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Plays

Garbageman

March 20, 2022

Unfortunately, Huff the author of the psychological puzzler "A Steady Rain" in which Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman starred in on Broadway in 2009, and who has written  episodes of the television shows "Mad Men," "House of Cards," "American Crime," here exhibits a lack of dramatic construction. After a slack 35 minutes of wayward exposition there is finally some semblance of an actual plot. The lumpy first act lasts an hour and 20 minutes; the tauter second act runs 45 minutes. Together "Garbageman"’s two acts are a semi-satisfying experience. This is its world premiere so perhaps future incarnations will be more refined. Thankfully, its cast has stamina and delivers terrific performances. [more]

Coal Country

March 18, 2022

Songwriter Steve Earle, a three-time Grammy Award winner, returns providing homey, twangy music and acting as an understanding host/narrator.  With charm that belies the depth of Coal Country’s horror, he pulls the audience into the sad story, sometimes musically underlining the confessions of those involved, most particularly the tale of the sole survivor of the disaster, Tommy, played with passion and an undertone of survivor’s guilt by Michael Laurence. [more]

Tiananmen Requiem

March 18, 2022

The play itself is suitably dramatic and thought-provoking; as a piece of theater it should continue to be presented to enlighten future audiences. This particular production isn’t quite up to the task of delivering the play to maximum impact. [more]

Bruise & Thorn

March 17, 2022

C. Julian Jiménez’s "Bruise & Thorn" is not for everyone. Older theatergoers may be put off by both the raw language and street slang that they will not know. However, if you want to know what the younger playwrights and audience members are thinking you cannot afford to miss this over-the-top Queer Ball event. Pipeline Theatre Company’s production has to be seen to be believed. [more]

Man Cave

March 15, 2022

Page 73’s world premiere of John J. Caswell, Jr.’s "Man Cave" is an exciting, riveting supernatural horror story. While at times it seems overwrought and overstuffed with too many issues, Taylor Reynolds’ production works beautifully holding our attention until the final moment. Its satisfying ending seems totally in keeping with the events that precede it and its ensemble of four is completely believable as they attempt to deal with seemingly overwhelming contemporary issues. [more]

Hart Island

March 13, 2022

Whether or not Tracy Weller’s "Hart Island" directly harkens back to Masters, it certainly has similarities, most particularly in its poetically rendered revelations of the underbelly of life and death. Weller turns Hart Island, impeccably rendered in Christopher & Justin Swader’s set occupying most of the Gym at Judson, into a dark metaphor revealing more than any statistics or headlines could ever do about existence during the Covid pandemic. Hart Island is where the bodies of indigent and anonymous people wind up, usually buried by prisoner work details from nearby Riker’s Island.  Of course, during the last two years Hart Island’s necropolis has burgeoned both in reality and in Weller’s imagination as fertile in this time as Masters’ was in his. [more]

This Space Between Us

March 9, 2022

The world premiere of Peter Gil-Sheridan’s "This Space Between Us" gives itself away in its title: it is about a dysfunctional family that does nothing but argue when they get together. Jonathan Silverstein’s production for Keen Company bills itself as a comedy but unfortunately there are few if any laughs. While the author has an ear for realistic dialogue, he demonstrates little talent for plot, with the play as linear and predictable as could be. The only wrinkle in this timeworn theme is that the protagonist’s father is Cuban-born while his mother is American, and his Aunt Pat is a nun. One gets the feeling (possibly misplaced) that there is a semi-autobiographical element and the author is too close to his material. [more]

On Sugarland

March 8, 2022

Aleshea Harris’ third New York stage play following her form-bending "Is God Is" and "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" is epic in all senses of the word: it includes poetry, dance, incantation, comedy and drama. The new play "On Sugarland," an anti-war drama, also harks back to the Greeks, borrowing characters from Sophocles’ "Philoctetes" and Euripides’ "The Trojan Women," as well as the concept of the Chorus. It tells three interwoven stories as well as one communal one and ends with a shocking finale that is the hallmark of Greek tragedy. Director Whitney White’s production with its cast of 14 is quite versatile and lives up to its lofty task. [more]

A Touch of the Poet

March 8, 2022

Director Ciarán O'Reilly confidently lets the clever cast explore their characters' profound complexities, which means forcing the audience to simply accept a few psychological contradictions. At its best, watching the play feels like eavesdropping on a real family whose lives are unfolding before us naturally. Dramatically, it's a little messy but also much more human. Where the play falters somewhat is at the very beginning, with a long, exposition-laden exchange between a gossipy bartender (James Russell) and Con's old war buddy (Andy Murray) that is less a scene than an information-delivery system. Fortunately, the put-upon Russell and Murray enjoy later opportunities to put their estimable skills to better use. [more]

