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Bill Toles

The Rat Trap

November 23, 2022

Noel Coward’s "The Rat Trap" is not only entertaining but seems to have been ahead of its time. Discounted by critics and the author alike when it had its only production until now in 1926, the play turns out to be a cogent exploration of a creative woman’s search for her place in society, one which has no niche for her talents once she is a married woman. The Mint Theater Company does the play justice, restoring its reputation as an Edwardian period piece on the topic of the New Woman who is also a gifted artist. In Sarin Monae West and Elisabeth Gray we see the work of talented performers who we want to see more of in the future. [more]

B-Boy Blues The Play

June 7, 2022

Can a 27-year-old Black gay professional journalist and a 21-year-old Blatino bicycle messenger with an out of wedlock son find love and happiness together in Brooklyn? That is the crux of author James Earl Hardy’s compelling class-conscious drama "B-Boy Blues The Play," where all of its characters are confident of their varied sexuality. Mr. Hardy, an accomplished entertainment reporter, published his novel, "B-Boy Blues: A Seriously Sexy, Fiercely Funny, Black-on-Black Love Story," in 1994. It led to five sequels, a short story and an upcoming film version. Hardy’s stage adaptation premiered at New York City’s 2013 Downtown Urban Arts Festival (DUAF), which is also presenting this production. [more]

Take Shape

April 5, 2022

An astronaut in a space station, a YouTube cooking show, evicted apartment residents and a romance on the rocks are a few of the dramatic and antic incidents depicted in "Take Shape," an entertaining full-length program of mime. It’s presented by the Broken Box Mime Theater (BKBX), which was founded in 2011, and whose mission is “to activate the imagination of our audiences, to contemporize the art of mime, and to remind us all of the simple power of storytelling.” "Take Shape" is a collaboration by the company’s members, many of whom appear in rotation at various performances. This creative troupe is comprised of Nick Abeel, Becky Baumwoll, Ismael Castillo, Julia Cavagna, Géraldine Dulex, Blake Habermann, David Jenkins, Marissa Molnar, Kristin McCarthy Parker, Tasha Milkman, Regan Sims, Jae Woo and Josh Wynter. [more]

Shadow of Heroes

November 26, 2018

While Alex Roe’s minimalist production is both sharp and engrossing, the play offers viewers several problems. Aside from the three main characters, the play has 23 other speaking roles with actors doubling and tripling in multiple roles. Those unfamiliar with the Hungarian names as well as the history may have trouble following the twisty drama as the events pile up. Ardrey uses the awkward device of a narrator actually called the “Author” (played by Joel Rainwater) which helps a greatly but this also leads to a good deal of excess information. At almost three hours, "Shadow of Heroes" is an investment in time but it does pay off in the end. There are very few plays since Shakespeare which attempt as this one does to dramatize such a large chunk of history on stage. [more]

Adam

February 17, 2017

With slicked back hair, a melodiously rough voice and a smooth physical presence, Timothy Simonson offers an accurate impression of Powell that captures his swagger. Mr. Simonson’s appealing performance forcefully recounts Powell’s rise and fall with histrionic relish. Simonson is particularly stirring when describing the hardscrabble life of Powell’s father from poverty in Virginia to prominence and wealth as a minister in New York City. [more]

Zora Neale Hurston: a Theatrical Biography

November 17, 2016

The actors make the characterless space come alive. Elizabeth Van Dyke (Zora Neale Hurston) shrouds Zora with the same purity and authority that she conveyed in the 1998 production. Zora never pandered to convention -- Harlem Renaissance beliefs (Langston Hughes or Richard Wright) or white America politics. Zora walked her own path and was unwaveringly true to who she was and her ideas about art, politics, men and women, academia, and Black culture. Van Dyke towering performance is one that depicts Zora's all these character traits, as well as having a vulnerability and zest for life. [more]

Walk Hard

March 14, 2016

Imani’s production of 'Walk Hard" for Metropolitan Playhouse is an exciting piece of theater from an eye-opening rediscovery. Historically, it comes nine years after Clifford Odets’ 'Golden Boy" which covers similar content and 13 years before Lorraine Hansberry’s "A Raisin in the Sun" in which the Younger family fights a similar battle. Current racism condemned by the Black Lives Matter movement and much talk of income inequality in this election year make Walk Hard relevant once again at this time. [more]