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Plays

Don Juan

May 27, 2015

The Pearl Theatre Company’s express aim in reviving this curiosity according to translator Jess Burkle, responsible for this world premiere adaptation, is “to connect the experience of the play in the original French to American audiences in 2015.” Burkle’s method is to use “alliteration, idiom, and mixed metaphor” as “the key to getting us all to pay attention to Moliere’s glowing words.” Much of the problem with Hal Brooks’ production is that while all of the characters aside from Don Juan (who is clothed as a rock star) are dressed in 17th century costumes, the text is made up of contemporary language. [more]

The Flatiron Hex

May 27, 2015

Godwin's talent in seamlessly operating the puppets is an impressive sight and the use of old-fashioned materials, such as a slide projector to represent a lab was a nice choice in this age of advanced technology. The classic "mad scientist" imagery is perfect for evoking historic New York. Some choices are definitely not for the squeamish and audiences should prepare themselves for certain sights and sounds that will definitely prompt a reaction. [more]

Ensemble Studio Theatre’s 35th Marathon of New One-Act Plays: Series A

May 24, 2015

Founded in 1968, this theater company is, “…committed to the discovery and nurturing of new voices, and the continued support and growth of artists throughout their creative lives.” Ensemble Studio Theatre's 35th Marathon of New One-Act Plays: Series A fulfills this noble goal with its enticing and often quite remarkable variety of works. Series B and Series C will follow and all will run through several dates in June. [more]

New Country

May 24, 2015

In addition to his superior writing achievement, Mr. Roberts also plays the complex old codger, Uncle Jim. He has written a grand vehicle for himself, and his performance is as tremendous as his writing. Blusteringly entering, carrying a garish blow-up sex doll, and resembling a grizzled Duck Dynasty figure with a big scraggly beard, wearing a cap, camouflage gear and orange sneakers, he instantly gets laughs. With a unique, guttural, singsong twang, he delivers numerous zingers, but soon the pathos and depth of this disaffected character is poignantly revealed. [more]

Blood Red Roses: The Female Pirate Project

May 23, 2015

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this devised piece is the venue itself. Boarding the Lehigh Valley Barge off the docks of Red Hook, Brooklyn, is like taking a literal step off the land and a figurative step back in time. During normal business hours, the old barge is a museum dedicated to New York City’s rich maritime history. During the run of this production, however, the rickety, wooden fixture serves as the galley of a ghost ship. At the performance under review, thunder crackled in the distance and the makeshift stage bobbed in the Upper Bay’s stormy waters while the players carry on in costume designer Emily Blumenauer’s grungy, Victorian seafarer wear; if nothing else, "Blood Red Roses' is a chillingly atmospheric evening of theater. [more]

The Butter and Egg Man

May 22, 2015

George S. Kaufman’s only solo effort, the 1925 satire, "The Butter and Egg Man" is a colorfully exaggerated snapshot of the nitty-gritty, seat-of-your-pants theater of a prolific decade when two men could do it all: casting, hiring designers, booking theaters and, of course, raising the dough. How things have changed! It’s the money, and the chicanery involved in raising it, that animates the plot of The Butter and Egg Man. The title, in fact, refers to the rich dilettante who can be duped into investing in a clunker, here played by a wide-eyed Ben Schnickel who makes Peter Jones a sweet guy from the sticks who finally finds a backbone and love. [more]

Forever

May 13, 2015

The press performance under review left audiences hanging on her every word, as Orlandersmith painted a picture of the challenging and draining relationship she had with her mother, including the arguments, the name-calling, the shame and her mother’s constant need for security and attention. Well-spoken and tuned into her emotions, Orlandersmith has a true ability to connect with a large room, making them feel every emotion and sensation that she was feeling. She didn’t sugarcoat one detail and her authenticity aided in processing each thought and feeling, and ultimately allowed Orlandersmith to rise above her past. [more]

A Queen for a Day

May 10, 2015

If the casting of four powerhouse actors hadn’t been the case—including Proval’s "The Soprano"’s co-star Vincent Pastore--this play would not falter. Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s writing is consistent and engaging, and the dialogue between the characters is so fluid and effortless that it feels like two real people having a conversation. Full of powerful social commentary, this is a dark, exciting, and at times violent story with a little bit of something for everybody.   [more]

