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Joan Marcus

Joan Marcus is one of the preeminent theatrical photographers working in the US today. Over the past 25 years she has photographed over 500 shows on and off Broadway and regionally. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joan graduated from George Washington University. In 2014 she received a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theater. Joan Marcus is married to the theatrical press agent Adrian Bryan-Brown of Boneau/Bryan-Brown, a leading Broadway press agency. http://www.joanmarcusphotography.com/

Superhero

March 19, 2019

Although there is a great deal of talent behind the new musical Superhero at Second Stage Theater, it unfortunately makes little impact. It doesn’t help that the thin book by Tony Award winning playwright John Logan ("Red") is a little too much like the smash hit "Dear Evan Hansen" which goes much deeper with similar material. Pulitzer Prize winning composer Tom Kitt ("Next to Normal") has written his own lyrics for the first time and they mainly tell us what we know in pedestrian rhymes and phrases. Don’t blame the hard-working cast led by Tony Award nominees Kate Baldwin and Bryce Pinkham. You want to like "Superhero "with its heart in the right place but it is missing the wow factor and never takes us by surprise. [more]

The Cake

March 17, 2019

Brunstetter overloads the issue in the play by making Jen have doubts about being in love with a woman against her parents’ religious teachings, even though she cannot imagine life without the caring, compassionate, uninhibited Macy. Additionally, when Della quotes the Bible to Macy, Macy retaliates by pointing out that as a childless woman Della has not fulfilled her religious duty as a wife. The plot then goes in another direction to show us Della and her husband Tim who has lost interest in sex since he discovered he had too low a sperm count. The play builds to Jen revealing her real childhood feelings to Macy, as well as Della demanding that after years of estrangement Tim make passionate love to her as he did at the beginning of their marriage. Ultimately, Brunstetter wants to have it both ways with an ending that does not resolve the religious question at all. [more]

Hatef**k

March 13, 2019

There’s stinging dialogue, solid construction and high powers of observation that accurately render the fractious literary milieu with Imran’s offstage agent a major figure. These all enable Ms. Mirza to spin out her enticing scenario over eight scenes in 90 often charged minutes, spanning several months. The characters are impeccably detailed and behave so realistically, causing the possible dynamic for the viewer of siding with one over the other. [more]

Boesman and Lena

March 12, 2019

The production of "Boesman and Lena" at The Pershing Square Signature Center directed with attention to every detail by Yaël Farber is stark and unforgiving in a way that would have been shocking in 1970.  Even though apartheid has been lifted, this play still resonates with its bleak display of human survival in the face of unimaginable terrors and its condemnation of racial inequity. [more]

Sea Wall/A Life

March 8, 2019

Both plays deal with young husbands who are coping with new fatherhood as well as their new responsibilities and their relationships with the dominant male figures in their lives. In Stephens’ "Sea Wall," Sturridge speaks admiringly of his father-in-law, while in Payne’s "A Life," Gyllenhaal speaks with love of his own father.  Both men are madly in love with their wives who they could not consider living without. These plays are ultimately tragedies of the accidental kind, events that one has no control over and cannot see coming. The double bill is performed on a basically empty stage with a brick wall behind (designed by Laura Jellinek), on which Peter Kaczorowski’s poetic and atmospheric lighting is a kind of additional onstage character. Carrie Cracknell's assured direction pilots both plays. [more]

Hurricane Diane

March 7, 2019

Some plays are simply too complicated for their own good, defying comprehension. This is certainly the case with Madeleine George’s "Hurricane Diane," in which the God Dionysus or Bacchus, famously incorporating both male and female characteristics--he went by many names--returns to earth--as a woman--at the present time, in Monmouth County no less, to haunt a bevy of what can best be summarized as “New Jersey Housewives.” [more]

Good Friday

February 26, 2019

A scorching and ingeniously plotted exploration of feminism versus rape culture in the contemporary United States is achieved in "Good Friday." Playwright Kristiana Rae Colón’s audacious, fierce and gripping topical drama is ultimately a provocative vigilante yarn strewn with off and onstage violence that’s dynamically presented. [more]

The Light

February 20, 2019

With the audience sitting ringside on three sides of the new theater, and performed by Masden and Belcher at the top of their game, The Light is thrilling theater. Their Gen and Rashad are both sympathetic, attractive characters and their story and their dilemma is entirely gripping. As the former football star (and a boxing pro in The Royale seen at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater,) Belcher has a tremendous physical presence. Masden is so articulate as the school principal that she elevates the debate to a high level of drama. Even if there are coincidences or sudden revelations that are hard to believe, this play that makes use of the themes of both the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements is cracklingly provocative theater. And like an excellent boxing match, director Vaughn has her actors come out ready to spar from the moment they enter the stage. [more]

