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Off-Broadway

Three Sisters

May 22, 2022

While this is not an in-depth interpretation and at times seems a bit superficial, Will Pomerantz’s production of "Three Sisters" is a true ensemble making it appear that these people have lived together for years. His new adaptation in contemporary idiom is easy on the ears and easy to comprehend. The pacing of the production is always on the move which is saying a good deal when it comes to Three Sisters which is often performed in a glacial style to mirror the characters’ boredom and disappointments. Here the characters complain about their fate but get on with their lives. [more]

The Oracle

May 20, 2022

This premiere five-performance Off-Off-Broadway showcase run of "The Oracle" is best viewed as a tryout, and the production’s presentational flaws are cited with that belief. Co-author Elliott also directed; while he’s assembled, well-positioned and guided the industrious cast to lively performances, his physical staging is variable. The play is structured as 34 brief scenes over two acts. Instead of rapid transitions, there’s a pause between each scene while recorded music plays as the actors get in place. This intrusive strategy slackens the pacing and adds to the running time. [more]

Oh God, A Show About Abortion

May 18, 2022

Alison Leiby’s "Oh God, A Show About Abortion" is probably the most level-headed work about that much debated subject, perhaps too level-headed.  While the United States is going through social and political paroxysms over a leaked Supreme Court argument that portends the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Leiby’s matter-of-fact attitude toward the subject is a balm. [more]

The Karpovsky Variations

May 17, 2022

Adam Kraar’s new drama, "The Karpovsky Variations," is a memory play about a dysfunctional family of driven people and the music that inspired them. Unfortunately, in its current form it is both confused and confusing. Without a family tree, it is difficult to keep straight all of the names of characters both seen and mentioned. Director Tasha Gordon-Solmon has eliminated almost all of the scenic elements described in the script which does not make it any easier to follow. There is a fascinating story hidden in this material but it hasn’t been allowed to surface yet. [more]

André & Dorine

May 16, 2022

This charming show comes from the acclaimed Spanish troupe, Kulunka Teatro. The ensemble of Jose Dault, Garbiñe Insausti and Edu Cárcamo all offer awesome physically commanding silent portrayals of a variety of types while encased in Ms. Insausti’s stupendously created caricaturist masks. Their handling of props is majestic. During the exhilarating curtain call, the cast appears without masks, and their magnetism is even more visible. André & Dorine’s engaging wry scenario was devised by Insausti, Mr. Dault, Iñaki Rikarte, Mr. Cárcamo and Rolando San Martín. [more]

A Case for the Existence of God

May 10, 2022

Though there’s two well-delineated characters and a compelling plot, "A Case for the Existence of God" plays out like a 90-minute cerebral exercise, reaching an unsatisfying pseudo-fantastical conclusion. This is explained by Hunter’s stage directions which explicitly have the actors sitting for a good deal of the time. He has several dictates as to how his dialogue should be delivered, one example is “Dialogue written in italics is emphatic, deliberate; dialogue in ALL CAPS is impulsive, explosive. Dialogue in [brackets] is implied, not spoken.” [more]

Wedding Band

May 9, 2022

Alice Childress’ "Wedding Band," which is a difficult play to stage due to its shifts in tone, is a major rediscovery. However, it straddles a thin line between realism and romance and its poetry needs to be handled very carefully. Unlike the tamer "Trouble in Mind," "Wedding Band" has a very strong message and a good deal to say about racism in American in telling its sensitive interracial love story about a time when it was a love that dared not speak its name. While this production makes some problematic choices, the time has certainly arrived for this play to be returned to the American stage. [more]

Our Brother’s Son

May 6, 2022

Freshman playwright Charles Gluck, a retired gastroenterologist who has finally followed his dream to write a play, has turned out one terrific piece of theater. There is virtually no superfluous dialogue in this script; almost every line serves a specific purpose, whether it’s to provide key exposition, continue to build the play’s fully three-dimensional characters or to accelerate and intensify the dramatic through point. [more]

Wish You Were Here

May 4, 2022

In the 13 years that span this earnest, thought-provoking play, three weddings, fear, war, and death all serve to test the strength and sanctity of these women’s bonds. Toossi’s script is intimate, and searching, both funny and heartbreaking; "Wish You Were Here" is a beautiful testament to the strengths and allegiances women find with each other in times of turmoil and oppression. [more]