Jane Anger

March 8, 2022

Puns, witty repartee, double entendres, verbal wordplay out of Abbott and Costello, sight gags and slapstick all abound in playwright Talene Monahon's zany, edgy and accomplished historical comedy, "JANE ANGER or The Lamentable Comedie of JANE ANGER, that Cunning Woman, and also of Willy Shakefpeare and his Peasant Companion, Francis, Yes and Also of Anne Hathaway (also a Woman) Who Tried Very Hard." During a breezy 90 minutes, four offbeat characters cavort in a room; laughter is plentiful. [more]

Out of Time

March 5, 2022

Conceived and directed by Les Waters, his staging of Out of Time is of purposeful simplicity. The actors are seated, standing or in motion fulfilling the intentions of each author. The stage is set with scenic designer dots’ atmospheric assemblage of gauzy curtains and minimal furnishings which abstractly suggest different locales and tones. Reza Behjat’s clinical lighting design and Fabian Obispo’s modulated sound design successfully accentuate and realize each of the diverse works. Black, white and red are the colors of Mariko Ohigashi’s smart costume design. "Out of Time" is a fine opportunity to experience some stimulating new dramatic writing and uniformly superior acting. [more]

The Unamerican

March 2, 2022

So rages legendary Right Wing Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in playwright Claude Solnik’s well-observed historical fantasia about the 1950’s anti-Communist Blacklist, "The Unamerican." Besides a comically accurate Hopper, Mr. Solnick offers rich portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan. The romance of Miller and Monroe and the clash between those male friends and colleagues over their disagreements of how to deal with testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) are perceptively rendered by Solnick’s erudite research and keen writing. A highlight is the background of "The Crucible," with Monroe reciting a speech from it. When "The Unamerican" focuses on the interplay between its four main characters it soars. [more]

English

February 28, 2022

You may have never thought about it before but you are defined by your language. Your identity is shaped by the words you have and the words you don’t. You can say certain things in one language but not in another. Being bilingual you have one identity, two, or have a split personality. Learning a new language may be like finding a new identity as an adult after you have learned to live with the old one for a long time. These ideas are all beautifully handled in Sanaz Toossi’s lovely, poignant new play, "English," under the astute direction of Knud Adams, now being given its world premiere in a co-production between Atlantic Theater Company and Roundabout Theatre Company at the Linda Gross Theater. We grow to care about the characters as we watch them struggle with learning English as though their lives depended on it. [more]

sandblasted

February 27, 2022

A woman’s arm falls off soon into playwright Charly Evon Simpson’s engrossing allegory, "sandblasted." Ms. Simpson’s tone beautifully mixes the comic with the wistful, her dialogue is glorious, and her characters are appealing. Structured as 18 punchy short time-shifting scenes, with duologues, trialogues and monologues, the play builds to a stirring conclusion. Simpson quotes Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett in stage notes, their aesthetic influence is evident. The setting is a sandy landscape, the time is “now. after. future.” [more]

First Down

February 27, 2022

A plea for understanding the pain of being Muslin-American, Sevan’s First Down at the 59E59 Theaters focuses on the plight of an adored football player who decides to kneel and pray during the national anthem rather than stand at polite attention, hand over heart. Quarterback George Berri (a handsome, well-built, sensitive Peter Romano) is a mid-westerner with pale skin and a name that doesn’t necessarily connote his Muslim upbringing. After the Star-Spangled Banner is played, Berri, a young Lebanese/American, is first seen.  He is on his knees praying in the locker room well after the game is over. Soon Coach Bill Fitzgerald (Larry Bull, finding every nuance in what could have been a clichéd macho role) enters and the structure of First Down begins to manifest itself: three conversations of increasing emotional power beginning with Coach Bill, then Berri’s agent and finally his impassioned mother. [more]

The Daughter-in-Law

February 24, 2022

The Mint Theater Company which gave the first New York production of "The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd," Lawrence’s best play and one of the great British tragedies of modern drama, has revived "The Daughter-in-Law" which it first staged in 2003 in an excellent new production again directed by Martin Platt. While the authentic and thick Midlands dialect (developed with specialist Amy Stoller) may be a problem for some theatergoers, not only does it get easier as the play develops but the local slang is easy enough to figure out. Unlike the other two plays in the trilogy, the engrossing Daughter-in-Law is not usually considered autobiographical (Lawrence had not married Baroness Frieda von Richthofen Weekley at the time he wrote it), but it was written at the time of his very autobiographical Sons and Lovers which has similar themes: mothers and sons, and wives and husbands. [more]

The Same

February 20, 2022

Lisa and The Other Lisa are the two characters in acclaimed Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s haunting short play, "The Same." The conceit that The Other Lisa is Lisa 10 years ago is soon discerned. That’s achieved through Mr. Walsh’s alluring dialogue and stirring reveries which combine the poetic, the mundane and the cryptic. By the end of 47 entrancing minutes, one has experienced Lisa’s life in Ireland with its high points and disappointments. [more]

