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Plays

The Iceman Cometh

May 7, 2018

Denzel Washington, the raison d’être of this production (coming way too soon after several recent stagings), gives a boisterous, almost pleasant performance as Theodore Hickman, aka Hickey, who is the “Godot” of "Iceman," in whom the godforsaken characters put too much faith, a faith that, by the end of the play, is shown to be clearly misplaced. There is absolutely no foreboding in his interpretation.  He takes the glad-handing aspect of Hickey too literally so it is difficult to understand his sway over the denizens of Harry Hope’s saloon.  True, these depressives look forward to his regular visits, but Washington’s Hickey simply doesn’t fit in. He’s more worshiped than embraced. [more]

The Rainmaker

May 6, 2018

“Never judge a heifer by the flick of her tail” is just one of the many kernels of down home wisdom in playwright N. Richard Nash’s lovely piece of Americana, The Rainmaker. It’s been tenderly revived by the Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company with every role perfectly cast. [more]

Judas

May 1, 2018

With a contemporary sensibility, Mr. Patrick dramatizes the familiar situations with simplicity, lively dialogue and tasteful irreverence. There is also excessive philosophical speechifying during some long-winded debates but these static Shavian bits are offset by the superior production and strong performances. [more]

Transfers

May 1, 2018

As Cristofer, Juan Castano is riveting in his honesty and his assurance. You could hear a pin drop during several of his monologue confessions as to why he didn’t do as well as he might have. His performance is almost frightening in its intensity. As the bookish Clarence, Ato Blankson-Wood is his diametric opposite, well-spoken, sensitive to other people, politically correct, well-mannered and able to hold his own in an intellectual conversation. He is equally intense in a quieter, more refined manner. Although both young actors have impressive New York credits, they should be better known after this. [more]

Daybreak

April 28, 2018

A speech of Madame Arcati’s from Noël Coward’s "Blithe" Spirit recited in Armenian is just one of the many highlights of Nicole Ansari’s awesome performance as Victoria.  The long-haired and physically graceful Ms. Ansari’s crystalline presence, twinkling eyes and tremulous voice are a joy to behold especially when she is supposed to be 90 years old. Ansari’s brilliance is showcased as she simultaneously conveys the character’s despair, resilience and humor as the production’s riveting centerpiece. [more]

The Shakespeare Conspiracy

April 28, 2018

"The Shakespeare Conspiracy" is based on Ted Bacino’s novel of the same title that he and Rufus Cadigan have adapted for the stage. Their effort is not in the league of such highly skilled dramatists as Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard and David Hare who used speculatively historical backgrounds for some of their esteemed works.  Instead, Mr. Bacino and Mr. Cadigan offer a choppy series of overheated episodes and vignettes spanning 40 years, from 1593 to 1633 chiefly taking place in England with plentiful and heavy-handed dialogue. [more]

The Metromaniacs

April 26, 2018

To add that "The Metromaniacs" also contains a play within the play, in which all of the characters are apparently playing themselves, might begin to suggest how confusing it all becomes, especially since they all enter and exit with a rapidity as if there were indeed a fire in the house--meaning Francalou’s no less than The Duke Theater on 42nd Street. [more]

We Live by the Sea

April 26, 2018

Devised collaboratively by Patch of Blue, a London-based theater company, the play also benefits from a talented supporting cast. Alexandra Simonet makes Hannah’s caretaker fatigue evident before she even says a word, but, somehow, you also never doubt her commitment to Katy. And Lizzie Grace is an absolute delight as Paul Williams, especially during a monologue late in the play, in which she pontificates on the importance of imaginary friends and gives insights into Katy that are both touching and profound. As for Ryan, Tom Coliandris does what he can with his character’s tacked-on back-story, but he shines when he’s simply required to be a warm, caring and decent presence. [more]

