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Off-Broadway

Evening at the Talk House

February 24, 2017

However, as the title implies it is also a very verbose, long-winded affair giving an excellent cast made up of such veterans as Matthew Broderick, John Epperson (a.ka.a Lypsinka), Jill Eikenberry, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear and Michael Tucker not much to do. Shawn has written the best role for himself but that is not saying much. While the play may be meant as a cautionary tale, it is also over-written and self-indulgent. Long before you realize where the play is going you may have lost interest due to all the explanations. [more]

Kunstler

February 24, 2017

In "Kunstler," playwright Jeffrey Sweet recounts the defense attorney’s life and career in his well-written, comprehensively researched, and affectionate treatment. The conceit is that Kunstler is to address an audience of law school students at a university. Kerry is a young woman who is the vice-chair of the program committee attends him to him and becomes his foil, and is the play’s secondary character. This construction allows for a free wheeling manner of imparting the chronological details. It’s a solid take that could have certainly been at least a routine biographical exploration, but is undone here by the odd casting. [more]

Man from Nebraska

February 23, 2017

Birney seems to have cornered the market on sensitive, ordinary guys and his performance is similar to his awarding-winning “Erik” in The Humans. However, here he is extremely sympathetic and heartbreaking while in the earlier play he was revealed to be complicit in criminal behavior. Birney’s work is so subtle and low-key that he suggests worlds of unspoken feelings, which is quite a remarkable feat. O’Toole, who recently appeared on the New York stage in "Hamlet in Bed" in 2015 and "Southern Comfort" in 2016, just keeps getting better and better, and her emotional collapse as Nancy is extremely well delineated. As their daughter Ashley, Boras beautifully captures the whiney demands of the adult child with a black and white view of the world who has never seen her parents as separate people with needs of their own. [more]

Fish Men

February 23, 2017

Each character is conveniently a different, representative type of oppressed nationality. Though Tirado goes overboard in detailing these culturally diverse, downtrodden characters’ backstories with sociological overtones, and despite numerous tangents, there are very compelling portions, and the roles are rich opportunities for the talented cast. [more]

See Reverse

February 22, 2017

Presented by the acclaimed Broken Box Mime Theater, "See Reverse" consists of ten short pieces with some even shorter vignettes sometimes in between. Lasting close to two hours with an intermission, it’s a lot of mime. [more]

Life According to Saki

February 20, 2017

The evening is narrated by Saki (played by an appealing and suave David Paisley) talking to us from the trenches of France, in 1916. His five soldiers (played by Phoebe Frances Brown, Ellen Francis, Tom Lambert, Tom Machell and Caitlin Thorburn) all like stories and he obliges. As he tells his eight tales, the cast enact them, using slight costuming added to their uniforms and occasionally use puppets to represent animals and children. [more]

Ring Twice for Miranda

February 19, 2017

Although "Ring Twice" is filled to the brim with socio-political symbolism, it’s not likely that the author was trying for any direct reference to the current maddening political scene since gestation periods for plays are notoriously long. Clearly this play was written well before the 2016 election, so any vague commentary appears to be inadvertent. This is not to say that the metaphors and symbols Hruska uses aren’t intriguing in their own way. [more]

The Dressmaker’s Secret

February 19, 2017

The playwrights have a keen understanding of this place and time, helped by the simple, but telling scenery of Stephen C. Jones, who also lit the small performing space to give the illusion of multiple settings. Molly R. Seidel’s costumes also hit the nail on the head as far as period and character are concerned. The glamorous dress Mária creates for Irma is in direct contrast to her own dreary housedresses, and Robert’s fancy western style suit makes Robi even more eager to leave Romania. [more]

Adam

February 17, 2017

With slicked back hair, a melodiously rough voice and a smooth physical presence, Timothy Simonson offers an accurate impression of Powell that captures his swagger. Mr. Simonson’s appealing performance forcefully recounts Powell’s rise and fall with histrionic relish. Simonson is particularly stirring when describing the hardscrabble life of Powell’s father from poverty in Virginia to prominence and wealth as a minister in New York City. [more]

