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Off-Broadway

Time’s Journey through a Room

May 21, 2018

In the spirit of the loquacious Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s "Happy Days," the animated Yuki Kawahisa beautifully portrays Honoka with sunny depth. Maho Honda as Arisa, the play’s unifying figure, is brilliantly wistful.  Veering from low key to emotionally volatile Kensaku Shinohara richly conveys Kazuki’s angst and anguish. This trio’s rapport and chemistry is palpable and is integral to the production’s success. [more]

Marlowe’s Fate

May 21, 2018

Hodges’ play is quite lively with each scene dramatizing one point and the cast of characters made up entirely of real people, not all of them still famous. The real problem is with the unsubtle and one-dimensional acting of the mostly deficient cast. The play also assumes that the audience is familiar with a great many Elizabethan names and personages like poet Michael Drayton and courtier and literary patron Sir Thomas Walsingham. "Marlowe’s Fate" dramatizes the “last nights” of both first Marlowe and then Shakespeare 23 years later, plus a spirited "Punch and Judy" interlude between Marlowe and Shakespeare for credit to the plays published under Shakespeare’s name. [more]

Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water

May 20, 2018

"Hercules Didn't Wade in the Water" is the winner of the Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.’s 2017 Emerging Playwrights Competition and this is its premiere. Michael A. Jones’ passionate eloquence and the strong performances compensate for the production’s limited presentational values.  [more]

The Gentleman Caller

May 20, 2018

Every once in a while the exactly right actor is matched with the right role and magic occurs. Such is the case with Juan Francisco Villa as the 34-year-old Tennessee Williams (before he became famous) in Philip Dawkins’ "The Gentleman Caller." Looking exactly like the playwright did at that age and sporting Williams’ well-known Southern accent, Villa is so ebullient, irrepressible and high-spirited that one has the feeling one has met the playwright himself. With perfect timing for Williams’ verbal comeback, many of which are taken from his own letters, quotes and diaries, Villa gives an extraordinarily three-dimensional performance in a role that has been depicted in other recent plays and one-man shows about the author. Some of the credit must go to director Tony Speciale for helping to craft this remarkable portrayal. [more]

Operation Crucible

May 18, 2018

While it’s meant to be helpful, a glossary of local jargon ("Operation Crucible" is set in Sheffield, England) in the program is usually a surefire sign that you’re going to have difficulty following the play. Adding to the confusion is that the often dimly lit play leaves us in the dark, in both senses of the phrase. Given the circumstances of the plot, it’s understandable that both director Bryony Shanahan and lighting designer Seth Rook Williams wanted to have many of the rapid-fire scenes unfold in utter pitch black. But it doesn’t abet in our comprehending what’s happening to Bob, Tommy, Phil, and Arthur (the last character is misrepresented as Andrew, in the program) most of the time. [more]

Bump

May 18, 2018

Ms. Atik complements her engaging contemporary scenario with creative theatricality. Interspersed are vignettes with six performers depicting the members of a nationwide pregnancy Internet message board. Atik also has contrasting sequences set in 1790 in rural Maine between Mary, a sheltered 19-year-old woman about to give birth for the first time.  Her husband is out of the way in the town’s tavern and an experienced midwife arrives to assist her. [more]

A Brief History of Women

May 17, 2018

Although the title covers part of the plot, the play is really a trenchant social history of Britain from 1925 – 1985 in four short sequences, showing the changes that take place in one house over 60 years and following the career of one everyman, Anthony Spates, known familiarly as Tony. It also follows the women in Tony’s life who help him, love him and leave him in each of four decades. While Antony Eden plays the phlegmatic Tony at four stages in his life (17, 37, 57 and 77) with equal aplomb, the rest of the cast play four characters each, a remarkable feat, as time marches on.  "A Brief History of Women" has the depth of a novel and the breath of an epic. [more]

Alternating Currents

May 15, 2018

Despite the complexity of the interactions of the people of Electchester and the poor folk at Pomonok, Kraar manages to end on a promising note.  "Alternating Currents," produced under the auspices of the Working Theater, is a diverting look what happens to an idyllic place after decades of reality intrude. [more]

