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Jessica Pabst

The Profane

April 10, 2017

Playwright Zayd Dohrn has a facility for setups, punch lines and zingers that might play well as an HBO situation comedy attempting to mix humor with seriousness. As a theater piece, his premise has potential but his execution is deficient. [more]

Rancho Viejo

December 8, 2016

LeFranc’s dialogue is a marvelous blend of the realistic and mundane. The well-delineated main characters all express themselves with true to life simplicity. Plot developments are the combination of subtle details that gradually do build to a satisfying resolution. It all has the sense of John Cheever’s suburban short stories where the darkness behind bonhomie is revealed. Swimming pools are mentioned in passing. [more]

Homos, Or Everyone in America

November 9, 2016

The pomposity of the Tony Kushner-style title extends to naming its leading characters “The Academic” and “The Writer.” They’re two gay men in their late 20’s and the play charts their meeting, relationship, breakup and aftermath. This is accomplished by a dizzying structure of non-linear, rapid-fire, time shifting brief scenes. This intrusive device undercuts emotional involvement with the couple, as all of the jumping around of the narrative becomes artificial, repetitious and uninvolving. The period covered ranges from 2006 to 2011. [more]

A Life

October 25, 2016

Pierce coolly addresses the audience while delivering this mundane litany. His superb comic timing, long evident on the television situation comedy "Frasier," is on glorious display here. That quality combined with his dramatic depth and soothingly funny delivery makes this opening sequence mesmerizing. [more]

The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois

June 17, 2016

Adam Rapp’s plays are often about loners and people outside of mainstream society. "The Purple Lights of Joppa Illinois" now at Atlantic Stage 2 in a production directed by the author falls into this category. Its strength is that the play is a detailed well-developed character study. However, as a drama, it seems more like a sketch or a section of a longer play yet to be written leaving many unanswered questions. [more]

Antlia Pneumatica

April 7, 2016

Rachel Hauck’s scenic design is the most outstanding feature of the interminable "Antlia Pneumatica." Ms. Hauck accurately and vividly represents the Texas ranch setting by an elaborate kitchen counter top in the center of the bare stage that is surrounded by shrubbery. It’s very functional as much of the activities involve preparing a feast. [more]

Marjorie Prime

December 16, 2015

Playwright Jordan Harrison is a graduate of the Brown University M.F.A. program and the recipient of several prestigious awards such as a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Kesselring Prize. On a technical level "Marjorie Prime" is expertly constructed and contains serviceable dialogue that propels the plot, but in totality it never rises above the level of an academic contrivance. The premise is a familiar but promising one, but in execution it is flat. The exposition and setup never really become emotionally involving and the closing revelations are consciously sensationalistic. [more]

Hamlet in Bed

September 22, 2015

The play is told mainly in monologues by both actors on microphones, alternating with rehearsal scenes from the Gertrude/Hamlet confrontation. This makes the evening more of a performance piece than a stage play. Once we are given the facts, the ending becomes very predictable though the actors are very intense throughout the play’s 90 minutes. Except for the battered white mattress, Rachel Hauck’s set is entirely black, as are most of the costumes by Jessica Pabst. Sometimes due to Scott Zielinski’s lighting, the actors fade into the dark walls of the set. [more]

The Heidi Chronicles

March 22, 2015

The maternal ending was considered problematical in 1988, but seems less of a copout in 2015. In fact, the feminist thrust of the play has also dulled in the ensuing decades, making Ms. Wasserstein’s play far less effective as an instructive tool. " The Heidi Chronicles" has always been weighed down by too much polemic passed off as drama. What keeps this production afloat now is the incredible filigreed and witty lines that so quickly delineate each character’s foibles and feelings. [more]

The Nether

March 2, 2015

Playwright Jennifer Haley describes her work as delving “into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity and desire.” On the basis of her New York debut with The Nether, we can expect some truly frightening dramas from her in the future. Even now, The Nether is such an extreme cautionary tale of the future of the Internet, that some may have difficulty sitting through it. [more]

Pocatello

December 18, 2014

This brilliant production of Samuel D. Hunter’s "Pocatello" is characterized by tremendous depth in characterization and engaging simplicity in presentation. Leo Tolstoy famously observed, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Here, a clash over gluten-free pasta becomes a memorably chilling pretext for psychological warfare. [more]

When We Were Young and Unafraid

June 30, 2014

Yes, it's TV soap trap. Yes, it's really good movie. And yes, it's some of the best theater, because it's the purest entertainment, storytelling, the hardest and the easiest thing to do, all in one. People are endlessly fascinating. All you need is Sarah Treem to let you in. [more]