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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/

Mary Page Marlowe

July 17, 2018

After establishing himself as one of our finest playwrights with such works as "Killer Joe" and "August: Osage County," Tracy Letts seems to have somewhat lost his way with his more recent "Mary Page Marlowe." Now playing at the Second Stage Theater in New York, "Mary Page Marlowe" premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater two years ago. With six different actresses representing the title character at many different times in her life, it essentially relates a single, long life span, in only 90 long minutes. [more]

Songs for a New World

July 2, 2018

The unison of Jason Robert Brown’s accomplished score, Kate Whoriskey’s exciting direction and Rennie Harris’s vibrant choreography make this New York City Center Encores! Off-Center’s revival of his 1995 debut show "Songs for a New World," a dynamic theatrical experience. Mr. Brown’s surprise appearance at the piano to play a song in the second act was electrifying. [more]

Carmen Jones

July 1, 2018

Unlike the musicals "Rent" (an update on Puccini’s "La Boheme"), and "Miss Saigon' (inspired by Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly") both of which had all new music by other composers for their contemporary stories, "Carmen Jones" uses the original Bizet score. However, it is not simply an English translation. Hammerstein has written all new lyrics to place the story in a W.W. II Southern community (possibly North Carolina) and with the characters ending up in Chicago for the denouement. While "Carmen Jones" was a smash hit originally running for 503 performances at the Broadway Theatre during the war years, some like then critic James Baldwin found the dialect that Hammerstein had used for his African-American characters both embarrassing and demeaning, and the show has not had a New York revival until now. Notwithstanding, the first London production in 1991-92 was also a tremendous success at the Old Vic Theatre with a mix of both opera and theater stars in the cast. [more]

Skintight

June 29, 2018

Harmon’s new play resembles "Admissions," his last New York offering seen at Lincoln Center this March, in that it debates a topic from many sides but then fails to give us the author’s point of view on it at the end. Like all of his four plays so far it offers a strong character who has a very big gripe with the way things are and who attempts to change people accordingly. And like the others, "Skintight" is very funny while it deals with a serious topic but ultimately seems rather superficial, though here that maybe because of the extremely wealthy milieu in which money is no object and things magically appear via live-in servants. As is Harmon’s wont, the acerbic repartee is tossed about plentifully and as directed by Daniel Aukin, the six actors get the most out of their snappy lines. [more]

Laura Bush Killed a Guy

June 26, 2018

With her honeyed and smoky Texan vocal inflections, wearing a short-haired lustrous brown wig and costume designer Rhonda Key’s gleaming trim white suit, actress Lisa Hodsoll is phenomenal as former First Lady Laura Bush in author Ian Allen’s kaleidoscopic solo play, "Laura Bush Killed a Guy." For 95 mesmerizing minutes, Ms. Hodsoll gives a smashing performance that transcends mere impersonation or campy replication. Looking and sounding like Mrs. Bush, with her twinkling eyes and beaming presence, Hodsoll’s characterization is a dazzling amalgam of comedy, emotion and depth. An only child, she and her parents went on a mission... [more]

Log Cabin

June 26, 2018

Harrison’s dialogue is well-crafted and often in setup punchline mode peppered with plentiful pop culture references that falls flat. The overall effect is of a rote accumulation of touchstones appealing to this strata. It’s all without resonance unless one is like the characters being depicted. It’s certainly possible to dramatize the concerns of differing classes with cross-sectional interest but that is not the case in "Log Cabin." This title is most likely a play on Log Cabin Republicans who are gay and might reflect that some of the characters are actually more Conservative then they let on. [more]

Othello (Shakespeare in the Park)

June 20, 2018

In the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi’s "Otello," Otello was white which left no reason for his jealousy if he was identical to all the Venetians around him. In the current Shakespeare in the Park production, using color blind casting, Santiago-Hudson chooses to make at least five of the leading characters people of color so that Othello is no longer an outsider, nor are they. The meaning of the theme is diluted in such a reading. It may be politically correct, but in this play about race there is no getting away from its original meaning. Even The Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis’ program notes remark that Othello is only one of two explicitly black characters in all of Shakespeare, the other appearing in "Titus Andronicus." Other than this casting choice, the production offers no new interpretation of the play or characters, making it more like a staged reading than a full production. [more]