The Jewish King Lear

May 14, 2018

Aside from being a tight domestic drama, The Jewish King Lear has several other differences from Shakespeare’s tragedy. Gordin’s Lear has a wife who is sorely put upon and under her husband’s thumb, as well as the old traditions. Gloucester and his sons are eliminated and Kent and the Fool are combined as Trytel, the steward, who often “rhymes like a real wedding jester.” Taybele, the Cordelia character, gets ahead through education and science rather than marriage to a noble. Gordin’s Lear is not only an advocate for the Jewish traditions of his forefathers he is also very much opposed to scientific advances and education for women, shades of Ibsen who was writing at the same time as Gordin. Dovidl’s heath speech does not take place outdoors but in his own house, now ruled by his son-in-law who has replaced him. [more]

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

May 14, 2018

There’s a brilliant play buried somewhere in Caryl Churchill’s "Light Shining in Buckinghamshire," a bottom-up historical epic about the English Civil War that the acclaimed British writer developed collaboratively with director Max Stafford-Clark and a group of actors back in 1976. Fifteen years later, it premiered stateside at the New York Theatre Workshop, where it has just returned for a ploddingly drawn-out second go-around that yielded a lot of empty second-act seats on the night I attended. [more]

Summer and Smoke

May 10, 2018

When Tennessee Williams started writing "Summer and Smoke," his working title for the play was "Chart of Anatomy," taken from a poem by Hart Crane. An anatomical chart becomes one of the very few props in the current Classic Stage Company and Transport Group revival of the 1948 play. Under the circumstances, the many players (a dozen in all) are often reduced to charades, as they describe a new gaudy hat, or a jigsaw puzzle, or gloves. For that matter there’s not really a set at all, only a large white platform in the center of the playing area, echoed by a large white rectangle hanging above--a kind of ceiling for the platform--and shortly after the prologue, six chairs, two of which will, at times, serve as a bench or a sofa. [more]

Transparent Falsehood: An American Travesty

May 10, 2018

The one bright spot is the 15-minute segment “Without Precedent.” It’s the title of Trump’s imaginary HBO comedy special and is the highlight of Ezra Barnes’ terrific performance as Trump. Kofman’s strategy is that less is more when comes to depicting Trump and so Mr. Barnes does not attempt to replicate his vocal or physical mannerisms. Instead with his slim physique and mellow voice Barnes is more like Fred Rogers on speed. [more]

Replay

May 10, 2018

To be sure, there are examples of talented playwrights who have also been able to tread the boards without tripping over their feet, or tongues. Harold Pinter, Noël Coward, Tracy Letts: they all come quickly to mind. Some theater historians have even argued that Shakespeare might have been a pretty good actor, too. But, still, it’s exceedingly rare to find a playwright like Nicola Wren, who can bring her words to life with as much passion and grace as she set them down. [more]

Dance Nation

May 9, 2018

Ms. Barron’s conception is more of an agenda driven fantastical tract rather than a well-crafted play with a cohesive plot. Her tone is of exaggeration and artifice with mannered dialogue that is intended to be hilarious yet thoughtful. A brief gag about "A Chorus Line" and a reference to the actual Telsey & Company Casting are some of the smug inside humor tossed in. [more]

The Rainmaker

May 6, 2018

“Never judge a heifer by the flick of her tail” is just one of the many kernels of down home wisdom in playwright N. Richard Nash’s lovely piece of Americana, The Rainmaker. It’s been tenderly revived by the Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company with every role perfectly cast. [more]

Judas

May 1, 2018

With a contemporary sensibility, Mr. Patrick dramatizes the familiar situations with simplicity, lively dialogue and tasteful irreverence. There is also excessive philosophical speechifying during some long-winded debates but these static Shavian bits are offset by the superior production and strong performances. [more]

Transfers

May 1, 2018

As Cristofer, Juan Castano is riveting in his honesty and his assurance. You could hear a pin drop during several of his monologue confessions as to why he didn’t do as well as he might have. His performance is almost frightening in its intensity. As the bookish Clarence, Ato Blankson-Wood is his diametric opposite, well-spoken, sensitive to other people, politically correct, well-mannered and able to hold his own in an intellectual conversation. He is equally intense in a quieter, more refined manner. Although both young actors have impressive New York credits, they should be better known after this. [more]

