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Plays

The Inheritance of a Long-Term Fault

December 9, 2023

"The Inheritance of a Long-Term Fault," written by Mêlisa Annis and directed by Vanessa Morosco, is an extraordinary play that explores how the societal structures across many cultures have shaped cultural interactions and defined what is viewed as societal norms to the present day. It is a provocative, thought-provoking look at how colonial patriarchal behaviors and attitudes about women's roles persist into the present day. It is a show worth seeing and, more importantly, exploring the ideas engendered by it. [more]

Lone Star

December 7, 2023

Probably only David Rabe’s "Sticks and Bones" (part of his Vietnam trilogy that included "The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel" and "Streamers") is as demonstrative as "Lone Star" in its depiction of a soldier’s inability to easily pick up from where he left off upon returning from a tour of duty. For this production, Ruth Stage, in an adaptation by director Joe Rosario and actor Matt de Rogatis, has been given the rights to append the character of Elizabeth to the original "Lone Star" cast. Her character is from a companion McLure play, "Laundry and Bourbon," which has a history of being performed in repertory with "Lone Star." Elizabeth is Roy’s wife, therefore Ray’s sister-in-law. [more]

Madwomen of the West

December 7, 2023

Playing women of a certain age, four women stars of stage and screen who became famous a while ago play friends of a certain age who meet for a birthday brunch in Sandra Tsing Loh’s "Madwomen of the West." The ensuing hilarity will be of most interest to baby boomers who still worship Gloria Steinem, Mary Tyler Moore and Hilary Clinton, but others will also find this an entertaining show as breezily directed by Thomas Caruso. The roles fit actresses Caroline Aaron, Brooke Adams, Marilu Henner and Melanie Mayron returning to the New York stage so well that one might think they were playing facets of themselves or of their screen personas. [more]

Mind Mangler: A Night of Tragic Illusion

December 4, 2023

"Mind Mangler: A Night of Tragic Illusion," starring the genial, but daffy, Henry Lewis, is part of the “gone wrong” franchise by Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields: "Peter Pan Goes Wrong" and "The Play that Goes Wrong," the latter of which is still playing in the same theater complex as "Mind Mangler." Like its sister shows, this is a goofy, but intelligent mix of silliness and sophistication. [more]

‘Til Death

December 1, 2023

The secrets revealed seem more contrived and clichéd and take away from the moving story of Mary’s battle with cancer.   Nick behaves badly.  Lucy has a drug habit and Jason questions his legitimacy in the family—all turn "‘Til Death" into a soap opera, a beautifully acted soap opera, yes, but still a soap. Kaye and Cuccioli provide the emotional heft, particularly in a tender scene when, for a few minutes, the rest of the family isn’t around.  Both are expert actors and find all the rich opportunities to give life to Coplan’s words. [more]

United Nations: The Other West

November 28, 2023

"United Nations: The Other West," written and directed by Bossert, is an outstanding example of the hybrid theatrical system he has created. This production is an extension of his 2022 "United Nations: The Border and The Coast" with connections to stories streamed on Thirdwing’s internet platform. This form of theatrical production aims to bridge theater and film in a way that tells important stories that pierce the limitations of traditional theater and allow for a more expansive exploration of characters and themes. Bossert’s direction of an exceptional ensemble delivers an entertaining evening of theatre with humor and important ideas. This is not derivative of any other production; it stands alone as a play worth seeing. [more]

Amusements

November 27, 2023

There are frequent breaks in thought such as “I forgot to mention at the top that I will be injecting my jokes with a bit of humor tonight as a way to keep them both engaging and fun.” Thanks for clarifying the job description. This is just one of many exclamations to the obvious. Director Nemuna Ceesay keeps us guessing. Are we watching an actor portraying a comedian/lounge performer? Does the comedian/lounge performer think he’s funny? What if no one laughs? A bit later there’s a recitation that goes on longer than it needs to. We start waiting for a punchline that never comes. And then it does…As it was introduced as a voice-over, “That was the opening paragraph of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, sold wherever Moby Dick by Herman Melville is sold. [more]

Make Me Gorgeous!

