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John McDermott

Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet

September 30, 2018

Previous experiments from this adventurous theater group helmed by artistic director Eric Tucker include two versions of Twelfth Night performed in repertory, Hamlet and Saint Joan performed with casts of only four actors, and an updated Pygmalion which was double cast in its smaller roles. In "Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet," Tucker has tried something new: a mashup of both Anton Chekhov’s "Uncle Vanya" and Williams Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet," with scenes from the two alternating. The result is not confusing, but irritating and irrelevant, with neither play gaining from the combination. The advertisement for this show reads “5 actors, 2 plays, 1 performance,” but to what point? [more]

Conflict

June 30, 2018

With Miles Malleson’s 1925 "Conflict," being given its New York premiere, the Mint has uncovered a brilliant political and social drama which has tremendous relevance for today with its dissection of conservative and liberal points of view. It resembles Shaw and Tom Stoppard in its debate of ideas and Galsworthy and Arthur Miller in its moral integrity. Superbly directed by Jenn Thompson ("Women Without Men") with a crackerjack cast, this is not only one of the Mint’s best offerings, it is also the most satisfying play in town. Framed as both a thriller and a romantic comedy, Conflict is absorbing and exciting theater throughout, the sort of play that has you hanging on every word to see which way it will go. [more]

ms. estrada

April 18, 2018

The Q Brothers Collective (made up of GQ, JQ, Jackson Doran and Postell Pringle) is best known in New York for their hip hop variations on Shakespeare: "Othello: The Remix" in 2016 and "The Bomb-itty of Errors" in 2000. As the entire show is in rhyme and rhythm, there are very few discrete songs, but the couplets come so fast that it is at times difficult to make out the clever lyrics. The upside of the new show has all the hijinks of a teen musical but with the unsophistication of a college parody (the downside). It is the latest musical version of Aristophanes’ most famous comedy, but unlike the 2011 "Lysistrata Jones," "ms. estrada" has eliminated all of the politics for an exploration into the social aspects instead. [more]

Bedlam’s Pygmalion

April 4, 2018

Scenic designer John McDermott has turned the black box space at the Sheen Center into an intimate amphitheater with the audience sitting around three sides of Higgins’ laboratory/study with no viewer more than four rows from the action. When Eliza arrives to arrange for lessons on her small income, we discover what we already suspected: this Eliza has been born in India and she is prone to speak in Hindi when she gets excited, just like her father Alfred Doolittle does when he follows her to Wimpole Street to see what he can get out of her good fortune - when she sends for her things but not her clothes. This adds a new, contemporary level to the play: Eliza is an immigrant rather than an East End cockney which contributes to the play’s current relevance. [more]

My Brilliant Divorce

March 21, 2018

The lithe and silvery-haired Ms. Gilbert dazzles for 90 minutes as she addresses the audience directly with her warm and joyous presence. She tells jokes, sings, and dances, all while conveying pathos.  In addition to her vivid primary characterization, she portrays 16 other characters of various ages and nationalities with a commanding assortment of dialects and physical traits. [more]

Pride and Prejudice

November 27, 2017

While this is not a Bedlam production as was Hamill’s hugely successful stage version of Austen’s second published novel, "Sense and Sensibility," director Amanda Dehnert has staged the play in their inimitable style for this co-production of Primary Stages and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and has created a clever 19th century entertainment with a decidedly 21st century sensibility. The versatile Hamill has also given herself the plum role of Elizabeth Bennet, here known as Lizzy. [more]

Peter Pan (Bedlam)

November 25, 2017

Such changes as Captain Hook being a woman or Tinker Bell speaking French are neither explained nor meaningful, while some of the doubling simply makes the play hard to follow as the characters are not listed in the programs which are given out after the performance. A voice-over which appears to read stage directions from the original is both intrusive and inconsistent: why some characters but not others? There is a dark psychological story hidden in Barrie’s tale of a boy who refuses to grow up but this isn’t it. Whereas the original play is joyful, Bedlam’s Peter Pan is a glum affair in which no one seems to be having a very good time. Where is the Bedlam which brought such purposeful insight and visual dazzle to its previous work? The actors, mostly playing children, try hard but fail to bring the work to life. [more]

Rebel in the Soul

April 23, 2017

If this all sounds a bit over-intellectual, well, so is the play. Though the intelligent script may be based on real people, they are forever describing themselves--and each other--in ways that real people never do. Think about practically any play by George Bernard Shaw, and you begin to get the picture. (Archbishop McQuaid even says, “I do find political theory most compelling.”) And although Moore, as director, has done much to compensate for the tiny stage space on which the expansive story unfolds--particularly with helpful projections by Chris Kateff and a cramped but effective set by John McDermott--she isn’t abetted very much by her actors. [more]

