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59E59 Theaters

The Drama Desk Award-winning 59E59 Theaters is the number one Off-Broadway destination in New York City. In the heart of Midtown, just east of Central Park, 59E59 Theaters is a spectacular modern theater complex with three stages and a lively bar on the mezzanine level. http://www.59e59.org/

Cross That River: A Tale of the Black West

December 7, 2017

Serving as both narrator and protagonist, Harris portrays Blue, a runaway slave who crossed the Sabine River from Louisiana to Texas in search of his elusive freedom. To tell us everything that came before and after this momentous event, Harris is joined by three other impressive vocalists/performers in a concert-style presentation that has all the charm and verve of an old radio play. [more]

Toys: A Dark Fairy Tale

November 17, 2017

Tunde Skovran as Shari and Julia Ubrankovics as Clara are sensational. The brunette Ms. Skovran and the blonde Ms. Ubrankovics are a dynamic team who each offer vivid portrayals with their powerful physicality and resonant voices that emit differing degrees of an East European accent.  The outrageous finale has them gloriously carrying on in an extended, celebratory dance sequence. [more]

The Mad Ones

November 17, 2017

Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk’s original book is filled with incidents, vignettes, reflections, observations, and flashbacks, but short on actual plot.  There is deciding on which college to attend, or not to go to college at all in order to find oneself, and the suspense of passing a driving test. A tragic occurrence is a major event. [more]

Knives in Hens

November 1, 2017

While the script describes the setting as simply a “rural place,” British and European productions apparently have set the play in medieval times. It is definitely pre-industrial as the farmers still need to have their grains ground at a mill and no one has yet seen a pen. Director Paul Takacs, who has staged the equally challenging Dark Vanilla Jungle by Philip Ridley in New York, has reset the play on the American frontier and made use of a multicultural cast. This grounds the play somewhat and makes it easier for Americans to identify with it, but it remains a difficult, challenging play due to its poetic language and its lack of specificity. [more]

Occupied Territories

October 30, 2017

Well-meaning and sincere," Occupied Territories" is both generic and stereotyped, offering a story television and the movies have been offering for years: the traumatic effect of a father’s Vietnam experience on his family years later. Co-written by Nancy Bannon who appears in the play and Mollye Maxner who directed it, it offers no surprises or new enlightenment. Set in two locales and time frames, the play alternates between scenes in a suburban basement on the day of Stephen Collins’ funeral and scenes from the life of the same man 45 years earlier as a rookie in the jungles of Vietnam. Ironically, the actors playing the soldiers are more convincing than the actresses playing the family members at home in America in the present. [more]

Dolores Claiborne

October 26, 2017

King’s "Dolores Claiborne" would seem a strange choice for dramatization as the book is a monologue told entirely by its protagonist at a police interrogation over a murder on Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine. Though J.D. McClatchy’s streamlined libretto is very faithful to the book (while eliminating some characters and complications), it never approximates the compelling and wry narrative voice in Dolores’ first-person tale which makes her sympathetic and gives a sense of urgency to her story. Mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez creates a believably passive character as a maid/companion to a selfish, rich woman whom she is accused of killing and an abused wife saddled with an alcoholic and brutal husband who died 30 years earlier but she brings no sympathy to the role. She just seems a tired, traumatized woman, not very interesting for the leading character in an opera. [more]

No Wake

October 5, 2017

In 85 minutes, we really don’t learn much Rebecca, Nolan or Sukey as Mr. Donnelly imparts scant biographical details about them, but strangely does for Padgett. Donnelly takes the perennial premise of a divorced couple’s past romantic feelings for each other being reignited and clumsily tosses in the dramatic, morbid bombshell. His glum and stilted finale at Sukey’s apartment is out of Private Lives. The title refers to Sukey’s wish that when she dies that there be no wake. [more]

Small World

September 23, 2017

Both as written by Stroppel and portrayed by Stephen D’Ambrose (Stravinsky) and Mark Shanahan (Disney), it also becomes clear that they are equally imperious--at first. Though they’re both monomaniacs, its Disney who proves more like a Trumpian narcissist. While Stravinsky says early on, “Everything I say is entirely true,” Disney, a bit later, claims, “I’m never wrong.” The fireworks begin as soon as they start to interact when Disney describes how the music evokes for him the birth of the universe and “earth--in its infancy,” not to mention dinosaurs, which remain the most memorable part of the "Fantasia" segment or sequence [more]

The Violin

September 20, 2017

In fact, Harry Feiner’s marvelous, you-are-there set design for "The Violin" made me think of 'American Buffalo" (set in a shabby pawn shop) before the first words of the play were even uttered or its three cast-members (Robert LuPone, Peter Bradbury and Kevin Isola) even appeared on the stage. But whether or not playwright McCormick had that early Mamet work in mind, the main idea behind "The Violin" was probably inspired by a real event, when celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma left his prized cello in the trunk of a New York taxi some years ago, and paid a handsome reward for its return. [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]

Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series B

August 12, 2017

While the three plays in Summer Shorts 2017: Festival of New American Short Plays – Series B have been given proficient productions each seems ultimately unsatisfactory. All seem like first drafts rather than completely fulfilling their potential. The three authors could learn a lesson from the three plays in Series A which all hit their marks. Interesting experiments but failures nevertheless. [more]

A Real Boy

August 9, 2017

Stephen Kaplan’s "A Real Boy" is about a pair of puppets, named Peter and Mary Ann Myers, who adopt the eponymous child named Max, and it proves about as preposterous as such a premise suggests. It isn’t helped by director Audrey Alford’s often awkward staging, or by a muddled and confusing conclusion. [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]

Underground

June 25, 2017

Two likeable people, James (Michael Jinks) and Claire (Bebe Sanders) meet online, have dinner in a local pub owned by Steve (Andrew McDonald) and take the Underground home. That’s about it. Of course, that’s only the basic, very basic, outline. What makes "Underground" a quiet delight is the way van Tricht takes this trite situation and beefs it up with insightful conversation, intriguing situations that border on the fantastic and a clear empathy with her characters. [more]

Rotterdam

May 27, 2017

An import from the United Kingdom, as part of the 2017 Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters, Jon Brittain’s "Rotterdam" is not based on a true story relating to events in the eponymous Dutch city. It rather focuses on a British lesbian couple, one of whom decides at the beginning of the play that she’s really a man and really wants to become transgender. The crux of the drama is between Alice and her lover Fiona, who, in the course of the play, becomes Adrian. But why the two of them moved to Rotterdam seven years ago, is never really answered in the play--rather posed as a recurring question--along with the question of whether or not they’re going to remain there. [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]

Fossils

May 9, 2017

Though the printed script, such as it is, is credited to Nel Crouch, Crouch is listed in the program as only the director, and "Fossils" is rather “By” Bucket Club, described as an “associate company.” Such confusion is perpetrated throughout the production: it’s hard to say if, in the end of this extremely low-tech presentation, Vanessa has actually encountered the Monster--and/or her father--or not. "Fossils" is apparently more about what doesn’t happen than what does. [more]

The Roundabout

May 5, 2017

Although the play seems to have something to say about economics and political systems, it is simply a very light romantic comedy making use of elements of change during the Great Depression. Ross’ production is quite proficient and fast-paced, but the characters are generic and we don’t learn much about them. As Lord Kettlewell, Brian Protheroe is the typical crotchety but wise aristocrat, Richenda Carey is most eccentric as the impoverished Lady Knightsbridge, and Lisa Bowerman is level-headed as the previously estranged Lady Kettlewell. Carol Starks’ Mrs. Lancicourt is the manipulative upper-class woman who attempts to dominate all situations. Hugh Sachs is a raisonneur straight out of classic drawing room comedy and would have been as at home in a play by Wilde, Shaw, Pinero or Galsworthy. [more]

Angel & Echoes

April 18, 2017

Presented together on the same bill, "Angel & Echoes" is part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival at 59E59 Theaters (where, it’s worth noting, "Echoes" originally played last year). As written by Naylor, enacted with ferocity and vitality by Avital Lvova, and directed with dispatch by Michael Cabot, "Angel" proves the far more effective (second) half of the evening. That may be because it’s told with an in-your-face immediacy and gumption that elude Echoes, which juxtaposes the lives of two different women, who lived in that region of the world at very different times. [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]

Beneath the Gavel

March 28, 2017

Bated Breath Theatre Company specializes in original works inspired by and in partnership with museum collections and exhibitions. However, this show about the fate of the “Haddie Weisenberg Collection” painted by artist Daniel Zeigler appears to be entirely fictional. Written and directed by Mara Lieberman, executive artistic director of the company since 2012, the play uses six actors in 43 different roles from artists both famous and imaginary, to auction house sales personnel and staff, to collectors to dancers, as well as having actors impersonate free standing sculptures. Ironically, 59E59 Theaters was at one time part of Christie’s Auction House and Theatre B was actually one of the firm’s galleries. [more]

Sam & Dede, or My Dinner with Andre the Giant

March 19, 2017

Beckett lived in rural France, and his nearby neighbor, Boris Roussimoff, helped him build a cottage on his property in 1953. Beckett grew close to the family, and offered to drive Andre to school, as the boy was reluctant to take the bus. This was because he suffered from gigantism and was self-conscious about his appearance and his difficulty in fitting into the bus. By the age of 12, he was 6’ 3” tall and weighed 208 lb. [more]

White Guy on the Bus

March 18, 2017

Musical star Robert Cuccioli has to call upon his experience playing both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to become Ray in "White Guy on the Bus," a first-rate, new play by Bruce Graham, that has more than a stunning surprise or two, as it spreads out the story like a wild brush-fire burning out of control. His complicated and duplicitous “numbers man” character wants, from the beginning, to quit his high-paying job, and, like the French painter Gauguin, escape from the workaday world of banking and finance. “I don’t want to sell the house,” he tells his wife Roz in the opening scene. “I want to sell everything.” [more]

