the rise, the play seems to be attempting something it doesn’t quite achieve. However, it is certainly a worthy effort and an engrossing piece in the theater though it leaves us hungry for more. [more]

The Rat Trap

November 23, 2022

Noel Coward’s "The Rat Trap" is not only entertaining but seems to have been ahead of its time. Discounted by critics and the author alike when it had its only production until now in 1926, the play turns out to be a cogent exploration of a creative woman’s search for her place in society, one which has no niche for her talents once she is a married woman. The Mint Theater Company does the play justice, restoring its reputation as an Edwardian period piece on the topic of the New Woman who is also a gifted artist. In Sarin Monae West and Elisabeth Gray we see the work of talented performers who we want to see more of in the future. [more]

George Kaplan

November 20, 2022

"George Kaplan" is a beautifully realized drama with comedic elements by Frédéric Sonntag, translated into North American English by Samuel Buggeln. The viewer will laugh but will also be brought to gently encounter deeper and possibly disturbing questions about our political and cultural perceptions. Questions such as What is the nature of a surveillance culture? How do fiction and disinformation relate to the perception of reality? Does myth lead to conspiracy theories? Who is manipulating us, and for what purpose? Does any of it matter in the whole scheme of things? [more]

Where the Mountain Meets the Sea

November 19, 2022

A touching portrait of a father and his alienated son unfolds in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s "Where the Mountain Meets the Sea" by Jeff Augustin, directed by Joshua Kahan Brody. ... "When the Mountain Meets the Sea" is not only about two different people, but two different time periods.  Jean exists in memory while Jonah’s journey is to cross the country, retrieve Jean’s ashes and spread them over Haiti. [more]

Where We Belong

November 17, 2022

Writer/ director/actress Madeline Sayet is an engaging performer. Directed by Mei Ann Teo, her one-woman show “Where We Belong” is an autobiographical tale of her Mohegan roots and her seeking her place in the world as she travels to London to pursue a PhD in Shakespeare. While much of the play contains information and stories that will come as a revelation to most New Yorkers, the play often feels like a lecture with an agenda. The most interesting parts are her own discoveries about her roots and her encounters with other people in which she plays both characters. [more]

Downstate

November 16, 2022

Norris’ smart and effective script is packed with controversy; its characters are stained by the trauma in which their lives have been steeped, and it’s uncertain they will ever feel clean again. So many questions come to mind as this play unfolds. ... "Downstate" is a stirring, thought-provoking play about a deeply painful topic that plagues societies around the world. It’s an extremely tight piece of writing; every word and action is relevant. I can’t wait to see it again. [more]

My Broken Language

November 14, 2022

Hudes has directed her own play in a delightful vaudeville/musical comedy style with dancing between the scenes to choreography by Ebony Williams to live music played by pianist Ariacne Trujillo-Durand, supervised by Alex Lacamoire. Of the five actresses who perform each in their own inimitable style, three of them have appeared in Hudes’ plays before: Daphne Rubin-Vega and Zabryna Guevara (who play the Author twice each) have appeared in two New York productions and Marilyn Torres has appeared regionally in the Pulitzer Prize-winning, "Water by the Spoonful" at The Old Globe, San Diego. By the end of the evening we feel we have met all of the Perez women as well as know what makes the Author tick. [more]

Merciful Delusions : 4 One Act Plays by Tennessee Williams

November 10, 2022

Director Lorraine Serabian is faithful to the spirit of when these plays were written. She delves into the spirited dreamers and chance takers that Tennessee Williams so faithfully showed us in very poetic theatre of the rawest psychological insight. The scenic design of JR Carter is economical for fast changes between plays, yet evocative of the period it is asked to enhance. Adrian Yuen’s lighting design captures the dinginess and the squalor, yet always craving that sliver of brightness. Williams wrote more one-act treasures than we see here, and this production definitely makes an audience want to experience more of his minor masterpieces. [more]
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