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Plays

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

September 9, 2018

Using a format that has worked for him before in his George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein evenings, Hershey Felder has returned to 59E59 Theaters in a charming biographical musical as legendary songwriter Irving Berlin. As Felder narrates his story becoming Berlin, he also sings and plays over 30 of his most famous songs, as well as some not so familiar today, including “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas” and the iconic, “God Bless America’. [more]

In the Penal Colony

September 9, 2018

Director Miranda Haymon’s electric staging of her pared down yet faithful adaptation is filled with dialogue characteristic of Kafka and bracing sequences. Basketball is a key visual metaphor as the performers mime shooting hoops, run in place, do pushups and vigorously glide from bit to bit. Ms. Haymon’s commanding technique is combined with technical production achievements. Zack Lobel’s intense lighting design and sound designers Anthony Dean and Matthew Catron’s blaring whistles and pulsing renditions of electronic music all yield to an entrancing presentation. This plays out on scenic designer Tekla Monson’s stark bare black-accented set that is backed by a mirror. [more]

Private Peaceful

September 8, 2018

Wearing a realistic period uniform and donning a metal helmet, the youthful and animated Mr. O’Regan recalls the electric persona of the young Tom Courtney as he vividly portrays numerous characters besides the wide-eyed Thomas. Utilizing his rich vocal talents and wiry physique, these strong characterizations include his solid brother, a vicious old woman, and various martinets. If nothing else, Private Peaceful showcases O’Regan’s considerable talents. [more]

Intrusion

August 31, 2018

More in the style of informative advocacy event for the lecture circuit then a theatrical work, "Intrusion" wanly tackles the subject of rape. "I set out to create a show that addresses the systemic problem of rape culture from an intellectual standpoint…” is how writer-performer Qurrat Ann Kadwani describes her solo play that was inspired by the 2012 fatal gang rape of Jyoti Singh in India. Ms. Kadwani’s intellectual approach is the problem. Instead of a raw depiction of the topic, this is a dry recitation. [more]

Scraps

August 31, 2018

This production is presented by The Flea and the cast is drawn from their resident acting company, The Bats. Exhibiting heartbreaking resilience Alana Raquel Bowers as Aisha dominates the play. The captivating Tanyamaria is very funny yet conveys Adriana’s melancholy. With his lithe physique, sunniness and serene presence Michael Oloyede’s performance as Calvin is commanding. Roland Lane’s charisma and animation enrich his portrayal of the difficult role of Jean-Baptiste. [more]

Days to Come

August 29, 2018

"Days to Come" fills in the gap in Hellman’s career between her first play, the controversial "The Children’s Hour," and the immediate successors, the hugely commercial hit and often revived, "The Little Foxes" and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award-winning "Watch on the Rhine." Completists will want to see this play which has not been seen in New York for over 40 years. The Mint Theater Company’s revival of "Days to Come" is an example of a worthy, lost play whose problems haven’t yet been solved – if they ever will. See it now as there probably will not be another chance anytime soon. The Mint is to be applauded for taking a chance on this rarely seen, but estimable failure. You will not be bored but you may not be convinced. [more]

Remnant

August 29, 2018

War, time and death are hauntingly explored in the eerie high-tech performance piece "Remnant," a company project by Theater Mitu. It’s based on interviews with a cross section of people that have been shaped into a swirling and absorbing event. The audience wears headsets as they experience the show while watching the actions taking place inside of three separate “boxes” named A, B and C. Original and previously composed songs including one by Kate Bush are performed to great effect, as are electronic melodies. [more]

Henry VI (NAATCO)

August 22, 2018

Presented by NAATCO (National Asian American Theatre Company), it has a virtually all-Asian excellent cast of sixteen, several of whom play roles of opposite genders. Creatively conceived by Stephen Brown-Fried and superbly directed by him, his Orson Welles-like vision transcends the difficult material. This sterling production is also an inspired example of Americans succeeding at Shakespeare. [more]

