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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/

The Apiary

February 16, 2024

Unfortunately, at 70 minutes the play seems skimpy. Structured in a great many short scenes, only one thing happens in each, so that there is a sameness to it all. Basically a two character play with two lab assistants Zora (April Matthis) and Pilar (Carmen M. Herlihy) attempting to come up with new solutions to the problem and spoken in the level-headed tone of scientific investigation, the play does not offer climaxes or high points but moves on the same plane. The four actors playing seven characters remain on the same level without developing or changing. Kate Whoriskey’s direction appears to have eschewed raising tension to make the play more interesting or more dramatic, something it sorely needs. [more]

Days of Wine and Roses: The Musical

February 7, 2024

Reteaming with O'Hara and book writer Craig Lucas for the first time since the 2005 Tony-award-winning "The Light in the Piazza," Guettel's hodgepodge of a score equates jazz with blithe inebriation and opera with soul-crushing regret, a mostly tiresome juxtaposition that includes the gobsmacking discordance of Kirsten drunkenly bebopping around her apartment while vacuuming it. That O'Hara is never less than luminous, coordinated, and note-perfect during this ill-conceived pas seul fundamentally captures what's wrong with the musical: it's much too beautiful. [more]

Jonah

February 3, 2024

The play is best at its mysteries which are only slowly revealed. However, audience members may be confused part of the time as to the sequence of events and the relationships. A great deal is never resolved. The scene transitions are accompanied by blaring sound and flashing lights (sound by Kate Marvin; lighting by Amith Chandrashaker) which at times suggest that at least one or more scenes may be fantasies. The costumes by Kaye Voyce remain basically the same but Gabby Beans as Ana seems to grow in poise and maturity though very subtly from teenager to maturity. Although set at first 20 years ago, the male characters often talk of permission for intimacy, something that was not common parlance that long ago. [more]

Once Upon a Mattress (New York City Center Encores!)

January 30, 2024

Of course, in true American musical theater form the elegant Princess has been transformed into the bedraggled and uncouth Winnifred (Foster, in her best goofy guise, proving her talent knows no boundaries).  Winnie answers the call to audition to be the bride of the equally goofy Prince Dauntless (Michael Urie, funny, but hampered by his material’s lack of sophistication while taking a busman’s holiday after recently departing from "Spamalot)". The marvelously imperious Harriet Harris plays Dauntless’ mother, Queen Aggravain married to the mute, but highly communicative King Sextimus the Silent (David Patrick Kelly, adorable). [more]

Appropriate

January 10, 2024

Not only is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ "Appropriate" a classic American family drama with a new wrinkle, it is also a trenchant and scorching look at American racism which is just under the surface. So fine a playwright has Jacob-Jenkins become that every line of dialogue develops character and plot. What is most shocking about the play is how little the younger generation depicted knows about its American history, things we all should be aware of. Lila Neugebauer’s production for Second Stage mines all of the play’s nuances and her staging is smooth and effortless. The cast led by stage, screen and television stars Sarah Paulson, Corey Stoll and Elle Fanning (in her Broadway debut) make the most of their many opportunities. "Appropriate" is the most satisfying new American play on Broadway at this time and should not be missed. The running time may seem long but the rising tension and periodic revelations make the play feel like it could even be longer. [more]

The Night of the Iguana

December 26, 2023

The latest Tennessee Williams revival is the first major New York staging of "The Night of the Iguana" since Roundabout Theatre’s 1996 production. Emily Mann’s version with a great many well-known stage actors (Tim Daly, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lea DeLaria, Austin Pendleton and Jean Lichty) is a solid reading of the play though there is little chemistry between the main characters. Also at almost three hours, the production seems long though it does not drag. Visually the production with Jeff Croiter’s impressionistic lighting is stunning though the set by Beowulf Boritt may be a bit too large for what is basically an intimate play. Nevertheless, the revival is a good introduction to a Williams play not seen too often and best known from the somewhat different 1964 film version by John Huston which gave Richard Burton one of his best screen roles. [more]

