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Joe Brancato

The Sabbath Girl

February 17, 2020

The trite set-up makes all of the characters one-dimensional, with the Jewish Seth a “knish maker” and shop owner on “Hester Street, Angie groping to find herself--not to mention a partner--and Sophia, a loving and understanding “Nonna.” Blake, of course, is a leather-clad roué, who also wears sunglasses throughout--until he loses them. What is somewhat surprising is to learn that Seth, an orthodox Jew, was in an “arranged” marriage before, and divorced his wife two years ago. But the play suffers from an inordinate lack of surprise. [more]

The Santa Closet

December 10, 2019

Houses on the Moon Theater Company’s delightful and earnest mission is to “dispel ignorance and isolation through the theatrical amplification of unheard voices.” "The Santa Closet," another one-man show written and performed by the company’s co-founder Jeffrey Solomon, doesn’t reach the lofty goals of some of his other plays; however, the newly updated, tenth-year anniversary production of this frothy, zany tale is nevertheless aloft with quite a few grins and chuckles. [more]

After

March 26, 2019

You can hear a pin drop during Michael McKeever’s "After," an exciting, riveting play about the aftereffects of bullying. During the final scene in Jo Brancato’s production now at 59E59 Theaters, the tension is so thick that no one in the audience seems to be breathing to see how it will play out. Like McKeever’s "Daniel’s Husband," the author wants us to see the events from more than one side but his message is clear by the end: parents make excuses for their children and allow for bullying to go on unchecked. Bad parenting is as bad as bullying children. [more]

Daniel’s Husband

November 12, 2018

What begins as light comedy in Michael McKeever’s well-made play "Daniel’s Husband" becomes deadly serious in this cautionary tale. If the plot seems familiar, this is a return engagement of a successful play that appeared at the Cherry Lane Theatre in April 2017. The same engaging and proficient cast returns and while designer Brian Prather remains the same, the costume and lighting designers are now different. The play has been tweaked a bit but you will probably not notice if you have seen it before. It still packs an emotional wallop in the way events turn out. [more]

Small World

September 23, 2017

Both as written by Stroppel and portrayed by Stephen D’Ambrose (Stravinsky) and Mark Shanahan (Disney), it also becomes clear that they are equally imperious--at first. Though they’re both monomaniacs, its Disney who proves more like a Trumpian narcissist. While Stravinsky says early on, “Everything I say is entirely true,” Disney, a bit later, claims, “I’m never wrong.” The fireworks begin as soon as they start to interact when Disney describes how the music evokes for him the birth of the universe and “earth--in its infancy,” not to mention dinosaurs, which remain the most memorable part of the "Fantasia" segment or sequence [more]

Daniel’s Husband

April 20, 2017

Matthew Montelongo is particularly effective in conveying Mitchell’s anti-marriage convictions, only to make us feel Mitchell’s subsequent anguish. Anna Holbrook is also outstanding as the self-centered Lydia, smartly dressed in Jennifer Caprio’s always dead-on costumes. But it would be an oversight not to also applaud Ryan Spahn as Daniel, Lou Liberatore as Barry, and Leland Wheeler as Trip. If Montelongo and Holbrook somehow emerge as acting victors, it may be because they have, in some respects, the two richest roles. (Mitchell and Lydia duke out their ultimate conflict offstage, in a court of a law.) In an odd way, "Daniel’s Husband" is ultimately the age-old story about THE mother-in-law, which may have given rise to many a comedian’s jokes, but, can often have lethal consequences for any married couple--whether they’ve literally tied the knot or not. [more]

Drop Dead Perfect

August 29, 2015

Everett Quinton has found the ideal vehicle in the hilarious "Drop Dead Perfect" to revive the style of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company for which he originally found fame. Like the plays of the late Charles Ludlam plays, Erasmus Fenn’s Drop Dead Perfect parodies a specific genre using movie and television quotes and characters, situations lifted from famous melodramas, and sexual puns placed in new contexts. Here the new play is a satire of 1940’s and 50’s Bette Davis and Joan Crawford melodramas, with dollops of I Love Lucy which allows Quinton do sparkle as a Southern heiress with many scores to settle. Director Joe Brancato manages to keep the melodrama believable at all times and none of the quartet of actors goes beyond the histrionics inherent in the plot. [more]