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Plays

Lewiston/Clarkston

November 28, 2018

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is presenting a theatrical event by Idaho theater poet Samuel D. Hunter ("The Whale," "A Bright New Boise," "The Few," "Pocatello," "The Healing," "The Harvest"): a long one-act masterpiece (Clarkston), a 40-minute communal dinner served on picnic tables of what the characters would be eating and a curtain raiser, "Lewiston," which has the same themes and symbols as the later play. Taken as a whole this is a remarkable achievement, probably the best Hunter has created so far. Director David McCallum must be given some of the credit for this magnificent evening, and in particular actor Edmund Donovan who isn’t so much performing as living his character of Chris in "Clarkston." [more]

Chasing the New White Whale

November 28, 2018

Visually impressive due to the inventive work of scenic designer Donald Eastman and director Arthur Adair’s fine staging, "Chasing the New White Whale" is playwright Mike Gorman’s muddled attempt at an epic drama of drug addiction in the contemporary United States. Herman Melville’s classic 1851 novel "Moby-Dick" is metaphorically employed and heavy-handed references and motifs abound. [more]

Life x 3

November 28, 2018

"Life X 3" was first seen in 2003 at the Circle in the Square.  This revival is tauter and funnier.  Perhaps this smaller venue refracts the play in a different way, but these four actors are more convincingly real, not to mention greater pains in the butt.  As the title implies, they get three chances to reveal—and revel in—their egos and idiosyncrasies, each succeeding part bringing out both nuances and bombshells. [more]

Two by Friel

November 27, 2018

The attempt to draw comparisons between two disparate one-act plays by Brian Friel proves forced and effortful. In a program note for "Two by Friel," now playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre, director Conor Bagley writes, “Although written over three decades apart, 'Lovers: Winners' and 'The Yalta Game' speak to each other in sacred whisperings.” In the event of seeing them performed back-to-back, those 'whisperings' prove so faint, they can barely be heard. [more]

Shadow of Heroes

November 26, 2018

While Alex Roe’s minimalist production is both sharp and engrossing, the play offers viewers several problems. Aside from the three main characters, the play has 23 other speaking roles with actors doubling and tripling in multiple roles. Those unfamiliar with the Hungarian names as well as the history may have trouble following the twisty drama as the events pile up. Ardrey uses the awkward device of a narrator actually called the “Author” (played by Joel Rainwater) which helps a greatly but this also leads to a good deal of excess information. At almost three hours, "Shadow of Heroes" is an investment in time but it does pay off in the end. There are very few plays since Shakespeare which attempt as this one does to dramatize such a large chunk of history on stage. [more]

Downstairs

November 25, 2018

Ostensibly about domestic abuse, the evidence is all offstage and we must surmise this from the defeated condition of the heroine Irene played by Ms. Daly. Her husband Gerry (John Procaccino) is involved in some shocking, nefarious business revealed to the characters on stage but never revealed to the audience, nor is the confidential project her brother Teddy (Mr. Daly) claims to be working on which will make his fortune. As such, the thrills are all a matter of guesswork, rather than actual events. [more]

Bernie and Mikey’s Trip to the Moon

November 25, 2018

Playing the developmentally challenged title character Bernie, Stephanie Gould captures the innocence and charm of this young woman, sometimes with broad strokes, but always with sincerity and commitment. A speech impediment called for in the script ultimately comes across as ‘baby talk;’ this affectation is sometimes distracting and annoying, but fortunately never for very long. By contrast, the character of Jeff Goldblum, a young man who Bernie has met in some of her development classes and pursues her relentlessly as a suitor, is revealed to be less-abled by his dialog alone; it’s by what he says, and not how he says it, that the audience understands he is mentally challenged as well. Goldblum is played with humor and disarming quirkiness by Benjamin Rosloff. [more]

Wild Goose Dreams

November 24, 2018

In offering a window on a world most New York theatergoers know little about, Hansol Jung’s Wild Goose Dreams is a fascinating look at Korean culture. On the other hand, what appears to be a Korean obsession with the Internet and smartphones often becomes tedious as it goes on so long without bringing us much that is new. Leigh Siverman’s busy production creates a world of its own but is often overwhelming rather than enveloping. The Public Theater staging, a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse, may be of more interest to Millennials addicted to their electronic devices than the rest of the theatergoing public. However, this may be the trend of the future and older theatergoers may just have to get used to it. [more]