Dan Cody’s Yacht

June 18, 2018

Both Kevin and Cara are single parents, which is only the beginning of the many parallels and contrasts at the heart of "Dan Cody’s Yacht." Though it might come to seem overly formulaic, both the play and the production are good enough to rise above such a criticism. If Cara lives in the middle-income, fictional town of Patchett, and Kevin in the upscale, fictional town of Stillwell--“both towns in the far outer ring of suburbs around Boston,” as we’re told in a program note--she also teaches in Stillwell. [more]

Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf

June 13, 2018

“What a dump” is the immortal opening line of Edward Albee’s dramatic masterpiece, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?".  In the inane spoof "Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf," it’s spoken by George instead of Martha while he is brightly lit and standing in a doorway. This instantly signifies to those who are familiar with the original work that we’re in for an irreverent ride. However, the promise of a wry send-up very quickly descends into pretentious pointlessness. [more]

Paradise Blue

May 25, 2018

In many ways Dominique Morisseau’s "Paradise Blue" shares similarities with August Wilson’s brilliant, if long-winded, Pittsburgh based plays.  "Blue" is part of Morisseau’s Detroit Project, a three-play cycle that takes place in three different eras.  Blue, developed with the aid of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Public Theater and the McCarter Theatre is a snapshot of desperate people occupying a part of Detroit on the verge of vast changes—read gentrification. [more]

Me and My Girl

May 14, 2018

Mr. Carlyle’s giddy opening is a thrilling mise-en-scène of a chorus line of servants, floating props and a grand back drop of a miniature representation of the country estate where the action is set. Act II starts with a rollicking cricket and tennis on the lawn segment showcasing cast members in gleaming casual wear and the commanding gyrations of Mark Evans who wonderfully plays a fatuous cad. There’s also a daffy number where portraits of ancestors in clothing of different eras come to life and dance. [more]

My Fair Lady (Lincoln Center Theater)

May 14, 2018

With an enormous painted backdrop depicting London and featuring St. Paul’s Cathedral and a lamppost (the glorious sets have been designed by Michael Yeargan), the musical begins as Covent Garden pivots into view on a revolving stage. Though, from the moment that we see him in the opening scene, Hadden-Paton seems too young as Higgins in comparison to Rex Harrison, who originated the part, he is actually closer in age to Shaw’s intentions. He also sings more melodically than Harrison, who famously song-spoke his way through the role. Though Ambrose’s voice seems weak at first (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”), it gains in strength and stature as she proceeds. [more]

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire

May 14, 2018

There’s a brilliant play buried somewhere in Caryl Churchill’s "Light Shining in Buckinghamshire," a bottom-up historical epic about the English Civil War that the acclaimed British writer developed collaboratively with director Max Stafford-Clark and a group of actors back in 1976. Fifteen years later, it premiered stateside at the New York Theatre Workshop, where it has just returned for a ploddingly drawn-out second go-around that yielded a lot of empty second-act seats on the night I attended. [more]

Dance Nation

May 9, 2018

Ms. Barron’s conception is more of an agenda driven fantastical tract rather than a well-crafted play with a cohesive plot. Her tone is of exaggeration and artifice with mannered dialogue that is intended to be hilarious yet thoughtful. A brief gag about "A Chorus Line" and a reference to the actual Telsey & Company Casting are some of the smug inside humor tossed in. [more]

Saint Joan

May 8, 2018

After "Ruined" and then last year’s "A Doll’s House, Part 2," Condola Rashad is fast establishing herself as one of our finest young actresses. She is presently back on Broadway, offering a steely and, shall we say, saintly performance as the title character in George Bernard Shaw’s "Saint Joan" at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. [more]

Transfers

May 1, 2018

As Cristofer, Juan Castano is riveting in his honesty and his assurance. You could hear a pin drop during several of his monologue confessions as to why he didn’t do as well as he might have. His performance is almost frightening in its intensity. As the bookish Clarence, Ato Blankson-Wood is his diametric opposite, well-spoken, sensitive to other people, politically correct, well-mannered and able to hold his own in an intellectual conversation. He is equally intense in a quieter, more refined manner. Although both young actors have impressive New York credits, they should be better known after this. [more]

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical

April 30, 2018

Mr. McAnuff who worked wonders with his direction of "Jersey Boys" here offers a chilly vision that evokes a sterile landscape replicating a heavenly waiting room in connection with Robert Brill’s austere scenic design. The décor is an all-white barren universe with trap doors, platforms and floating panels on which so-so illustrative images by projection designer Sean Nieuwenhuis are shown as well as functional furniture tossed in. The opening image is of an old record player rising from the floor. McAnuff’s presentation is of calculated professionalism absent of spontaneity or joy. [more]

