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Plays

Self Made Man: The Frederick Douglass Story

December 1, 2014

The creative script by Mr. Wallace and Ms. Levitsky is adapted from Douglass' writings with evocative excerpts from the plays of William Shakespeare, and includes appropriate songs and hymns. Focusing on his early years and detailing the horrors of slavery in the United States in the 19th century, it eschews a typical recitation of "greatest hits," often found in many biographical one-person shows. With a booming voice, tremendous physicality, and a highly expressive face, Mr. Wallace commandingly portrays Douglass and other figures from his life during the show's very well paced eighty minutes. [more]

It’s Only a Play

November 27, 2014

The revival of Terrence McNally's theater comedy, It's Only a Play, has the starriest cast in town. It reunites Tony Award winners Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick for the third time, and throws in for good measure Oscar Award winner F. Murray Abraham, Tony Award winner Stockard Channing, Harry Potter regular Rupert Grint, and Emmy Award winner Megan Mullally. This is probably just as well as this 1985 farce was slight in its Off Broadway production and in its first Broadway appearance, drastically updated, it seems even thinner. Jack O'Brien, who usually directs stronger stuff, pilots the expert cast around their paces. [more]

Major Barbara

November 25, 2014

In the hands of David Staller, founding artistic director of the Gingold Theatrical Group, and The Pearl Theatre ensemble, Shaw's play of ideas becomes a delightfully provocative comedy. This witty 1905 play, in a deliciously acted and designed production which concerns the age-old conflict between "God and salvation" versus "money and gunpowder," has become relevant all over again with its exploration of economic inequality. When the play was written this was heresy – today most people agree with Shaw that poverty is the biggest crime. Dan Daily, Carol Schultz and Richard Gallagher give memorably rich and impressive performances in a production that you will be sorry when it ends. [more]

Tamburlaine, Parts I and II

November 24, 2014

Often credited as the play that proved to the Elizabethans that blank verse was the way to go with stage tragedy, it also heavily influenced contemporary William Shakespeare whose own history plays all followed this play by Marlowe. Performed in three hours with one 30 minute intermission, this Tamburlaine is truly epic in scope. Boyd's production stars John Douglas Thompson who after acclaimed performances in Shakespeare's Othello, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and King Lear, as well as O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, has become one of our finest tragedians. [more]

Wiesenthal

November 23, 2014

Author Tom Dugan has expertly incorporated obviously well-researched historical and biographical details into this dramatization. Theatrical touches besides the audience as a tour group include phone calls for Weisenthal to answer and speak to other people, including comic chats with his wife. There are also flashbacks with other characters brought in. [more]

Lost Lake

November 23, 2014

Auburn doesn't tell us enough about the back stories of these characters so that the portraits aren't fully drawn, and each scene is structured to reveal only one new item for each. However, Hawkes and Thoms fill in a great many of the gaps with their layered performances. [more]

The River

November 21, 2014

Hugh Jackman's charismatic, sinister and charming performance is the only reason to see Jez Butterworth's delicate but thin play, The River, Butterworth's next Broadway play after Jerusalem. Unlike Jerusalem, The River doesn't have much story or much in way of a message, though in its form and structure it is a mystery. However, Jackman (in another role in which he is onstage almost throughout the play) commands our attention in a way few actors can and you can hear a pin drop at any moment during the 85 minute evening. [more]

Livin’ La Vida Imelda

November 20, 2014

Mr. Celdran weaves these and many other tales and observations into an compelling event that alternates between inciting laughter and thoughtful silence. With his well-honed recitation, personal charm, fluid physicality, and native perspective, he is the perfect conduit for this material. Director Ralph B. Pena's staging, has Celdran purposefully all over the stage. Nick Francone's set design presents a detailed and whimsical space for the character giving the lecture. Becky Bodurtha's costumes simply and artfully convey the authentic look. [more]

R Culture

November 17, 2014

Author Cecilia Copeland definitely has a feminist agenda but the totality of these pieces advance a universal human concern that any rational person would support in principle. That many of them are genuinely entertaining while being provocative is a considerable achievement. The language can be quite strong, and the situations explicit, but they always suit the subject without being gratuitous. Her work stands out for its demanding, blunt, truth telling, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce, which is in sharp contrast to the prevalent bland tone of much of today's political humor. It is definitely in your face. [more]

The Erlkings

November 17, 2014

The Columbine massacre is the inspiration for Nathaniel Sam Shapiro's play, "The Erlkings." Mr. Shapiro is a 25-year-old playwright who graduated from Brown University in 2012, and then completed a Masters Degree in Dramatic Writing at New York University's Tisch School of The Arts. This play, his first published, was written and workshopped there. Its grade is not known, but at The Samuel Beckett Theatre it gets a D. [more]