Mlima’s Tale

April 26, 2018

Structured like Arthur Schnitzler’s wicked "La Ronde," "Mlima" begins with a harrowing hunting scene.  Mlima, the giant elephant, is portrayed with dignity and astonishing physical vitality by Sahr Ngaujah ("Fela!," "Master Harold…and the boys"), in traditional African garb (character-perfect costumes by Jennifer Moeller) and colorful stripes of makeup. His opening moments involve an internal dialogue describing his dire situation chased by hunters.  He speaks of his tight family connections and his regrets just before he is slaughtered. [more]

Dress of Fire

April 23, 2018

The epic myth of the Trojan War gets a fanciful treatment in playwright Nina Kethevan’s "Dress of Fire."  Lasting about 95 minutes, it still packs in a lot of incidents with 12 actors sometimes declaiming classical text often directly to the audience. The visually superb production makes for a rather pleasurable experience even if one can’t keep track of everything, grows restless listening to long soliloquies or is not so enamored of the genre. [more]

Mangled Beams

April 20, 2018

Scenic designer Dedalus Wainwright utilizes a simple assortment of benches and office furniture for the first act. For the second, Mr. Wainwright creates a configuration of gray wood platforms and beams representing Ground Zero that adds an impressive visual and symbolic scope to the small-scale production. [more]

King Lear (Royal Shakespeare Company)

April 20, 2018

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest "King Lear," as directed by Gregory Doran, is one that needs no explanation and no program notes. At one and the same time both medieval and contemporary, this production solves many of the questions that often go unanswered. In a glorious cap to his distinguished career, Sir Antony Sher gives a memorably luminous and unambiguous performance in the title role which should stand as a bar by which others will be measured. This is not only the perfect starting point for those unfamiliar with the play but also an excellent and notable interpretation for those who know it well. [more]

The Seafarer

April 19, 2018

Wearing a funereal suit, a black topcoat and a black fedora, Matthew Broderick as Mr. Lockhart has initial dry pleasantness giving way to chilling steeliness as he takes on the persona of a menacing interloper. With his mustache, gray hair and perfect accent Mr. Broderick has the aura of a drab Irish civil servant. It’s a subtly powerful and mature characterization that’s a far cry from his days of Neil Simon and "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" though Broderick occasionally still has that youthfully sly twinkle in his eyes. Broderick makes his second appearance at the Irish Repertory Theatre where he appeared in McPherson’s "Shining City" in 2016. [more]

Children of a Lesser God

April 16, 2018

A regular on the television series "Dawson’s Creek" and currently appearing on "The Affair," the affable Joshua Jackson plays James. Mr. Jackson’s talents are not showcased in this production. Jackson’s speech pattern is monotonous and his lack of sensuality makes the attraction between him and Sarah less than palpable. He gets through the role with professionalism but with little impact. Others in the cast make up for this void but the vacuum of implausibility looms. [more]

Lobby Hero

April 16, 2018

Ethical integrity versus moral turpitude is the theme of Kenneth Lonergan’s "Lobby Hero" now having its Broadway debut at The Second Stage’s newly renovated home, The Helen Hayes Theater. Although Trip Cullman’s production is very leisurely for at least the first half of this talky and long play first seen in New York in 2001, his quartet of impeccably cast players (Michel Cera, Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley and Chris Evans in his Broadway debut) have a field day with these ethically challenged police and security officers. "Lobby Hero" may appear at first to have a great many meaningless conversations, but it all becomes a tight web of intrigue as the tension rises in the second act. [more]

Happy Birthday, Wanda June

April 13, 2018

War, guns, Vietnam, the excesses of capitalism, toxic masculinity, blind American patriotism and feminism are among the targets of Mr. Vonnegut’s characteristically overloaded satire. Such concerns treated in a mannered fashion were all fodder for his popular novels but for the stage it’s problematic. [more]

This Flat Earth

April 13, 2018

But, unfortunately, Ferrentino squanders this intriguing setup, getting lost in existential musings that end up being nowhere near as complicated as her subject matter. The first signs of trouble are actually percolating even before the play begins. As we enter the theater, Cloris (Lynda Gravátt), Julie and Dan’s elderly neighbor, is already perched in the upstairs apartment of Dane Laffrey’s two-story set. And there she remains for the entire play, a constant presence hovering over the action below. Initially, you wonder about her and, then, you feel sorry for the actor, hoping she’ll be given something more to do than just putter around. Eventually, however, after a couple of pat exchanges with Julie, it all becomes cringingly clear. Cloris isn’t a character at all; she’s an inspirational device, one that Ferrentino unleashes with full, and shameless, force at the play’s tear-jerking conclusion. [more]