The New One

August 17, 2018

Comedian/monologist Mike Birbiglia, best known for "Sleepwalk with Me," has the remarkable knack of finding humor in autobiographical crises that shouldn’t be funny but in his hands are uproarious. His latest show, "The New One," is just as hilarious as the previous ones. When Mike and his wife, the poet Jennifer Hope Stein, got married he pointedly told her that he did not ever want to have children, and she agreed. Ten years later Jen has changed her mind and tells him, “A baby wouldn’t have to change the way we live our lives,” probably the understatement of the century. [more]

Less Than 50%

August 17, 2018

Though there are recurring references to Woody Allen and more specifically to "Annie Hall" during the 90-minute piece, "Less Than 50%" bears as much resemblance to that Oscar-winning film as Gianmarco does to a matinee idol. (According to Gianmarco, his play is not a “rip-off” of "Annie Hall," as Laura says it is, but an “homage.”) It’s telling that instead of the hysterical scene with lobsters in the kitchen in "Annie Hall," we have to contend with a mouse and a mousetrap in "Less than 50%." [more]

Pushkin

August 10, 2018

Gambling, palace intrigue and poetry abounds in playwright Jonathan Leaf’s imaginative and engrossing historical drama "Pushkin." In the course of two acts and numerous scenes, the eventful life of the great Russian author is skillfully dramatized during this lavish presentation that takes place from 1834 to 1837. [more]

Straight White Men

August 10, 2018

Given how physically playful the brothers are with each other--and with their father--"Straight White Men" is that rare play that even has a credited choreographer, Faye Driscoll. In addition to making good on the promise he made in last year’s "Call Me By Your Name," that he was an actor to be watched--and not only because he’s so attractive--Armie Hammer proves especially deft with Driscoll’s many maneuvers, like leaping on or off the sofa or the coffee table. [more]

Beloved

August 9, 2018

Translated into English from the Swedish by Charlotte Barslund, Ms. Langseth’s trite sexual obsession scenario is reminiscent of the novels of Patricia Highsmith and the French thriller films of Claude Chabrol. Langseth lays on sociological concerns to give the work more cultural heft. There are bromides about the class system and rebelling against the patriarchy. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Plays: Series A

August 8, 2018

Along with its twists and turns, Bohjalian’s "Grounded" is so fully explored that it is hard to believe that it is a first play. On the long wait on the runway at Kennedy Airport for a flight bound for London, stewardess Karen discovers that her co-worker, 24-year-old Emily who has been in this line of work for two years, has a fear of flying and has never flown over the ocean. When Emily begins her story she reveals that her life coach thought she was too grounded and dared her to become a stewardess. [more]

Wars of the Roses: Henry VI & Richard III

August 7, 2018

That renowned man of the theater Austin Pendleton’s concept to adapt and combine portions of William Shakespeare’s "Henry VI, Part 3" with Richard III is intriguing and textually successful. The first 40 minutes give background of the English Civil War in the 1400’s, impart exposition, flesh out the motivations of Richard III, and depict his adoration of his father, the Duke of York. This mashup also gives a fresh spin to those only familiar with "Richard III" and there’s plenty of neat stabbings. [more]

The House That Will Not Stand

August 7, 2018

Gardley makes use of a little known piece of American history: while Louisiana was under Spanish and later French rule, it had a three-tiered racial system. Aside from white settlers and black slaves, there was a third class: free women of color (mostly Creoles) could enter into a relationship with white men as common-law wives. Their children could inherit part of their estates. Some of these so-called “colored” women became extremely rich. This system was called plaçage and such women were known as placeés. The lighter the woman’s skin color the higher her social caste. However, when Louisiana was sold to the new United States in 1803, this system was frowned upon and eventually went out of style around 1813 due to legal challenges. [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2018

The plays in Summer Shorts 2018 - Festival of New American Short Plays have often had a theme running through all the offerings in one evening, however they were concealed or obscured. This year’s Series B is about two-character relationships at a tense moment in their developments, sort of sparring partners as one of the plays calls it. Unfortunately, the plays in this series by Neil LaBute, Claire Zajdel, and Eric Lane all need further work as they are premises rather than finished plays. [more]

