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Plays

Salome

October 15, 2018

This M-34 production, under Rutherford’s direction, doesn’t rise to stratospheric heights.  Quite the opposite:  Rutherford’s direction and writing turns Salome into a fascinating domestic comedy/drama, an interesting interpretation, even a witty interpretation, but one that avoids piercing the audience’s minds.  He keeps the actors watchable with an in-your-face directing style.  Earnest and energetic as it is, he never squeezes fresh revelations from the text. [more]

The Winning Side

October 11, 2018

In dramatizing the story of Wernher von Braun, James Wallert’s "The Winning Side" makes compelling the concept of ethics in science: should we admire a mathematical genius who has had antithetical political ideas or are his scientific achievements too valuable to hold his former political beliefs against him? Though the program notes indicate that the play “is a work of dramatic fiction and liberties have been taken,” The Winning Side does show us a genius at work who was also an opportunist and changed his stories depending on what suited the occasion. As such it has become relevant all over again in an era when truth counts for so little and men of morality are all the more valuable. [more]

Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night

October 11, 2018

Presented by the San Francisco-based The Custom Made Theatre Company, this production is masterminded by its artistic director Brian Katz who adapted and directed it. Mr. Katz’s accomplished script tackles the difficult source material that’s structured as narrated flashbacks with overall successfully. Katz’s staging while working on a small-scale is technically resourceful but with limited theatricality. Sluggishness pervades and most crucially the show falters with its performances. [more]

Final Follies

October 10, 2018

It would be a pleasure to report that A.R. Gurney’s last play entitled “Final Follies” performed with two early works, is one of his best, but that is not the case. As directed by David Saint on a triple bill celebrating the work of this major satirist who died in 2017, this comedy is minor Gurney. In fact, part of the problem with this evening produced by Primary Stages is that Saint has used three separate acting styles, one for each of the plays, all of which are wrong for the material. Surprising considering that Saint’s 2002 direction of Gurney’s full length, "The Fourth Wall," was quite delicious. However, his touch seems to have deserted him here. [more]

Suddenly

October 9, 2018

Mercer’s direction coordinates the outstanding design components into an aesthetically successful presentation with some neat stage pictures and tableaux. However, the deliberate quest for stylization leads to an exaggerated tone in the performances as opposed to the movie’s straightforward naturalism resulting in an overall distancing effect. There’s the sense of experiencing a stilted art project rather than being engrossed by a play. [more]

Wild Abandon

October 8, 2018

What our mothers owe us - and what we owe them - is at the heart of Leenya Rideout's one-woman autobiographical show, "Wild Abandon." In it, the prodigiously accomplished singer, songwriter, playwright, actor, and multi-instrumentalist comes to terms with both her mother's life and her own. Perhaps these twin goals converge a bit too neatly, especially given the harrowingly true complications Leenya introduces along the way, but there are so many hard-earned and poignant insights in "Wild Abandon" that the end result is successful nonetheless. [more]

What the Constitution Means to Me

October 7, 2018

Though going off on tangents, the captivating performer Heidi Schreck’s self-written fascinating theatrical memoir "What the Constitution Means to Me" is a feminist-centric personal odyssey that uses the device of high school oratory.  The blonde and animated Ms. Schreck’s persona combines the dramatic qualities of Laura Linney with the quirky comedic essence of Teri Garr. After introductory remarks, the Washington state native discloses the show’s conceit. [more]

The Nap

October 7, 2018

It isn’t revealing too much to say that the play culminates with a real Snooker match between two men vying ultimately for the world championship and ostensibly being watched by 23 millions viewers all over the world. And since they’re playing in real time, Bean had to come up with alternate dialogue, depending on which of them wins. Those two men are the local Sheffield champ, Dylan (Ben Schnetzer), and his competitor Abdul, who is played by world-class Snooker champion Ahmed Aly Elsayed. (Elsayed actually won the Egyptian Snooker Championship for three consecutive years before moving to the USA and winning US National Snooker Championships for another three consecutive years.) [more]

