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Plays

Romantic Trapezoid

November 10, 2017

The problem is that under Albert Bonilla’s stolid and matter-of-fact direction, Elizabeth Ingham and Zack Calhoon's characters never come alive. Just trading quips is not a sophisticated style and as all of their lines are said the same way without variety, it becomes tiresome quite soon. While Donze continually surprises us as Beth, Melissa and Dave remain the same throughout. And the production design doesn’t help much. While the couple discusses what good taste Melissa has in buying Dave’s shirt, Viviane Galloway’s costumes are extremely conservative and colorless, no proof of any special taste whatever. [more]

Lady Macbeth and Her Lover

November 10, 2017

With her marvelously fluty voice, imperious bearing, expressive physicality and animated facial features, Maja Wampuszyc as the haughty Corrine recalls Geraldine Page in all her grand glory. Ms. Wampuszyc is mesmerizing, delivering a searing performance of tremendous depth. She vividly conveys the character’s dysfunctional sensibility with heightened emotionalism and dry humor. [more]

What We’re Up Against

November 9, 2017

With "What We’re Up Against," Theresa Rebeck looks back a quarter century to a time when gender inequality in the workplace was a real problem. Oh, wait…yep, unfortunately, if Rebeck’s script didn’t tell us the year was 1992, it would be pretty easy to believe she was writing about the present, especially given the recent avalanche of news concerning sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry. The story Rebeck tells never sinks to this horrific level, though it’s possible to imagine that it could have, if she had wanted to follow the male anger she portrays to a place it often leads. [more]

People, Places & Things

November 8, 2017

The hype that surrounds an award-winning performance on one side of the Atlantic can often preclude its impact if and when it arrives on the other side. This is not the case, I’m happy to report, with the overwhelmingly powerful performance of Denise Gough who deservedly won the Olivier Award as Emma in "People, Places & Things," a new play by Duncan MacMillan, which premiered in London in 2015, and is now enjoying its American premiere at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. [more]

Must

November 7, 2017

It’s New Mexico in 1881, and during a series of short scenes, Billy contemplates his life.  His stern mother, rough father, stalwart girlfriend and his sly pursuer, Sheriff Pat Garrett, all periodically appear.  The dialogue is stiff, lofty, peppered with profanity and doesn’t impart much biographical details. [more]

The Fight

November 5, 2017

Playwright Jonathan Leaf’s prodigious research, accomplished dramatic construction and clever device of threading a mystery throughout the events make the play quite engrossing.  There’s also the sociological angle as the characters eloquently state and defend their differing beliefs and agendas that include careerism versus motherhood. [more]

Marcel + The Art of Laughter

November 2, 2017

Like the great comedy teams, Jos Houben and Marcello Magni are a study in contrasts.  The Belgian Mr. Houben is tall, animated and relies on breezy patter.  The Italian Mr. Magni is short, often dour and mostly silent.  They have collaborated with Peter Brook at his Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, and have performed together around the world. [more]

Knives in Hens

November 1, 2017

While the script describes the setting as simply a “rural place,” British and European productions apparently have set the play in medieval times. It is definitely pre-industrial as the farmers still need to have their grains ground at a mill and no one has yet seen a pen. Director Paul Takacs, who has staged the equally challenging Dark Vanilla Jungle by Philip Ridley in New York, has reset the play on the American frontier and made use of a multicultural cast. This grounds the play somewhat and makes it easier for Americans to identify with it, but it remains a difficult, challenging play due to its poetic language and its lack of specificity. [more]

Tartuffe

November 1, 2017

Complementing his gorgeous stage pictures, director Craig Smith’s vibrant staging has the actors in constant motion on the small playing area.  The cast precisely paces, dashes and undulates, achieving a propelling pace and focus. Chanting monks roaming through the audience is an eerie highlight.  Slapstick, high comedy, bawdiness and dramatic truth are all vividly rendered by Mr. Smith’s superior sense of stagecraft. [more]

The Last Match

October 31, 2017

With so many interruptions, it hardly makes for riveting theater, and it never becomes as riveting as a genuine tennis match can be, even though one is ostensibly taking place from the beginning of the play to the end, which essentially presents a chronological series of sets between the two players, the Russian Sergei (Alex Mickiewicz) and the American Tim (Wilson Bethel). [more]

Tiny Beautiful Things

October 31, 2017

Cleverly staged by Kail ("In the Heights," "Hamilton," "Dry Powder") on Rachel Hauck’s magnificently realistic set for the ground floor of a suburban house subtly lit by Jennifer Moeller, "Tiny Beautiful Things" is entertaining, poignant and enlightening. You may hear audible sobs at times during the evening as Sugar’s personal stories touch a nerve or a chord in her viewers. Vardalos tells us how she took over the “Dear Sugar” column though she had never written one before nor did she have any training in therapy. Her remarkable success was due to her using her personal experiences as well as her “radical sincerity and open arms.” Her empathy is infinite. [more]

