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Dane Laffrey

Peace for Mary Frances

May 27, 2018

We learn a great deal about hospice, possibly more than one might want to know in a play. While most death watch plays like Edward Albee’s "All Over" and Scott McPherson's "Marvin’s Room," take place in another room from where the elderly person is dying, Mary Frances alternates between the downstairs living room/dining room and the upstairs bedroom of her split-level house. Unfortunately, this 21-scened play with at least a dozen more scenes which switch between Mary Frances’ bedroom and the living room where the rest of the family eat or watch television requires endless jump cuts like a film and endless lighting cues from designer Tyler Micoleau. [more]

Summer and Smoke

May 10, 2018

When Tennessee Williams started writing "Summer and Smoke," his working title for the play was "Chart of Anatomy," taken from a poem by Hart Crane. An anatomical chart becomes one of the very few props in the current Classic Stage Company and Transport Group revival of the 1948 play. Under the circumstances, the many players (a dozen in all) are often reduced to charades, as they describe a new gaudy hat, or a jigsaw puzzle, or gloves. For that matter there’s not really a set at all, only a large white platform in the center of the playing area, echoed by a large white rectangle hanging above--a kind of ceiling for the platform--and shortly after the prologue, six chairs, two of which will, at times, serve as a bench or a sofa. [more]

This Flat Earth

April 13, 2018

But, unfortunately, Ferrentino squanders this intriguing setup, getting lost in existential musings that end up being nowhere near as complicated as her subject matter. The first signs of trouble are actually percolating even before the play begins. As we enter the theater, Cloris (Lynda Gravátt), Julie and Dan’s elderly neighbor, is already perched in the upstairs apartment of Dane Laffrey’s two-story set. And there she remains for the entire play, a constant presence hovering over the action below. Initially, you wonder about her and, then, you feel sorry for the actor, hoping she’ll be given something more to do than just putter around. Eventually, however, after a couple of pat exchanges with Julie, it all becomes cringingly clear. Cloris isn’t a character at all; she’s an inspirational device, one that Ferrentino unleashes with full, and shameless, force at the play’s tear-jerking conclusion. [more]

Once on This Island

December 7, 2017

Director Arden, a 2005 Juilliard graduate, has impressed with his reinvention of the 2015 Forest of Arden/ Deaf West Theatre revival of "Spring Awakening" for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. Among his clever additions to "Once on This Island" are the use of a chorus of eight to play the Storytellers who relate the tale through Ahrens’ book and lyrics, a new sonic palette for Flaherty’s calypso-tinged score with musical instruments made from found objects, and a set which puts us on the shores of the very island where the story takes place with the audience sitting on all four sides of this newly created beach. His young lovers Ti Moune and Daniel seem a good deal younger than before, making the story that much more romantic and ultimately more tragic. [more]

Strange Interlude

October 24, 2017

Martha Graham called her dancers “athletes of God.”  Watching David Greenspan perform all the roles in a six-hour marathon performance of Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 melodrama, Strange Interlude, caused me to wonder what I might call David Greenspan.  Would “Son of Thalia” (the Greek goddess of theater) do? “Olympian of O’Neill”? [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]

The Moors

March 18, 2017

Although the play demonstrates a surface knowledge of the genre and the period, it wants to have it both ways: it takes place in 1840 in a desolate mansion on the Yorkshire Moors but the characters talk and behave as though it is the present. It appears to be making a feminist statement by making all the members of the household female but has nothing new to say on the subject other than as a variation on these famous novels. And it attempts to be funny but isn’t clever or surprising enough to trigger much laughter. [more]

Rancho Viejo

December 8, 2016

LeFranc’s dialogue is a marvelous blend of the realistic and mundane. The well-delineated main characters all express themselves with true to life simplicity. Plot developments are the combination of subtle details that gradually do build to a satisfying resolution. It all has the sense of John Cheever’s suburban short stories where the darkness behind bonhomie is revealed. Swimming pools are mentioned in passing. [more]