Bernhardt/Hamlet

October 3, 2018

"Bernhardt/Hamlet" is structured as a backstage comedy. Sarah rehearses with French stage star Constant Coquelin playing both The Ghost and Polonius, worries that she is losing 29-year-old lover, playwright Rostand to his wife – or to his new play "Cyrano de Bergerac," and frets over her son Maurice, at 29 years old still a college student who in need of money. Added to her troubles her illustrator Alphonse Mucha whose posters of her productions have added to her fame and glory is unable to make a sketch of her as Hamlet which suits them both. Worse still all the men in her life – including the Parisian critical establishment – plus the women of Paris are saying that it is not appropriate for her to play Hamlet in breeches as it is a man’s domain. Although the new play is not entirely about women in a man’s world, Rebeck does give this theme major importance. Ultimately, Sarah receives a visit from Rostand’s clever wife Rosamund which leads to the play’s denouement. [more]

Experimenting with Katz

October 3, 2018

Gill expertly writes each character as three dimensional, giving each complex backgrounds, making it clear that each benefits from knowing the others.  A mundane Scrabble game is as revealing as Truth or Dare.  Phone calls uncover the wonderful interdependencies of this group. [more]

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

October 1, 2018

What gives "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" its special cachet in the Williams canon is that its storyline and heroine called Dorothea very much suggest a prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire set ten years earlier, when Blanche was still teaching and coping with life, though already needing liquor and pills to get her over her anxieties. Some enterprising theater group ought to schedule these two plays in repertory with the same actress in the leading role in each. [more]

Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet

September 30, 2018

Previous experiments from this adventurous theater group helmed by artistic director Eric Tucker include two versions of Twelfth Night performed in repertory, Hamlet and Saint Joan performed with casts of only four actors, and an updated Pygmalion which was double cast in its smaller roles. In "Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet," Tucker has tried something new: a mashup of both Anton Chekhov’s "Uncle Vanya" and Williams Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet," with scenes from the two alternating. The result is not confusing, but irritating and irrelevant, with neither play gaining from the combination. The advertisement for this show reads “5 actors, 2 plays, 1 performance,” but to what point? [more]

Because I Could Not Stop: An Encounter with Emily Dickinson

September 28, 2018

Stranger still is the choice of Angelica Page to play Dickinson who looks rather too healthy to be the famously thin and sallow-faced writer known from the one famous photograph. She makes Dickinson sarcastic, arrogant, cynical, self-important and haughty which goes against the voice of the woman in the poems. At times she has been given arty stage directions like posing by a mantelpiece or sleeping on the ground next to what we assume is alongside of her father’s grave. [more]

The True

September 27, 2018

If these characters sound familiar, they are based on real people who populated Albany politics four decades ago. "The True," a world premiere play by Sharr White ("The Other Place," "The Snow Goose") gives four-time Emmy and two-time Golden Globe Award winner Edie Falco another bigger-than-life role and she is magnificent. The cast also includes television stars Michael McKean (Mayor Corning) and Peter Scolari (Peter Noonan) as well as Glenn Fitzgerald (Howard C. Nolan) and John Pankow (Charlie Ryan) who under the direction of The New Group’s artistic director Scott Elliott create a true ensemble, making us feel that these people have lived their roles. [more]

I Was Most Alive with You

September 26, 2018

In Craig Lucas’s "I Was Most Alive with You," two down-on-their-luck television writers mine recent personal tragedy for their latest project, hoping, with the Book of Job as their inspirational guide, to set both their careers and the universe in order. Although suffering has touched each of them, Ash (Michael Gaston), a late middle-aged recovering alcoholic in a bad marriage, is the much more forlorn figure. Like Job, Ash has hit one of those rough patches in life, where, if you’re a person of faith, you might start to suspect that your higher power doesn’t like you very much. [more]

You Wouldn’t Expect

September 26, 2018

Ms. Anselmi succeeds at imparting her solid research on the subject through her sharp dialogue spoken by her strong characters. The play falters with the addition of a chorus who are actors that appear in darkness during scene transitions to intone the names of disparate celebrities such as Charles Dickens, Johnny Cash and Mother Theresa. The explanation for these many names that are cited is that due to their personality quirks they would have been sterilized in North Carolina. That supposition is arguably a stretch, the main thing is this obtrusively weakens the momentum considerably. [more]