The Object Lesson

February 15, 2017

Illusionist/actor Geoff Sobelle’s show is a combination of happening, art installation, and a meditation on the role objects have in our lives. Using audience participation, objects both hidden and seen, and magical illusion, Sobelle forces us to examine out relationship to the objects in our lives as well as how they ultimately define us when seen altogether as the detritus of a life. Performed in 11 segments with no intermission, "The Object Lesson" is not for everyone, but for those willing to go with the flow and give themselves up to Sobelle’s droll reflection, self-examination and visual theatrics, the evening is fascinating and rewarding. [more]

Jonah and Otto

February 15, 2017

While the play is at times Pinteresque, it is talky in a way Pinter never is, explaining everything over and over, covering the same ground again and again. Nothing much happens other than that the men become more confiding and reveal more of their personal pasts. The play implies that Jonah is menacing, but under Hughes’ direction, he never seems much of a threat. The pace is slow and methodical, too slow for its own good. Sean Gormley’s Otto and Rupert Simonian’s Jonah are well-rounded characters but the acting style is too refined, too genteel to make much impression. [more]

The Big Broadcast on East 53RD

February 14, 2017

Rounding out the cast are Alexis Bronkovic as Ruth--Penny’s best friend--and Bill Tatum, who plays Ray’s boss. Once again, the driving motivation behind nearly every character is nowhere to be found. It seems that simply for the sake of creating a play about fake news, Brukenfeld opted to fill his script with lifeless characters that don’t question anything and are content to believe that Ray is dead. The performances across the board are unsympathetic and played mind-bogglingly straightforward. For what it’s worth, the actors do all that they can with the material at hand, turning in acceptable performances given the circumstances. [more]

Boys of a Certain Age

February 12, 2017

This volatile quartet battle over the personal and the political during a Scotch-fueled weekend at Ira’s Fire Island house. There’s not much in the way of plot, but secrets are revealed, scores are settled and life goes on with new insights. It’s reminiscent of a Terrence McNally play but lacking in polish. [more]

Hi-Fi | Wi-Fi | Sci-Fi: Predictions Past Present and Future

February 11, 2017

The only real high-tech exchanges take place only three times during the run of the show. At the performances of February 6, 9 and 17, one of the roles in "Camera Obscura" will be performed telematically from Seoul Institute for the Arts in Korea and directed by Il Kyu Park. "Hi-Fi | Wi-Fi | Sci-Fi" which uses a great many sound specialists for little effect is an interesting idea but doesn’t go far enough either dramatically or in terms of modern technology to have much impact. As a cautionary tale, time has caught up with these plays and passed them by. [more]

The Mother of Invention

February 10, 2017

Playwright James Lecesne has been acclaimed for his solo performance works, most recently "The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey." Here, he has written a traditional play employing theatrical devices that’s a mélange of David Sedaris, Charles Busch and Modern Family. There are one-liners galore, wacky situations and a decidedly campy sensibility. It’s a bunch of superficial antics that never really meaningfully connect. [more]

The Liar

February 6, 2017

However, it is Ives’ joy in language that is the most infectious. The rhymed couplets keep coming and surprising us over and over again (bitter/twitter; prize/rhapsodize, jocular/interlocutor, kiss/dentrifice, carbuncle/uncle). He has also created remarkably agile, felicitous and contemporary turns of phrase: meet-and-greet/ bittersweet; Chanel perfume/key to my room; perfect ten/tragic flaw again; chance to laugh/some dumb gaffe; believe this boy/pure trompe l’oeil. Considering the nature of lying, the anachronisms like contact lens, superglue, outed me, Kid Dorante, party clown, pants on fire, etc., seem like natural hyperbole for these poseurs who take themselves all too seriously. So too Kahn’s clever direction is highly in tune with this style: Dorante and Alcippe’s duel is fought without swords in pantomime and Cliton appears with a modern paper coffee cup. [more]

