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Plays

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 Elephant Man

December 24, 2014

This third Broadway outing of Bernard Pomerance’s "The Elephant Man" has its strengths and its weaknesses. On the one hand, it has Bradley Cooper’s magnificent, commanding performance in the title role. On the other, Scott Ellis’ production is a times superficial when it ought to be trenchant and facile when it ought to be caustic. However, like actors in profound classic texts, the performances in this 19th century tale many deepen over time. [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]

It’s Only a Play

November 27, 2014

The revival of Terrence McNally's theater comedy, It's Only a Play, has the starriest cast in town. It reunites Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick for the third time, and throws in for good measure Oscar Award winner F. Murray Abraham, Tony Award winner Stockard Channing, Harry Potter regular Rupert Grint, and Emmy Award winner Megan Mullally. This is probably just as well as this 1985 farce was slight in its Off Broadway production and in its first Broadway appearance, drastically updated, it seems even thinner. Jack O'Brien, who usually directs stronger stuff, pilots the expert cast around their paces. [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]

Wiesenthal

November 23, 2014

Author Tom Dugan has expertly incorporated obviously well-researched historical and biographical details into this dramatization. Theatrical touches besides the audience as a tour group include phone calls for Weisenthal to answer and speak to other people, including comic chats with his wife. There are also flashbacks with other characters brought in. [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]

The River

November 21, 2014

Hugh Jackman's charismatic, sinister and charming performance is the only reason to see Jez Butterworth's delicate but thin play, The River, Butterworth's next Broadway play after Jerusalem. Unlike Jerusalem, The River doesn't have much story or much in way of a message, though in its form and structure it is a mystery. However, Jackman (in another role in which he is onstage almost throughout the play) commands our attention in a way few actors can and you can hear a pin drop at any moment during the 85 minute evening. [more]

Livin’ La Vida Imelda

November 20, 2014

Mr. Celdran weaves these and many other tales and observations into an compelling event that alternates between inciting laughter and thoughtful silence. With his well-honed recitation, personal charm, fluid physicality, and native perspective, he is the perfect conduit for this material. Director Ralph B. Pena's staging, has Celdran purposefully all over the stage. Nick Francone's set design presents a detailed and whimsical space for the character giving the lecture. Becky Bodurtha's costumes simply and artfully convey the authentic look. [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]

The Erlkings

November 17, 2014

The Columbine massacre is the inspiration for Nathaniel Sam Shapiro's play, "The Erlkings." Mr. Shapiro is a 25-year-old playwright who graduated from Brown University in 2012, and then completed a Masters Degree in Dramatic Writing at New York University's Tisch School of The Arts. This play, his first published, was written and workshopped there. Its grade is not known, but at The Samuel Beckett Theatre it gets a D. [more]

The Oldest Boy

November 17, 2014

Sarah Ruhl's latest play, The Oldest Boy, having its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse, is a magical spiritual investigation into the relationship between teachers and students, and mothers and sons. Based on a true story told to the author by her Tibetan housekeeper, Rebecca Taichman's production uses dance (choreographed by Barney O'Hanlon), ritual and a puppet (designed and directed by Matt Acheson) for three-year-old Tenzin. The play also has the Mother directly address the audience and features breathtaking and colorful lighting effects by Japhy Weideman on Mimi Lien's minimalist but pleasing setting, as well as beautiful Asian costumes by Anita Yavich. [more]

Lypsinka! The Trilogy: The Passion of the Crawford

November 16, 2014

"Ladies and Gentlemen! Miss Joan Crawford!" announces the host. Embodying old-time Hollywood glamour, Mr. Epperson regally enters, wearing an elegant black gown with a bejeweled collar, voluminous crimson wrap, strawberry blonde updo, ruby bracelets, and diamond rings, to the sound of recorded and live audience applause. Then he and the host sit down on puffy white chairs, with black and white hanging dots in the background, a bottle of Pepsi on the table, and proceed to meticulously lip synch to the actual 1973 interview that included the host's questions and those from the audience read from index cards. Off to the side are illustrative slides of Crawford and her career that are projected onto a large screen. [more]

