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Off-Broadway

Hurricane Party

September 21, 2018

The intellectual level of "Hurricane"’s characters may not be as high as George, Martha, Nick and Honey’s.  Nevertheless they reveal their inner psychological turmoil, secret fears, secret yearnings and sense of isolation with equal intensity.  Thigpen’s astutely observed dialogue and Maria Dizzia’s vivid whirlwind direction lift "Hurricane" from foul-mouthed melodrama to passionate character study. [more]

Antigone in Ferguson

September 21, 2018

The 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown inspired this exuberant concert-style presentation of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy entitled "Antigone in Ferguson." Director Bryan Doerries’ faithful adaptation lasts an hour and is performed by a rotating name cast in connection with a lively choir. Mr. Doerries’ proficient staging transforms it all into a novel, entertaining and emotionally charged experience. Tickets are free by making a reservation. [more]

The Other Day

September 21, 2018

A play that tends to say or do too much can often end up saying too little. Such is the case with "The Other Day," a play in which one development after another keeps cancelling each other out. In the opening scene, which also marks the beginning of their relationship, Mark and Santo don’t exactly meet cute, but they do get right to their problems relating to life--and to each other. They are, after all, at a “Narcotics Anonymous Meeting, divulging their addictions and their problems. [more]

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties

September 19, 2018

The actual subtitle of Silverman’s play gives one pause: “In Essence, A Queer and Occasionally Hazardous Exploration; Do You Remember When You Were in Middle School and You Read About Shackleton and How He Explored the Antarctic?; Imagine the Antarctic as Pussy and It’s Sort of Like That.” While this might suggest that the play is overwritten and self-indulgent, it belies the concise, tight writing and structure of Silverman’s comic/angry play which is always surprising, always inventive, always inducing laughter. The play does use Brechtian supertitles to announce the scenes but these are comic and informative, rather than didactic or preachy. [more]

I Hear You and Rejoice

September 18, 2018

Exhibiting the dazzling wizardry of someone who trained at the École Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Murfi is breathtaking as he clowns, mimes and barrels all over the space while distinctively rendering each character. His synthetic gray hair, malleable facial features, striking eyes that are in constant motion and affable presence enable him to swiftly shift from one denizen to another and he also channels several simultaneously. He plays Kitsy, Pat, a busybody who runs the newspaper store, a family friend, priests, and an assortment of colorful locals. [more]

You and I

September 17, 2018

While Barry was to become famous writing plays about the very rich, the Whites are of the middle class and live on earned money. In the play’s second act, eight months have passed, and money, not so surprisingly, has become tight for both Maitland and Ricky. However, this would be fine if the artificial style of the play and the dated twenties slang did not seem arch and affected. And while director Michael Hardart’s production is always stylish and graceful, he has not helped greatly with his casting or his mannered and theatrical approach to the material. The characters talk in an elevated, literate language but they are basically very simple people, not the kind who sit around tossing off bon mots. Here they speak Barry’s realistic lines as though they do. [more]

James & Jamesy in the Dark

September 17, 2018

"James & Jamesy in the Dark" is apparently the product of a long trial and error rehearsal process according to the aforementioned program notes.  The self-involving process, unfortunately, seems to have insulated them from unintentionally synthesizing themes from the works of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco (isolation, repetition, existential angst).  Their endless wanderings about the stage mirror Waiting for Godot and their nonsensical dialogue could easily have come directly from" The Bald Soprano." [more]

THE AЯTS

September 17, 2018

Conceived and written by Kevin Doyle, "THE AЯTS" offers sophomoric antics that are a virtual parody of performance art techniques. There’s a lot of buzzers à la Richard Foreman. The show is a presentation of Sponsored By Nobody, “an international theatre company in search of a blue-collar avant-garde” that creates interdisciplinary works of “abrasive theatre.” [more]

