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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/

One Discordant Violin

November 6, 2019

What this team of artists has created is a serious piece of storytelling that is also a glorious treat for the eyes and ears. If you’ve figured that the show will just be a guy narrating a short story while another guy plays violin, you’re certain to be pleasantly surprised. [more]

A Woman of the World

November 3, 2019

Kathleen Chalfant adds another feather to her cap as Emily Dickinson’s posthumous editor Mabel Loomis Todd in the world premiere of Rebecca Gilman’s new one-woman play, "A Woman of the World," presented by The Acting Company in association with Miranda Theatre Company at 59E59 Theaters. Staged by Miranda’s artistic director Valentina Fratti with elegant assurance, Chalfant is both fascinating and seductive as this real life woman who in the 1880’s and 1890’s scandalized conventional Amherst, Massachusetts, with her liberated and bohemian behavior long before such goings on became acceptable for women – or men. [more]

The White Chip

October 21, 2019

Written by Sean Daniels, "The White Chip" is reportedly an autobiographical play, directed with an earnest finesse by Sheryl Kaller who sometimes has difficulty keeping her three different performers in character, in terms of whom they represent. If one has difficulty following the many tangents, Kaller has to be held principally responsible for that. [more]

Round Table

October 15, 2019

The problem with Vaynberg’s play, now being given its Off Broadway premiere, in which she plays the lead female role, is that it has so many interlocking plots that it can give you a headache trying to keep them straight. And as all of the actors play two and five roles it is difficult to always know who is who. While director Geordie Broadwater keeps the pace zipping along, this often makes it more of a strain to follow the convoluted plotting. Plus the extensive quoting from Tennyson’s Arthurian narrative poem, Idylls of the King (not identified until late in the play) doesn’t help a bit. [more]

Fern Hill

September 20, 2019

Tucker’s dialogue is breezy and amusing, and it’s fun to see these talented actors—all mainstays of the New York stage—being playful together. Together, they make interesting stuff out of the material they’ve been given, and they are all highly watchable. But would the play seem more fulfilling and important if there were more fully developed personal and interpersonal conflicts? [more]

Only Yesterday

September 16, 2019

As John, Christopher Sears is an enjoyable pill, perfectly offset by Tommy Crawford's Paul whose amiable placidity is almost Buddha-like. More importantly, both actors have impressive musical chops, which wonderfully serves Stevens' truncated overview of Paul and John's tuneful reminiscing about their musical influences: Chuck Berry, Bobby Freeman, Gene Vincent. Sears even has the opportunity to do a bit of Elvis Presley hip swiveling that feels absolutely perfect in its oh-so-British imperfection. [more]

Tech Support

September 9, 2019

Deborah Whitfield’s 'Tech Support" offers a clever idea in order to review feminism in the past century. Unfortunately, her rather superficial approach misses a great many opportunities. The romantic comedy aspect of the play is not entirely believable and works to the detriment of the play’s serious elements. The slick production is entertaining without ever delving below the surface even though it attempts to cover a great many important and serious issues, many of which are not yet solved today. Don’t blame the actors who do their best with the material they have been given. [more]

Summer Shorts 2019: 13th Annual Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2019

Neil LaBute’s “Appomattox” is the most substantial of the three plays and deals with a topic new to his work. Two long-time friends, Frank, black, and Joe, white, are having a picnic in the park without their wives where they get to throw around a football. Joe tells Frank about a story he read in the newspaper that the freshmen at Georgetown University have decided to pay an annual reparation to the families of slaves who were sold off by the college centuries before as collateral to keep the school going. He is impressed that the $27.20 will be annually added to their tuition. For Frank, this is nothing but a symbolic gesture. He would like to see the figure sting a little for 400 years of slavery. [more]

Summer Shorts 2019: 13th Annual Festival of New American Short Plays: Series A

August 3, 2019

Series A of this year’s Summer Shorts: 13th Festival of New American Short Plays is unified around the theme of death and dying and how it affects the living. Lest you think that this sounds morbid, the three provocative one-act plays that make up this first program are so beautifully handled that this is a superior theatrical evening in three totally different styles. Unlike many evenings of one acts, the productions of all three are worth of your attention and could not be bettered. [more]