Hell’s Kitchen

November 29, 2023

"Hell’s Kitchen" is both ambitious and noble in its intentions. However, as of now the show on the stage of The Newman at The Public Theater is not there yet. With very few characters developed and too many unanswered questions, the show’s book needs a simple rewrite. The Alicia Keys' score which too often sounds the same could use a reshaping to find some climactic moments other than the drama in the story. The plot lines need to come together more, rather than as disparate elements that take us in new directions all the time. Ultimately, Hell’s Kitchen has great potential when these problems are addressed. [more]

I Need That

November 12, 2023

A repetitively thin outlook on grief, "I Need That" ostensibly concludes with an image of healing, but I'm not sure why, or if it actually does. It's possible the famously prolific Rebeck had another play to write and figured DeVito would leave the audience feeling better no matter what she put on the page. That wasn't a bad bet, I suppose, but not everyone has the privilege of casting DeVito to pull attention away from writing that ultimately falls prey to a cheaply metaphoric sunrise (no knock on lighting designer Yi Zhao who was just doing his job). [more]

The Refuge Plays

October 21, 2023

Nathan Alan Davis’ "The Refuge Plays," if one pays attention, is exactly about refuge: growing up with it (because someone else has lovingly created it for you), seeking it (if you feel you must create your own), and coming back to the refuge you have always known (once you come to terms with the realization you’ve had no success trying to create it somewhere else). Davis, for the most part, has given us characters that we can easily fall in love with, each with their own path to refuge. [more]

The Tempest (Public Works)

August 31, 2023

Visually, the show is not as effective as it might have been considering the play usually includes a great deal of magic. Here there is very little in the way of scenic illusions or legerdemain. Alexis Distler’s setting which makes use of some elements of the design for Hamlet, the previous staging on the Delacorte stage, a falling down mansion seemingly off its foundation, adds little to the production’s visuals. Except for the stunning harpy costume for Ariel by Wilberth Gonzalez, the rest of the designs are more than bland. The all-black leather creations for the Europeans give the production a contemporary look that feels out of place. The dozens of community partners dressed in matching blue and yellow outfits have been given little to do besides stand around as witnesses or hum to the large-scale musical numbers. [more]

The Cottage

July 31, 2023

Although Sandy Rustin’s "The Cottage," now arrived at Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theater, bills itself as “A Romantic and (Not Quite) Murderous Comedy of Manners,” it is devoid of the two requirements of drawing room comedy: wit and quotable one-liners. Although its hard-working stable of stars including Eric McCormack, Laura Bell Bundy, Lilli Cooper and Alex Moffat, have been directed by television star Jason Alexander to behave as though the play is comic, there are hardly any laughs. [more]

Hamlet (Free Shakespeare in the Park)

June 30, 2023

For this year’s Free Shakespeare in the Park, director Kenny Leon has set his modern dress "Hamlet" in what looks like the same Georgia estate as his acclaimed 2019 production of "Much Ado About Nothing." However, Beowulf Boritt’s set this time around looks as though the Georgia suburban mansion has been destroyed by a hurricane with the main house off its foundation and the main room missing three of its walls. The set also features two American flags, a partly buried “Stacey Abrams 2020” poster (used in the "Much Ado") and a jeep nosed into a huge puddle with an Elsinore license plate. While the production is chock full of ideas (too many of them), it creates the new problem that Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" doesn’t make much sense set in America. After all, when is the last time we had a king and queen? Obviously, the parallel is that something is rotten in America but where is this Never Neverland? [more]

Rock & Roll Man

June 29, 2023

"Rock & Roll Man," the new jukebox/biographical musical at the New World Stages has a great deal going for it. The story of legendary Rock & Roll impresario Alan Freed is told in a series of delicious period songs with a few original works (by Gary Kupper who also cowrote the libretto with Larry Marshak and Rose Caiola) thrown in. The show is basically factual, although a tad exaggerated, and doesn’t shy away from Freed’s well-known issues such as his alcoholism and taking payola. Best of all, the cast is led by Constantine Maroulis in a complicated, fine-tuned and, for him, subdued performance. [more]

