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Off-Broadway

Power Plays

June 16, 2014

The obvious initial reaction without taking into context their mission is that the plays deal with or lend power in some way, together or separately to the characters, to the audience. That is, of course, the primary goal, usually. Not, however, in this case. [more]

And If You Lose Your Way, or A Food Odyssey

June 15, 2014

Scenic designer Carolyn Mraz, lighting designer Mike Inwood and sound designer Will Pickens creatively utilize the expansive space. Their contributions to this minimalist stylized spectacle very effectively renders the farm, thrilling battle scenes, a galley ship with watery sound effects, a Trojan horse, cooking areas and a television studio for a culinary show. Brooke Cohen's artful costumes have a delightfully timeless rustic quality, adding to the visual splendor. [more]

The Killer

June 11, 2014

Much of the work of the play is left to the smoke and lights added by the designers but these elements fail to create mood on TFANA's stage. Matthew Richards' lighting is suitable without becoming a real character in the play even when the scenes are performed on a bare stage. The off-stage noises created by sound designer Jane Shaw don't go far enough as Ionesco intended them to fill the stage with the off-stage crowds, locales and events that we don't see. [more]

Double Crossed: The Ballad of Rodrigo

June 6, 2014

Much of the action takes place in a greasy spoon run by cheery and kindhearted Sally. Underworld figures, a fast-talking reporter, G-Men, honest and crooked cops, a double-crossing dame and the conflicted hero gather there to conspire and eat grub. The author vividly renders all of these typical characters with attributes and personalities true to the ones encountered in hard-boiled movie yarns. [more]

Within the Law

June 3, 2014

What is the most famous play currently running in New York that you have probably never heard of before? Bayard Veiller's Within the Law, Metropolitan Playhouse's final entry in its "Justice" season, has been filmed six times since its Broadway debut in 1912, most famously as Paid with Joan Crawford, revived once on the main stem, and still packs quite a punch. [more]

The Diorama

June 3, 2014

A diorama presents an obvious simulacrum of life at some period. The closest thing here is a simulacrum of a simulacrum. With embellishments by authors Jennifer Brown Stone and David S. Stone that took over whatever concept they had, presumably something to do with when a loony tune becomes a flat out loon and how to tell the difference. This is dangerous territory for experienced authors. The authors have rushed in. [more]

A Fable

June 1, 2014

Playwright David Van Asselt's is set "Somewhere, almost anywhere, below the equator." It feels like an academically imagined recreation of something that would have played at LaMaMa in 1967 for a thesis project. Debatably borrowing from Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, The Living Theatre, Candide, Urinetown and The Cradle Will Rock, it's a wearying odyssey. [more]

The Essential Straight & Narrow

May 26, 2014

Shifting abruptly from flashbacks to a form of the present, we follow Jo, a young woman formerly a folk/country musician and now an actor. Periodically she is shown reading from and trying to memorize a script indicating that she's preparing for a role, seemingly in a television police drama. Much of the action takes place in 1974 in a rundown New Mexico wood-paneled motel room where an estranged trio of country western performers has gathered to launch a reunion tour. [more]

The City of Conversation

May 21, 2014

The City of Conversation is very rewarding theater whatever your political persuasion may be. The use of the social and political climate of the last 30 years is astutely delineated and always part of the fabric of the play, rather than a history lesson. [more]

Too Much Sun

May 19, 2014

Over a 25-year career as a playwright, Mr. Silver has become known for his eccentric black comedies with abrupt shifts in tone. This one feels like a breakthrough being his most ambitious and successful on many levels. The unison of remarkable writing, grand performances, and assured direction make Too Much Sun a highly outstanding play. [more]

The Few

May 18, 2014

Gideon Glick as Matthew is terrific, physically disappearing into his character so completely that he would not be recognizable in the street. Actors can get away with playing misfits as a collection of tics, so it's a great thing to see Glick dig deeper and infuse Matthew's every movement with his particular personality. [more]

Under My Skin

May 17, 2014

Under My Skin with its 20 scenes and endless set changes (designed by Stephen Dobay) is lame in the humor department and has nothing new to say about the healthcare system. Had director Kirsten Sanderson toned down the exaggerated acting style, some of the material might have worked. [more]

A Loss of Roses

May 16, 2014

While Dan Wackerman's production is always absorbing, the muddled psychology in the script and the debatable choices made by the actors keep the play from joining Inge's more important major plays. [more]

Honor Bound

May 15, 2014

Playwright Albert J. Repicci structures his theatrical debut work in twelve scenes of varying length taking place at multiple locations and the uneven results dilute the effectiveness of the interesting political and personal themes that are explored. [more]