Bloom

April 26, 2022

Direction by Victoria Pérez could have better negotiated the script transitions and emotional shaping of the piece; however, script, director and actors, as well as lighting design by Miguel Valderrama and sound design by Michael Hernandez all come together to create a moving ending which comes with no answers but does provide a sense of closure. "Bloom" hasn’t fully flowered in this incarnation, but perhaps more will be revealed in future productions. [more]

Cyrano de Bergerac

April 19, 2022

Playwright Martin Crimp, an adherent of the ”in-yer-face” school of British playwriting, has taken Edmond Rostand’s turn-of-the-last century verse drama, Cyrano de Bergerac, and not only blown off the cobwebs but exploded it into an entirely new 21st century experience. Staged by innovative director Jamie Lloyd, it has become a showcase for titanic Scottish stage and screen actor James McAvoy making an unforgettable New York stage debut in the title role as the 17th century poet and soldier. [more]

To My Girls

April 15, 2022

Lee peppers his worn scenario with plenty of pop, cultural and political references, well-crafted zingers and familiar conflicts. Dating apps, "Dancer from the Dance," "Sex and the City" are among the totems cited and a Trump supporter is declared to be a “MAGA fag.” "To My Girls" succeeds as a rote genre-piece for a niche audience desiring a simplistic gay play where there’s laughter, tears and resolution in drag danced to The Pointer Sisters. Lee’s thinly drawn characters are highly playable. [more]

Confederates

April 12, 2022

Dominique Morisseau’s "Confederates," her second play of her Signature Theatre Residency 5, is a clever, but overly talky dissertation on race, power and family.  She offers the audience parallel stories alternating between the Civil War era and modern day academia. The contemporary plot involves Sandra (Michelle Wilson, solid), a Black political science professor who is the victim of a racist insult. A period photograph of a slave wet nurse, white infant attached to her breast, was altered to superimpose her head on the slave’s.  Finding the culprit spurs Sandra to think about the precariousness of being a Black woman in academia. [more]

The Patsy

April 12, 2022

Greenspan, a six-time Obie Award winner, whirls at breakneck speed through this three-act play in just over an hour, transforming from one character to the next with expert fluidity. He transitions between the highly dramatic and entitled Grace, the histrionic and prideful Mrs. Harrington, the simple but lovable Mr. Harrington, the gentle and sweet Patricia, and the gangly, dopey gentleman callers Tom Anderson and Billy Caldwell, drawing on every gender-bending limb, muscle, hand, voice, look or facial gesture he can muster. Even the brusque Tip Busty and party girl Sadie Buchanan get their own unique treatment. [more]

Queens Girl in the World

April 11, 2022

Whether frenetically dancing, rhapsodizing over Nancy Drew, fretting about when she’ll wear a bra or reacting horrified upon learning about sex, Ms. Curry performs with the verve of Lily Tomlin in her prime. Curry’s rich portrayal of Jaqueline Marie Butler captures the wonderment of childhood amidst harsh realities and the physical and emotional upheavals of adolescence. A matter-of-fact confession that Jaqueline has been molested is a chilling highlight. With her wide-eyes, expressive facial features, limber physicality and vocal prowess, Curry often rapidly achieves distinctive characterizations of the dozen other figures in the play. The wizardry of Mika Eubanks’ costume, hair and makeup design all visually enhance Curry’s performance. [more]

Take Shape

April 5, 2022

An astronaut in a space station, a YouTube cooking show, evicted apartment residents and a romance on the rocks are a few of the dramatic and antic incidents depicted in "Take Shape," an entertaining full-length program of mime. It’s presented by the Broken Box Mime Theater (BKBX), which was founded in 2011, and whose mission is “to activate the imagination of our audiences, to contemporize the art of mime, and to remind us all of the simple power of storytelling.” "Take Shape" is a collaboration by the company’s members, many of whom appear in rotation at various performances. This creative troupe is comprised of Nick Abeel, Becky Baumwoll, Ismael Castillo, Julia Cavagna, Géraldine Dulex, Blake Habermann, David Jenkins, Marissa Molnar, Kristin McCarthy Parker, Tasha Milkman, Regan Sims, Jae Woo and Josh Wynter. [more]

Gong Lum’s Legacy

April 3, 2022

On one level, "Gong Lum’s Legacy" is revealing in that it demonstrates Southern racism against not only African Americans but also Chinese immigrants who were given the same treatment. On another hand, the script which moves rather slowly with its 18 scenes over a period of two years would be more effective if it was less like a screenplay and more stageworthy. The play would also be more powerful if the historic Gong Lum made appearances in the play to tell his own story rather than reporting it as radio news.  Playwright Charles L. White has a fine ear for dialogue but is weak in dramaturgy. [more]