The Light in the Piazza

June 23, 2023

New York City Center Encores!’s new production of the musical, directed by Chay Yew, stars another Tony Award winner, the sensational Ruthie Ann Miles, as the determined Margaret Johnson with beautiful-voiced Anna Zavelson as a believably three-dimensional Clara. The Encores! production is more down-to-earth than either the film or the original Lincoln Center production and more satisfying as a human drama.  There’s no stinting on humor, but the characters’ formerly trivial problems now seem more worthy of our attention. [more]

Wet Brain

June 11, 2023

Caswell’s dialogue for and wry observation of a family this dysfunctional is quite compelling. Scenes where two of the siblings verbally gang up on the third are fraught with humor as much as real-life situations. Communication is “at your own risk,” with each goading the other about their addictions, instigating full-on relapses at every turn. It is no secret this is a very personal piece for the author. The dedication to the play reads: ”For my father if he’s out there. And for my siblings.” It is a play as much about love and loss (and grief) as it is about the addictions that create chasms in a family. And it is a play that deep down reveals a family with a lot of heart. [more]

Primary Trust

May 25, 2023

Eboni Booth’s "Primary Trust" at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre is a genial, gentle tale of a genial, gentle young man and his difficulty negotiating the speed bumps of life. What keeps "Primary Trust" afloat is the light touch of its director, Knud Adams, who never lets Booth’s play bog down.  Rather than wallow in sadness, Adams permits the actors—all fine—to ride the gentle waves of their fates. [more]

shadow/land

May 14, 2023

"shadow/land" by Erika Dickerson-Despenza is a play about the August 2005 disaster, Hurricane Katrina. It is the first episode of a ten-part magnum opus. "shadow/land," though, is more than a play.  It is a painfully rich vision of what hundreds and hundreds of stranded rooftop denizens, so touted in the media, must have gone through behind the waterlogged walls of New Orleans.  It is the rare theatrical work that recreates the agony and frustration of a natural disaster that transcends the fourth wall, seemingly without artifice, so involving is the entire endeavor. [more]

Good Night, Oscar

May 9, 2023

Sean Hayes, up till now best known for his Emmy Award-winning performance as Jack McFarland on "Will and Grace," gives a titanic performance as humorist, raconteur and pianist Oscar Levant once called the wittiest man in America, in Doug Wright’s new play "Good Night, Oscar." Although Levant is not much remembered today, you can enjoy this character study and depiction of early late night television even if you have never heard of him before. While "Will and Grace" has made evident Hayes’ way with one-liners, "Good Night, Oscar" demonstrates that Hayes is able to dig deep in a character portrayal as well. Credit must go to director Lisa Peterson for inspiring this memorable performance. [more]

New York City Center Encores!: Oliver!

May 7, 2023

When Mary-Mitchell Campbell’s baton brought out the first notes of the "Oliver!" overture from the Encores! Orchestra, the memorable tunes just flowed and didn’t stop until more than two hours later at the standing ovation and exit music.  Lionel Bart’s score is rich in melody, the lyrics and the libretto evoking Dickens while still being theatrical. (The late William David Brohn did the lavish orchestral arrangements.) Lear deBessonet, the show’s director (and the Encores!’ artistic director) has fashioned a fast-moving evening filled with great performances starting with the sweet, fresh-faced Oliver of Benjamin Pajak and the incredibly talented ensemble of kids who gambol about with abandon. [more]