The Dance of Death

February 16, 2019

Clark has chosen to direct the play as though it were drawing room comedy. Beginning and ending the play with a game of cards, there is the suggestion that for Edgar and Alice this is all a series of games. Outsiders cannot understand this, particularly her cousin Kurt who visits them for the first time in 15 years. Whether this is the fault of the new translation or the belief that modern audiences unfamiliar with Strindberg’s psychological nightmares would have trouble sitting through this disturbing ritual, the effect is to make "The Dance of Death" seem very superficial, as though Neil Simon had chosen to rewrite an Eugene O’Neill tragedy simply for laughs. [more]

Mies Julie

February 12, 2019

Yaël Farber’s adaptation of Strindberg’s classic "Miss Julie," "Mies Julie" shifts the scene and setting from 1880’s Sweden to the Karoo in South Africa on Freedom Day in 2012--or the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994--which is long after apartheid was outlawed. Such changes shift Strindberg’s focus on the class system to matters of racism and apartheid today, when, despite any suggestions that we’ve transcended such problems, racist incidents continue to be in the news every day. They also make the play far more relevant than the antique penned by Strindberg, although ironically, it was far ahead of its time when it was written. [more]

True West

February 6, 2019

Having seen it at least four times before, I can say with certainty that Sam Shepard’s "True West" (1980) is a firm and solid play: a play to be pondered both while you’re watching it and afterwards, when you consider what you saw. But the current Roundabout production leaves more than just a little to be desired: it’s slow and plodding and contemplative, instead of explosive, which is what it’s designed to be. [more]

Slave Play

December 28, 2018

Nothing is what it seems in Jeremy 0. Harris’ startling and explosive "Slave Play" which investigates where race and sexual relationships intersect. What we have been watching in the play’s opening scenes is role playing on Day Four for Antebellum Sexual Performance Therapy, “designed to help black partners re-engage intimately with white partners from whom they no longer receive sexual pleasure.” These three couples have chosen to spend a week in this new treatment in order to deal with their "anhedonia" or inability to feel pleasure which has been a problem for them for some time. [more]

Nassim

December 25, 2018

In the course of this unusual performance piece, the actor and the audience learn a bit of Farsi, the author’s native language, and actor and author share stories of their lives and likes, and become friends. There is audience participation and volunteers are called for. The playwright eventually joins the actor on stage but remains silent, communicating by pointing to the script which is projected so that the audience can see the author’s questions and instructions to the actor. The play is a series of exercises, games and tests. [more]

The Cher Show

December 17, 2018

Elice is no stranger to biographical musicals.  His "Jersey Boys" is still running off-Broadway.  Here he was inspired to divide the eponymous character into three personalities:  the Star (the sensational, charismatic Stephanie J. Block), the current, living legend; the Lady (Teal Wicks, fascinating in this bridge role), the mid-career Cher; and the Babe (Micaela Diamond in a gutsy, eager performance) the young Cher just discovering herself guided by her Svengali, Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector, not a physical match to Bono, but a fine singer and actor). [more]

Noura

December 11, 2018

In 90 minutes, Ms. Raffo packs in a great deal. We learn about Iraq’s past and present, religious lore, marital conflicts, unrequited love and the hardships of immigrants. The stiff treatment is schematic rather than polished and the resorting to soliloquies feels off. Without a defined plot, it plays out as a limp multi-character study that’s resolved with a talky and unconvincing denouement. Raffo does create appealing characters including  the substantive title role which she herself plays. [more]

Wild Goose Dreams

November 24, 2018

In offering a window on a world most New York theatergoers know little about, Hansol Jung’s Wild Goose Dreams is a fascinating look at Korean culture. On the other hand, what appears to be a Korean obsession with the Internet and smartphones often becomes tedious as it goes on so long without bringing us much that is new. Leigh Siverman’s busy production creates a world of its own but is often overwhelming rather than enveloping. The Public Theater staging, a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse, may be of more interest to Millennials addicted to their electronic devices than the rest of the theatergoing public. However, this may be the trend of the future and older theatergoers may just have to get used to it. [more]

Tom Pain (based on nothing)

November 23, 2018

Hall is not helped by an over-zealous production that, for some reason, turns the Signature’s Irene Diamond Stage into a construction site, complete with drop cloths, ceiling netting and lots of ladders ringing the stage—an odd, misleading choice by set designer Amy Rubin. Jen Schriever’s lighting manages to make this set mysterious. Schriever is also tasked with following Hall/Pain in his travels into the auditorium, using houselights along with stage lights with great skill. [more]

