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Off-Broadway

Othello (New York Theatre Workshop)

December 21, 2016

Two ways to invigorate Shakespeare in our time is to either cast actors not identified with classical roles or to reset the play in some unfamiliar setting. Sam Gold’s magnificent production of "Othello" at the New York Theatre Workshop has done both. [more]

The Babylon Line

December 19, 2016

Aaron Port (Josh Radnor), a down on his luck writer, is reduced to teaching Adult Ed classes in middle class/middle brow 1960’s Levittown, Long Island. Richard Greenberg ("Take Me Out," "Our Mother’s Brief Affair") in his new play, "The Babylon Line" at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, has Port frequently speak directly to the audience, doling out information and setting the scene, from the vantage point of 2015. Although it’s an awkward device it does come in handy, particularly at the end when a number of plot strands come together. Port’s frustration with his career is exacerbated by having a successful friend, Jay, confront him en route to his teaching assignment. [more]

The Band’s Visit

December 17, 2016

Seven musicians of Egypt’s Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra have been sent to Israel to open the new Arab cultural center at Petah Tivah. Due to a mix up at the border, they end up in the dead-end desert town of Bet Hatikva which has no hotel, no culture, and no bus until the morning. However, their visit is the most interesting thing to happen in Bet Hatikva in years as these unlikely visitors represent something different from the outside world. Restaurant owner Dina (Lenk) once a dancer in a big city, now resigned to her boring fate, takes pity on them, feeds them and arranges for them to stay the night in three places including her home. She takes dour, formal conductor Tewfiq (Shalhoub) and young ladies’ man, Haled (Ari’el Stachel). Although the visit is only one night, none of them will ever be the same again. [more]

His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley

December 14, 2016

Raucous highlights include a jive reinterpretation of A Christmas Carol, “by Chazzie D, about a cat called Scrooge...who lives in Scrooge Tower.” There’s also Buckley’s irreverent take on The Gettysburg Address, “I’m a Lincoln cat.” Intertwined are Broder’s cool renditions of “On The Sunny Side of The Street” and “Georgia On My Mind.” He also demonstrates excellent saxophone and tambourine playing. [more]

The Wolves

December 9, 2016

The audience sits on either side of the large runway stage that set designer Laura Jellinek has arrestingly fashioned into an indoor soccer field. It’s a green vista of Astro Turf that gives the sense “…that the field goes on forever,” writes playwright Sarah DeLappe in her stage directions. [more]

Rancho Viejo

December 8, 2016

LeFranc’s dialogue is a marvelous blend of the realistic and mundane. The well-delineated main characters all express themselves with true to life simplicity. Plot developments are the combination of subtle details that gradually do build to a satisfying resolution. It all has the sense of John Cheever’s suburban short stories where the darkness behind bonhomie is revealed. Swimming pools are mentioned in passing. [more]

The Big Uncut Flick

December 6, 2016

"The Big Uncut Flick is a 1953 live, mid-day movie program broadcast on the Dumont network. The audience is addressed as if they were the studio audience. The stereotypical hosts are a married couple. Jack Sheldon is a hyper announcer type and Arlene Lewis is a grand dame. During commercial breaks they extoll dog food, cigarettes, frozen dinners and laxatives. There’s a quiz show portion as well. References to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and the Red Scare are also tossed in. [more]

This Day Forward

December 6, 2016

"This Day Forward" shows much tighter control than many of Nicky Silver’s early anarchic plays. However, aside from offering a few wonderful characters in Malka and the older Irene, the play is disappointing as it sets up expectations which don’t play out. When "This Day Forward" is over, it leaves a feeling of something missing that has failed to take place. It can’t simply be saying that the sins of the parents are visited on the children – or could it? [more]

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA The Negro Book of the Dead