Cal in Camo

May 25, 2016

Playwright William Francis Hoffman offers a quirky, weirdly compelling if not totally satisfying take on contemporary American life. Mr. Hoffman’s dialogue is richly expressive bordering on poetic and enhances his true to life melancholic characters. The plot is slender and problematic. It has the sense of a symbolism-laden short story adapted for the stage rather then a developed play. [more]

Dead Dog Park

March 3, 2016

At the onset of the production, each cast member is introduced by walking onto stage one by one. Starring intently out into the audience, there is a general sense of unrest to be found behind the eyes of each performer. The house lights of the theater are still on, and the piercing gazes coming from the actors scattered across the stage immediately destroys any notion of a fourth wall. The fourth wall, the theatrical device that the audience can usually hide safely behind, is taken away from the audience before the production even begins. There is no question: from the time the very first actor takes the stage, it is established that the audience is just as responsible for the events of Barry Malawer’s "Dead Dog Park" as any one of the fictional characters in the story [more]

New York Animals

December 8, 2015

The new musical is similar to Sater’s "Spring Awakening" in that it takes a group of people in a specific historic time and place (here New York, circa 1995) and adds music between the scenes which is in a different style from the play. It also resembles Bacharach’s "Promises Promises" in depicting a series of New York types at work and play. While the Bacharach/Sater score is sumptuously sung by an on-stage band of five led by impressive lead vocalist Jo Lampert, Sater’s book in which we meet various Manhattan denizens whose lives intersect in the course of one day feels dated in that we have met these people before and the problems of the characters seem trivial compared to the problems of today. [more]

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Pearl Theatre

September 29, 2015

If you thought Bedlam’s artistic director Eric Tucker had created physical productions for his acclaimed acting troupe in the past, think again. His "A Midsummer Night Dream," seen this summer at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and now in residence at the Pearl Theatre, gives the actors a workout from beginning to end. Whether all audiences will go along with it – it is tiring for both performers and viewers – is a question, but like watching a world-class circus or ballet troupe, you know at the end of the evening that you have seen an extraordinary imagination at work. Tucker just expects everyone to go the extra mile. This is not a "Midsummer" for people who have never seen the play before, but one for whom the traditional interpretation no longer has anything to offer. [more]

For the Last Time

June 9, 2015

As a follow-up to their musical based on Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, lyricist/composer Nancy Harrow and writer/director Will Pomerantz have turned their sights on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1860 novel, "The Marble Faun." Renamed "For the Last Time," this new jazz musical has changed the setting from Rome in 1860 to New Orleans, circa 1950, and uses an all-Black cast to tell the original story. The show’s glory is its magnificent score, a combination of jazz and blues ballads, wonderfully sung by its cast of seven. The problem is that the show started as a concept album and to some extent hasn’t progressed very far from there: the book by Pomerantz and Harrow remains too thin to deal with the plot’s very deep themes. [more]

The Belle of Belfast

April 24, 2015

The ample set by John McDermott is an intelligent divide between interior and exterior life, the run down streets of Belfast and a humble, wooden and warm rectory. Contemplation goes on in both places, be it perils of war or morals. Famed film director Claudia Weill returning to the New York stage establishes this well. Each character has his or her place and is well defined. Weill has a clear vision of the conflict at hand. Impressive music, explosions and street noise punctuate the scenes artfully with sound design by Daniel Kluger. [more]

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now

April 15, 2015

Like Laura Eason’s "Sex with Strangers" seen at The Second Stage last summer, "The Undeniable Sound of Right Now," her new play having its world premiere in New York in a joint production of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Women’s Project Theater, has a pulsating urgency that pulls you into it from the moment the lights come up. Director Kirsten Kelly, another long time Chicago resident along with Eason, has obtained dynamic characterizations from her cast of six including Jeb Brown, Margo Seibert and Daniel Abeles. While the play has a rather abrupt and unsatisfying ending as well as its clunky though accurate title, it brims with the authority of real life rather than theatrical artifice. [more]

Shesh Yak

January 31, 2015

Theatergoers knowledgeable with "Death and the Maiden" will find "Shesh Yak" very familiar territory. Those who aren’t will still find this play tediously predictable as this scenario has been played out in a number of other dramatic works. The writing is flat, formulaic and rudimentary. [more]

Sense and Sensibility

December 3, 2014

Janeites, arise! Take yourself to The Gym at Judson for Bedlam Theatre Company's world premiere stage adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" that is inventive, faithful, clever and hilarious. Using a cast of ten versatile actors (playing 17 roles) under the brilliant and ingenious direction of artistic director Eric Tucker, the minimalist production contains all of the key scenes of the book while at the same time skillfully delineating the social fabric of the times. You may never have guessed how funny this story really is. Kate Hamill's marvelous play is one of the finest stage adaptations of a literary classic. Our Jane would have expressed her approval. [more]