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Off-Broadway

Jack Charles V The Crown

March 23, 2017

His innate charm, joy of performing and theatrical grandeur is always on display in this show. All of those qualities combined with his resonant, Australian accented vocal delivery makes it easy to imagine him being commanding in Shakespearean and any number of roles in the classics of dramatic literature, as well as a screen actor. Sadly, environmental circumstances did not as of yet make this possible. [more]

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

March 21, 2017

And what of the play which had its world premiere at the Public Theater in 2005? Parsons’ uneven production cannot keep this long play from seeming unwieldy. In fact, using so many actors is almost distracting as some of them are simply walk-ons, and disappear almost immediately. The new production seems less trenchant and more like a vaudeville with its set pieces than Philip Seymour Hoffman’s original staging. Nevertheless, the play still retains a cumulative effect and is ultimately compelling. [more]

C.S. Lewis On Stage: The Most Reluctant Convert

March 21, 2017

As he impersonates the British writer C.S. Lewis, Max McLean relies on little more than a pipe, a brown suit and tie, and a rather mellifluous voice to become the Anglican philosopher and noted atheist, who famously converted to Christianity in the mid-Twentieth Century. The script was cobbled together by McLean from Lewis’ memoir, letters and books, including other biographies of Lewis, a man who was “intoxicated” by words, which is primarily what this play is about--the mesmerizing effect that words can have, when uttered in an effective sequence. [more]

When It’s You

March 20, 2017

Speaking in an engaging Texas twang, the blonde Reeder recounts Ginnifer’s somber story with emotional straightforwardness and humor. Employing her expressive facial features, striking eyes and serene physicality, she delivers a performance of tremendous focus that hauntingly holds attention. [more]

Sam & Dede, or My Dinner with Andre the Giant

March 19, 2017

Beckett lived in rural France, and his nearby neighbor, Boris Roussimoff, helped him build a cottage on his property in 1953. Beckett grew close to the family, and offered to drive Andre to school, as the boy was reluctant to take the bus. This was because he suffered from gigantism and was self-conscious about his appearance and his difficulty in fitting into the bus. By the age of 12, he was 6’ 3” tall and weighed 208 lb. [more]

White Guy on the Bus

March 18, 2017

Musical star Robert Cuccioli has to call upon his experience playing both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to become Ray in "White Guy on the Bus," a first-rate, new play by Bruce Graham, that has more than a stunning surprise or two, as it spreads out the story like a wild brush-fire burning out of control. His complicated and duplicitous “numbers man” character wants, from the beginning, to quit his high-paying job, and, like the French painter Gauguin, escape from the workaday world of banking and finance. “I don’t want to sell the house,” he tells his wife Roz in the opening scene. “I want to sell everything.” [more]

The Moors

March 18, 2017

Although the play demonstrates a surface knowledge of the genre and the period, it wants to have it both ways: it takes place in 1840 in a desolate mansion on the Yorkshire Moors but the characters talk and behave as though it is the present. It appears to be making a feminist statement by making all the members of the household female but has nothing new to say on the subject other than as a variation on these famous novels. And it attempts to be funny but isn’t clever or surprising enough to trigger much laughter. [more]

The Light Years

March 16, 2017

Playwrights Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen with developer Oliver Butler, creatively evoke the tragic, nostalgic spirit of Booth Tarkington’s "The Magnificent Ambersons" and the wonderment of the works of humorist Jean Shepherd. The scenario is engaging and the characters are lovingly rendered. [more]

If I Forget

March 15, 2017

Steven Levenson’s "If I Forget" is the kind of family drama that doesn’t get written much anymore: one that has something to say other than just depicting a dysfunctional situation. Not only are we pulled into the family wrangling, the issues under debate are major ones and their outcome is serious business. Director Daniel Sullivan and a splendid cast of seven make this one of the most compelling plays of the season. This is a play you won’t soon forget and its provocative nature should trigger much discussion. [more]

Wakey, Wakey

March 14, 2017

"Wakey, Wakey" is Will Eno at his surreal, troubling, beautiful best, a play both challenging and easily absorbed. He truly approaches the unapproachable: the meaning of life. [more]

Deconstruction

March 14, 2017

The acting isn’t detailed or expansive enough to make Leaf’s words come alive or give the slightest notion of the intelligence of these three. Ms. Dobbins’ McCarthy is far too girlish. Yes, the playwright’s point is to show how even an intellectual can be seduced by a good-looking person, but she never boils over. The closest to anger she achieves is petulance. [more]

Linda

March 13, 2017

A revolving stage permits set designer Walt Spangler to depict, with dead-on realism and dispatch, not only Linda’s home--including an upstairs bedroom, which her daughters share--but also various offices at Swan Corporation, among numerous other sites. After a certain point, the dizzying, rotating stage becomes akin to a swirling merry-go-round, as director Lynne Meadow has it turning and turning, with different characters walking on and off, and through different doors, without any dialogue whatsoever, in subdued but effective lighting by Jason Lyons. It all becomes part of the accelerating gallop of the play itself, which ultimately spins out of control, as Linda learns that she’s lost her--well, let’s just say, in the end, everything. [more]

