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Off-Broadway

Relevance

February 27, 2018

But "Reference" is also about issues of gender, race, age, celebrity, politics, economics, and the inescapable impact of the Internet--and more specifically, social media--on the ways business is done today. That may sound like a lot to digest, or maybe even too ambitious by half--but what’s amazing about "Relevance" is how well it manages to fit all of that into a four-character play that speeds by in only 100 minutes. [more]

High Noon

February 25, 2018

Conceived by the Axis Company, this treatment oddly renames the characters which is just one of its many baffling qualities that perhaps seeks to comment on the present. It’s really "High Noon" in title only. Visually arresting it’s ultimately a showy exercise in mere stagecraft without resonance. [more]

A Walk With Mr. Heifetz

February 22, 2018

Although an interesting idea, James Inverne’s "A Walk With Mr. Heifetz" has lofty ambitions which it is unable to fulfill. While the advertisement proclaims that these two encounters “changed the world as we know it,” none of that comes through in the play. The thinness of the material and the two-dimensional characters fail to bring the story to life. Much more needs to be known or revealed to flesh out this intriguing but undramatized story. [more]

Katie Goodman’s Broad Comedy

February 21, 2018

Songs jostle with playlets, usually with topical references.   This is a good lineage to be part of and "Broad Comedy," the bumpy new show at the SoHo Playhouse, succeeds mostly due to the ebullient cast which includes Goodman, Danielle Cohn, Molly Kelleher, Tana Sirois and Carlita Victoria, all sassy and at ease with their bodies, which are sometimes covered with costumes that make them into battling genitalia.  (Watching a giant penis deflate is one of the best visual jokes of the evening.) [more]

X: Or, Betty Shabazz V. the Nation

February 20, 2018

Marcus Gardley’s "X: Or, Betty Shabazz V. The Nation" is a powerful indictment of forces within a movement which help to destroy it. Performed by The Acting Company under the direction of Ian Belknap, their artistic director, the play is riveting throughout while it follows its investigation where it may. It also requires a good deal of knowledge of the events of the 1960’s which many contemporary theatergoers may not come equipped to follow it. [more]

Platonov, or A Play with No Name

February 20, 2018

Director Jessica Burr’s fast-paced yet thoughtful staging includes over-lapping dialogue, rapid entrances and exits all over the space and striking visual flourishes. Ms. Burr’s tremendous grasp of stagecraft markedly benefits the play’s morose and draggier second half which contrasts with the frothier first part. The performances are uniformly delightful. [more]

In the Body of the World

February 20, 2018

"Body" dovetails Ensler’s personal agonizing battle with cancer and her involvement with a feminist group in the Democratic Republic of Congo where women have faced violence, rape and almost unending disruption of their lives.  Ensler’s input was requested by Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist whose ministrations to the female victims of the sadism of soldiers and government officials paints a litany of one tragic event after another. [more]

Hangmen

February 18, 2018

The sense of good, old-fashioned suspense is heightened by director Matthew Dunster, who also helps delineate the spot-on performances by the four remaining cast members--and regulars at Harry’s pub, with distinctive personalities--Billy Carter, Richard Hollis, John Horton, and David Lansbury. And then there’s the ongoing rain and lightning--with marvelous effects by Ian Dickinson for Autograph, for sound, and Joshua Carr, for lighting. Together, they add significantly to the scare factor of the evening. [more]

[Porto]

February 16, 2018

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: three people walk into a bar where they are known by the drinks they order. Only in Kate Benson’s new play "[Porto]," the unnamed bar is in a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, and is defined as a “boushy bar,” a portmanteau word made up of "bourgeois" and "douchey." We know that because it serves “serious food, serious beer, serious wine, serious spirits.” And what of the story the play tells? Like an episode of "Seinfeld," 'Friends" or "Girls," it will probably please Millennials most, those who are living the life of spending evenings in trendy bars to find companionship. The second play this year following "Miles for Mary" to transfer from Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr to Manhattan, [Porto] is now at the WP Theater for an Off Broadway run. [more]

