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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/

Toni Stone

June 30, 2019

Lydia R. Diamond’s "Toni Stone" is a tour de force for one actress and Obie Award winner April Matthis gives a bravura performance as the first woman to play professional baseball as part of the Negro League. Although she is backed by eight men who from time to time make up the teams she was on, this is basically a one-woman show. In fact, this might have been a better play if Toni was the only character we had to follow on stage. However, director Pam MacKinnon excellently defines each character as we meet them in various combination; we just don’t know who they are most of the time. [more]

Much Ado About Nothing (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

June 20, 2019

Director Kenny Leon has made his reputation with trenchant productions of contemporary and new plays by such authors as Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, Katori Hall and Lydia R. Diamond. Now with his delightful all-black modern dress version of "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Delacorte Theater for Free Shakespeare in the Park he demonstrates a light touch with classic plays. Led by Danielle Brooks, star of "Orange is the New Black" and Tony nominated for her performance as Sofia in the 2015 revival of "The Color Purple," the generally youthful cast is up to the requirements of this witty Shakespeare comedy. [more]

A Strange Loop

June 19, 2019

Twenty-five-year-old African-American Michigan native and New York University graduate Usher is an usher at a Disney Broadway musical who is writing an autobiographical musical about his troubled life. His religious Christian parents are scornful of his sexuality and dubious of his career goals as he doesn’t emulate the commercial simplisticness of Tyler Perry who gets skewered in a production number. This exploration is light on plot and so we get a series a of overheated vignettes often laden with wan shock value. The often didactic dialogue relies on scatology peppered with the N-word. Dark comedy crossed with poignancy abounds. [more]

Dying City

June 12, 2019

Under Shinn’s direction, Winstead making her stage debut is very low-key, almost as an observer in her own story. True she works as a therapist, one who tries not to reveal her personal feelings to her patients, but in her private life she ought to show more emotion given the provocations. In the original production directed by James Macdonald, Pablo Schreiber as both Peter and Craig was devastating, leaving the audience almost quaking in their shoes.  Here Woodell is almost indistinguishable as the twin brothers, thorough dressed in an olive green t-shirt as Peter and a button-down striped flannel shirt as Craig so that we have no trouble keeping them apart. The revelations come periodically but the play and the production seem under heated. It also seems to be too dependent on emails and phone calls, rather than dramatizing the story. [more]

Octet

May 29, 2019

Malloy, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, has taken a novel approach, staging Octet as if it were a 12-step program in which all the members of the group express their inner thoughts through a cappella singing all the while following the precepts of an AA or OA meeting.  Annie Tippe has taken this sophisticated mass of brilliance and shaped it around the sensational talents of a small cast which performs miracles of acting and singing. [more]

Curse of the Starving Class

May 27, 2019

The original production of "Curse of the Starving Class" in 1977 was a shocker even for a time when permissiveness prevailed.  Kinney seems to have decided that the play Shepard wrote isn’t sufficiently meaningful or effective, so he decided to exaggerate everything, beginning with the scenery—a large, dumpy, shopworn kitchen—literally breaking apart accompanied by explosive noises before the play begins.  The set is left hanging in pieces as the characters go about their business. [more]

Socrates

May 3, 2019

For all you philosophy junkies out there—and you know who you are—Tim Blake Nelson’s world premiere "Socrates" at The Public Theater, the shining light of The Public’s Onassis Festival, is a treasure trove of ideas bantered, tossed, shredded and otherwise analyzed by a stage-full of ancient Greeks, led by the title character played with dignity and passion by the phenomenal Michael Stuhlbarg (the father in the film "Call Me By Your Name") and a cast of 16 mostly playing multiple roles. [more]

The Pain of My Belligerence

April 23, 2019

Jaw-dropping plot twists, painfully forced au courant dialogue, awkward sex scenes and a jagged central performance all make the world premiere of Halley Feiffer's "The Pain of My Belligerence" a fascinating doozy of a bad play. The tone is a blend of Ingmar Bergman and Nora Ephron and the cosmopolitan milieu is reminiscent of Woody Allen and Lena Dunham. There’s the sensation of guiltily scanning a highway car accident scene that you can’t take your eyes away from. [more]

The Cradle Will Rock

April 6, 2019

Many of Blitzstein’s melodic tunes are plunked out on the piano by several of the players at various points. But the fault is not only due to Doyle’s direction: what’s missing from Blitzstein’s "The Cradle Will Rock" is the heart and or soul that every musical requires. It’s a wannabe musical or opera that, ironically, lacks substance, given its heavy-hitting intentions. [more]

What the Constitution Means to Me

April 5, 2019

The premise of the show (directed by Oliver Butler) is that the 2019 Schreck has decided to recreate one of the many presentations she participated in at American Legion halls around the country, back when she was a 15-year-old high-schooler from Wenatchee, Washington. These presentations were apparently oration/debate hybrids. They were vigorous exercises—and lucrative ones. Schreck was able to pay fully for her college education with prize money from these competitions, which centered on the content and implications of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments. Back in the day, young Heidi was a pro-Constitution “zealot.” [more]

Southern Promises

April 1, 2019

Playwright Thomas Bradshaw seems to have taken literally the dictum in theater to “Astonish!” His plays like "Burning," "Intimacy," "Job," and "Fulfillment," to name only a few seen in New York in recent years, are shocking, disturbing and an assault on both the actors and audience. In The Flea Theater revival of his 2008 play, "Southern Promises," director Niegel Smith seems to have taken this one step further. In this play about race relationship between masters and slaves set in 1848 Virginia, an antidote to the theory of the benevolent slave owner, the ten-member cast of The Bats, The Flea’s young repertory company, informs us that they are all people of color and that they do not have legacy of confronting slavery on their terms. Several of them reveal that they have had DNA tests performed and discovered that they are of mixed blood, making them both black and white. [more]

Kiss Me, Kate

March 29, 2019

While many of the greats have tackled Kate over the years ever since it premiered in 1948, O’Hara brings a subdued charm to the usually more boisterous part of Lilli, even if she is positively beaming when she first arrives on stage. The first was Patricia Morison, and the most recent on Broadway--before O’Hara--was the late Marin Mazzie, who received a Tony Award for the 1999 revival, as did the revival itself. And then there was Kathryn Grayson in the 1953 film version. [more]

Fleabag

March 28, 2019

If Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s "Fleabag" sounds familiar, it may be because of the cult television show now in its second season adapted from this one-woman play. Having premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013 and having had three successful London runs, it finally arrives in New York with its author-star in a sold out production at the SoHo Playhouse. Not only is this a riveting, liberated evening in the theater, it marks the local debut of a supremely talented actress and writer. [more]

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]
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