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Plays

I Know What Boys Want

July 23, 2015

A very powerful and topical theme runs though Penny Jackson’s play, "I Know What Boys Want," but the author’s understandable anger leads to a good deal of melodrama. Tackling the topics of cyberbullying, sexual double standards, and misuse and abuse of the social media are timely and provocative themes and deeply in need of public discussion. However, the play also takes on the topics of drug addiction, teenage drinking, same-sex marriage, date rape, effects of divorce on teenagers, SAT tutoring for rich kids, etc. While the basic story is absorbing, I Know What Boys Want tries to cover a few too many topics in its 90 minutes. [more]

Judith & Vinegar Tom

July 21, 2015

For PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project)’s 29th season they have chosen to pair one-acts by two of their favorite playwrights, Howard Barker and Caryl Churchill, who are also among Britain’s leading dramatic authors but who are not seen here as much as they ought to be. At first glance, the two plays could not be more different, but on closer examination they deal with similar themes, particular as both have strong historical women as their central characters, and offer modern sensibilities on ancient themes. As an addition to the more familiar work of these acclaimed contemporary writers, this makes a fascinating evening for those who follow British drama. [more]

Of Good Stock

July 18, 2015

Plays about three very different sisters go back to Shakespeare’s "King Lear." In modern times, the topic immediately recalls Chekhov’s "Three Sisters" and more recently Wendy Wasserstein’s "The Sisters Rosensweig" and Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, "Crimes of the Heart." Melissa Ross, whose excellent Nice Girl just completed its world premiere at the Labyrinth Theater Company, has entered the fray with "Of Good Stock" with a cast led by film star Alicia Silverstone returning to the New York stage. While the play is entertaining and believable under Lynne Meadow’s direction, it is also overly familiar without revealing any new depths. [more]

POUND

July 16, 2015

Wearing a red plaid shirt, black shorts, and black combat boots, the acclaimed lesbian performance artist Marga Gomez vibrantly barrels through her solo show "POUND" with unflagging comic energy. Lasting 90 minutes, it’s a rambling and exasperating semi-autobiographical fantasia that has laughs but doesn’t satisfyingly cohere. [more]

Awake and Sing! 

July 16, 2015

"Awake and Sing!" seems at first an odd choice for NAATCO, the acting company dedicated to the advancement of Asian actors, but after an initial wary uneasiness, the cast, under the direction of Stephen Brown-Fried, soon takes command of Odets’ dated language, a mixture of poetic metaphor and heightened colloquialisms which was difficult to speak even in the 1930’s. [more]

Shows for Days

July 13, 2015

The production, directed with oddly erratic pacing by the experienced Jerry Zaks, stars the imperious Patti LuPone as the acidly ambitious Irene, the doyenne of a theatrical troupe in Reading, Pennsylvania, in the early Seventies. Wide-eyed, always ebullient Michael Urie, as Car, Beane’s stand-in, becomes her acolyte/scene painter/receptionist/new playwright in the process of discovering a world his suburban existence never hinted at. He is the author’s glib stand-in who keeps the audience in the loop with apt descriptions, editorial comments and sexual confessions. [more]

The Weir

July 13, 2015

Mr. McPherson has written a rich and engrossing play that is appealing in it’s well-crafted simplicity. Each of the five commonplace characters is precisely drawn with biographical details expertly imparted throughout. They all speak in an authentic flavorful Irish manner. The narrative conceit of people reminiscing about past interactions with apparitions is rendered with a matter-of-fact quality and total believability. The beauty of the play is in its depiction of the inner lives and honest exclamations of these small town folk that only gets expressed through their fanciful storytelling. [more]

Araberlin

July 12, 2015

Written almost ten years ago, ":Araberlin" is the story of the mysterious disappearance of Mokhtar (Gabriel Diaz DeSalas), a young man whom it would appear has left America to join an ISIS-like militant group. A bleak story with much in common with the present, the play glides between the past and present, flashing to scenes between Mokhtar with his family, or scenes solely featuring his loved ones following his disappearance. Focusing on the dysfunctional elements in Mokhtar’s life prior to the events of the play, Diaz DeSalas as Mokhtar is an angst-filled young man who hardly had a normal relationship in his life. [more]