Pete Rex

February 16, 2018

The homeowner Pete is wearing gym shorts and a T-Shirt and is a biology teacher with an Associate’s Degree who wanted to be a paleontologist. Bo is his childhood best friend. Pete has broken up with his long-term girlfriend Julie.  She shows up, interrupting their pastime and informs them of the unexplained appearance of dinosaurs who are on the rampage and causing murderous mayhem.  This is confirmed by the sound of television news broadcasts à la "Night of the Living Dead." [more]

Harriet’s Return: Based Upon the Legendary Life of Harriet Tubman

February 13, 2018

Employing an authentic and strong Southern dialect, Ms. Meadows sounds and looks like she really is a person in the 1840’s. This vocal expertise combined with Meadows’ altering of her physiognomy, beaming eyes and her charisma, achieves a performance of tremendous range and depth.  She portrays Tubman’s relatives, associates and masters.  Each characterization is rendered with precision and variance. Though the piece’s tone is by its nature serious, Meadows finds humor whenever possible. [more]

Miles for Mary

February 9, 2018

Playwrights Horizons has a real winner with the first entry in its new Redux Series bringing back worthy Off Off Broadway plays for a longer run Off Broadway. First up is "Miles for Mary," a company project from The Mad Ones, a New York City-based troupe dedicated to creating “ensemble-driven highly detailed theatrical experiences that examine and illuminate American nostalgia.” Seen previously at The Bushwick Starr during the 2016-17 season, "Miles for Mary" is a brilliant satire on group dynamics in an ongoing school fund-raising committee told in real time. While hilarity abounds as the committee does its pedantic and minimal work, an inevitable explosion is promised by the end and it is a doozie when it finally occurs. [more]

Against the Hillside

February 8, 2018

The production is not helped by William Carden’s heavy-handed direction.  Scene transitions are punctuated by sound designer and composer Shane Rettig’s blaring, pulsing and overwhelming original electronic music. In near darkness, stage hands wearing black appear to rearrange furniture and set props.  This all becomes formulaic and distracting. Carden’s physical staging is rudimentary and the actions flow weakly. Most unnerving is that Mr. Carden has the actors speaking rapidly and being overly emphatic for much of the time and this sets an artificial tone. [more]

Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill

February 8, 2018

Produced as part of the Flea’s Season of Women, Del Rosso’s freshman effort shows great promise.  Under Marina McClure’s insightfully freewheeling direction the members of The Flea’s resident acting troupe, The Bats, takes the play and exuberantly runs with it with their usual unabashed energy and courage to expose themselves—right down to their underwear! [more]

Imperfect Love

February 7, 2018

We are never told the name of the play being rehearsed or who the characters in the play within the play are. In the second act, the performers dressed in their costumes for Gabriele’s play reveal that it is a Renaissance costume drama but we still learn nothing about it. Nothing much is revealed about Italian theater of the time though the play being rehearsed does not seem to be in the naturalistic mode of drama that was creeping into the legitimate stage in 1899. And why did the author pick that year? No clues are given. [more]

The Cult Play

February 6, 2018

Mr. Cusumano has crafted a scenario that though familiar is gripping.  The timeless craving for lost souls seeking a purpose in life by handing over their existence to charlatans is freshly explored here.  The dialogue is well-observed, sharp and occasionally very funny.  The play is peopled by a collection of characters who are all identifiable and have finely drawn back stories. [more]

He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box

February 6, 2018

Whereas Kennedy became famous with plays that use myth, history, surrealism and Theater of the Absurd to tell their stories, this play tells a realistic tale in poetic form, its very brevity belying its depth of feeling. The play incorporates the styles of romantic drama, Elizabethan tragedy, old-fashioned operetta, a murder mystery, and recent history of the not so distant past. Events in the play were suggested by Kennedy’s mother and her own visits to her grandparents in the Jim Crow South. [more]

