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Lear deBessonet

Miss You Like Hell

April 27, 2018

What makes the storytelling riveting are the performances by the talented cast. As the free-spirited Beatriz fighting for her life, Rubin-Vega is at her fiercest and she is a memorable three-dimensional character. Jiménez as the confused, angry Olivia is charming as she reveals her best childhood memories, lists her favorite books which have been a refuge, and grows up in the course of the road trip. David Patrick Kelly and Michael Mulheren are suitably touching as a gay couple who have loved each other for 50 years. Danny Bolero is sensitive as the still grieving widower who takes a shine to Beatriz. [more]

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare in the Park)

August 5, 2017

Although the physical production has been well-thought-out, the script seems to have no interpretation other than a great deal of slapstick comedy which does not much register. The cast varies greatly in having found the core of their roles. Phylicia Rashad’s Titania is romantic and authoritative, while Richard Poe’s Oberon is wryly arch but ineffectual. Their fairy attendants are played by white haired and balding senior citizens but nothing much is made of this unusual casting. As Puck usually played by a youth or a dancer, Kristine Nielsen’s regular mannerisms are kept to a minimum but she seems much more amused by her mischief than the audience does. [more]

Venus

May 26, 2017

The adept cast is led by Zainab Jah in the title role. In the one detail in which Parks’ play matches "The Elephant Man," Ms. Jah, a shapely, lovely actress, transforms herself into Venus right in front of the audience, painfully pulling on a padded costume that leaves nothing to the imagination. Ms. Jah’s Venus is a strong figure who rolls with the punches but is no match for the hypocrisy of the powers that be. She is a strong enough actor to keep her head above the fray. [more]

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

February 12, 2017

Red-haired, animated and engagingly boyish, 18-year-old Nicholas Barasch is sensational as Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Barasch is onstage virtually the entire time and winningly carries the show. As Jim, the runaway slave, Kyle Scatliffe brings dignity, forcefulness and powerful vocal ability during his commanding performance. [more]

Twelfth Night (Public Works)

September 5, 2016

Taub’s eclectic score to original lyrics includes jazz, rhythm and blues, pop, Broadway and ragtime. Among Kwei-Armah’s ingenious touches were his use of a series of community cameo groups play back up for individual songs: the Jazz Procession for Countess Olivia’s father was played by the spirited Jambalaya Brass Band. Viola’s inner monologue was interpreted expressively in pantomime by New York Deaf Theatre. Malvolio’s solo Can-Can was performed by the nine energetic and enthusiastic dancers of The Love Show. The duel provoked by Sir Toby was backed up by the thrilling drummers of COBU while his duel masters were portrayed by the electrifying Ziranmen Kungfu Wushu Training Center. Throughout the evening, the Illyriettes made up of six ladies dressed identically in purple sequined sheaths played back up group for various singers and musical numbers. [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]

Pump Boys and Dinettes

July 17, 2014

Jordan Dean, Hunter Foster, Randy Redd and Lorenzo Wolff are The Pump Boys, and Mamie Parris and Katie Thompson are The Dinettes. All are not only terrific and personable performers, giving charmingly realized characterizations, but all wonderfully play instruments as well. [more]