Tom Pain (based on nothing)

November 23, 2018

Hall is not helped by an over-zealous production that, for some reason, turns the Signature’s Irene Diamond Stage into a construction site, complete with drop cloths, ceiling netting and lots of ladders ringing the stage—an odd, misleading choice by set designer Amy Rubin. Jen Schriever’s lighting manages to make this set mysterious. Schriever is also tasked with following Hall/Pain in his travels into the auditorium, using houselights along with stage lights with great skill. [more]

Hype Man: a break beat play

November 21, 2018

“Hip hop gave me my name” says Peep One, a captivating young mixed race woman who is a beat maker; the one who crafts the tune for a hip hop song. This is one of numerous pertinent details imparted in playwright Idris Goodwin’s exhilarating drama "Hype Man: a break beat play." Mr. Goodwin’s vision is theatrical, his dialogue is sharp, and he crafts a clenching scenario.  The title refers to the backup rapper who supports the star rapper by chiming in with his own declarations and stirring up the audience. [more]

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

November 20, 2018

As Michael, the soulful and animated Michael Broadhurst enthralls as he rhapsodizes about his deceased wife, philosophically opines and stalwartly copes. Jonathan Judge-Russo has shattering moments as Edward as he volcanically comes undone while otherwise exhibiting quiet force throughout. With his boyish twang and haunted eyes, Leif Steinert’s Adam is thoroughly charming. Separately and together, each of them achieves the right balance of comedy and pathos that the piece requires. [more]

Eve’s Song

November 19, 2018

Both a theatrical surprise and a very accomplished dramatic work, Patricia Ione Lloyd’s "Eve’s Song" is one of the best theatrical experiences to be had in New York at this time. With a cast led by De’Adre Aziza who is well known to Public Theater audiences, director Jo Bonney, totally attuned to the author’s unique style, delivers an exquisite and provocative evening in the theater. It is always a pleasure to herald the arrival of a new and talented writer, particularly one as masterly and sophisticated as newcomer Lloyd. [more]

The New One on Broadway

November 18, 2018

"The New One," directed by Seth Barrish, is about Birbiglia and his wife’s decision to become parents, the struggles they go through to arrive at pregnancy, and his fretfulness about how becoming a family man will change his life and identity. This is familiar comedic territory but Birbiglia gives it new energy, thanks to the telling details in his stories. For instance, we’ve all heard jokes or seen sitcom bits about how clinics use pornography to help guys produce lab samples of sperm. Birbiglia’s response to the situation is unexpected: he takes the experience mostly in stride, but he is both bemused and amused by the extreme genres of porn provided at the clinic he visits. [more]

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

November 17, 2018

The Classic Stage Company's current revival of Bertolt Brecht’s "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" is not the first to draw comparisons between the sitting president and Hitler. In 2002, or the year after 9/11, National Theatre of Actors presented an all-star production in downtown Manhattan – featuring Al Pacino, no less - comparing Ui to Hitler and President George W. Bush. [more]

Days of Rage

November 16, 2018

As proven elsewhere, Steven Levenson is expert at depicting young people in crisis on stage. "Days of Rage" is very real in its handling of a group of people of similar beliefs living together who have forces that are driving them apart, and as such it is engrossing and intriguing. However, the play’s theme seems to be rather opaque or at least vague in its depiction of college-age radicals at the height of the Vietnam War. While some of the characters are thinly drawn, most problematic is that the catalyst to all the action is a character that we want least to hear from. [more]

American Son

November 15, 2018

“That’s it?” is likely to be one’s reaction at the conclusion of playwright Christopher Demos-Brown’s tidy topical 90-minute racial drama "American Son." Theater enthusiasts often rhapsodize about Broadway’s Golden Age, the 1920’s to the 1960’s, when straight plays filled theaters. Mr. Demos-Brown’s effort does harken back to that era by crafting a well-constructed minor vehicle for actors of the sort that could have played a season, then toured, was made into movie and was forgotten. Kerry Washington and the fine cast make the most of their choice roles under Kenny Leon’s solid direction. [more]

