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Off-Broadway

The Oldest Boy

November 17, 2014

Sarah Ruhl's latest play, The Oldest Boy, having its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse, is a magical spiritual investigation into the relationship between teachers and students, and mothers and sons. Based on a true story told to the author by her Tibetan housekeeper, Rebecca Taichman's production uses dance (choreographed by Barney O'Hanlon), ritual and a puppet (designed and directed by Matt Acheson) for three-year-old Tenzin. The play also has the Mother directly address the audience and features breathtaking and colorful lighting effects by Japhy Weideman on Mimi Lien's minimalist but pleasing setting, as well as beautiful Asian costumes by Anita Yavich. [more]

Lift

November 14, 2014

Lift is billed as novelist Walter Mosley's first play to reach New York. He is a wonderful novelist but not yet a good playwright, and this is student work unworthy of a full 59E59 production. The basic setup will be familiar to anyone who has taken an improv class: Tina Pardon (MaameYaa Boafo) and Theodore "Big Time" Southmore (Biko Eisen-Martin) are two strangers who find themselves stuck in an elevator. What will they do to pass the time? [more]

Lips Together, Teeth Apart

November 10, 2014

When Terrence McNally premiered Lips Together, Teeth Apart in 1991, the world was in the throes of fear over the AIDS epidemic. This long three-act play about how two straight couples deal with their reaction to it must have seemed topical and profound at the time. Unfortunately, 23 years later, in Peter DuBois' revival for Second Stage Theatre, the play now seems dated and talky without the emotional heft to make it still seem important. [more]

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)

November 4, 2014

Underlying all of the storytelling is the archetype of Homer's Odyssey, the story of another journey in another time of war. Many of the characters (Penny, Ulysses, Homer, Odyssey pronounced "Odd-see") take their names from this work. What may be most unusual about this first cycle of plays is that it is one of the few stage works to tell the story of the Civil War entirely from the point of view of African American slaves. [more]

The Brightness of Heaven

October 27, 2014

"Almost all the families I knew were struggling to find their way forward and make sense of a way of life that was unraveling before their eyes," writes Ms. Pedersen in her author's note in the program. She has a laundry list of period-piece social issues that are superficially covered including abortion, pre-marital sex, the economy, interfaith marriage, homosexuality, Watergate, and The Vietnam War. The writing is often sharp and well observed, with zingers and jokes that effectively register. "If Irish Dementia is only remembering the grudges, than Irish Amnesia is only forgetting the food." "Excuse me, but is this twentieth century Buffalo or fifteenth century Barcelona?" [more]

Back

October 27, 2014

Set in at ill-defined Halloween party raging somewhere in the universe between life and death, Back depicts numerous formerly living Greenwich Village icons, from founding father Alexander Hamilton to Flower Power movement leader George Harris, III. Cookie Mueller—writer, muse to the famous filmmaker John Waters, and AIDS victim—leads the proceedings as this scripted Pride Parade's grand marshal. Filled with recurring mantras, bizarre non sequiturs, and gratuitous nudity, the performance under review (the rotating script allows for different variations at different performances) followed—or, more appropriately—circled around the respective, untimely demise of both poet Frank O'Hara and actress Mueller. [more]

Billy & Ray

October 26, 2014

Mike Bencivenga's Billy & Ray is the story of Wilder and Chandler's famously contentious collaboration. The lighthearted comedy drama includes an insider's view of Hollywood and a good many famous anecdotes about their fighting over the Double Indemnity screenplay. While it will probably be enjoyed most by those who know the movie and/or the original novel, the play does clue the audience in to what they need to know about the original material as well as its eventual screen treatment. [more]

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

October 25, 2014

Nairoby Otero as Roberta is a wondrous feisty spitfire, whose energy never subsides and deeply conveys the character's poignant sense of despair. Michael Micalizzi hauntingly captures the essence of a hotheaded, lost soul as Danny. They each expertly deliver Shanley's identifiably unique dialogue, getting all of the laughs while achieving pathos. Their chemistry together is tremendous and a huge asset. [more]

Deliverance

October 23, 2014

This outstanding cast of seven is all perfectly in synch with each other and are a true ensemble of the highest caliber. The highly successful artistic collaboration of all the creative talents involved makes this Deliverance a boldly striking work of uniquely theatrical storytelling. [more]

When January Feels Like Summer

October 17, 2014

Romantic comedies often collapse under such contrivances, but in practice this play holds up beautifully. Nirmala's struggle to accept that she has a right to tenderness in her life is sensitive without being preachy, and Ms. Kakkar is frankly fantastic in the part. She finds an exceptionally quiet and truthful center for her characterization, and as a result Nirmala's breakthrough moments feel absolutely real and not at all melodramatic. [more]

