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David Zinn

David Zinn is an American costume and set designer. http://www.mrdavidzinn.com/

Torch Song

October 28, 2017

While superficially poignant, "Torch Song" remains what it always was: a fierce play about the need for respect as a gay person, when it was painfully more difficult to come by acceptance, let alone respect. And to that extent, it may seem like a dated work, wedded to when it premiered as three one-act plays that were then put together as one, more than three decades ago. It’s still just as moving and tear-provoking as it comes to focus on a gay man whose mother (“the Sylvia Sydney of Brighton Beach”) has to cope with his adopting a young son. With the marvelous Urie and the always-superb Mercedes Ruehl as the mother, how could anything go wrong? Nothing does. [more]

For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday

September 14, 2017

In interviews, Ruhl says she intends this play as a gift to her mother who played Peter Pan in Iowa as a teenager.  As noble as this goal is, "For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday" never coheres into a compelling experience.  The character of Ann is fascinating but is embedded in an uninvolving scenario that is perhaps a mediation on aging, death and disillusionment. [more]

A Doll’s House, Part 2

May 12, 2017

Hnath’s new story is absorbing and twisty, interestingly creating an entirely new set of ethical and social questions than was handled by Ibsen in 1879. He has handled it in a similar fashion to Bergman’s "Scenes from a Marriage" but without the painful emotional fireworks. It is 15 years since Nora had left her husband, stating he had no further claim on her. She has not been heard from since. Having become a famous feminist author with advanced ideas writing under a pseudonym, she has recently discovered due to a blackmail attempt that Torvald has never divorced her which she assumed he had done. Having lived as a single woman, signing contracts, controlling her own money, and having relationships with men not her husband, she is guilty of a criminal offense under Norway’s laws at the time and can be sent to jail. She arrives at his door to obtain her divorce to really be a free woman. [more]

Present Laughter

April 23, 2017

As the ageing matinee idol who never forgets to check his appearance in the mirror, Kline plays a man who is always acting, both on stage and off. His animated physicality in his roles has always been in evidence but here he outdoes himself. Using his arms, hands, head, face and body as his canvas, he is almost never still showing us what can be done on each and every line. He makes even an ordinary line into a witticism and his comebacks wither with every additional jibe. He cajoles, seduces, emotes, wheedles and at the same time suggests he pities himself. He creates a bigger than life character (is John Barrymore his model?) and watching him is a lesson in consummate acting. So completely does he make Garry Essendine his own, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role – although among other New York revivals he has been played by such stars as George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Victor Garber and Coward himself. [more]

Amélie

April 10, 2017

"Amélie" is frustrating. The characters exist as two-dimensional cartoons that a talented cast almost brings to life. The uneven rhythms and poor timing of the show bog it down. An inability to find stage equivalents for the film’s gimmickry also hurts. It does have a game cast who vie with undistinguished songs, choreography and staging. Finally, there is Phillipa Soo who radiates warmth amidst the disarray. [more]

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

March 30, 2017

Marisa Tomei excels as George, the narrator of "How to Transcend…" --and of her own story. Thanks to Tomei’s vocal and visual expressions, we constantly share in George’s ongoing surprise, as she graduates from naivety to knowledge. In the end, it is George who has the most “transcendent,” and religious, experience. (It is not insignificant that we’re told George is the only Catholic in the group.)“It seems like you have omniscience,” says George, in her closing monologue, “when you can talk to the audience in a play.” And talk to us, she does, in the playwright’s smart, yet snappy language. Consider George also telling us that Jenna, “over time forgave us,” after walking in on her parent’s participating in a sex orgy. And “the trauma of seeing her parents’ aberrant sex lives up close--it became an anecdote in a college application.” Or consider David’s saying: “I’m from everywhere. And nowhere. I moved constantly as a child…. as a result, I don’t really believe in nationality.” [more]

Othello (New York Theatre Workshop)

December 21, 2016

Two ways to invigorate Shakespeare in our time is to either cast actors not identified with classical roles or to reset the play in some unfamiliar setting. Sam Gold’s magnificent production of "Othello" at the New York Theatre Workshop has done both. [more]

Twelfth Night (Public Works)

September 5, 2016

Taub’s eclectic score to original lyrics includes jazz, rhythm and blues, pop, Broadway and ragtime. Among Kwei-Armah’s ingenious touches were his use of a series of community cameo groups play back up for individual songs: the Jazz Procession for Countess Olivia’s father was played by the spirited Jambalaya Brass Band. Viola’s inner monologue was interpreted expressively in pantomime by New York Deaf Theatre. Malvolio’s solo Can-Can was performed by the nine energetic and enthusiastic dancers of The Love Show. The duel provoked by Sir Toby was backed up by the thrilling drummers of COBU while his duel masters were portrayed by the electrifying Ziranmen Kungfu Wushu Training Center. Throughout the evening, the Illyriettes made up of six ladies dressed identically in purple sequined sheaths played back up group for various singers and musical numbers. [more]

Troilus and Cressida

August 12, 2016

While "Troilus and Cressida" is rarely staged, Daniel Sullivan’s production full of bombs and smoke suggests that in our time of endless wars it speaks to us again, and the play’s cynicism also seems to capture the current zeitgeist. It also features memorable performances from John Glover, John Douglas Thompson, Max Casella, Sanjit de Silva, and Alex Breaux, among others. [more]

