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Off-Broadway

BrouHaHa

January 8, 2018

Washington, D.C.’s acclaimed Happenstance Theater is making is New York debut with its 2015 show "BrouHaHa," which has been seen previously in Baltimore, Maine and New Haven. Taking for its theme what would you do if the world were about to end, this “clownesque escapade collaboratively devised and performed by the ensemble” follows the company of six through a series of skits and journeys almost all of which lead to death but from which the actors bounce back. While the company members are extremely talented, the material lacks impact and structure and cries out for both a playwright and a director. Although intended to be comic, there are no laughs in this show though it may provoke smiles. [more]

Twelfth Night, or What You Will (Fiasco Theater)

December 21, 2017

While not as memorable as several previous Fiasco Theater productions, this "Twelfth Night" takes a while to get where it is going. After winding up the plot in the first half, it settles down to sparkling comedy in its second. A bare-bones production, it focuses attention on the language and the music rather than the usually rich trappings. It is an easy production to follow without being distracted by extraneous interpretations or ideas. [more]

It’s a Wonderful Life: The 1946 Live Radio Play

December 15, 2017

As adapted for the stage by Anthony E. Palermo, it’s roughly half the length of the film. But it still tells the same story about George Bailey, who on Christmas Eve in 1946 intends to take his life, only to be saved by an angel named Clarence. While saying there’s “a Tom Sawyer quality to you, George,” Clarence still turns George around by showing him what “a different world” it is without him, as if he had never been born. And it seems to be amazingly complete--even while the focus of the presentation is on the live radio version, including a banner that says, W.I.R.T. (duh, for Irish Repertory Theatre) and several different “words from our sponsors,” such as “Lucky Strike” (“clears your lungs”) and “Carter’s Liver Pills.” [more]

Describe the Night

December 15, 2017

The themes of Rajiv Joseph’s latest political play are not only valid but relevant in today’s climate. However, "Describe the Night" is too convoluted for its own good and attempts to make connections where none actually exist. While the cast led by Danny Burstein and Zach Grenier give solid performances, they never seem to develop in any way even though the play covers 90 years. Such momentous events as the Stalinist Purges and the fall of the Berlin Wall are treated almost in passing without their real significance being explored. Ambitious and epic in scope, Describe the Night becomes tiresome rather than enlightening. [more]

Downtown Race Riot

December 15, 2017

Anton Chekhov once advised that if you show an audience a gun you are required to have it go off. Set on September 8, 1976, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s new play, "Downtown Race Riot," being given it world premiere by The New Group, never takes us to this forgotten event which happened in Washington Square Park but depicts the forces and people involved in the 100 minutes before the riot is to happen. This overheated melodrama which goes on a bit long takes on many important themes (racial hatred, drug addiction, petty crime, sexual identity, financial insecurity, etc.) without making any pertinent point about any of them. While the dialogue and the milieu are gritty, Downtown Race Riot recycles a great many stereotypes and clichés. [more]

Shadowlands

December 13, 2017

William Nicholson’s "Shadowlands" is one of those subtle plays that grows on you as it evolves and weaves its own spell. Based on a true story of one the most improbable love stories of the 20th century, it covers a range of human emotions that should catch you in its web. Under Christa Scott-Reed’s assured and astute direction, Daniel Gerroll gives a memorable performance as theologian and writer C.S. Lewis. A play of ideas on the meaning and varieties of faith, it is challenging as one has to follow its intellectual and spiritual arguments. However, for discriminating theatergoers, this is an added fillip for more than simple entertainment. [more]

Hold These Truths

December 9, 2017

With expressive and limber physicality, animated facial features, piercing eyes, and a smoothly resonant voice, Mr. de la Fuente vividly depicts Mr. Hirabayashi from youth to old age.  Magnifying his towering performance, de la Fuente also plays a gallery of characters that include Hirabayashi’s parents, his friends, and American military personal as well as other incidental characters.  His uniformly sharp characterizations are accomplished with ease, precision and depth.  He is totally commanding during the play’s 90 minutes. [more]

Indians

December 4, 2017

In the central character of Buffalo Bill Cody, Michael Hardart plays only the one role. The play seems to be his coming to terms with the mythologizing of his achievements. Although twice he is given the line about fearing death in his makeup, there is no sense that he gains any self-awareness in the course of the play. As a result, he does not become a tragic hero with a fatal flaw. His bland, tame performance fails to hold the play and its many scenes together. [more]

Where Has Tommy Flowers Gone?