Occupied Territories

October 30, 2017

Well-meaning and sincere," Occupied Territories" is both generic and stereotyped, offering a story television and the movies have been offering for years: the traumatic effect of a father’s Vietnam experience on his family years later. Co-written by Nancy Bannon who appears in the play and Mollye Maxner who directed it, it offers no surprises or new enlightenment. Set in two locales and time frames, the play alternates between scenes in a suburban basement on the day of Stephen Collins’ funeral and scenes from the life of the same man 45 years earlier as a rookie in the jungles of Vietnam. Ironically, the actors playing the soldiers are more convincing than the actresses playing the family members at home in America in the present. [more]

Torch Song

October 28, 2017

While superficially poignant, "Torch Song" remains what it always was: a fierce play about the need for respect as a gay person, when it was painfully more difficult to come by acceptance, let alone respect. And to that extent, it may seem like a dated work, wedded to when it premiered as three one-act plays that were then put together as one, more than three decades ago. It’s still just as moving and tear-provoking as it comes to focus on a gay man whose mother (“the Sylvia Sydney of Brighton Beach”) has to cope with his adopting a young son. With the marvelous Urie and the always-superb Mercedes Ruehl as the mother, how could anything go wrong? Nothing does. [more]

Strange Interlude

October 24, 2017

Martha Graham called her dancers “athletes of God.”  Watching David Greenspan perform all the roles in a six-hour marathon performance of Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 melodrama, Strange Interlude, caused me to wonder what I might call David Greenspan.  Would “Son of Thalia” (the Greek goddess of theater) do? “Olympian of O’Neill”? [more]

Lonely Planet

October 23, 2017

In Jonathan Silverstein’s production, Arnie Burton and Matt McGrath as two friends who handle their fears of an unnamed epidemic in opposite ways do not seem to connect as real friends would. Ironically, while they are both known for their outrageous over-the-top comic performances, here they remain low-key and rather flat. The play may have been more involving if they had been allowed to give the kind of performances which they are most famous for. The play ultimately has a poignant denouement but it takes a long time getting there. [more]

Time and the Conways

October 23, 2017

Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Parry and Anna Baryshnikov in a scene from J.B.Priestley’s [more]

Measure for Measure (Elevator Repair Service)

October 21, 2017

Director John Collins, founder of ERS, has set the play in an office or conference room with three long tables (in Jim Findlay’s design which eventually grows tiresome)  and a great many stick telephones by which the characters often call each other to relay Shakespeare’s lines as if they are working from their offices. The walls of the set become screens for the text to scroll upwards through most of the play; at time we even see it five ways including the ceiling and with four panels in the back as well as on the back wall. Whether this is to remind us that this is a play of language, it is usually distracting and not very revealing. Often the actors speak so fast that it impossible to follow them and then in a brilliant coup de theatre one scene (that between brother and sister Claudio and Isabella) is spoken so slowly that it seems to reveal hidden meanings not noticeable before. [more]

Off the Meter, On the Record 

October 20, 2017

Set designer Charlie Corcoran ingeniously has the small stage’s walls adorned with sections of a yellow cab.  Off to the side is a piece containing the steering wheel from where McDonagh periodically speaks.  Above this, is a screen bordered by vintage billboard pictures. This showcases Chris Kateff’s dazzling projection design that illustratively displays imagery of New York City from various eras, video clips and slides such as the 1975 New York Daily News headline, “Ford To City: Drop Dead.” [more]

The Home Place

October 19, 2017

It is possible to enjoy Brian Friel’s "The Home Place" without knowing the background to this historical play set in rural Ireland in 1878 as a Chekhovian representation of a world about to come to an end. However, the play will be much more meaningful if one knows the historical events that have led up to this turn of events. Charlotte Moore’s handsome and genteel production will be enjoyed most by those who understand the play’s undercurrents and implications. The low-key staging of this subtle play which does not spell everything out requires the audience to be adept at reading between the lines. [more]

Mud

October 18, 2017

While the acting is compelling, the threesome does not reveal many layers to their characters; they establish a persona and stick to it, without divulging any further information. As Mae, Nicole Villamil is both stoical and passive, a rather flat reading of this ambitious though down-trodden young woman. Julian Elijah Martinez’s Lloyd definitely comes from the lower depths with his vulgar language, his self-pity and his inability to help himself. However, there is little variety in his performance and we have no idea what his relationship with Mae has been up to this time. He does get noticeable stronger after he begins taking the pills the clinic has prescribed. Unaccountably dressed in a sport jacket and a tie in Sarita Fellows’ costume design, Nelson Avidon’s Henry is the biggest enigma of the three. At first reticent and later lascivious, he tells us little about his attraction to Mae - or where he comes from. [more]

Burning Doors

October 18, 2017

Nicolai Khalezin wrote Burning Doors with dramaturgy by him and Natalia Kaliada.  Their aim is to bring attention to currently jailed artists Petr Pavlensky and Oleg Sentsov by weaving in their testimonies.  Actors also proclaim from the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Michel Foucault.  Fleeting and sometimes sly allusions to Putin are laced in. [more]