2016 Tony Awards Bestow Much Love on “Hamilton”

June 13, 2016

Although "Hamilton" had been nominated for 16 awards in 13 categories, it failed to break the record of Mel Brooks’ "The Producers" which remains the all-time winner with a total of 12. Hamilton took all of the top musical awards including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical (Thomas Kail, previously nominated for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights) except for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical which went to British actress Cynthia Erivo. (Making her Broadway debut, Erivo was reprising her role as Celie Harris in "The Color Purple" from the 2013 Menier Chocolate Factory production re-envisioned by John Doyle.) Star Miranda won his second and third Tonys with his awards for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theater and Best Book of a Musical. He previously won for Best Score with his 2008 Broadway musical, In the Heights. [more]

The Humans

November 12, 2015

For the first half of Stephen Karam’s “The Humans,” the Blake family Thanksgiving seems to be nothing but a banal seasonal gathering. And then suddenly the author’s message comes into focus and the play becomes a haunting drama and unnerving ghost story which is unlike anything you have seen lately. The superb cast headed by Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell under the direction of the always interesting Joe Mantello who has piloted many important new plays turns The Humans into a memorably unique experience. Karam, whose plays include Speech and Debate and Son of the Prophet, has been given a splendid Roundabout Theatre Company production for its third premiere of one of his plays. [more]

Hir

November 9, 2015

Ms. Nielsen has long been a treasured award-winning fixture of the New York stage with her quirky idiosyncratic comedic and dramatic talents. Here as the omnipotent matriarch Paige she is colossal. With her animated features, giddy voice, and frantic physicality, she delightfully mines every bit of the abundant dark comedy in the play. Alternately when slowing down to express fiercely serious sentiments she is chilling. This searing performance is yet another memorable turn from this incomparable actress. [more]

Cymbeline

August 13, 2015

At The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park venue, director Daniel Sullivan has proved himself a brilliant interpreter of the Bard’s comedies, both dark and light, from the evidence of his "Merchant of Venice," "The Comedy of Errors" and "Twelfth Night," to name only a few. Therefore it is a great disappointment to report that his "Cymbeline," the second and last 2015 Shakespeare in the Park offering, based on his 1999 Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, staging, is both confused and uneven, both visually and theatrically. Even more discouraging, the production wastes the talents of noted stage stars Kate Burton, Raúl Esparza, Patrick Page, and Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater, the acting couple being reteamed on the New York stage for the fifth time. [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]

An Act of God

June 9, 2015

This 90-minute intermission-less play is a comic and occasionally serious address to the audience by God who often sits on a large white couch as he revises The Ten Commandments. Some are kept and some are replaced by new ones during his arch analysis of human history. Angels Gabriel and Michael who also go out into the audience to take questions assist God. [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]

Airline Highway

April 29, 2015

Unlike D’Amour’s last New York play, "Detroit," a Pulitzer Prize finalist which had four characters and a tight arc, "Airline Highway" is diffuse and sprawling with a large cast of 16 actors ably piloted by director Joe Mantello. Set in the shabby, rundown Hummingbird Motel on New Orleans’ Airline Highway, the play introduces us to a colorful but down-and-out cast of characters just eking out a living: Krista, a now homeless stripper in her 30’s; Tanya, a 62-year-old hooker and drug addict; Terry, an African American handyman always in need of money; Francis, a 50ish poet who seemed to have missed his moment, and Sissy Nan Na, a transvestite bartender and karaoke wrangler on Bourbon Street of African American and Puerto Rican descent. The motel is managed by Wayne, in this late 50’s, always good for a soft touch or ready to tell his life story. [more]

Placebo

March 17, 2015

The play’s scenes alternate between the scientific research institute and the couple’s apartment.  The theatrical device of having one set representing both places is well rendered by scenic designer David Zinn’s realistic and well-appointed set.  Matt Frey’s lighting design and Ryan Rumery’s sound design contribute requisite razzle dazzle effects for the transitions from one setting to another.  Mr Zinn also designed the purposeful costumes. [more]

The Last Ship

November 4, 2014

The problem with the show is the book by first time librettist John Logan (Red, Never the Sinner) and Brian Yorkey (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the musical Next to Normal) which leaves plot points undeveloped, characters on the one dimensional level and an ending which leaves much unresolved. What the show is best at is creating a sense of community among the men who work in the shipyards and the women in their lives who back them up. The choreographed movement by Steven Hoggett ("Once," "Rocky" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") has knit the large cast of 30 into a cohesive whole with its muscular routines. [more]

Rocky from Chip Deffaa’s July 17, 2014 column

July 17, 2014

A boxing musical? I just couldn't see it. Nor could I imagine there'd be an audience for this on Broadway. Nor could I imagine that I–who's never seen a boxing match in my life or had any interest in doing so–would enjoy such a Broadway show. But I was wrong. Thomas Meehan and Sylvester Stallone, who wrote the script (based on Stallone's famed MGM/United Artists motion picture), have done a terrific job of good old-fashioned storytelling, making us care about the fate of an underdog, a down-on-his-luck boxer. And director Alex Timbers has staged this with enormous flair. [more]

Violet

May 2, 2014

An interesting and touching early musical from the composer of "Shrek," "Caroline, or Change," and "Fun Home." It may be in keeping with the notional scar, but sometimes "minimalist" fades into "generic." An inherent problem with the show, it's possible that even a small Broadway house like this one (740 seats) will always be too big. The climactic sequence, following Violet's discouraging experience in Tulsa, takes place mostly in Violet's head and as such is almost unstagable, and in any case hard to understand. Last and most problematic is that these soldiers react relatively casually to Violet's allegedly repellent deformity. [more]