Mlima’s Tale

April 26, 2018

Structured like Arthur Schnitzler’s wicked "La Ronde," "Mlima" begins with a harrowing hunting scene.  Mlima, the giant elephant, is portrayed with dignity and astonishing physical vitality by Sahr Ngaujah ("Fela!," "Master Harold…and the boys"), in traditional African garb (character-perfect costumes by Jennifer Moeller) and colorful stripes of makeup. His opening moments involve an internal dialogue describing his dire situation chased by hunters.  He speaks of his tight family connections and his regrets just before he is slaughtered. [more]

Mean Girls

April 24, 2018

Fey has made two successful changes to theatricalize her original screenplay. The story is now cast as a flashback narrated by best friends Goth Janis (Barrett Wilbert Weed) and Damian (Grey Henson), described as “almost too gay to function,” to the new freshman class as a cautionary tale as to “how far you would go to be popular and hot.” She has also updated the story to include smartphones, selfies, and reference to current events (the Russians and President Trump’s twitter account.) [more]

Lobby Hero

April 16, 2018

Ethical integrity versus moral turpitude is the theme of Kenneth Lonergan’s "Lobby Hero" now having its Broadway debut at The Second Stage’s newly renovated home, The Helen Hayes Theater. Although Trip Cullman’s production is very leisurely for at least the first half of this talky and long play first seen in New York in 2001, his quartet of impeccably cast players (Michel Cera, Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley and Chris Evans in his Broadway debut) have a field day with these ethically challenged police and security officers. "Lobby Hero" may appear at first to have a great many meaningless conversations, but it all becomes a tight web of intrigue as the tension rises in the second act. [more]

This Flat Earth

April 13, 2018

But, unfortunately, Ferrentino squanders this intriguing setup, getting lost in existential musings that end up being nowhere near as complicated as her subject matter. The first signs of trouble are actually percolating even before the play begins. As we enter the theater, Cloris (Lynda Gravátt), Julie and Dan’s elderly neighbor, is already perched in the upstairs apartment of Dane Laffrey’s two-story set. And there she remains for the entire play, a constant presence hovering over the action below. Initially, you wonder about her and, then, you feel sorry for the actor, hoping she’ll be given something more to do than just putter around. Eventually, however, after a couple of pat exchanges with Julie, it all becomes cringingly clear. Cloris isn’t a character at all; she’s an inspirational device, one that Ferrentino unleashes with full, and shameless, force at the play’s tear-jerking conclusion. [more]

Grand Hotel, The Musical

March 25, 2018

“We'll Take a Glass Together” is an exhilarating production number. Brandon Uranowitz’s animated youthfulness is up to the task of equaling the impact of Michael Jeter’s legendary turn in the original production as the dying bookkeeper enjoying a carefree spree.  Mr. Uranowitz’s limber movements are thrilling as he euphorically undulates up and down flanked by a large gold dance barre carried by the terrific ensemble. [more]

The Low Road

March 20, 2018

Bruce Norris’ plays are so different from each other that you have to take his fingerprints to recognize his hand. His recent New York plays have dealt with racism and gentrification ("Clybourne Park"), politics ("Domesticated"), sexual mores ("The Qualms"), theories of time and space (A Parallelogram), and now in his latest production to reach NYC, "The Low Road" at The Public Theater, he offers a fascinating take on capitalism and the free market told as a picaresque and ribald 18th century tale of colonial America on the brink of statehood. Of course, its real target is today’s untenable global economic situation but his criticism is couched as an historical parable. [more]

Amy and the Orphans

March 13, 2018

Casting of Brewer (best known for her several roles on "American Horror Story"), an individual with Down syndrome, is a real coup as she doesn’t have to be inventing a role she knows intimately. Her feistiness, timing and personality make Amy a three dimensional character from the time we first meet her. (A program note tells us that her understudy is another individual with Down syndrome, Edward Barbanell and when he plays the part the play is known as "Andy and the Orphans" in a rewritten version.) Another note reveals that Ferrentino’s heroine is based on her Aunt Amy who grew up with Down syndrome when the medical community had no idea how to deal with it except to institutionalize such people rather than to give them training and support. The play is a fitting tribute to Ferrentino’s aunt who the playwright never got to know as much as she would have liked. [more]

