News Ticker

Julieta Cervantes

My Broken Language

November 14, 2022

Hudes has directed her own play in a delightful vaudeville/musical comedy style with dancing between the scenes to choreography by Ebony Williams to live music played by pianist Ariacne Trujillo-Durand, supervised by Alex Lacamoire. Of the five actresses who perform each in their own inimitable style, three of them have appeared in Hudes’ plays before: Daphne Rubin-Vega and Zabryna Guevara (who play the Author twice each) have appeared in two New York productions and Marilyn Torres has appeared regionally in the Pulitzer Prize-winning, "Water by the Spoonful" at The Old Globe, San Diego. By the end of the evening we feel we have met all of the Perez women as well as know what makes the Author tick. [more]

The Piano Lesson

November 14, 2022

LaTanya Richardson Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson’s wife) has directed in a desultory fashion.  Long, revealing monologues, the backbone of this particular play, are delivered directly to the audience rather than to the other characters, making them more speeches than important character revelations.  She also chose to overdo the ending, which includes an ill-advised exorcism and won’t be ruined here. [more]

Golden Shield

May 23, 2022

Although playwright Anchuli Felicia King’s plays have been performed in London, Washington, D.C., Staunton (Virginia), Melbourne, and Sydney, her Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-nominated "Golden Shield" appears to be her first New York main stage production. Ostensibly about a young, idealistic lawyer’s attempt to bring her sister on board as a translator in a risky legal battle with a multinational tech corporation, the play is about half a dozen other things as well: sibling rivalry, child abuse, ethical turpitude, human rights issues, governmental suppression of the internet, legal loopholes, and corporate greed. The play actually conflates two different very real lawsuits (against internet giants Yahoo and Cisco) which may explain why it is initially so complicated. [more]

The Skin of Our Teeth

May 4, 2022

You would think that at the tail end of a pandemic Thornton Wilder’s 1943 Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Skin of Our Teeth" would be the perfect play for our moment. This experimental play which pays tribute to the resilience of the human race offers hope in time of adversity. The experimental nature of the play uses techniques promulgated by James Joyce, Luigi Pirandello and Bertolt Brecht, none of which are so new or unfamiliar anymore: actors addressing the audience directly and stepping out of character, anachronistic events or references, etc. There are allusions to the Old and New Testament, Greek Mythology and Shakespeare. Writing in the middle of World War II, Wilder presciently made use of such themes as the problems of climate change, refugees, dysfunctional marriages, nepotism and political corruption, which remain at the forefront today. Even after 80 years, Wilder’s play seems eternally forward-looking, eternally novel, and continues to be an important piece of American theater. [more]

Harmony

April 18, 2022

Although 25 years have gone by since "Harmony" first tried out at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, the Barry Manilow/Bruce Sussman musical about the Comedian Harmonists is still relevant and timely. This historical musical based on true events which took place mainly in Germany from 1927- 1935 is a necessary reminder of the rise of Nazism and the naïve people who thought it would blow over. Produced by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, "Harmony" could not be in a more fitting setting to tell this story. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical has been given a big Broadway-style production for its first New York appearance starring Chip Zien and Sierra Boggess as well as a cast of featured players. [more]

Queens Girl in the World

April 11, 2022

Whether frenetically dancing, rhapsodizing over Nancy Drew, fretting about when she’ll wear a bra or reacting horrified upon learning about sex, Ms. Curry performs with the verve of Lily Tomlin in her prime. Curry’s rich portrayal of Jaqueline Marie Butler captures the wonderment of childhood amidst harsh realities and the physical and emotional upheavals of adolescence. A matter-of-fact confession that Jaqueline has been molested is a chilling highlight. With her wide-eyes, expressive facial features, limber physicality and vocal prowess, Curry often rapidly achieves distinctive characterizations of the dozen other figures in the play. The wizardry of Mika Eubanks’ costume, hair and makeup design all visually enhance Curry’s performance. [more]

