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Harriet’s Return: Based Upon the Legendary Life of Harriet Tubman

February 13, 2018

Employing an authentic and strong Southern dialect, Ms. Meadows sounds and looks like she really is a person in the 1840’s. This vocal expertise combined with Meadows’ altering of her physiognomy, beaming eyes and her charisma, achieves a performance of tremendous range and depth.  She portrays Tubman’s relatives, associates and masters.  Each characterization is rendered with precision and variance. Though the piece’s tone is by its nature serious, Meadows finds humor whenever possible. [more]

Draw the Circle

February 3, 2018

... in Deen’s mad dash to portray Shireern’s elderly Indian father and mother--who live in Connectictut--her girlfriend, Molly, and so many other figures, including even a housecleaner at a Motel 8, where Shireen attempted suicide--he seems to have a different voice and demeanor for every one of them. He even--on his knees and with a little girl’s voice--plays Shireen’s five-year-old niece, Rabia. [more]

A Kind Shot

January 24, 2018

And that’s essentially the problem with "A Kind Shot." Clocking in at 75 minutes, the “performance” feels more like a motivational speech than a theatrical event. It’s well-meaning and well-told, but other than the charismatic Mateer, there isn’t much else to it. The set, a masking tape outline of a shrunken basketball key, accomplishes so little visually that it begs the question, “Why bother at all?” Mateer completes the obvious motif with a flower-emblazoned basketball, which she dribbles around a bit and bangs off the wall as if she’s making shots. I’m all for audience imagination, but, come on, just hang up a basketball hoop. [more]

Diary of a Madman

January 23, 2018

Soviet born actor Ilia Volok is quite personable and definitely commands the stage; his performance is heroic but it is so intense and his accent is often intrusive. Comical and sensitive portions are overshadowed by the perpetual ranting. It’s 70 minutes of an actor’s bravura performance as he plays a character mentally unravelling and the plot gets sidetracked. There’s a lot of histrionics that don’t pay off. [more]

Until the Flood

January 19, 2018

Ms. Orlandersmith skillfully organizes the material into short monologues that are revelatory, insightful and often tinged with humor.  Visually striking with her animated facial features and flowing dreadlocks, Orlandersmith subtly yet forcefully offers a series of rich characterizations.  Varying her vocal inflections and altering her physiognomy she conveys the essence of each individual.  It’s a riveting performance of range and depth. [more]

John Lithgow: Stories by Heart

January 15, 2018

But in John Lithgow: Stories by Heart, Lithgow tells an even more compelling tale about growing up with his father Arthur Lithgow, an actor who taught Shakespeare even as he opened and ran Shakespeare festivals throughout the Midwest. Lithgow’s peripatetic experience with this show is not unlike, in other words, his father’s experiences when his son John was growing up. Though it’s truly sui generis, "Stories by Heart" is reminiscent of Lynn Redgrave’s tribute to her father, Sir Michael. [more]

Irving Berlin: In Person

December 20, 2017

Deffaa’s great achievement is joining the narrative portions with just the right song.  An anecdote about encountering Florenz Ziegfeld having an office dalliance with a chorus girl is followed by “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody.” “I Love a Piano” is preceded by Berlin’s extolling of his beloved piano nicknamed “Buick. ” [more]

Hold These Truths

December 9, 2017

With expressive and limber physicality, animated facial features, piercing eyes, and a smoothly resonant voice, Mr. de la Fuente vividly depicts Mr. Hirabayashi from youth to old age.  Magnifying his towering performance, de la Fuente also plays a gallery of characters that include Hirabayashi’s parents, his friends, and American military personal as well as other incidental characters.  His uniformly sharp characterizations are accomplished with ease, precision and depth.  He is totally commanding during the play’s 90 minutes. [more]

Harry Clarke

November 29, 2017

Philip’s shaggy-dog yarn keeps exposing him as what used to be known as a pathological liar. And with little more than a wooden deck chair, a small table, a wooden slated floor and a sky-blue background (the set is by Alexander Dodge, the lighting by Alan C. Edwards), Crudup’s tour-de-force performance is a potent reminder that all you need for good theater is the actor’s voice--as well as a good script, of course. It’s also testimony to his having been well directed by Leigh Silverman, who seems to have gotten the best out of Crudup with his multiple voices and varied expressions. [more]

Latin History for Morons

November 21, 2017

After his teenaged son is called a “beaner” by one of his classmates at a WASPy private school, Leguizamo is inspired to educate the rest of the United States about the overlooked achievements of Latin culture. This is done as a wild, stand-up comedy routine where the audience is directly engaged and occasionally heckled, and with a superior theatrical presentation. [more]

