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Plays

Baldwin & Buckley At Cambridge

October 14, 2022

"Baldwin & Buckley at Cambridge" should stir up controversy as their 1965 topic is still relevant. Such a debate today would have a great deal more ammunition than either of these men had at the time. However, one can still hear both points of view today given by liberals and conservatives, respectively. The fact that the Baldwin/Buckley debate is still relevant can be witnessed from the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2013 as well as the 2019 publication of "The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the Debate over Race in America" by Nicholas Buccola. This is a question which has not been resolved in the intervening 57 years. [more]

Powerhouse

October 14, 2022

Harms’ play never lets up in its homage to corporate intrigue laced with humor. The audience’s caring for how Regan and Guy end up is a given, so that we can forgive his “poetic license” in that all legal personnel involved would be fully aware that the illegal recording of someone without their knowledge is a Class E felony in the state of New York, but nevermind.  Director Ken Wolf keeps the story moving at a great clip and gently supports all five of the thoroughly believable characterizations, to the point we hope even Meena will be okay after her hysterical breakdown akin to professional suicide. [more]

Cost of Living

October 12, 2022

Perhaps because of its prestigious accolade, or just undeniable merit, "Cost of Living" is the first of Majok's heartfelt efforts to make the journey from off-Broadway to on-Broadway in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s production, a transition that, thanks to director Jo Bonney's returning and unflinching guidance, hasn't diminished any of the play's intimacy or daring. If anything, on Wilson Chin's Bergman-meets-Bayonne turntable set, gloomily lit in unrelenting twilight by Jeff Croiter, "Cost of Living" has become even more persuasive and poetic. Invaluably serving that dramatic growth are actors Gregg Mozgala and Katy Sullivan, repeating their roles from the play's 2017 New York City Center premiere by MTC. [more]

The Sea Lady

October 11, 2022

Neith Boyce’s "The Sea Lady," a Broadway-bound play in 1935, only now having its world premiere at Metropolitan Playhouse is an attempt at a Shavian play of ideas. Based on a 1901 novel by socialist H.G. Wells, this very Edwardian story resembles Shaw’s "Misalliance" but without the wit or the scope of ideas. Extremely tentative in how far it dares to go, "The Sea Lady" seems like a relic of an earlier age. It has charm but it lacks depth; its message may have been new in 1901 when the novel came out or 1935 when the play was finished, but today it seems extremely old hat. [more]

Washington Square

October 10, 2022

On what is either a shoestring budget or a conscious effort to strip Henry James’ novel down to its essentials, Randy Sharp’s new adaptation of "Washington Square" is both exciting theater and entirely true to its source material. The quartet of fine actors make this story of 1840’s New York entirely credible and engrossing at all times. While it avoids the beautiful trappings usually associated with the period, it is so gripping that they are not missed for a moment. [more]

Our Town…but Wilder

October 10, 2022

Krevolin is a clever writer, turning Wilder’s American folk tale into a modern comedy/drama with relevance to today’s audiences.  Although he often makes his points a bit too obviously with the rantings of the bigots veering too close to cliché, he nimbly juggles the complex inter-relationships. His staging is simple, helped by Aurora Winger’s lighting.  Characters often enter down the aisle as they approach the stage tossing off their lines, cheerfully lit by Winger. While waiting for the next inevitable production of Wilder’s Our Town, whet your appetite with its modern cousin, "Our Town…but Wilder." [more]

Complicity

October 10, 2022

On paper, Diane Davis’ play "Complicity" offers a stark, yet refreshing take on the now familiar Harvey Weinstein-tainted Hollywood story of women being victimized by a male-run, male-driven industry. On stage what we have instead are sometimes too-clipped scenes where an audience is left the chore of filling in the many blanks.  The actors sometimes attempt to do just that with histrionics that are unfortunately not reined in by director Illana Stein. [more]

I’m Revolting

October 5, 2022

There are two truisms in life in addition to the one about death and taxes: it takes all kinds of people to make a world and something will get everyone in the end. The world premiere of Gracie Gardner’s "I’m Revolting" beautifully proves both points. A sensitive and perceptive play set in the waiting room of a private New York City skin cancer clinic, the play introduces us to all walks of people and many reactions to medical reports. The ensemble cast includes several veteran actors (Laura Esterman, Glenn Fitzgerald, Peter Gerety and Patrice Johnson Chevannes) and several not so well known faces. Knud Adams’ direction is subtle and unobtrusive allowing life to pass on the Linda Gross stage of the Atlantic Theater Company. [more]

This Beautiful Future

September 25, 2022

If you like your W.W. II history unadulterated, you may object to a love story between a French teenage girl and a Nazi soldier even if they are inexperienced and innocent and unaware of what is to come. The fact that they are both hopeful of life in the future in the middle of war and devastation notwithstanding, were people ever this naïve and unworldly? While "This Beautiful Future" is tastefully presented, it does not deal with the moral issues that the play hints at but refuses to recognize. [more]