Made in China

February 5, 2017

The ensuing journey is a bizarre and sometimes hilarious exploration of China and the culture within, even if it doesn’t always make the most sense. "Made in China" makes the most of the liberties that puppetry allows, and features some very impressive techniques and performances from the actors behind the scenes. Though the two main characters are both interesting, they are both made all the more entertaining by their canine companions. The two dogs, Lily and Yo-Yo (Dorothy James and Andy Manjuck among others) are completely lovable, and every single scene they are a part of is instantly heartwarming. [more]

Drunkle Vanya

February 4, 2017

Periodically the cast calls for a “Family Meeting.” The theme from Jeopardy is played on a kazoo and three audience members are picked to come up. The one who is wearing the funniest nametag that relates to dialogue from the play is the winner, receiving a free vodka shot. Drinking games also take place. All of these festive tangents never sidetrack the plot of the play. Ms. Hudson is also the director, and her giddy, all-over-the-place staging in this large living room, enhances the exuberance of the piece. Improbably and cleverly, Chekov’s tone and intentions survive the mayhem. [more]

Yen

February 3, 2017

There are many questions that the author fails to answer. Although the boys have not attended school in years and Bobbie has been diagnosed as ADHD and should be in the British equivalent of special education, no social worker seems to have visited to check up. Who is paying the rent or the electricity? Is the mother on welfare and are these items paid automatically? There is no explanation of how the boys are eating and how Taliban stays alive if they have not been feeding it for days or even weeks. While the neighbors are aware of Bobbie’s stealing, he seems to be getting away with it. The dog’s continual barking from his locked room can be heard on the street but no complaints have been filed. Is all this a metaphor or a slice of life drama? [more]

Incident at Hidden Temple

February 2, 2017

Behind the theme of war," Incident at Hidden Temple" is a thriller of sorts. Sisters Ava (Ying Ying Li) and Lucy (Briana Sakamoto), first seen in China travelling on a train littered with American soldiers, are separated when a disturbing road block forces their train to a halt. With some time to kill, the sisters exit the train and are introduced to a mysterious stranger--Dinh James Doan as a blind man with a penchant for speaking in riddles--who tells them about a Hidden Temple located just a short ways away. The temple, the blind man cryptically tells them, is filled with lost treasures but will only be revealed to those of pure heart. [more]

Georgie: My Adventures with George Rose

February 2, 2017

What truly distinguishes the show is Dixon’s fearless psychological focus on Rose and himself. The predominant theme is of hero worship and its bruising disappointments. It also attempts to explore the issue of the often-dark contrast between the on-stage and off-stage lives of great entertainers. In examining their involvement, Dixon doesn’t spare Rose or himself from honest scrutiny. [more]

Yours Unfaithfully

January 28, 2017

One problem is that the play (unlike Noel Coward’s "Design for Living" or Somerset Maugham’s "The Constant Wife" which cover similar territory) is neither witty not clever, and none of the lines are particularly sparkling or original. While the play may delineate liberated sexual behavior, its drawing room comedy format is too conventional and refined. All five performers always seem to be acting as their style is too arch to be truly believable. [more]

Golgotha

January 27, 2017

Mr. Refael’s simple but well-crafted scenario takes place in a contemporary apartment in Israel, and has the elderly Salvado looking back at his past. This is theatrically achieved by having him directly addressing the audience. His best friend and fellow survivor is to be honored at the Holocaust memorial center Yad Vashem during a ceremony where he will light a torch. When he becomes incapacitated, that task falls to Salvado. This situation instigates a flood of painful reminiscences that explore his guilt at having survived. [more]

The Great American Drama

January 24, 2017

Essentially it’s a glorified and arch 90-minute, scripted, sketch comedy show. The conceit is that it’s inspired by audience suggestions. The composition of the program changes from performance to performance. Throughout the show, slides are projected of printed extracts from online surveys of people’s theatrical preferences with the dates that they responded. These have been collected over a period of many months. The cast then performs a scene based on these answers. [more]

