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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/

…what the end will be

June 2, 2022

In four scenes spanning a few months, Ra renders his gay family trio’s life events, medical situations, numerous clashes and resolutions with pungent topicality. The pandemic is referenced, gender and pronouns are discussed, and cultural bromides are stated: “Black people can’t be racist. I read that on the Facebook.” Ra’s characters are given rich portrayals by the splendid cast. With his melodious voice, priceless facial expressions and stage presence, veteran actor Keith Randolph Smith grounds the production with his towering performance as Bartholomew. As Maxwell, the fiery Emerson Brooks supremely conveys the character’s bottled-up emotions, offering a moving psychological portrait. The personable Gerald Caesar’s Tony is a vivid take on adolescent struggle. Randy Harrison as Charles offers a winning take on the supportive spouse with his straightforward vocal delivery and calm manner. Lithe, animated and spunky Ryan Jamaal Swain hilariously and poignantly tranmits all of Antoine’s facets. The radiant Tiffany Villarin combines levity and warmth as the noble Chloe. [more]

Fat Ham

May 30, 2022

James Ijames’ "Fat Ham" (all puns intended) is the latest and most successful modern riff on the Bard turning Hamlet into an expression of the Black experience while at the same time having much fun at Hamlet’s expense. As one of the few comedies to ever win the Pulitzer Prize, we should be hearing more soon from this talented playwright whose "Kill Move Paradise" in 2017 appears to be his only other New York credit, also directed by Saheem Ali. Already an associate artistic director/resident director with The Public Theater, Ali has previously worked wonders with "Merry Wives," "Nollywood Dreams," "Shipwreck," "Fires in the Mirror," "The Rolling Stone," "Passage," and "Fireflies," among others at various theaters around town. As usual his casting choices are perfect to the nth degree. [more]

Wish You Were Here

May 4, 2022

In the 13 years that span this earnest, thought-provoking play, three weddings, fear, war, and death all serve to test the strength and sanctity of these women’s bonds. Toossi’s script is intimate, and searching, both funny and heartbreaking; "Wish You Were Here" is a beautiful testament to the strengths and allegiances women find with each other in times of turmoil and oppression. [more]

Suffs

April 30, 2022

Unfortunately, while Wells (Nikki M. James) and Mary Church Terrell (Cassondra James), another renowned Black suffragist, occasionally pop up to offer intersectional insights, they mostly come across as an addendum to the all-female and nonbinary musical's Paul-centric narrative. Taub knows Wells and Terrell obviously belong in the story she's trying to tell, but she hasn't figured out how to dramatize their inclusion yet. Other suffragists whose names should be much more well known today also receive paper-thin characterizations: Lucy Burns (Ally Bonino); Doris Stevens (Nadia Dandashi); Ruza Wenclawska (Hannah Cruz); Inez Milholland (Phillippa Soo). [more]

Hangmen

April 29, 2022

Taking the law into your own hands can be a risky business as Harry Wade and friends find out in Martin McDonagh’s hilarious dark comedy "Hangmen" which finally made its Broadway debut after being delayed two years by the pandemic. The cast of this Royal Court Theatre/Atlantic Theater Company production is somewhat different from the one that debuted Off Broadway in 2018 with four members of the original 11 person company remaining. British film star David Threlfall who made his New York stage debut in 1980 in his Tony Award nominated performance as “Smike” in "Nicholas Nickleby" returns to Broadway for the first time since 1997 in the leading role as Harry, the second most famous hangman in the United Kingdom. [more]

The Little Prince

April 18, 2022

Essentially, Mouron boils the story down to a couple lines about love and beauty, while eliding any sense of the loss, isolation, and dread that the novella also poetically conveys. Her little prince is a man-child incapable of engaging with life's pain rather than Saint-Ex's courageously inquisitive child-man who can't help but look for happiness in sorrow and vice versa. In the absence of this existential heft, the production makes room for co-director Anne Tournié's, admittedly, often charming choreography. A pas de deux between Zalachas and Sulty is particularly lovely, thanks in part to the latter's stunning, and protean, red dress from costume designer Peggy Housset. [more]