Lift

November 14, 2014

Lift is billed as novelist Walter Mosley's first play to reach New York. He is a wonderful novelist but not yet a good playwright, and this is student work unworthy of a full 59E59 production. The basic setup will be familiar to anyone who has taken an improv class: Tina Pardon (MaameYaa Boafo) and Theodore "Big Time" Southmore (Biko Eisen-Martin) are two strangers who find themselves stuck in an elevator. What will they do to pass the time? [more]

Decades Apart: Reflections of Three Gay Men

November 11, 2014

Mr. Pulos' writing concisely and effectively defines each character. Some could view them as typical gay stereotypes, but with descriptive biographical details and personality traits, they come across as real individuals. Visits to a bathhouse, a public health clinic, and nightclubs are rendered with authenticity. [more]

Lips Together, Teeth Apart

November 10, 2014

When Terrence McNally premiered Lips Together, Teeth Apart in 1991, the world was in the throes of fear over the AIDS epidemic. This long three-act play about how two straight couples deal with their reaction to it must have seemed topical and profound at the time. Unfortunately, 23 years later, in Peter DuBois' revival for Second Stage Theatre, the play now seems dated and talky without the emotional heft to make it still seem important. [more]

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)

November 4, 2014

Underlying all of the storytelling is the archetype of Homer's Odyssey, the story of another journey in another time of war. Many of the characters (Penny, Ulysses, Homer, Odyssey pronounced "Odd-see") take their names from this work. What may be most unusual about this first cycle of plays is that it is one of the few stage works to tell the story of the Civil War entirely from the point of view of African American slaves. [more]

Disgraced

November 3, 2014

That such a devastating scramble of lives can happen in as handsome a setting as John Lee Beatty, magic set designer, manages to evoke, heightens the irony of what takes place there. The rest of the superb production is of equal caliber: Jennifer Von Mayrhauser's so right costuming, Kenneth Posner's so apt lighting, Jill BC Cu Boff's sound. But is this who we are? Where do we go from here? You don't want to miss Disgraced. How are you going to know what the title means? [more]

The Brightness of Heaven

October 27, 2014

"Almost all the families I knew were struggling to find their way forward and make sense of a way of life that was unraveling before their eyes," writes Ms. Pedersen in her author's note in the program. She has a laundry list of period-piece social issues that are superficially covered including abortion, pre-marital sex, the economy, interfaith marriage, homosexuality, Watergate, and The Vietnam War. The writing is often sharp and well observed, with zingers and jokes that effectively register. "If Irish Dementia is only remembering the grudges, than Irish Amnesia is only forgetting the food." "Excuse me, but is this twentieth century Buffalo or fifteenth century Barcelona?" [more]

Back

October 27, 2014

Set in at ill-defined Halloween party raging somewhere in the universe between life and death, Back depicts numerous formerly living Greenwich Village icons, from founding father Alexander Hamilton to Flower Power movement leader George Harris, III. Cookie Mueller—writer, muse to the famous filmmaker John Waters, and AIDS victim—leads the proceedings as this scripted Pride Parade's grand marshal. Filled with recurring mantras, bizarre non sequiturs, and gratuitous nudity, the performance under review (the rotating script allows for different variations at different performances) followed—or, more appropriately—circled around the respective, untimely demise of both poet Frank O'Hara and actress Mueller. [more]

Excuse My Dust (A Dorothy Parker Portfolio)

October 27, 2014

Most of the pieces will be familiar to the readers of The Portable Dorothy Parker: "The Garter," "A Telephone Call," "The Waltz," "Just a Little One," "The Taxi," and a few poems. This is supplemented with bits from more ephemeral work, such as her book reviews. [more]

Billy & Ray

October 26, 2014

Mike Bencivenga's Billy & Ray is the story of Wilder and Chandler's famously contentious collaboration. The lighthearted comedy drama includes an insider's view of Hollywood and a good many famous anecdotes about their fighting over the Double Indemnity screenplay. While it will probably be enjoyed most by those who know the movie and/or the original novel, the play does clue the audience in to what they need to know about the original material as well as its eventual screen treatment. [more]

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

October 25, 2014

Nairoby Otero as Roberta is a wondrous feisty spitfire, whose energy never subsides and deeply conveys the character's poignant sense of despair. Michael Micalizzi hauntingly captures the essence of a hotheaded, lost soul as Danny. They each expertly deliver Shanley's identifiably unique dialogue, getting all of the laughs while achieving pathos. Their chemistry together is tremendous and a huge asset. [more]
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