December 5, 2016

There is no plot, just a series of verbal jousts played out on Riccardo Hernandez’ sleek, two-tier set with just the image of trees looming over the actors wearing Montana Blanco’s colorfully exaggerated costumes. From the childlike Prunes and Prisms of Ms. Sithole to the angrily twisted Bigger (a reference to Richard Wright) of Mr. Piniella, the actors recite the difficult lines, goaded to do their finest by director Lileana Blain-Cruz who totally understands the work. [more]

Private Manning Goes to Washington

December 5, 2016

The real life Internet hacktivist and Reddit developer Aaron Swartz contrives to have his fictional childhood friend Billy, who is a theater teacher of prisoners, to collaborate on a play about Bradley Manning in order to galvanize public opinion in favor of his clemency. During the moving climax, they act out the roles of Manning confronting President Barack Obama. [more]

Party People

December 3, 2016

The framework is a fictional fiftieth anniversary party given in a New York art gallery by collaborating media/visual/performing artists Malik “Mk Ultra” (Christopher Livingston) and Jimmy “Primo” (William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja) to commemorate the creation of both the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords. Their interest is familial: Jimmy is the nephew of Tito (Jesse J. Perez), a former Young Lords Party member still involved with union organizing, and Primo is a “Panther Cub” as he is the son of a Panther member now in prison. They want to pay homage as well as reveal unspoken truths. Malik and Primo have created a video of the many former party members that they have interviewed that they plan on debuting at the event. The party with people who have not spoken for years will be a charged reunion. The troubled legacy of the two organizations is thoroughly explored in the course of "Party People." [more]

Terms of Endearment

November 30, 2016

It isn’t until the second act of Dan Gordon’s stage adaptation of "Terms of Endearment," based on both the Larry McMurtry novel as well as the Academy Award-winning screenplay by James L. Brooks, that the play takes off. Featuring the now grown-up film star Molly Ringwald in the role of Aurora Greenway that won Shirley MacLaine the 1984 Oscar for Best Actress, the first act jumps around, skipping huge chunks of time as you can in movie cutting, but seems like something is has been left out on stage. [more]

“Master Harold” and the boys

November 29, 2016

Watching these three actors is an incredible experience. As Willie, the slower, funnier tea room worker, Sahr Ngaujah, often the butt of the jokes, never loses his humanity. Noah Robbins finds all the complexity in the adolescent Harold, and Leon Addison Brown makes dignity palpable and believable as Sam. [more]

Old Times

November 28, 2016

Besides guiding these engaging performances, director Christopher Martin has meticulously staged the action on the arresting minimalist set that he designed. The floor and brick walls are white. There is a small black rug on the floor near the two plush black cube chairs. Red leaves are strewn about and there’s a pile of them as well. In view are the theater’s windows, an air conditioner and a shelf with a coffee service and drinks. [more]

Man in Snow

November 24, 2016

"Man in Snow" begins and ends in tragedy. In between there is an insightful, sometimes banal, study of a middle-aged man, David (an awesomely complex Will Lyman), his bumpy relationship with his wise wife, Franny (Sandra Shipley, whose even-handed façade hides deep emotions), his daughter Emily (lovely, bright Ashley Risteen) who harbors grudges that pore out at the most unfortunate times and his beloved son Joey whose death in a car accident opens the play. [more]

My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going to Die, Eventually

November 22, 2016

Mr. Irving has an amazing singing voice that soars from octave to octave. His witty songs include a funny one about texting. He tells an epic story about his parents meeting. His musicianship is tremendous as he plays banjo, bouzouki, shruti box, mbira, jew's harps, whirly tube, scacciapensieri, and the ocean harp during the show. He does a wild dance to America’s “A Horse With No Name.” [more]

Dead Poets Society

November 22, 2016

That sequence is just one of the highlights of John Doyle’s commanding direction. Best known for his vibrant minimalist approach to musicals, Mr. Doyle brings that precise and visually expressive focus to this play. The cast of ten is expertly placed and moved around the relatively bare and spacious stage creating tension, excitement and striking tableaus that all connect to the story. There are also many presentational flourishes. [more]