Cool Hand Luke

May 10, 2015

Director Joe Tantalo’s striking, minimalist production has no scenery and virtually no props. It marvelously relies on purely theatrical imaginative devices. Mr. Tantalo’s accomplished, choreographic staging and the performances achieved yield often intense experiences. [more]

Love Me

May 7, 2015

Charlie is an amiable, 31-year-old struggling actor, writer and motivational speaker, who chickens out while calling a woman from a Village Voice personal ad. He soon becomes romantically involved with Carol, a successful lawyer, and later the temperamental Susan, a controlling singer. During these complications, we meet an assortment of colorful best friends, sidekicks, and view a satirically enacted commercial casting session. Most crucial is “Charlie’s Head,” which is the theatrical device of his subconscious being represented by another actor. This alter ego is always present, commenting on the action with the honesty and insight that Charlie is often unable to articulate. [more]

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore

May 6, 2015

We associate Jacobean revenge tragedy with the reign of King James I. Each play’s atrocities seemed to dare the next playwright with an unspoken “Can you top this?” Playwright John Ford continued the genre under the next king, Charles I, coming up with new and even more lurid variations. Red Bull Theater which specializes in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is offering a staging of Ford’s rarely revived masterpiece "‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore." While artistic director Jesse Berger has piloted a solid production which is a good introduction to this unfamiliar play, it all seems a bit tame when the script seems to cry out for tremendous excesses. As always, however, with Red Bull productions, the diction in this revival is impeccable and totally intelligible. [more]

American Moor

April 29, 2015

A play that has much opportunity to expose the relationship of casting director with actor, not merely across the table but across racial backgrounds and stereotypes begins as it promises. Enter Cobb, a large black man, anxiously awaiting the call of the casting assistant as he proceeds to unapologetically disturb the entire waiting room with his nervous behavior. The thought of playing Othello brings back memories of his youth and a single theater teacher unwilling to allow him to play any role other than that which he might be traditionally cast in for an assignment. As the character’s exposition is beginning to evolve, the casting agent interrupts us. We can tell the actor has an agenda to prove; that now as a grown man in this audition things will be different. [more]

Airline Highway

April 29, 2015

Unlike D’Amour’s last New York play, "Detroit," a Pulitzer Prize finalist which had four characters and a tight arc, "Airline Highway" is diffuse and sprawling with a large cast of 16 actors ably piloted by director Joe Mantello. Set in the shabby, rundown Hummingbird Motel on New Orleans’ Airline Highway, the play introduces us to a colorful but down-and-out cast of characters just eking out a living: Krista, a now homeless stripper in her 30’s; Tanya, a 62-year-old hooker and drug addict; Terry, an African American handyman always in need of money; Francis, a 50ish poet who seemed to have missed his moment, and Sissy Nan Na, a transvestite bartender and karaoke wrangler on Bourbon Street of African American and Puerto Rican descent. The motel is managed by Wayne, in this late 50’s, always good for a soft touch or ready to tell his life story. [more]

Wolf Hall, Parts One & Two

April 28, 2015

As deftly adapted by British playwright Mike Poulton and vigorously directed by Jeremy Herrin, the plays on the stage of the Winter Garden vividly bring to life the British court and its intrigue during the early sixteenth century, from about 1529 - 1536. Poulton wisely leaves out Cromwell’s childhood and youth described in the first novel and begins with him as lawyer to Cardinal Wolsey where the real story begins. However, like the published books, many of the major events take place between the scenes and the characters meet up to discuss the outcome. These are not plays for those who have not read the novels or are not familiar with the historical events or characters as there are too many people and relationships to keep straight if one doesn’t. Nine of the actors play one character each, the rest play between two and four. [more]

The Indelible: The 11th Annual East Side Stories

April 26, 2015

Rodriguez, Brown and McNeill all go that extra mile to establish a connection - and make eye contact with every single audience member contained on the three sides of the theater. As they share their stories, the emotion and passion used to bring out the truth in each of these East Village residents is well translated from a period in time to the present day. While the historical elements are fascinating and provide context, the ultimate theme of acceptance, finding a guiding light to outshine the world's cruelty, and celebrating life creates a lasting impact. [more]

The Belle of Belfast

April 24, 2015

The ample set by John McDermott is an intelligent divide between interior and exterior life, the run down streets of Belfast and a humble, wooden and warm rectory. Contemplation goes on in both places, be it perils of war or morals. Famed film director Claudia Weill returning to the New York stage establishes this well. Each character has his or her place and is well defined. Weill has a clear vision of the conflict at hand. Impressive music, explosions and street noise punctuate the scenes artfully with sound design by Daniel Kluger. [more]