This American Wife

August 2, 2018

Reveling in their grating vocal affectations, gesticulating at a fever pitch or moving catatonically and projecting snarky personas they hold forth on their revered subject in various permutations that are video broadcast without making any impact. This involves interviewing each other, acting out bits from "The Real Housewives" and mouthing the words to scenes from it. Periodically the clips are also on the back wall’s large screen with their images superimposed.  Personal asides include discussions of being single, a cold take on pornography and their fabulous lives.  At one point, Mr. Breslin sheds his hat to put on a blond wig and women’s clothing to furiously dance in what is supposed to be a tour de force. [more]

My Life on a Diet

August 2, 2018

Hence:  "My Life on a Diet," a comically rich stroll through her career in TV, theater and film.  Written by Taylor and her late husband, Joseph Bologna and originally directed by Bologna, Diet is currently at the Theatre at St. Clement’s where a contagiously comfortable Taylor, elegantly attired (gown by Pol’ Atteu) settles down in Harry Feiner’s kitschy, carpeted set to schmooze with her audience.  Taylor, now in her eighties, begins with some self-deprecating humor about aging, after showing herself at various stages in her life. [more]

Tevye Served Raw

July 30, 2018

Three actors—Yelena Shmulenson, Allen Lewis Rickman (Velvel in the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man”) and Shane Baker (“the best-loved Episcopalian on the Yiddish stage today”)—manage the feat of bringing five of Aleichem’s stories—adapted and translated by Baker and Rickman—to life under Rickman’s incisive and warm direction.  Sourcing the original, nitty-gritty shtetl-soaked tales, makes "Tevye Served Raw," if possible, more passionate and involving than the musical. [more]

Fire in Dreamland

July 27, 2018

Built in 1904, Dreamland was considered the most elegant and ambitious of Coney Island’s amusement parks--until it burnt to a crisp in 1911. A new play by Rinne Groff, "Fire in Dreamland" is ostensibly about the disaster, in which no humans but most of the animals perished. But to add that it’s set a little more than a century later--in 2013, or some months after Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast--should begin to suggest that there’s more going on here than, unfortunately, ever meets the eye. [more]

Le Blanc

July 26, 2018

A central concern of the play is detailing Wellington’s five love interests: a white guy he meets at a hilarious Brooklyn vegan party, an Indian young man, an 18-year-old Muslim food cart vendor, his older married agent and the drug dealer he’s known since his California days. Well into the show there’s a rapid bit where each of them enter as Wellington imparts factoids about them and it’s a neat theatrical device that swiftly informs us of the pertinent details. However, previously we’ve spent a lot of time repetitiously going back and forth between these figures.  This thread’s deficiency is compounded by the play’s incessant non-linear structure as we get the same basic information over and over in a different order. [more]

Brecht on Brecht

July 25, 2018

But when things slow down a bit, especially during the musical interludes and longer dramatic pieces, Petosa’s eight performers -- four lead (Christine Hamel; Jake Murphy; Harrison Bryan; and Carla Martinez) and four supporting (Miguel Castillo; Sebastian LaPointe; Olivia Christie; and Ashley Michelle) -- are an absolute wonder, gracefully tackling a head-spinning array of difficult subjects, including xenophobia, social inequality, and infanticide. And thanks to Hallie Zieselman’s bare set, Annie Ulrich’s modest costumes, and Joe Cabrera’s vibrant lighting, they accomplish it all in a decidedly Brechtian way. [more]

The Possibilities & The After-Dinner Joke

July 25, 2018

If "The After-Dinner Joke"’s 66 scenes seem cinematic, that is due to the fact that it originally was a teleplay commissioned by BBC for the series "Plays for Today" examining public issues. Churchill chose to deal with the politics of charitable institutions. Selby, personal secretary to the sales manager, decides that she gets no fulfillment from her work and tells her boss Mr. Price that she is resigning to be a do-gooder. Price offers her a job at the same salary working as a campaign organizer raising funds in towns throughout Britain for one of the charities that he has founded. [more]