Kings

March 8, 2018

Despite some terrific acting, it’s hard to root for any of the four characters in Kings, even if the play is one long competition between all of them. This smart new work by Sarah Burgess ("Dry Powder") fails to introduce little that’s new about the present state of politicians and lobbyists--and their overly intimate relationships. But it’s also been put together with an admirable efficiency that spells it out clearly for those members of the audience who haven’t been paying enough attention to the daily headlines and all they entail. [more]

Black Light

March 2, 2018

Thus begins the unique show, "Black Light," which is a concert cum confessional. In her sequenced gowns--and there are five costume changes during the 90-minute performance--and with her red lipstick and frizzy, frazzled, dark hair, Jones sometimes provides a strong, alto voice for her intermittent songs, ranging from ballads (“Crossroads”) to hard rock (“Life is motion”). [more]

Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo: Homelife & The Zoo Story

February 28, 2018

Lila Neugebauer has directed these two one-acts to bring out their naturalism. In the past, "The Zoo Story" was usually performed with an odd, surreal quality.  Neugebauer has given the conversations a flow that reveals this play to be about people, not walking symbols, a lesson Albee had thoroughly absorbed by the time he wrote "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"   [more]

In the Body of the World

February 20, 2018

"Body" dovetails Ensler’s personal agonizing battle with cancer and her involvement with a feminist group in the Democratic Republic of Congo where women have faced violence, rape and almost unending disruption of their lives.  Ensler’s input was requested by Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist whose ministrations to the female victims of the sadism of soldiers and government officials paints a litany of one tragic event after another. [more]

Hey, Look Me Over! New York City Center Encores! at 25

February 10, 2018

Writer-performer Bob Martin recycles his sweater-clad disaffected “Man in the Chair” character from his 2006 Broadway musical "The Drowsy Chaperone." The conceit is that he’s a disgruntled Encores! subscriber who has been chosen to pick his selections for inclusion. Mr. Martin addresses the audience to offer commentary, often tells inside jokes and interacts with the cast.  Depending on one’s sensibilities, this is either an inspired or an insufferable device. However, it doesn’t mar the actual production. [more]

Fire and Air

February 4, 2018

Though the production has been designed by its director, John Doyle, there is no scenery to speak of, except for a gold framed mirror on the rear wall, another framed mirror angled and dangling above it, and five gold chairs. It all suggests the opulence for which Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes were known. Opulent, too, are the costumes designed by Ann Hould-Ward with everyone clad in black except for Nijinsky who is in colorful and playful ballet costumes. [more]

Cardinal

February 2, 2018

Greg Pierce, the author of "Slowgirl" and "Kid Champion," has often tackled hot button issues. Here in Cardinal being given its world premiere at Second Stage Theater, he takes on urban renewal, Chinese entrepreneurs, racism and amateurs in politics, all worthy of investigation, in comic fashion. However, in this satire his plot seems to reinvent itself in every other scene, with twists and turns you can’t see coming. The three sets of characters (Lydia and Jeff, Nancy and Nat Prenchel, owners of the Bread & Button Bakery, and Chinese businessman Li-Wei Chen and his son Jason) seem totally separate until he brings them together in a rather improbable finale. He also loads the deck with such plot complications as Lydia and Jeff beginning an affair (as she looks so much like her sister who he dated in high school and hasn’t gotten over.) [more]

John Lithgow: Stories by Heart

January 15, 2018

But in John Lithgow: Stories by Heart, Lithgow tells an even more compelling tale about growing up with his father Arthur Lithgow, an actor who taught Shakespeare even as he opened and ran Shakespeare festivals throughout the Midwest. Lithgow’s peripatetic experience with this show is not unlike, in other words, his father’s experiences when his son John was growing up. Though it’s truly sui generis, "Stories by Heart" is reminiscent of Lynn Redgrave’s tribute to her father, Sir Michael. [more]

Mankind

January 9, 2018

Playwright Robert O’Hara’s fertile premise might have made for a provocative, sober sci-fi take on gender roles, sexuality and parenthood. Instead, it’s broadly conceived and lame. The flat dialogue is in the vein of Abbott and Costello with numerous jokes about “fathers” since there are no mothers. The “Dude, I’m pregnant” bit gets painfully recycled. [more]
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