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Off-Broadway

Application Pending

February 16, 2015

Hugely talented singer-comedienne Christina Bianco has become famous for her "Forbidden Broadway" and YouTube appearances where she has performed many impressions. Most notable has been her YouTube clip of her rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in which she impersonates 19 inimitable singers and which has received over seven million views. In the new one-woman, Off Broadway comedy, "Application Pending," she outdoes herself doing 40 voices often at breakneck speed. Bianco is a wonder to listen to. Unfortunately, the show which attempts to satirize the culture that believes that kindergarten classes at fashionable private schools are the only way to get ahead in life is a one-joke plot which becomes tiresome long before its 75 minutes are up. [more]

Between Riverside and Crazy

February 16, 2015

Venerable and accomplished fixture of the theater, Austin Pendleton has perfectly directed the play. The characters and their relationships have all been minutely realized and the action well staged. Scenic designer Walt Spangler’s turntable set brilliantly renders the various rooms in Pops’ apartment as well as the building’s rooftop. Among the authentic looking details and props is a mournful Christmas tree with lights that subtly comments on the passage of time. [more]

Snow Orchid

February 15, 2015

Pintauro’s play about a tragic American family is highly dramatic but lacks nuance. The four main characters are clearly defined in the first fifteen minutes of the play and remain static throughout. The dialogue is unnatural at times and makes for awkward lulls and pauses. As a result, the action becomes monotonous. [more]

Everything You Touch

February 14, 2015

It’s a stylized “family secrets” drama, presented with a broad comedic tone. Heightened and arch (often including lengthy florid speeches) the dialogue has shades of "The Devil Wears Prada." Though mostly dense and opaque, there are emotionally involving sequences, particularly as the play reaches its conclusion. Ms. Callaghan also explores the theme of women’s self-image and how that issue clashes with society’s idealized view and the resulting conflicts. Bordering on the didactic, this nevertheless does yield moments of poignancy. [more]

Animals Out of Paper

February 13, 2015

With only a few days until Valentine’s Day we are surrounded by constant reminders of humanities obsession with being loved and understood. Quite timely, and unapologetically, YOLO! Productions has brought us a piece of theater concerning the affairs of the heart. You won’t be able to help but fall in love with the revival of Rajiv Joseph’s 'Animals Out of Paper" as directed by Merri Milwe. Trust us you’ll love the writer for the corny folding analogies and forgive him for the unsubtle appearance of an origami heart in this quirky tale of humanity’s capacity for love. [more]

Sun and Room

February 13, 2015

Matthew Socci, Zoë Pike and Leah Brewer In a scene from “Sun and Room” (Photo credit: Danielle [more]

City Of

February 10, 2015

Unlike Strindberg’s "Dream Play," it is not always possible tell what is real and what is dreamed from what the main characters say. Aside from the ghosts and the painting that comes to life, the additional characters (played by two actors) including a gargoyle on the top of the Cathedral of Notre Dame who has fallen in love with a pigeon, the Green Fairy that is the essence of Absinthe, the ghost of Dash’s mother, and a talking sewer rat. Along with the story of the horny curator of the Musée de l’Homme (an actual but obscure tourist site), it often feels like there are too many stories and quests going on at the same time - unless the point is that for the author Paris is a city of journeys. With much of the dialogue in poetry, "City Of" is often too precious for its own good. [more]

Winners

February 4, 2015

Although I was never bored, at 135 minutes (including intermission) the play is quite long for the story it's telling. The animals, as fun as they are, get a considerable amount of stage time but never move the narrative forward. They even get solo spots where they recite beat poetry, which are brilliant and amusing but stop the show dead. Even money says that if the parents’ through line was clarified and strengthened this play would slim down easily to a more appropriate length. [more]

Shesh Yak

January 31, 2015

Theatergoers knowledgeable with "Death and the Maiden" will find "Shesh Yak" very familiar territory. Those who aren’t will still find this play tediously predictable as this scenario has been played out in a number of other dramatic works. The writing is flat, formulaic and rudimentary. [more]

The Road to Damascus

January 29, 2015

Set at some time in the near future, Tom Dulack’s The Road to Damascus (not to be confused with Strindberg’s play of similar name) is set in a world not that different from our own, with terrorism and civil wars still the major problem for political leaders. A parable of 9/11 and the Bush Adminstration’s reaction to it, "The Road to Damascus" depicts a time when Miami and New York have been attacked by terrorists, with St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue the major casualties. The play posits the first third party president in American history and the first Black African pope, a not inconceivable event in the near future. [more]

No One Loves Us Here

January 28, 2015

Playwright Ross Howard’s new work illustrates the characteristically 21st Century sentiments of unbridled selfishness, feigned apathy, and perennial discontent. His pointed, political indictment of our skewed American values is simultaneously too hard to watch and too illuminating to ignore. "No One Loves Us Here" is an entertaining, engaging bloodbath that leaves its audience thinking lots and feeling little. Perhaps this is as it should be. [more]

Lionboy

January 27, 2015

Shadow puppetry, audience participation, actors as animals, talking lions, ladders as boats, a circus with a trapeze artist and a bearded lady, a live drums and percussion score, a hot air balloon, and storytelling in the style of Harry Potter. Complicite, Britian’s acclaimed collaborative theater company, has devised its first family-oriented production, "Lionboy," based on the best-selling young adult trilogy by Zizou Corder, and the exciting results of this U.S. premiere are now on display at The New Victory Theater. This engrossing storytelling experience, suitable for all ages, combines science fiction, fantasy, economics, science and a futuristic dystopia to tell a fascinating adventure tale using all of the techniques of storytelling by a company of eight versatile actors. [more]

Everybody Gets Cake!

