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Still Open

These are the shows that – to the best of our information – we think are still open to see.

The Rise and Fall, Then Brief and Modest Rise Followed by a Relative Fall of…Jean Claude Van Damme as Gleaned by a Single Reading of His Wikipedia Page Months Earlier

July 1, 2022

"The Rise and Fall, then Brief and Modest Rise Followed by a Relative Fall of…Jean Claude Van Damme as Gleaned by a Single Reading of His Wikipedia Page Months Earlier" is the brobdinagian title of a tongue-in-cheek, hour-long comic riff on the life of a faded movie star.  The title is almost as long as the play. Timothy Haskell has written what is actually an extended elaborate skit brought to life by Joe Cordaro (perfect as a clueless Van Damme and other characters) and John Harlacher (hilarious as the all-knowing narrator) using puppets designed by co-director Aaron Haskell. The other director is Paul Smithyman who also designed the efficient conglomeration of a set which includes two podiums for the actors and a screen for the snippets of films and slides used to illustrate the story.  In front of the screen is a slotted board into which the actors insert funny two-dimensional stick puppets. [more]

Epiphany

July 1, 2022

Ira Levin’s sense of eerie foreboding initially looms over playwright Brian Watkins’ entrancing drama, "Epiphany." As a reunion dinner party comically unfolds, we anxiously await supernatural surprises and a metaphysical denouement. Instead, as indicated in Mr. Watkins’ script we get a beguiling existential exploration referencing themes, characters, and the snowy atmosphere of James Joyce’s 1914 contemplative long short story, "The Dead." [more]

Love Quirks

June 28, 2022

Four appealingly performed single Manhattan roommates’ tangled romantic lives are depicted in the pleasant contemporary Off-Broadway musical, "Love Quirks," which has a rapturous score. Composer and lyricist Seth Bisen-Hersh’s striking melodies and literately crafted lyrics render the variety of songs with the polish of accomplished cabaret numbers. A standout is a gay male schoolteacher wryly ruminating while on a date. [more]

Chains

June 27, 2022

The Mint Theater Company continues its three play mini-festival of the forgotten plays of Elizabeth Baker with "Chains." Given a polished – maybe too polished – production like the earlier "The Price of Thomas Scott," this play is also problematic, but in another way. Unlike her contemporaries John Galsworthy, George Bernard Shaw and Harley Granville-Barker, Baker’s "Chains" has a very narrow focus: the discontents of the lower middle-class white collar folk. All of the characters in the play’s first half (the script’s Act I and II) do nothing but either complain about the grind of their daily six-days-a-week jobs (half-holiday on Saturday) or laugh at those who would give up a steady employment. You would think that back in 1909 when the play was written there wasn’t anything else to talk about. Jenn Thompson’s direction is conventional and sedate where something more animated might have been more to the point. [more]

The Orchard

June 26, 2022

Such an event is the high-tech adaptation at the Baryshnikov Arts Center calling itself "The Orchard," conceived and directed by Igor Golyak, described as based on "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov as translated by Carol Rocamora. If you don’t know the play, you will be entirely at sea. If you know the play, you will marvel at all the totally unnecessary tricks used by the director that do nothing to help with understanding the play or ferreting out its meaning. Although the production has a fine cast headed by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jessica Hecht, the actors are swamped by all the unnecessary trappings around them. [more]

Corsicana

June 23, 2022

"Corsicana" is a heartfelt and absorbing family drama that’s been given a pretentiously distracting production: just for starters, its cryptic houselights up preamble is at odds with the play’s naturalism. Playwright Will Arbery is a Pulitzer Prize-finalist for his heralded oddball right-wing political exploration, "Heroes of the Fourth Turning." Here, he offers a mostly conventional present-day clash of siblings’ tale which he has stated is autobiographical. [more]

Circle Jerk

June 22, 2022

In 'Circle Jerk," this cocky duo confidently preen, bray and cavort while donning various wigs and flamboyant costumes as multiple fey stock characters for over two numbing hours of their self-congratulatory twaddle. Their grating characterizations are achieved by intently staring into the camera, making faces, raising eyebrows and doing voices. It’s not "Your Show of Shows," but a niche audience of friends, relatives and trustafarians who could be amused by their antics. Cat Rodríguez appears in several female roles with campy flair. [more]

