News Ticker

Keen Company

Molly Sweeney

October 24, 2019

As is Mr. Friel’s The Faith Healer, Molly Sweeney is a monologue play. Here, instead of being separated in individual acts, the three characters appear on stage together without interacting, and speak alternately. It’s certainly a viable format and Mr. Friel gives us a gorgeous cascade of memories, biographical details, differing points of view and suspense. However, as beautiful as these reveries may be, there’s too much of them and the play’s impact is diluted. Lasting two and a half hours and comprised of two acts with an intermission, the slender plot is embellished with the leisure of a literary work rather than a taut stage play.  Still, by its end, one is caught up by the characters and their fates. The arguable structural deficiencies are compensated for by the faultless presentation. [more]

Surely Goodness and Mercy

March 14, 2019

Chisa Hutchinson’s "Surely Goodness and Mercy" has its heart in the right place but as produced by Keen Company at the Clurman Theatre it is not a play at all but an after school movie script. We know we are in trouble when we see seven sets side by side on stage on three levels when we first enter the theater. Jessi D. Hill has directed her adept cast to believable characterizations but the script is so short at 73 minutes (plus a totally unnecessary intermission) and the 30 scenes so brief (some no more than four exchanges) that we never learn enough about them. It is as though the whole story has been told in a kind of shorthand and we are expected to fill in the dots. [more]

Ordinary Days

October 24, 2018

Adam Gwon’s song cycle, "Ordinary Days," became a cult hit when it opened the Roundabout’s Black Box Theatre in 2009 for a run of ten weeks. So successful was the show that it is one of the few Off Broadway musicals of its era to have an original cast album. As so few people were able to see the show, there has been a need for a major revival which Keen Company is now presenting at The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row. While creating a show about commonplace moments offers its own problems, director Jonathan Silverstein’s choices have created new ones. [more]

Lonely Planet

October 23, 2017

In Jonathan Silverstein’s production, Arnie Burton and Matt McGrath as two friends who handle their fears of an unnamed epidemic in opposite ways do not seem to connect as real friends would. Ironically, while they are both known for their outrageous over-the-top comic performances, here they remain low-key and rather flat. The play may have been more involving if they had been allowed to give the kind of performances which they are most famous for. The play ultimately has a poignant denouement but it takes a long time getting there. [more]

When It’s You

March 20, 2017

Speaking in an engaging Texas twang, the blonde Reeder recounts Ginnifer’s somber story with emotional straightforwardness and humor. Employing her expressive facial features, striking eyes and serene physicality, she delivers a performance of tremendous focus that hauntingly holds attention. [more]

Tick, Tick… BOOM!

October 27, 2016

Out of this frustration, Larson in 1991 began performing a rock monologue about his life and stalled career called 30/90, as it was set in 1990 as he turned thirty. Later it was retitled "Boho Days" and then "tick, tick... BOOM!," as a chief device is the ticking of a clock. The show was performed for short engagements at several New York City venues and ignited Larson’s career, leading to the creation and presentation of Rent Off-Broadway in 1996. [more]

Boy

March 15, 2016

In his widely produced 1977 play," The Elephant Man," Bernard Pomerance employed the theatrical device of having the grotesque John Merrick portrayed by an actor (invariably a handsome one) without makeup. "Boy" is similar in that the magnetic Bobby Steggert plays Samantha and later Adam without any external differentiation. Acclaimed for his New York City appearances in such musicals as "Yank" and the 2009 Broadway revival of "Ragtime," as well as the Terence McNally play "Mothers and Sons," Mr. Steggert here delivers a powerful performance. Low-key yet animated, he commandingly conveys all of the anguish and endurance of the character with heartbreaking effect. His characterization is particularly outstanding considering he alternates between being a child, an adolescent and an adult throughout the play. Each permutation is depicted with absolute focus. [more]

Travels with My Aunt

October 27, 2015

Havergal’s adaptation is unusual in that it uses four male actors to play 25 roles including the central role of Aunt Augusta, with all the actors taking turns narrating the story. Dressed exactly alike in each act, Thomas Jay Ryan, Jay Russell, Daniel Jenkins and Rory Kulz switch identities, nationalities, age, and genders in a madcap adventure told with decided British understatement. This is challenging for the audience as well as the actors: since the performers do not change costumes, it is necessary to follow the plot closely to follow who is who, with the actors sometimes changing characters in the same scene. Steven C. Kemp’s minimal but clever unit set is not much help either as it remains basically the same in each act throughout all of the outrageous adventures that unlikely hero Henry Pulling is taken on by his aunt. [more]

John & Jen

March 23, 2015

"John & Jen" has very little dialog and almost no action that isn't described in the lyrics, so it's only fair to point out that it probably delivers as much on recording or in concert as it does here. That said, this production directed by Jonathan Silverstein with musical staging by Christine O’Grady is unfussy and effective. Scenic designer Steven C. Kemp provides a few static pieces which function as bed, hillside, or fence as needed, and it's a credit to all that their changing roles are never unclear. Given the small playing area, the nicely varied lighting by Josh Bradford helped much in avoiding monotony. [more]

A Walk in the Woods

October 5, 2014

As the sophisticated, experienced Irina Botvinnik, Chalfant is utterly delightful. She makes Irina’s tactic of changing the subject into a fine art. Her charm is evident even when she is disagreeing with her opposite number. Her Irina’s wry sense of humor is conveyed in all her remarks, but it is often difficult to know when she is kidding and when she is serious, another calculated tactic. And Chalfant’s timing is impeccable making the most of both her banter and when she is deadly serious. [more]