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Off-Broadway

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

November 17, 2018

The Classic Stage Company's current revival of Bertolt Brecht’s "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" is not the first to draw comparisons between the sitting president and Hitler. In 2002, or the year after 9/11, National Theatre of Actors presented an all-star production in downtown Manhattan – featuring Al Pacino, no less - comparing Ui to Hitler and President George W. Bush. [more]

Days of Rage

November 16, 2018

As proven elsewhere, Steven Levenson is expert at depicting young people in crisis on stage. "Days of Rage" is very real in its handling of a group of people of similar beliefs living together who have forces that are driving them apart, and as such it is engrossing and intriguing. However, the play’s theme seems to be rather opaque or at least vague in its depiction of college-age radicals at the height of the Vietnam War. While some of the characters are thinly drawn, most problematic is that the catalyst to all the action is a character that we want least to hear from. [more]

The Female Role Model Project

November 15, 2018

Kim Kardashian West, Melania Trump and Chinese popstar Bingbing Fan appear as wacky contestants on a philosophical gameshow hosted by Oprah Winfrey in the lighthearted, thoughtful and souped-up multimedia performance piece "The Female Role Model Project." It’s a breezy 90-minute exploration of existence from a woman’s perspective with audience participation. [more]

Natural Shocks

November 14, 2018

Played by Pascale Armand, known for her Tony nominated Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in "Eclipsed," Angela is the heroine of Lauren Gunderson’s new one-woman play, "Natural Shocks," being given its world premiere by the Women’s Project at the WP Theater. The play has previously been given over 100 staged readings in 45 states over a period of two months. As much as one wants to admire this tour de force for an accomplished actress, in its current form the play has several problems. [more]

The Little Prince

November 14, 2018

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s wondrous fairytale, "The Little Prince" ("Le petit prince"), has been filmed as a musical, a cartoon, and a musical cartoon and even occasionally staged live, but rarely as energetically and lovably as the EPIC Players Inclusion Company’s production at the Flea Theatre.  The EPIC Players is “a neuro-inclusive theatre company that uses the performing art to empower artists with developmental disabilities.” [more]

Lured

November 13, 2018

Frank J. Avella’s "Lured" at the Theater for the New City practices a bit of theatrical legerdemain.  Ostensibly about the perils of being gay in today’s Russia, Avella takes an unexpected turn into revenge melodrama that almost defeats his main political/social theme.  Considering that Lured is based on real events, at the very least he dulls the important political and social points he is making by having the victims and perpetrators behave equally abhorrently. [more]

Gloria: A Life

November 13, 2018

The play succeeds in part because it takes such an upbeat view of Steinem and her career. Early in the play, the character proclaims herself to be a “hope-aholic”—and her stalwart optimism proves contagious. Yes, challenges to women’s rights have been rife in the last couple of years. But when—at the top of the play—we see projected TV clips depicting the cultural pigeonholing of 1950's women as wives and mothers and little more, it lends our current situation a welcome perspective. “Is this what some Americans are nostalgic for?” Lahti’s Steinem asks skeptically after these clips are shown. It seems inconceivable that even the most retrogressive critic would answer in the affirmative. [more]

Daniel’s Husband

November 12, 2018

What begins as light comedy in Michael McKeever’s well-made play "Daniel’s Husband" becomes deadly serious in this cautionary tale. If the plot seems familiar, this is a return engagement of a successful play that appeared at the Cherry Lane Theatre in April 2017. The same engaging and proficient cast returns and while designer Brian Prather remains the same, the costume and lighting designers are now different. The play has been tweaked a bit but you will probably not notice if you have seen it before. It still packs an emotional wallop in the way events turn out. [more]

Beautiful Day Without You

November 10, 2018

Did Blaze, a Doberman Pinscher, cause the death of Pippi, a German Shepherd-Chihuahua mix? That is the crux of Italian playwright Marco Calvani’s three-character, way-out, occasionally hilarious and absorbing drama "Beautiful Day Without You." This realistic premise’s off-beat treatment is reminiscent of Yasmina Reza’s provocative comic manner and the dialogue has the profane snappiness of David Mamet. It’s a dense 90-minutes that are often confounding but ultimately rewarding. The minimalist presentation serves the material well. [more]

Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade

November 9, 2018

There are some fine elements in the portrayal. Arrow’s Kennedy-clan dialect seems believable—though maybe slightly over-baked at points (especially when, late in the play, he sings bits of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”). Happily, he is able to suggest Kennedy’s deep compassion for forgotten, disadvantaged Americans. But because we don’t see him interacting one-on-one with other characters, he’s hampered in his ability to make this quality fully evident. [more]

India Pale Ale

November 8, 2018

Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus made an auspicious splash with her adventurous and inventive 2016 play Men on Boats about Major John Wesley Powell’s 1868 Colorado and Grand Canyon expedition which was played by all women as a satire of the machismo of this all-male trip. In her new play, India Pale Ale, Backhaus, who is part Punjabi, writes of something must closer to home: the Punjabi community in Raymond, Wisconsin. While the play’s authenticity is palpable in both its writing and acting, the play in its four acts seems to be pulling in four different directions. It is not so much that the play does not have much of a plot, but that is inconsistent in its theme and message. [more]

Waiting for Godot (Druid Theatre)

November 7, 2018

Ms. Hynes has the cast at full speed emphasizing slapstick and employing stylized poses and gestures.  There’s exaggerated choreography-like movement such as extending legs and dipping down, grabbing at each other and jumping. Movement director Nick Winston’s efforts are accomplished if overdone. The plethora of gags and set up punchline recitation gets laughs at the expense of emotional resonance. A few bits are quietly played due to the nature of those specific passages and are quite lovely. Overall, there is a lack of visceral depth to this arguably superficial treatment. The ending brings benign silence rather than communal sighs. [more]

The Thanksgiving Play

November 6, 2018

Many comic artists have noted that great humor often comes from great tragedy, though, inevitably, sometimes the latter overwhelms the former, and all you’re left with is a lot of indignation and nobody laughing. As the late Joan Rivers once remarked, "comedy is anger, but anger is not comedy." It's a maxim that the Sicangu Lakota writer Larissa FastHorse takes to heart in "The Thanksgiving Play," as she manages to keep us smiling while four white characters attempt to turn a half-millenium of genocide into a 45-minute children's show. [more]

I’m Not A Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce

November 5, 2018

Purring sensually with a slight nasal New York accent, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and a black tie and handling a microphone while in front of its stand, actor Ronnie Marmo vocally and physically conjures up the presence of that monumental performer in his imaginative self-written solo show, "I’m Not a Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce." The rascally Mr. Marmo’s haunted facial features, wild eyes and styled dark hair all evoke an accurate resemblance. [more]

Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara

November 5, 2018

Delightfully growling in a quasi-Middle Eastern accent, her head encased in a babushka, plastered with makeup, wearing a flowing robe and hobbling on a cane, Sandra Bargman is terrific as the title character and anchor of "Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara." It’s playwright Fengar Gael’s cheeky fantasia that tells of this unseen witch from William Shakespeare’s "The Tempest." [more]

Prinze: The One-Man Show

November 5, 2018

Sonera opens the show with Prinze doing one of his sets at the Improv Club in New York City, 1976, beginning with one of his famous lines, “Looking good!” and continuing with his sardonic comments about Puerto Ricans (“A lot of people think Puerto Ricans are responsible for cockroaches.”) and civil rights.  He speaks of touring to Florida and the frustration of having to perform in front of old people and then goes on to disparage blacks and gays, all material that would be PI today, but delivered as a “nice guy” who’s just observing the world. [more]