Birthday Candles

April 15, 2022

"Birthday Candles" also has an unusual theatrical device: we follow Ernestine Ashford from 17 to 107 meeting her on her various birthdays that are depicted.  The other characters come and go (by death, moving away, or dropping out of her life). Inspired by Thornton Wilder’s 1931 "The Long Christmas Dinner" which like "Birthday Candles" covers 90 years in one family, Wilder’s landmark play has also inspired Paul Vogel’s "The Long Christmas Ride Home" and Dan LeFranc’s "The Big Meal," as well as the breakfast table scene in Orson Welles’ "Citizen Kane." While Vivienne Benesch’s production for the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre is beautifully done giving Debra Messing a bravura role as Ernestine Ashworth in which she is onstage throughout, the play is devoid of surprises in covering 90 years in 90 minutes in the life of one woman, too predictable to feel fresh. And once the characters are introduced, they pretty much stay the same throughout the rest of the play. [more]

To My Girls

April 15, 2022

Lee peppers his worn scenario with plenty of pop, cultural and political references, well-crafted zingers and familiar conflicts. Dating apps, "Dancer from the Dance," "Sex and the City" are among the totems cited and a Trump supporter is declared to be a “MAGA fag.” "To My Girls" succeeds as a rote genre-piece for a niche audience desiring a simplistic gay play where there’s laughter, tears and resolution in drag danced to The Pointer Sisters. Lee’s thinly drawn characters are highly playable. [more]

The Life

April 12, 2022

The ubiquitous Billy Porter was given command of the most recent New York City Center Encores! presentation, the 1997 musical "The Life."  His direction and re-interpretation of this tawdry portrait of 42nd Street left a great deal to be desired, but strong performances by the leading players made vivid impressions. Originally written by the estimable Cy Coleman (music/book), Ira Gasman (lyrics/book) and David Newman (book), "The Life" is set in the 1980’s as seen from the point of view of a narrator, Old JoJo (Destan Owens, fine in a thankless, add-on role) who observed and commented on his past which included watching himself, Young JoJo (Mykal Kilgore, fine singer, but looking nothing like his counterpart) behave badly. The concert adaptation was by Porter himself. [more]

Take Me Out

April 11, 2022

As the most respected player in baseball, Williams has a quiet dignity and charm as a man of few words and few outward motions. While his wry remarks do not often come through as humor, he is very endearing as a man who has always had everything go his way but for the first time in his life must deal with events he cannot control. Ferguson in the role of Mason Marzac which won creator Denis O’Hare a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in 2003 makes the role his own. His social awkwardness as well as his delight at being close to the superstar is patently palpable. He also has a handle on the volubility and articulateness of this clearly deep thinking man. As the narrator Kippy who is also a member of the team, Adams holds our interest as a compassionate man who uses big words and is known as an intellectual among his teammates. He has the task of doing a great deal of explaining both to his teammates and us and he does an excellent job without making it seem like exposition. [more]

Plaza Suite

April 2, 2022

Audience laughter abounds during Matthew Broderick and Sara Jessica Parker’s uproarious performances in this splendid first Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s 1968 hit comedy, "Plaza Suite." This married show business couple revel in their different roles during three one-acts all taking place in the same hotel room. They’re greeted with wild entrance applause each time they come on stage and though standing ovations at the end of shows have become obligatory, here it’s sincere and justified. Mr. Broderick and Ms. Parker’s enduring star quality is on display at the Hudson Theatre. [more]

The Chinese Lady

March 29, 2022

Presentational flourishes abound in director Ralph B. Peña’s gorgeous physical staging which combines small-scale spectacle with humanity. Scenic designer Junghyun Georgia Lee provides a large gold frame through which we observe Afong’s act and an assortment of stylized pieces which evokes the past through clever artifice. That’s complemented by the shimmering artistry of lighting designers Jiyoun Chang and Elizabeth Mak and projection designer Shawn Duan. Sound designer and composer Fabian Obispo’s  original music and composition, ranges from delightfully jaunty to purposefully moody. [more]

Coal Country

March 18, 2022

Songwriter Steve Earle, a three-time Grammy Award winner, returns providing homey, twangy music and acting as an understanding host/narrator.  With charm that belies the depth of Coal Country’s horror, he pulls the audience into the sad story, sometimes musically underlining the confessions of those involved, most particularly the tale of the sole survivor of the disaster, Tommy, played with passion and an undertone of survivor’s guilt by Michael Laurence. [more]