7 Minutes

March 31, 2022

Given one hour to decide and vote, the union committee must come to a decision in real time. On one level the play is very much like Reginald Rose’s "12 Angry Men" in which a group of disparate people must also make a life or death decision. However, unlike that play, the characters in "7 Minutes" are not clearly delineated so that we do not know where many of them stand or who they are. While the production directed by Mei Ann Teo is absorbing for most of its running time placing us in the room where it happens, her staging having the actors move about a great deal makes it difficult to keep most of the 11 women separate from each other. Unlike "12 Angry Men," "7 Minutes" does not offer a great many arguments for and against to warrant its running time, mainly getting into personalities. [more]

The Chinese Lady

March 29, 2022

Presentational flourishes abound in director Ralph B. Peña’s gorgeous physical staging which combines small-scale spectacle with humanity. Scenic designer Junghyun Georgia Lee provides a large gold frame through which we observe Afong’s act and an assortment of stylized pieces which evokes the past through clever artifice. That’s complemented by the shimmering artistry of lighting designers Jiyoun Chang and Elizabeth Mak and projection designer Shawn Duan. Sound designer and composer Fabian Obispo’s  original music and composition, ranges from delightfully jaunty to purposefully moody. [more]

Help

March 28, 2022

Poet and Yale professor Rankine’s play makes use of a narrator/interviewer as her stand-in played by April Matthis. According to program notes by Rankine herself, “The text spoken by white people in the piece was primarily culled from responses to the Times article, public statements by men and women in the government and public life; and interviews conducted with white men by civil rights activists and theologian Ruby Sales; or documentary filmmaker Whitney Dow, or myself.” It also includes updates to the original script from “the January 6 insurrection and the global pandemic.” However, as the quotes are out of context they occasionally refer to entirely different issues as in former President Donald Trump’s saying “Such a nasty woman,” that was addressed to then candidate Hillary Clinton during one of the 2016 presidential debates. [more]

Heartland

March 27, 2022

While Gabriel Jason Dean’s "Heartland" is an enlightening play about Afghan culture mentioning the classic poet Rumi and the contemporary novelist Atiq Rahimi, some of it will still be opaque to American audiences. On the other hand, it also reveals how American involvement in other countries may have the opposite effect of that which is intended. The fine production, however, makes this a compelling though subtle story of an extended family in its understated way. The play was first produced as part of the National Play Network Rolling World Premiere with four simultaneous productions including the one at The Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York. [more]

Alex Edelman: Just for Us

March 26, 2022

Despite the familiar visual trappings--mic stand, performer-blinding stage lights, and a dull curtain backdrop--Edelman's deceptively free-flowing talents hew more towards the monologist Spalding Gray than those of Williams. Like Gray, Edelman is an entrancing storyteller capable of stitching together personal anecdotes into a rich thematic tapestry. In Just for Us his canvas includes mental pictures of growing up Orthodox Jewish in a Boston where white privilege is starkly stratified; his brother's 2018 Winter Olympics participation as a member of the Israeli team in possibly the least athletic competition; witnessing the actions of a predictably conceited Jared Kushner at synagogue; and the touching time his family celebrated Christmas in order to console a bereaved non-Jewish friend. [more]

The Medium

March 22, 2022

Who knew that Marshall McLuhan was such a nut?  "The Medium," a dance-theater work conceived and directed by Anne Bogart puts McLuhan through her particular way of combining dance and words and the outcome was silly and brilliant at the same time. First performed in 1993, "The Medium" was revived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's BAM Fisher where five members of the experimental SITI Company were put through their manic paces attempting to explicate the McLuhan’s “medium is the message” philosophy in a series of pointed, surreal skits. Bogart updated the media references to include all the electronic/internet variations. [more]

what you are now

March 21, 2022

As a play about neuroscience, Sam Chanse’s "what you are now" needs a great deal more data and information. As a play about the plight of Cambodian refugees, what are you now needs to be clearer and less convoluted, although ultimately it is quite powerful and moving. Informative about the startling situation of these refugees, the play needs to be seen and heard, but in this form it defeats its own purposes by being confusing in chronology and not offering the drama behind the science of trauma and memory. [more]