Made by God

February 17, 2022

It's just that, as the fictional Eva supplants the non-fictional Ann onstage, the play reverses course and sacrifices its human scale back to the rhetorical, with pro-life Eva and pro-choice Michael's gentle discord eventually turning toward the upcoming 2018 Irish referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Actually, the far more spirited debate is being held in Eva's own head as her religious upbringing wrestles with a sense of culpability for a recent tragedy that has cast doubt on her previously rock-solid convictions. Unfortunately, the much too-on-the-nose parallels between Ann's fate and what is tormenting Eva's conscience amount to a bundle of contrivances that touch off a cascade of underwhelming revelations not nearly as thought-provoking as the play's beginning scenes involving Ann and Mikey. [more]

The Merchant of Venice (Theater for a New Audience)

February 16, 2022

Arin Arbus, resident director at Theatre for a New Audience, staging her tenth classic for them took a great risk with her new production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: not only putting this 1597 play in modern dress, she has made Venice diversely multicultural as well as having the Jewish Shylock played by an African American. All of these things might have backfired and looked out of place. Surprisingly it all works, due to her spare, stripped-down direction, her fine cast, the nearly bare stone setting by Riccardo Hernandez which suggests an elegant Greek amphitheater, and her star, John Douglas Thompson with whom she has worked four times before in an assortment of classics. Along with the work of voice director Andrew Wade, the diction is crystal clear and Shakespeare’s verse sounds conversational and newly minted. [more]

Wolf Play

February 15, 2022

Hansol Jung’s "Wolf Play" is a fantasy on several levels but it is also rather confusing in its details. Inspired by the true case of an Asian adoptee who was “re-homed” on the Internet when his new American parents no longer wanted him, the play also conflates this with the idea of the lone wolf who does not assimilate into a society of like animals. In addition, the Korean adoptee is played by a puppet that is manipulated by a character called “Wolf.” The author who is particularly interested in the families we choose makes the new parents a queer entity, adding another level of complication to the storyline. [more]

Barococo

February 14, 2022

Mandell’s costume and wig design are exquisite, perfectly defining each character in their own distinct look and style with numerous fabrics and colors and without overlap. Each of the actors’ performances are as unique as their costumes. Grastorf gets many laughs from her wide-eyed, innocently naivety (or just plain dimwittedness), and Mark Jaster’s puffy bravura and expressive face are delightfully campy. Mandell’s cantankerous bawdiness is perfectly chosen for her character, and Thomas plays the narcissistic Dauphine with laughable presumptuousness. Vernon’s pretentious, foppish roguery is spot on for his role, and Caleb Jaster as the simple musician interacts perfectly when called upon. Each actor’s facial expressions, gestures and gaits are very distinct and in line with their characters. [more]

Specially Processed American Me

February 9, 2022

Who knew that SPAM has figured so importantly in Korean and Korean-American cuisines?  Jaime Sunwoo’s "Specially Processed American Me" tells that story and much more. "Specially Processed American Me"—check out those first letters!—uses SPAM as a metaphor to explore the huge subject of the Korean War, SPAM and her own intimate, moving autobiography as a Korean-American. [more]

Tambo & Bones

February 8, 2022

The dynamic W. Tré Davis and Tyler Fauntleroy deliver rousing performances as Tambo and Bones. Each is possessed of a limber physicality, superior comic timing and dramatic depth. Their immense chemistry is such that they appear to be long-time show business partners instead of just actors in a play. With their imposing physiques, close-cropped hair and vocal talents, Brendan Dalton and Dean Linnard are hilarious as the robots. Taylor Reynolds' fizzy staging realizes Harris’ vision with theatrical flair, each scene is perfectly presented. Lighting designers Amith Chandrashaker and Mextly Couzin and sound designer Mikhail Fiksel respond to three diverse settings with resourceful artistry. Composer Justin Ellington’s delightful original music ranges from jaunty melodies to rap tunes. [more]

Prayer for the French Republic

February 8, 2022

Joshua Harmon’s latest play, the dense, untidy, brilliant and timely Prayer for the French Republic, is his most ambitious, epical play covering five generations of one French Jewish family with relatives in America as they negotiate the troubled landscape in a time when Marine Le Pen, president of the National Front, an anti-Semitic, xenophobic and Islamophobic organization, may win the election for president of France.  Marcelle and Charles have to consider if France is still safe for their family which includes 28-year-old daughter Elodie and if not where they should go. If you think none of this has anything to do with you, Marine Le Pen is currently running for President of France once again and the Manhattan Theatre Club at New York City Center Stage I has a husky guard on watch throughout the performance in Manhattan – that is the world we live in. The play also contains the most dramatic scenes to be played on a New York stage in many years. David Cromer’s production is riveting in its intensity and as a play of ideas it is very accessible even to those who have not been following recent current events. [more]