The Female Role Model Project

November 15, 2018

Kim Kardashian West, Melania Trump and Chinese popstar Bingbing Fan appear as wacky contestants on a philosophical gameshow hosted by Oprah Winfrey in the lighthearted, thoughtful and souped-up multimedia performance piece "The Female Role Model Project." It’s a breezy 90-minute exploration of existence from a woman’s perspective with audience participation. [more]

Natural Shocks

November 14, 2018

Played by Pascale Armand, known for her Tony nominated Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in "Eclipsed," Angela is the heroine of Lauren Gunderson’s new one-woman play, "Natural Shocks," being given its world premiere by the Women’s Project at the WP Theater. The play has previously been given over 100 staged readings in 45 states over a period of two months. As much as one wants to admire this tour de force for an accomplished actress, in its current form the play has several problems. [more]

The Little Prince

November 14, 2018

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s wondrous fairytale, "The Little Prince" ("Le petit prince"), has been filmed as a musical, a cartoon, and a musical cartoon and even occasionally staged live, but rarely as energetically and lovably as the EPIC Players Inclusion Company’s production at the Flea Theatre.  The EPIC Players is “a neuro-inclusive theatre company that uses the performing art to empower artists with developmental disabilities.” [more]

Lured

November 13, 2018

Frank J. Avella’s "Lured" at the Theater for the New City practices a bit of theatrical legerdemain.  Ostensibly about the perils of being gay in today’s Russia, Avella takes an unexpected turn into revenge melodrama that almost defeats his main political/social theme.  Considering that Lured is based on real events, at the very least he dulls the important political and social points he is making by having the victims and perpetrators behave equally abhorrently. [more]

Gloria: A Life

November 13, 2018

The play succeeds in part because it takes such an upbeat view of Steinem and her career. Early in the play, the character proclaims herself to be a “hope-aholic”—and her stalwart optimism proves contagious. Yes, challenges to women’s rights have been rife in the last couple of years. But when—at the top of the play—we see projected TV clips depicting the cultural pigeonholing of 1950's women as wives and mothers and little more, it lends our current situation a welcome perspective. “Is this what some Americans are nostalgic for?” Lahti’s Steinem asks skeptically after these clips are shown. It seems inconceivable that even the most retrogressive critic would answer in the affirmative. [more]

Daniel’s Husband

November 12, 2018

What begins as light comedy in Michael McKeever’s well-made play "Daniel’s Husband" becomes deadly serious in this cautionary tale. If the plot seems familiar, this is a return engagement of a successful play that appeared at the Cherry Lane Theatre in April 2017. The same engaging and proficient cast returns and while designer Brian Prather remains the same, the costume and lighting designers are now different. The play has been tweaked a bit but you will probably not notice if you have seen it before. It still packs an emotional wallop in the way events turn out. [more]

Beautiful Day Without You

November 10, 2018

Did Blaze, a Doberman Pinscher, cause the death of Pippi, a German Shepherd-Chihuahua mix? That is the crux of Italian playwright Marco Calvani’s three-character, way-out, occasionally hilarious and absorbing drama "Beautiful Day Without You." This realistic premise’s off-beat treatment is reminiscent of Yasmina Reza’s provocative comic manner and the dialogue has the profane snappiness of David Mamet. It’s a dense 90-minutes that are often confounding but ultimately rewarding. The minimalist presentation serves the material well. [more]

Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade

November 9, 2018

There are some fine elements in the portrayal. Arrow’s Kennedy-clan dialect seems believable—though maybe slightly over-baked at points (especially when, late in the play, he sings bits of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”). Happily, he is able to suggest Kennedy’s deep compassion for forgotten, disadvantaged Americans. But because we don’t see him interacting one-on-one with other characters, he’s hampered in his ability to make this quality fully evident. [more]