Sea Marks

May 12, 2014

Gardner McKay's Sea Marks is beautifully written but leaves a great deal up to the actors and the director as does a scenario for an opera or a ballet. The performers must flesh out the underpinnings of the story. Director Ciarán O'Reilly has done a fine job with the characterizations but has not brought out the passion that underlies the tale. [more]

Playing with Grown Ups

May 12, 2014

Then you begin to see the chasm Joanna feels hating the child that took her from the job she loved and how in the world do we mend that? Then you begin to see that Robert's self-worth is built on shards of something that took off in the wrong direction. Then you begin to see with the young eyes of Stella and wonder what she's going to make of her future and if she's alone in her clear eyed-ness? And Jake? He's insulated himself. Don't we all. [more]

The Love Song of Alfred J Hitchcock

May 12, 2014

The trouble with British playwright David Rudkin's stage play, "The Love Song of Alfred J Hitchcock," is that it started life as a radio play and it hasn't escaped very far from the radio studio. Still a play for voices, Rudkin's script has a great many introspective monologues by the iconic director but not much action, a strange choice for a story of a director whose movies are loaded with incident. The play assumes a great in-depth knowledge of the director's work: such movies as "Marnie," "Vertigo," "Strangers on a Train," "Psycho," "The Birds" and "Frenzy" are referred to tangentially but remain unnamed. It would take a film historian to track down all the references but apparently the play is expected to stand on its own which will confuse many theatergoers. [more]

The Rivals

May 11, 2014

The Pearl Theatre Company's revival of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1777 comedy of manners "The Rivals" is both laugh-out-loud funny and intellectually stimulating. Hal Brooks' exemplary direction scores immediately in the first scene. It's a typical pre-modern opening, pages of dense exposition where a couple of minor characters discuss the major characters and their situations. Brooks avoids tedium and confusion by having the characters appear upstage when named, doing a bit of dumb show when appropriate. It's a perfect solution, introducing the actors and plot without fuss, without anachronism, and without wasting time. [more]

An Octoroon

May 10, 2014

Provocative playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins turns Boucicault’s 1859 classic inside out as he examines 2014 attitudes about race in U.S. [more]

Act One

May 5, 2014

James Lapine's stage adaptation of Moss Hart's celebrated autobiography of his early years, Act One, is a bit unwieldy at under three hours in length as it does contain so many characters and incidents. However, like an absorbing mini-series you have lived with over a period of time, you will be sorry when it is over. [more]

The Substance of Fire

May 5, 2014

Time has caught up with Jon Robin Baitz’s 1991 play and bankrupting one’s company over issues of integrity no longer seems quite admirable. Jon Robin Baitz writes literate, thoughtful plays like his 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Other Desert Cities. However, like the revival last fall of his earliest play The Film Society showed, plays may date badly or their attitudes become artifacts of another generation. [more]

To Damascus, Part I

April 22, 2014

The director deserves high marks for keeping the actors' delivery quick and light; anything else would have put the audience to sleep. His cast comes across as sincere but mostly inexperienced, with the fine exceptions of James and Blankenship. [more]

A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity & Clean

April 4, 2014

Clean, by playwright Sabrina Mahfouz, the other play on the double bill, is really not clean at all but director O'Loughlin isn't fazed a bit and whips her three, highly ornamental criminals through their paces with a stylish kind of nervy aplomb that sets off their rashers of charms while greatly adding to the fun – and by the way – wittily knocks off lots of bucks from production costs. No mean feat. [more]

I Remember Mama

March 30, 2014

Director Jack Cummings III has not only chosen a new environment for this realistic play, he has also chosen to perform it with ten veteran actresses (who would be classified as senior citizens) playing all 23 parts, including teenage girls and boys, and all the male characters. When the audience enters the Gym at Judson the entire space has been turned into the playing area with seats in two rows around all four walls. Ten dining room sets with displays on each occupy the space, the size of a basketball court. [more]

And Baby Makes Seven

March 29, 2014

There has been renewed interest lately in the early, pre-How I Learned To Drive plays by Paul Vogel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. First there was The Baltimore Waltz (1992) at the Underground Theater last November. Now And Baby Makes Seven from 1984 is on view in a thoughtful, detailed production by the Purpleman Theater Company, directed by Marc Stuart Weitz, at the New Ohio Theatre in the West Village. Baby's tale of a same-sex couple having a child still resonates with particular clarity nowadays. Except for the fact that this lesbian couple, Ruth and Anna (the one who's bearing the child) couldn't be married back then, the play rings true as it explores all the anxieties, humor and fantasies straining the relationship of these two women with each other and with Peter, the biological father of the child. [more]

The Tribute Artist

February 22, 2014

A rich elderly lady is held captive in her posh townhouse by distant relatives and a former lover all out for her wealth. [more]
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