Two’s a Crowd

August 2, 2019

Co-written by and starring Rita Rudner (who is not only a playwright and performer but also an author, film writer, producer and director, with many TV appearances to her credit), "Two’s a Crowd" suggests that it’s creator has run out of original ideas and is recycling old ones--not only others, but her own. It really lands with a thud, which also may have a lot to do with trying to present it as a musical. [more]

Monica: This Play is Not About Monica Lewinsky

July 30, 2019

The title of playwright Dianne Nora’s fascinating new work, "Monica: This Play is Not About Monica Lewinsky," is disingenuous.  Is it about you-know-who?  Well, yes and no.  There were passing references to the title character’s notoriety and enough images of and quotes from President Clinton, among others, to imply that the title is, at best, a white lie; at worst it is a tongue-in-cheek bait-and-switch.  But if that is a way of getting an audience to see this incisive and adult drama, then more power to Ms. Nora who knows how to write sharply focused dialogue. [more]

Julie Madly Deeply

June 19, 2019

Andrews’ worldwide success with the films "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins" is well represented here, as is the Broadway musical that established her in the first place, "My Fair Lady," even if "The Boyfriend" preceded it. The current run of "Julie Madly Deeply" at 59E59 Theaters follows its playing first in London’s West End and then in Toronto. It was written by Young, with contributions from Russell Lucas, who has also directed the show in a full-steam-ahead mode. [more]

Square Go

June 16, 2019

Scottish playwrights Kieran Hurley and Gary McNair explore the murky pre-adult domain with candor and humor in "Square Go," an appealing two-hander directed by Finn Den Hertog and featuring two fully adult actors, Daniel Portman and Gavin Jon Wright, portraying—respectively—Max and Stevie, a pair of  13-year-old besties who seem to transform, regularly, into each other’s biggest enemy. There are hilarious moments in the play, but Hurley and McNair don’t treat the characters in a condescending way. [more]

Feral

May 23, 2019

All of this is brought to life via digital camera, which captures the movement of the figures on a quickly assembled “set” that is, in effect, a whole miniature seaside town, with businesses and homes through which the various human, animal and automotive figures navigate. At one very “meta” point, we even see a Punch and Judy show at a town festival: puppets putting on a puppet show! [more]

Posting Letters to the Moon

May 21, 2019

The epistolary "Posting Letters to the Moon" may, on the face of it, make one think of A. R. Gurney’s "Love Letters" or Helene Hanff’s "84 Charing Cross Road. "But unlike those two memorable plays, PLTTM as “compiled” by Lucy Fleming, whose mother was the British actress Celia Johnson and whose father Peter Fleming was a travel writer--as well as the older brother of James Bond creator, Ian Fleming--never really tells a story nor conveys what her parents’ relationship was like. [more]

Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain

April 28, 2019

Likability is in short supply nowadays and the three playwright/performers who created this comedy, based on an actual pamphlet handed to Americans during World War II, have spun the dry, inadvertently funny, official publication into a delightfully involving charmer.  (Copies of the actual pamphlet are available in the lobby.) Dan March, James Millard and Matt Sheahan, the actors, along with John Walton, the show’s director and co-author, treat the audience members as the American soldiers on English soil for the first time, totally ignorant of the British customs, language, sports, food, etc.   There’s a lot of winking going on to be sure as Lieutenant Schultz (Millard) and Colonel Atwood (March), Americans, and Major Gibbons (Sheahan), an Englishman, share with us everything we wanted to know about Britain but were afraid to ask. [more]

Killing Time

April 26, 2019

This British production is a family effort, as Forsyth and Mills are mother and daughter in real life. The play is worth seeing primarily for the sharp and uncompromising performance of Forsyth, whose blunt-talking, often-witty Hester is a joy to watch, even in her darkest moments. The production also uses Forsyth’s skills as a cellist—and as a composer—to great effect. [more]

I Carry Your Heart

April 10, 2019

Though playwright Kelly strives for poetry at times--in addition to that last quote, consider Josh’s mother calling him a “terminal optimist” and also learning that the play’s title is taken from e. e. cummings--it’s more or less done in by her contrivances. She also conveys too much of the exposition through her biggest contrivance of all: Debra, an author, has left behind a memoir for Phoebe to read, and she reads it aloud to Blake, thereby imparting much of Debra’s story. [more]

