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Justin Townsend

Justin Townsend is an international lighting and set designer for performance. His Broadway lighting designs include Casa Valentina, A Night with Janis Joplin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, The Other Place, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson for which he was nominated for an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Henry Hewes Award. http://justintownsend.com

Joan of Arc: Into the Fire

April 1, 2017

Don’t blame singer Jo Lampert who gives a passionate performance as the Maid of Orleans. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been given anything very interesting to sing in this mostly sung-through musical. Her lyrics are trite and repetitious. She may have been a teenager, but there is no reason to have written lyrics that continue to sound like they were written by a junior high school student attempting his or her first songs. The endlessly repeated refrains do not serve to make Joan seem more simple and holy but sound like a lack of imagination. The minimal spoken dialogue is used for the various narrators and the trial testimony taken from the actual transcript of the event. [more]

Vietgone

November 8, 2016

Not only does Nguyen have a unique sensibility and style, but the story is told entirely from the Vietnamese-American point of view, one not often seen on our stages. We hear the Americans as the Vietnamese do and as the Americans attempt to speak in Vietnamese. While the structure of the play is quite challenging going backwards and forwards in time from July 1975 in a Middle America relocation camp and breaking out in rap songs periodically, "Vietgone" is a very compelling portrait of displaced people trying to make a new life for themselves while wishing they were back home where they cannot go. [more]

American Psycho The Musical

May 16, 2016

Stylish and stylized, the stage design includes Es Devlin’s white box of a set which transforms instantaneously into apartments, offices, restaurants, discos, a health club, a locker room, and the beach in the Hamptons. Color-coordinated with lighting by Justin Townsend and costumes by Katrina Lindsay, the stage picture is often black and white with a touch of red, a tie, the men’s suspenders, a leopard, a bikini, or eventually splashes of blood. Townsend’s lights turn the set blue, green or red. The spectacular ever-changing video design by Finn Ross includes abstracts, cartoons, cityscapes, computer generated designs. Initially the main characters all in black, but as the story spins out of control other colors are added. And for eye candy, there are the hardbodied members of the cast with physiques to die for, with the men with enviable abs often in their shorts. [more]

Ironbound

March 22, 2016

Darja, the grounding force of the entire production, is played with rawness and vigor by Marin Ireland. Ms. Ireland—no stranger to the New York stage as of late—delivers an unnerving performance as a woman who has had no run of good luck in her time in America. Jumping in time between the early 1990’s, the year 2014, and stopping in the middle (2006) along the way, Ireland’s performance is riveting and heartfelt from beginning to end—no matter the decade. [more]

The Humans

November 12, 2015

For the first half of Stephen Karam’s “The Humans,” the Blake family Thanksgiving seems to be nothing but a banal seasonal gathering. And then suddenly the author’s message comes into focus and the play becomes a haunting drama and unnerving ghost story which is unlike anything you have seen lately. The superb cast headed by Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell under the direction of the always interesting Joe Mantello who has piloted many important new plays turns The Humans into a memorably unique experience. Karam, whose plays include Speech and Debate and Son of the Prophet, has been given a splendid Roundabout Theatre Company production for its third premiere of one of his plays. [more]

Fool for Love

October 13, 2015

This is the fault of director Daniel Aukin who also staged it at The Williamstown Theatre Festival. Besides obtaining just competent performances from his cast, he has chosen a shallow high-tech approach in staging this small-scale but profound masterpiece by a writer at the peak of his powers in a Broadway theater rather then creatively reimagining it with meaningful aesthetic simplicity. [more]

The Odyssey

September 11, 2015

Aside from the wonderfully eclectic score by Almond (jazz, pop, Latin, blues, Broadway, gospel, folk music, etc.) who also acted as narrator and singer, the production offered exciting performances by Brandon Victor Dixon as Odysseus, Karen Olivo as Penelope, Andy Grotelueschen as the Cyclops, Elizabeth Ely as Princess Nausicaa, and Travis Raeburn as the Prince of Phaecia. At times deBessonet was required to work as a traffic cop to get the large number of performers on and off stage, but her work with her leads both professional and newcomers alike was first rate. [more]

10 out of 12

July 8, 2015

While this is a fascinating idea, anyone who has worked in theater will tell you that Tech rehearsals are long and tedious with all the stopping and starting to get the lights, sound, set and costumes right as time is running out. Unfortunately, much of 10 out of 12 falls into this category. At two hours and 40 minutes, the play is a bit of an endurance test for the uninitiated. Although as the Tech rehearsal goes on we get to know the characters better, the play is revealing about only some of its characters. [more]

Hamlet

April 17, 2015

The first problem is the attractive modern setting by Walt Spengler of the wedding breakfast of Claudius and Gertrude with a huge cake in the background. The issue is that the table and the cake remain on stage for the entire evening, a terrible distraction. Does this palace have only one public room? The next situation is that Pendleton has chosen to cut both ghost scenes so that the audience is never told that Gertrude had an affair with her brother-in-law or that Claudius poisoned his brother Old Hamlet. The problem that this creates is that young Hamlet has to be played as paranoid as we have no way of knowing what the off-stage ghost told him, nor do we know what is bothering him when he acts so badly to his mother and step-father. [more]

Lips Together, Teeth Apart

November 10, 2014

When Terrence McNally premiered Lips Together, Teeth Apart in 1991, the world was in the throes of fear over the AIDS epidemic. This long three-act play about how two straight couples deal with their reaction to it must have seemed topical and profound at the time. Unfortunately, 23 years later, in Peter DuBois' revival for Second Stage Theatre, the play now seems dated and talky without the emotional heft to make it still seem important. [more]

Found

October 30, 2014

Twenty-two of the 28 songs set to the sophisticated rhythms of composer Eli Bolin are based on the actual texts of these found missives and all of the many notes read are the original texts. The versatile and talented cast of ten (drawn from many different fields in the performing arts) offers various takes on the many notes and letters woven into the story of Davy and the magazine. Director Lee Overtree, co-founder of Story Pirates, the arts education organization, has realized inventive ways of staging this novel and unusual material. [more]

Casa Valentina

May 12, 2014

Harvey Fierstein's Casa Valentina is absorbing theater both as a revealing look into a world unknown to most theatergoers as well as a suspenseful new story. If the play has a flaw, it is that its message is a little bit obscure [more]

Here Lies Love

May 10, 2014

The Public Theatre’s LuEsther Hall has been reconfigured to resemble a nightclub where most of the audience stands to view the action which is performed all over the space on stages and platforms on all sides as well as platforms in the center that are moved by stage crew members. Young floor crew members in pink jump suits direct the audience to move around sometimes on stage and to encourage audience dancing and participation at appropriate times. There’s upper level seating away from the scene where one can sit and watch the events. [more]