Agnes

September 16, 2018

Unfortunately, Worsham’s efforts just confirm the play’s central problem: only the relationship between June and Charlie has any real depth. As for the rest of the characters, although McMullen’s writing is clever, too many of the lines are focused on eliciting laughs rather than explaining why these people are choosing to shelter together. It doesn’t help matters that the play’s lighting by Cheyenne Sykes and sound design by Daniel Melnick are wholly devoted to overdramatizing Charlie’s Asperger’s while failing to offer much-needed periodic reminders of the torrential plot device that keeps everyone from fleeing the cramped apartment. [more]

The Conduct of Life

September 16, 2018

Farce meets tragedy in a fictional unnamed Latin American country in "The Conduct of Life." It’s a raucous yet insightful fantasia about military oppression taking its toll on the populace by the celebrated playwright María Irene Fornés. First performed in 1985 it is being given an inspired revival by the Boundless Theatre Company that is “spearheaded by women and theatre-makers of color.” The play is structured as 19 short, often absurdly funny and sometimes unsettling scenes, some lasting just a few seconds, that total 75 fascinating minutes. [more]

Separate and Equal

September 15, 2018

Though the large ensemble of 11 actors is uniformly first rate--whether going through their balletic paces or tossing the invisible basketball and grasping it by clapping their hands, Pamela Afesi gives a particularly strong performance as Calvin’s mother, Viola, as does Barbra Wengerd as Edgar’s mother, Annabelle. Indeed, the crux of the play comes during an overlapping exchange with these two mothers--whose husbands abandoned their families--and their sons. [more]

Heartbreak House

September 14, 2018

Gingold Theatrical Group’s "Heartbreak House" is an interesting but misguided attempt to update Shaw’s Edwardian masterpiece and make it seem more relevant to our times. Despite the stellar cast, the unfocused production by the usually reliable David Staller undermines much of the play’s humor and message. While the adept cast is stylish, they never gel into a true ensemble. This new version adapted from Shaw’s earlier 1914 script rather than the more famous 1919 published text will be of interest to Shaw devotees who will have never seen this rendering before. [more]

The Naturalists

September 12, 2018

Ms. McCarrick’s appealing premise of redemptive romance is in fact subsidiary to the IRA angle as in the program she states that this event is the inspiration for her play. The two threads haven’t been skillfully fused together, resulting in a disjointed experience totaling 13 scenes.  McCarrick packs in a great deal of backstory to her well-drawn characters and her effective dialogue is marvelously Irish in style with plenty of wit, eloquence and reflectiveness. [more]

In the Bleak Midwinter

September 11, 2018

In 14 concise scenes lasting 85 minutes, Ms. Lyman quite skillfully transforms the familiar premise of a resolute aged person clashing with her relatives over giving up her independence into an engrossing play. The characters are all fully developed, background information is smoothly imparted and the dialogue is a rich blend of humor and emotion. The plot has suspense and resonance as both arguments are set forth with equal validity. Lyman has also written a great part for herself. “I got a nice leg of lamb. Not as nice as what Eileen and Ed used to raise, but now she’s in Florida and Ed’s dead. Costco’s my butcher now.” [more]

In the Penal Colony

September 9, 2018

Director Miranda Haymon’s electric staging of her pared down yet faithful adaptation is filled with dialogue characteristic of Kafka and bracing sequences. Basketball is a key visual metaphor as the performers mime shooting hoops, run in place, do pushups and vigorously glide from bit to bit. Ms. Haymon’s commanding technique is combined with technical production achievements. Zack Lobel’s intense lighting design and sound designers Anthony Dean and Matthew Catron’s blaring whistles and pulsing renditions of electronic music all yield to an entrancing presentation. This plays out on scenic designer Tekla Monson’s stark bare black-accented set that is backed by a mirror. [more]

Private Peaceful

September 8, 2018

Wearing a realistic period uniform and donning a metal helmet, the youthful and animated Mr. O’Regan recalls the electric persona of the young Tom Courtney as he vividly portrays numerous characters besides the wide-eyed Thomas. Utilizing his rich vocal talents and wiry physique, these strong characterizations include his solid brother, a vicious old woman, and various martinets. If nothing else, Private Peaceful showcases O’Regan’s considerable talents. [more]