The Oldest Boy

November 17, 2014

Sarah Ruhl's latest play, The Oldest Boy, having its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse, is a magical spiritual investigation into the relationship between teachers and students, and mothers and sons. Based on a true story told to the author by her Tibetan housekeeper, Rebecca Taichman's production uses dance (choreographed by Barney O'Hanlon), ritual and a puppet (designed and directed by Matt Acheson) for three-year-old Tenzin. The play also has the Mother directly address the audience and features breathtaking and colorful lighting effects by Japhy Weideman on Mimi Lien's minimalist but pleasing setting, as well as beautiful Asian costumes by Anita Yavich. [more]

Lypsinka! The Trilogy: The Passion of the Crawford

November 16, 2014

"Ladies and Gentlemen! Miss Joan Crawford!" announces the host. Embodying old-time Hollywood glamour, Mr. Epperson regally enters, wearing an elegant black gown with a bejeweled collar, voluminous crimson wrap, strawberry blonde updo, ruby bracelets, and diamond rings, to the sound of recorded and live audience applause. Then he and the host sit down on puffy white chairs, with black and white hanging dots in the background, a bottle of Pepsi on the table, and proceed to meticulously lip synch to the actual 1973 interview that included the host's questions and those from the audience read from index cards. Off to the side are illustrative slides of Crawford and her career that are projected onto a large screen. [more]

Lift

November 14, 2014

Lift is billed as novelist Walter Mosley's first play to reach New York. He is a wonderful novelist but not yet a good playwright, and this is student work unworthy of a full 59E59 production. The basic setup will be familiar to anyone who has taken an improv class: Tina Pardon (MaameYaa Boafo) and Theodore "Big Time" Southmore (Biko Eisen-Martin) are two strangers who find themselves stuck in an elevator. What will they do to pass the time? [more]

Decades Apart: Reflections of Three Gay Men

November 11, 2014

Mr. Pulos' writing concisely and effectively defines each character. Some could view them as typical gay stereotypes, but with descriptive biographical details and personality traits, they come across as real individuals. Visits to a bathhouse, a public health clinic, and nightclubs are rendered with authenticity. [more]

Lips Together, Teeth Apart

November 10, 2014

When Terrence McNally premiered Lips Together, Teeth Apart in 1991, the world was in the throes of fear over the AIDS epidemic. This long three-act play about how two straight couples deal with their reaction to it must have seemed topical and profound at the time. Unfortunately, 23 years later, in Peter DuBois' revival for Second Stage Theatre, the play now seems dated and talky without the emotional heft to make it still seem important. [more]

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)

November 4, 2014

Underlying all of the storytelling is the archetype of Homer's Odyssey, the story of another journey in another time of war. Many of the characters (Penny, Ulysses, Homer, Odyssey pronounced "Odd-see") take their names from this work. What may be most unusual about this first cycle of plays is that it is one of the few stage works to tell the story of the Civil War entirely from the point of view of African American slaves. [more]

Disgraced

November 3, 2014

That such a devastating scramble of lives can happen in as handsome a setting as John Lee Beatty, magic set designer, manages to evoke, heightens the irony of what takes place there. The rest of the superb production is of equal caliber: Jennifer Von Mayrhauser's so right costuming, Kenneth Posner's so apt lighting, Jill BC Cu Boff's sound. But is this who we are? Where do we go from here? You don't want to miss Disgraced. How are you going to know what the title means? [more]

The Brightness of Heaven

October 27, 2014

"Almost all the families I knew were struggling to find their way forward and make sense of a way of life that was unraveling before their eyes," writes Ms. Pedersen in her author's note in the program. She has a laundry list of period-piece social issues that are superficially covered including abortion, pre-marital sex, the economy, interfaith marriage, homosexuality, Watergate, and The Vietnam War. The writing is often sharp and well observed, with zingers and jokes that effectively register. "If Irish Dementia is only remembering the grudges, than Irish Amnesia is only forgetting the food." "Excuse me, but is this twentieth century Buffalo or fifteenth century Barcelona?" [more]

Back

October 27, 2014

Set in at ill-defined Halloween party raging somewhere in the universe between life and death, Back depicts numerous formerly living Greenwich Village icons, from founding father Alexander Hamilton to Flower Power movement leader George Harris, III. Cookie Mueller—writer, muse to the famous filmmaker John Waters, and AIDS victim—leads the proceedings as this scripted Pride Parade's grand marshal. Filled with recurring mantras, bizarre non sequiturs, and gratuitous nudity, the performance under review (the rotating script allows for different variations at different performances) followed—or, more appropriately—circled around the respective, untimely demise of both poet Frank O'Hara and actress Mueller. [more]

Excuse My Dust (A Dorothy Parker Portfolio)

October 27, 2014

Most of the pieces will be familiar to the readers of The Portable Dorothy Parker: "The Garter," "A Telephone Call," "The Waltz," "Just a Little One," "The Taxi," and a few poems. This is supplemented with bits from more ephemeral work, such as her book reviews. [more]

Billy & Ray

October 26, 2014

Mike Bencivenga's Billy & Ray is the story of Wilder and Chandler's famously contentious collaboration. The lighthearted comedy drama includes an insider's view of Hollywood and a good many famous anecdotes about their fighting over the Double Indemnity screenplay. While it will probably be enjoyed most by those who know the movie and/or the original novel, the play does clue the audience in to what they need to know about the original material as well as its eventual screen treatment. [more]