Squeamish

October 17, 2017

hough it’s a one-woman show, Alison Fraser plays a number of characters by speaking in different voices with a certain technical prowess. The principal one is an upper West Side psychotherapist, Sharon, who is ostensibly talking to her own therapist (a “shrink’s shrink,” we’re told) at his apartment late one night. She’s relating the story of her going to her hometown of Lubbock, Texas, for her beloved nephew’s funeral, after he’s committed suicide. But has Eddie really killed himself, like Sharon’s mother did decades ago when Eddie was only three? For that matter, did Sharon’s mother really commit suicide, we’re made to wonder by the end? [more]

Arden/Everywhere

October 16, 2017

Signaling that we’re in for something different, Bauman has redubbed the play "Arden/Everywhere," a hint that home, and the emotional impact of losing it, is at the heart of her reimagining. Largely through design choices, but also some modest changes to the text, Bauman connects the diasporic struggles of the play’s characters to those experienced by the 65 million refugees the United Nations has identified throughout the world today, effectively arguing that, in both cases, the pain is there for anyone to see. [more]

Only You Can Prevent Wildfires

October 14, 2017

The audience sitting on three sides of the airy playing area on wooden benches is part of Clifton Chadick’s super, environmental scenic design.  The floor is covered with wood chips, logs and tree stumps, there are a several jagged wooden poles and a few red fire buckets strewn about.  On one end is a stage area and the other is a screen where Joey Moro’s atmospheric projection design is shown.  The crisp imagery includes fires, nature and abstractions.  For several distracting instances the actors at the other end of the stage are projected onto the screen for no discernable reason other than as an aesthetic flourish. [more]

Androboros: Villain of the State

October 13, 2017

Director Ralph Lewis, apparently not trusting the material – or finding the play too dated – has staged a carnival-esque version (adapted by S.M. Dale in June 2016) which includes 16 songs and musical numbers and making contemporary references to the Trump Administration, as well as current New York City politics. The result, a series of Saturday Night Live political skits, is neither faithful to the original nor witty for a modern audience, more of a confused jumble than a historical rediscovery. [more]

Syncing Ink

October 11, 2017

Mr. Njikam offers a witty take on the classic mythology of a hero’s episodic journey with a lively African-American slant. There are a lot of high school and college scenes with wise teachers referring to James Baldwin and W.E.B. Du Bois, combative students, a dying father and an imperious mother. Rhyming battles, love and enlightenment occur along the way. The narrative is so eventful and spread out that it can be difficult taking it all in and its overall impact is diluted. [more]

…and then I meowed…

October 10, 2017

Marinelli’s performance also contributes to the ennui. Heavy set, possessing a sullen countenance, speaking in a light voice, and lethargically shuffling around, he’s not the most charismatic performer to spend 90 minutes with. In the last portion, when he encounters a lost cat after being stood up on a date, his acting and the play has a jolt of energy and momentum as it reaches its upbeat conclusion. [more]

Tym Moss: (A) Live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!!

October 10, 2017

Possessed of a soaring tenor baritone voice that forcefully hits every note, an immensely likeable persona and boundless energy as he dances with brio, Moss commands the stage for 70 minutes. Periodically overcome with emotion, he gracefully collects himself and moves on. It’s a moving display of therapeutic showmanship. [more]

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord

October 10, 2017

Although director Kimberly Senior who also piloted the Chicago production has staged the play with elegance, she never really turns up the heat so that there are not many sparks in Carter’s debate. Discord, yes; but no fireworks which might have made the discussion more dramatic. The play uses titles on the back wall to name each of the 14 scenes much in the manner of Brecht’s alienation effect. This breaks up the play but is not very informative. The device of the invisible fourth wall being a mirror in Wilson Chin’s all blue-grey interrogation room seems a gimmick to allow the men to face the audience directly for much of the play. [more]

Kafka and Son

October 9, 2017

With only a metal-mesh cage, bed-frame, and a gate--and gobs of black feathers that ultimately litter the stage--Nashman cavorts around the black box set (scenic design is by Marysia Bucholc and Camellia Koo) with abandon. If the challenge of every one-man show is to sustain our attention, Nashman succeeds spectacularly. He has some significant help with evocative lighting by Andrea Lundy, eerie music by Osvald Golijov (performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet), and Cassidy’s direction, which always keeps him in motion. [more]

Mesquite, NV

October 8, 2017

Most of the humor is at the expense of the Mesquite City Council and its steely-eyed mayor Linda Hadley (Liz Amberly) who could be accurately described as a Margaret Thatcher wannabe, if she had any idea who Margaret Thatcher was. With rapacious resolve, she has set her sights on doing something no other mayor has ever done in the entire history of Mesquite: win a second term. She is assisted in this quest by her right-hand toady (Jeff Paul), the financial backing of a shady resort magnate (Jed Dickson), and an underwhelming pool of potential challengers, led by Will Brown (the wonderful Joe Burby) whose hapless sincerity is seemingly no match for the mayor’s small-town realpolitik. [more]

Basement

October 7, 2017

Mr. Hagins has crafted an involving and affective take of a perennial scenario that captures the nostalgic essence of wartime films and plays of the past.  There’s the spirit of "Casablanca" and echoes of "The Voice of The Turtle" and "John Loves Mary," combined with the novelty of the interracial angle that’s tenderly realized. [more]
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