Long Day’s Journey into Night

February 7, 2022

But, again, O'Hara does these actors no favors, forcing them to contend with incongruous historical information while also depriving them of the greatest acting benefit O'Neill's four-act play affords: time. The characters' drawn-out, if not periodically downright tedious, interactions are fundamental to establishing the family dynamic and, more importantly, necessary for giving the work it's much-needed oppressive weight. It's nice that O'Hara wants to spare us from that suffering, but it doesn't help the play. [more]

Shhhh

February 6, 2022

Warning: "Shhhh," a world premiere commissioned by Atlantic Theater Company from Clare Barron, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-winner for "Dance Nation," may just be the most visceral play you will ever see, describing all bodily fluids graphically from saliva to urine to feces and blood. It is not for the faint-hearted. "Shhhh" is meant for those who like adventurous, cutting- edge theater, performance that pushes the envelope.  You may not like it but you will not easily forget it. [more]

The Collision / The Martyrdom

January 30, 2022

Throughout these plays there resonates an overarching message of female empowerment, a message that provides depth to the otherwise light comedy being served up. Nuns are habit forming, that’s what people say, and this viewer wanted nothing more than to run back and see this show again. [more]

Skeleton Crew

January 29, 2022

Set in the breakroom of a stamping plant in 2008, Ms. Morisseau achieves a high level of dramatic writing with this well observed exploration of Black working-class life. Each of the short scenes is perfectly crafted, imparting exposition, plot points and narrative momentum. Morisseau also has created four vivid, appealing and humane characters who speak her authentically rich dialogue and who are majestically performed. [more]

Di Froyen (The Women)

January 24, 2022

The New Yiddish Rep’s (David Mandelbaum, artistic director) production of the Yiddish language "Di Froyen (The Women)" is a bittersweet, anger-inducing portrait of modern day Chasid women caught between orthodox Jewish ideology and the rush of modern society’s laws and attitudes into their lives. Adapted by Malky Goldman and Melissa Weisz from Naomi Regan’s "Women’s Minyan," "Di Froyen," in one compact, tense hour, opens up a previously secret world to the public.  Here are six women, all wearing sheitels (wigs that orthodox Jewish women must wear because showing their own hair is proscribed by religious law) and all under immense pressure from within and without their enclave. [more]

Addressless: A Walk in Our Shoes

January 21, 2022

Turning the plight of New York City’s homeless into a game is an iffy proposition to say the least.  At best, the audience for the theatrical effort, "Addressless: A Walk in Our Shoes," learns about the daily terrors facing this disenfranchised population; at worst, the interactive game overshadows the very same awful truths turning homelessness into a superficial search for more and more points. The Zoom audience, giving advice to the actors who portray the unfortunate avatars of three luckless souls, takes the focus off of their tragic, often inescapable circumstances. [more]

Ectoplasm

January 18, 2022

"Ectoplasm" counts among its themes and topics: poetry, women’s rights, prostitution, women’s suffrage, love, death, the paranormal, the supernatural, fraudulent mediums – and the love that dare not speak its name, except here it is openly discussed, circa 1912. Each and every character has an agenda which is too many plot devices, while the actual plot never quite resolves itself. While the play has been given an elegant physical production, the script does not entirely hang together or feel satisfying. [more]

This Beautiful Future

January 17, 2022

First presented in London in 2017, this shimmering U.S. premiere affirms its acclaim. The Australian-born Ms. Kalnejais’ writing is highly crafted, imaginative and affective. Kalnejais was inspired by a 2016 museum exhibition containing W.W. II-era film footage to create this entrancing historical tale during a sense of worldwide political chaos. “I wanted to write something hopeful and delicious and gorgeous and put something gorgeous out into the world,” she has said in an interview. [more]

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

January 13, 2022

Her nine years on SNL would seem excellent preparation for "Search" which requires her to portray ten different characters alternately. However, although Strong has tremendous stage presence, she has not yet grown into all of the roles or given all of the characters (nine women and one man) distinct, separate voices. While still a tour de force for one performer, the play seems dated after 37 years with one scene using a coin pay phone and several references to the Equal Right Amendment (ERA), neither of which are in common parlance anymore. On some level, a good deal of the play takes place in the past (Betty Friedan, LSD, Rupert Murdoch, “I mean the Women’s Movement isn’t that old,” etc.) but as no years or dates are mentioned, it feels like it is taking place now which seems like a mistake. Without the intermission, the show presents too many stories to take in all at one sitting. [more]
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