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Off-Broadway

Off the Meter, On the Record 

October 20, 2017

Set designer Charlie Corcoran ingeniously has the small stage’s walls adorned with sections of a yellow cab.  Off to the side is a piece containing the steering wheel from where McDonagh periodically speaks.  Above this, is a screen bordered by vintage billboard pictures. This showcases Chris Kateff’s dazzling projection design that illustratively displays imagery of New York City from various eras, video clips and slides such as the 1975 New York Daily News headline, “Ford To City: Drop Dead.” [more]

The Home Place

October 19, 2017

It is possible to enjoy Brian Friel’s "The Home Place" without knowing the background to this historical play set in rural Ireland in 1878 as a Chekhovian representation of a world about to come to an end. However, the play will be much more meaningful if one knows the historical events that have led up to this turn of events. Charlotte Moore’s handsome and genteel production will be enjoyed most by those who understand the play’s undercurrents and implications. The low-key staging of this subtle play which does not spell everything out requires the audience to be adept at reading between the lines. [more]

Mud

October 18, 2017

While the acting is compelling, the threesome does not reveal many layers to their characters; they establish a persona and stick to it, without divulging any further information. As Mae, Nicole Villamil is both stoical and passive, a rather flat reading of this ambitious though down-trodden young woman. Julian Elijah Martinez’s Lloyd definitely comes from the lower depths with his vulgar language, his self-pity and his inability to help himself. However, there is little variety in his performance and we have no idea what his relationship with Mae has been up to this time. He does get noticeable stronger after he begins taking the pills the clinic has prescribed. Unaccountably dressed in a sport jacket and a tie in Sarita Fellows’ costume design, Nelson Avidon’s Henry is the biggest enigma of the three. At first reticent and later lascivious, he tells us little about his attraction to Mae - or where he comes from. [more]

Burning Doors

October 18, 2017

Nicolai Khalezin wrote Burning Doors with dramaturgy by him and Natalia Kaliada.  Their aim is to bring attention to currently jailed artists Petr Pavlensky and Oleg Sentsov by weaving in their testimonies.  Actors also proclaim from the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Michel Foucault.  Fleeting and sometimes sly allusions to Putin are laced in. [more]

Squeamish

October 17, 2017

hough it’s a one-woman show, Alison Fraser plays a number of characters by speaking in different voices with a certain technical prowess. The principal one is an upper West Side psychotherapist, Sharon, who is ostensibly talking to her own therapist (a “shrink’s shrink,” we’re told) at his apartment late one night. She’s relating the story of her going to her hometown of Lubbock, Texas, for her beloved nephew’s funeral, after he’s committed suicide. But has Eddie really killed himself, like Sharon’s mother did decades ago when Eddie was only three? For that matter, did Sharon’s mother really commit suicide, we’re made to wonder by the end? [more]

Arden/Everywhere

October 16, 2017

Signaling that we’re in for something different, Bauman has redubbed the play "Arden/Everywhere," a hint that home, and the emotional impact of losing it, is at the heart of her reimagining. Largely through design choices, but also some modest changes to the text, Bauman connects the diasporic struggles of the play’s characters to those experienced by the 65 million refugees the United Nations has identified throughout the world today, effectively arguing that, in both cases, the pain is there for anyone to see. [more]

Only You Can Prevent Wildfires

October 14, 2017

The audience sitting on three sides of the airy playing area on wooden benches is part of Clifton Chadick’s super, environmental scenic design.  The floor is covered with wood chips, logs and tree stumps, there are a several jagged wooden poles and a few red fire buckets strewn about.  On one end is a stage area and the other is a screen where Joey Moro’s atmospheric projection design is shown.  The crisp imagery includes fires, nature and abstractions.  For several distracting instances the actors at the other end of the stage are projected onto the screen for no discernable reason other than as an aesthetic flourish. [more]

Androboros: Villain of the State

October 13, 2017

Director Ralph Lewis, apparently not trusting the material – or finding the play too dated – has staged a carnival-esque version (adapted by S.M. Dale in June 2016) which includes 16 songs and musical numbers and making contemporary references to the Trump Administration, as well as current New York City politics. The result, a series of Saturday Night Live political skits, is neither faithful to the original nor witty for a modern audience, more of a confused jumble than a historical rediscovery. [more]