Eve’s Song

November 19, 2018

Both a theatrical surprise and a very accomplished dramatic work, Patricia Ione Lloyd’s "Eve’s Song" is one of the best theatrical experiences to be had in New York at this time. With a cast led by De’Adre Aziza who is well known to Public Theater audiences, director Jo Bonney, totally attuned to the author’s unique style, delivers an exquisite and provocative evening in the theater. It is always a pleasure to herald the arrival of a new and talented writer, particularly one as masterly and sophisticated as newcomer Lloyd. [more]

The New One on Broadway

November 18, 2018

"The New One," directed by Seth Barrish, is about Birbiglia and his wife’s decision to become parents, the struggles they go through to arrive at pregnancy, and his fretfulness about how becoming a family man will change his life and identity. This is familiar comedic territory but Birbiglia gives it new energy, thanks to the telling details in his stories. For instance, we’ve all heard jokes or seen sitcom bits about how clinics use pornography to help guys produce lab samples of sperm. Birbiglia’s response to the situation is unexpected: he takes the experience mostly in stride, but he is both bemused and amused by the extreme genres of porn provided at the clinic he visits. [more]

Days of Rage

November 16, 2018

As proven elsewhere, Steven Levenson is expert at depicting young people in crisis on stage. "Days of Rage" is very real in its handling of a group of people of similar beliefs living together who have forces that are driving them apart, and as such it is engrossing and intriguing. However, the play’s theme seems to be rather opaque or at least vague in its depiction of college-age radicals at the height of the Vietnam War. While some of the characters are thinly drawn, most problematic is that the catalyst to all the action is a character that we want least to hear from. [more]

Natural Shocks

November 14, 2018

Played by Pascale Armand, known for her Tony nominated Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in "Eclipsed," Angela is the heroine of Lauren Gunderson’s new one-woman play, "Natural Shocks," being given its world premiere by the Women’s Project at the WP Theater. The play has previously been given over 100 staged readings in 45 states over a period of two months. As much as one wants to admire this tour de force for an accomplished actress, in its current form the play has several problems. [more]

Gloria: A Life

November 13, 2018

The play succeeds in part because it takes such an upbeat view of Steinem and her career. Early in the play, the character proclaims herself to be a “hope-aholic”—and her stalwart optimism proves contagious. Yes, challenges to women’s rights have been rife in the last couple of years. But when—at the top of the play—we see projected TV clips depicting the cultural pigeonholing of 1950's women as wives and mothers and little more, it lends our current situation a welcome perspective. “Is this what some Americans are nostalgic for?” Lahti’s Steinem asks skeptically after these clips are shown. It seems inconceivable that even the most retrogressive critic would answer in the affirmative. [more]

India Pale Ale

November 8, 2018

Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus made an auspicious splash with her adventurous and inventive 2016 play Men on Boats about Major John Wesley Powell’s 1868 Colorado and Grand Canyon expedition which was played by all women as a satire of the machismo of this all-male trip. In her new play, India Pale Ale, Backhaus, who is part Punjabi, writes of something must closer to home: the Punjabi community in Raymond, Wisconsin. While the play’s authenticity is palpable in both its writing and acting, the play in its four acts seems to be pulling in four different directions. It is not so much that the play does not have much of a plot, but that is inconsistent in its theme and message. [more]

The Thanksgiving Play

November 6, 2018

Many comic artists have noted that great humor often comes from great tragedy, though, inevitably, sometimes the latter overwhelms the former, and all you’re left with is a lot of indignation and nobody laughing. As the late Joan Rivers once remarked, "comedy is anger, but anger is not comedy." It's a maxim that the Sicangu Lakota writer Larissa FastHorse takes to heart in "The Thanksgiving Play," as she manages to keep us smiling while four white characters attempt to turn a half-millenium of genocide into a 45-minute children's show. [more]

Mother of the Maid

November 1, 2018

Jane Anderson’s "Mother of the Maid" would probably not be very compelling without Glenn Close’s Isabelle Arc as the play itself is following the dots in filling in the little that is known with mostly common historic and unsurprising details. (One exception is after Isabelle has seen the unicorn tapestries at the palace, she naively asks if there were any of the animals to be seen.) However, with Close who gives a constrained and moving performance the play becomes something else: a persuasive portrait of a mother and wife who has an awakening to the ways of the world based on what happens to her daughter. [more]

