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Jeff Croiter

Happy Talk

May 19, 2019

Abrasive as a subpar episode of Maude and reaching a sour psychological thriller-style finale out of Craig’s Wife, Happy Talk is playwright Jesse Eisenberg’s muddled family drama.  It’s the 1990’s and the New Jersey Jewish matron Lorraine is playing Blood Mary in a community theater production of South Pacific and so in addition to the jokey title we get a barrage of painfully cute musical comedy references. Scene transitions are accompanied by blaring snippets of Mitzi Gaynor who played Nellie Forbush in the film version. The combination of Mr. Eisenberg’s smug sensibility, inane contrivances, shtick-ridden dialogue, condescended-to characters, and slack construction all make it a tiresome one hour and 45 minutes. [more]

I Married an Angel

March 28, 2019

A lot has been made of the parallels between the original 1938 production of "I Married an Angel" for which George Balanchine choreographed the dances for his soon-to-be wife, the glamorous Norwegian ballerina Vera Zorina and the New York City Center Encores! production for which its choreographer/director Joshua Bergasse staged the dances for his wife, the New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns. This is great publicity and drew the public, including myself, to this staging of one of Rodgers and Hart’s more charming musicals known mostly through a Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy film.  The original choreography is evidenced only via some silent film snippets taken of the original production. [more]

Chick Flick the Musical

March 12, 2019

Suzy Conn’s zesty score is a fusion of her peppy music and well-crafted lyrics. “Quandary” is rhymed with “laundry” and among the 14 bright songs there’s a comical ode to Meryl Streep. Ms. Conn’s upbeat book is an orderly framework charting the everyday predicaments of her plucky stock characters. “I think that the Botox went to your brain!” “What’s next? An evening of Chardonnay and shingles?” are representative of the dialogue’s good-natured wit. The scenario manages to just about sustain its 80 minute length. Conn strives for and achieves a feel-good tone for this escapist escapade. [more]

The Other Josh Cohen

November 18, 2018

Cute, whimsical and lightly enjoyable, the musical "The Other Josh Cohen" is hampered by its lack of a compelling plot. “This is the story of a strange piece of mail that changed my life.” After his apartment is robbed, a young New York City schlemiel receives a check from a distant relative for $56,000. This inspires a picaresque set of adventures with Neil Diamond popping up and romance along the way. [more]

Daniel’s Husband

November 12, 2018

What begins as light comedy in Michael McKeever’s well-made play "Daniel’s Husband" becomes deadly serious in this cautionary tale. If the plot seems familiar, this is a return engagement of a successful play that appeared at the Cherry Lane Theatre in April 2017. The same engaging and proficient cast returns and while designer Brian Prather remains the same, the costume and lighting designers are now different. The play has been tweaked a bit but you will probably not notice if you have seen it before. It still packs an emotional wallop in the way events turn out. [more]

Popcorn Falls

October 17, 2018

However, the play’s humor is very mild. The jokes are on the level of “My steeple is drooping! I swear this never happened to me before,” from Pastor Peters, and “George Washington dined on that very land,” “Well, it was a picnic lunch.” Among the gags are that the cord for the mike in the Town Hall has been eaten through as they “can’t afford squirrel traps.” The play is farce but it is not played fast enough to keep all its bubbles in the air. Tim Mackabee’s set is very redolent of small town halls, but does not suggest the other locales. Jeff Croiter’s lighting attempts to add to the atmosphere as the play moves all over town. Heller and Souhrada remain in Joseph La Corte’s single costumes all evening, ones that are suitable for a major and a janitor. [more]

Women/Create! A Festival of Dance 2018

June 24, 2018

Jennifer Muller, of Jennifer Muller/The Works, whose artistic history includes a long association with José Limon, provided “Shock Wave,” a world premiere to a cello-heavy score by Gordon Withers.  “Shock Wave,” with its suggestive title, showed how darkness and loneliness can pervade a microcosmic set of people—The Works’ members—as they are stopped in their paths by a loud explosion and have to cooperate to re-group and go on. [more]

Good for Otto

March 12, 2018

Except for the frustration level of the characters, there does not seem to be a movement towards change or catharsis which may partly explain why the play seems so long. Harris and Madigan retain their cool as therapists throughout until almost the end when they can’t hold in their emotions any more. The most dramatic story is that of 12-year-old Frannie beautifully and realistically played by young Rileigh McDonald. However, as written the role of her foster mother played by Rhea Perlman is a one-note tale and doesn’t give her much wiggle room to make it her own. [more]

Jerry Springer – The Opera

March 9, 2018

"Jerry Springer - The Opera" is not for opera purists nor is for people who are easily offended by four letter words and other bad language of which there is a multitude. However, its irreverence skewers social, religious and political hypocrisy. The New Group’s production directed by John Rando is one of the most exciting musical theater experiences to be currently obtained in New York. It actually seems more relevant in Trump America where this sort of thing is cable-fodder every night of the week. If you are a dedicated theatergoer, miss this show if you dare. [more]