Written in Sand

October 17, 2014

This was my first in-person experience of Finley's work, and unfortunately it was a shambles. What could have been forty intense minutes of poetry and music was padded with rambling introductions and mostly aimless patter to more than twice that. The night I attended she was nervous and flustered, repeatedly losing her place in the program, and allowing herself to be distracted over and over again by a leaky water pitcher. (Why didn't the stage manager just replace it?) [more]

Signal Failure

October 16, 2014

Wildly painted panels with words and images such as Big Ben, Keep Calm, and a Union Jack, simply and concretely establish the locale during the opening scene. The actors on either side of the small bare stage are at large, movable, gray wooden cubes that are resourcefully used as scenery. Sounds and announcements of the London Underground are heard as well as song clips from time to time, adding to the sense of place. Director Peter Darney's staging is tremendously forceful, fluid, acutely visual and very well serves the material. In addition to creating a vibrantly watchable piece, he has gotten finely pitched performances from the very appealing cast who for a good deal of the show address the audience with their thoughts. [more]

Six Passionate Women

October 15, 2014

Structurally, it is a collection of vignettes that all end in a blackout, punctuated with the sounds of composer Nino Rota’s lively music used in many of Fellini’s films. Here, it comes across as a bunch of connected, superficial comedy sketches, many of which fall flat. The actors, though all are talented, in some cases don't quite fit their roles but commendably do their best. The overall effect at times is of awkwardness and pacing that is less than comic. [more]

The Killing of Sister George

October 11, 2014

The writer's narrowness of view is a temporary problem, of course. As the play's historical moment recedes from memory, we will once again read the story for what the characters are, rather than what they aren't. On the other hand, the same kind of claustrophobia exists in the work of Tennessee Williams, though the latter digs deeper to find the root causes beneath the limitations, pain, and just plain weirdness of his people. [more]

Selma ’65

October 5, 2014

Viola Gregg (1925 -1965)was an activist Michigan housewife who drove to Selma, Alabama, in March of 1965 to participate in the Civil Rights marches there. She was later shot and killed, from a car with four Klu Klux Klansmen. One (Tommy Rowe (1933-1998) was an informant for The Federal Bureau of Investigation, used for infiltrating the KKK. He testified against the other three, and was put in The Witness Protection Program. [more]

A Walk in the Woods

October 5, 2014

As the sophisticated, experienced Irina Botvinnik, Chalfant is utterly delightful. She makes Irina’s tactic of changing the subject into a fine art. Her charm is evident even when she is disagreeing with her opposite number. Her Irina’s wry sense of humor is conveyed in all her remarks, but it is often difficult to know when she is kidding and when she is serious, another calculated tactic. And Chalfant’s timing is impeccable making the most of both her banter and when she is deadly serious. [more]

The Money Shot

October 2, 2014

Lanky, animated, and with his characteristic twang, Fred Weller is very lively and appealing as the dim franchise star Steve. Elizabeth Reaser winningly captures the insecurity and self-absorption of the fading female star Karen. With physical sight gags to work with, such as a bizarre cheerleading dance inspired by Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," and overindulging in hors d'oeuvres, GiaCrovatin makes the most of the proverbial blonde bimbo Missy. [more]

Icebound

October 1, 2014

Up until now when the name of Owen Davis' 1923 Pulitzer Prize winner "Icebound" comes up, the response is likely to be a head shake that the year's prize did not go to a more worthy candidate like Eugene O'Neill, Elmer Rice, Sidney Howard, Philip Barry or George Kelly. Now with the Metropolitan Playhouse's revival of "Icebound," theatergoers can see for themselves what a trenchant and engrossing drama this actually is. [more]

Scenes from a Marriage

September 27, 2014

The three couples are played with fierce conviction, total commitment and great talent by a corps of strong actors seemingly also cast for their individuality. Alex Hurt and Susannah Flood are the young couple. Dallas Roberts and Roslyn Ruff are the middle-aged couple. Arliss Howard and Tina Benko are the older couple. They appear to have been cast for their differences rather than any similarities. [more]

Daughters of the Sexual Revolution

September 27, 2014

n suburban Westchester, 1976, we meet three couples. Lively, free spirited and just turned 40, Joyce Horowitz is married to the older, cantankerous W.W. II veteran Ed. They have a rebellious 18-year-old daughter Staciawho has recently become involved with her earnest, good-natured, 18 year-old college boyfriend, Simon Davies. There is also the Horowitzes' new neighbors in their 30's, the Prescotts, anxiety ridden Judy and her pompous psychiatrist husband, Liam. [more]