Before We’re Gone

July 24, 2018

Its maddening structure, extraneous scenes and superfluous characters diminish but do not totally obliterate the potency of playwright Jerry Small’s romantic drama, "Before We’re Gone." What could have been a focused and poignant work in the manner of William Gibson’s duologue "Two for the Seesaw" is instead an erratic jumble. [more]

The Originalist

July 23, 2018

n what easily could have become a one-man show, playwright Strand has cleverly created dramatic tension by first introducing us to a second character and later a third. Set during the 2012-2013 term of the Supreme Court, the play begins with a lecture by Scalia to a law class where he explains his philosophy of being an “originalist,” that is, someone who interprets the Constitution as it was originally written and understood by its drafters in 1789. This presupposes that it is not a living document that should reflect each era, but something carved in stone which does not change but may need interpretation. [more]

Stray

July 23, 2018

As the sleek and black-clad Tanya Marquardt vigorously wraps up her self-written 60-minute autobiographical show "Stray," with her giddy dancing and hurling her ponytail around, the aimless first half has been redeemed by the more cohesive second half. It’s been like traveling back in time to Club 57, The Pyramid Club or another of the East Village performance venues of the 1980’s. [more]

The Pattern at Pendarvis

July 21, 2018

Mr. Gray infuses his straightforward 70-minute interview treatment with tension, suspense and drama. A third character, Norm Hansen is a 60-year-old straight married board member of Pendarvis who is a close friend of Hellum’s. He provides skillful exposition and while present at the discussion stuffily keeps trying to steer it away from personal disclosures. The dialogue is smooth, efficient and dotted with references to figures of that time such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Syrie Maugham and Duncan Hines. [more]

The Saintliness of Margery Kempe

July 19, 2018

The cast list in the program reads more like a medieval phone-directory--even if there were no phones in the Middle Ages--than it does a dramatis personae. And then there’s what happens to the characters during the course of the play which is as hard to say as it is to remember all of their names, let alone pronounce them. [more]

Mary Page Marlowe

July 17, 2018

After establishing himself as one of our finest playwrights with such works as "Killer Joe" and "August: Osage County," Tracy Letts seems to have somewhat lost his way with his more recent "Mary Page Marlowe." Now playing at the Second Stage Theater in New York, "Mary Page Marlowe" premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater two years ago. With six different actresses representing the title character at many different times in her life, it essentially relates a single, long life span, in only 90 long minutes. [more]

Innit

July 16, 2018

Structured as a series of confessional vignettes, Innit begins in the school psychologist’s office and alternates between there and Kelly’s home. Her 34-year-old mother works at a sandwich shop and is a part-time prostitute. Her absent ne'er-do-well father abandoned the family and went back to his native Ireland some time ago. Money is tight and so is hope. Kelly is combative and doesn’t really have friends. She gets free cigarettes for allowing boys in gym class to take manual liberties with her. The dialogue is earthy, conveying a youthful sensibility with “dick head” being a favored exclamation. [more]

Get the Boat

July 13, 2018

Though designed as an agitprop exploration with one woman as “Bad” and the other as “Good,” Ms. Brennan's simple yet effective writing elevates it into a quietly powerful work. The dialogue is a skillful blend of mundane details, biographical data and expressions of world views that all strongly delineate the characters. The structure is essentially two women in their 30’s in a room talking. Brennan’s command of plotting injects suspense, surprises and momentum, all combined with emotional resonance. [more]

whatdoesfreemean?

July 8, 2018

Filloux in collaboration with director Amy S. Green have distilled the raw data they gathered into a searing and poignant narrative containing absurdist flourishes that include a talking laboratory mouse. The play is structured as a series of short pungent scenes. Filloux’s dialogue poetically conveys the harsh realities the underprivileged face and their bleak worldview. [more]
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