December 3, 2017

David Gow is the show’s producer and he also plays Tommy Flowers.  Mr. Gow perhaps saw this showy role as a vehicle for him to shine in and he does up to a point.  Gow is an appealing, very talented young man who gives an admirable performance in such problematic material. The part is up there with Ibsen’s epic Peer Gynt and Quentin in Arthur Miller’s verbose "After the Fall" in terms of duration.  Mr. Gow winningly displays stamina and range. However, it would take a colossus of the likes of a Robert Morse in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" to make this play even a qualified success. [more]

20th Century Blues

November 30, 2017

There is nothing much very wrong with Susan Miller’s '20th Century Blues" that a few more revelations or dustups wouldn’t solve. Beth Dixon, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Polly Draper, Kathryn Grody and Ellen Parker play believable, recognizable women at a plateau in their lives when some taking stock is in order as they approach the age of being considered senior citizens. A pleasant evening in this form, but Miller’s play gives an aftertaste that will leave you hungry for more. It seems that in order not to offend, she is playing it too safe. [more]

Hot Mess

November 30, 2017

Crumm and DeVito have a marvelous chemistry together and terrific mutual comic timing that make them seem like a real couple. Their compelling performances energize and elevate what could have been a wan, sitcom-style stage show. [more]

Harry Clarke

November 29, 2017

Philip’s shaggy-dog yarn keeps exposing him as what used to be known as a pathological liar. And with little more than a wooden deck chair, a small table, a wooden slated floor and a sky-blue background (the set is by Alexander Dodge, the lighting by Alan C. Edwards), Crudup’s tour-de-force performance is a potent reminder that all you need for good theater is the actor’s voice--as well as a good script, of course. It’s also testimony to his having been well directed by Leigh Silverman, who seems to have gotten the best out of Crudup with his multiple voices and varied expressions. [more]

Pride and Prejudice

November 27, 2017

While this is not a Bedlam production as was Hamill’s hugely successful stage version of Austen’s second published novel, "Sense and Sensibility," director Amanda Dehnert has staged the play in their inimitable style for this co-production of Primary Stages and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and has created a clever 19th century entertainment with a decidedly 21st century sensibility. The versatile Hamill has also given herself the plum role of Elizabeth Bennet, here known as Lizzy. [more]

Peter Pan (Bedlam)

November 25, 2017

Such changes as Captain Hook being a woman or Tinker Bell speaking French are neither explained nor meaningful, while some of the doubling simply makes the play hard to follow as the characters are not listed in the programs which are given out after the performance. A voice-over which appears to read stage directions from the original is both intrusive and inconsistent: why some characters but not others? There is a dark psychological story hidden in Barrie’s tale of a boy who refuses to grow up but this isn’t it. Whereas the original play is joyful, Bedlam’s Peter Pan is a glum affair in which no one seems to be having a very good time. Where is the Bedlam which brought such purposeful insight and visual dazzle to its previous work? The actors, mostly playing children, try hard but fail to bring the work to life. [more]

Office Hour

November 20, 2017

Not only is Julia Cho’s "Office Hour" rivetingly acted by Sue Jean Kim and Ki Hong Lee, it is one of the few plays in recent memory to tackle a major social problem and offer an explanation or answer to society’s needs. Under Neel Keller’s astute direction and the production team’s superb physical production, "Office Hour" is both an important play and a compelling event in the theater. You may not agree with Cho’s conclusions but you will not be bored for a moment. [more]