The Unexpected Guest

April 23, 2015

Set in South Wales in the 1950’s, "The Unexpected Guest" (first produced in London in 1958) is a mystery surrounding the events that led up to the death of Richard Warwick, patriarch to the Warwick fortune. In the opening minutes of the play, his lifeless corpse is discovered by Michael Starkwedder (Nicholas Viselli), a seemingly random stranger who—upon driving his car into a ditch—stumbled up to the Warwick Estate in search of assistance. Upon discovering the body, Michael is confronted by Laura Warwick (Pamela Sabaugh), now widow to Richard. [more]

39 Steps

April 23, 2015

Working from Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon’s 1995’s original concept, Patrick Barlow’s adaptation is a witty, tongue-in-cheek, homage that recreates the plot of the film, with comic flourishes. There are also verbal, musical and visual references to other Hitchcock films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, North By Northwest, The Lady Vanishes, Vertigo, The Birds, Strangers On a Train, and Psycho. There’s an updated nod to Downton Abbey. [more]

Hamlet

April 17, 2015

The first problem is the attractive modern setting by Walt Spengler of the wedding breakfast of Claudius and Gertrude with a huge cake in the background. The issue is that the table and the cake remain on stage for the entire evening, a terrible distraction. Does this palace have only one public room? The next situation is that Pendleton has chosen to cut both ghost scenes so that the audience is never told that Gertrude had an affair with her brother-in-law or that Claudius poisoned his brother Old Hamlet. The problem that this creates is that young Hamlet has to be played as paranoid as we have no way of knowing what the off-stage ghost told him, nor do we know what is bothering him when he acts so badly to his mother and step-father. [more]

Hand to God

April 16, 2015

Though operating under the guise of a rather nonsensical comedy, Askins’ play is actually a sophisticated examination of how we handle grief. The text depicts two competing sides of a boy newly without a father and in the throes of puberty: while Jason appears too innocent to ever do anything wrong, the sock on his hand offers a convenient outlet for his bad behavior. Laced in this dichotomy are hints of schizophrenia, allusions to autoerotic stimulation, and a critique of the Christian notion that “unholy” behavior exists outside of the pure self and thus can be forgiven and eliminated. The question literally “at hand” is as follows: is the puppet actually possessed or is Jason mentally ill? If the latter, to what extent should the otherwise sweet boy be held responsible for the evil puppet’s actions? [more]

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now

April 15, 2015

Like Laura Eason’s "Sex with Strangers" seen at The Second Stage last summer, "The Undeniable Sound of Right Now," her new play having its world premiere in New York in a joint production of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Women’s Project Theater, has a pulsating urgency that pulls you into it from the moment the lights come up. Director Kirsten Kelly, another long time Chicago resident along with Eason, has obtained dynamic characterizations from her cast of six including Jeb Brown, Margo Seibert and Daniel Abeles. While the play has a rather abrupt and unsatisfying ending as well as its clunky though accurate title, it brims with the authority of real life rather than theatrical artifice. [more]

UNDERLAND

April 15, 2015

By: Courtney Marie Annie Golden and Daniel K. Isaac in a scene from “UNDERLAND” (Photo credit: [more]

A la Carte: A Feast of New Plays

April 15, 2015

"A la Carte: A Feast of New Plays" is a presentation of The Workshop Theater’s leading playwrights that consists of six short plays, all with the theme of food. Most of the works are comic though some are very moving. The styles all vary but the level of writing of each is solid, and contains interesting situations and characters. Cumulatively it’s an entertaining program that gives a wonderful showcase to the excellent cast of actors that have been assembled to portray these often rich roles. [more]

Skylight

April 13, 2015

With its ravishing, precise dialogue, very fine structure, and expertly imparted exposition, Skylight, is a model of accomplished playwriting. Mr. Hare is known for his Leftist political beliefs with which he infuses his plays. Here, in early post-Thatcher Britain, he has his characters eloquently debate their clashing world views, along with differing personal takes on their relationship. [more]