The Gravedigger’s Lullaby

March 13, 2017

Playwright Jeff Talbott offers an overall well-written and plotted social drama that detours into a strident political battle over capitalism. The sympathetic characters are trapped by their circumstances, as well as by Mr. Talbott’s rudimentary scenario. [more]

Villa

March 13, 2017

Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderón constructs a simple, engrossing and often funny scenario. Three women, all named Alejandra, have been selected as members of a deliberative, special committee from a larger body who could not reach a decision over a searing national issue. There’s suspense, shocking revelations and Survivor-like machinations. [more]

The Penitent

March 10, 2017

Perhaps because Mamet-regular Jordan Lage is so effective as Richard, the scenes between Charles and his own attorney prove the most effective. While Laura Bauer’s sensible costumes do all they can to make her seem real, Rebecca Pidgeon proves robotic as Kath, detracting from her character’s constant bewilderment. (Come to think of it, maybe it was a stylized choice for playing the part, because of Kath’s befuddlement and uncertainty, at every turn.) The last scene is set in a rehab room, where Kath has been confined, following a mental collapse or nervous breakdown. [more]

The Skin of Our Teeth

March 8, 2017

Thornton Wilder’s "The Skin of Our Teeth" with its benign belief in the resilience of the human condition is unlike any other American play you are likely to see. Both heavily influenced by earlier European experiments in theater, it is also influential in itself. While Arin Arbus’ production for Theatre for a New Audience at times seems as though it need tighting up, it is a play that must be experienced in the theater which is why it has never been turned into a Hollywood movie. Go and see for yourself what only the live theater can do to expand your imagination. [more]

Nibbler

March 6, 2017

Urban may have an admirable mission, in attempting to document the customary passage from youth to adulthood--or high-school to college, to be more precise--as he focuses on five graduating seniors in a middle-class suburb, in 1992, when one of them, Adam, remains behind, without any prospects for a glorious future. But the otherwise realistic play that unfolds quickly veers into surreal territory, as an alien from another planet enters their midst, and the eponymous “Nibbler” becomes ever more real a presence on stage, via a puppet, manipulated by several of the quite visible cast-members. [more]

Messenger #1, A New Ancient Greek Tragedy

March 6, 2017

In addition to the swiftness of the storytelling and the use of contemporary language, Jackson uses a sort of upstairs-downstairs approach. Aside from what is happening to the royals, we also see everything from the point of view of the three messengers. The messengers deliver their reports to us the populace, interact with each other, and interpret for us how the events of their world affect them. They also work as the chorus but each has something different to reveal rather than speaking in unison as in ancient Greek drama. Jackson has tweaked the legend somewhat which makes his version all the more surprising and absorbing. [more]

All the Fine Boys

March 5, 2017

Playwright Erica Schmidt has a minor aptitude for believably snappy dialogue, but not much else. Her tired scenario is astonishingly familiar and offers no fresh insights. That adolescence is tough is about all there is. That territory has been mined in John Hughes’ films and numerous television shows. There was also the 1985 movie "Smooth Talk," starring Laura Dern and Treat Williams that was based on a Joyce Carol Oates short story. [more]

Everybody

March 3, 2017

The original was aimed at an audience that most certainly was illiterate, so that the clever creators used cartoonish, unsubtle characters who spoke in popular jargon, even spouting profanity, which must have tickled the medieval audiences’ sensibilities and kept them following the actors in their juicy parts. Jacobs-Jenkins follows suit, but with his tongue firmly in his cheek, writing his characters, particularly Stuff (played with a no-nonsense, “from the block” insouciance by Lakisha Michelle May), as immediately recognizable twenty-first century caricatures. When cutie pie child Lilyana Tiare Cornell, playing the character Time, spouts the word “shitty,” the audience at the Diamond Stage giggles nervously. [more]

Turning Page

February 28, 2017

Much is made of her numerous Oscar nominations, and this reaches a wonderfully presented climax. She finally wins the award for Best Actress on her eighth nomination for the 1985 screen adaptation of Horton Foote’s play, "The Trip to Bountiful." “Is that per week?” “No. That’s for the whole thing,” was Geraldine Page’s agent’s incredulous reaction to the low salary that was offered for it. [more]

Leah, the Forsaken

February 26, 2017

Nevertheless, while the play is startlingly not politically correct, the acting is of a high caliber. In the title role, Regina Gibson (who appeared last season in the rediscovered operetta "The Golden Bride" by the National Yiddish Opera Folksbiene) gives an impassioned, persuasive performance. In the ingénue roles, Jon Berry (Rudolf) and Noelia Antweiler (Madalena) are charming. Jeffrey Grover captures all of the self-righteousness of the bigoted schoolmaster Berthold. Joe Candelora as the Magistrate Lorenz and Ron Nummi as the Doctor and Barber (which he never stops telling us) give hearty, comic portrayals. The rest of the large cast of 15 also throw themselves into their respective roles. [more]

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]
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