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Off-Broadway

A Class Act

July 30, 2016

While "A Class Act" covers material dramatized elsewhere, Norman Shabel’s play, seen at The Playroom earlier this year, is always absorbing, always unpredictable. The seven member cast is totally believable in their roles as lawyers and corporate bigwigs. This is a tense and enlightening evening in the theater that demonstrates the startling inner workings of the legal system even in what seems like an open and shut case. [more]

Quietly

July 29, 2016

“The characters in this play both the living and the dead are completely fictional.” This statement explains the play’s overall contrived quality. Both of the lead characters have such striking similarities that at times they come across as mouthpieces academically articulating “The Troubles,” the 30-year war in Northern Ireland between The British and Catholic natives that ended in 1998. [more]

The Mushroom Cure

July 29, 2016

In the course of 90 minutes, we follow the ups and downs of Strauss’ professional, mental health and romantic lives in great detail. To his credit, Strauss gives the impression of delivering these stories as if for the first time. He was fresh and very involved, yet sensitive to the audience’s reactions. He managed to make a tediously unattractive condition fascinating and also managed to make himself affecting and human, his disability notwithstanding. OCD has never been as attractively rendered. [more]

Small Mouth Sounds

July 27, 2016

Inspired by the playwright’s attending a silent spiritual retreat at an upstate New York institute in the woods, this is an absorbing play which immediately causes the viewers to listen intently as our world is never really silent. In Stowe Nelson’s remarkable soundscape, the play begins with a torrential rain, and then proceeds to a great many sounds we usually take for granted (both performed by the actors and recorded): breathing, laughing, clicking of a pen, sighing, a gong ringing, whispers, giggling, crickets chirping, the crunching of chips, birds, a sip of tea, a sneeze, coughing, a cell phone ringing. As a result of this state of affairs and the fact that the actors (in general) don’t speak, we become attuned to watch the smallest facial expression and other forms of non-verbal communication. [more]

Privacy

July 26, 2016

Playing his most mature role to date, Radcliffe, late of Harry Potter, is charming as he begins as an introverted, reticent Englishman and then slowly panics as he realizes the extent to which his obsession with the Internet has left him vulnerable to outside forces. He is particularly fine in the computer dating sequence in which he must do a great deal of quick thinking and ad libbing as the participants change nightly. The mainly British production team includes set designer Lucy Osborne who has created a witty New York apartment for The Writer made up almost entirely of boxes made to look like iconic skyscrapers, and the clever projection design of Duncan McLean. [more]

Strange Country

July 26, 2016

These are among the choice zingers in playwright Anne Adams’ emotionally raw, earthy and often very funny contemporary dysfunctional Texas-set, family drama, "Strange Country." This entertaining piece of Americana has the humanity of Lanford Wilson, the quirkiness of Beth Henley and the unruliness of Sam Shepard. [more]

Oslo

July 26, 2016

Bartlett Sher complements Rogers by punctuating the play with visual puns that substantially add to the drama and importance of the enfolding events. A dinner party at Mona and Larsen’s home is disturbed by two phone calls, ringing at the same time. Larsen fields a call from Israel and Mona takes a call from the P.L.O. Phone cords or wires are crossed, as Larsen and Mona exchange mouthpieces and try to arrange meetings and facilitate a place and time for the negotiations in Norway. [more]

A Man Like You

July 26, 2016

Stannah, who gives a wrenching and emotionally present turn as the diplomat in distress, rarely leaves the stage for more than thirty seconds out of the entire 100 minute production with no intermission. Whether he is being choked, thrown to the ground, or wrestling with his captors, Stannah’s performance is as impressive physically as it is emotionally. His performance is certainly enhanced by that of his scene partner Abdi, the Somali interrogator and captor played by Jeffrey Marc. Marc’s Abdi is an intelligent man--or rather a “child” if one were to ask Patrick North’s opinion--whose political motivations are complex and unflinching, but inevitably puzzling to any outsider. Stannah and Marc’s duologue is concise and briskly paced, and the intensity at the heart of the production is as a result of the palatable on-stage chemistry between the pair. [more]

Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender

July 24, 2016

Dressed in black slacks, a white shirt and a black vest, Ms. Wolpe demonstrates a fluid physicality and a soothing vocal expressiveness. Wolpe quite adeptly offers rich characterizations of some of those most illustrious roles. In addition she seamlessly switches to delivering revelatory reminiscences and concise analysis of the plays with élan that recalls Spalding Gray’s monologues. The combination of these elements yields to a wonderful performance. [more]

No End of Blame: Scenes of Overcoming

July 22, 2016

Director Richard Romagnoli who also staged the 2007 production and he has done an excellent job of visualizing the scope of the scenes. Action on the battlefield, political conflicts in Moscow and German atrocities in the Ukraine are all exciting. A life drawing class sequence at a Budapest art school is quite compelling. A longhaired female model makes sardonic observations from atop a ladder as the students in long white coats swirl around her. It recalls the stunning achievements of Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway in their art house films. [more]