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

April 8, 2015

Since Bedlam theatre company arrives on the radar in 2013, theatergoers have left their performances as devoted fans. Beginning with acclaimed productions of "Hamlet" and "Saint Joan" in the fall of 2013 and an extended run in the spring of 2014 with casts of only four actors, they returned last fall with a delightfully faithful and inventive stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s "Sense and Sensibility." The same four actors who appeared in Bedlam’s "Hamlet" and "Saint Joan" are back (along with Susannah Millonzi) in two alternate versions of the same Shakespeare comedy, one titled "Twelfth Night" and the other, "What You Will." Minimalist and clever to the nth degree, the "Twelfth Night" performance under review brought the audience to its feet at the end of the two (ingenious and intermission-less) hours. [more]

House of Tards

April 5, 2015

Director Paul Dobie’s staging gives the show a fast pace and well utilizes the small playing area, which is the upstairs cabaret theater of The Stonewall Inn, the historic gay bar on Christopher Street, where it is performed once a week on Thursday nights. It premiered there in October 2014 and ran through December 2014. It has returned to New York following engagements in Los Angeles and San Francisco. [more]

Martyrs Street

April 2, 2015

Shulman is a skilled story teller, creating characters that are real and complex: honorable people that make mistakes, some misguided, some well-intentioned or ruthless. People we all know, maybe even in our own families. Shulman makes the head of each household, two women, the focal point of the play. Noor, which means light in Arabic, is a widowed professor at the university with a 16-year-old daughter, Aisha, and a son, Nimer. She doesn’t wear a headscarf, and spends time alone with her late husband’s friend Salim (Alok Tewari), which is frowned upon in the community. Noor received an order from the Israeli government that her house is going to be taken down in 30 days. [more]

Five Times In One Night

April 2, 2015

Through a series of five two-character scenes, Atik’s play charts the evolution (or lack thereof) of sex in humanity. While one segment depicts Adam and Eve fumbling through their first discovery of intercourse, another shows a pair of apocalypse survivors struggling to repopulate earth. In between, Atik includes a medieval couple’s epistolary romance, another couple’s post-breakup fling from “last week,” and a third’s inept attempt at exploring fetishes “next week.” Each with their own unique angle, Atik’s five self-contained shorts add up to a heartfelt, whimsical look at the reasons we pursue sex and the means we employ in order to have it. [more]

The Book of Moron

March 31, 2015

“Who Are You,” recorded by The Who, starts off "The Book of Moron." It’s a well-crafted 80-minute theater piece of observational stand up comedy written and performed by Robert Dubac. The title is a pun on the musical, The Book of Mormon and is representative of Mr. Dubac’s comic sensibility. Those who find him funny will have a great time at this show, and those who don’t, will have a tough time. [more]

Posterity

March 30, 2015

In Doug Wright’s "Posterity" at the Atlantic Theater Company two monumental cultural figures of 19th century Norway lock horns in a battle of wits and sensibilities with tragic results. Wright, who seems to have a penchant for writing about real people (viz. "Quills," "I Am My Own Wife," and "Grey Gardens"), here, takes on Henrik Ibsen, monumental 19th century playwright, and sculptor Gustav Vigeland, forty years his junior. [more]

Irreversible

March 23, 2015

Josh Doucette, Hugh Sinclair and Jordan Kaplan in a scene from “Irreversible” (Photo credit: [more]

The Mystery of Love & Sex

March 23, 2015

Bathsheba Doran’s new drama, "The Mystery of Love & Sex," now at Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi E. Newhouse, is yet another play whose title is a misnomer. The story is really about friendship and self-identity for a young college-age couple who grew up together in a Southern suburb. Along the way, the play brings in racism, sexism, homophobia and religious mania, as well as the confusions of youth, as the couple try to maintain their close relationship while falling in love with other people. Although director Sam Gold’s cast is made up of veteran actors Diane Lane and Tony Shalhoub and newcomers Mamoudou Athie and Gayle Rankin doing fine work, the play’s first act is entirely exposition and is basically used to set up the situation. This is a play that would do well to lose its intermission as it really doesn’t begin until its second act. [more]

The Heidi Chronicles

March 22, 2015

The maternal ending was considered problematical in 1988, but seems less of a copout in 2015. In fact, the feminist thrust of the play has also dulled in the ensuing decades, making Ms. Wasserstein’s play far less effective as an instructive tool. " The Heidi Chronicles" has always been weighed down by too much polemic passed off as drama. What keeps this production afloat now is the incredible filigreed and witty lines that so quickly delineate each character’s foibles and feelings. [more]
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