January 25, 2015

Theatergoers familiar with Richard Foreman’s work with the Ontological Theater will be especially receptive to this frenetic production. There are also traces of Monty Python. Those open to a experiencing a collection of an hour of seemingly plotless, frantic, very well performed vignettes, might find it an entertainingly provocative time. It’s a barrage of colorful imagery composed of heightened sights and sounds. The loud tone of a ringing telephone is prominently featured. [more]

Film Chinois

January 23, 2015

While "Film Chinois" certainly has an interesting premise to create a stage film noir set in turbulent postwar China, the play fails to deliver on its promise to entertain as well as thrill with a coherent story. Though the play has all the elements of the genre, here they are confusing rather than organic to the material. The elegantly staged production never remembers to turn up the heat. [more]

Da

January 23, 2015

This finely constructed memory piece is characterized by comedy and melancholy. Overcoming parental dysfunction is it’s universal theme. It’s rendered with complexity, as the characters are often shown at their most vindictive but also with their good qualities that they often repress. The dialogue is crisp and filled with mordant Irish wit. [more]

Gigi

January 21, 2015

Not only does Anita Loos’ adaptation of "Gigi" not make us miss the famous Lerner and Loewe songs, its intimacy and sophistication make it a fine play in its own right. This first major New York revival staged by Peter Dobbins captures the perfect graceful style needed and keeps us entertained at all times. Under his astute direction, Connie Castanzo in the title role and Kathleen Huber and Evangelia Kingsley as her sophisticated relatives give memorably evocative performances. [more]

Villainous Company

January 19, 2015

Asking us to stoop down to the level of three women willing to do many ethically reprehensible acts in the pursuit of wealth, Cahn challenges the notions of playing fair and working hard. Who would you throw under the proverbial bus in order to protect your livelihood? Is it ever justifiable to fight crime with more crime? Villainous Company raises these questions and more in the form of a short, fun play that is worth a watch but ultimately not worth too much thought. [more]

Rap Guide to Religion

January 16, 2015

Performer-scholar Baba Brinkman has done a series of shows which follow the same basic format, essentially a lecture with rap interludes. A recent example seen at the Soho Playhouse was his Rap Guide to Evolution, in which he posited that if we wanted the welfare of the human race to improve, our watch cry needs to be “don’t sleep with mean people.” At the end he gave out buttons with this phrase (I still have mine). His current show is the very entertaining (and informative) "Rap Guide to Religion." [more]

Dying For It

January 14, 2015

Dying for It, Moira Buffini’s free adaptation of The Suicide, is fine as a drama but the premise makes it a classic farce. Unfortunately, the Atlantic Theater Company production fails to find the humor in this dark comedy. As such the contemporary parallels to our own time do not become obvious as either satire or humor. [more]

Every Brilliant Thing

January 9, 2015

"Every Brilliant Thing" is a wonderful evening in the theater and a reminder that though life may offer bad or unhappy episodes, that there are wonderful things to live for and new surprises every day. Making his New York debut, Jonny Donahoe proves himself to be a charismatic performer and makes this a memorable and inventive show. At 65 minutes, the show is just the right length to make its point without overstaying its welcome. [more]

Winners and Losers

January 7, 2015

The drawn-out finale is a fiercely acrimonious type of Edward Albee's "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" style confrontation dealing with class warfare. Here the dispute is over the duo’s given circumstances in life. One is from wealth and the other is from painful dysfunction. Supposedly it’s all true (based upon reading the cast’s biographies) which adds a layer of heightened reality to the proceedings. [more]

The Invisible Hand

December 22, 2014

Pakistani-American playwright Ayad Akhtar has been having a very good year. His second play, "The Who and the What," had its premiere this summer at Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theatre as part of the LC3 season. His 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner "Disgraced" reopened on Broadway on October 23 at the Lyceum Theatre to critical acclaim. And now New York Theatre Workshop is giving the New York premiere of his play "The Invisible Hand," under the direction of Ken Rus Schmoll. While the first two plays took place in the United States, this new play takes place in Pakistan. The play suggests that the roots of terrorism are not religious but monetary. [more]

Pocatello

December 18, 2014

This brilliant production of Samuel D. Hunter’s "Pocatello" is characterized by tremendous depth in characterization and engaging simplicity in presentation. Leo Tolstoy famously observed, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Here, a clash over gluten-free pasta becomes a memorably chilling pretext for psychological warfare. [more]