Queen

June 19, 2022

Shekar’s script is extremely smart, funny at just the right moments, and morally gripping. Her characterizations of Ariel and Sanam are fully formed, uniquely individual and carefully complementary:  Ariel is a crunchy-granola, bee-loving, single mom who’s desperate to prove Monsanto’s guilt, and Sanam is intense, strong-minded and honest to a fault. Through the character of Arvind, Shekar introduces the notion to Sanam that she and Ariel are looking at their study through the impartial lens of confirmation bias. The character of Dr. Hayes adds just the right amount of antagonism, almost sinister. Although there’s lots of statistics jargon in the script, it never impedes the progress of the story, thanks to the actors and director Aneesha Kudtarkar, who skillfully shapes the piece, finely intertwining the performances to maximum impact. [more]

The Bedwetter

June 16, 2022

Comedian Sarah Silverman has turned her bestselling memoir, "The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee,"  into a musical with the help of co-book writer Joshua Harmon, author of this year’s award-winning "Prayer for the French Republic," and composer Adam Schlesinger ("Cry-Baby"), who passed away in 2020 just as the show was about to go into rehearsal prior to the pandemic. The new musical, simply called "The Bedwetter," like the book is by turns amusing, first hilarious and later serious. Anne Kauffman’s production has a top-notch cast headed by Bebe Neuwirth, Caissie Levy, Darren Goldstein and Rick Crom. [more]

…what the end will be

June 2, 2022

In four scenes spanning a few months, Ra renders his gay family trio’s life events, medical situations, numerous clashes and resolutions with pungent topicality. The pandemic is referenced, gender and pronouns are discussed, and cultural bromides are stated: “Black people can’t be racist. I read that on the Facebook.” Ra’s characters are given rich portrayals by the splendid cast. With his melodious voice, priceless facial expressions and stage presence, veteran actor Keith Randolph Smith grounds the production with his towering performance as Bartholomew. As Maxwell, the fiery Emerson Brooks supremely conveys the character’s bottled-up emotions, offering a moving psychological portrait. The personable Gerald Caesar’s Tony is a vivid take on adolescent struggle. Randy Harrison as Charles offers a winning take on the supportive spouse with his straightforward vocal delivery and calm manner. Lithe, animated and spunky Ryan Jamaal Swain hilariously and poignantly tranmits all of Antoine’s facets. The radiant Tiffany Villarin combines levity and warmth as the noble Chloe. [more]

Fat Ham

May 30, 2022

James Ijames’ "Fat Ham" (all puns intended) is the latest and most successful modern riff on the Bard turning Hamlet into an expression of the Black experience while at the same time having much fun at Hamlet’s expense. As one of the few comedies to ever win the Pulitzer Prize, we should be hearing more soon from this talented playwright whose "Kill Move Paradise" in 2017 appears to be his only other New York credit, also directed by Saheem Ali. Already an associate artistic director/resident director with The Public Theater, Ali has previously worked wonders with "Merry Wives," "Nollywood Dreams," "Shipwreck," "Fires in the Mirror," "The Rolling Stone," "Passage," and "Fireflies," among others at various theaters around town. As usual his casting choices are perfect to the nth degree. [more]

Oh God, A Show About Abortion

May 18, 2022

Alison Leiby’s "Oh God, A Show About Abortion" is probably the most level-headed work about that much debated subject, perhaps too level-headed.  While the United States is going through social and political paroxysms over a leaked Supreme Court argument that portends the overturn of Roe v. Wade, Leiby’s matter-of-fact attitude toward the subject is a balm. [more]

Paradise Square

May 11, 2022

Based on historical facts, the new and exciting musical "Paradise Square" tells a story of fictional characters caught up in real events which lead up to the Draft Riots that occurred in Manhattan in July 1863. Set in the notorious neighborhood known as Five Points, renowned as the most dangerous place to live in the United States, it takes place mainly in the fictional Paradise Square Saloon in the real Paradise Square. Aside from the sensational dancing by choreographer Bill T. Jones and a rousing score by composer Jason Howland who also conducts, the show stars Joaquina Kalukango giving a show-stopping performance in the leading role. However, she is also surrounded by a great many leading characters played by actors at the top of their game. Like an epic adventure, Paradise Square will keep you engrossed until the very last moment. [more]