2 by Tennessee Williams: “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” & “Kingdom of Earth”

July 21, 2016

While the play can be a tour de force, Kathryn Luce Garfunkel is so one dimensional that her Flora has little weight. She exudes languidness and laziness, but fails to make Flora anything other than whiney and needy over the course of the play’s three scenes. Even after her encounter with Vicarro she doesn’t seem that much different. Holcomb seems miscast as the wily Latin though he does make Vicarro shrewd and knowing. Keller gives the most convincing performance as the sinister and abusive Jake. Unfortunately, the rhythms of the production do not make the play either the comedy that Williams subtitled it or the tense revenge drama that it also is. [more]

The Red Room

July 18, 2016

After a less then engrossing hour of prattling and a too stylized presentation, in its last thirty minutes "The Red Room" becomes the powerful family drama it intends to be. [more]

Simon Says

July 13, 2016

Three-time Tony nominee Brian Murray returns to the New York stage for the first time in four years as a retired professor of parapsychology who has put aside his own career to foster that of a young psychic from the time he was a teenager who is able to channel a spirit named Simon. However, the play belongs entirely to virile newcomer Anthony J. Goes who plays psychic James. The role is both vocally and physically demanding and he is totally convincing in a play that asks you suspend your disbelief. [more]

Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep

July 10, 2016

"Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep" takes place in two worlds: the New York CBGB punk scene of 1985, and a dark, Greek mythological other world of indeterminate time and place. In 1985, a high school social worker by the name of Grace mentors an after-school, trauma therapy session. In the other world, the Archetypal Mother/Storyteller presides over her “damaged souls” and reads from an ancient tome, the “Phoenix Book.” [more]

Out of the Mouths of Babes

July 7, 2016

At one point stumbling around in a sleep mask and wearing a colorful nightgown, the 88 year-old Estelle Parsons has a field day as the 88 year-old Evelyn, a former journalist for The International Herald Tribune. Ms. Parsons delightfully barrels through the play growling, cursing, and exhibiting vibrant physicality. Being the skillful old pro that she is, Parsons has the technique to tone it down when needed. [more]

On the Verge

July 6, 2016

As the women find themselves further and further in the future, it is how each reacts and is forever changed that give the play its emotional weight. Two manage to adjust quite well; one not so much. The whirlwind of mid-twentieth century America takes its toll on these intelligent travelers, outwardly in their clothing and inwardly on their attitudes toward life. The paths each takes at the end of "On the Verge"aren’t just theatrically satisfying—having been telegraphed subtly in many ways—but actually quite moving. Suddenly Overmyer, with the decided support of three fine actresses, ably directed by the astute Laura Braza, turns these silly, living cartoons into flesh and blood. And, that is the real journey of On the Verge. [more]

WHO AM I

June 30, 2016

A leggy dark blonde young woman with her hair pulled up, wearing a black skirt, a patterned short gray blouse and high heels walks through the audience and onto the bare black stage. She begins dancing and then is joined by two lovely young female dancers in psychedelic tunics and all three perform Valerie Mae Browne’s beautifully choreographed modern dance accompanied by mellow pulsating electronic music. It’s all something that would not be out of place on a program at The Joyce Theatre. [more]

Romeo & Juliet (2016)

June 29, 2016

The Wheelhouse Theater Company presents this fast-paced and faithful version of the romantic classic. Co-directors Jeff Wise and Matt Harrington have inventively pared down William Shakespeare’s enduringly resonant tragic play to 90 minutes. Mr. Wise and Mr. Harrington’s staging is visually compelling with a number of clever touches. Mortal wounds are indicating with the unfortunates tossing red rose petals. Juliet delivers a speech as a stand-up comedy routine with recorded audience laughter heard. That there’s no actual balcony doesn’t really matter as that famous scene is so finely blocked and performed. [more]

STET

June 28, 2016

Rolling Stone magazine’s 2014 controversial article "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA" about an alleged rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house seemingly has inspired the author of this play, Kim Davies. Ms. Davies has taken many of the facts of that story and woven them into this fictionalized narrative that falls short of being compelling. [more]

The Healing

June 28, 2016

Samuel D. Hunter’s latest play, "The Healing," is a commission by Theater Breaking Through Barriers, dedicated to advancing the work of performers with disabilities. Not surprisingly, the play gives roles to six disabled actors out of the seven characters in the play, and they acquit themselves well. This story of a reunion of childhood friends in their thirties who have gathered for the funeral of one of their members is made very real by the acting of the cast. The problem with the play is that it appears so tentative and low-key that the explosion we keep waiting for never happens. Under the direction of Stella Powell-Jones, the healing of the title is so subtle that the play could be said to be anti-theatrical. [more]

Othello (American Sephardi Federation)