Fauna

September 24, 2022

Is it possible to be completely truthful in attempting to tell the life of a famous author in a biofilm? That is the premise of Argentinian novelist and playwright Romina Paula’s "Fauna" now having its English language premiere at New York’s Torn Page Theater. As the play is philosophical, poetic, cerebral, and literary with quotes from many authors including Argentinian writers unfamiliar to Americans, it may be too erudite and esoteric for most theatergoers. However, April Sweeney’s production at the vest pocket Torn Page Theater is so intense that it carries its audience with it. With the actors only feet from the viewers so that you feel you are in the room with them, the play is a powerful experience that few productions ever achieve. [more]

Burn

September 22, 2022

Although Alan Cumming is a charismatic performer, the distracting video design, the often overpowering music, and the often flashing lighting by Tim Lutkin, gets in the way of viewing the show. Much of the effect is created by the atmospheric lighting which periodically changes color (blue, green, red) yet at times it turns the evening into a multimedia event. Since none of the poems are clear enough to be understood, we learn little of Burns’ output as a poet though we do hear about his triumphs that lead to being lionized in Edinburgh. The contemporary music only rarely suggests the period. The dance elements also seem an eccentric way to portray this 18th century man who attempted to live life to the fullest. Cumming charmingly depicts this Scottish icon though he does come off as a lovable rogue. It is all an example of too much being too much. The rather coy ending has Cumming sitting on the edge of the stage declaiming Burns’ now famous poem, “Auld Lang Syne,” after the final curtain has already descended. [more]

Four Saints in Three Acts

September 21, 2022

Greenspan isn’t always totally clear when switching points of view, but made up for this by turning the entire, long script into a wonderland of gestures, vocalizations, postures and movements.  His eyes and his hands are masterful communicators.  His lean body’s dancelike movements add dimension to the onslaught of words.  This is a performance that must be seen to appreciate how mindboggling his accomplishment is. [more]

Jasper

September 21, 2022

Most poignantly, when Drew starts to wonder if maybe their son's survival has been the opposite of a blessing, Andrea expresses horror for a thought that, thanks to Pimentel's touchingly subtle performance, we know she's had herself. To its strongest credit, MacDermott's play affords all three of its actors the opportunity to find meaning beyond their characters' words. Though, of course, with a less capable trio, this sort of dramatic freedom could have been a disaster. [more]

Our Man in Santiago

September 19, 2022

Mark Wilding’s "Our Man in Santiago" is billed as a “raucous political farce” but it is neither loud and noisy nor hilariously funny. Inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1974 article in Harper’s Magazine concerning the CIA involvement in the death of democratically elected President Salvador Allende, the play supposes that the CIA had operatives in Santiago ready to kill Allende when General Pinochet launched his coup that took out Allende’s government and democracy in Chile for the next 16 years. While Charlie Mount, who also directed LA’s Theater West production in 2021, keeps the play bubbling along, the one-dimensional characters and the lack of real farcical stage business diminish the play to an overlong attempt at satire. [more]

Love, Sex and Real Estate

September 18, 2022

"Love, Sex & Real Estate" moves swiftly, thanks to John D. McNally’s direction.  He skillfully manages the quick shifts between romantic liaisons, real estate discussions, Ugo’s youthful angst, and Valter’s artistic stumblings. The writing, including an over-the-top version of a Feydeau farce, complete with slamming doors, tends toward cliché, but is saved by the performances of the eager cast of fine actors. [more]

Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski

September 17, 2022

Aside from his ability to create multiple characters with his voice and body language, Strathairn’s physicality is remarkable in aging from a young man to a senior citizen before our eyes as well as using the table for enacting various events such as jumping off of a train or Karski’s torture by the Nazis. (The movement director is Emma Jaster,) In the brief 90 minutes of playing time, Strathairn is able to establish a quietly heroic man’s entire life and career with modesty, sincerity and simplicity. It is not only a remarkable performance, it is also an impressive reconstruction of another man’s character and deeds. [more]

On the Verge or The Geography of Yearning

September 15, 2022

Revived by Retro Productions, we are treated to Eric Overmyer’s alternative Victorian fantasy, "On the Verge or The Geography of Yearning," that takes three vibrant, independent women of 1888 on an expedition not just through deepest, darkest “terra incognita” but also forward 67 years into a very different America.  Mores, as well as language as they know it, are at risk. [more]

Strings Attached

September 12, 2022

From the clever double entendre title to its fantastical involvement of three famous long dead physicists, Carole Buggé’s "Strings Attached" tries very hard to rise out of the morass what is basically a sad love triangle but is ultimately overwhelmed by frippery and cliché. [more]

