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Alison Fraser

Enter Laughing the Musical

May 27, 2019

As David, Chris Dwan does not make one forget the inimitable Grisetti who spun every moment into a comic turn. However, Dwan is charming as the undaunted hero who must deal with problems behind his ken but always comes up with a possible solution even if it doesn’t work out. David Schramm’s alcoholic and hammy Harrison Marlowe is not quite as clipped as that of the late George S. Irving whose signature role this became but his sarcasm and slow burns are still entertaining. Though Farah Alvin’s Angela Marlowe is not as affected as her predecessor as the predatory performer, she still is delicious as an actress who falls in love with all of her co-stars. [more]

Heartbreak House

September 14, 2018

Gingold Theatrical Group’s "Heartbreak House" is an interesting but misguided attempt to update Shaw’s Edwardian masterpiece and make it seem more relevant to our times. Despite the stellar cast, the unfocused production by the usually reliable David Staller undermines much of the play’s humor and message. While the adept cast is stylish, they never gel into a true ensemble. This new version adapted from Shaw’s earlier 1914 script rather than the more famous 1919 published text will be of interest to Shaw devotees who will have never seen this rendering before. [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]

Dear World

March 1, 2017

Having played such indomitable women as Mama Rose and Maria Callas, Daly slips into the role of the Madwoman of Chaillot which fits her like a glove with her crisp, authoritative delivery. As a woman who refuses to see reality for what it is, she gives a powerful rendition of “I Don’t Want to Know,” the show’s only hit song. She does a lovely job with the new number, “A Sensible Woman,” as well as the haunting ballad, “And I Was Beautiful.” [more]

Signature Plays

May 30, 2016

It’s clear why Edward Albee’s "The Sandbox" (1959), María Irene Fornés’ "Drowning" (1986) and Adrienne Kennedy’s "Funnyhouse of a Negro" (1964) are considered modern absurdist classics. They hew to the territory the truly greats like Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, the Dadas and Alfred Jarry explored, with Beckett the most influential, particularly in the first two plays, interpreting them with an American spin. If they are not as effective—if they seem somehow clichéd—the playwrights cannot be faulted. The Art World simply moves on. [more]

Saloons: Some Enchanted Evenings

May 14, 2016

Cabaret has always been a mixed bag. The golden age is gone. However, in today's schizo world of nightclubs, things are looking pretty good. It is a milieu unique in the entertainment industry. And, it continues to reinvent itself. The late cabaret critic Martin Schaeffer wrote in Back Stage in 1993,“There cannot be a better night of classic American music than a Bobby Short gig at The Carlyle.” He was right; especially if you're a purist of the Great American Songbook. [more]

First Daughter Suite

November 4, 2015

Twenty-two years after writing "First Lady Suite," four linked musicals about Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Truman, Mamie Eisenhower, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, composer-lyricist Michael John LaChuisa has written a follow-up. Entitled "First Daughter Suite," it also contains four mostly sung-through musicals and depicts six of the Presidents’ daughters as well as six of the First Ladies. The individual pieces vary in content, seriousness and musical style: opera, jazz, pop and Broadway. While the material is impressive, the first two musicals are very lightweight while the other two included in the second half of the evening are much more profound. However, what First Lady Suite does best is offer several veteran singing actresses a chance to appear in extremely meaty roles, turning each of their roles into a tour de force. This is the fifth collaboration between LaChuisa and director Kristen Sanderson who directed the original production of "First Lady Suite" which also premiere at the Public Theater. [more]