Garbageman

March 20, 2022

Unfortunately, Huff the author of the psychological puzzler "A Steady Rain" in which Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman starred in on Broadway in 2009, and who has written  episodes of the television shows "Mad Men," "House of Cards," "American Crime," here exhibits a lack of dramatic construction. After a slack 35 minutes of wayward exposition there is finally some semblance of an actual plot. The lumpy first act lasts an hour and 20 minutes; the tauter second act runs 45 minutes. Together "Garbageman"’s two acts are a semi-satisfying experience. This is its world premiere so perhaps future incarnations will be more refined. Thankfully, its cast has stamina and delivers terrific performances. [more]

Coal Country

March 18, 2022

Songwriter Steve Earle, a three-time Grammy Award winner, returns providing homey, twangy music and acting as an understanding host/narrator.  With charm that belies the depth of Coal Country’s horror, he pulls the audience into the sad story, sometimes musically underlining the confessions of those involved, most particularly the tale of the sole survivor of the disaster, Tommy, played with passion and an undertone of survivor’s guilt by Michael Laurence. [more]

Tiananmen Requiem

March 18, 2022

The play itself is suitably dramatic and thought-provoking; as a piece of theater it should continue to be presented to enlighten future audiences. This particular production isn’t quite up to the task of delivering the play to maximum impact. [more]

Bruise & Thorn

March 17, 2022

C. Julian Jiménez’s "Bruise & Thorn" is not for everyone. Older theatergoers may be put off by both the raw language and street slang that they will not know. However, if you want to know what the younger playwrights and audience members are thinking you cannot afford to miss this over-the-top Queer Ball event. Pipeline Theatre Company’s production has to be seen to be believed. [more]

Man Cave

March 15, 2022

Page 73’s world premiere of John J. Caswell, Jr.’s "Man Cave" is an exciting, riveting supernatural horror story. While at times it seems overwrought and overstuffed with too many issues, Taylor Reynolds’ production works beautifully holding our attention until the final moment. Its satisfying ending seems totally in keeping with the events that precede it and its ensemble of four is completely believable as they attempt to deal with seemingly overwhelming contemporary issues. [more]

Hart Island

March 13, 2022

Whether or not Tracy Weller’s "Hart Island" directly harkens back to Masters, it certainly has similarities, most particularly in its poetically rendered revelations of the underbelly of life and death. Weller turns Hart Island, impeccably rendered in Christopher & Justin Swader’s set occupying most of the Gym at Judson, into a dark metaphor revealing more than any statistics or headlines could ever do about existence during the Covid pandemic. Hart Island is where the bodies of indigent and anonymous people wind up, usually buried by prisoner work details from nearby Riker’s Island.  Of course, during the last two years Hart Island’s necropolis has burgeoned both in reality and in Weller’s imagination as fertile in this time as Masters’ was in his. [more]

This Space Between Us

March 9, 2022

The world premiere of Peter Gil-Sheridan’s "This Space Between Us" gives itself away in its title: it is about a dysfunctional family that does nothing but argue when they get together. Jonathan Silverstein’s production for Keen Company bills itself as a comedy but unfortunately there are few if any laughs. While the author has an ear for realistic dialogue, he demonstrates little talent for plot, with the play as linear and predictable as could be. The only wrinkle in this timeworn theme is that the protagonist’s father is Cuban-born while his mother is American, and his Aunt Pat is a nun. One gets the feeling (possibly misplaced) that there is a semi-autobiographical element and the author is too close to his material. [more]

On Sugarland

March 8, 2022

Aleshea Harris’ third New York stage play following her form-bending "Is God Is" and "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" is epic in all senses of the word: it includes poetry, dance, incantation, comedy and drama. The new play "On Sugarland," an anti-war drama, also harks back to the Greeks, borrowing characters from Sophocles’ "Philoctetes" and Euripides’ "The Trojan Women," as well as the concept of the Chorus. It tells three interwoven stories as well as one communal one and ends with a shocking finale that is the hallmark of Greek tragedy. Director Whitney White’s production with its cast of 14 is quite versatile and lives up to its lofty task. [more]

A Touch of the Poet

March 8, 2022

Director Ciarán O'Reilly confidently lets the clever cast explore their characters' profound complexities, which means forcing the audience to simply accept a few psychological contradictions. At its best, watching the play feels like eavesdropping on a real family whose lives are unfolding before us naturally. Dramatically, it's a little messy but also much more human. Where the play falters somewhat is at the very beginning, with a long, exposition-laden exchange between a gossipy bartender (James Russell) and Con's old war buddy (Andy Murray) that is less a scene than an information-delivery system. Fortunately, the put-upon Russell and Murray enjoy later opportunities to put their estimable skills to better use. [more]
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