Mother of the Maid

November 1, 2018

Jane Anderson’s "Mother of the Maid" would probably not be very compelling without Glenn Close’s Isabelle Arc as the play itself is following the dots in filling in the little that is known with mostly common historic and unsurprising details. (One exception is after Isabelle has seen the unicorn tapestries at the palace, she naively asks if there were any of the animals to be seen.) However, with Close who gives a constrained and moving performance the play becomes something else: a persuasive portrait of a mother and wife who has an awakening to the ways of the world based on what happens to her daughter. [more]

Good Grief

October 31, 2018

"Good Grief" opens with a celestial sequence and continues with Nkechi’s narration. Sometimes incidents are replayed in order to get them closer to the truth since all are memories and not always totally accurate.  There’s an early fantasy boxing match that seems out of place. The slight plot involves the death of one of the characters and the profound effect it has on Nkechi. [more]

Sakina’s Restaurant

October 31, 2018

In an apparent effort to demonstrate that he’s become one of us, Mandvi arrives in the theater by walking down the central aisle at the Minetta Lane Theatre, wide-eyed, as he peers and takes in the audience, on his way to the stage. And indeed, Azgi’s had at least 20 years to become increasingly assimilated: "Sakina’s Restaurant" was originally presented at the American Place Theatre in 1998. [more]

When We Went Electronic

October 30, 2018

Ms. Stephens has a substantial pedigree with her previous works having appeared at prestigious institutions and winning awards. The piffle on display here does exhibit craft, discipline and structure but to little effect as it sputters out after 70-minutes. The title is an Anthony Burgess’ "A Clockwork Orange" attempt at an invented slang. It refers to getting high and is tiresomely repeated countless times. “Look book” is another catchphrase that gets run into the ground. The dialogue is nonsensical, vulgar, often coarse and is supposed to be funny. [more]

Thunderbodies

October 29, 2018

In Kate Tarker's satiric "Thunderbodies," America is a relentlessly strange place, where people spout nonsense, act without reason, and are led by the narcissistic man-baby they've elected president. To state that the playwright has hit the nail right on the head might sound like a compliment, but it's not, mostly because Tarker accomplishes this small feat with very little wit and even less insight. Substituting outrageousness for both, she tosses the play down a Rabelaisian rabbit hole, desperately trying to hold on to our attention at the cost of anything that might demand just a little bit more. [more]

Fireflies

October 28, 2018

Although Donja R. Love describes his new play "Fireflies," his second world premiere in New York in 2018, as a “surrealistic voyage through Queer love during pivotal moments in Black History,” this riveting play is about a great deal more than that: racism, faith, homophobia, domestic abuse, women’s roles, alcohol addiction, infidelity, women’s right to choose, and sexuality. As sharply directed by Saheem Ali, the problem is that until the very end it is difficult to know where the play is going and what its real message is. [more]

Sesar

October 26, 2018

Christopher Plummer’s guest appearance on a 1987 episode of "The Cosby Show" giving a Shakespearean mini-recital in the Huxtable living room had a profound effect on writer and performer Orlando Pabotoy. That clip is a highlight of Mr. Pabotoy’s marvelous solo show, "Sesar" that recounts his relationship with his heroic father. Opening with a furious recreation of a storm and closing with an enchanting visual surprise, it’s 65 theatrical and emotionally resonant minutes taking place in the family bathroom [more]

Goodbody

October 26, 2018

From its dramatic opening, there’s nowhere for "Goodbody" to go but down, even if Ernst keeps raising the stakes with complicated backstories and developments that leave one breathlessly confused. The production, however, is a good one, with rapid-fire direction by Melissa Firlit, the aforementioned set and lighting by McCarren, the apt and pertinent costumes by Dan Morrison, fight choreography by Cliff Williams III, and a strong ensemble performance, all in the tiny Theater C space at 59 East 59th Street Theaters. [more]

Apologia

October 23, 2018

Channing is by turns aggressive, assertive, jittery, neurotic, imperious, and even petulant in the first act, only to become bewildered and subdued in the second. To rewrite Dorothy Parker’s notorious put-down of Katherine Hepburn, Channing runs the gamut of emotions from A to Z in "Apologia," even as she takes us along for the ride. [more]