Daybreak

April 28, 2018

A speech of Madame Arcati’s from Noël Coward’s "Blithe" Spirit recited in Armenian is just one of the many highlights of Nicole Ansari’s awesome performance as Victoria.  The long-haired and physically graceful Ms. Ansari’s crystalline presence, twinkling eyes and tremulous voice are a joy to behold especially when she is supposed to be 90 years old. Ansari’s brilliance is showcased as she simultaneously conveys the character’s despair, resilience and humor as the production’s riveting centerpiece. [more]

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

April 28, 2018

"The Shakespeare Conspiracy" is based on Ted Bacino’s novel of the same title that he and Rufus Cadigan have adapted for the stage. Their effort is not in the league of such highly skilled dramatists as Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard and David Hare who used speculatively historical backgrounds for some of their esteemed works.  Instead, Mr. Bacino and Mr. Cadigan offer a choppy series of overheated episodes and vignettes spanning 40 years, from 1593 to 1633 chiefly taking place in England with plentiful and heavy-handed dialogue. [more]

The Metromaniacs

April 26, 2018

To add that "The Metromaniacs" also contains a play within the play, in which all of the characters are apparently playing themselves, might begin to suggest how confusing it all becomes, especially since they all enter and exit with a rapidity as if there were indeed a fire in the house--meaning Francalou’s no less than The Duke Theater on 42nd Street. [more]

We Live by the Sea

April 26, 2018

Devised collaboratively by Patch of Blue, a London-based theater company, the play also benefits from a talented supporting cast. Alexandra Simonet makes Hannah’s caretaker fatigue evident before she even says a word, but, somehow, you also never doubt her commitment to Katy. And Lizzie Grace is an absolute delight as Paul Williams, especially during a monologue late in the play, in which she pontificates on the importance of imaginary friends and gives insights into Katy that are both touching and profound. As for Ryan, Tom Coliandris does what he can with his character’s tacked-on back-story, but he shines when he’s simply required to be a warm, caring and decent presence. [more]

Mlima’s Tale

April 26, 2018

Structured like Arthur Schnitzler’s wicked "La Ronde," "Mlima" begins with a harrowing hunting scene.  Mlima, the giant elephant, is portrayed with dignity and astonishing physical vitality by Sahr Ngaujah ("Fela!," "Master Harold…and the boys"), in traditional African garb (character-perfect costumes by Jennifer Moeller) and colorful stripes of makeup. His opening moments involve an internal dialogue describing his dire situation chased by hunters.  He speaks of his tight family connections and his regrets just before he is slaughtered. [more]

Dress of Fire

April 23, 2018

The epic myth of the Trojan War gets a fanciful treatment in playwright Nina Kethevan’s "Dress of Fire."  Lasting about 95 minutes, it still packs in a lot of incidents with 12 actors sometimes declaiming classical text often directly to the audience. The visually superb production makes for a rather pleasurable experience even if one can’t keep track of everything, grows restless listening to long soliloquies or is not so enamored of the genre. [more]

Mangled Beams

April 20, 2018

Scenic designer Dedalus Wainwright utilizes a simple assortment of benches and office furniture for the first act. For the second, Mr. Wainwright creates a configuration of gray wood platforms and beams representing Ground Zero that adds an impressive visual and symbolic scope to the small-scale production. [more]

King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company)

April 20, 2018

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest "King Lear," as directed by Gregory Doran, is one that needs no explanation and no program notes. At one and the same time both medieval and contemporary, this production solves many of the questions that often go unanswered. In a glorious cap to his distinguished career, Sir Antony Sher gives a memorably luminous and unambiguous performance in the title role which should stand as a bar by which others will be measured. This is not only the perfect starting point for those unfamiliar with the play but also an excellent and notable interpretation for those who know it well. [more]

The Seafarer

April 19, 2018

Wearing a funereal suit, a black topcoat and a black fedora, Matthew Broderick as Mr. Lockhart has initial dry pleasantness giving way to chilling steeliness as he takes on the persona of a menacing interloper. With his mustache, gray hair and perfect accent Mr. Broderick has the aura of a drab Irish civil servant. It’s a subtly powerful and mature characterization that’s a far cry from his days of Neil Simon and "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" though Broderick occasionally still has that youthfully sly twinkle in his eyes. Broderick makes his second appearance at the Irish Repertory Theatre where he appeared in McPherson’s "Shining City" in 2016. [more]