June 27, 2016

The American Sephardi Federation’s production of a greatly compressed "Othello" at the beautiful Center for Jewish History. This was the third of a series of three shows staged to showcase the talents of David Serero. He’s a Moroccan Sephardic Jewish performer who has charm and charisma. [more]

No-No Boy

June 23, 2016

Chris Doi winningly conveys Ichiro’s anguish and holds attention as this leading character with his emotional performance. The personable Glenn Kubota is deeply gentle as Pa, and Mr. Kubota performs a beautiful movement piece with his hands fluttering as birds during a storytelling segment. As Ma, Karen Tsen Lee poignantly descends deeper into her delusions with histrionic expertise that Japan won the war and is marvelously engaging during her fable-like recitations. [more]

Hero’s Welcome

June 20, 2016

Now having its American premiere in repertory with "Confusions," one of Ayckbourn’s earliest plays, with the same actors in both, the production which is directed by the author is from the Stephen Joseph Theater, Scarborough, where most of the author’s plays have had their world premieres. This is a powerful and engrossing study of friendship, love, jealousy, competition and betrayal. [more]

Blankets and Bedtime: 3 Restless Plays

June 18, 2016

"Blankets and Bedtime: 3 Restless Plays" is produced by the theater company A Pixie Theory and is presented as part of The Planet Connections Festivity.The stated theme of the three plays is “the extremes people will go to in the name of self-preservation.” Erik Champney succeeds at dramatizing this concern and also demonstrates that he is a talented and imaginative playwright. [more]

The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare in the Park)

June 18, 2016

Aside from the obvious misogyny of Shakespeare’s comedy for modern audiences, there is the problem of the heroine’s unpalatable final speech in which she berates women for not being more subservient to their husbands. Lloyd’s solution is to frame the play as a country-western beauty pageant to choose “this year’s Miss Lombardy” whose emcee sounds an awful lot like presidential candidate Donald Trump. In fact, there is a good deal of satiric political talk with comedian Judy Gold as suitor Gremio doing an interpolated monologue complaining that the director is a woman and that “we’ve got a broad running for President.” [more]

The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois

June 17, 2016

Adam Rapp’s plays are often about loners and people outside of mainstream society. "The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois" now at Atlantic Stage 2 in a production directed by the author falls into this category. Its strength is that the play is a detailed well-developed character study. However, as a drama, it seems more like a sketch or a section of a longer play yet to be written leaving many unanswered questions. [more]

O’Neill (Unexpected): Two Early Plays by Eugene O’Neill

June 15, 2016

"Now I Ask You" turns out to be comedy of pretentious New York bohemians in 1916, while "Recklessness" is a Strindbergian psychological revenge play. While both have hints of the more famous plays to come, they also stand on their own as the work of a major playwright trying to find his own voice. Whatever you think of the plays and whichever one turns out to be your favorite, Alex Roe’s staging is always entertaining and the plays are truly surprising and unexpected. [more]

Indian Summer

June 14, 2016

Gregory S. Moss’ "Indian Summer" at Playwrights Horizons is an uneasy mix of two stories, the first about the doomed romantic encounter between two teens and the second concerning the quiet existential suffering of an elderly man. Despite sudden shifts of tone, Moss manages to leave the audience feeling deeply for each of these characters. [more]

Universal Robots

June 12, 2016

'Universal Robots" uses historic characters like journalist and playwright Capek and President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, characters taken from Capek’s play like Rossum, Helena and Radius, as well as fictional characters to fill out Rogers’ story. Seen in a different version at the 2009 New York Fringe Festival under the same name, "Universal Robots" has a long, leisurely expository first act and an exciting, tense, fast-paced second act. Director Jordana Williams allows the talky, intellectual ‘play of ideas’ in the first half to be a drag on the exciting, adventurous, plot-driven second half with its unusual twists and turns. [more]

Shining City

June 10, 2016

Since his youthful career heyday of the 1980’s with major roles on Broadway in Neil Simon plays and starring in the enduring cultural touchstone film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Mr. Broderick has since continued on in such films as "Election" and the Broadway smash hit, "The Producers." Now 54, he is stockier, his hair is gray and his features are fuller but his charisma and commanding talent remains as does his inimitable grin and twinkling eyes. Considering his indelible past successes, this role is quite challenging and he is winningly up to it. Much of the part consists of relatively uninterrupted monologues that Broderick terrifically delivers that range from harrowing recollections to a visit to a brothel that is hilarious. His characterization of this drab, depressed and tormented man is very moving and is a joyous case of riveting star/character acting. [more]

Then Silence

June 9, 2016

There’s a cascade of military interrogations, implied torture, romantic interludes, sex talk, political sloganeering, vague reminiscences, and other semi-comprehensible digressions that fill the time and that by its conclusion don’t add up to much. Initially there is a modest sense of interest in attempting to discern the events and characters depicted, but that soon evaporates and is replaced by numbness. [more]
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