20th Century Blues

November 30, 2017

There is nothing much very wrong with Susan Miller’s '20th Century Blues" that a few more revelations or dustups wouldn’t solve. Beth Dixon, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Polly Draper, Kathryn Grody and Ellen Parker play believable, recognizable women at a plateau in their lives when some taking stock is in order as they approach the age of being considered senior citizens. A pleasant evening in this form, but Miller’s play gives an aftertaste that will leave you hungry for more. It seems that in order not to offend, she is playing it too safe. [more]

Big Apple Circus 2017

November 4, 2017

The Wallenda family’s act is the climax of a show that is held together by Ringmaster Ty McFarlan and the ongoing antics of Grandma the Clown and Joel Jeske aka Mr. Joel.  The big-voiced and charismatic Ringmaster Ty prowls about introducing acts, touting tidbits about Big Apple Circus and generating excitement while Grandma and Mr. Joel involve audience members in good-natured slapstick shtick involving water, balloons and costumes. [more]

The Whirligig

June 6, 2017

Say this for actor Hamish Linklater: he writes juicy parts for his fellow actors. He also knows how to set up a sense of community. The New Group production directed by its artistic director Scott Elliott has a fine cast led by two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz and Zosia Mamet, just off six seasons of the recently ended HBO television series, Girls. [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]

All the Fine Boys

March 5, 2017

Playwright Erica Schmidt has a minor aptitude for believably snappy dialogue, but not much else. Her tired scenario is astonishingly familiar and offers no fresh insights. That adolescence is tough is about all there is. That territory has been mined in John Hughes’ films and numerous television shows. There was also the 1985 movie "Smooth Talk," starring Laura Dern and Treat Williams that was based on a Joyce Carol Oates short story. [more]

Falsettos

November 14, 2016

Throughout it all, Finn’s songs illuminate the joys, loves, hates, passions and complaints of this delightful cast of characters. From the opening “Four Jews in a Room Bitching” to the exquisitely moving final song, “What Would I Do?,” the score is full of melody and witty wordplay. There are songs about Mendel’s sessions (“Marvin at the Psychiatrist, a Three Part Mini-Opera” and “Jason’s Therapy”), a marriage proposal, a nervous breakdown song (“Trina’s Song”), a hilarious song about Jason’s little league (“The Baseball Game”), an ominous song (“Something Bad is Happening”) and several love songs (“I Never Wanted to Love You,” “Making a Home,” “Unlikely Lovers,” “The Games I Play” and the previously mentioned “What Would I Do?”). [more]

Head of Passes

April 12, 2016

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s "Head of Passes" is an advance over his earlier work seen in New York ("The Brother/Sister Plays," "Wig Out," "Choir Boy") in its attempt to take on bigger themes and archetypes. In creating the role of Shelah, he has put on stage a magnificent role for an actress of tremendous gifts. Phylicia Rashad rises to Greek tragic heights required by Shelah’s plight. However, the meaning and message of the play remains obscure and tends to leave the audience outside of the play’s dramatic action. We watch mesmerized in horror as events unfold, but why they are happening and what is the underlying cause remains a mystery. [more]

Mercury Fur

September 1, 2015

In his 2005 "Mercury Fur," being given its belated Off Broadway premiere by The New Group under the direction of its intrepid artistic director Scott Elliott, there has been a complete breakdown of society: gangs roam the city and kill and destroy in supermarkets and museums, while the population is addicted to hallucinogenic butterflies. The one redeeming factor: people will still go to any lengths to save the ones they love. However, "Mercury Fur" is not for the squeamish or faint-hearted: Ridley’s original publisher refused to publish the text. [more]

Application Pending

February 16, 2015

Hugely talented singer-comedienne Christina Bianco has become famous for her "Forbidden Broadway" and YouTube appearances where she has performed many impressions. Most notable has been her YouTube clip of her rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in which she impersonates 19 inimitable singers and which has received over seven million views. In the new one-woman, Off Broadway comedy, "Application Pending," she outdoes herself doing 40 voices often at breakneck speed. Bianco is a wonder to listen to. Unfortunately, the show which attempts to satirize the culture that believes that kindergarten classes at fashionable private schools are the only way to get ahead in life is a one-joke plot which becomes tiresome long before its 75 minutes are up. [more]

Much Ado About Nothing

June 23, 2014

While Jack O'Brien's production of Much Ado About Nothing is in no way definitive, it is tremendous fun. His strength here as a director is that his 20 person ensemble has become a true community, one that lives and loves together, one we can believe gets involved in each other's problems and joys. [more]