The Edge of Our Bodies

April 12, 2018

Rapp’s plays are so different from each other that it is difficult to classify him. As of now he has written conventional dramas, experimental plays, futuristic and science fiction plays, and dramas on hot button social issues, among others. "The Edge of Our Bodies" is in yet another form: a monologue spoken by Bernadette, a 16-year-old girl who has left her boarding school on a Friday afternoon without permission to come to New York City to tell her 19-year-old boyfriend Michael that she is pregnant. Carolyn Molloy, who does not at all look 16, reads her story from a diary for much of the play and her delivery is that of a reading, not a dramatic performance. [more]

Dutch Masters

April 11, 2018

In 70 gripping minutes, Keller takes this familiar premise in a compelling direction. His biting dialogue reflects the divisive era during the mayoralty of the African-American David Dinkins who was defeated in 1993 by Rudolph Giuliani. Michael Stewart and Yusef Hawkins, two young African-Americans whose violent deaths were touchstones of that period are mentioned. Keller weaves these and other cultural references with a commanding sense of dramatic writing into a poignant and suspenseful experience that reaches an emotionally draining conclusion. He also has created two substantial roles. [more]

Feeding the Dragon

April 8, 2018

Under the assured direction of Maria Mileaf in a production which started at the Hartford Stage earlier this year, Sharon Washington is a captivating and entertaining presence both as she narrates her story and also gives commentary and hints of her life since then. Told with the innocence of childhood, "Feeding the Dragon" will also enchant readers and nostalgia buffs alike, for the world that she describes does not exist anymore now that libraries are high tech places ruled by computers and other media – and without apartments for a live-in staff at the top of the building. [more]

The Stone Witch

April 6, 2018

Lauria, best known for his work on "The Wonder Years," makes Simon an immensely private and enigmatic figure. His erratic behavior changes by the moment, keeping Peter (and us) guessing. We are never certain whether he had incipient dementia or is faking or is suffering from malnutrition or dehydration living for so long in a cabin in the woods. This is a big performance and Lauria brings great authority to his role. [more]

Bedlam’s Pygmalion

April 4, 2018

Scenic designer John McDermott has turned the black box space at the Sheen Center into an intimate amphitheater with the audience sitting around three sides of Higgins’ laboratory/study with no viewer more than four rows from the action. When Eliza arrives to arrange for lessons on her small income, we discover what we already suspected: this Eliza has been born in India and she is prone to speak in Hindi when she gets excited, just like her father Alfred Doolittle does when he follows her to Wimpole Street to see what he can get out of her good fortune - when she sends for her things but not her clothes. This adds a new, contemporary level to the play: Eliza is an immigrant rather than an East End cockney which contributes to the play’s current relevance. [more]

Three Tall Women

April 3, 2018

If you pay any attention to the Rialto, then you knew that Jackson was going to be in the play--the play that salvaged Albee’s reputation in 1993 and won him his third Pulitzer Prize--since it was announced last year. And I’m pleased to report, if you were anticipating Jackson doing "Three Tall Women" with high expectations, you will not be disappointed. She surpasses whatever you were expecting with a kind of fierce and cold glory, appropriate to the 92-year-old A. From B’s servitude as A’s nurse, in the first part, to her becoming the somewhat haughty, 52-year-old A, in Part 2, Laurie Metcalf negotiates the character’s huge emotional shift with ease and naturalness. [more]

Babette’s Feast

April 2, 2018

aithful to the story and like the film, this stage adaptation uses narration from Dinesen’s story. However, not only are the actors used as storytellers, some of the characters also narrate themselves. Set in a small town in Berleväg, Norway, the most northern outpost of the continent of Europe, the story takes place in 1883 but flashes back to earlier days using hardly any props, much in the same way that Thornton Wilder’s "Our Town" tells its story. [more]

