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Barbara A. Bell

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (2018)

December 9, 2018

It’s a very presentational show. The six ensemble members comprise a sort of group narrator, working in tandem to relate the memories of the Thomas character for the audience—sometimes sorting out how it all really happened and sometimes taking on the roles of characters from the memories. Nicholas Barasch plays wide-eyed “Dylan,” who is totally swept up in holiday magic. Naomi Louisa O’Connell is his mother and Dewey Caddell his father. Extended family and friends are played by Margaret Dudasik, Polly McKie and Ashley Robinson. [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]

The Saintliness of Margery Kempe

July 19, 2018

The cast list in the program reads more like a medieval phone-directory--even if there were no phones in the Middle Ages--than it does a dramatis personae. And then there’s what happens to the characters during the course of the play which is as hard to say as it is to remember all of their names, let alone pronounce them. [more]

The Show-Off

October 5, 2017

The central character is actually Mrs. Fisher who worries about her children and plots to open Amy’s eyes to her husband’s faults. Unfortunately, Annette O’Toole has been directed to play her as shrill, strident and hysterical, rather than as a wise middle-aged lady who has no illusions about life. Given a great many ethnic prejudices in her dialogue which in 1924 defined her as a suburban provincial, played this way she simply comes across as a bigot. We ought to be rooting for her against the barbarian invasion but O’Toole makes her almost as bad as Aubrey. [more]

Public Enemy

October 16, 2016

Ibsen’s "An Enemy of the People" is a classic of modern drama but at times it can seem musty in a poor translation. David Harrower’s "Public Enemy" is not only a shrewd, accessible adaptation, it also makes clear the contemporary relevance of the dangers of the herd instinct in a seemingly just society. The Pearl Theatre Company production is a must-see for all good citizens, particularly in these perilous times. [more]

A Taste of Honey

September 22, 2016

Director Austin Pendleton made some choices which don’t help the now creaky play. Although Peter is described as ten years younger than Helen, Pendleton has cast the ever reliable Bradford Cover who unaccountably looks to be Helen’s age or older. This changes the dynamic of the play as with a younger man it would be obvious why Helen doesn’t think she has much hold over him. While the apartment is described as dirty with junk all over it, Harry Feiner’s set is spotlessly clean. This changes the environment a good deal and makes Jo’s life much less intolerable than described. In addition to the on-stage jazz combo which was also part of the original 1958 London production, Pendleton has several of the characters occasionally speak directly to the audience which makes this play more surreal than the kitchen sink milieu would imply. All of this makes the revival much less affecting than it might have been. [more]

Widowers’ Houses

March 14, 2016

Director David Staller has ingeniously staged this small-scale production with numerous theatrical flourishes. Scene transitions are accomplished with actors in character moving furniture, there are hilarious slapstick bits, voice-over recordings are heard representing a character’s thoughts and the very precise stage choreography all enrich the presentation while faithfully representing the author’s intentions. Mr. Staller has also assembled a first-rate cast of talented actors who are all expert at crisply delivering Shaw’s wordiness while sustaining vivid characterizations. There is also clever double casting. [more]