School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play

November 17, 2017

Ms. Bioh’s snappy dialogue perfectly renders the rhythms of teenage lingo and the pain beneath the bravado, emitting the universality of adolescence.  Bioh’s construction is meticulous as the events play out over 70 tight minutes.  Besides the foreign setting there’s nothing really “new” about the play but’s it’s so well written and gloriously presented. [more]

Toys: A Dark Fairy Tale

November 17, 2017

Tunde Skovran as Shari and Julia Ubrankovics as Clara are sensational. The brunette Ms. Skovran and the blonde Ms. Ubrankovics are a dynamic team who each offer vivid portrayals with their powerful physicality and resonant voices that emit differing degrees of an East European accent.  The outrageous finale has them gloriously carrying on in an extended, celebratory dance sequence. [more]

Illyria

November 17, 2017

The conversations revolve around the topics of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s poor finances in 1958, Vaughan’s defection to the Phoenix Theatre which was paying a living wage while the NYSF was not, the choice of Mary Bennett (Vaughan’s choice) or Peggy Papp (Papp’s choice) to play Olivia, George C. Scott’s defection to the movies in his unnamed first film, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee appearances by both Papp and Gersten which has put their jobs in jeopardy, and whether Free Shakespeare in the Park can survive without charging admission. However, none of these conversations are allowed to erupt into real conflict. We are placed in the center of the action as though we are in the room where it happened, but the dialogue remains on the level of chit-chat rather than life or death threatening decisions. The problems never seem to be resolved and the play moves on to its next topic. [more]

AlieNation: The Journey I Never Made & A Story of Love and Soccer

November 15, 2017

Adhering admirably to its cultural mission, Kairos Italy Theater is treating downtown audiences to a double-bill of smartly written Italian one-acts, each exploring the contentious topic of immigration in their own unique and achingly human ways. Minimally staged, but with talented actors, the beauty of the plays is largely in the playwrights’ words, which seemingly have lost nothing in translation. Though if either play is appreciably better in Italian, some language lessons and a long trip is in order. [more]

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

November 14, 2017

Guirgis and Brokaw manage to find the back-handed humor and pathos of this scene which sets the mood for a profane and scatological play that hits the audience between the eyes with its fresh use of language and its deep understanding of the two main characters.   Guirgis turns profanity into a poetic x-ray of the human psyche. [more]

Prague, 1912 (The Savoy Café Yiddish Theatre)

November 13, 2017

There is a fascinating story to be told in Franz Kafka’s involvement with the Yiddish theater in Prague during 1912 but Lu Hauser’s play isn’t it. "Prague, 1912 (The Savoy Café Yiddish Theatre)" is both episodic and repetitious without being clear as to the point that it is making. It simply seems to be a collection of scenes on the same themes that endlessly repeats itself. As Paula Vogel’s "Indecent" has demonstrated, there is a renewed interest in the Yiddish theater but "Prague, 1912" has not brought to life this world that is now gone with the wind. [more]

Conquest of the Universe Or When Queens Collide

November 13, 2017

Played to perfection with an infectious joy by one and all, the entire cast also takes a deadly serious attitude towards their lines and their actions. Indeed Ludlam’s "Conquest" invokes "Hamlet" in its final scene, when many of the characters die--even following a previous “gravedigger” scene. And as staged by Quinton, the final “banquet” scene also invokes Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” All I can say is, go and enjoy! [more]

Romantic Trapezoid

November 10, 2017

The problem is that under Albert Bonilla’s stolid and matter-of-fact direction, Elizabeth Ingham and Zack Calhoon's characters never come alive. Just trading quips is not a sophisticated style and as all of their lines are said the same way without variety, it becomes tiresome quite soon. While Donze continually surprises us as Beth, Melissa and Dave remain the same throughout. And the production design doesn’t help much. While the couple discusses what good taste Melissa has in buying Dave’s shirt, Viviane Galloway’s costumes are extremely conservative and colorless, no proof of any special taste whatever. [more]

