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Laura Jellinek

Oklahoma!

April 17, 2019

Like John Doyle’s reconceived musical revivals ("Allegro," "Passion," "Pacific Overtures," "Carmen Jones," "The Cradle Will Rock"), Fish’s production is minimalist but with a difference. While Doyle strips away the trappings both of sets and costumes and offers nothing in their place, Fish has turned his "Oklahoma!" into environmental and communal theater. When the audience enters the Circle in the Square, they are confronted with set designer Laura Jellinek’s giant dance hall with long tables around the perimeter with red crock pots on the center of each. The plywood walls of the theater are covered with rifles, the kind used by real cowboys on the range. The bluegrass band is located in a pit off center, at one end of the circular stage. Some lucky audience members sit at the first row of tables with a ringside view. Scott Zielinski’s lighting is kept on for most of the show so not only does every member of the audience see every other one but it is as though we are part of the show, not just audience members. This communal feeling is continued during the intermission when the audience is invited onto the stage to taste corn bread (that we watched Aunt Eller and Laurey preparing in the opening scene) and chili. [more]

Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie

April 15, 2019

Those who loved The Mad Ones’ "Miles for Mary" which had an extended run at Playwrights Horizons last year after its premiere at The Brooklyn Starr in 2016, will be greatly disappointed by their latest group effort called "Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie." The beautifully renovated Greenwich House offers the first play of the Ars Nova residency a lovely venue for this new play and the Lila Neugebauer production is impeccable acted and designed. However, this fictional recreation of a focus group, like most cinema verité, has no discernable dramatic event, making it a long 90 minutes. [more]

Do You Feel Anger?

April 7, 2019

In Mara Nelson-Greenberg’s new play, "Do You Feel Anger?," which had its world premiere at the 2018 Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, she has attempted to write a Theater of the Absurd dark comedy about sexism in the workplace. Starting out offbeat and humorous, it quickly devolves into repeating itself endlessly without enough new material to keep us amused or shocked. In the Vineyard Theatre production, director Margot Bordelon and the high powered cast of seven are fully in tune with the author’s sensibility. Unfortunately, there are not enough surprises in this schematic play to keep us interested although the subject matter is eminently topical. [more]

Sea Wall/A Life

March 8, 2019

Both plays deal with young husbands who are coping with new fatherhood as well as their new responsibilities and their relationships with the dominant male figures in their lives. In Stephens’ "Sea Wall," Sturridge speaks admiringly of his father-in-law, while in Payne’s "A Life," Gyllenhaal speaks with love of his own father.  Both men are madly in love with their wives who they could not consider living without. These plays are ultimately tragedies of the accidental kind, events that one has no control over and cannot see coming. The double bill is performed on a basically empty stage with a brick wall behind (designed by Laura Jellinek), on which Peter Kaczorowski’s poetic and atmospheric lighting is a kind of additional onstage character. Carrie Cracknell's assured direction pilots both plays. [more]

Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future 

October 17, 2018

For the first 25 minutes, the bushy red-bearded, receding with flowing hair Mr. Butler appears solo performing a series of his delightful songs. Butler superbly plays the banjo, guitar and harmonica as he conveys a Cat Stevens, Arlo Guthrie and Bob Dylan vibe. Then the ensemble joins him for a serious and light-hearted tuneful enactment. [more]

Mary Page Marlowe

July 17, 2018

After establishing himself as one of our finest playwrights with such works as "Killer Joe" and "August: Osage County," Tracy Letts seems to have somewhat lost his way with his more recent "Mary Page Marlowe." Now playing at the Second Stage Theater in New York, "Mary Page Marlowe" premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater two years ago. With six different actresses representing the title character at many different times in her life, it essentially relates a single, long life span, in only 90 long minutes. [more]

Mary Jane

October 4, 2017

The ambiguities in Mary Jane’s character seem to stem more from the writing than the acting: though her behavior remains dubious or questionable, Mary Jane comes to real life as enacted by Carrie Coon, who was such a memorable Honey in the recent Broadway revival of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" She’s a solid Mary Jane as well, but then, the character and her motives prove harder to pin down. The stalwart New York actress Brenda Wehle is a perfectly believable and no-nonsense Ruthie. The always reliable Liza Colón-Zayas is Alex’s caregiver Sherry, and Danaya Esperanza and Susan Pourfar are persuasive as, respectively Sherry’s niece and another mother with similar challenges. [more]

The Treasurer

September 27, 2017

With her slim physique, flawless diction, melodiously husky voice and imperious bearing, Dunagan is commanding. She conveys the character’s arrogance, selfishness and harrowing mental decline due to dementia with steely flair. She forcefully embodies the archetypal distant mother who damages her children. [more]

