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J. Jared Janas

The Low Road

March 20, 2018

Bruce Norris’ plays are so different from each other that you have to take his fingerprints to recognize his hand. His recent New York plays have dealt with racism and gentrification ("Clybourne Park"), politics ("Domesticated"), sexual mores ("The Qualms"), theories of time and space (A Parallelogram), and now in his latest production to reach NYC, "The Low Road" at The Public Theater, he offers a fascinating take on capitalism and the free market told as a picaresque and ribald 18th century tale of colonial America on the brink of statehood. Of course, its real target is today’s untenable global economic situation but his criticism is couched as an historical parable. [more]

The Amateurs

March 3, 2018

Jordan Harrison’s "The Amateurs" is certainly an ambitious new play acted to the hilt by its cast of six. However, at times it bites off more than it can handle, at other times its anachronisms tear at the fabric of its story, and finally it goes out of its way to draw connections that the audience has already made. The play may need a stronger director than Oliver Butler has proved to be to pull this unwieldy drama into more satisfactory shape. [more]

Mankind

January 9, 2018

Playwright Robert O’Hara’s fertile premise might have made for a provocative, sober sci-fi take on gender roles, sexuality and parenthood. Instead, it’s broadly conceived and lame. The flat dialogue is in the vein of Abbott and Costello with numerous jokes about “fathers” since there are no mothers. The “Dude, I’m pregnant” bit gets painfully recycled. [more]

Bella: An American Tall Tale

June 20, 2017

Featuring an energetic, game cast headed by bigger-than-life Ashley D. Kelley as the title character, "Bella" follows this “big booty Tupelo girl,” as she travels (under an assumed last name) to meet her staid fiancé, Buffalo Soldier Aloysius T. Honeycutt (handsome, sweet voiced Britton Smith) and to escape the law.  She meets a slew of fascinating characters—some who really existed and some fictitious—and finds her life taking a surprising turn in her bumpy road to marital bliss. [more]

Venus

May 26, 2017

The adept cast is led by Zainab Jah in the title role. In the one detail in which Parks’ play matches "The Elephant Man," Ms. Jah, a shapely, lovely actress, transforms herself into Venus right in front of the audience, painfully pulling on a padded costume that leaves nothing to the imagination. Ms. Jah’s Venus is a strong figure who rolls with the punches but is no match for the hypocrisy of the powers that be. She is a strong enough actor to keep her head above the fray. [more]

Bandstand

May 11, 2017

All the actors in the band play their instruments with panache and perfect period style, including Cott whose piano doodling is terrific. James Nathan Hopkins plays the cute, upbeat saxophonist, Jimmy Campbell; Brandon J. Ellis, the joking teddy bear of a guy, Davy Zlatic, the bassist; Alex Bender, the intensely dramatic trumpeter, Wayne Wright; Geoff Packard, the germ phobic trombonist, Wayne Wright; and Joe Carroll as Johnny Simpson, the percussionist who survived a scary accident during the War. [more]

The Liar

February 6, 2017

However, it is Ives’ joy in language that is the most infectious. The rhymed couplets keep coming and surprising us over and over again (bitter/twitter; prize/rhapsodize, jocular/interlocutor, kiss/dentrifice, carbuncle/uncle). He has also created remarkably agile, felicitous and contemporary turns of phrase: meet-and-greet/ bittersweet; Chanel perfume/key to my room; perfect ten/tragic flaw again; chance to laugh/some dumb gaffe; believe this boy/pure trompe l’oeil. Considering the nature of lying, the anachronisms like contact lens, superglue, outed me, Kid Dorante, party clown, pants on fire, etc., seem like natural hyperbole for these poseurs who take themselves all too seriously. So too Kahn’s clever direction is highly in tune with this style: Dorante and Alcippe’s duel is fought without swords in pantomime and Cliton appears with a modern paper coffee cup. [more]

This Day Forward

December 6, 2016

"This Day Forward" shows much tighter control than many of Nicky Silver’s early anarchic plays. However, aside from offering a few wonderful characters in Malka and the older Irene, the play is disappointing as it sets up expectations which don’t play out. When "This Day Forward" is over, it leaves a feeling of something missing that has failed to take place. It can’t simply be saying that the sins of the parents are visited on the children – or could it? [more]