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Dede Ayite

Chicken & Biscuits

October 18, 2021

Douglas Lyons’ new comedy, "Chicken & Biscuits" introduces us to the dysfunctional Jenkins/Mabry clan at the funeral of its patriarch Bernard, the former pastor of his New Haven church. Among the various glitches are the arrival of an uninvited family member and the appearance of the gay boyfriend of the son. Sound familiar? The new wrinkle in this Broadway play is that the family is Black.  While the formula may be time-worn and familiar, Lyons’ play directed by Zhailon Levingston (also making his Broadway debut as the youngest Black director in Broadway history) is fast-paced and generally bright and appealing. Veteran stars Norm Lewis and Michael Urie lead a fine cast that includes the Broadway debuts of five performers who may be familiar from television, film or Off Broadway. [more]

The Last of the Love Letters

September 19, 2021

We’re transported to Ms. Chen’s boldly oppressive spacious prison set with bars, an austere bed, a urinal, a tank to vomit in, and a retractable metal staircase for a menacing authority figure to descend from. Here, we meet the incarcerated “You No.2,” the male who gives his side of the romantic breakup during a cryptic and histrionic 40 minutes. We gradually realize he’s an artist being held in a government mental institution for crimes against the state. The finale strives for an emotionally resonant Twilight Zone-style twist ending, but it doesn’t make much impact, like the rest of this synthetic play. [more]

SHOWSTOPPERS! SPECTACULAR COSTUMES FROM STAGE & SCREEN

August 31, 2021

Showstoppers! spotlights the incredible and oftentimes under-recognized costume contributions to the entertainment industry, and pulls back the curtain on the hundreds of costuming experts who create, supply and care for them, and infuse much-needed vitality back into the Theatre District. As guests make their way through the exhibit, they will get to see up close the detail and craftsmanship typically only seen far away on stage or screen. Costume makers and experts will be on-site demonstrating their techniques and skills and interacting with guests, and multimedia elements will provide a rare opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the process. [more]

A Soldier’s Play

February 5, 2020

David Alan Grier, Blair Underwood and Billy Eugene Jones in a scene from Charles Fuller’s “A [more]

The Underlying Chris

December 6, 2019

Another way to look at the play is as the twelve stages of man and woman, going Shakespeare five more steps. Unlike Tracy Letts’ Mary Page Marlowe, in which the heroine was played by a different actress at each stage of her life, here we are asked to adjust to multiple versions of Chris whose name changes in each of the play’s 12 scenes: Chris, Christine, Kris, Christopher, Kristin, Topher, Christoph, Kit, Christina, and finally Khris. [more]

Slave Play

October 14, 2019

A mulatto slave is sodomized with a large black dildo while in a canopy bed by his master’s wife who is decked out in Madonna-style dominatrix regalia. A white indentured servant fellates the boot of his black overseer after they’ve performed a balletic dance in their underwear. A snarling whip- wielding white overseer is abusive to a female black slave as she cleans his shack while twerking to Rihanna’s “Work.” Welcome to playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ overblown and overrated racial, social and sexual satire, "Slave Play." Striving for hilarity, it’s painfully unfunny.  The wan shock value is more in the spirit of Mel Brooks than Jean Genet. [more]

American Moor

September 16, 2019

Cobb is titanic in this piece bringing his resonant voice and impressive physical presence to bear on the most famous classic role for a Black actor in the canon as well as his thoughts about race and the theater. His justifiable anger when the director tells an anecdote about a woman who drove across the country in diapers to confront her rival as an example of the effects of jealousy is enough to flay one alive. His analysis of the man Othello and his relationship to the white Venetians is a brilliant explication of both character and society. Cobb’s understandable problem with white directors who want to tell him how to play a Black man exposes race in America from a new point of view. American Moor may make you angry but it is always enlightening and right on target. Although Cobb’s passion gets the better of him, you will never feel that he has gone too far or misrepresented things as they are. [more]

The Rolling Stone

July 31, 2019

It is not until the second act of British playwright Chris Urch’s "The Rolling Stone" that the play catches fire but from then on the drama is explosive, compelling and very disturbing. Once the play gets past the introductory exposition that sets up the plot, the production by Saheem Ali (Donja R. Love’s "Sugar in Our Wounds" and "Fireflies," and Christopher Chen’s "Passage") is taut, tense and involving. [more]

Toni Stone

June 30, 2019

Lydia R. Diamond’s "Toni Stone" is a tour de force for one actress and Obie Award winner April Matthis gives a bravura performance as the first woman to play professional baseball as part of the Negro League. Although she is backed by eight men who from time to time make up the teams she was on, this is basically a one-woman show. In fact, this might have been a better play if Toni was the only character we had to follow on stage. However, director Pam MacKinnon excellently defines each character as we meet them in various combination; we just don’t know who they are most of the time. [more]