Happy Birthday, Wanda June

April 13, 2018

War, guns, Vietnam, the excesses of capitalism, toxic masculinity, blind American patriotism and feminism are among the targets of Mr. Vonnegut’s characteristically overloaded satire. Such concerns treated in a mannered fashion were all fodder for his popular novels but for the stage it’s problematic. [more]

This Flat Earth

April 13, 2018

But, unfortunately, Ferrentino squanders this intriguing setup, getting lost in existential musings that end up being nowhere near as complicated as her subject matter. The first signs of trouble are actually percolating even before the play begins. As we enter the theater, Cloris (Lynda Gravátt), Julie and Dan’s elderly neighbor, is already perched in the upstairs apartment of Dane Laffrey’s two-story set. And there she remains for the entire play, a constant presence hovering over the action below. Initially, you wonder about her and, then, you feel sorry for the actor, hoping she’ll be given something more to do than just putter around. Eventually, however, after a couple of pat exchanges with Julie, it all becomes cringingly clear. Cloris isn’t a character at all; she’s an inspirational device, one that Ferrentino unleashes with full, and shameless, force at the play’s tear-jerking conclusion. [more]

The Edge of Our Bodies

April 12, 2018

Rapp’s plays are so different from each other that it is difficult to classify him. As of now he has written conventional dramas, experimental plays, futuristic and science fiction plays, and dramas on hot button social issues, among others. "The Edge of Our Bodies" is in yet another form: a monologue spoken by Bernadette, a 16-year-old girl who has left her boarding school on a Friday afternoon without permission to come to New York City to tell her 19-year-old boyfriend Michael that she is pregnant. Carolyn Molloy, who does not at all look 16, reads her story from a diary for much of the play and her delivery is that of a reading, not a dramatic performance. [more]

Dutch Masters

April 11, 2018

In 70 gripping minutes, Keller takes this familiar premise in a compelling direction. His biting dialogue reflects the divisive era during the mayoralty of the African-American David Dinkins who was defeated in 1993 by Rudolph Giuliani. Michael Stewart and Yusef Hawkins, two young African-Americans whose violent deaths were touchstones of that period are mentioned. Keller weaves these and other cultural references with a commanding sense of dramatic writing into a poignant and suspenseful experience that reaches an emotionally draining conclusion. He also has created two substantial roles. [more]

Feeding the Dragon

April 8, 2018

Under the assured direction of Maria Mileaf in a production which started at the Hartford Stage earlier this year, Sharon Washington is a captivating and entertaining presence both as she narrates her story and also gives commentary and hints of her life since then. Told with the innocence of childhood, "Feeding the Dragon" will also enchant readers and nostalgia buffs alike, for the world that she describes does not exist anymore now that libraries are high tech places ruled by computers and other media – and without apartments for a live-in staff at the top of the building. [more]

The Stone Witch

April 6, 2018

Lauria, best known for his work on "The Wonder Years," makes Simon an immensely private and enigmatic figure. His erratic behavior changes by the moment, keeping Peter (and us) guessing. We are never certain whether he had incipient dementia or is faking or is suffering from malnutrition or dehydration living for so long in a cabin in the woods. This is a big performance and Lauria brings great authority to his role. [more]

Bedlam’s Pygmalion

April 4, 2018

Scenic designer John McDermott has turned the black box space at the Sheen Center into an intimate amphitheater with the audience sitting around three sides of Higgins’ laboratory/study with no viewer more than four rows from the action. When Eliza arrives to arrange for lessons on her small income, we discover what we already suspected: this Eliza has been born in India and she is prone to speak in Hindi when she gets excited, just like her father Alfred Doolittle does when he follows her to Wimpole Street to see what he can get out of her good fortune - when she sends for her things but not her clothes. This adds a new, contemporary level to the play: Eliza is an immigrant rather than an East End cockney which contributes to the play’s current relevance. [more]
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