November 25, 2023

As Kenneth/Kate Marlowe, Wade McCollum not only becomes the character but inhabits it. Required to act as narrator as well as performer in both male and female attire, McCollum is totally convincing. His personal charm and rapport with the audience also makes this a pleasurable experience. Make Me Gorgeous! is an unusual biographical show as the details of Kenneth Marlowe’s story will likely be unfamiliar to most theatergoers who will also be entertained by the musical portions of the evening. [more]

Waiting for Godot

November 21, 2023

Ironically there is no rapport or chemistry between Shannon and Sparks playing friends who have been traveling together for 50 years. As Estragon, in need of sleep and with shoes that don’t fit, Shannon’s deadpan demeanor and poker face expression are unsuitable for a play in which all the actors have is their ability to communicate with each other as there is not much action, and less plot. As the more self-sufficient Vladimir, Sparks is better and more expressive but he can’t carry the play alone. Playing opposites, one pessimistic, one optimistic, it is important that we feel the tension and the link between them which here is latent. They are also somewhat younger than the roles are usually cast considering they mention having been together for five decades. [more]

Scene Partners

November 19, 2023

It takes an artist of the stature and extraordinary talent of Wiest to keep Caswell’s fragmented play from flying off in all directions as it veers from reality to fantasy and from flashback to the present.  Or, is the entire plot, which takes an embittered 75-year-old widow from the depths of the Mid-west to the depths of Hollywood, just a figment of her yearning imagination? The tale of Meryl Kowalski (both names exuding meaning) is of the oft-told a-star-is-born genre:  an unknown hopeful, through lucky breaks and gumption, manages to become a movie star.  Sounds simple, right? Not here.  Caswell ("Wet Brain' and "Man Cave") will not allow her story to be told in a linear fashion. [more]

Sad Boys in Harpy Land

November 18, 2023

Tatarsky uses language in a fresh way, ultimately giving the sensation of having created her own. There are so many thoughts overlapping, and there are accompanying unintelligible sounds and gurgling (some of that happens during her coffee “breaks” and those coffee cups seem to be hidden absolutely everywhere), yet we follow her. When she references a new text, she will nonchalantly drop “I assume everyone here has read the book, yah? Great.” Of course, hasn’t everyone read "Die Ausbildung und Reisen von Wilhelm Meister"??? Her spontaneous body language may very well be choreographed but even there we have a very approachable and comforting whimsy throughout. [more]

A Good Day to Me Not to You

November 18, 2023

As a work of writing, "A Good Day to Me Not to You" is blisteringly funny and seems deceptively shapeless, almost like a meandering evening of stand-up comedy, until it comes together to a fine point--that of the story of a woman who’s lost so much of herself she doesn’t know where to begin to find what’s left. Will she even be able to do so? Will Meecie leave the women’s shelter within the suggested year’s time, or will she remain until the end of her days, hoarding forks and fading into the canary yellow walls, another lost soul whose “RIP” is posted on the community corkboard in the dining hall? [more]

Arcadia

November 17, 2023

This being Bedlam famous for its experimental revivals, the second act is handled differently. The audience is asked to leave their seats in the amphitheater and when they return are given other seats now arranged on what had been the stage of the theater before. The second act then takes place mostly in the seats that were just vacated. Unfortunately, as both acts are supposed to take place in the same setting this is rather distracting. The opening of the second act is a speech given by Bernard which makes perfect sense in what now looks like a college lecture hall or an amphitheater but the rest of that act makes little sense in such a setting. In each act, a character enters and is made to walk through one of the rows of the audience, not only breaking the fourth wall of the theater so to speak but also inconveniencing everyone seated in that row. [more]

Poor Yella Rednecks

November 16, 2023

Although playwright Qui Nguyen declared early in his earlier play "Vietgone" that “all characters appearing in this work are fictitious,” in his sequel "Poor Yella Rednecks" now at Manhattan Theatre, co-commissioned with South Coast Repertory, the playwright played by Jon Norman Schneider begins by interviewing his 70-year-old mother Tong Nguyen about how his parents built a life in America as Vietnamese refugees. Directed by May Adrales who also directed the earlier play in the same exuberant fashion, the resulting flashbacks are raucous, raunchy and poignant. In what was originally announced as a quintet of plays, "Poor Yella Rednecks" is now described as the middle play of a trilogy. [more]

Ode to the Wasp Woman

November 16, 2023

"Ode to the Wasp Woman," written and directed by Rider McDowell, is a play done in the style of film noir and true crime films of the 1950’s. The show focuses on the events leading up to the death of four actors from the B-movies of the 1950’s: Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Susan Cabot, George Reeves, and Barbara Payton. It is essentially four acts in style and dialogue that are uneven in terms of theatrical structure, but given the nature of B-movies, they fit within the two dominant styles of noir and true crime. Even though McDowell captures the feel of a B-movie, there are issues within the production that don't fit. It also takes some knowledge of B-movies in terms of genres and styles. If you do not know what the B-movies were like, you may not like the show, and even if you are a B-movie fan, you may not pick up on the resemblance to those movies. [more]