Marvin’s Room

July 18, 2017

If you saw the original New York production of "Marvin’s Room," you may find yourself feeling that the play was more effective when it was presented in the far more intimate environment of Playwrights Horizons. The otherwise fine cast--which also includes Luca Padovan as Charlie and Carmen Lacivita and Nedra McClyde in various roles-- simply gets lost in the expansive space of the American Airlines Theatre. [more]

The Antipodes

April 28, 2017

Every new play by Annie Baker is a marvel over the play before. It’s been nothing less than a privilege to accompany her on her journey, as she has been joining ranks with the best American playwrights. Part of what makes Baker the “best,” is that she has her own voice. Whether with "Circle-Mirror Transformation," the marvelous "The Flick," or her latest and current, "The Antipodes," Baker seems to devote a certain amount of attention to group dynamics, which is, after all, the basis of any drama. And how can I have left out reference to John, Baker’s play from last year, which was her first as part of her enrollment with the Signature Theater, and arguably the best of all? [more]

The Light Years

March 16, 2017

Playwrights Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen with developer Oliver Butler, creatively evoke the tragic, nostalgic spirit of Booth Tarkington’s "The Magnificent Ambersons" and the wonderment of the works of humorist Jean Shepherd. The scenario is engaging and the characters are lovingly rendered. [more]

Everybody

March 3, 2017

The original was aimed at an audience that most certainly was illiterate, so that the clever creators used cartoonish, unsubtle characters who spoke in popular jargon, even spouting profanity, which must have tickled the medieval audiences’ sensibilities and kept them following the actors in their juicy parts. Jacobs-Jenkins follows suit, but with his tongue firmly in his cheek, writing his characters, particularly Stuff (played with a no-nonsense, “from the block” insouciance by Lakisha Michelle May), as immediately recognizable twenty-first century caricatures. When cutie pie child Lilyana Tiare Cornell, playing the character Time, spouts the word “shitty,” the audience at the Diamond Stage giggles nervously. [more]

The Wolves

December 9, 2016

The audience sits on either side of the large runway stage that set designer Laura Jellinek has arrestingly fashioned into an indoor soccer field. It’s a green vista of Astro Turf that gives the sense “…that the field goes on forever,” writes playwright Sarah DeLappe in her stage directions. [more]

A Life

October 25, 2016

Pierce coolly addresses the audience while delivering this mundane litany. His superb comic timing, long evident on the television situation comedy "Frasier," is on glorious display here. That quality combined with his dramatic depth and soothingly funny delivery makes this opening sequence mesmerizing. [more]

Small Mouth Sounds

July 27, 2016

Inspired by the playwright’s attending a silent spiritual retreat at an upstate New York institute in the woods, this is an absorbing play which immediately causes the viewers to listen intently as our world is never really silent. In Stowe Nelson’s remarkable soundscape, the play begins with a torrential rain, and then proceeds to a great many sounds we usually take for granted (both performed by the actors and recorded): breathing, laughing, clicking of a pen, sighing, a gong ringing, whispers, giggling, crickets chirping, the crunching of chips, birds, a sip of tea, a sneeze, coughing, a cell phone ringing. As a result of this state of affairs and the fact that the actors (in general) don’t speak, we become attuned to watch the smallest facial expression and other forms of non-verbal communication. [more]

Marjorie Prime

December 16, 2015

Playwright Jordan Harrison is a graduate of the Brown University M.F.A. program and the recipient of several prestigious awards such as a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Kesselring Prize. On a technical level "Marjorie Prime" is expertly constructed and contains serviceable dialogue that propels the plot, but in totality it never rises above the level of an academic contrivance. The premise is a familiar but promising one, but in execution it is flat. The exposition and setup never really become emotionally involving and the closing revelations are consciously sensationalistic. [more]

The Nether

March 2, 2015

Playwright Jennifer Haley describes her work as delving “into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity and desire.” On the basis of her New York debut with The Nether, we can expect some truly frightening dramas from her in the future. Even now, The Nether is such an extreme cautionary tale of the future of the Internet, that some may have difficulty sitting through it. [more]

The Village Bike

June 26, 2014

A very visceral play, The Village Bike is not for prudes; on the other hand, it should open a conversation that is long overdue in our theater concerning men and women's sexuality as it is understood today. [more]

The Essential Straight & Narrow

May 26, 2014

Shifting abruptly from flashbacks to a form of the present, we follow Jo, a young woman formerly a folk/country musician and now an actor. Periodically she is shown reading from and trying to memorize a script indicating that she's preparing for a role, seemingly in a television police drama. Much of the action takes place in 1974 in a rundown New Mexico wood-paneled motel room where an estranged trio of country western performers has gathered to launch a reunion tour. [more]