Kunstler

February 24, 2017

In "Kunstler," playwright Jeffrey Sweet recounts the defense attorney’s life and career in his well-written, comprehensively researched, and affectionate treatment. The conceit is that Kunstler is to address an audience of law school students at a university. Kerry is a young woman who is the vice-chair of the program committee attends him to him and becomes his foil, and is the play’s secondary character. This construction allows for a free wheeling manner of imparting the chronological details. It’s a solid take that could have certainly been at least a routine biographical exploration, but is undone here by the odd casting. [more]

The Dressmaker’s Secret

February 19, 2017

The playwrights have a keen understanding of this place and time, helped by the simple, but telling scenery of Stephen C. Jones, who also lit the small performing space to give the illusion of multiple settings. Molly R. Seidel’s costumes also hit the nail on the head as far as period and character are concerned. The glamorous dress Mária creates for Irma is in direct contrast to her own dreary housedresses, and Robert’s fancy western style suit makes Robi even more eager to leave Romania. [more]

Made in China

February 5, 2017

The ensuing journey is a bizarre and sometimes hilarious exploration of China and the culture within, even if it doesn’t always make the most sense. "Made in China" makes the most of the liberties that puppetry allows, and features some very impressive techniques and performances from the actors behind the scenes. Though the two main characters are both interesting, they are both made all the more entertaining by their canine companions. The two dogs, Lily and Yo-Yo (Dorothy James and Andy Manjuck among others) are completely lovable, and every single scene they are a part of is instantly heartwarming. [more]

Albatross

January 22, 2017

What Evett delivers—using ample quotes from the poem and robust contributions from himself and Spangler—is a terrifying inside look of the Mariner’s experiences, beginning with being hijacked by a friend at a pub. He breathlessly illuminates what the day-to-day life was like with lurid descriptions of illnesses and exciting second-by-second reports of battles with other ships. [more]

2017 LaBute New Theater Festival

January 21, 2017

Reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest while lying on a couch is Jay, a slacker-looking type in his 30’s. Sitting in the living room nearby is his 60ish mother who enjoys watching Dr. Phil on television and complaining about her ailments. Gabe McKinley’s Homebody is an enthralling black comedy with shades of Grey Gardens. Mother and son bicker, rehash recriminations and share their joy over the possibility of Jay’s novel being published. In 35 minutes, Mr. McKinley delivers a very well written, plotted and satisfying one-act play. It’s so pleasurable that a full-length version would be most welcome. [more]

Life is for Living: Conversations with Coward

December 24, 2016

Green’s dry delivery is in the Coward manner, crisp, almost spoken to the music, with impeccable diction. Shrubsole’s accompaniment supports him without ever getting in the way. The most famous song is probably “I Went to a Marvelous Party,” and there are five songs from Coward’s last all-original Broadway musical "Sail Away." However, there are also unfamiliar songs from "After the Ball" (“Something on a Tray”) and" Pacific 1860" (“I Saw No Shadow”), London shows that never made it to Broadway. In addition is “London Pride,” recently heard in the rediscovered post-war musical, "Hoi Polloi." Stand-alone songs include the poignant “There’s No More to Say about Love” and “I Travel Alone.” [more]

His Royal Hipness Lord Buckley

December 14, 2016

Raucous highlights include a jive reinterpretation of A Christmas Carol, “by Chazzie D, about a cat called Scrooge...who lives in Scrooge Tower.” There’s also Buckley’s irreverent take on The Gettysburg Address, “I’m a Lincoln cat.” Intertwined are Broder’s cool renditions of “On The Sunny Side of The Street” and “Georgia On My Mind.” He also demonstrates excellent saxophone and tambourine playing. [more]

Terms of Endearment

November 30, 2016

It isn’t until the second act of Dan Gordon’s stage adaptation of "Terms of Endearment," based on both the Larry McMurtry novel as well as the Academy Award-winning screenplay by James L. Brooks, that the play takes off. Featuring the now grown-up film star Molly Ringwald in the role of Aurora Greenway that won Shirley MacLaine the 1984 Oscar for Best Actress, the first act jumps around, skipping huge chunks of time as you can in movie cutting, but seems like something is has been left out on stage. [more]

Don’t You F**king Say a Word

November 19, 2016

Though the premise is an interesting device for dissecting the friendship between two men--for surely many men are curious how they are perceived by their better halves (self included), the play doesn’t aim to say much otherwise. Acting choices, pacing and thematics are all appropriate thanks to Lee Sunday Evans' seamless direction, but it’s the script itself which is the production’s biggest hurdle. Though there are some interesting and engaging ideas presented regarding the mind of the male, the untidy and nondescript ending make no attempt to make any significant statement about any of it, ultimately shrouding the entire production in a veil of murky, middle-ground mediocrity. [more]

The Collector

November 2, 2016

Healy’s treatment is faithful to the novel with a good deal of it being Clegg’s narration addressed to the audience. There are lengthy conversations between Miranda and Clegg, and her escape attempts are depicted. No matter how skillful Healy’s stage version is, it’s still two hours of often-philosophical talk between two characters in an unpleasant situation. [more]
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