7 Minutes

March 31, 2022

Given one hour to decide and vote, the union committee must come to a decision in real time. On one level the play is very much like Reginald Rose’s "12 Angry Men" in which a group of disparate people must also make a life or death decision. However, unlike that play, the characters in "7 Minutes" are not clearly delineated so that we do not know where many of them stand or who they are. While the production directed by Mei Ann Teo is absorbing for most of its running time placing us in the room where it happens, her staging having the actors move about a great deal makes it difficult to keep most of the 11 women separate from each other. Unlike "12 Angry Men," "7 Minutes" does not offer a great many arguments for and against to warrant its running time, mainly getting into personalities. [more]

Little Girl Blue

March 15, 2022

Nina Simone’s vocal talents, physical presence and spirit are all dazzlingly channeled by Laiona Michelle in her engaging self-written biographical concert-style musical, "Little Girl Blue." Ms. Michelle employs just enough of Simone’s cadences, facial expressions and physical gestures to create an authentic characterization while supremely singing over a dozen songs associated with the charismatic vocalist. The show’s well-researched spoken word portions deliver historical facts, life details and cultural commentary in the manner of Simone. [more]

The Music Man

February 22, 2022

Because of changing social mores, some Broadway musicals are assumed to make audiences uncomfortable today. Take for example Rodgers and Hammerstein’s "Carousel" whose protagonist is a wife-beater. The recent revival did everything in its power to mitigate this problem but did not succeed. Now we have the long awaited revival of Meredith Willson’s "The Music Man" starring film megastar Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill and two-time Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo, the librarian and music teacher. The problem the director and producers had with this classic piece of Americana, set in 1912, is that the hero Professor Hill is a con-artist and a serial seducer with whom we are supposed to be sympathetic. However, in 2022 this is an obstacle in an era when lovable rogues are not acceptable as heroes. As a solution, Jackman has been directed by Jerry Zaks to play Harold Hill as low-key and muted as he possibly can. What this does is straitjackets Jackman’s personal charm and charisma which he normally has in spades. The result is an undercooked Music Man even though it has been given a big, expensive production – six Tony Award winners on stage and six in the production team - maybe the starriest cast in New York right now. [more]

Wolf Play

February 15, 2022

Hansol Jung’s "Wolf Play" is a fantasy on several levels but it is also rather confusing in its details. Inspired by the true case of an Asian adoptee who was “re-homed” on the Internet when his new American parents no longer wanted him, the play also conflates this with the idea of the lone wolf who does not assimilate into a society of like animals. In addition, the Korean adoptee is played by a puppet that is manipulated by a character called “Wolf.” The author who is particularly interested in the families we choose makes the new parents a queer entity, adding another level of complication to the storyline. [more]

Four Quartets

February 14, 2022

In her selection of the movements and structure of "Four Quartets," Tamowitz chose to ignore the depth and imagery of the poems, producing a cool Merce Cunningham-like ballet that glided along beautifully on the surface of Eliot’s heavy, sometimes distasteful, imagery.  Movements were balletic, full of arabesques, skittery connecting steps, soft leaps and jumps. She built the work upon a series of steps and phrases that are repeated in various ways: jumped, turned, performed alone, performed in unison and performed in reverse.  One salient image was that of a dancer jumping into the arms of another.  Other than that there was very little touching.  The barefoot dancers often mimicked each other or performed side by side.  Only two duets occurred, one quite long near the end, watched by the other cast members gathered at the corners of the set. [more]

Intimate Apparel

February 11, 2022

The new opera, "Intimate Apparel" is a very impressive, accessible work. If it has a fault, it is completely humorless but then the original play did not include comic relief either. Unlike Ricky Ian Gordon’s last opera, the recent Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the music here is not only beautiful but suitable and appropriate as the singers and the music are one. Lynn Nottage’s libretto is a masterpiece of economy, though her play was too. Will the opera supersede the play? Probably not, but it should certainly do well in other intimate opera houses where its charms can be fully appreciated. [more]