The Thanksgiving Play

May 1, 2023

Larissa Fasthorse’s "The Thanksgiving Play" gives a good tweaking to those who are so hung up on political correctness that they dare not make a decision. On the other hand, the play reminds us how difficult it is to be fair to all sides of the historical spectrum. The erasure of the Native American point of view is made clear by their very absence from the play, while the problem of educators knowing how to walk the fine line between inclusion and suitability is given a rare airing in this delightful parody. The use of in jokes, theatrical, historical and educational notwithstanding, "The Thanksgiving Play" is a satire that entertains while it makes some very real and needed points about political correctness when dealing with unpleasant American history. [more]

Plays for the Plague Year

April 26, 2023

While the playlets seem too slight to have much dramatic weight as they are mainly about one minute long, they do have a cumulative effect summing up a year that was like no other in recent memory. Often the scenes feel like they want to go and continue, but Parks keeps them short. Periodically, we have a one sentence scene telling us how many people have died from Covid as of that date. Beginning on March 13, 2020, the first full day of the shutdown, the playlets continue until April 13, 2021, a year and a month from when Parks started. An electronic sign above the stage states the date of each scene and its name which include such titles as “Home,” “Broadway Is Closed,” “The City at 7 PM,” “Who’s Gonna Pay For This?,” and “Hiatus 4 Months: Holding It Together Together.” [more]

The Harder They Come

March 31, 2023

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its original film release, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks has turned "The Harder They Come," the cult Jamaican film that starred later reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, into an exuberant stage musical now at The Public Theater. Led by British stage star Natey Jones and American Caribbean actress Meecah, the large cast does full justice to the new score which includes the ten songs used in the movie plus 26 other Jamaican and traditional songs, additionally interpolated ones by Cliff and others, and some with additional lyrics by Parks. There are also three original songs by Parks herself who when she is not involved with one of her plays fronts her own rock band. [more]

Parade

March 27, 2023

While Brown's tunefully varied score strives to historically situate the bigoted nightmare we're witnessing within the cultural context of the South's fabricated sense of nobility and victimhood, an offensive postbellum myth known as The Lost Cause, Alfred Uhry's reductive book ham-fistedly narrows our attention, transitioning from a corrupt law-and-order procedural in the first act to a preposterously scripted search for the truth after the intermission. Although Dane Laffrey's unremarkably fungible from-courthouse-to-prison-to-gallows set overbrims with historical figures, most of them exist on a character believability spectrum somewhere between "My Cousin Vinny" and "Driving Miss Daisy" (also written by Uhry). If not for Sven Ortel's rear-wall historical projections of these real people, an audience might suspect at least a few of them were invented out of whole cloth. [more]

Dear World (New York City Center Encores!)

March 17, 2023

"Dear World," the not terribly successful 1969 Jerry Herman musical based on Jean Giraudoux’s "The Madwoman of Chaillot" (1945), was basically a vehicle for the brilliant Angela Lansbury.  It needs a star to pull off its quirky inconsistency and New York City Center Encores! has a gem, Donna Murphy, who, though under-rehearsed due to a Covid scare and carrying her script, gives a colorful and moving performance as its central character, Countess Aurelia. [more]

Letters from Max, a ritual

March 4, 2023

When a tall, lanky Max Ritvo entered Sarah Ruhl’s playwrighting class at Yale, she knew this was no ordinary 20-year-old student. Self-described as a poet with a sense of humor, he managed to capture her heart, and she remained forever changed. "Letters from Max, a ritual," now being presented by Signature Theatre, is not just a collection of correspondence between the two, but a document of a deep emotional bond between two creative souls that can’t even be severed by the untimely death of one of them. [more]

A Bright New Boise

February 28, 2023

The second play of Samuel D. Hunter’s residency at Signature Theatre is the first New York revival of his 2011 Obie Award winning 'A Bright New Boise," not seen by too many people in its short schedule run at The Wild Project in the fall of 2010. Oliver Butler’s production is a taut drama with rising tensions throughout until the climax. At first appearing to be a workplace drama set in big box store breakroom, the play turns out to be a meditation on faith, relationships and expectations. The ensemble cast is excellent and makes this a riveting piece of theater. The title is ironic in that all of the characters are going through crises and do not see the promise of a new world, in fact, they are mostly pessimistic about the future. [more]