India Pale Ale

November 8, 2018

Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus made an auspicious splash with her adventurous and inventive 2016 play Men on Boats about Major John Wesley Powell’s 1868 Colorado and Grand Canyon expedition which was played by all women as a satire of the machismo of this all-male trip. In her new play, India Pale Ale, Backhaus, who is part Punjabi, writes of something must closer to home: the Punjabi community in Raymond, Wisconsin. While the play’s authenticity is palpable in both its writing and acting, the play in its four acts seems to be pulling in four different directions. It is not so much that the play does not have much of a plot, but that is inconsistent in its theme and message. [more]

Waiting for Godot (Druid Theatre)

November 7, 2018

Ms. Hynes has the cast at full speed emphasizing slapstick and employing stylized poses and gestures.  There’s exaggerated choreography-like movement such as extending legs and dipping down, grabbing at each other and jumping. Movement director Nick Winston’s efforts are accomplished if overdone. The plethora of gags and set up punchline recitation gets laughs at the expense of emotional resonance. A few bits are quietly played due to the nature of those specific passages and are quite lovely. Overall, there is a lack of visceral depth to this arguably superficial treatment. The ending brings benign silence rather than communal sighs. [more]

The Waverly Gallery

November 7, 2018

Even with the indelible impression of Eileen Heckart’s magnificent, original Gladys intact, Elaine May overcomes any comparisons as the current Gladys. There is nothing inventive or even artful about her performance: May simply is Gladys and Gladys is May, tracing her deterioration into senility with a remarkable realism. [more]

The Thanksgiving Play

November 6, 2018

Many comic artists have noted that great humor often comes from great tragedy, though, inevitably, sometimes the latter overwhelms the former, and all you’re left with is a lot of indignation and nobody laughing. As the late Joan Rivers once remarked, "comedy is anger, but anger is not comedy." It's a maxim that the Sicangu Lakota writer Larissa FastHorse takes to heart in "The Thanksgiving Play," as she manages to keep us smiling while four white characters attempt to turn a half-millenium of genocide into a 45-minute children's show. [more]

I’m Not A Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce

November 5, 2018

Purring sensually with a slight nasal New York accent, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and a black tie and handling a microphone while in front of its stand, actor Ronnie Marmo vocally and physically conjures up the presence of that monumental performer in his imaginative self-written solo show, "I’m Not a Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce." The rascally Mr. Marmo’s haunted facial features, wild eyes and styled dark hair all evoke an accurate resemblance. [more]

Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara

November 5, 2018

Delightfully growling in a quasi-Middle Eastern accent, her head encased in a babushka, plastered with makeup, wearing a flowing robe and hobbling on a cane, Sandra Bargman is terrific as the title character and anchor of "Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara." It’s playwright Fengar Gael’s cheeky fantasia that tells of this unseen witch from William Shakespeare’s "The Tempest." [more]

Prinze: The One-Man Show

November 5, 2018

Sonera opens the show with Prinze doing one of his sets at the Improv Club in New York City, 1976, beginning with one of his famous lines, “Looking good!” and continuing with his sardonic comments about Puerto Ricans (“A lot of people think Puerto Ricans are responsible for cockroaches.”) and civil rights.  He speaks of touring to Florida and the frustration of having to perform in front of old people and then goes on to disparage blacks and gays, all material that would be PI today, but delivered as a “nice guy” who’s just observing the world. [more]

Mother of the Maid

November 1, 2018

Jane Anderson’s "Mother of the Maid" would probably not be very compelling without Glenn Close’s Isabelle Arc as the play itself is following the dots in filling in the little that is known with mostly common historic and unsurprising details. (One exception is after Isabelle has seen the unicorn tapestries at the palace, she naively asks if there were any of the animals to be seen.) However, with Close who gives a constrained and moving performance the play becomes something else: a persuasive portrait of a mother and wife who has an awakening to the ways of the world based on what happens to her daughter. [more]

Good Grief

October 31, 2018

"Good Grief" opens with a celestial sequence and continues with Nkechi’s narration. Sometimes incidents are replayed in order to get them closer to the truth since all are memories and not always totally accurate.  There’s an early fantasy boxing match that seems out of place. The slight plot involves the death of one of the characters and the profound effect it has on Nkechi. [more]
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