Syncing Ink

October 11, 2017

Mr. Njikam offers a witty take on the classic mythology of a hero’s episodic journey with a lively African-American slant. There are a lot of high school and college scenes with wise teachers referring to James Baldwin and W.E.B. Du Bois, combative students, a dying father and an imperious mother. Rhyming battles, love and enlightenment occur along the way. The narrative is so eventful and spread out that it can be difficult taking it all in and its overall impact is diluted. [more]

…and then I meowed…

October 10, 2017

Marinelli’s performance also contributes to the ennui. Heavy set, possessing a sullen countenance, speaking in a light voice, and lethargically shuffling around, he’s not the most charismatic performer to spend 90 minutes with. In the last portion, when he encounters a lost cat after being stood up on a date, his acting and the play has a jolt of energy and momentum as it reaches its upbeat conclusion. [more]

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord

October 10, 2017

Although director Kimberly Senior who also piloted the Chicago production has staged the play with elegance, she never really turns up the heat so that there are not many sparks in Carter’s debate. Discord, yes; but no fireworks which might have made the discussion more dramatic. The play uses titles on the back wall to name each of the 14 scenes much in the manner of Brecht’s alienation effect. This breaks up the play but is not very informative. The device of the invisible fourth wall being a mirror in Wilson Chin’s all blue-grey interrogation room seems a gimmick to allow the men to face the audience directly for much of the play. [more]

Kafka and Son

October 9, 2017

With only a metal-mesh cage, bed-frame, and a gate--and gobs of black feathers that ultimately litter the stage--Nashman cavorts around the black box set (scenic design is by Marysia Bucholc and Camellia Koo) with abandon. If the challenge of every one-man show is to sustain our attention, Nashman succeeds spectacularly. He has some significant help with evocative lighting by Andrea Lundy, eerie music by Osvald Golijov (performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet), and Cassidy’s direction, which always keeps him in motion. [more]

Mesquite, NV

October 8, 2017

Most of the humor is at the expense of the Mesquite City Council and its steely-eyed mayor Linda Hadley (Liz Amberly) who could be accurately described as a Margaret Thatcher wannabe, if she had any idea who Margaret Thatcher was. With rapacious resolve, she has set her sights on doing something no other mayor has ever done in the entire history of Mesquite: win a second term. She is assisted in this quest by her right-hand toady (Jeff Paul), the financial backing of a shady resort magnate (Jed Dickson), and an underwhelming pool of potential challengers, led by Will Brown (the wonderful Joe Burby) whose hapless sincerity is seemingly no match for the mayor’s small-town realpolitik. [more]

Basement

October 7, 2017

Mr. Hagins has crafted an involving and affective take of a perennial scenario that captures the nostalgic essence of wartime films and plays of the past.  There’s the spirit of "Casablanca" and echoes of "The Voice of The Turtle" and "John Loves Mary," combined with the novelty of the interracial angle that’s tenderly realized. [more]

The Show-Off

October 5, 2017

The central character is actually Mrs. Fisher who worries about her children and plots to open Amy’s eyes to her husband’s faults. Unfortunately, Annette O’Toole has been directed to play her as shrill, strident and hysterical, rather than as a wise middle-aged lady who has no illusions about life. Given a great many ethnic prejudices in her dialogue which in 1924 defined her as a suburban provincial, played this way she simply comes across as a bigot. We ought to be rooting for her against the barbarian invasion but O’Toole makes her almost as bad as Aubrey. [more]

No Wake

October 5, 2017

In 85 minutes, we really don’t learn much Rebecca, Nolan or Sukey as Mr. Donnelly imparts scant biographical details about them, but strangely does for Padgett. Donnelly takes the perennial premise of a divorced couple’s past romantic feelings for each other being reignited and clumsily tosses in the dramatic, morbid bombshell. His glum and stilted finale at Sukey’s apartment is out of Private Lives. The title refers to Sukey’s wish that when she dies that there be no wake. [more]

Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic

October 4, 2017

The new story concerns Wayne Hopkins, an American boy whose parents die tragically and his Uncle Dave informs him that he is a wizard and must attend a special school in England. Wayne is sorted into The Puffs which he discovers is the house for the losers, rejects and nerds who never win at anything. His one goal is to be a hero at something – eventually – while getting through magic school. There he meets the dashing older student Cedric (Andy Miller) several years ahead, as well as another American, the nerdy math prodigy Oliver Rivers (Langston Belton) who can’t seem to succeed at magic, and Megan Jones (Julie Ann Earls), who wears Goth make-up, all black clothing and resents being there. Megan is particularly angry because her mother is a prisoner and in thrall to the Dark Lord. [more]

Mary Jane

October 4, 2017

The ambiguities in Mary Jane’s character seem to stem more from the writing than the acting: though her behavior remains dubious or questionable, Mary Jane comes to real life as enacted by Carrie Coon, who was such a memorable Honey in the recent Broadway revival of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" She’s a solid Mary Jane as well, but then, the character and her motives prove harder to pin down. The stalwart New York actress Brenda Wehle is a perfectly believable and no-nonsense Ruthie. The always reliable Liza Colón-Zayas is Alex’s caregiver Sherry, and Danaya Esperanza and Susan Pourfar are persuasive as, respectively Sherry’s niece and another mother with similar challenges. [more]

As You Like It (CSC)

October 2, 2017

Known as the Shakespeare play with the most song lyrics, the production also includes a deliciously bouncy new score by Stephen Schwartz in different musical styles from the 1920’s – 1950’s, including setting some of Orlando’s mash notes to Rosalind which are usually spoken in verse. The musical numbers are mostly reassigned to the musical theater veterans like de Shields and Stillman who plays an onstage, upright piano, with Leenya Rideout on violin and double bass, and other members of the cast occasionally joining in on guitar and triangle. All of this adds to the festive, light-hearted atmosphere. Originally announced as a Jazz Age interpretation, that concept seems to have gone by the wayside. [more]

The Red Letter Plays: Fucking A & In the Blood

October 2, 2017

Having spent nearly five hours in the company of Ms. Parks’ parade of these beautifully written characters I find myself conflicted about these plays. She is brilliant at generating fire with the source of the heat difficult to pinpoint.  It’s her talent to write dramas which sizzle, constructed in her strange vernacular, yet somehow leave too many questions unanswered, the better to prove her one-sided stories. [more]

A Soldier’s Play

October 1, 2017

Director Charles Weldon acted in the 1983, Mark Taper Forum’s Los Angeles production, and besides his meticulous casting he has perfectly rendered this revival. Mr. Weldon’s physical staging inventively, precisely and aesthetically utilizes the large stage to faithfully realize the material. [more]

Outside Paducah: The Wars at Home

September 29, 2017

In terms of the atmospherically detailed writing and Mr. Moad’s enjoyably intense performance that recalls a Sam Shepard hero, “Quittin’ Meth” is the most powerful of the program and its concluding play. It’s a poetically expressed evening’s odyssey of a 27 year-old Iraq War veteran who has returned to his Illinois hometown in 2007. Set in a rundown bar in this depressed steel mill neighborhood, we follow his memories of the war that contrast with his present observations and glimpses of the pitiful bar denizens . He encounters a war buddy who lost a leg and has descended into drug addiction. [more]

Charm

September 28, 2017

Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins makes a memorable New York debut with an involving and engrossing play which at the performance under review you could have heard a pin drop, so rapt was the audience. The play is, indeed, flawed by its avoiding real confrontations time and again, always stopping short of out and out war. Inspired by the true story of Miss Gloria Allen who volunteered to teach a class in etiquette at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, "Charm" is both a fascinating story and it covers unexplored territory on our stages. As Mama Andrews, the elegant Sandra Caldwell is both charismatic and compelling, never fazed by the behavior of the class even when they pay her no mind or reject her teachings. [more]

Breeders

September 28, 2017

There are plentiful comic one-liners and also sharp observations in Mr. Giles’ well-crafted dialogue.  Giles perfectly renders all four characters with personality details and traits.  The tensions, concerns and sensibilities of the long-term gay couple all ring true, but interspersing these with the mildly entertaining hamster story feels like a strategic theatrical device that undercuts the main plot to no great effect. [more]