Spin Off

September 25, 2018

Considering the repetitiveness of the material and the fancifulness of the play, Megan McQueen as Rosie Ramirez and Kevin Rico Angulo as Det. Jimmy Marks make a great deal more of their characters than is in the writing, while the rest of the actors in underwritten roles do quite a bit less. Both attractive performers, they make us care about their characters though not much is happening. It is to be hoped that they find more substantial roles soon that will showcase their talents. [more]

Intractable Woman: A Theatrical Memo on Anna Politkovskaya

September 23, 2018

Exhibiting talent and charm but with relatively impassive vocal deliveries are the trio who portray Anna Politkovskaya and other characters such as soldiers, medical personnel and military officials. They are Nadine Malouf, Nicole Shalhoub and Stacey Yen. They’ve been styled to have similar appearances and directed to be distant so that their performances are in the mode of recitation rather than distinctive characterizations, resulting in a lack of emotional impact. [more]

Hurricane Party

September 21, 2018

The intellectual level of "Hurricane"’s characters may not be as high as George, Martha, Nick and Honey’s.  Nevertheless they reveal their inner psychological turmoil, secret fears, secret yearnings and sense of isolation with equal intensity.  Thigpen’s astutely observed dialogue and Maria Dizzia’s vivid whirlwind direction lift "Hurricane" from foul-mouthed melodrama to passionate character study. [more]

Antigone in Ferguson

September 21, 2018

The 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown inspired this exuberant concert-style presentation of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy entitled "Antigone in Ferguson." Director Bryan Doerries’ faithful adaptation lasts an hour and is performed by a rotating name cast in connection with a lively choir. Mr. Doerries’ proficient staging transforms it all into a novel, entertaining and emotionally charged experience. Tickets are free by making a reservation. [more]

The Other Day

September 21, 2018

A play that tends to say or do too much can often end up saying too little. Such is the case with "The Other Day," a play in which one development after another keeps cancelling each other out. In the opening scene, which also marks the beginning of their relationship, Mark and Santo don’t exactly meet cute, but they do get right to their problems relating to life--and to each other. They are, after all, at a “Narcotics Anonymous Meeting, divulging their addictions and their problems. [more]

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties

September 19, 2018

The actual subtitle of Silverman’s play gives one pause: “In Essence, A Queer and Occasionally Hazardous Exploration; Do You Remember When You Were in Middle School and You Read About Shackleton and How He Explored the Antarctic?; Imagine the Antarctic as Pussy and It’s Sort of Like That.” While this might suggest that the play is overwritten and self-indulgent, it belies the concise, tight writing and structure of Silverman’s comic/angry play which is always surprising, always inventive, always inducing laughter. The play does use Brechtian supertitles to announce the scenes but these are comic and informative, rather than didactic or preachy. [more]

I Hear You and Rejoice

September 18, 2018

Exhibiting the dazzling wizardry of someone who trained at the École Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Murfi is breathtaking as he clowns, mimes and barrels all over the space while distinctively rendering each character. His synthetic gray hair, malleable facial features, striking eyes that are in constant motion and affable presence enable him to swiftly shift from one denizen to another and he also channels several simultaneously. He plays Kitsy, Pat, a busybody who runs the newspaper store, a family friend, priests, and an assortment of colorful locals. [more]

You and I

September 17, 2018

While Barry was to become famous writing plays about the very rich, the Whites are of the middle class and live on earned money. In the play’s second act, eight months have passed, and money, not so surprisingly, has become tight for both Maitland and Ricky. However, this would be fine if the artificial style of the play and the dated twenties slang did not seem arch and affected. And while director Michael Hardart’s production is always stylish and graceful, he has not helped greatly with his casting or his mannered and theatrical approach to the material. The characters talk in an elevated, literate language but they are basically very simple people, not the kind who sit around tossing off bon mots. Here they speak Barry’s realistic lines as though they do. [more]

James & Jamesy in the Dark

September 17, 2018

"James & Jamesy in the Dark" is apparently the product of a long trial and error rehearsal process according to the aforementioned program notes.  The self-involving process, unfortunately, seems to have insulated them from unintentionally synthesizing themes from the works of Samuel Beckett and Eugène Ionesco (isolation, repetition, existential angst).  Their endless wanderings about the stage mirror Waiting for Godot and their nonsensical dialogue could easily have come directly from" The Bald Soprano." [more]