American Buffalo

May 8, 2022

The 1975 play "American Buffalo," now onstage at the Circle in the Square Theatre in a crackling revival, remains the quintessential Mamet experience, the one that should be seen to fully appreciate what has been lost. Essentially a two-hander masquerading as a three-hander, it's a character study short on plot and long on self-delusion as a couple of small-time crooks imagine themselves as much more than they are while planning an ambitious heist. To say they're all talk gets to the satirical heart of Mamet's play. [more]

POTUS, Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive

May 8, 2022

In "POTUS," Selina Fillinger’s first Broadway comedy, all is revealed by its unwieldy subtitle (“Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive”) which leaves little room for development or surprise. The repeated statement “that’s the eternal question” in answer to why none of these women are President may be the real message behind this play. As staged by famed choreographer and director Susan Stroman, POTUS is frenzied rather than funny, a problem in farce. The seven famous actresses are undone by their one-note characters which give them little to play off of or expand on. A pity considering how few Broadway comedies there are these days and the quantity of talent on stage at the Shubert Theatre. [more]

Our Brother’s Son

May 6, 2022

Freshman playwright Charles Gluck, a retired gastroenterologist who has finally followed his dream to write a play, has turned out one terrific piece of theater. There is virtually no superfluous dialogue in this script; almost every line serves a specific purpose, whether it’s to provide key exposition, continue to build the play’s fully three-dimensional characters or to accelerate and intensify the dramatic through point. [more]

Mr. Saturday Night

May 6, 2022

Anyone else may find this decent show to be a tired affair which just about sustains its two-and-half-hour running time. The memory-piece book by Crystal, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel is based on their screenplay which ranges from the 1950’s to the 1990’s. It intends to be a loving tribute to a bygone show business era and fitfully succeeds at that. The schmaltz-laden dramatic writing never really rises above the rudimentary, rendering the events and conflicts with patness and clichés. Still, it offers choice roles that are marvelously performed by the other cast members. [more]

A Strange Loop

May 5, 2022

Deliriously and explicitly profane, Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning musical, "A Strange Loop" has—unbelievably—made it to Broadway, produced by Playwrights Horizons, Page 73 and the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Jackson’s explicit portrait of a lost soul’s salty journey is alternately stunning and amusing, appealing and appalling, told at a breakneck pace through his book, lyrics and music.  It’s a rare, if dispiriting, portrait of a gay man who isn’t a paragon, a man who isn’t conventionally handsome, successful or rich. [more]

Macbeth

May 2, 2022

This 2022 "Macbeth" appears to be entirely a director’s project, but Sam Gold has done his actors no service with the busy activity he has added to the play. Fine actors like Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga who have demonstrated their top-flight acting chops on stage elsewhere have not been aided by the bizarre direction. Ironically, Shakespeare’s name is nowhere to be seen in the ads for the production. If this was to rope in the fans of Craig’s James Bond, this production gives them no help in following the play, a story of ambition and revenge, which should have been the point of the updating. Even if you are well-versed in the play, you will find yourself adrift much of the time. [more]

Funny Girl

April 29, 2022

Beanie Feldstein’s clunky rendition of “I'm the Greatest Star” crystalizes the absurdist dimension of this off-kilter first Broadway revival of the 1964 musical, "Funny Girl." With her nasal, often muffled singing, oddly emphatic line readings and smug mugging, in no way does she suggest a great star, yet this nearly three-hour show is centered around her. It instantly deflates with her wan introductory “Hello, gorgeous.” She does exhibit idiosyncratic pluck and stamina throughout. [more]