Lady Macbeth and Her Lover

November 10, 2017

With her marvelously fluty voice, imperious bearing, expressive physicality and animated facial features, Maja Wampuszyc as the haughty Corrine recalls Geraldine Page in all her grand glory. Ms. Wampuszyc is mesmerizing, delivering a searing performance of tremendous depth. She vividly conveys the character’s dysfunctional sensibility with heightened emotionalism and dry humor. [more]

What We’re Up Against

November 9, 2017

With "What We’re Up Against," Theresa Rebeck looks back a quarter century to a time when gender inequality in the workplace was a real problem. Oh, wait…yep, unfortunately, if Rebeck’s script didn’t tell us the year was 1992, it would be pretty easy to believe she was writing about the present, especially given the recent avalanche of news concerning sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry. The story Rebeck tells never sinks to this horrific level, though it’s possible to imagine that it could have, if she had wanted to follow the male anger she portrays to a place it often leads. [more]

People, Places & Things

November 8, 2017

The hype that surrounds an award-winning performance on one side of the Atlantic can often preclude its impact if and when it arrives on the other side. This is not the case, I’m happy to report, with the overwhelmingly powerful performance of Denise Gough who deservedly won the Olivier Award as Emma in "People, Places & Things," a new play by Duncan MacMillan, which premiered in London in 2015, and is now enjoying its American premiere at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. [more]

Must

November 7, 2017

It’s New Mexico in 1881, and during a series of short scenes, Billy contemplates his life.  His stern mother, rough father, stalwart girlfriend and his sly pursuer, Sheriff Pat Garrett, all periodically appear.  The dialogue is stiff, lofty, peppered with profanity and doesn’t impart much biographical details. [more]

The Fight

November 5, 2017

Playwright Jonathan Leaf’s prodigious research, accomplished dramatic construction and clever device of threading a mystery throughout the events make the play quite engrossing.  There’s also the sociological angle as the characters eloquently state and defend their differing beliefs and agendas that include careerism versus motherhood. [more]

Marcel + The Art of Laughter

November 2, 2017

Like the great comedy teams, Jos Houben and Marcello Magni are a study in contrasts.  The Belgian Mr. Houben is tall, animated and relies on breezy patter.  The Italian Mr. Magni is short, often dour and mostly silent.  They have collaborated with Peter Brook at his Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, and have performed together around the world. [more]

Knives in Hens

November 1, 2017

While the script describes the setting as simply a “rural place,” British and European productions apparently have set the play in medieval times. It is definitely pre-industrial as the farmers still need to have their grains ground at a mill and no one has yet seen a pen. Director Paul Takacs, who has staged the equally challenging Dark Vanilla Jungle by Philip Ridley in New York, has reset the play on the American frontier and made use of a multicultural cast. This grounds the play somewhat and makes it easier for Americans to identify with it, but it remains a difficult, challenging play due to its poetic language and its lack of specificity. [more]

Tartuffe

November 1, 2017

Complementing his gorgeous stage pictures, director Craig Smith’s vibrant staging has the actors in constant motion on the small playing area.  The cast precisely paces, dashes and undulates, achieving a propelling pace and focus. Chanting monks roaming through the audience is an eerie highlight.  Slapstick, high comedy, bawdiness and dramatic truth are all vividly rendered by Mr. Smith’s superior sense of stagecraft. [more]

The Last Match

October 31, 2017

With so many interruptions, it hardly makes for riveting theater, and it never becomes as riveting as a genuine tennis match can be, even though one is ostensibly taking place from the beginning of the play to the end, which essentially presents a chronological series of sets between the two players, the Russian Sergei (Alex Mickiewicz) and the American Tim (Wilson Bethel). [more]
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