On Sugarland

March 8, 2022

Aleshea Harris’ third New York stage play following her form-bending "Is God Is" and "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" is epic in all senses of the word: it includes poetry, dance, incantation, comedy and drama. The new play "On Sugarland," an anti-war drama, also harks back to the Greeks, borrowing characters from Sophocles’ "Philoctetes" and Euripides’ "The Trojan Women," as well as the concept of the Chorus. It tells three interwoven stories as well as one communal one and ends with a shocking finale that is the hallmark of Greek tragedy. Director Whitney White’s production with its cast of 14 is quite versatile and lives up to its lofty task. [more]

Out of Time

March 5, 2022

Conceived and directed by Les Waters, his staging of Out of Time is of purposeful simplicity. The actors are seated, standing or in motion fulfilling the intentions of each author. The stage is set with scenic designer dots’ atmospheric assemblage of gauzy curtains and minimal furnishings which abstractly suggest different locales and tones. Reza Behjat’s clinical lighting design and Fabian Obispo’s modulated sound design successfully accentuate and realize each of the diverse works. Black, white and red are the colors of Mariko Ohigashi’s smart costume design. "Out of Time" is a fine opportunity to experience some stimulating new dramatic writing and uniformly superior acting. [more]

Broadway’s “Mrs. Doubtfire” Takes a Nine-Week Hiatus Due to Covid-19

January 7, 2022

The show's pre-Broadway, out-of-town tryout was very successful financially, suggesting that there's an audience for the show. (The show broke box-office records in Seattle, during its tryout.) But that was before the pandemic. As company members began testing positive in December, the show was forced to cancel a number of performances, costing the production a lot of money.  And after spending six years developing the show, its creators did not want to see the show die due to Covid-19.  So they are trying this nine-week hiatus now, in the hope that it will give the show a chance at long-term viability later. [more]

Flying Over Sunset

December 20, 2021

"Flying Over Sunset," Pulitzer Prize-winning bookwriter/director James Lapine’s new original show, is a “What If?” musical: using historical facts that are known about writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, politician and diplomat Clare Boothe Luce, and actor and film star Cary Grant, he has created a fictitious story about their experimenting with LSD together in the late 1950’s together. The problem seems to be that he doesn’t appear to know much about them so that the results are extremely thin though the musical still manages to run a little under three hours. The songs by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Michael Korie don’t add a great deal and the production design which ought to be psychedelic is subdued and unadventurous. Stars Harry Hadden-Paton as Huxley, Carmen Cusack as Luce and Tony Yazbeck as Grant try valiantly but they can’t breathe life into generic cardboard cutouts. [more]

Is There Still Sex in the City?

December 15, 2021

Although Candace Bushnell’s one-woman show, "Is There Still Sex in the City?," shares the same name with her 2019 novel/self-help book, the stage show now at the Darryl Roth Theatre is her autobiography telling the story of her life and career. Ms. Bushnell proves to be a vivacious performer with a great deal of stage presence, not surprising for a woman who was the model for "Sex and the City"’s Carrie Bradshaw. The show is both entertaining and revealing, correcting many misconceptions about the true adventures of the author. She also gets to change into a dazzling array of outfits by Lisa Zinni in an attractive apartment setting by Anna Louizos which colorfully lit by Travis McHale. And like Carrie Bradshaw she collects shoes which are in evidence in the shelves on the stage. [more]

Mrs. Doubtfire

December 12, 2021

Broadway fixture Rob McClure occasionally channels Robin Williams with sparkling riffs and simulated ad libs but makes the roles of Daniel and Mrs. Doubtfire his own and each distinctive especially with his trilling Scottish burr. With his commanding singing, dancing and acting talents, Mr. McClure is a stage marvel up there with Jim Dale, effortlessly veering from comic to poignant. Jenn Gambatese is delightful as Miranda, finely balancing seriousness with madcap as the pragmatic wife. As the children, Analise Scarpaci, Jake Ryan Flynn and Avery Sell all offer appealing characterizations. Brad Oscar is uproarious as always as Daniel’s brother. As his fierce husband, J. Harrison Ghee is magnetically hilarious. Peter Bartlett scores as a weird over the hill children’s television host. The animated Charity Angél Dawson’s child welfare official is a grand take on bureaucratic officiousness. In the brief role of a television network executive, Jodi Kimura is wickedly deadpan par excellence. [more]