10 out of 12

July 8, 2015

While this is a fascinating idea, anyone who has worked in theater will tell you that Tech rehearsals are long and tedious with all the stopping and starting to get the lights, sound, set and costumes right as time is running out. Unfortunately, much of 10 out of 12 falls into this category. At two hours and 40 minutes, the play is a bit of an endurance test for the uninitiated. Although as the Tech rehearsal goes on we get to know the characters better, the play is revealing about only some of its characters. [more]

At the Table

July 2, 2015

Loaded with a bevy of strong-minded characters, "At the Table" pits lifelong friends against each other in the wake of core differences or political beliefs. At any given point in the show, expect commentary on such issues as race, gender equality or identity, abortion, legal use of marijuana, classism, or remarks on a myriad of other topics which—almost as a prerequisite—spark debate. In fact, little actually happens in terms of a plot except for the falling out a few of the friends to make way for new characters in the second act. [more]

Significant Other

June 30, 2015

Joshua Harmon, the author of the bitingly engaging "Bad Jews," is back on the boards with "Significant Other," another modern morality tale.  Again he displays his incredible ear and eye for the behavior of modern twenty and thirty-somethings.  Love, its frustrations and great rewards, is the subject.  The pangs of loneliness, self-imposed or otherwise come in for a good going over, too.    [more]

Gloria

June 27, 2015

His new play "Gloria" goes in another direction, a scathing satire of the media (magazine work, book publishing and television development) as well as the public’s frenzy for the details of high profile news stories. Evan Cabnet who has also piloted new plays by Theresa Rebeck and Christopher Shinn, has cast his crackerjack production with some astute newcomers to local stages (Catherine Combs, Jennifer Kim, and Ryan Spahn) as well as some accomplished New York veterans (Kyle Beltran, Jeanine Serralles, and Micahel Crane) in this always absorbing office drama. The cast is articulate and smooth-tongued as they should be playing people in the media. [more]

The Qualms

June 26, 2015

Norris is interested in examining issues so often argued in black and white terms by drawing out the—pun intended—shades of grey. However, while wryly entertaining and largely incisive, his new work suffers from some of the same missteps as does his aforementioned "Clybourne Park." Namely, he paints Chris—his ostensibly well-intentioned, under-informed, straight white male character—as so downright nasty that it is almost impossible to listen to any of his arguments, however logical some of them may be. While the action of the play operates under the guise of an engaging debate that includes various different perspectives, the scales are tipped and its presentation of arguments is uneven. [more]

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

June 26, 2015

Ms. Winkler’s writing is so simple but exquisite in its execution. In twenty minutes the sad lives of the girls are deftly dramatized with a compelling range of emotion. The direction of John Giampietro is a superb display of the art of stagecraft. The clever fantasy device of the cherry trees is skillfully blended into the narrative with boldness and precision. Lighting, sound and music are all utilized to great effect so that it is all visually quite stunning. [more]

Doctor Faustus

June 24, 2015

Much of the play is directed using Brecht’s so-called alienation effect in which the audience is constantly reminded that this is all a play, a poor choice for a tragedy that wants to put both awe and fear into the hearts of its listeners. Tony Strages’ set design resembles a circus or vaudeville and much of the performance is played on that level. What is sacrificed is the seriousness of the theological and moral issues. There are continual shifts in tone which simply draw attention to themselves, rather than add to the meaning. [more]

The Pavilion

June 21, 2015

Though "The Pavilion" is a play which addresses time as if it were a simultaneous occasion—past, present, and future all occurring at once—the story takes place in the present, at The Class of 1985’s 20 year reunion. Of particular interest, the story focuses on Peter (Dusty Brown) and Kari (Julie Voshell), high school sweethearts who had a storied romance which withered and deteriorated long before the events of the play. Funny at times and touching at others, Brown and Voshell have created a great on-stage relationship which is buoyed by excellent chemistry, and the different dynamics of the two actors gives way to some moments which are very sweet and others which are heartbreaking. [more]