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

October 23, 2018

Brian Patrick Murphy as Danny and Lisa Fernandez as Roberta have a thrilling intensity, playfulness and chemistry together. With their accurate Bronx accents, youthful weariness and emotional volatility, their histrionics are a jolting delight that recalls the ferocious original cast recording of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?". A highlight of their captivating collaboration is a wonderful joint reverie where they fantasize about what their wedding would be like. [more]

Travisville

October 21, 2018

Mr. Harper’s taut construction, solid plotting and detailed characters all yield to a suspenseful, emotionally shattering and entertaining experience. As in the works of Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Miller and August Wilson, Harper makes valid rationales for both sides of the arguments that are being fought. [more]

Emma and Max

October 19, 2018

Solondz’s mordant wit makes this the darkness of tragicomedies. Brooke and Jay’s delusions so typical of white entitlement are entire their own. When we finally hear from Brittany, she turns out to be a keen observer of entitled white behavior and middle-class liberal hypocrisy. Though we never meet Emma and Max except on Brooke’s baby cam, their off-stage presence is felt throughout the play. As Solondz’s movies contain brilliantly written dialogue, he is a natural for the theater. While his movies are made up of mostly two character scenes, this technique transfers beautifully to the stage. The only flaw here is that the monologues which become rants go on a bit too long, long after we get the gist and the characters given their many prejudices away. A bit of skillful trim – or the invention of more ideas would make this an even more powerful play. [more]

On Beckett

October 18, 2018

Along with excerpts from Godot and a couple of Beckett's novels, Irwin relies heavily on several "arcane" prose pieces from a collection Beckett dubbed "Texts for Nothing." Irwin was first introduced to them by one of his mentors, the late Joseph Chaikin, a much-respected figure in the theater world who, like Irwin, did a lot of everything well. Using all of these works as a guide, Irwin traces the development of not only Beckett's artistic voice but his Irish one, too, returning it to the place it originally called home. [more]

Popcorn Falls

October 17, 2018

However, the play’s humor is very mild. The jokes are on the level of “My steeple is drooping! I swear this never happened to me before,” from Pastor Peters, and “George Washington dined on that very land,” “Well, it was a picnic lunch.” Among the gags are that the cord for the mike in the Town Hall has been eaten through as they “can’t afford squirrel traps.” The play is farce but it is not played fast enough to keep all its bubbles in the air. Tim Mackabee’s set is very redolent of small town halls, but does not suggest the other locales. Jeff Croiter’s lighting attempts to add to the atmosphere as the play moves all over town. Heller and Souhrada remain in Joseph La Corte’s single costumes all evening, ones that are suitable for a major and a janitor. [more]

Hitler’s Tasters

October 17, 2018

Though its title couldn’t be clearer or more transparent, "Hitler’s Tasters" proves anything but that, as it merges the past, when Hitler was still alive, with the present, when fresh autocrats are popping up all over the world, including in our neck of the woods. [more]

Salome

October 15, 2018

This M-34 production, under Rutherford’s direction, doesn’t rise to stratospheric heights.  Quite the opposite:  Rutherford’s direction and writing turns Salome into a fascinating domestic comedy/drama, an interesting interpretation, even a witty interpretation, but one that avoids piercing the audience’s minds.  He keeps the actors watchable with an in-your-face directing style.  Earnest and energetic as it is, he never squeezes fresh revelations from the text. [more]

The Winning Side

October 11, 2018

In dramatizing the story of Wernher von Braun, James Wallert’s "The Winning Side" makes compelling the concept of ethics in science: should we admire a mathematical genius who has had antithetical political ideas or are his scientific achievements too valuable to hold his former political beliefs against him? Though the program notes indicate that the play “is a work of dramatic fiction and liberties have been taken,” The Winning Side does show us a genius at work who was also an opportunist and changed his stories depending on what suited the occasion. As such it has become relevant all over again in an era when truth counts for so little and men of morality are all the more valuable. [more]
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