Selling Kabul

December 6, 2021

Will a former Afghani U.S. Armed Forces interpreter get himself and his family out of the country before he’s captured by the Taliban in 2013? This is the crux of playwright Sylvia Khoury’s gripping, thoughtful and suspenseful drama, "Selling Kabul." In a straight through 100 minutes, Ms. Khoury crafts an accessible overview of that conflict, sets up a compelling story and employs a classic plot device. Khoury’s smooth passionate dialogue imparts exposition and biographical details while advancing action with technical accomplishment. [more]

Clyde’s

December 4, 2021

As the manager of the restaurant, Aduba gives one of those big performances which are larger than life, but we have all met that type of people. She batters, insults, cajoles, berates her staff: is it to drive them to new heights or she is paying the world back for her tough life? Is she an incarnation of the devil or Satan? The gas fires that shoot out of the stage periodically make us wonder. When they receive a rave review in a local newspaper she belittles them as though they had nothing to do with the restaurant’s success. Wearing a new and colorful skintight outfit by Jennifer Moeller and multiple hairdos by Cookie Jordan each time she enters through the swings doors from the restaurant into the kitchen, she is a bigger and bigger surprise by what she says and what she threatens. As the dangerous and intimidating Clyde, she gives an indelible performance; just try to take your eyes off of her when she is onstage. [more]

Cullud Wattah

November 27, 2021

All of us are probably aware of the problems of polluted water in Flint, Michigan, owing to civic neglect. However, it might shock you to know that it is still going on. Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winning play, "Cullud Wattah," takes on this crisis through the prism of one family of three generations of Black women living in the same house. The material is powerful and explosive. We learn a great deal about the crisis as well as see how it personally affects all five of these women in one family. Director Candis C. Jones has obtained the kind of performances from her ensemble cast that makes you feel that these actresses have lived and worked together for years when they may have never met before now. [more]

Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord 

November 22, 2021

But of course, looks are famously and frequently deceptive, if not all the time. Indeed,"Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overload" emerges as one of the most serious-minded plays of all, as it surveys what we all have been going through and having to endure for the past 20 months. During that period, as you may recall, there were various times when necessary facemasks were proving unavailable—and especially in different parts of the country. Wong made it her business to recruit hundreds of her “Aunties” to produce them and provide relief, ergo the self-deprecating description in her title. She may have been overseeing something akin to a “sweatshop,” but it’s hard to imagine her as a demanding “overlord” of anything. [more]

The Visitor

November 20, 2021

David Hyde Pierce taking off his suit trousers to practice on a drum in his boxer shorts is one of many hilarious bits that are meshed with drama in "The Visitor." It’s a faithful, resonant and well-done musical adaptation of the acclaimed 2007 independent film of the same title. Book writers Kwame Kwei-Armah and Brian Yorkey stick closely to director/screenwriter Thomas McCarthy’s original vision while skillfully translating it for the stage. [more]

Trevor: The Musical

November 16, 2021

The writers seem afraid to state what the story is all about, the word gay being mentioned exactly once. At two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission, today’s audience is way ahead of the plot, knowing exactly what will happen in advance. While the 1994 movie was 23 minutes, the musical seems padded and dragged out. Davis’ music is pleasant enough, but Collins’ lyrics are pedestrian and repetitious. The songs seem to have a limited vocabulary such as children’s books often do, but 13 year olds have a slang and vernacular that is hardly used. The biggest problem with the score is that the dream Diana Ross (played flamboyantly and spiritedly by Yasmeen Sulieman) gets to sing seven of her most iconic songs (“Do You Know?,” "It’s My Turn,” “Upside Down,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Remember Me,” “Endless Love” and “I’m Coming Out”) which are far superior to any of the new songs, always a mistake in a non-jukebox musical. [more]

Caroline, or Change

November 9, 2021

"Caroline, or Change" is an important musical, more now than in 2004.  It should be seen.  The Roundabout production, though somewhat flawed, still communicates the complicated relationship between Blacks and Jews, clearly an issue in today’s New York City.  It is an excellently constructed show, its message surviving mostly intact. [more]