Strange Interlude

October 24, 2017

Martha Graham called her dancers “athletes of God.”  Watching David Greenspan perform all the roles in a six-hour marathon performance of Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 melodrama, Strange Interlude, caused me to wonder what I might call David Greenspan.  Would “Son of Thalia” (the Greek goddess of theater) do? “Olympian of O’Neill”? [more]

Off the Meter, On the Record 

October 20, 2017

Set designer Charlie Corcoran ingeniously has the small stage’s walls adorned with sections of a yellow cab.  Off to the side is a piece containing the steering wheel from where McDonagh periodically speaks.  Above this, is a screen bordered by vintage billboard pictures. This showcases Chris Kateff’s dazzling projection design that illustratively displays imagery of New York City from various eras, video clips and slides such as the 1975 New York Daily News headline, “Ford To City: Drop Dead.” [more]

Squeamish

October 17, 2017

hough it’s a one-woman show, Alison Fraser plays a number of characters by speaking in different voices with a certain technical prowess. The principal one is an upper West Side psychotherapist, Sharon, who is ostensibly talking to her own therapist (a “shrink’s shrink,” we’re told) at his apartment late one night. She’s relating the story of her going to her hometown of Lubbock, Texas, for her beloved nephew’s funeral, after he’s committed suicide. But has Eddie really killed himself, like Sharon’s mother did decades ago when Eddie was only three? For that matter, did Sharon’s mother really commit suicide, we’re made to wonder by the end? [more]

…and then I meowed…

October 10, 2017

Marinelli’s performance also contributes to the ennui. Heavy set, possessing a sullen countenance, speaking in a light voice, and lethargically shuffling around, he’s not the most charismatic performer to spend 90 minutes with. In the last portion, when he encounters a lost cat after being stood up on a date, his acting and the play has a jolt of energy and momentum as it reaches its upbeat conclusion. [more]

Tym Moss: (A) Live!! Fun! Fabulous!! Flamboyant!!!

October 10, 2017

Possessed of a soaring tenor baritone voice that forcefully hits every note, an immensely likeable persona and boundless energy as he dances with brio, Moss commands the stage for 70 minutes. Periodically overcome with emotion, he gracefully collects himself and moves on. It’s a moving display of therapeutic showmanship. [more]

Kafka and Son

October 9, 2017

With only a metal-mesh cage, bed-frame, and a gate--and gobs of black feathers that ultimately litter the stage--Nashman cavorts around the black box set (scenic design is by Marysia Bucholc and Camellia Koo) with abandon. If the challenge of every one-man show is to sustain our attention, Nashman succeeds spectacularly. He has some significant help with evocative lighting by Andrea Lundy, eerie music by Osvald Golijov (performed by the St. Lawrence String Quartet), and Cassidy’s direction, which always keeps him in motion. [more]

Outside Paducah: The Wars at Home

September 29, 2017

In terms of the atmospherically detailed writing and Mr. Moad’s enjoyably intense performance that recalls a Sam Shepard hero, “Quittin’ Meth” is the most powerful of the program and its concluding play. It’s a poetically expressed evening’s odyssey of a 27 year-old Iraq War veteran who has returned to his Illinois hometown in 2007. Set in a rundown bar in this depressed steel mill neighborhood, we follow his memories of the war that contrast with his present observations and glimpses of the pitiful bar denizens . He encounters a war buddy who lost a leg and has descended into drug addiction. [more]

Charolais

September 1, 2017

As in one of Alan Bennett’s "Talking Heads" monologues, Stapleton offers a richly detailed portrait of an ordinary person that revels in the mundane.  She also adds the arresting device of having the inner life of the cow depicted in fantasy sequences. [more]

Virtual Memory

August 9, 2017

Mark Finley, the director, knew enough to keep the play charmingly low-key with just enough animated physicality to illustrate the story.  Finley clearly understood all of Strothmann’s best qualities as a storyteller and how to keep him on his toes as an actor and memoirist.  [more]

The Unwritten Law

August 2, 2017

Writer and co-creator Chesney Snow is also the performer.  Mr. Snow appeared in the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of the a capella musical "In Transit" as the narrator.  Snow is also a prominent beatboxer.  That’s an art form that replicates the sound of percussion by using one's mouth, lips, tongue, and voice.  In The Unwritten Law, the African-American Snow mines the tragic circumstances of his life and those close to him. [more]

Places

July 29, 2017

"I wanted the audience to see 'Places,' not as a ‘museum’ piece, but a piece that was relevant TODAY. Nazimova was fighting the things in the 19th century and early 20th century that we are still fighting…," explains Nordlinger, who also wrote the show, in publicity materials for the production. Her conceit is that Nazimova exists as a ghost and cheekily addresses the audience directly. Her skillful, well-researched and assembled biographical facts are laced with feminist slanted commentary, and knowledge of events that occurred after Nazimova’s death. [more]