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea

October 25, 2014

Nairoby Otero as Roberta is a wondrous feisty spitfire, whose energy never subsides and deeply conveys the character's poignant sense of despair. Michael Micalizzi hauntingly captures the essence of a hotheaded, lost soul as Danny. They each expertly deliver Shanley's identifiably unique dialogue, getting all of the laughs while achieving pathos. Their chemistry together is tremendous and a huge asset. [more]

Deliverance

October 23, 2014

This outstanding cast of seven is all perfectly in synch with each other and are a true ensemble of the highest caliber. The highly successful artistic collaboration of all the creative talents involved makes this Deliverance a boldly striking work of uniquely theatrical storytelling. [more]

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

October 20, 2014

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is the sort of very special play that only comes along once in a very great while. It is a play that will not only astonish you while you are in the theater but will also stay with you for a long time after you have left. In addition, you will come away with a much greater understanding of people with autism and how their minds work. [more]

You Can’t Take It with You

October 17, 2014

This new production of "You Can't Take It with You" proves that not only has the comedy passed the test of time, it also remains a wonderful evening in the theater. It may be set in the 1930's but America in 2014 needs to hear its message all over again. And it is still joyful and uproarious as it shows up real human foibles of which people are still prone. [more]

When January Feels Like Summer

October 17, 2014

Romantic comedies often collapse under such contrivances, but in practice this play holds up beautifully. Nirmala's struggle to accept that she has a right to tenderness in her life is sensitive without being preachy, and Ms. Kakkar is frankly fantastic in the part. She finds an exceptionally quiet and truthful center for her characterization, and as a result Nirmala's breakthrough moments feel absolutely real and not at all melodramatic. [more]

Written in Sand

October 17, 2014

This was my first in-person experience of Finley's work, and unfortunately it was a shambles. What could have been forty intense minutes of poetry and music was padded with rambling introductions and mostly aimless patter to more than twice that. The night I attended she was nervous and flustered, repeatedly losing her place in the program, and allowing herself to be distracted over and over again by a leaky water pitcher. (Why didn't the stage manager just replace it?) [more]

Signal Failure

October 16, 2014

Wildly painted panels with words and images such as Big Ben, Keep Calm, and a Union Jack, simply and concretely establish the locale during the opening scene. The actors on either side of the small bare stage are at large, movable, gray wooden cubes that are resourcefully used as scenery. Sounds and announcements of the London Underground are heard as well as song clips from time to time, adding to the sense of place. Director Peter Darney's staging is tremendously forceful, fluid, acutely visual and very well serves the material. In addition to creating a vibrantly watchable piece, he has gotten finely pitched performances from the very appealing cast who for a good deal of the show address the audience with their thoughts. [more]

This Is Our Youth

October 15, 2014

details a specific subset of affluent, privileged, urban teenagers with no concepts for independence or ambition. In the larger context, the characters' problems are mostly petty and self-inflicted; consequently, the subject matter is difficult to relate to. I cannot speak for everyone, but the careless spending, rampant drug use, and overinflated egos presented in Lonergan's play were certainly not characteristic of my youth. [more]

Six Passionate Women

October 15, 2014

Structurally, it is a collection of vignettes that all end in a blackout, punctuated with the sounds of composer Nino Rota’s lively music used in many of Fellini’s films. Here, it comes across as a bunch of connected, superficial comedy sketches, many of which fall flat. The actors, though all are talented, in some cases don't quite fit their roles but commendably do their best. The overall effect at times is of awkwardness and pacing that is less than comic. [more]

Riding The Midnight Express

October 14, 2014

During 70 engrossing minutes on a bare stage with only a tall stool as a prop, he vividly recounts these long ago incidents with great detail. Youthfully complaisant during his three prior drug runs, his fourth turned nightmarish with a dramatic arrest by armed soldiers at the airport. Four harrowing years in various oppressive prisons were made endurable by his strength and the aid of his benevolent father who provided money for bribes. Then the incredible escape, "catching The Midnight Express" to freedom. [more]

The Country House

October 14, 2014

"The Country House" is an old-fashioned drawing room comedy about theater and film people inspired by the plays of Anton Chekhov. From Donald Margulies whose track record includes "Time Stands Still," "Brooklyn Boy," "Sight Unseen," "Dinner with Friends" and "Collected Stories," we have come to expect something more emotionally satisfying. Blythe Danner, Daniel Sunjata, David Rasche and cast are good company but do not make a very convincing case for this new play [more]

Indian Ink

October 13, 2014

the relationship between Eleanor Swan and Anish Das is flirtatious from the outset. As the 75-year-old Mrs. Swan, Harris is a joy, making even her unfinished sentences perfectly obvious as well as her very English prejudices. Bhavesh Patel plays the younger Das with matinee idol suavity. As Captain David Durance, the British army officer who falls in love with Flora at first sight, Lee Aaron Rosen is suitably stiff, stalwart and handsome. [more]
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