Sabbath’s Theater

November 13, 2023

Philip Roth’s 1995 Rabelaisian novel "Sabbath’s Theater" would seem a strange choice for stage adaptation both as it is considered Roth’s raunchiest – if not filthiest – book and it moves around a great deal to places in New England, New York, New Jersey and Venice, Italy. The stage adaptation by journalist Ariel Levy and actor-director John Turturro who also stars in The New Group’s production at the Pershing Square Signature Center is not really a play but a staged reading. Performed by Turturro and two actors, Elizabeth Marvel and Jason Kravits, taking all the other parts, this very doubling reinforces the feeling that this is not a fully realized play. [more]

I Need That

November 12, 2023

A repetitively thin outlook on grief, "I Need That" ostensibly concludes with an image of healing, but I'm not sure why, or if it actually does. It's possible the famously prolific Rebeck had another play to write and figured DeVito would leave the audience feeling better no matter what she put on the page. That wasn't a bad bet, I suppose, but not everyone has the privilege of casting DeVito to pull attention away from writing that ultimately falls prey to a cheaply metaphoric sunrise (no knock on lighting designer Yi Zhao who was just doing his job). [more]

Stereophonic

November 7, 2023

Not since Stephen Sondheim’s "Sunday in the Park with George" have “civilians” gotten so close to the creative individual’s “process” when attending a theater piece. David Adjmi’s "Stereophonic" is an intensely personal work that examines the creation of a rock album, a group’s follow-up to a late-blooming debut, in the very competitive music scene of the 1970’s. As the characters in the play have been compared to the celebrated Fleetwood Mac members in many articles appearing before the opening of this production, it’s safe to say this is an exquisite fantasia on the creation of the now-legendary rock masterpiece known as "Rumours," an album firmly in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 10 of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” [more]

Hell Dialogues

November 6, 2023

The production was conceived in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a group of actors was performing "No Exit (Huis clos)." They decided to adapt the ideas of Sartre’s work into one that explores human nature amidst turmoil by looking at war, democracy, society, and social interaction using themes from Plato. The play uses physical and verbal improvisation, including, at times, engaging with the audience without breaking character. It is a complex undertaking in which thematic clarity is missing, especially when trying to incorporate the Platonic ideas of social morality and justice. It is for an audience that enjoys the challenge of theatrical experimentation and intellectual stimulation requiring focus and concentration. [more]

#UglyCry

November 2, 2023

What is remarkable about Mack's performance is that she is reliving the grieving process with every performance. It is not a fictional story with an actor taking on a role; this is a powerful emotional connection within her life. Using regular references to the audience's use of cell phones, she guides us to her discovery of what it means to talk with the dead. This show encourages using cell phones to take pictures, make recordings, and, most importantly, scan QR codes posted on the theater walls or that may appear on an upstage screen during the show. They contain information that will enhance understanding of the show or will guide to articles that will expand on some of the ideas being presented. These QR codes are designed to be a visceral engagement with grief as Mack experienced the loss of her ex-boyfriend and long-time friend Eric Anthamatten in 2011. [more]

The Mysterious Case of Kitsy Rainey

November 1, 2023

Mikel Murfi skillfully brings to life a handful of colorful characters in a rural town where Farnon is the cobbler. The transitions from one character to the next are done with shifts in posture and tone of voice that imbues each transition with the physical and verbal nuances that define the character. It is an interesting tale, rough in places and a bit too long in exposition, but well told by a seasoned actor whose performance is worth spending time on. [more]

King of the Jews

October 31, 2023

How does a Holocaust-themed play land with such emotional impact as Leslie Epstein’s "King of the Jews" at the HERE Theatre?  Based on his novel of the same name, "King of the Jews" is a searing, eye-opening glimpse of a dark period in world history. Set in the formerly elegant Astoria Café in 1939 and 1941 Poland, "King of the Jews" turns the employees and customers into a microcosm of Jewish society, a community being crushed under the boots of the invading Nazis.  These trapped Jews emerge as real people.  As the eleven p.m. curfew, enforced by Gestapo goons, approaches, they each react in their own way. [more]

Redwood

October 31, 2023

If an audience can willingly get past the contrivance that the distant relative Stevie meets over coffee, a young white man whose family generations ago once owned (and fathered!) slaves in Stevie’s family, and who just so happens to be the live-in boyfriend of Stevie’s niece Meg, then the audience will have a good time. The four leads of Meg, her boyfriend Drew, her mom Beverly, and Beverly’s twin brother Stevie are written so well. We care so much about each of them that the revelation that they are intertwined by the horrific tale of a plantation owner that loved his slave but was not above slashing her tendons when she tried to run away sets a tone that should be devoid of all humor. [more]

Partnership

October 27, 2023

The three plays in the “Meet Miss Baker” Project, "The Price of Thomas Scott" in 2019, "Chains" in 2022 and now "Partnership" in 2023 are quite different. While Partnership is the only one you could call a conventional comedy, and a romantic one at that, it offers the least social commentary of the three. At first seeming to be a study of the Shavian “New Woman,” it ultimately makes little or no statement about women’s roles or rights at the time. Women theatergoers may appreciate a period play which puts the female roles front and center, but this play is ultimately too bland and inoffensive. [more]