Assassins

November 18, 2021

As always in a John Doyle presentation, the production is professional, polished and accomplished. This time around he has not made changes to the script or the score except to include the climactic song “Something Just Broke” which was not in the original Off Broadway production but was added to the first London version in 1992 and has been used ever since. While the actors give excellent performances, the revival lacks emotion and heart which is strange considering the number of characters who die or who are wounded in the course of the show. It is as though they (and we) are numbed by much depiction of killing. Is there a way to fix this in a show which repeatedly has its cast shooting at presidents of the United States, in this case only in a fun house setting? [more]

The Lehman Trilogy

October 22, 2021

Wearing costume designer Katrina Lindsay’s artful business attire is the distinguished British trio of Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Adrian Lester. They initially portray the three Lehman brothers, then in an exhilarating display of superior acting, they play a gallery of other major and incidental characters with Dickensian flair. Whatever the figure’s gender, age or varied social status, each actor offers many full-blooded characterizations emitting force and pathos through their expertly altered voices and grand physicality. Time passes, people die, and we feel sad having gotten to know them through these performers’ indelible depictions. For the Broadway incarnation, Mr. Lester replaces the unavailable Ben Miles who performed in the previous productions. [more]

Thoughts of a Colored Man

October 20, 2021

Keenan Scott II’s engrossing Broadway debut play, Thought of a Colored Man, appears to be a masculine version of Ntozake Shange’s 1976 "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf" updated to 2021. Both plays have seven unnamed characters all the same gender, take place in 20 scenes, and mix poetry, prose and dialogue. However, Scott’s play develops characters that each have a through line and they encounter each other as members of the same Brooklyn community. Set on one Friday from 6 AM to 1 AM the next morning in a Brooklyn community experiencing gentrification, we meet seven African American men in various combinations each given a monologue addressed directly at the audience to tell us part of their stories. In the final scene, they announce their names (Love, Happiness, Wisdom, Lust, Passion, Depression and Anger) but by then most of these appellations have become obvious. [more]

West Side Story

March 16, 2020

Van Hove's energetic cast is too often lost among the video images which is sad because they are a wonderfully scrappy group of actor/dancer/singers who give their all.  (I’m told that this is less of an issue in the higher reaches of the theatre due to the difference in perspective.)  To be sure, there are wonderful moments where the groups move about in cityscapes that constantly change around them, but these are countered by long scenes during which the actors appear to be lilliputian figures whose singing and emoting get lost in the confusion of giant faces. [more]

Notes on My Mother’s Decline

October 22, 2019

Knud Adams directs this one-set show which at times has moments of humor, but overall is a slow moving and usually depressing narrative. Ari Fliakos, who plays the son, gives a reserved performance. Too often I thought of  the somber tones of The Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling. Fliakos  speaks directly to the audience while seldom having conversations with his mother, played convincingly by Caroline Lagerfelt. When they do interact, it’s via a call that usually describes her mundane days. [more]

Novenas for a Lost Hospital

September 24, 2019

Cusi Cram’s "Novenas for a Lost Hospital" (with dramaturgy by Guy Lancaster) presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is an unusual site-specific theatrical event that pays tribute to the now defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital which for 161 years was situated three blocks from the theater’s location. Directed by Daniella Topol, the play is both uneven and scattershot in its non-linear format and content. However, it conveys a great deal of information in an entertaining manner and has some affecting scenes of life in the hospital in two eras: the 1849 cholera epidemic when it was founded in the mid-19th century and the AIDS crisis in the final years of its tenure in the late 20th century. [more]

Passage

May 18, 2019

Christopher Chen’s exquisite and mystical "Passage" being produced by the Soho Rep is inspired by E.M. Forster’s "A Passage to India," borrowing its plot and character relationships. But while Forster’s novel was simply about the British colonization of India, Chen has something bigger in mind. Chen calls the two locales Country X and Country Y so that the audience can fill in whatever two countries they wish in whatever time. Director Saheem Ali’s superb multicultural cast offers the maximum in diversity. And in this age of nations all over the world cracking down on immigrants and immigration, the play is an investigation into our complicated feelings about The Other. [more]

Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus

April 26, 2019

Playwright Taylor Mac’s Broadway debut, "Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus," comes with a great many pluses: three consummate clowns, Nathan Lane, Kristine Nielsen and Julie White, directed by George C. Wolfe, and a terrific set by Santo Loquasto. This ribald yet philosophical downtown comedy is making its debut at the Booth Theatre, usually home to sedate, serious dramas. While low humor seems to be the name of the game, the play also has a good deal to say on various topics like comedy and tragedy, political systems, class structure, the little people who generally do the dirty work, and parodying Elizabethan revenge plays. The humor in Gary is not for everyone, but those who relish low comedy will have a ball as do the actors on stage. [more]

Hillary and Clinton

April 23, 2019

Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow are such consummate stage performers that they could read the phone book and keep us mesmerized. As directed by Joe Mantello in Lucas Hnath’s "Hillary and Clinton," they have the kind of rapport of actors who have worked together for years. Unfortunately Hnath, who gave Metcalf a Tony Award winning role in his "A Doll House, Part II" in 2017, hasn’t given them much to work with. True, his play inspired by real people is entirely supposition with enough true facts to make us curious. But at 80 minutes playing time, Hillary and Clinton seems padded, and set in 2008 there isn’t a lot to wait for as we all know it how turned out. [more]

Recent Alien Abductions

March 5, 2019

Devilishly enigmatic and culminating in an eerie denouement, playwright Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas' stylized warring brothers yarn "Recent Alien Abductions" confidentially veers tonally, seemingly goes off on tangents and holds interest for much of its off-kilter 90 minutes. [more]

To Kill a Mockingbird

February 16, 2019

It has been well publicized that the Harper Lee estate filed a lawsuit in February 2018 alleging that the play deviated too much from the novel. They should not have worried. As directed by Bartlett Sher, Aaron Sorkin’s astutely scripted "To Kill a Mockingbird" with Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch is a magnificent and moving theatrical experience that treats the novel with respect and dignity. The additions and changes from the novel only make the material more stage worthy and a better experience in the new medium. Harper Lee’s justly famous lines about it being a sin to kill a mockingbird and never knowing a person until you walk around in his or her skin brought an audible reaction from the audience at the performance under review, demonstrating that they were with the story all the way. [more]

Thunderbodies

October 29, 2018

In Kate Tarker's satiric "Thunderbodies," America is a relentlessly strange place, where people spout nonsense, act without reason, and are led by the narcissistic man-baby they've elected president. To state that the playwright has hit the nail right on the head might sound like a compliment, but it's not, mostly because Tarker accomplishes this small feat with very little wit and even less insight. Substituting outrageousness for both, she tosses the play down a Rabelaisian rabbit hole, desperately trying to hold on to our attention at the cost of anything that might demand just a little bit more. [more]

Intractable Woman: A Theatrical Memo on Anna Politkovskaya

September 23, 2018

Exhibiting talent and charm but with relatively impassive vocal deliveries are the trio who portray Anna Politkovskaya and other characters such as soldiers, medical personnel and military officials. They are Nadine Malouf, Nicole Shalhoub and Stacey Yen. They’ve been styled to have similar appearances and directed to be distant so that their performances are in the mode of recitation rather than distinctive characterizations, resulting in a lack of emotional impact. [more]

Fairview

June 27, 2018

Jackie Sibblies Drury is a unique new voice in the American theater. Her use of metatheater is all her own. "Fairview" has a great deal to say about race in America and the angle you see things from and she is able to cleverly shift it from scene to scene. However, this new play is a bit too long for its content, with scenes overstaying their welcome. Nevertheless, Drury is a playwright well worth watching. [more]