THE AЯTS

September 17, 2018

Conceived and written by Kevin Doyle, "THE AЯTS" offers sophomoric antics that are a virtual parody of performance art techniques. There’s a lot of buzzers à la Richard Foreman. The show is a presentation of Sponsored By Nobody, “an international theatre company in search of a blue-collar avant-garde” that creates interdisciplinary works of “abrasive theatre.” [more]

Agnes

September 16, 2018

Unfortunately, Worsham’s efforts just confirm the play’s central problem: only the relationship between June and Charlie has any real depth. As for the rest of the characters, although McMullen’s writing is clever, too many of the lines are focused on eliciting laughs rather than explaining why these people are choosing to shelter together. It doesn’t help matters that the play’s lighting by Cheyenne Sykes and sound design by Daniel Melnick are wholly devoted to overdramatizing Charlie’s Asperger’s while failing to offer much-needed periodic reminders of the torrential plot device that keeps everyone from fleeing the cramped apartment. [more]

The Conduct of Life

September 16, 2018

Farce meets tragedy in a fictional unnamed Latin American country in "The Conduct of Life." It’s a raucous yet insightful fantasia about military oppression taking its toll on the populace by the celebrated playwright María Irene Fornés. First performed in 1985 it is being given an inspired revival by the Boundless Theatre Company that is “spearheaded by women and theatre-makers of color.” The play is structured as 19 short, often absurdly funny and sometimes unsettling scenes, some lasting just a few seconds, that total 75 fascinating minutes. [more]

Separate and Equal

September 15, 2018

Though the large ensemble of 11 actors is uniformly first rate--whether going through their balletic paces or tossing the invisible basketball and grasping it by clapping their hands, Pamela Afesi gives a particularly strong performance as Calvin’s mother, Viola, as does Barbra Wengerd as Edgar’s mother, Annabelle. Indeed, the crux of the play comes during an overlapping exchange with these two mothers--whose husbands abandoned their families--and their sons. [more]

Heartbreak House

September 14, 2018

Gingold Theatrical Group’s "Heartbreak House" is an interesting but misguided attempt to update Shaw’s Edwardian masterpiece and make it seem more relevant to our times. Despite the stellar cast, the unfocused production by the usually reliable David Staller undermines much of the play’s humor and message. While the adept cast is stylish, they never gel into a true ensemble. This new version adapted from Shaw’s earlier 1914 script rather than the more famous 1919 published text will be of interest to Shaw devotees who will have never seen this rendering before. [more]

The Naturalists

September 12, 2018

Ms. McCarrick’s appealing premise of redemptive romance is in fact subsidiary to the IRA angle as in the program she states that this event is the inspiration for her play. The two threads haven’t been skillfully fused together, resulting in a disjointed experience totaling 13 scenes.  McCarrick packs in a great deal of backstory to her well-drawn characters and her effective dialogue is marvelously Irish in style with plenty of wit, eloquence and reflectiveness. [more]

In the Bleak Midwinter

September 11, 2018

In 14 concise scenes lasting 85 minutes, Ms. Lyman quite skillfully transforms the familiar premise of a resolute aged person clashing with her relatives over giving up her independence into an engrossing play. The characters are all fully developed, background information is smoothly imparted and the dialogue is a rich blend of humor and emotion. The plot has suspense and resonance as both arguments are set forth with equal validity. Lyman has also written a great part for herself. “I got a nice leg of lamb. Not as nice as what Eileen and Ed used to raise, but now she’s in Florida and Ed’s dead. Costco’s my butcher now.” [more]

beep boop

September 11, 2018

"beep boop," Richard Saudek’s hour-long sad-sack romp through modern man’s constant love/hate bout with technology, is at HERE, the avant-garde arts center in SoHo. Its deft combination of mime, music, audio-visual effects and—yes—modern technology is worth a visit to this very active performance space, if for nothing else than to see Saudek disappear into his laptop. [more]
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