The Minutes

April 24, 2022

Tracy Letts’ "The Minutes" is both a fine political comedy as well as an indictment of how most Americans live today. It ultimately asks us to look at our values as well as our connection to the society around us. It will not make you so much as talk about it after you have seen it, but ask yourself if the indictment includes you. Continuing her connection to playwright Tracy Letts which began with "August: Osage County" in 2007, director Anna D. Shapiro adds another excellent contemporary play to her resumé. [more]

Robert Morse: An Appreciation

April 22, 2022

He won a Tony Award starring in the Broadway masterwork "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."  And fortunately his performance was captured well in the film adaptation of that brilliant show.  (Watch that film for a sample of his greatness.) And he won another Tony Award for "Tru,'his one-man show about Truman Capote (which was later successfully adapted for public television). He was simply compelling. And people who would never have watched the real Truman Capote speak for an evening were mesmerized by his theatrical version of Capote.  I was impressed, too, by his ability to surrender himself entirely to the needs of the role; if he was portraying a real person, like Truman Capote (or, later, Dominick Dunne, for "American Crime Stories"), he could become the character so thoroughly, you almost forgot you were watching Robert Morse. [more]

On the Town with Chip Deffaa: “Rent” at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts: An Appreciation

April 7, 2022

This production was an ensemble success—which is what Jonathan Larson was hoping to achieve—so I’d like to mention every member of the company.   Not just the leads, whom I very much enjoyed  (Logan Spaleta,  Brendan Dugan,  Lily Resto-Solano as an appealingly amiable “Mimi Marquez,” Justin Nicot as the insouciant “Angel Dumont Schunard,” Monica Malas making the most of  the role of “Maureen Johnson,” Tsehai Marson as her frustrated girlfriend “Joanne Jefferson,”  Luke Studley Roberts as “Tom Collins” (who falls for “Angel”), and Matthew Macneal as landlord “Benjamin Coffin III”), but every member of the ensemble: Olivia Summer, Nicholas Martell, Miekayla Pierre, Ben Gluck, Sophia Longmuir, Gabriel Paredes, Isaac Wilson, Isabella Soleil Smith, Daniel Stowe, Jaiden Torres, Monica Malas, Ellistair Perry, Zune Misrra-Stone. [more]

Irving Berlin and Me (And a Brush with Death Along the Way)

April 5, 2022

In the past 20 years, I’ve produced a total of 34 different albums; 16 of them have dealt with Irving Berlin (1888-1989). The newest album in this ongoing Berlin series, "Chip Deffaa’s Irving Berlin: Love Songs and Such"--featuring such gifted artists as Betty Buckley, Karen Mason, Steve Ross, Anita Gillette, Jon Peterson, Natalie Douglas, Jeff Harnar, Sarah Rice, Bobby Belfry, Keith Anderson, Molly Ryan, and Seth Sikes--was the hardest of all the albums to produce. And, for reasons I’ll address in a bit, it took by far the longest time to produce; life is not always easy. But for me, this is the most satisfying album of the bunch. (And as I type these words, I’m happy to note it’s just been nominated for a MAC Award, which is extra gratifying!) I know I’ve made a worthwhile contribution to Berlin’s recorded legacy. [more]

Plaza Suite

April 2, 2022

Audience laughter abounds during Matthew Broderick and Sara Jessica Parker’s uproarious performances in this splendid first Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s 1968 hit comedy, "Plaza Suite." This married show business couple revel in their different roles during three one-acts all taking place in the same hotel room. They’re greeted with wild entrance applause each time they come on stage and though standing ovations at the end of shows have become obligatory, here it’s sincere and justified. Mr. Broderick and Ms. Parker’s enduring star quality is on display at the Hudson Theatre. [more]

Alex Edelman: Just for Us

March 26, 2022

Despite the familiar visual trappings--mic stand, performer-blinding stage lights, and a dull curtain backdrop--Edelman's deceptively free-flowing talents hew more towards the monologist Spalding Gray than those of Williams. Like Gray, Edelman is an entrancing storyteller capable of stitching together personal anecdotes into a rich thematic tapestry. In Just for Us his canvas includes mental pictures of growing up Orthodox Jewish in a Boston where white privilege is starkly stratified; his brother's 2018 Winter Olympics participation as a member of the Israeli team in possibly the least athletic competition; witnessing the actions of a predictably conceited Jared Kushner at synagogue; and the touching time his family celebrated Christmas in order to console a bereaved non-Jewish friend. [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]