Leisure, Labor, Lust 

April 2, 2018

Besides depicting the upper crust, the lives of the servants are harshly detailed with inspiration from social documentarian Jacob Riis’ muckraking journalism. There are searing descriptions of the bleak existence in the Lower East Side tenements that include death from cholera.  Ms. Farrington ingeniously grafts the characteristics of Wharton and Riis with her own imaginative powers in her finely written and bold scenario that is set in 1907 and is structured in three acts. [more]

A Walk in the Woods

March 30, 2018

The two talented, delightfully understated actors have taken on these roles with energy and sincerity.  Manning makes Honeyman both simple and complex at the same time while Van Treuren mines Botvinnik’s uncanny ability to charm and frighten at the same time.  You root for them from beginning to end and hope against hope for them to actually produce a treaty. [more]

Dinner with Georgette

March 30, 2018

Michel Foucault and Walt Whitman are quoted offstage at the beginning of "Dinner With Georgette." It’s riddled with pretentious nonsense masquerading as profundity and this bit is a harbinger of what’s to come. The playwright, Obie award-winning theater artist and Brown University alumnus Rick Burkhardt piles on academic inanities for one hour and 40 minutes in this leaden saga.  The abrasive dialogue has the characters refer to themselves in the third person and comment on the actions, addressing the audience directly. [more]

Three Small Irish Masterpieces

March 30, 2018

It’s impossible to discuss the history of modern Irish drama without reference to William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, and John Millington Synge, who, at the beginning of the last century, helped to found the National Theatre of Ireland. With "Three Small Irish Masterpieces," this literary trinity receives a heartfelt, if somewhat exaggerated, nod from the Irish Repertory Theatre, which, over the last few decades, has proven its own indispensability, too. [more]

Admissions

March 27, 2018

"Admissions" is often very funny like when Sherri has to try to explain why Melville’s Moby Dick is not being taught anymore (a book about a white whale by a dead white guy) and when Charlie is annoyed that girls in his class object to reading Willa Cather, a woman and a lesbian rather than a person of  color. Although the play is intended to be unsettling to white liberals, it is too neat in its setup. It would have to be Sherri who has spent 15 years creating diversity at Hillcrest whose son may be affected by affirmative action and Charlie and Perry who have been best friends almost all their lives should be divided by Yale’s admission choices. Perry’s picture in the admissions catalogue is rejected as he photographs white and does not look like a person of color, but to find a group shot demonstrating diversity it ends up having to be staged. And Charlie’s 180 degree change of heart plunges his parents into a great dilemma: do they use their personal contacts to see what can be done, something Sherri and Bill have not been averse to in the admissions office at Hillcrest for others. [more]

Education

March 26, 2018

"Education," Brian Dykstra’s new play, is an incendiary investigation into censorship, free speech and responsibility in electric theater. It purports to be about Art as a Weapon but its themes go much further than that. The protagonist Mick, a biracial 17-year-old high school senior, has a rant that lists all the things wrong with American society at this time which is simply scorching. All high school students should be so articulate. In the astute hands of director Margarett Perry, the play moves like greased lightning. You may be dizzy from the provocative ideas but you will not be bored. [more]

Distant Observer: Tokyo/New York Correspondence

March 26, 2018

Noted theater artist John Jesurun wrote the opening sequence. From 2014 to 2017, Mr. Jesurun engaged in a collaboration with Japanese playwright and director Takeshi Kawamura. They each wrote alternating 10-minute sections with Aya Ogawa translating the Japanese portions into English.  This technique is an homage to the Japanese poetical form renga where different authors contribute to a poem. [more]

Hal & Bee

March 23, 2018

Baker’s lines are spiky and colorful, often dark, sometimes banal, but his portrait of these two and the two lesser characters is always illuminating and full of real emotion.  The fade-out, a quiet revelatory moment, is simply lovely—and sad. [more]
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