Orange Julius

January 23, 2017

On the one hand, it is a punch in the gut dramatizing the cold hard facts of disintegrating with this disease; on the other, the non-linear time scheme is difficult to follow, offering more questions than it answers. What "Orange Julius" really is could be described more accurately as a screenplay or a teleplay with cuts and fades. There is a powerful work hiding in this material but it still remains unshaped. Under Dustin Wills’ fast-paced direction, Jess Barbagallo, Ruy Iskandar, Irene Sofia Lucio, Stephen Payne and Mary Testa give fine performances despite the fact that the play seems to wander around trying to find its center. [more]

Albatross

January 22, 2017

What Evett delivers—using ample quotes from the poem and robust contributions from himself and Spangler—is a terrifying inside look of the Mariner’s experiences, beginning with being hijacked by a friend at a pub. He breathlessly illuminates what the day-to-day life was like with lurid descriptions of illnesses and exciting second-by-second reports of battles with other ships. [more]

2017 LaBute New Theater Festival

January 21, 2017

Reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest while lying on a couch is Jay, a slacker-looking type in his 30’s. Sitting in the living room nearby is his 60ish mother who enjoys watching Dr. Phil on television and complaining about her ailments. Gabe McKinley’s Homebody is an enthralling black comedy with shades of Grey Gardens. Mother and son bicker, rehash recriminations and share their joy over the possibility of Jay’s novel being published. In 35 minutes, Mr. McKinley delivers a very well written, plotted and satisfying one-act play. It’s so pleasurable that a full-length version would be most welcome. [more]

Consider the Lilies

January 19, 2017

As Paul Harold, a 60ish artist, Pendleton has a leading role that wonderfully showcases his idiosyncratic and considerable talents. With his unruly white hair, limber physicality and distinctive vocal twang, he mines all of the humor and depth of this fascinating character. Sharing the memory of when he met Pablo Picasso in his youth is a vivid moment. [more]

The Dork Knight

January 18, 2017

O'Connell’s script is a well-structured series of confessional anecdotes interwoven with the lore of the movies. His performance is a riveting blend of stand-up comedy and grand stage acting with Shakespearean flourishes. The audience is on three sides of the very small theater. This intimate space at times feels too constrained for the unbridled emotionalism on display. [more]

DannyKrisDonnaVeronica

January 16, 2017

In "DannyKrisDonnaVeronica," playwright Lawrence Dial bitingly delves into the lives of two Brooklyn couples each with two small children. Through his precise, often humorous and realistic dialogue, Mr. Dial has his very well-drawn characters who all in their mid 30’s eloquently express their conflicted feelings and despair. Short on actual plot, the play is rich in incident and is a wistful character study. [more]

Lucky Penny

January 16, 2017

The stories included are equal parts humorous, stirring or sobering but always meaningful and intimately personal. Deblinger is a natural storyteller, and every tale is polished and fully developed, and--more importantly--consistent with the show’s overall theme. Further, Deblinger is a fantastic impressionist, and the show contains no less than 15-20 fully realized character impersonations. The versatility he displays is a testament to both his natural abilities as well as his dedication to his craft. [more]

Martin Luther on Trial

January 10, 2017

Set in The Afterlife, a crossroad between Heaven and Hell, the play presupposes a trial of Luther on the grounds of being guilty of “the unforgiveable sin.” The prosecuting attorney is The Devil and the defending attorney is Katie von Bora, also known as Mrs. Martin Luther, with Saint Peter acting as judge. The witnesses called are Hitler on Luther’s anti-Semitism in his later years, Dr. King on Luther’s stance on civil rights, Dr. Freud on Luther’s Oedipus complex, and the current Pope on the Catholic Church’s stance on Luther’s objections today. Along the way, the play also dramatized scenes from Luther’s life. Ultimately, it ends with a recreation of Luther’s trial before the Diet of Worms officiated over by the Holy Roman Emperor in 1521. [more]

For Annie

January 8, 2017

Playwright Beth Hyland’s very effective conceit is that we’re watching the dress rehearsal of Annie Lambert’s memorial celebration in an auditorium of the State University of New York at Onondaga. There, students act out Ms. Lambert’s story in the manner of a Greek chorus often directly addressing the audience. “What would Annie have wanted?” [more]
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