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Ben Stanton

The Beast in the Jungle

May 28, 2018

While "The Beast in the Jungle" is a musical for our time it contains a message that was dear to the heart of writer Henry James, that of the unlived life. Ultimately very moving when the story reaches its conclusion, the exquisite Vineyard Theatre production is for elite tastes but all dedicated theatergoers, not the casual entertainment seekers, should see it. It may well start a new trend in theatre musicals, one in which the emotional sections are danced rather than sung. [more]

The Low Road

March 20, 2018

Bruce Norris’ plays are so different from each other that you have to take his fingerprints to recognize his hand. His recent New York plays have dealt with racism and gentrification ("Clybourne Park"), politics ("Domesticated"), sexual mores ("The Qualms"), theories of time and space (A Parallelogram), and now in his latest production to reach NYC, "The Low Road" at The Public Theater, he offers a fascinating take on capitalism and the free market told as a picaresque and ribald 18th century tale of colonial America on the brink of statehood. Of course, its real target is today’s untenable global economic situation but his criticism is couched as an historical parable. [more]

Junk

November 22, 2017

The protagonist of "Junk" is one Robert Merkin (Steven Pasquale), whose name alone is reminiscent of the real-life person he represents, Michael Robert Milken, the “Junk Bond King” of the mid 1980’s, who went to jail in 1990, and whose practices led to the world market crash a decade or so ago. “This is a story of kings, or what passes for kings these days,” says Forbes reporter Judy Chen (Teresa Avia Lim), in the play’s opening lines. “….enthroned in sky-high castles and embroiled in battles over, what else? Money.” [more]

Charm

September 28, 2017

Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins makes a memorable New York debut with an involving and engrossing play which at the performance under review you could have heard a pin drop, so rapt was the audience. The play is, indeed, flawed by its avoiding real confrontations time and again, always stopping short of out and out war. Inspired by the true story of Miss Gloria Allen who volunteered to teach a class in etiquette at Chicago’s Center on Halsted, "Charm" is both a fascinating story and it covers unexplored territory on our stages. As Mama Andrews, the elegant Sandra Caldwell is both charismatic and compelling, never fazed by the behavior of the class even when they pay her no mind or reject her teachings. [more]

Napoli, Brooklyn

July 12, 2017

True, here these Italian American sisters growing up in Park Slope, 1960, don’t want to get to some place as much as get away from someplace else. As they exit their teens, their home has been made a war zone by their brutal and violent Neapolitan father Nic Muscolino who cannot deal with these women (including his Italian born wife) who think for themselves and want to follow different paths than the traditional roles defined for them. [more]

The End of Longing

June 6, 2017

Mr. Perry has certainly followed the maxim, “write what you know.” We follow the romantic and personal travails of four stereotypical, contemporary Los Angles types who have the financial resources for incessant self-examination. It’s a universe of meet cutes, overwrought emotional exchanges and happy endings. [more]

Derren Brown: Secret

May 24, 2017

It quickly becomes apparent that Brown is a master at reading body language--no less than facial and vocal expressions--to manipulate the many audience-members who participate and to read their inner thoughts. Brown’s patter is also built on an almost glib sort of false modesty, such as his saying, near the end, “This only works because we are story-focusing creatures.” Any given interaction doesn’t “work” because we’re focusing on the “story,” but because he knows just exactly how to get us all to see only what he wants us to. [more]

Six Degrees of Separation

May 9, 2017

All the acting is sharp, from the upper-crusters taken in by Paul (Lisa Emery, Michael Countryman and Ned Eisenberg) to their kids (Colby Minifie, Keenan Jolliff, Ned Riseley, and Cody Kostro), Chris Perfetti as Trent who, sexually intoxicated by Paul, fills him in on the ways and means of all the people he will eventually swindle, and finally, to the young lovers (Peter Mark Kendall and Sarah Mezzanotte) whose fate reveals just how psychologically damaging Paul can be. [more]

Yen

February 3, 2017

There are many questions that the author fails to answer. Although the boys have not attended school in years and Bobbie has been diagnosed as ADHD and should be in the British equivalent of special education, no social worker seems to have visited to check up. Who is paying the rent or the electricity? Is the mother on welfare and are these items paid automatically? There is no explanation of how the boys are eating and how Taliban stays alive if they have not been feeding it for days or even weeks. While the neighbors are aware of Bobbie’s stealing, he seems to be getting away with it. The dog’s continual barking from his locked room can be heard on the street but no complaints have been filed. Is all this a metaphor or a slice of life drama? [more]

Incognito

June 5, 2016

This is heady theater and demands concentration. However, the excellent cast of four made of Geneva Carr (Theatre World Award winner for "Hand to God"), Charlie Cox (Netflick’s" Daredevil"), Heather Lind (AMC’s "Turn: Washington’s Spies"), and Morgan Spector (Drama Desk Award nominee for "Russian Transport") make this an unforgettable evening in the theater. The versatile cast play 20 characters, some as many as six, without changing costume but with different accents and demeanors, while the succeeding scenes take place almost as fast as the synaptic functions in the brain. The play which alternates in its telling of the three stories is also divided into three parts: "Encoding," "Storing' and "Retrieving." Before each section the cast perform hand gestures create by Peter Pucci that mimic the synaptic actions in the brain. [more]

Marjorie Prime

December 16, 2015

Playwright Jordan Harrison is a graduate of the Brown University M.F.A. program and the recipient of several prestigious awards such as a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Kesselring Prize. On a technical level "Marjorie Prime" is expertly constructed and contains serviceable dialogue that propels the plot, but in totality it never rises above the level of an academic contrivance. The premise is a familiar but promising one, but in execution it is flat. The exposition and setup never really become emotionally involving and the closing revelations are consciously sensationalistic. [more]

The Christians

September 22, 2015

"The Christians," Lucas Hnath’s examination of the intricacies of religion currently playing at Playwrights Horizons, comes to us at a unique cultural moment: every day, scientific advances further challenge the existence of God; ostensibly in an attempt to stay palatable to his mainstream constituents, The Pope has issued a series of proclamations regarding the acceptability of homosexuality, the truth of evolution, and other topics; "The Book of Mormon"—a patronizing, tongue-in-cheek assessment of the Church of the Latter Day Saints—is still playing to sold-out houses after five years on Broadway. Indeed, the fact that "The Christians"’ opening line, “Brothers and Sisters, let us pray,” was met with a hearty laugh is telling: today, New York audiences are largely secular and conditioned to sharpen their daggers at the very mention of Christ. To Hnath, however, the subject of religion is no joke. [more]

Fun Home

May 3, 2015

Inside this less-than-"Fun Home" of deception and repression is an exceedingly endearing and relatable cast of characters. Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs, and Beth Malone star as Small, Middle, and Adult Alisons, respectively; while their individual mannerisms and inflections may not depict a consistent character, their passionate performances work well enough together to amount to a moving “portrait of the cartoonist as a young woman” (or what have you). Stage and screen veteran Judy Kuhn likewise shines—or, more appropriately, fades—as the Alisons’ defeated mother Helen. As her former Disney princess voice glides across a broken ballad, Kuhn shows the anguish of a wife with nothing left to sing about. Perhaps most notably, Michael Cerveris’ heartbreaking portrait of Bruce is both authoritative and impotent, loveable and despicable. [more]

The Nether

March 2, 2015

Playwright Jennifer Haley describes her work as delving “into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity and desire.” On the basis of her New York debut with The Nether, we can expect some truly frightening dramas from her in the future. Even now, The Nether is such an extreme cautionary tale of the future of the Internet, that some may have difficulty sitting through it. [more]