The Music Man

February 22, 2022

Because of changing social mores, some Broadway musicals are assumed to make audiences uncomfortable today. Take for example Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Carousel" whose protagonist is a wife-beater. The recent revival did everything in its power to mitigate this problem but did not succeed. Now we have the long awaited revival of Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man" starring film megastar Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill and two-time Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo, the librarian and music teacher. The problem the director and producers had with this classic piece of Americana, set in 1912, is that the hero Professor Hill is a con-artist and a serial seducer with whom we are supposed to be sympathetic. However, in 2022 this is an obstacle in an era when lovable rogues are not acceptable as heroes. As a solution, Jackman has been directed by Jerry Zaks to play Harold Hill as low-key and muted as he possibly can. What this does is straitjackets Jackman’s personal charm and charisma which he normally has in spades. The result is an undercooked Music Man even though it has been given a big, expensive production – six Tony Award winners on stage and six in the production team - maybe the starriest cast in New York right now. [more]

A Few Thoughts on Those Needless Changes to “The Music Man”

February 21, 2022

I want to be clear.  "The Music Man" is such a masterfully written musical that making some changes here and there can’t really ruin it; but changes are not needed in this show and they certainly don’t help.   I believe in the old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I also believe, as Tommy Tune once told me years ago in discussing a different show, many producers and directors feel a need to tinker with shows, making changes for the sake of making changes, even when the wiser choice would be to simply leave things alone. There’s just that desire to  “improve” things, whether or not the changes actually improve anything. [more]

Why Robert De Niro’s New Film Studio Matters

February 15, 2022

De Niro’s goal is to lure more film and television production from Hollywood to New York, and that can only be a plus for New York-based actors. A brand new studio, created for the needs of the industry today, with state-of-the-art digital-production capability, will make New York more competitive in the world of film and television.   De Niro hopes that this new studio, along with the nearby Kaufman Astoria Studios and Silvercup Studios (which are also based in Queens), will mean more work for actors, writers, directors, and all sorts of support personnel.    And producers will find it easier to complete films in NYC. [more]

MJ

February 10, 2022

Wheeldon and Pulitzer Award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage make every effort to hide the fact that MJ is a jukebox musical, despite the fact that the first notes of every song elicited loud shouts and applause (part of the reason the show runs two and a half hours). Nottage has invented a plodding framework for the show.  It is 1992 in Los Angeles. TV reporter, Rachel (a down-to-earth Whitney Bashor who acts as the play’s Greek chorus) and her hyperactive assistant, Alejandro (a charming Gabriel Ruiz) corral a reluctant Jackson to have his rehearsals for his huge upcoming 'Dangerous" tour documented. [more]

Company

December 18, 2021

This theatrical genius, responsible for the Tony Award winning plays "War Horse," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and the most recent revival of "Angels in America," knew that this 1970 musical comedy about a man about to turn 35 and having all his coupled friends trying to marry him off would seem dated in 2018 when she conceived of this version in London, in which the gender of the characters are reversed. With the help of another genius, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim who rejiggered his wise and witty lyrics, Elliott has made this old show by bookwriter George Furth seem spanking new as if we had never seen it before even though this is the fourth New York revival. [more]

Disney’s Winnie the Pooh: The New Musical Stage Adaptation

November 5, 2021

The question arises who is the intended audience. The 60-minute show is too slow for young children and too repetitious for adults. Possibly this is meant for the nostalgia crowd of which there are apparently legions. The thin story line is a watered-down version of the original A.A. Milne stories that inspired the animated films Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day as well as a tale of Tigger’s infamous bouncing. All of the famous characters put in an appearance: easily frightened Piglet, gloomy Eeyore, cranky Rabbit, wise Owl, energetic Tigger, maternal Kanga and curious Roo. Christopher Robin (played alternately by Kaydn Kuioka, Max Lamberg, and Cooper Lantz) spends the day at school but is reunited with Winnie the Pooh just before the final curtain. Surprisingly, he does not have a British accent. [more]
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