Don’t You F**king Say a Word

November 19, 2016

Though the premise is an interesting device for dissecting the friendship between two men--for surely many men are curious how they are perceived by their better halves (self included), the play doesn’t aim to say much otherwise. Acting choices, pacing and thematics are all appropriate thanks to Lee Sunday Evans' seamless direction, but it’s the script itself which is the production’s biggest hurdle. Though there are some interesting and engaging ideas presented regarding the mind of the male, the untidy and nondescript ending make no attempt to make any significant statement about any of it, ultimately shrouding the entire production in a veil of murky, middle-ground mediocrity. [more]

Poison

November 17, 2016

“He” and “She” are a 40ish upper middle class couple who divorced ten years earlier following the traumatic death of their young son who was hit by a car. Due to toxic waste from a nearby gas factory, 200 graves, including their son’s will have to be dug up and the remains reinterred elsewhere. This unpleasant circumstance instigates this reunion after a long estrangement at a cemetery in Holland. [more]

Zora Neale Hurston: a Theatrical Biography

November 17, 2016

The actors make the characterless space come alive. Elizabeth Van Dyke (Zora Neale Hurston) shrouds Zora with the same purity and authority that she conveyed in the 1998 production. Zora never pandered to convention -- Harlem Renaissance beliefs (Langston Hughes or Richard Wright) or white America politics. Zora walked her own path and was unwaveringly true to who she was and her ideas about art, politics, men and women, academia, and Black culture. Van Dyke towering performance is one that depicts Zora's all these character traits, as well as having a vulnerability and zest for life. [more]

Women of a Certain Age – Play 3 of The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family

November 14, 2016

Told in real time from five to seven PM on Election Day, November 8, 2016, not much happens in the play but as the Gabriel women talk, they reveal their hopes, their fears, their desires and their memories. By the end of the play, we know everything there is to know about them. Under Nelson’s direction, his cast of six who now have played these people in three plays since February 27 (first "Hungry" and then "What Did You Expect?" which began previews on Sept. 19) are not so much acting these characters as living them. [more]

Richard III (The Bridge Production Group)

November 13, 2016

Shrouded by clear shower curtains, the actors enter the stage and bring out furniture, including a gramophone, and chat with each other. There is newsreel footage proclaiming the end of W.W. II in Great Britain. Half-baked anachronisms pile up during the next two hours and half hours. These include the intermission shtick of old-time drive-in movie announcements, “The show will start in five minutes…visit the snack bar… for buttered popcorn.” [more]

Sweat

November 12, 2016

"Sweat," which won the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, is reputed inspired by interviews conducted by playwright Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey in Reading, Pennsylvania, named the poorest city in America in 2011. By 2007, Reading had seen its factories and mills closing as NAFTA and globalization made it cheaper to produce goods in Mexico or China, without offering its residents anything but unemployment insurance. The play could probably have taken place in one of a dozen places in the Rust Belt. "Sweat"’s main characters are all eventually affected by this downward trend in a community that has few opportunities. [more]

Coriolanus (Red Bull Theater)

November 9, 2016

Just as Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower did centuries later, Coriolanus, urged on by his powerful mother, Volumnia (a startling, stinging Lisa Harrow), uses his military success as a springboard for a high political office, Consul, which he easily wins with help of two Tribunes of Rome, Sicinius Velutus (a wily Stephen Spinella) and Junius Brutus (Merritt Janson, playing cross gender to perfection) and a friend, Menenius Agrippa (Patrick Page, using his weighty voice and commanding eyes brilliantly). [more]

Homos, Or Everyone in America

November 9, 2016

The pomposity of the Tony Kushner-style title extends to naming its leading characters “The Academic” and “The Writer.” They’re two gay men in their late 20’s and the play charts their meeting, relationship, breakup and aftermath. This is accomplished by a dizzying structure of non-linear, rapid-fire, time shifting brief scenes. This intrusive device undercuts emotional involvement with the couple, as all of the jumping around of the narrative becomes artificial, repetitious and uninvolving. The period covered ranges from 2006 to 2011. [more]