The Ferryman

October 31, 2018

Imported from London, with a number of the original cast members, "The Ferryman" takes place in rural County Armagh, in Northern Ireland in 1981, during a rise of violence of the IRA, right in the middle of The Troubles, the decades-long fight for Irish independence from Great Britain.  Butterworth (represented previously in New York by "The River" and "Jerusalem") brilliantly relates the tension, violence and dread that rocked Ireland by focusing on a single, extended family, incisively using this domestic microcosm to illuminate the complexities of a society at war with itself. [more]

Emma and Max

October 19, 2018

Solondz’s mordant wit makes this the darkness of tragicomedies. Brooke and Jay’s delusions so typical of white entitlement are entire their own. When we finally hear from Brittany, she turns out to be a keen observer of entitled white behavior and middle-class liberal hypocrisy. Though we never meet Emma and Max except on Brooke’s baby cam, their off-stage presence is felt throughout the play. As Solondz’s movies contain brilliantly written dialogue, he is a natural for the theater. While his movies are made up of mostly two character scenes, this technique transfers beautifully to the stage. The only flaw here is that the monologues which become rants go on a bit too long, long after we get the gist and the characters given their many prejudices away. A bit of skillful trim – or the invention of more ideas would make this an even more powerful play. [more]

Girl From the North Country

October 12, 2018

Set in a dark time, "Girl From the North Country" creates a community on stage as do the best plays and musicals. Its tale of lost souls attempting to keep their heads above water is universal in both its message and its approach. Conor McPherson has never written so accessible a play before for Americans, and Bob Dylan’s songs have never sounded so poignant. "Girl From the North Country" is both unforgettable and not to be missed. [more]

What the Constitution Means to Me

October 7, 2018

Though going off on tangents, the captivating performer Heidi Schreck’s self-written fascinating theatrical memoir "What the Constitution Means to Me" is a feminist-centric personal odyssey that uses the device of high school oratory.  The blonde and animated Ms. Schreck’s persona combines the dramatic qualities of Laura Linney with the quirky comedic essence of Teri Garr. After introductory remarks, the Washington state native discloses the show’s conceit. [more]

The Nap

October 7, 2018

It isn’t revealing too much to say that the play culminates with a real Snooker match between two men vying ultimately for the world championship and ostensibly being watched by 23 millions viewers all over the world. And since they’re playing in real time, Bean had to come up with alternate dialogue, depending on which of them wins. Those two men are the local Sheffield champ, Dylan (Ben Schnetzer), and his competitor Abdul, who is played by world-class Snooker champion Ahmed Aly Elsayed. (Elsayed actually won the Egyptian Snooker Championship for three consecutive years before moving to the USA and winning US National Snooker Championships for another three consecutive years.) [more]

Bernhardt/Hamlet

October 3, 2018

"Bernhardt/Hamlet" is structured as a backstage comedy. Sarah rehearses with French stage star Constant Coquelin playing both The Ghost and Polonius, worries that she is losing 29-year-old lover, playwright Rostand to his wife – or to his new play "Cyrano de Bergerac," and frets over her son Maurice, at 29 years old still a college student who in need of money. Added to her troubles her illustrator Alphonse Mucha whose posters of her productions have added to her fame and glory is unable to make a sketch of her as Hamlet which suits them both. Worse still all the men in her life – including the Parisian critical establishment – plus the women of Paris are saying that it is not appropriate for her to play Hamlet in breeches as it is a man’s domain. Although the new play is not entirely about women in a man’s world, Rebeck does give this theme major importance. Ultimately, Sarah receives a visit from Rostand’s clever wife Rosamund which leads to the play’s denouement. [more]

A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur

October 1, 2018

What gives "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" its special cachet in the Williams canon is that its storyline and heroine called Dorothea very much suggest a prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire set ten years earlier, when Blanche was still teaching and coping with life, though already needing liquor and pills to get her over her anxieties. Some enterprising theater group ought to schedule these two plays in repertory with the same actress in the leading role in each. [more]

I Was Most Alive with You

September 26, 2018

In Craig Lucas’s "I Was Most Alive with You," two down-on-their-luck television writers mine recent personal tragedy for their latest project, hoping, with the Book of Job as their inspirational guide, to set both their careers and the universe in order. Although suffering has touched each of them, Ash (Michael Gaston), a late middle-aged recovering alcoholic in a bad marriage, is the much more forlorn figure. Like Job, Ash has hit one of those rough patches in life, where, if you’re a person of faith, you might start to suspect that your higher power doesn’t like you very much. [more]
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