The Wanderers

February 21, 2023

The latest play to reach New York by Anna Ziegler, author of 'Photography 51," "Boy," "The Last Match" and "Actually," has a complicated structure she appears to have invented. "The Wanderers," her fascinating study of faith, love and fulfillment, parallels two Jewish couples a generation apart who appear to have been each other’s destiny (the Jewish concept of “bashert”) but who do not seem to be able to live together successfully. The play also has an email correspondence between a celebrated and controversial novelist and a Hollywood film star played by Katie Holmes, who really is a Hollywood film star. Barry Edelstein who also directed the play’s world premiere at The Old Globe theatre in San Diego keeps the separate parts bubbling along but without achieving the depth of character that the play implies. [more]

Lucy

February 14, 2023

Writer/director Erica Schmidt's "Lucy" is a play struggling to find a point of view, or perhaps a point of view struggling to find a play. If the latter is true, then that narrative position seems to be "good help is hard to find," which generally only satisfies an audience, at least the "help" part of it, when there's a "My Man Godfrey," or even "Mary Poppins," spin attached. But Schmidt apparently has adopted her position sincerely, with some topical digressions into issues like healthcare coverage and paid sick leave. Or maybe Lucy is just an exceptionally slippery satire, and I failed to grasp its profundity while wondering why the play had to last more than one scene. [more]

Asi Wind’s Inner Circle

January 30, 2023

"Ari Wind’s Inner Circle" is so incredible that it defies the imagination. Can these be called sleights of hand when we see everything that happens at all times? It is the sort of show that you just have to see for yourself and experience firsthand to believe. Not even magicians have been able to explain many - or all - of the tricks. It would be unfair to describe the tricks more completely – though how they are handled will completely amaze and dazzle you. [more]

Ain’t No Mo’

December 10, 2022

Jordan E. Cooper’s scathing new racial comedy, "Ain’t No Mo’" has made the successful transition to Broadway with five of the six original actors from the previous Public Theater staging in 2019 and a more elaborate physical production from an almost entirely different design team. Delving into Black life and attitudes now, the play is hilarious, but not laugh-out-loud funny, rather it's impressive because of its cleverness, but its satire does not trigger laughter. However, its outrageous form of satire may not appeal to all theatergoers. [more]

Kimberly Akimbo

November 23, 2022

"Kimberly Akimbo," David Lindsay-Abaire’s oddball take on the title character’s dishearteningly sad disease, began life as a play back in 2001, reaching New York via the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2003. In 2021 Lindsay-Abaire (libretto and lyrics) combined resources with the eloquent composer, Jeanine Tesori, to restyle the play as an award-winning musical produced at the Atlantic Theater Company in November 2021. This is the production that has moved to the Booth Theatre where it now resides featuring the glowing performance of Victoria Clark as the troubled title character. Jessica Stone repeats her directorial duties, managing the move to a larger venue with skill and subtlety. [more]

Where We Belong

November 17, 2022

Writer/ director/actress Madeline Sayet is an engaging performer. Directed by Mei Ann Teo, her one-woman show “Where We Belong” is an autobiographical tale of her Mohegan roots and her seeking her place in the world as she travels to London to pursue a PhD in Shakespeare. While much of the play contains information and stories that will come as a revelation to most New Yorkers, the play often feels like a lecture with an agenda. The most interesting parts are her own discoveries about her roots and her encounters with other people in which she plays both characters. [more]

Downstate

November 16, 2022

Norris’ smart and effective script is packed with controversy; its characters are stained by the trauma in which their lives have been steeped, and it’s uncertain they will ever feel clean again. So many questions come to mind as this play unfolds. ... "Downstate" is a stirring, thought-provoking play about a deeply painful topic that plagues societies around the world. It’s an extremely tight piece of writing; every word and action is relevant. I can’t wait to see it again. [more]
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