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Off-Broadway

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]

A Delicate Balance

November 10, 2022

The first Off Broadway revival of Edward Albee’s " A elicate Balance," his first Pulitzer Prize-winning play (of three), is also the first to feature an all Asian American cast as well as being the first New York production of an Albee play to be performed by a non-white cast. A coproduction of Transport Group and the National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO), it is has been directed by Jack Cummings III, Transport Group’s artistic director. The production is elegant and polished, if a bit leisurely. However, at two hours and 45 minutes the running time is the same length as the 2014 Broadway revival. The six character cast is led by Mia Katigbak, actor-manager and co-founder of NAATCO. [more]

Catch as Catch Can

November 10, 2022

Chung has the six characters played by three actors, each playing a parent/child duo switching from one to the other in confusing frequency. In addition, each actor plays a parent of the opposite gender. To muddy things even further, all the characters are played by Asian-Americans who make honest, but failing, attempts to adopt working class Italian and Irish Catholic accents and attitudes.  Lon/Daniela are played by Cindy Cheung; Roberta/Robbie by Jon Norman Schneider; and Theresa/Tim by Rob Yang. [more]

You Will Get Sick

November 8, 2022

Ostensibly a comedy, or a tragi-comedy, or a dystopic mashup of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Field of Dreams," Diaz's play could possibly be enjoyed as a befuddling trifle if not for its serious pretensions about morbidity and mortality. Both aspects of this double downer involve a young man (the hopelessly adrift Daniel K. Isaac) recently diagnosed with a terminal disease that Diaz, desperately straining for universality, never identifies. He also doesn't note any character names in the program's cast list, referring to each of the actors only by the numbers 1 through 5, even though character names are used in the script. This concealment likely is a way of protecting the play's huge final reveal, or it could have another point that exists in Diaz's noggin but not in mine. [more]

38th Marathon of One-Act Plays: Series B

November 6, 2022

Ensemble Studio Theatre’s "38th Marathon of One-Act Plays," their first since 2019, is split up into two programs of five plays each, with an eleventh play, Vera Starbard’s “Yan Tután,” streaming free on-demand, in collaboration with Perseverance Theatre. Each of the plays in Program B is successful in telling us enough about the characters to make the audience care for them and empathize for what they experience in their short time on stage. ... The Marathon is a great venue for up-and-coming writers to hone their characterization skills. Some of these writers have already had full productions of other plays in their resumés, so for some their success is in full swing. Program B is a definite tease towards coming back to experience Program A. [more]

Vatican Falls

November 6, 2022

You won’t find Vatican Falls on any map about picturesque raging waters.  No, Frank J. Avella’s new play, "Vatican Falls," is, instead, a passionate, sometimes humorous, indictment of the Catholic Church and its long history of concealing the sexual abuse suffered by hundreds of young men at the hands of priests. Tony DiBernardo’s vivid, yet simple set—red platforms that were eventually arranged into the form of a cross—help Avella—who co-directed with Carlotta Brentan—make his sometimes confusing storytelling clearer by dividing the stage into two playing areas. [more]

Straight Line Crazy

November 1, 2022

Ralph Fiennes’ towering performance as a megalomaniac who changes the face of New York as we know it is worth the price of admission. With his puffed out chest and nose in the air remaking himself physically, he creates a biographical portrait which will go down in the theater annals. Co-directors Nicholas Hytner and Jamie Armitage keep all the data and speechifying fascinating despite what could be the dryness of the material. And let’s not forget David Hare’s achievement to place the 30 year career of builder Robert Moses front and center on stage without overwhelming us with facts and figures but creating drama out of real life confrontations. "Straight Line Crazy" may just prove to be the dramatic high point of this theater season. [more]

Our Voices, Our Time: One-Act Play Festival

November 1, 2022

The venerable, historic Negro Ensemble Company is presenting an intriguing program at the equally venerable, historic Cherry Lane Theatre: "Our Voices, Our Time: One-Act Play Festival." The three short plays, all insightful in very individual ways, reveal the ins and outs of relationships while also dealing with contemporary issues. [more]