Letters of Suresh

October 13, 2021

Although the characters never meet in person, they communicate mostly through letters that are spoken by the actors directly to the audience, and then halfway through the play, in texting which appears on the back screen as well as Facetime from across the world. Letters of Suresh is the perfect play for the pandemic as its characters are separated from each other across the stage as they declaim their letters, a reminder to all of us that without meeting in person we can communicate in writing. And the letters presented as monologues are never dry or dusty, but vibrant and revealing as if the other person is opposite you on the other side of a room or table. [more]

Sanctuary City

September 28, 2021

Martyna Majok writes powerfully and brilliantly about marginalized people, particularly undocumented immigrants living in Northern New Jersey, as in "Ironbound" and her 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winner "Cost of Living." Her new play, "Sanctuary City," set in Newark, now being given its world premiere production by the New York Theatre Workshop at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, is the same only different. While the characters could be cousins to others in her previous plays (as well as her 2018 "queens"), the structure and format is quite audacious and unusual, making the play a bit off-putting. [more]

Pass Over

September 19, 2021

The spartan set design by Wilson Chin features a large tin can, a tall streetlamp, a very large tire, a milk crate, and a high basketball net. The first two actors, Jon Michael Hill (as Moses) and Namir Smallwood (as Kitch) take shifting turns sitting on the large can and the milk crate. But when we initially meet them, they’re running rapidly in place. They’re also speaking what eventually becomes a tedious and redundant black vernacular, without seeming to have much to say to each other or to us, even as they traffic in racist clichés. As indicated by the character named Moses, Pass Over is riddled with Biblical references. It’s 28 minutes into the play when they’re joined by Mister (although I kept hearing them call him “Master,” which under the circumstances, would have made more sense). He also removes an enormous amount of food from the straw basket he brings with him, which he was ostensibly taking to his mother, as he also sings, “What a Wonderful World.” Mister is played by Gabriel Ebert, who also plays “Ossifer,” an alcoholic’s way of pronouncing “Officer.” [more]

Semblance

August 18, 2021

Written and directed by White who is the Obie and Lily Award winning director of "Our Dear Dead Drug Lord" (WP Theater) and "What to Send Up When It Goes Down" (Public Theater, BAM Fisher and Playwrights Horizons), a NYTW Usual Suspect and former NYTW 2050 Fellow, among other impressive credits, "Semblance" asks the question: in your everyday life, how do you encounter Black women? What do you see and what do you assume? Nikiya Mathis plays seven women from all walks of life, six of them depicted in various jobs and careers and each in her own setting. The women address us directly: a line worker in a salad take-out restaurant, a nanny and caretaker with her charge in Prospect Park, a chart-topping artist preparing for a music video, an unemployed mother getting her nails done in a salon, a public figure such as a politician about to be interviewed on a news program, a bus driver on her run on an MTA bus, a medium to low level consultant in an office, and finally the actress herself as she removes her makeup. [more]

Coal Country

March 17, 2020

For "Coal Country," an investigation into the April 5, 2010 West Virginia disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine which killed 29 men, authors Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen based their documentary play on first person interviews with the families of many of the victims, sons, brothers, fathers, husbands, nephews. Powerful in the piling up of evidence and malfeasance just as they had done in "The Exonerated," the play undercuts its dramatic power by revealing the end of the story at the very beginning so that the ultimate court decision comes as no surprise. Nevertheless, the individual stories told by seven actors speaking the real words of family members are very compelling. [more]

Unknown Soldier

March 11, 2020

The declarative lyrics are written by Mr. Goldstein and the show’s composer Michael Friedman. Mr. Friedman was a notable musical theater figure who died of HIV-related causes in 2017, at the age of 41. With its derivative melodies echoing Stephen Sondheim, John Kander and William Finn, "Unknown Soldier" is not a posthumous masterpiece. [more]

Cambodian Rock Band

March 8, 2020

Mixing fiction and fact, new Signature Theatre Residency playwright Lauren Yee’s "Cambodian Rock Band" is an engrossing, entertaining and appalling  investigation into the Khmer Rouge’s genocide in Cambodia in the 1970’s and its aftermath. Using authentic Cambodian rock music from the 1960’s and 70’s as well as the songs of Dengue Fever, the Los Angeles-based Cambodian American band, the play is emceed by the genial Duch played by Francis Jue who turns out to be the play’s greatest villain and a real person now in prison. Chay Yew’s production is one that does not require prior knowledge to get caught up in the fictional play and the ugly, true history of Cambodia. [more]
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