Time’s Journey through a Room

May 21, 2018

In the spirit of the loquacious Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s "Happy Days," the animated Yuki Kawahisa beautifully portrays Honoka with sunny depth. Maho Honda as Arisa, the play’s unifying figure, is brilliantly wistful.  Veering from low key to emotionally volatile Kensaku Shinohara richly conveys Kazuki’s angst and anguish. This trio’s rapport and chemistry is palpable and is integral to the production’s success. [more]

The Iceman Cometh

May 7, 2018

Denzel Washington, the raison d’être of this production (coming way too soon after several recent stagings), gives a boisterous, almost pleasant performance as Theodore Hickman, aka Hickey, who is the “Godot” of "Iceman," in whom the godforsaken characters put too much faith, a faith that, by the end of the play, is shown to be clearly misplaced. There is absolutely no foreboding in his interpretation.  He takes the glad-handing aspect of Hickey too literally so it is difficult to understand his sway over the denizens of Harry Hope’s saloon.  True, these depressives look forward to his regular visits, but Washington’s Hickey simply doesn’t fit in. He’s more worshiped than embraced. [more]

Carousel

April 22, 2018

If it seemed like no staging could ever top London’s National Theatre production (which was directed by Nicholas Hytner and came to Lincoln Center in the mid 1990’s), this newer version epitomizes the notorious relationship between anticipation and realization. Though the advance word during the extensive preview period was rather negative, Jack O’Brien’s "Carousel" proves up there with the best. [more]

Is God Is

March 14, 2018

On the basis of “Is God Is,” Aleshea Harris is a new voice in the American theater whose work bears watching in the future. The play is the latest in a long line of revenge stories from the Bible to Quentin Tarantino. The nagging question becomes does Harris have an underlying theme other than the righting of past wrongs by violence. However, Magar’s riveting production never gives the viewer a chance to ponder on this dilemma while the tightly written drama is unfolding before you. While the play has a dark humor throughout, in a parody of the famous Louis Jordan song, it seems to ask the question, “Is God is or is God ain’t?” After witnessing the retribution of the sisters, only the viewer can decide for him or herself. [more]

1984

July 13, 2017

Icke and MacMillan’s version is tricked up with much multimedia, sound and lights, and disorientation. Faithful to the book, it claims to be the first adaptation to include Orwell’s appendix supposedly written years after the events of the novel. The first third of the play which mixes past, present and future would be very hard to follow for someone who has not read the book. For two-thirds of the play, Chloe Lamford’s set is a wood paneled library or reading room which must make do for an office cubicle, an office cafeteria, an antique shop, a meeting room, a path through a forest, and the home of the hero, Winston Smith. The last third of the play which depicts the reeducation of Winston, i.e. torture and brainwashing, is very graphic and as such difficult to sit through; the book’s description, however, which drew a curtain over the actual violence made it seem like it went on for months or years. [more]

Samara

April 19, 2017

The play seems to be in the genre of the classic Western movie though highly poeticized and slow-paced. It resembles the 60’s films of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah but with much less plot and without the scenic vistas. It follows the rules of the old West but creates a mysterious world of its own. Very little is revealed by the characters about themselves, most of whose names are generic (the Supervisor, the Messenger, the Drunk, the Cowboy, the Beast). Much could be read into the events but they remain opaque and obscure as do the characters who reveal little. This is a Samara of the imagination, not a real geographic place. [more]

The Glass Menagerie

March 14, 2017

Sam Gold’s revival of "The Glass Menagerie," the fifth major production of the play in New York since 2005, is such a one. He has decided to remove all of the historical relevance as well as the scenery from this classic Tennessee Williams’ memory play. What he has also done is remove all of the poetry and all of the emotion in a play that on the surface would seem director proof. Ultimately, the production is more a director’s exercise in seeing how much he can cut from a play that tells a realistic story in a lyrical manner. A pity as his cast has two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field returning to Broadway after an absence of 15 years, two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, Finn Wittrock (Theatre World Award and Clarence Derwent Award for "Death of a Salesman"), and debuting actress Madison Ferris. [more]
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