Trump Lear

July 16, 2017

"Trump Lear" turns out to be a gem, a brilliant gem with many facets that shine an intensely comic light on Trump. It’s a brutally honest x-ray as only a comedy can be, a sardonic, scary, funny take on Donald Trump as seen through the eyes of a victimized playwright/performer who is—shades of 1984!—kidnapped and imprisoned for making fun of the President! [more]

To T, or Not to T

July 9, 2017

While wearing an all black ensemble of a cap, T-shirt, shorts and sneakers, D’Lo commandingly holds forth with plentiful pop culture references in 70 minutes.  Possessing the powers of an accomplished stand-up comedian he expresses the searing and hilarious details of his transgender journey in an often rapid, hip-hop style alternating with a measured pace.  Audience members are occasionally addressed directly with riotous results. [more]

Hedy! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr

June 28, 2017

The show also explores Lamarr’s improbable career as an inventor.  She and composer George Antheil held a patent for a miniaturized player-piano mechanism that was synchronized with radio signals.  They donated it to the U.S. Navy who neglected it. This technology was instrumental to the U.S. Defense Department in dealing with The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Their invention is used today in cell phones, WiFi, CDMA, GPS, Bluetooth and military satellites.  [more]

A Hunger Artist

June 16, 2017

"A Hunger Artist" takes morbid subject matter and turns it into a metaphorical look at obsession and human suffering.  By focusing on one hunger artist, Luxenberg and Levin manage to make a universal statement that leaves the audience bereft, images of unbelievable suffering lingering long after leaving the theater. [more]

Zero Hour

June 14, 2017

Bearded, stocky and with that distinctive, wild comb-over of salt and pepper hair and wearing an artist’s smock, Brochu vividly conveys the visual, vocal and personality characteristics of the Broadway legend. For 90 enthralling minutes, he dramatizes and enacts the remarkable life and career of that unforgettable performer. [more]

The Woman Who Was Me

May 29, 2017

Mr. Grandbois’ engrossing scenario is in the vein of such feminist fantastical works as "Diary of a Mad Housewife" and "Up the Sandbox." An expedition to a salsa dance club, buying a puppy from gypsies behind a Home Depot, watching Clash of The Titans on television with her son and a trip to the zoo are rendered with exquisite literary detail that’s simultaneously comic and moving. Looking into an old mirror becomes a Proustian reverie of Lanie’s recollections of her dead grandmother. [more]

Iphigenia in Splott

May 15, 2017

The writing is poetically descriptive and moderately engrossing with plentiful profanity. It is, however, a decidedly grim scenario despite abundant humor. The conclusion is a rhetorical and optimistic rallying cry for social justice. The themes and message are all very well realized in this production. [more]

Latin History for Morons

April 16, 2017

While setting out to “undo” our “whole, entire education” of Latin history--and to compensate for the textbook neglect of the impact of the Aztecs and the Incas on our culture and civilization--Leguizamo focuses on his son’s coming to terms with being the son of a Latino celebrity--namely, himself. Given that his wife is Jewish, and therefore, “very intolerant of intolerance,” Leguizamo never imagined that his “son was going to have to go through the same rite of passage that I did,” he says, at the beginning of this, his latest one-man show, which is filling the seats at The Public Theater. [more]

A Gambler’s Guide to Dying

April 14, 2017

“To some he was dad, to some he was mate,” says McNair, at the top of his monologue, “to others he was liar, cheat, addict, hero, story teller.” Over the course of the next 70 minutes, McNair will also do, with modest effects and a modicum of success, other voices including his much younger self, a schoolteacher, mates of Archie’s, and even his own mother. Through it all, the one thing we never lose sight or sound of is his love for his grandfather. [more]

Growing Up Gonzalez

March 31, 2017

Mr. Rojas vividly creates an entertaining panorama of the Puerto Rican community in The Bronx of the 1960’s and 1970’s. A gallery of characters and numerous incidents are lovingly described. Orchard Beach, Roberto Clemente, various foods, the Catholic Church and a visit to Puerto Rico are among the cultural touchstones that are represented. [more]

Jack Charles V The Crown

March 23, 2017

His innate charm, joy of performing and theatrical grandeur is always on display in this show. All of those qualities combined with his resonant, Australian accented vocal delivery makes it easy to imagine him being commanding in Shakespearean and any number of roles in the classics of dramatic literature, as well as a screen actor. Sadly, environmental circumstances did not as of yet make this possible. [more]
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