Roughly Speaking

November 9, 2016

Focusing on a group of roughly fifteen regulars that attend the homeless shelter in question, the play is a series of intimate and telling conversations between homeless people of all different walks of life--and their myriad ways of ending up in their current position. Playwright Zeiger, who is also founder and artistic director of producing company The Platform Group, plays Diana, a recovering addict and recent widow who is constantly struggling with staying clean. Playing a woman who is broken and beaten down, Zeiger’s familiarity with the script gives her performance an authenticity which is truly garnering of sympathy. Joanie Anderson plays a community college student named Melissa, who sleeps on the subway and desperately wants to better herself but just can’t seem to break the cycle. [more]

Vietgone

November 8, 2016

Not only does Nguyen have a unique sensibility and style, but the story is told entirely from the Vietnamese-American point of view, one not often seen on our stages. We hear the Americans as the Vietnamese do and as the Americans attempt to speak in Vietnamese. While the structure of the play is quite challenging going backwards and forwards in time from July 1975 in a Middle America relocation camp and breaking out in rap songs periodically, "Vietgone" is a very compelling portrait of displaced people trying to make a new life for themselves while wishing they were back home where they cannot go. [more]

Two Class Acts: Squash & Ajax

November 5, 2016

Whether you see one or both of Gurney’s "Two Class Acts," these are provocative plays of ideas on topics of the day. The playwright continues to demonstrate that he has a wise and discerning view of the human condition. Director Stafford Arima has done a beautiful job of obtaining all of the nuances and humor out of the two sharp and intelligent situations. The casting for both plays could not be improved as the actors make their roles their own. The Flea Theater leaves White Street on a high note with two entertaining and superior productions that will close the space with honor and distinction. [more]

Love, Love, Love

November 5, 2016

British actor Richard Armitage making his New York stage debut and Tony and Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan work hard to make Kenneth and Sandra three-dimensional, likeable people, but, as written by Mr. Bartlett, their crassness is the fatal flaw in "Love, Love, Love." Why should we enjoy spending so much time with two people who so adroitly care only for themselves? [more]

The Collector

November 2, 2016

Healy’s treatment is faithful to the novel with a good deal of it being Clegg’s narration addressed to the audience. There are lengthy conversations between Miranda and Clegg, and her escape attempts are depicted. No matter how skillful Healy’s stage version is, it’s still two hours of often-philosophical talk between two characters in an unpleasant situation. [more]

Sagittarius Ponderosa

November 1, 2016

Founded in 1991, the National Asian American Theater Company’s mission is to present theater with all Asian-American casts. This is accomplished by producing classics of European and American works of dramatic literature, or adaptations of these works by Asian-American playwrights or new plays written by non-Asian Americans, not for or about Asian Americans. That last precept is the case of this East coast premiere of "Sagittarius Ponderosa." [more]

Phantasmagoria; or, Let Us Seek Death!

October 31, 2016

Benjamin Stuber’s puppetry designs are a disappointment and should be more thoughtful and complementary to the play. Ghoulish puppets that are meant to disturb seem make-shift and thrown together. There is only one disturbing and appropriately quirky puppet effect – the appearance of a huge eye, set into a collage background of assorted textiles. [more]

Plenty

October 29, 2016

In his Broadway productions, David Leveaux has often used a strong directorial concept such as his Chekhovian 'Fiddler on the Roof" and his interracial "Romeo and Juliet" which did not work for all theatergoers. Here he seems to have decided that Susan finds life in Britain gray on her return and all of the sets by Mike Britton other than the final one (ironically suggesting the hope of the post-war generation) are made up of gray walls. As a result, none of them have any atmosphere aside from all resembling each other. It is left to the costumes by Jess Goldstein to give clues to the year of each scene which they sometimes do, and sometimes not. [more]
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