Smart Blonde

March 31, 2019

Using the premise of a 1964 recording session that stimulates her many memories, good and bad, the play serves as a moving tribute to Holliday even though it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of her life.  In truth, it is the contrast between her brilliant professional career and her personal unhappiness that makes Holliday and this play so moving. [more]

Switzerland

February 22, 2019

Mystery writer Patricia Highsmith ("Strangers on a Train," "Carol," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") was famously alcoholic, depressive, misogynistic and racist. She was unique as an internationally famous writer who had created in Tom Ripley the only serial killer ever created by a woman writer. In "Switzerland," Joanna Murray-Smith, one of Australia’s most successful playwrights, has written a play about the last days of this reclusive writer’s life. Directed by Dan Foster, the initially fascinating premise takes a sharp turn into territory that requires a good deal of suspension of disbelief. [more]

The Waiting Game

February 18, 2019

Welcome to "The Waiting Game," a play by Charles Gershman, which has the makings for a meaningful drama, but never really amounts to much. A large part of the problem is the nondescript and dull staging, as directed by Nathan Wright, which doesn’t really bring any of the characters alive. And then there’s the writing, also nondescript and dull, does nothing to make the characters real--nor does it contain anything resembling exposition. [more]

On Blueberry Hill

January 20, 2019

Irish actors Niall Buggy and David Ganly returning to their original roles play two murderers sharing a cell in Dublin’s Montjoy Jail. The fiftyish PJ (Ganly) and the sixtyish Christy (Buggy) alternate in their tales, eventually becoming one story. One has committed a crime on impulse and can’t even explain why he did it. The other committed a revenge killing, just like one that killed his father when he was a child watching through the front window. Growing up in a suburb of Dublin, PJ tells us he was an only child with a much loved mother. At seminary, he becomes hopelessly infatuated with a younger fellow seminarian “shining with beauty.” [more]

Bitter Greens

December 18, 2018

Though it was common practice centuries ago, perhaps the final take-away from "Bitter Greens"--a new play by Clea DeCrane--is that an actor should not perform in her own work. In the play, DeCrane portrays Reyna, a character that is both confused and confusing. She’s also more than a little aloof. When Reyna announces that she’s going “to go on a cleanse,” another character, Caitlin (Jessica Darrow), asks her, “A cleanse from what, vegan bites and vitamin water?” [more]

The Net Will Appear

December 14, 2018

Gradually, as the course of a year passes, we learn about the characters’ trouble-filled off-stage lives: Rory is coping with being part of a broken family; Bernard suffered loss early in life, and his wife now has medical issues. The growing friendship between the two opposites is obviously meant to create an occasion for epiphany. Too obviously. The drama in the characters’ contrasting lives plays out with boilerplate predictability. It’s all just a little too pat. [more]

The Hello Girls

December 12, 2018

One of the beauties of the book by Mills and Reichel is that all of the characters in the large dramatis personae are very well defined and we have no trouble knowing who is who. Reichel’s direction and staging make the characterizations clear and consistent. Fishman’s Grace is efficient, fair-minded and heroic, always coming up with good ideas to make sure that things run more smoothly and we root for her throughout the story. As the assured, ambitious Suzanne, Skyler Volpe is very feisty, witty and acerbic, in the manner of an Eve Arden role. Chanel Karimkhani’s Helen, the farm girl, is constantly getting into trouble, not least of which is her problem being late most of the time and her naïveté and lack of sophistication. As the oldest operator and a married woman, Lili Thomas’ Bertha is a rock of stability when others are falling apart. Cathryn Wake’s very French Louise is a firecracker, always speaking her mind - even if it gets her into trouble. Christine O’Grady’s choreography for the dance hall scenes for the women and the doughboys is redolent of ballroom dances of the period. The show’s one flaw is that there is not enough tension until almost the very end when the war comes a little too close for comfort. [more]