What Passes for Comedy

October 31, 2022

G.D. Kimble’s "What Passes for Comedy" depicts the fascinating era of early live television talk shows and the racism and anti-Semitism which was acceptable in those days. However, it also hints at hilarious comic interludes which it does not deliver. A much better play is hiding in this material and a rewrite could make it a much more successful evening. Its lack of focus camouflages its real intentions which are quite admirable. The play is also hampered by its conventional structure which requires a good many unnecessary exchanges. Nevertheless, this is an admirable attempt at something a little different from the usual run of historical plays on the stage, an absorbing evening even when it is not clear exactly where it is going. [more]

Montag

October 24, 2022

While director Dustin Wills has given 'Montag" a superb production, the meaning and message of Kate Tarker’s play remains obscure. Demonstrating female empowerment alone is not enough if the details remain murky and confusing. If the play has any geopolitical message about American-German-Turkish relations, it is entirely lost in the proceedings. The fact that both women are now single parents is not given much significance in the play. One gets the feeling that much of the play has a private meaning for the author who grew up in Germany on the outskirts of a U.S. military community. For those who do not know German, “Montag” is the word for Monday, the day when Clifford Andrews went missing and the women barricaded themselves in the apartment. [more]

Chushingura – 47 Ronin

October 24, 2022

It’s not clear what Amaterasu Za’s mission is.  If, as Dachs’ program comments indicate, it is to bring Japanese culture to modern audiences, the company needs to be less stodgy and more contemporary in its approach to such vivid dramas as "Chushingura - 47 Ronin." If this production is representative of their efforts, Amaterasu Za is dedicated to first rate representations of high Japanese art.  Their standards are high.  Perhaps, Dachs and her company can figure out how to combine a reverence for traditional Japanese theater with appealing to a wider audience without sacrificing authenticity. [more]

Albert Camus’ “The Fall”

October 23, 2022

Belgian actor Ronald Guttman gives a subtle, yet wrenching performance in "The Fall," expounding the philosophies of Albert Camus trapped in the sad and now resigned character of the exiled Parisian lawyer Jean-Baptiste Clamence. Fellow bar mates, we the audience, are his confessors in a sailors’ dive bar in Amsterdam’s red-light district circa 1956. In adapting Camus’ last completed novel for the stage, Alexis Lloyd, has created a role of controlled emotions that belie the seething honesty struggling to rear its ugly head.  Director Didier Flamand encourages the full use of the space to make constant contact with members of the audience. Turning around from ordering his drink at the bar, he is in the best position to orate at will. As the performance takes place (and fits very neatly) in the entirety of the Huron Bar (the lower level of the SoHo Playhouse), the original architect of the building should be entitled to a scenic design credit. The best seat in the house is occupied by the bartender. [more]

The Winter’s Tale (Bedlam)

October 21, 2022

Many of Bedlam’s productions have used small casts with most of the actors playing more than one role. In the case of "The Winter’s Tale," not one of Shakespeare’s more often produced plays, the casting uses so few actors  that the play becomes confusing and difficult to follow, and a great many characters and much dialogue has necessarily been cut. In one head-scratching scene, Elan Zafir is required to play King Polixenes and his son Prince Florizel at the same time. While the sets and costumes are modern, with the Shakespeare poetry sacrificed to sound like contemporary speech, the characters are still referred to as “King Leontes” and his wife “Queen Hermione.” As the setting by John McDermott looks like three rooms in a frat house, one wonders why the Royal Family of Sicilia would be living in such shabby quarters and continually guzzling beer in the palace. [more]

Everything’s Fine

October 16, 2022

Actor/writer/director Douglas McGrath is a charming storyteller and his one-man show "Everything’s Fine" is a total delight. He tells the entertaining and poignant story of his eventful 14th year when he was in ninth grade but also describes life in his family of five growing up in Midland, Texas. His tale of darkest adolescence is also nostalgic and reminiscent of the problems of life as a teen. The title turns out to be ironic as it was an expression his father used before announcing there was a new problem. [more]

