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Jeff Biehl

The Merchant of Venice (Theater for a New Audience)

February 16, 2022

Arin Arbus, resident director at Theatre for a New Audience, staging her tenth classic for them took a great risk with her new production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: not only putting this 1597 play in modern dress, she has made Venice diversely multicultural as well as having the Jewish Shylock played by an African American. All of these things might have backfired and looked out of place. Surprisingly it all works, due to her spare, stripped-down direction, her fine cast, the nearly bare stone setting by Riccardo Hernandez which suggests an elegant Greek amphitheater, and her star, John Douglas Thompson with whom she has worked four times before in an assortment of classics. Along with the work of voice director Andrew Wade, the diction is crystal clear and Shakespeare’s verse sounds conversational and newly minted. [more]

Life Sucks

March 29, 2019

“Did you know that this play is called "Life Sucks"?” says a character in playwright Aaron Posner’s meta-theatrical Life Sucks. It’s a wild yet emotionally resonant work “sort of adapted from Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov.” Characters address the audience directly, they engage in sly wordplay, lollipops are consumed, overlapping dialogue is common and absurdism abounds in this free-form yet faithful treatment. [more]

The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias

September 16, 2017

The awkwardly titled "The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias" has problems beyond its nomenclature. What, if anything, is it ultimately about? Though it claims to be a “satirical” look at the subject of rape, any satire is lost in the mixed results of the presentation. If anything, the play seems too subtle and nuanced for its own good. [more]

Fulfillment

September 24, 2015

"Fulfillment" by the always surprising Thomas Bradshaw is about anything but the contentment and success implied by its ironic title. The Flea Theater’s production, directed to emphasize its undercurrents of eroticism and anger by Ethan McSweeny, is both shocking and sad. The audience witnesses the almost classically Greek downfall of a man done in by his own weaknesses. Anger, lust, pride and greed does in the central character. [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]