Bernie and Mikey’s Trip to the Moon

November 25, 2018

Playing the developmentally challenged title character Bernie, Stephanie Gould captures the innocence and charm of this young woman, sometimes with broad strokes, but always with sincerity and commitment. A speech impediment called for in the script ultimately comes across as ‘baby talk;’ this affectation is sometimes distracting and annoying, but fortunately never for very long. By contrast, the character of Jeff Goldblum, a young man who Bernie has met in some of her development classes and pursues her relentlessly as a suitor, is revealed to be less-abled by his dialog alone; it’s by what he says, and not how he says it, that the audience understands he is mentally challenged as well. Goldblum is played with humor and disarming quirkiness by Benjamin Rosloff. [more]

Agnes

September 16, 2018

Unfortunately, Worsham’s efforts just confirm the play’s central problem: only the relationship between June and Charlie has any real depth. As for the rest of the characters, although McMullen’s writing is clever, too many of the lines are focused on eliciting laughs rather than explaining why these people are choosing to shelter together. It doesn’t help matters that the play’s lighting by Cheyenne Sykes and sound design by Daniel Melnick are wholly devoted to overdramatizing Charlie’s Asperger’s while failing to offer much-needed periodic reminders of the torrential plot device that keeps everyone from fleeing the cramped apartment. [more]

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

September 9, 2018

Using a format that has worked for him before in his George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein evenings, Hershey Felder has returned to 59E59 Theaters in a charming biographical musical as legendary songwriter Irving Berlin. As Felder narrates his story becoming Berlin, he also sings and plays over 30 of his most famous songs, as well as some not so familiar today, including “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas” and the iconic, “God Bless America’. [more]

Less Than 50%

August 17, 2018

Though there are recurring references to Woody Allen and more specifically to "Annie Hall" during the 90-minute piece, "Less Than 50%" bears as much resemblance to that Oscar-winning film as Gianmarco does to a matinee idol. (According to Gianmarco, his play is not a “rip-off” of "Annie Hall," as Laura says it is, but an “homage.”) It’s telling that instead of the hysterical scene with lobsters in the kitchen in "Annie Hall," we have to contend with a mouse and a mousetrap in "Less than 50%." [more]

Summer Shorts 2018 – Festival of New American Short Plays: Series B

August 5, 2018

The plays in Summer Shorts 2018 - Festival of New American Short Plays have often had a theme running through all the offerings in one evening, however they were concealed or obscured. This year’s Series B is about two-character relationships at a tense moment in their developments, sort of sparring partners as one of the plays calls it. Unfortunately, the plays in this series by Neil LaBute, Claire Zajdel, and Eric Lane all need further work as they are premises rather than finished plays. [more]

The Originalist

July 23, 2018

n what easily could have become a one-man show, playwright Strand has cleverly created dramatic tension by first introducing us to a second character and later a third. Set during the 2012-2013 term of the Supreme Court, the play begins with a lecture by Scalia to a law class where he explains his philosophy of being an “originalist,” that is, someone who interprets the Constitution as it was originally written and understood by its drafters in 1789. This presupposes that it is not a living document that should reflect each era, but something carved in stone which does not change but may need interpretation. [more]

All I Want Is One Night

June 16, 2018

Part of 59E59’s Brits Off-Broadway 2018 festival, Jessica Walker’s "All I Want is One Night" takes place in an odd combination of cabaret and antique shop.  Theater B in the 59E59 Theaters complex has been done over as an intimate café with moody lighting by Kate Ashton and extraordinary period perfect costumes (uncredited).  It is 1980 in Haut de Cagnes and Suzy Solidor (Walker) in her dotage is about to be painted by Lindstrom (Alexandra Mathie who plays multiple characters in Solidor’s life quite convincingly) and is being cared for by a much younger lady, Giselle (Rachel Austin who also plays Daisy, later in the play). [more]

Secret Life of Humans

June 12, 2018

Though it wouldn’t be fair to reveal it here for audiences about to see the play, the “secret” actually turns out to be one that has been widely known for some time as it is all over the Internet. The play’s assertion that Bronowski died immediately after his November 1973 television appearance is inaccurate as he died the following summer while visiting friends on Long Island. Nor is there evidence that there was ever a locked room. As Bronowski had four daughters, it is unlikely that one of them was a grandson named “Jamie Bronowski.” The frequent use of technology in the play like having actors walk on the wall as if traversing photographs has been done much more effectively by Cirque du Soleil and others. The quality of the black and white video clips leaves much to be desired. [more]
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