Burbank: Walt Disney in Crisis

September 11, 2022

Although "Burbank: Walt Disney in Crisis" occasionally has its actors delivering monologues out to the audience, the most compelling drama occurs from the interactive scenes between the actors themselves; more of this would have absolutely been welcome. Nevertheless, the play does entertain and inform, revealing the financial struggles Disney went through to make such iconic films as "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," and "Bambi," even in the wake of "Snow White"’s success. Bossert also managed to squeeze in the fact that Disney attempted to block Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White, from getting other work, in order to not “spoil the illusion” of the character. [more]

ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME

September 1, 2022

Commissioned by the Ma-Yi Theater Company, Daniel K. Isaac’s brilliant "ONCE UPON A (korean) TIME" was born out of the actor-playwright’s realization that he knew way more about Shakespeare and the Western canon than his own rich Korean culture of folk tales and origin myths.  He has fashioned, over the course of five scenes, beautifully layered storytelling in situations clouded by utter despair, without sacrificing great brushstrokes of humor. [more]

The Near Disaster of Jasper & Casper

August 30, 2022

As a piece of writing, "The Near Disaster of Jasper & Casper" is whacky and creative, and except for a couple of out-of-place bits of humor, one involving a middle finger and another a candle called “Blow Me,” it is charmingly humorous. The story even becomes lightly touching when Jasper’s love for his brother Casper is tested, and Jasper learns the real meaning of family and what it is to be responsible for others besides himself. "The Near Disaster of Jasper & Casper" is a thoroughly enjoyable, quirky fairy tale told by an expert storyteller, Jason Woods. By the end of this foray into the woods, it was time to go, I hated to leave, I had to, though. Worth a second viewing. [more]

Two Jews, Talking

August 29, 2022

If Samuel Beckett had been a Jew, his "Waiting for Godot"’s Estragon and Vladimir could have emerged as the equally quirky "Two Jews, Talking," in the appealing new two-hander by Ed. Weinberger starring Hal Linden and Bernie Kopell, all three TV legends. The two characters in each one-act play, talk and talk and get nowhere—very pleasantly with just the right touch of surreal mystery. Weinberger ("The Tonight Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Taxi," etc.) has fashioned a quiet tour de force for these two veterans.  Linden, a spry 92, is not only a TV veteran ("Barney Miller") but a star of the Broadway stage, including his Tony Award winning performance in "The Rothschilds."  Kopell (89) is remembered for his long-running turn as the ship’s doctor in "The Love Boat" among many other appearances. [more]

Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle

August 26, 2022

Part of Ramón’s game plan to increase attendance is to create a Randy’s Dandy Coaster Castle mascot.  In a move that changes his life, Arlo is drafted to don a hilarious, smelly rat costume transforming himself into the character Kuddly Kyle.  Suddenly Arlo, the sweet, directionless shlub has found meaning in his life via this subterfuge.  While in the costume, Arlo is the delightfully entertaining Kyle.  Without the costume, he’s just Arlo. This is the most moving part of Coaster, a play that revolves around the emotions and inner lives of these everyday, working class characters, beautifully evoked by Perez and carefully chaperoned by director, Rebecca Martínez to keep it all down to earth and accessible.  The fade-out is particularly moving as the workers have no idea that there is a disaster looming.  Their lives will be changed—for the worse. [more]

HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis

August 23, 2022

'Hyprov" is a delightful and surprising evening as there is no telling how it will turn out. Will the Hyprovisers be good at their improvs? Will they stay in character? How will they deal with the somewhat preposterous suggestions by the audience or Colin’s instructions? Will the improvs make complete skits? Will the volunteers all remain on the same wavelength? One could see this show several times as both the improvs and the volunteers will vary from night to night. A clever evening is had by all with the charming Asad Mecci running the first half and Colin Mochrie organizing the second half. [more]

macbitches

August 21, 2022

It is not until the last 15 minutes of Sophie McIntosh’s new play, "macbitches," that a dramatic event takes place. Up until then the play is mostly the chit chat of acting majors talking about productions they have been in, eccentric directors they have worked with at the college, rehearsal horrors, and theater experiences elsewhere. While this has some interest for theater buffs, it goes on too long and tends to be more and more of the same. If you know such shows as "The Drowsy Chaperone," "The Crucible," "Hedda Gabler," "Antigone," "Guys and Dolls" and "Macbeth" very well you may be able to follow the gossip. If not, you may grow very bored by all the anecdotes. There is some talk of the toxic environment of male-run academic departments but very little of it makes much of an impression. We never hear what the male acting students think of the department or its practices, only their bad behavior in rehearsal. [more]

Oresteia (Almeida Theatre)