Guards at the Taj

June 21, 2015

Rajiv Joseph’s plays are filled with emotional or physical violence as in "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," "Gruesome Playground Injuries" or "Animal out of Paper." His new play, "Guards at the Taj," being given its world premiere by Atlantic Theater Company, has both. Set in India in 1648, this riveting drama which works on many levels has been directed by Amy Morton, best known for her New York performances in Steppenwolf transfers to Broadway ("August: Osage County" and "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"), and features Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed who are always commanding. [more]

The Tempest

June 20, 2015

The first thing one notices on entering the Delacorte Theatre is how empty the large stage looks. In Riccardo Hernandez’s scenic design, except for a tiny desk on the right and a small pile of rocks on the left, the playing area is simply a large open expanse that is backed by scaffolding which offers a kind of balcony or catwalk and in front of which are hung curtains or screens. On this is projected dark, churning seascapes in streaming video. As the setting for the play is an island, this is initially attractive but as it continues throughout the play, it becomes both distracting and superfluous. The costumes by Emily Rebholz in black and white are also devoid of color. David Lander’s lighting occasionally turns the stage blue, green or red, but this comes as an intrusion to the rest of the concept of the production. Along with the lack of magic until almost the end of this long play, it appears as if Greif’s interpretation of the play were simply to keep things spare and unadorned. Unfortunately, this tale which calls out for enchantment and sleight of hand is not the play to do this with. [more]

This is Mary Brown

June 19, 2015

Brown portrays a myriad of characters including her father, siblings, mother, and other family members seamlessly – giving the audience a taste of what the family dynamic was like. She recounts the joyful moments such as her parents meeting and falling in love as well as the sorrowful ones – the children discovering their mother’s drinking problem and then deciding how to share the responsibility when it came to an intervention. There is no doubt that this Irish family has personality – but the realness and strength emerges from the ashes. [more]

Injunction Granted

June 18, 2015

The recent national rallies to raise the minimum wage have made the Federal Theater Project’s 1936 "Injunction Granted" relevant all over again. This play created by the Editorial Board of the Living Newspaper Unit of the FTP depicting the conflict of labor versus capital in the U.S. over almost 300 years turns out to be powerful theater in this revival by Metropolitan Playhouse. The third of the FTP Living Newspapers to be revived by this theater following "One-Third of a Nation" and "Power," Alex Roe’s lively and inventive production uses six actors to play 200 characters in a vaudeville-like atmosphere. [more]

Office Politics

June 16, 2015

"Office Politics" written by Marcy Lovitch is not only an insightful production, but one that is timely and hits home for today’s society. Under Aimee Todoroff’s direction, Office Politics examines the impact of a racist comment in an office setting and the fight for justice to be served. The story line and overall message extends beyond the hierarchy of a typical corporate setting – where most times, major issues are swept under the rug to avoid excess attention – and shines the spotlight on the effects that ignorance and stereotypes have on an individual and the life she is fighting for every day. [more]

You Are Confused!

June 16, 2015

This compelling and moving solo play recounts Yoel's gradual coming out that starts in 1986 when he was ten in Caracas. Comical and dramatic incidents in his childhood, harrowing events during his high school and college years, and his arrival in New York City at the age of twenty-one are vividly presented. [more]

Mallorca

June 10, 2015

A simple message is at the center of Sheldon Bull’s new play" Mallorca." As timeless as the theme may be, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is self-evident. Surrounding the dysfunctional friendship of four men, in some way every character in this play has left an important aspect of his life unattended. [more]

Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait

June 10, 2015

“Don’t step on the sand,” cautions the usher as she hands out programs and directs patrons to the their seats at The Gym at Judson. Indeed, the stage and floor is filled with sand that’s been artfully arranged into a barren vista of mounds and dunes. There is a concrete staircase leading to the roof of a small structure. Above is a rectangular screen where later images of the sky and a forest are projected. There is a concrete block with a pole in it on stage. Unfortunately Raul Abrego’s impressive set is the most outstanding feature of playwright Daniel Talbott’s cryptically titled and exasperating 90-minute War Is Hell fantasia, "Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait. " [more]

An Act of God

June 9, 2015

This 90-minute intermission-less play is a comic and occasionally serious address to the audience by God who often sits on a large white couch as he revises The Ten Commandments. Some are kept and some are replaced by new ones during his arch analysis of human history. Angels Gabriel and Michael who also go out into the audience to take questions assist God. [more]

Devoted Dreams

June 5, 2015

Directed by Anna Bamberger, "Devoted Dreams" is a mind-boggling production. It would seem as if the objective was almost to minimize this production as much as possible, as a challenge to play against the mythical and high-concept subject matter. Despite the short-sighted production values, there are also structural problems in the script which were not concealed in the slightest by the casting decisions and certainly didn’t help the actors. Though it is true in some cases that less is more, in this particular situation the concept might as well be thrown out the window. [more]

The Spoils

June 5, 2015

Can an obnoxious, sadomasochistic nerd be the central character of a play? This is the thought that will run through your mind as you watch Jesse Eisenberg’s third play, "The Spoils," being given its world premiere by The New Group. As it turns out if you knew Ben, the latest role Eisenberg has written for himself, you would probably run the other way. However, staged by The New Group’s artistic director Scott Elliott,"The Spoils" is absorbing theater and you sit riveted to see if Ben will get what he deserves.  [more]

Permission

June 3, 2015

Robert Askins’ hilarious and engrossing new play is set in Texas just like his Hand to God also produced by MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2014 and now on Broadway. And just like "Hand to God," this comedy-drama is about needy, unfulfilled people, but this time it is about adults, rather than damaged teenagers. He writes full rounded characters and clever, believable dialogue that reveals the speakers at all times. Here and in "Hand to God," he also deals with fresh subject matter not seen on our stage before. While nothing really shocking happens on stage in Permission, it is most definitely for adults – and prudes should stay home. [more]

The Two Gentlemen of Verona 

May 31, 2015

For those who saw Fiasco Theater’s inventive and clever version of "Into the Woods" at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre earlier this year, you know what a delightful take this company has on material that has previously been performed in a traditional manner. If you didn’t see their Into the Woods or their previous production of "Cymbeline," then you are in for an absolutely delightful treat with their latest production, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," now at the Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Performed with a cast of six talented and resourceful actors (five of whom were members of both the "Cymbeline" and "Into the Woods" casts) in a barebones production which hits all its marks, this early Shakespeare comedy is always hilarious, always surprising, always accessible and always romantic. [more]

The Way We Get By 

May 31, 2015

Mr. LaBute achieved prominence by writing and directing the films "In The Company Of Men" (1997) and "Your Friends and Neighbors" (1998). These scabrous works were followed by the unsettling play "The Shape of Things" in 2001, where a young woman seeks to physically transform her nerdish boyfriend into the perfect man. In succeeding years New York City has seen the premieres of a succession of such idiosyncratic formulaic explorations of the relationships between men and women. Here, this shtick is weak and totally unrewarding. [more]

Nice Girl

May 28, 2015

Set in Boston in 1984, "Nice Girl" is the story of Josephine “Jo” Rosen (Diane Davis), a 37-year-old secretary who lives with her mother. Davis’ Jo is the epitome of a “nice girl.” She keeps to herself, puts others first, and is afraid to say how she really feels in spite of clear emotional stress. Davis is an actress with immense emotional depth, and provides a varied and complex look at a protagonist whose self-inflicted pain, from an outsider’s perspective, is frustrating and also subtle enough that it feels totally conceivable. [more]

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]
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