Intrusion

August 31, 2018

More in the style of informative advocacy event for the lecture circuit then a theatrical work, "Intrusion" wanly tackles the subject of rape. "I set out to create a show that addresses the systemic problem of rape culture from an intellectual standpoint…” is how writer-performer Qurrat Ann Kadwani describes her solo play that was inspired by the 2012 fatal gang rape of Jyoti Singh in India. Ms. Kadwani’s intellectual approach is the problem. Instead of a raw depiction of the topic, this is a dry recitation. [more]

Scraps

August 31, 2018

This production is presented by The Flea and the cast is drawn from their resident acting company, The Bats. Exhibiting heartbreaking resilience Alana Raquel Bowers as Aisha dominates the play. The captivating Tanyamaria is very funny yet conveys Adriana’s melancholy. With his lithe physique, sunniness and serene presence Michael Oloyede’s performance as Calvin is commanding. Roland Lane’s charisma and animation enrich his portrayal of the difficult role of Jean-Baptiste. [more]

Days to Come

August 29, 2018

"Days to Come" fills in the gap in Hellman’s career between her first play, the controversial "The Children’s Hour," and the immediate successors, the hugely commercial hit and often revived, "The Little Foxes" and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award-winning "Watch on the Rhine." Completists will want to see this play which has not been seen in New York for over 40 years. The Mint Theater Company’s revival of "Days to Come" is an example of a worthy, lost play whose problems haven’t yet been solved – if they ever will. See it now as there probably will not be another chance anytime soon. The Mint is to be applauded for taking a chance on this rarely seen, but estimable failure. You will not be bored but you may not be convinced. [more]

Remnant

August 29, 2018

War, time and death are hauntingly explored in the eerie high-tech performance piece "Remnant," a company project by Theater Mitu. It’s based on interviews with a cross section of people that have been shaped into a swirling and absorbing event. The audience wears headsets as they experience the show while watching the actions taking place inside of three separate “boxes” named A, B and C. Original and previously composed songs including one by Kate Bush are performed to great effect, as are electronic melodies. [more]

Henry VI (NAATCO)

August 22, 2018

Presented by NAATCO (National Asian American Theatre Company), it has a virtually all-Asian excellent cast of sixteen, several of whom play roles of opposite genders. Creatively conceived by Stephen Brown-Fried and superbly directed by him, his Orson Welles-like vision transcends the difficult material. This sterling production is also an inspired example of Americans succeeding at Shakespeare. [more]

The New One

August 17, 2018

Comedian/monologist Mike Birbiglia, best known for "Sleepwalk with Me," has the remarkable knack of finding humor in autobiographical crises that shouldn’t be funny but in his hands are uproarious. His latest show, "The New One," is just as hilarious as the previous ones. When Mike and his wife, the poet Jennifer Hope Stein, got married he pointedly told her that he did not ever want to have children, and she agreed. Ten years later Jen has changed her mind and tells him, “A baby wouldn’t have to change the way we live our lives,” probably the understatement of the century. [more]

Less Than 50%

August 17, 2018

Though there are recurring references to Woody Allen and more specifically to "Annie Hall" during the 90-minute piece, "Less Than 50%" bears as much resemblance to that Oscar-winning film as Gianmarco does to a matinee idol. (According to Gianmarco, his play is not a “rip-off” of "Annie Hall," as Laura says it is, but an “homage.”) It’s telling that instead of the hysterical scene with lobsters in the kitchen in "Annie Hall," we have to contend with a mouse and a mousetrap in "Less than 50%." [more]

Pushkin

August 10, 2018

Gambling, palace intrigue and poetry abounds in playwright Jonathan Leaf’s imaginative and engrossing historical drama "Pushkin." In the course of two acts and numerous scenes, the eventful life of the great Russian author is skillfully dramatized during this lavish presentation that takes place from 1834 to 1837. [more]

Beloved

August 9, 2018

Translated into English from the Swedish by Charlotte Barslund, Ms. Langseth’s trite sexual obsession scenario is reminiscent of the novels of Patricia Highsmith and the French thriller films of Claude Chabrol. Langseth lays on sociological concerns to give the work more cultural heft. There are bromides about the class system and rebelling against the patriarchy. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Plays: Series A