Fire and Air

February 4, 2018

Though the production has been designed by its director, John Doyle, there is no scenery to speak of, except for a gold framed mirror on the rear wall, another framed mirror angled and dangling above it, and five gold chairs. It all suggests the opulence for which Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes were known. Opulent, too, are the costumes designed by Ann Hould-Ward with everyone clad in black except for Nijinsky who is in colorful and playful ballet costumes. [more]

Hindle Wakes

February 4, 2018

Stanley Houghton’s once controversial "Hindle Wakes" explodes everything you have ever been taught about the double standard and the place of women in society. The irrefutable logic of the characters in this play can only leave you with one conclusion. Gus Kaikkonen’s superb production for the Mint Theater Company restores this forgotten play to its rightful place in British drama. Had the playwright not died prematurely the year after "Hindle Wakes"’ premiere, the play would most likely have not fallen into an almost 100 year eclipse. Ironically, the Me-Too movement reminds us that the philosophy that “boys will be boys” is both immoral and indefensible. [more]

Draw the Circle

February 3, 2018

... in Deen’s mad dash to portray Shireern’s elderly Indian father and mother--who live in Connectictut--her girlfriend, Molly, and so many other figures, including even a housecleaner at a Motel 8, where Shireen attempted suicide--he seems to have a different voice and demeanor for every one of them. He even--on his knees and with a little girl’s voice--plays Shireen’s five-year-old niece, Rabia. [more]

Cardinal

February 2, 2018

Greg Pierce, the author of "Slowgirl" and "Kid Champion," has often tackled hot button issues. Here in Cardinal being given its world premiere at Second Stage Theater, he takes on urban renewal, Chinese entrepreneurs, racism and amateurs in politics, all worthy of investigation, in comic fashion. However, in this satire his plot seems to reinvent itself in every other scene, with twists and turns you can’t see coming. The three sets of characters (Lydia and Jeff, Nancy and Nat Prenchel, owners of the Bread & Button Bakery, and Chinese businessman Li-Wei Chen and his son Jason) seem totally separate until he brings them together in a rather improbable finale. He also loads the deck with such plot complications as Lydia and Jeff beginning an affair (as she looks so much like her sister who he dated in high school and hasn’t gotten over.) [more]

Party Face

January 31, 2018

The best reason to see Isobel Mahon’s "Party Face" is to see the ever-lovely Hayley Mills who used to play mischievous teens and now is playing busy-body mothers. The play is diverting though it has nothing new to say about women and their contemporary roles. Under Amanda Bearse’s direction, the play also gives Klea Blackhurst another off-beat comic role in which she shines.  [more]

Delta in the Sky with Diamonds or Maybe Not

January 30, 2018

Classic movies such as "It’s a Wonderful Life," "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Moonstruck" are citied in the play and author June Daniel White is clearly inspired by and seeks to emulate them in this fable. Those films resonate due to their appealing characters and well-crafted scenarios. "Delta in the Sky with Diamonds or Maybe Not"’s rambling plot is too ambitious as a stage play. [more]

The Thing with Feathers

January 28, 2018

Though there’s a major surprise lurking at the top of the second act, and though it’s about how sins of the past can impinge on the present, Scott Organ’s "The Thing with Feathers" is ultimately a play without many virtues. Early references to Emily Dickinson and poetry--the title apparently comes from a bastardization of a Dickinson poem--fail to lift the work out of the made-for-TV movie-of-the-week sensibility that keeps bringing it down. [more]

WinterWorks 2018: “Look Me in the Eyes”

January 27, 2018

“I never met a peanut butter junkie” is one of the many sharp zingers in Fran Handman’s romantic park bench meetup, "A New York Encounter" (directed by Elowyn Castle) between an older man and woman. It’s in the well-trod, zany territory of Murray Schisgal, Elaine May and Herb Gardner, and it’s well-trod again here.  The red-haired and vivacious Marie Wallace and the quirky James Nugent are priceless. [more]

