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Asta Bennie Hostetter

Renascence

October 30, 2018

In her own time, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) was a rock star and a best-selling author until illness and postwar culture dimmed her luster. Still she fascinates with her bohemian lifestyle, beauty, love affairs with both men and women, feminist views, and effortless sounding poetry. In recent years, her life has again obsessed biographers and playwrights in such works as "Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2001), "Becoming Vincent" (2013) and "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay" (2014). Add to this list the adventurous Transport Group’s world premiere musical "Renascence," with book by Dick Scanlan and lyrics from Millay’s own poems set to music by Carmel Dean. Unfortunately, the new show is often arch and pretentious and the musical settings are entirely in the wrong style for Millay’s lyrics from the 1920’s. [more]

Dance Nation

May 9, 2018

Ms. Barron’s conception is more of an agenda driven fantastical tract rather than a well-crafted play with a cohesive plot. Her tone is of exaggeration and artifice with mannered dialogue that is intended to be hilarious yet thoughtful. A brief gag about "A Chorus Line" and a reference to the actual Telsey & Company Casting are some of the smug inside humor tossed in. [more]

[Porto]

February 16, 2018

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: three people walk into a bar where they are known by the drinks they order. Only in Kate Benson’s new play "[Porto]," the unnamed bar is in a gentrified neighborhood in Brooklyn, and is defined as a “boushy bar,” a portmanteau word made up of "bourgeois" and "douchey." We know that because it serves “serious food, serious beer, serious wine, serious spirits.” And what of the story the play tells? Like an episode of "Seinfeld," 'Friends" or "Girls," it will probably please Millennials most, those who are living the life of spending evenings in trendy bars to find companionship. The second play this year following "Miles for Mary" to transfer from Brooklyn’s Bushwick Starr to Manhattan, [Porto] is now at the WP Theater for an Off Broadway run. [more]

Miles for Mary

February 9, 2018

Playwrights Horizons has a real winner with the first entry in its new Redux Series bringing back worthy Off Off Broadway plays for a longer run Off Broadway. First up is "Miles for Mary," a company project from The Mad Ones, a New York City-based troupe dedicated to creating “ensemble-driven highly detailed theatrical experiences that examine and illuminate American nostalgia.” Seen previously at The Bushwick Starr during the 2016-17 season, "Miles for Mary" is a brilliant satire on group dynamics in an ongoing school fund-raising committee told in real time. While hilarity abounds as the committee does its pedantic and minimal work, an inevitable explosion is promised by the end and it is a doozie when it finally occurs. [more]

Red Roses, Green Gold

October 30, 2017

The score is comprised of Jerry Garcia & Robert Hunter’s Grateful Dead music and lyrics with additional music and lyrics by Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, and Bill Kreutzmann. It’s all an engaging patchwork well-realized by Jeff Chimenti’s polished musical supervision and arrangements. Though it’s wonderful experiencing such spirited renditions of Grateful Dead classics such as “Truckin,” “Casey Jones,” “Alabama Getaway” and “A Touch of Grey” by the talented ensemble, "Red Roses, Green Gold" doesn’t really cohere into a satisfying work of musical theater. [more]

William Inge in Rep: Picnic & Come Back, Little Sheba

April 1, 2017

Though rather flawed in execution, there is much to enjoy in "Picnic" & "Come Back, Little Sheba": William Inge in Repertory. It is also revelatory in proving William Inge’s high ranking in the annals of dramatic literature. [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]

Coriolanus (Red Bull Theater)

November 9, 2016

Just as Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower did centuries later, Coriolanus, urged on by his powerful mother, Volumnia (a startling, stinging Lisa Harrow), uses his military success as a springboard for a high political office, Consul, which he easily wins with help of two Tribunes of Rome, Sicinius Velutus (a wily Stephen Spinella) and Junius Brutus (Merritt Janson, playing cross gender to perfection) and a friend, Menenius Agrippa (Patrick Page, using his weighty voice and commanding eyes brilliantly). [more]

Men on Boats

August 2, 2016

In this swashbuckling comedic play, 'Men on Boats" takes an innovative approach by casting ten women in the roles of the first “white” discovers of the Grand Canyon. However, this was not a nod to the current trend of casting cisgender or transgender actors. The use of “on boats,” instead of “in boats,” indicates the state of being in which the actresses find themselves — a history panorama where gender and race play little part. [more]

Smokefall

March 2, 2016

The play seems to be saying that life is full of suffering but love will conquer all, not a very new or profound message. One flashback (Violet and Daniel’s first date) is replayed at least three times with no new significance with each repeat. The title is a quote from T.S. Eliot’s "The Four Quartets": “The moment in the draughty church at smokefall/ Be remembered; involved with past and future./ Only through time time is conquered.” Unfortunately, like a great deal of late T.S. Eliot, these lines are too abstruse to have much bearing on the play. Smokefall is the sort of work that you either go with its whimsy or hate it. This is definitely not a play for all theatergoers. [more]

10 out of 12

July 8, 2015

While this is a fascinating idea, anyone who has worked in theater will tell you that Tech rehearsals are long and tedious with all the stopping and starting to get the lights, sound, set and costumes right as time is running out. Unfortunately, much of 10 out of 12 falls into this category. At two hours and 40 minutes, the play is a bit of an endurance test for the uninitiated. Although as the Tech rehearsal goes on we get to know the characters better, the play is revealing about only some of its characters. [more]

The Essential Straight & Narrow

May 26, 2014

Shifting abruptly from flashbacks to a form of the present, we follow Jo, a young woman formerly a folk/country musician and now an actor. Periodically she is shown reading from and trying to memorize a script indicating that she's preparing for a role, seemingly in a television police drama. Much of the action takes place in 1974 in a rundown New Mexico wood-paneled motel room where an estranged trio of country western performers has gathered to launch a reunion tour. [more]