The Secret Life of Bees

June 27, 2019

Nottage’s book is faithful to the novel while at the same time reducing some of the melodrama and streamlining the story to reduce the number of characters to a cast of 13. Sheik’s score may be his most lush and melodic and the use of guitar and cello gives the music an appropriate folk feeling. The songs are a mix of gospel, R&B and pop which gives each of the main characters a song that explains their deepest thoughts. The rousing gospel numbers, “River of Melting Sun,” “Tek a Hol a My Soul” “Hold This House Together, “Our Lady of Chains,” make use of a great many beautiful voices in unison. [more]

BLKS

May 20, 2019

Poet Aziza Barnes’ first play, "BLKS," now at MCC Theater Space is raucous, vulgar, outrageous and contemporary in Robert O’Hara’s hilarious, over-the-top production. Following the adventures of three black women roommates from Brooklyn over a day and a half, it shows us how the Girls are living today - Lena Dunham would approve. However, the loud and busy production in the Newman Mills Theater stage will thrill twenty and thirty somethings, while older people may not be in tune with it. It is an insightful view of modern life today from the black female perspective and as liberated as a play can get at this moment in time. There is likely to be a generational divide to this comedy which pushes the envelope. [more]

If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka

March 11, 2019

Dynamically presented and sensationally performed, "If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka" is playwright Tori Sampson's maddeningly overblown adaptation of a fable with music. A surfeit of extraneous devices and a heavy-handed agenda overwhelm and drag out a tender and potentially resonant tale. There’s repetitive jokiness, a lumbering ghostly gospel sequence and an anti-climactic pretentious finale. Amidst the frustrating tangents are bright spots during a straight through nearly two hour [more]

American Son

November 15, 2018

“That’s it?” is likely to be one’s reaction at the conclusion of playwright Christopher Demos-Brown’s tidy topical 90-minute racial drama "American Son." Theater enthusiasts often rhapsodize about Broadway’s Golden Age, the 1920’s to the 1960’s, when straight plays filled theaters. Mr. Demos-Brown’s effort does harken back to that era by crafting a well-constructed minor vehicle for actors of the sort that could have played a season, then toured, was made into movie and was forgotten. Kerry Washington and the fine cast make the most of their choice roles under Kenny Leon’s solid direction. [more]

Fireflies

October 28, 2018

Although Donja R. Love describes his new play "Fireflies," his second world premiere in New York in 2018, as a “surrealistic voyage through Queer love during pivotal moments in Black History,” this riveting play is about a great deal more than that: racism, faith, homophobia, domestic abuse, women’s roles, alcohol addiction, infidelity, women’s right to choose, and sexuality. As sharply directed by Saheem Ali, the problem is that until the very end it is difficult to know where the play is going and what its real message is. [more]

Collective Rage: A Play in 5 Betties

September 19, 2018

The actual subtitle of Silverman’s play gives one pause: “In Essence, A Queer and Occasionally Hazardous Exploration; Do You Remember When You Were in Middle School and You Read About Shackleton and How He Explored the Antarctic?; Imagine the Antarctic as Pussy and It’s Sort of Like That.” While this might suggest that the play is overwritten and self-indulgent, it belies the concise, tight writing and structure of Silverman’s comic/angry play which is always surprising, always inventive, always inducing laughter. The play does use Brechtian supertitles to announce the scenes but these are comic and informative, rather than didactic or preachy. [more]

Children of a Lesser God

April 16, 2018

A regular on the television series "Dawson’s Creek" and currently appearing on "The Affair," the affable Joshua Jackson plays James. Mr. Jackson’s talents are not showcased in this production. Jackson’s speech pattern is monotonous and his lack of sensuality makes the attraction between him and Sarah less than palpable. He gets through the role with professionalism but with little impact. Others in the cast make up for this void but the vacuum of implausibility looms. [more]

Summer Shorts 2015 – Festival of New American Short Plays – Series B

August 5, 2015

Series B of Summer Shorts 2015 is similar to Series A in that all three plays are also relationship dramas, here between a woman (or three women) and a man in which the men aren’t sure they want to give in to the women. Unlike Series A, all three have endings that are open ended and rather unsatisfying to varying degrees. Although two of the three authors have excellent credits (Lucy Thurber and Robert O’Hara), the plays may feel unfinished or early drafts. [more]

Summer Shorts – Festival of New American Short Plays 2015 – Series A

August 1, 2015

Summer Shorts – Festival of New American Short Plays has returned to 59E59 Theaters for its 9th annual outing offering six world premieres by famous playwrights, as well as some who ought to be more well-known, along with different casts and directors for each. The three plays in Series A are a fascinating grouping of new one acts in which women attempt to manipulate their companions for various ends. Neil LaBute, Vickie Ramirez and Matthew Lopez take very different stories and handle them in distinctive ways. All of these new plays can use a bit of pruning, but they are all works that will get under your skin and stay with you. [more]