Baldwin & Buckley At Cambridge

October 14, 2022

"Baldwin & Buckley at Cambridge" should stir up controversy as their 1965 topic is still relevant. Such a debate today would have a great deal more ammunition than either of these men had at the time. However, one can still hear both points of view today given by liberals and conservatives, respectively. The fact that the Baldwin/Buckley debate is still relevant can be witnessed from the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2013 as well as the 2019 publication of "The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the Debate over Race in America" by Nicholas Buccola. This is a question which has not been resolved in the intervening 57 years. [more]

Powerhouse

October 14, 2022

Harms’ play never lets up in its homage to corporate intrigue laced with humor. The audience’s caring for how Regan and Guy end up is a given, so that we can forgive his “poetic license” in that all legal personnel involved would be fully aware that the illegal recording of someone without their knowledge is a Class E felony in the state of New York, but nevermind.  Director Ken Wolf keeps the story moving at a great clip and gently supports all five of the thoroughly believable characterizations, to the point we hope even Meena will be okay after her hysterical breakdown akin to professional suicide. [more]

The Sea Lady

October 11, 2022

Neith Boyce’s "The Sea Lady," a Broadway-bound play in 1935, only now having its world premiere at Metropolitan Playhouse is an attempt at a Shavian play of ideas. Based on a 1901 novel by socialist H.G. Wells, this very Edwardian story resembles Shaw’s "Misalliance" but without the wit or the scope of ideas. Extremely tentative in how far it dares to go, "The Sea Lady" seems like a relic of an earlier age. It has charm but it lacks depth; its message may have been new in 1901 when the novel came out or 1935 when the play was finished, but today it seems extremely old hat. [more]

Washington Square

October 10, 2022

On what is either a shoestring budget or a conscious effort to strip Henry James’ novel down to its essentials, Randy Sharp’s new adaptation of "Washington Square" is both exciting theater and entirely true to its source material. The quartet of fine actors make this story of 1840’s New York entirely credible and engrossing at all times. While it avoids the beautiful trappings usually associated with the period, it is so gripping that they are not missed for a moment. [more]

Our Town…but Wilder

October 10, 2022

Krevolin is a clever writer, turning Wilder’s American folk tale into a modern comedy/drama with relevance to today’s audiences.  Although he often makes his points a bit too obviously with the rantings of the bigots veering too close to cliché, he nimbly juggles the complex inter-relationships. His staging is simple, helped by Aurora Winger’s lighting.  Characters often enter down the aisle as they approach the stage tossing off their lines, cheerfully lit by Winger. While waiting for the next inevitable production of Wilder’s Our Town, whet your appetite with its modern cousin, "Our Town…but Wilder." [more]

Complicity

October 10, 2022

On paper, Diane Davis’ play "Complicity" offers a stark, yet refreshing take on the now familiar Harvey Weinstein-tainted Hollywood story of women being victimized by a male-run, male-driven industry. On stage what we have instead are sometimes too-clipped scenes where an audience is left the chore of filling in the many blanks.  The actors sometimes attempt to do just that with histrionics that are unfortunately not reined in by director Illana Stein. [more]

I’m Revolting

October 5, 2022

There are two truisms in life in addition to the one about death and taxes: it takes all kinds of people to make a world and something will get everyone in the end. The world premiere of Gracie Gardner’s "I’m Revolting" beautifully proves both points. A sensitive and perceptive play set in the waiting room of a private New York City skin cancer clinic, the play introduces us to all walks of people and many reactions to medical reports. The ensemble cast includes several veteran actors (Laura Esterman, Glenn Fitzgerald, Peter Gerety and Patrice Johnson Chevannes) and several not so well known faces. Knud Adams’ direction is subtle and unobtrusive allowing life to pass on the Linda Gross stage of the Atlantic Theater Company. [more]
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