The play is carefully plotted, and the tragic action that Snider builds runs its course in a logical, plausible fashion. But something about "Death of a Driver" never quite catches fire. The story has gravity but lacks the sense of pity and terror that tragedy is famously supposed to invoke. Maybe it’s partly due to the fact that the play is so brief, and that its short scenes sometimes take place years apart, creating a kind of herky-jerky quality. Maybe it’s because the world of the play is relatively narrow—with the lack of supporting characters preventing us from getting a full sense of the Kenyan culture and political landscape. [more]
Mr. Gray infuses his straightforward 70-minute interview treatment with tension, suspense and drama. A third character, Norm Hansen is a 60-year-old straight married board member of Pendarvis who is a close friend of Hellum’s. He provides skillful exposition and while present at the discussion stuffily keeps trying to steer it away from personal disclosures. The dialogue is smooth, efficient and dotted with references to figures of that time such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Syrie Maugham and Duncan Hines. [more]
Although the advance publicity for Ben Josephson’s "The Property" refers to it as a comedy, there is nothing funny about it, neither jokes nor comic situations. In fact, the heroine’s desperate need for security ends up destroying five people. The themes are relevant in an era when people are downsized after many years of work and have trouble paying their mortgages but the stilted artificial dialogue and the melodramatic events damage the serious issues at stake. While veteran director Robert Kalfin has staged the play as though it were a drawing room comedy, its content presupposed that it is a tragedy on the lines of such better plays as George Kelley’s Pulitzer Prize winning "Craig’s Wife" and William Inge’s "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs." [more]
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.
Along the way she met the songwriters whose work she illuminated. During "Mabel Madness," Ms. Beverley sings “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” (Kern/Hammerstein), “Down in the Dumps on the Ninetieth Floor” (Porter), “Summertime” (The Gershwins), amongst others. She uncannily finds Mercer’s style, sounding surprisingly like Mercer in her speak-singing period which depended mostly on exquisite timing, understanding the lyrics and hitting the few notes still within her power. She catches Mercer's regal, yet still down to earth, quality, too. [more]