A Clockwork Orange

September 27, 2017

The only color in the predominantly black-and-white show is orange, which appears as a pair of high heels, a hat and a cape, an apron, books, and various other odd items. There’s also a large bowl of oranges, hanging high up on the black, back wall of the set. (Though Jennifer A. Jacob is credited as “Costume Coordinator” in the program, no one is listed for scenery.) Though it may not add up to much of a story or make much sense, the highly stylized presentation of "A Clockwork Orange" makes it well worth-while as an evening out at the theater. [more]

The Treasurer

September 27, 2017

With her slim physique, flawless diction, melodiously husky voice and imperious bearing, Dunagan is commanding. She conveys the character’s arrogance, selfishness and harrowing mental decline due to dementia with steely flair. She forcefully embodies the archetypal distant mother who damages her children. [more]

Up the Rabbit Hole

September 27, 2017

Besides harboring a dwindling dream to become a dancer, thanks to a leg injury, Halliday’s dramatic stand-in, Jack (Tyler Jones), an adoptee, also has to contend with the overwhelming repercussions of having tracked down his biological family, which includes an adult half-brother (Andrew Glaszek) with his own substance-abuse demons. That’s a lot for 90 minutes, and Halliday, despite a valiant effort, can’t keep his play from sinking under the weight of it all. [more]

Small World

September 23, 2017

Both as written by Stroppel and portrayed by Stephen D’Ambrose (Stravinsky) and Mark Shanahan (Disney), it also becomes clear that they are equally imperious--at first. Though they’re both monomaniacs, its Disney who proves more like a Trumpian narcissist. While Stravinsky says early on, “Everything I say is entirely true,” Disney, a bit later, claims, “I’m never wrong.” The fireworks begin as soon as they start to interact when Disney describes how the music evokes for him the birth of the universe and “earth--in its infancy,” not to mention dinosaurs, which remain the most memorable part of the "Fantasia" segment or sequence [more]

The Climbers

September 23, 2017

The play isn’t just about social climbers but those who want to game the system and live beyond their income, and their sense of entitlement rivals that of the 1990’s. However, this is 1901 and there is also a social hierarchy of who is in and who hasn’t made it yet. And these aren’t the robber barons with unlimited incomes, but people further down the economic scale hoping to make a killing by speculating on the market. Like a novel by Henry James or Edith Wharton, this turn of the century social drama encompasses a good many characters and events and includes both comedy and tragedy. The current almost three hour time length would have been longer at the beginning of the last century as there would have been more intermissions in this four act play, but in those days playgoers liked getting their money’s worth. [more]

On the Shore of the Wide World

September 21, 2017

Neil Pepe’s production of Simon Stephens’ "On the Shore of the Wide World" will not please all. The pace is consciously slow – like the life lived by these characters. However, the wait is worth the effort. By the end when the family reunites for Sunday dinner, the play has become both powerful and poignant. The title, incidentally, comes from the next to the last line of John Keats’ sonnet, “When I have fears that I may cease to be” in which the speaker worries about missing out on love, fulfillment, fame and success, apt summation of Simon Stephens' play.  [more]

The Violin

September 20, 2017

In fact, Harry Feiner’s marvelous, you-are-there set design for "The Violin" made me think of 'American Buffalo" (set in a shabby pawn shop) before the first words of the play were even uttered or its three cast-members (Robert LuPone, Peter Bradbury and Kevin Isola) even appeared on the stage. But whether or not playwright McCormick had that early Mamet work in mind, the main idea behind "The Violin" was probably inspired by a real event, when celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma left his prized cello in the trunk of a New York taxi some years ago, and paid a handsome reward for its return. [more]

Stairway to Stardom

September 19, 2017

Disguised as a snazzy cabaret act, set against constantly projected images from a sleazy Eighties public access talent show—from which the show’s title is derived—the short, intense performance is delivered without a single intake of breath it seems, an energy level that makes it difficult to actually hear—rather than merely listen to—the women’s histories of how they were forced into jobs and professions they found irritating or shallow by pressures applied by loved ones and even themselves. [more]
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