David Dean Bottrell: The Death of Me Yet

October 26, 2023

All eight stories are engagingly woven into a pattern that illustrates the things that help us understand what it is to encounter a fear of death or even a fear of living. David Dean Bottrell is a storyteller of great skill. He effortlessly gains the attention of his listeners and gently, lovingly carries them through 80 minutes of engaging and thoughtful moments in his adventurous life. [more]

All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain

October 25, 2023

The subtitle of Patrick Page’s absorbing and informative one-man show "All the Devils Are Here: How Shakespeare Invented the Villain” is an actuate description of the content of his presentation. In a kind of lecture-performance it is Page’s credible contention that Shakespeare took the Vice character (the villain from the Middle Ages' Morality plays through Christopher Marlowe) and added psychological realism. Eventually in his last play, "The Tempest," Shakespeare was dealing with a character with a very worthy justification for revenge who finds compassion and empathy instead. [more]

Chasing Happy

October 24, 2023

"Chasing Happy," written by Michel Wallerstein and directed by Alexa Kelly, is a five-character comedy about a gay love triangle. It unravels like a pilot for a television sitcom that borrows characterizations from other sitcoms. Despite the efforts of a skillful, hard-working ensemble, the show never rises to the challenge of solid character development within a believable story. It was not a well-spent two hours for this reviewer. [more]

Salesman 之死

October 22, 2023

Not only is Jeremy Tiang’s "Salesman 之死I" an important document of a classic American play, it is also an illustrative reminder of the cultural differences between China and the United States. Under the direction of Michael Leibenluft, the cast of six is always engaging and always convincing playing both men and women alternately. The design puts the audience directly into the rehearsal room from March to May 1983. The play also allows us to watch major American playwright Arthur Miller as he explores and rethinks a play he had written over three decades before. The fact that the Chinese actors eventually did so well with this typically American text demonstrates the universality of Miller’s greatest play. [more]

Scrambled Eggs

October 22, 2023

Sometimes good intentions do not have the best results—at least in theater. Such is the case with "Scrambled Eggs" at the Gene Frankel Theatre.  Presented to bring immediacy to the issue of domestic violence, the play written by and starring Reginald L. Wilson, MFA, is a vivid domestic melodrama, an R-rated afternoon special, which hammers the audience over the head.  Perhaps, audiences need to be smacked to comprehend the direness of the subject matter and, perhaps, this is the means to that end. [more]

The Refuge Plays

October 21, 2023

Nathan Alan Davis’ "The Refuge Plays," if one pays attention, is exactly about refuge: growing up with it (because someone else has lovingly created it for you), seeking it (if you feel you must create your own), and coming back to the refuge you have always known (once you come to terms with the realization you’ve had no success trying to create it somewhere else). Davis, for the most part, has given us characters that we can easily fall in love with, each with their own path to refuge. [more]

Down the Road

October 20, 2023

Lee Blessing's "Down The Road" is a tale that explores what can happen when "normal" people are confronted with the psychopathy of evil in the form of a charming, ego-centric serial killer. Skillfully directed by Chris Ryan, the story introduces a husband and wife writing team that their editor has assigned to do a book about a notorious killer responsible for the deaths of at least 19 women. It is not a play about the motivations behind a killer's acts. It is about what happens to rational, focused people when dealing with psychopathic evil. It is that examination that this production gets right from the slow unraveling of the couple's relationship with each other to the emotional and intellectual seduction of the killer. It is an engaging, chilling look into a heart of darkness. [more]

Helen.

October 20, 2023

"Helen." is a new play by Caitlin George based on Greek myths that is being given a terrific production at La MaMa by SuperGeographics in association with La MaMa and the storied company En Garde Arts. The acting is top-notch, the direction excellent, and the lighting (by Jackie Fox and Connor Sale) is atmospheric and evocative. [more]

Big Trip: Part 2 – Three Love Stories Near a Railroad

October 18, 2023

To say that Krymov works like no other director is an understatement not to be taken lightly. He is known for his inventive Russian adaptations, but he has also been earning a reputation for tackling American literature with the same whimsical and sometimes fourth wall-smashing approach that emphasizes the pure act of theater making. It is at first quite disarming in its playfulness, yet never loses sight of sincere treatment of works of literature. Here we find two Ernest Hemingway short stories, "Hills Like White Elephants" and "A Canary for One," both written in the late 1920’s, matched with two scenes that serve as dense character portraits from Eugene O’Neill’s "Desire Under the Elms," circa 1924. They are not your normal fare when you consider the expectations of the term “love story.” [more]
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