A Christmas Carol – Titan Theatre Company

December 15, 2014

While the use of 44 characters (with at least one actor playing as many as five roles) may make this show a bit difficult for the younger children to follow, the softening of the story suggests that the show is intended for family viewing. Kevin Loomis, who has appeared on Broadway in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and Inherit the Wind, plays Scrooge as so hearty a character that he doesn’t have far to go to reform. We never get the feeling that he is as miserly or as stingy as he is described by the story. Even more evident is the extremely bright lighting by Alan Piotrowicz that leaves out the sinister nature of the story. Where Scrooge’s rooms at midnight with his tiny fire should be in deep shadows so that the ghosts take us by surprise, Piotrowicz has them flooded with lighting. While this makes the show less scary for young children, it also keeps this from being a true ghost story. [more]

Rollo’s Wild Oat

December 9, 2014

Michael Hardart, who piloted Metropolitan Playhouse's successful productions of "Within the Law," "A Man's World," "The Great Divide" and "Under the Gaslight," has staged this play as a drawing room comedy. However, as the plot will demonstrate the play is a farce and should be staged as such. While the play remains amusing, a great many of the jokes do not land as they ought to while some of the acting is much too genteel for this sort of play. [more]

The Asphalt Christmas

December 9, 2014

Director Lawrence Lesher and cast have hit the ground running Off-Broadway this Christmas season with the first revival of Todd Michael's The Asphalt Christmas. Theatre Row's Lion Theatre awaits those daring and looking for a Christmas story less caramel coated this year with an audacious play, both shocking and entertaining, as The Exorcist comes to St. Celestine's and their annual Christmas pageant. [more]

Sense and Sensibility

December 3, 2014

Janeites, arise! Take yourself to The Gym at Judson for Bedlam Theatre Company's world premiere stage adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" that is inventive, faithful, clever and hilarious. Using a cast of ten versatile actors (playing 17 roles) under the brilliant and ingenious direction of artistic director Eric Tucker, the minimalist production contains all of the key scenes of the book while at the same time skillfully delineating the social fabric of the times. You may never have guessed how funny this story really is. Kate Hamill's marvelous play is one of the finest stage adaptations of a literary classic. Our Jane would have expressed her approval. [more]

Sticks and Bones

December 1, 2014

With "Sticks and Bones"' theme of the displacement of the returning American army veteran once again topical due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the play would seem to be entirely relevant once again. Unfortunately, Scott Elliott's production which has a shifting tone throughout does not make a very convincing case for this Vietnam era family drama. Holly Hunter, Bill Pullman, Richard Chamberlain and company are fine actors left adrift by a flawed and confused production. [more]

Self Made Man: The Frederick Douglass Story

December 1, 2014

The creative script by Mr. Wallace and Ms. Levitsky is adapted from Douglass' writings with evocative excerpts from the plays of William Shakespeare, and includes appropriate songs and hymns. Focusing on his early years and detailing the horrors of slavery in the United States in the 19th century, it eschews a typical recitation of "greatest hits," often found in many biographical one-person shows. With a booming voice, tremendous physicality, and a highly expressive face, Mr. Wallace commandingly portrays Douglass and other figures from his life during the show's very well paced eighty minutes. [more]

Major Barbara

November 25, 2014

In the hands of David Staller, founding artistic director of the Gingold Theatrical Group, and The Pearl Theatre ensemble, Shaw's play of ideas becomes a delightfully provocative comedy. This witty 1905 play, in a deliciously acted and designed production which concerns the age-old conflict between "God and salvation" versus "money and gunpowder," has become relevant all over again with its exploration of economic inequality. When the play was written this was heresy – today most people agree with Shaw that poverty is the biggest crime. Dan Daily, Carol Schultz and Richard Gallagher give memorably rich and impressive performances in a production that you will be sorry when it ends. [more]

Tamburlaine, Parts I and II

November 24, 2014

Often credited as the play that proved to the Elizabethans that blank verse was the way to go with stage tragedy, it also heavily influenced contemporary William Shakespeare whose own history plays all followed this play by Marlowe. Performed in three hours with one 30 minute intermission, this Tamburlaine is truly epic in scope. Boyd's production stars John Douglas Thompson who after acclaimed performances in Shakespeare's Othello, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and King Lear, as well as O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, has become one of our finest tragedians. [more]

Lost Lake

November 23, 2014

Auburn doesn't tell us enough about the back stories of these characters so that the portraits aren't fully drawn, and each scene is structured to reveal only one new item for each. However, Hawkes and Thoms fill in a great many of the gaps with their layered performances. [more]

R Culture

November 17, 2014

Author Cecilia Copeland definitely has a feminist agenda but the totality of these pieces advance a universal human concern that any rational person would support in principle. That many of them are genuinely entertaining while being provocative is a considerable achievement. The language can be quite strong, and the situations explicit, but they always suit the subject without being gratuitous. Her work stands out for its demanding, blunt, truth telling, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce, which is in sharp contrast to the prevalent bland tone of much of today's political humor. It is definitely in your face. [more]
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