Balls

January 26, 2018

Playwrights Kevin Armento and Bryony Lavery take the well-known facts that have been explored in documentaries and in the feature film "Battle of the Sexes" and shovel on a cascade of imagined sub plots, heavy-handed theatrical techniques and sociological trimmings. The opening voice-over prologue is a wry pseudo-scientific lecture about men and woman.  This narrator sounds like Jane Lynch at her most sarcastic and it’s supposed to be funny but falls flat.  The strident tone of the show is set. [more]

Jericho

January 26, 2018

The problem with Laura Braza’s production is the lack of chemistry between Vasile Flutur’s Jericho and Hannah Sloat’s Julie. While Jericho should be charming and seductive, Flutur is only sinister and arrogant. Sloat is convincing at the innocent young girl routine but less so as the self-sacrificing woman in love where she comes off as rather bland. Just as McDonald walked off with the honors as Julie’s friend Carrie in the last Broadway revival of "Carousel," Ginna M. Doyle is most believable as the friend here called Mary (Marie in Molnár’s version.) Vivacious and sparkling, Doyle lights up the stage every time she appears as a woman in love with an ambitious but conventional doorman who climbs the ladder of success. So too Jack Sochet as Jericho’s criminal friend, here called Tynk, devious to his last breath and as wily as a coyote, appears to be living inside of his character. [more]

A Kind Shot

January 24, 2018

And that’s essentially the problem with "A Kind Shot." Clocking in at 75 minutes, the “performance” feels more like a motivational speech than a theatrical event. It’s well-meaning and well-told, but other than the charismatic Mateer, there isn’t much else to it. The set, a masking tape outline of a shrunken basketball key, accomplishes so little visually that it begs the question, “Why bother at all?” Mateer completes the obvious motif with a flower-emblazoned basketball, which she dribbles around a bit and bangs off the wall as if she’s making shots. I’m all for audience imagination, but, come on, just hang up a basketball hoop. [more]

Diary of a Madman

January 23, 2018

Soviet born actor Ilia Volok is quite personable and definitely commands the stage; his performance is heroic but it is so intense and his accent is often intrusive. Comical and sensitive portions are overshadowed by the perpetual ranting. It’s 70 minutes of an actor’s bravura performance as he plays a character mentally unravelling and the plot gets sidetracked. There’s a lot of histrionics that don’t pay off. [more]

Pillowtalk

January 21, 2018

Kyoung H. Park's "Pillowtalk" mixes the mysteries of passionate, but flawed, love with the realities of racism in today’s society, specifically, Brooklyn, New York, where Sam (Basit Shittu), a hunky African American and former Olympic swimmer is married to Buck (JP Moraga), a sleek Asian American journalist.  Both are in a constant battle with the White-dominated society which constantly undermines the lives of people of color.  Park’s direction of his play is straightforward and “in your face” giving this rarely seen corner of society some needed exposure. [more]

Sheila

January 20, 2018

Murky, glacial and hypnotic, "Sheila" is a dreamy reunion drama among two 28-year-old women who haven’t seen each other in 10 years. It recalls the sort of off-beat female-centric play director Robert Altman might have staged in the 1980’s and then filmed. The script is collaboratively written by members of The Associates, the theater company who is presenting it. It comes across as a collaboration with a feminist slant rather than an organic play.  Still, its 70 minutes have an enigmatic appeal. [more]

Until the Flood

January 19, 2018

Ms. Orlandersmith skillfully organizes the material into short monologues that are revelatory, insightful and often tinged with humor.  Visually striking with her animated facial features and flowing dreadlocks, Orlandersmith subtly yet forcefully offers a series of rich characterizations.  Varying her vocal inflections and altering her physiognomy she conveys the essence of each individual.  It’s a riveting performance of range and depth. [more]

Disco Pigs

January 18, 2018

John Haidar’s energized production turns this material into a tour de force for Campbell and Lynch who are continually moving about spewing volumes of words, almost choreographed by movement director Naomi Said. Deeply in character, they seem to be living their adventures which include humor, fantasy and violence. However, American audiences will have difficulty with the thick Cork accents and Irish slang, as well as Pig and Runt’s private language which often resembles baby talk when it doesn’t sound like street poetry. [more]
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