Homos, Or Everyone in America

November 9, 2016

The pomposity of the Tony Kushner-style title extends to naming its leading characters “The Academic” and “The Writer.” They’re two gay men in their late 20’s and the play charts their meeting, relationship, breakup and aftermath. This is accomplished by a dizzying structure of non-linear, rapid-fire, time shifting brief scenes. This intrusive device undercuts emotional involvement with the couple, as all of the jumping around of the narrative becomes artificial, repetitious and uninvolving. The period covered ranges from 2006 to 2011. [more]

Indian Summer

June 14, 2016

Gregory S. Moss’ "Indian Summer" at Playwrights Horizons is an uneasy mix of two stories, the first about the doomed romantic encounter between two teens and the second concerning the quiet existential suffering of an elderly man. Despite sudden shifts of tone, Moss manages to leave the audience feeling deeply for each of these characters. [more]

Cloud Nine

October 23, 2015

What is most remarkable about Caryl Churchill’s time traveling comedy "Cloud Nine" is that this prescient play about sexual politics and repression is now 36 years old, though it could have been written this year. Still a challenging gender-bending play, it asks us how far we think we have come from the Victorians in our attitudes about sex and identity. Set among the British in Africa during the repressed 1879 in Act I and back in England in liberated London in 1979 in Act II, the characters switch roles, genders and ages in the course of the evening. It isn’t obvious until the second half where the play is headed or how brilliant Churchill has been. Cloud Nine (which proves not to be a nirvana for the characters) challenges a great many of our strictly held beliefs about the way the world is or should be. [more]

Fool for Love

October 13, 2015

This is the fault of director Daniel Aukin who also staged it at The Williamstown Theatre Festival. Besides obtaining just competent performances from his cast, he has chosen a shallow high-tech approach in staging this small-scale but profound masterpiece by a writer at the peak of his powers in a Broadway theater rather then creatively reimagining it with meaningful aesthetic simplicity. [more]

Spring Awakening

October 9, 2015

Aside from its notable staging, this production is also receiving a great deal off attention for facilitating the Broadway debut of Marlee Matlin, the only deaf Academy Award-winner to date. While her role as several of the town’s adult women is not a particularly weighty one, she imbues them with her characteristic fervor. Sandra Mae Frank and Katie Boeck work well together to share the character Wendla; Boeck’s voice fluidly pairs with Frank’s signing to separate the inner turmoil and outer façade of a character whose mother refuses to listen. Likewise notable is the always-wonderful Broadway and television veteran Krysta Rodriguez, whose portrayal (both sung and signed) of Ilse, a homeless bohemian clinging to her sanity, is uniquely dark and dangerous. [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]

Three Days to See

July 31, 2015

Using a versatile cast of seven (Ito Aghayere, Patrick Boll, Marc delaCruz, Theresa McCarthy, Chinaza Uche, Barbara Walsh, and Zoe Wilson) who all play both Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan at some point in the evening, "Three Days to See" will impress you with the courage of this remarkable woman and remind you how grateful you should be for having your five senses unimpaired. While Keller’s early life was brilliantly dramatized in William Gibson’s "The Miracle Worker," that play and movie only dealt with Keller at age seven. "Three Days to See" tells the rest of the story as well as gives us insight into her beliefs, ideas and causes to which she was passionately devoted. [more]

Iowa

April 16, 2015

An actor in a suit wearing a pony mask and a tail trots out on stage a few times and later appears some more times without the mask to sing. A woman in a burqa (ordered from Amazon) walks around with a laptop. An ensemble of relatively mature women cavorts as high school cheerleaders, one of whom has sex with the pony. This same multi-racial group have another production number as all of them portray teen detective Nancy Drew. The show opens and closes with a young girl dressed as a boy in a seersucker shorts suit who sings. The drawn out finale involves a bunch of polygamous wives wearing different colored pastel gowns and singing what is called “Oratorio.” These are among the David Lynch-type surrealistic flourishes on display. [more]

The Few

May 18, 2014

Gideon Glick as Matthew is terrific, physically disappearing into his character so completely that he would not be recognizable in the street. Actors can get away with playing misfits as a collection of tics, so it's a great thing to see Glick dig deeper and infuse Matthew's every movement with his particular personality. [more]