July 30, 2022

If you have ever seen a play by Aeschylus, you know how static and slow they are, made up entirely of monologues and choral odes with hardly any action. It was Sophocles and Euripides who added what we consider drama to ancient Greek plays. Director Robert Icke’s new version of Aeschylus’ "Oresteia," the only complete Greek trilogy that remains extant, has been adapted into a updated tetralogy that is accessible, easy to identify with, and dramatically exciting. The Almeida Theatre production now at the Park Avenue Armory features magnificent performances by Anastasia Hille (Baptiste's wife Celia in the television series of the same name) and Angus Wright (Claudius, in Icke’s current also modern dress production of "Hamlet" running in repertory with Oresteia) as Klytemnestra and Agamemnon. Presented as a long evening of four plays, this is a commitment for the audience as the running time is three hours and 35 minutes with three intermissions. [more]

Hit the Wall

July 29, 2022

Jake Shore’s "Hit the Wall," though limited in its range, is very successful in its goals. It gives Adam Files and Alexandra Guerrero juicy roles as the aging mentor and the younger student who may have surpassed the master. It also depicts a world unfamiliar to most of us. Whether this world is entirely accurate is another question which only those in the know can tell us. However, the play as it now stands is an impressive but small piece of work. [more]

Happy Life

July 29, 2022

Ng has a far-reaching imagination and spins the many stories and characters of her "Happy Life" with admiral skill and abandon.  But it is just too heavy-handedly, head-scratchingly abstruse, not to mention unnecessarily full of foul language that somehow doesn’t jibe with the characters.  This is Theater of the Absurd put through the David Mamet grinder. [more]

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

July 26, 2022

While the play is rooted in its original 1955 period (its language, social mores, references, three-act form), this revival directed by Joe Rosario has attempted to place it in the present from the contemporary set and clothing and such props as cell phones and a great many uses of the f-word. However, without updating the dialogue, the play does not make sense reset in 2022, particularly in its archaic handling of homosexuality as it was referenced pre-Stonewall. Its themes of deception, greed and “mendacity” (a word made famous by this play) would seem to make the play contemporary but everything else about it including its hothouse atmosphere marks it as dated. [more]

The Kite Runner

July 25, 2022

The second problem is the performance of Amir Arison, star of nine seasons on NBC’s "The Blacklist," and eight Off Broadway dramas, playing both "The Kite Runner"’s narrator and its protagonist Amir. As the narrator, Arison is totally impassive giving little weight to the tumultuous events he describes. He also plays Amir as both a child and as an adult. While he is unconvincing as the child Amir from ages 10 to 12, his mostly unemotional portrayal of the adult Amir undercuts the events he describes. Still more damaging to the story, the violence has been toned down greatly, changing the villainous Assef from a psychopath to just a bully, and leaving out the shocking events in the soccer stadium demonstrating Taliban justice. The story still creates its own spell but is greatly diminished from the strengths of the novel. Luckily most of the supporting cast is quite excellent which saves the play. [more]

A Black and White Cookie

July 19, 2022

The chips fall into place by the end of A Black and White Cookie, perhaps a bit too smoothly, but the path to the ending is well constructed and fascinating. Morgenstein has caught the nuances of each character and his dialogue rings true particularly as inhabited by these five actors who are ably directed by Marcello Rollando who quite wittingly provides the play-by-play radio commentary of the Mets games which Harold listens to throughout the story. [more]

Sex, Grift and Death: An Evening of Plays by Steven Berkoff and Caryl Churchill

July 18, 2022

For its 35th anniversary, PTP/NYC (Potomac Theater Project) continues is exploration of little known British plays by major playwrights with the New York premieres of one acts by Steven Berkoff and Caryl Churchill. The triple bill entitled "Sex, Grift and Death" includes the first local productions of Berkoff’s "Lunch" and Churchill’s "Here We Go," as well as the first NYC revival of Churchill’s "Hot Fudge," last seen here at The Public Theater in 1990. While the productions directed by Richard Romagnoli (Berkoff) and Cheryl Faraone (Churchill) are fine as far as they go, they all seem a little too underheated to be truly theatrical for these in-yer-face, confrontational authors. The evening’s title sums up the themes of this triple bill. [more]

Mister Miss America

July 16, 2022

D'Astolfo (that’s duh-STAHL-fo, mkay?), who also wrote the piece, sends Taylor off like a firecracker from the moment he comes onto the stage, speeding through Taylor’s wry and witty dialect so fast, why Mother of Jefferson Davis, he’s passing the fox! D’Astolfo’s dialogue is chock full of delightful West Virginian-isms, gay and regional. Taylor is described in the script as “wide-eyed and winning,” and this definitely describes D'Astolfo in the role. He also adds to the play’s humor in a totally different capacity as the voice of the wry, off-stage announcer and master of ceremonies. [more]
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