Uncle Vanya

September 26, 2014

Aside from his light touch which keeps the play from seeming gloomy, Brooks has an uneasy hold on the play's rhythms which seem erratic – we are never sure what kind of play we are watching. Schmidt's translation goes a long way to blowing off the cobwebs on Chekhov's 19th century Tsarist Russia but his occasional use of a contemporary word like "freak" draws attention to itself. While Simms' unit set suggests a summer retreat with its green walls covered with vegetation, he makes little distinction between indoors and outdoors and the claustrophobia which the characters are feeling is never real to the audience. [more]

The Fatal Weakness

September 20, 2014

  Kristin Griffith and Victoria Mack in a scene from The Fatal Weakness (Photo credit: Richard [more]

Almost Home

September 20, 2014

Almost Home   Joe Lisi, Jonny Orsini and Karen Ziemba in a scene from Almost Home (Photo [more]

My Mañana Comes

September 13, 2014

  José Joaquín Pérez and Jason Bowen in a scene from My Mañana Comes (Photo credit: [more]

Culture Shock: 1911-1922

September 12, 2014

The framing device is that we are in a bunker or a trench, and the plays are being presented by five soldiers (De Mussa, Wes Hager, Will Hardyman, Wilton Yeung, Josh Wolonick) and a nurse (Joyce Laoagan), as if whiling away the time between barrages, and in a semi-improvised fashion. This is a good idea, and provides a nice unity to the evening. The scenic design (Joseph Kremer) and lighting design (Daniel B. Barbee) supported this well, too. There were also projections and pre-recorded music tracks, which I assume should be credited to multimedia programmer Aristides F. Li. [more]

Bootycandy

September 12, 2014

Throughout the play there are many visual and spoken references to Michael Jackson, showing how large the presence and influence of The King of Pop in his heyday loomed in the consciousness of many growing up and living in that era. This symbolism adds greatly to the detailed specificity of this passionate, suspenseful and bold work. [more]

Bauer

September 12, 2014

The relatively unfamiliar cast of this West Coast production could not be better. Howard is distinguished and forceful as the once-famous artist now reduced to nothing and aching for a fight with his greatest enemy; Ross is imperious and elegant as the once-powerful curator used to always having her way, now seeking out her greatest love. Their scenes together strike fireworks. [more]

Boys and Girls

September 10, 2014

Through a series of intertwining monologues, Boys and Girls follows four young Dubliners before, during and after their respective sexual encounters. Though the characters never interact, their stories weave through one another, forming fascinating juxtapositions. While one of the boys fails to seduce his love interest at a bar, the other laments his passionless, anonymous alley hookup. While one of the girls describes the thrill of a first-time experience, the other wonders if her committed relationship is physically fulfilling. The result is a comprehensive, truthful account of adolescents learning to understand male-female dynamics. [more]

Poor Behavior

September 8, 2014

  Katie Kreisler and Brian Avers in a scene from Poor Behavior (Photo credit: James Leynse) [more]

The Good and The True

September 4, 2014

Strands of barbed wire run across the stage and remain so throughout the performance. The stage is divided by a train track. The walls are bare brick. The lighting often shifts to varying shades of darkness. Luggage is strewn around. Smoke flows briefly at one point. Scenes are punctuated by the sound of Czechoslovakian singing. The actors wear basic black clothes. Director, scenic and costume designer Daniel Hrbek masterfully creates powerful images. Horrors are conveyed by imaginatively utilizing very simple elements. Mr. Hrbek also succeeds in staging and pacing the action arrestingly along with the actors. [more]

King Lear

August 9, 2014

While Sullivan does not seem to have turned his company into a coherent ensemble, the production is always easy to understand and unambiguous. The diction is always clear, though at times the sound design by Acme Sound Design seems to be at the wrong level. King Lear is a difficult play to bring off with its unrelieved outsized tragedy, and using actors not practiced in interpreting Shakespearean roles may not be the best casting. It is also possible that the production will achieve greater depth as the performers have more onstage time. This is a King Lear more than a little disappointing from such a talented group of theater artists. [more]

Sex with Strangers

August 7, 2014

The casting is superb. Gunn expresses Olivia's vulnerability and integrity with every line and moment of the play. Magnussen's Ethan, on the other hand, exudes arrogance and over-confidence having found easy success early in his life both with women and as a writer. it also takes perfect casting and acting to make such an evening both convincing and absorbing. This Gunn, Magnussen and Director David Schwimmer have accomplished in spades. Sex with Strangers is an evening not to be missed. [more]
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