August 8, 2018

Along with its twists and turns, Bohjalian’s "Grounded" is so fully explored that it is hard to believe that it is a first play. On the long wait on the runway at Kennedy Airport for a flight bound for London, stewardess Karen discovers that her co-worker, 24-year-old Emily who has been in this line of work for two years, has a fear of flying and has never flown over the ocean. When Emily begins her story she reveals that her life coach thought she was too grounded and dared her to become a stewardess. [more]

Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III

August 7, 2018

That renowned man of the theater Austin Pendleton’s concept to adapt and combine portions of William Shakespeare’s "Henry VI, Part 3" with Richard III is intriguing and textually successful. The first 40 minutes give background of the English Civil War in the 1400’s, impart exposition, flesh out the motivations of Richard III, and depict his adoration of his father, the Duke of York. This mashup also gives a fresh spin to those only familiar with "Richard III" and there’s plenty of neat stabbings. [more]

The House That Will Not Stand

August 7, 2018

Gardley makes use of a little known piece of American history: while Louisiana was under Spanish and later French rule, it had a three-tiered racial system. Aside from white settlers and black slaves, there was a third class: free women of color (mostly Creoles) could enter into a relationship with white men as common-law wives. Their children could inherit part of their estates. Some of these so-called “colored” women became extremely rich. This system was called plaçage and such women were known as placeés. The lighter the woman’s skin color the higher her social caste. However, when Louisiana was sold to the new United States in 1803, this system was frowned upon and eventually went out of style around 1813 due to legal challenges. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2018

The plays in Summer Shorts 2018 - Festival of New American Short Plays have often had a theme running through all the offerings in one evening, however they were concealed or obscured. This year’s Series B is about two-character relationships at a tense moment in their developments, sort of sparring partners as one of the plays calls it. Unfortunately, the plays in this series by Neil LaBute, Claire Zajdel, and Eric Lane all need further work as they are premises rather than finished plays. [more]

This American Wife

August 2, 2018

Reveling in their grating vocal affectations, gesticulating at a fever pitch or moving catatonically and projecting snarky personas they hold forth on their revered subject in various permutations that are video broadcast without making any impact. This involves interviewing each other, acting out bits from "The Real Housewives" and mouthing the words to scenes from it. Periodically the clips are also on the back wall’s large screen with their images superimposed.  Personal asides include discussions of being single, a cold take on pornography and their fabulous lives.  At one point, Mr. Breslin sheds his hat to put on a blond wig and women’s clothing to furiously dance in what is supposed to be a tour de force. [more]

My Life on a Diet

August 2, 2018

Hence:  "My Life on a Diet," a comically rich stroll through her career in TV, theater and film.  Written by Taylor and her late husband, Joseph Bologna and originally directed by Bologna, Diet is currently at the Theatre at St. Clement’s where a contagiously comfortable Taylor, elegantly attired (gown by Pol’ Atteu) settles down in Harry Feiner’s kitschy, carpeted set to schmooze with her audience.  Taylor, now in her eighties, begins with some self-deprecating humor about aging, after showing herself at various stages in her life. [more]

Tevye Served Raw

July 30, 2018

Three actors—Yelena Shmulenson, Allen Lewis Rickman (Velvel in the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”) and Shane Baker (“the best-loved Episcopalian on the Yiddish stage today”)—manage the feat of bringing five of Aleichem’s stories—adapted and translated by Baker and Rickman—to life under Rickman’s incisive and warm direction.  Sourcing the original, nitty-gritty shtetl-soaked tales, makes "Tevye Served Raw," if possible, more passionate and involving than the musical. [more]

Fire in Dreamland

July 27, 2018

Built in 1904, Dreamland was considered the most elegant and ambitious of Coney Island’s amusement parks--until it burnt to a crisp in 1911. A new play by Rinne Groff, "Fire in Dreamland" is ostensibly about the disaster, in which no humans but most of the animals perished. But to add that it’s set a little more than a century later--in 2013, or some months after Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast--should begin to suggest that there’s more going on here than, unfortunately, ever meets the eye. [more]
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