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Mark Barton

Songs for a New World

July 2, 2018

The unison of Jason Robert Brown’s accomplished score, Kate Whoriskey’s exciting direction and Rennie Harris’s vibrant choreography make this New York City Center Encores! Off-Center’s revival of his 1995 debut show "Songs for a New World," a dynamic theatrical experience. Mr. Brown’s surprise appearance at the piano to play a song in the second act was electrifying. [more]

Admissions

March 27, 2018

"Admissions" is often very funny like when Sherri has to try to explain why Melville’s Moby Dick is not being taught anymore (a book about a white whale by a dead white guy) and when Charlie is annoyed that girls in his class object to reading Willa Cather, a woman and a lesbian rather than a person of  color. Although the play is intended to be unsettling to white liberals, it is too neat in its setup. It would have to be Sherri who has spent 15 years creating diversity at Hillcrest whose son may be affected by affirmative action and Charlie and Perry who have been best friends almost all their lives should be divided by Yale’s admission choices. Perry’s picture in the admissions catalogue is rejected as he photographs white and does not look like a person of color, but to find a group shot demonstrating diversity it ends up having to be staged. And Charlie’s 180 degree change of heart plunges his parents into a great dilemma: do they use their personal contacts to see what can be done, something Sherri and Bill have not been averse to in the admissions office at Hillcrest for others. [more]

Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

July 30, 2016

The charming and charismatic Broadway leading man Santino Fontana performs the role of Elliot Rosewater with as much commitment as if he were playing J. Pierrepont Finch. Mr. Fontana’s performance is the magnetic anchor of the show. Kilgore Trout is a loony science fiction author of 117 novels and over 2000 short stories and is a recurring character in Vonnegut’s novels. Here he appears briefly near the end of the show wearing a hunting cap and rising from a wheelchair. That he is played by the legendary 85-year-old James Earl Jones with his thundering voice, joyous presence and sly comic timing is wonderfully jolting. Mr. Jones also is the narrator. [more]

Runaways

July 12, 2016

The most remarkable thing about the Encores! Off-Center revival of the late Elizabeth Swados’ 1978 musical "Runaways" is that it is as fresh as when it was written almost four decades ago. The concert staging is perfect for this revue like show which deals with youthful alienation and abuse, making it feel extremely contemporary. Credit director Sam Pinkleton and a cast of 25 high-powered multi-racial and multi-ethnic performers, mostly New York City school children from 12 – 19. Among the performers are a deaf actor working in sign language (Ren), two actors who perform in Spanish (Claudia Ramirez and Joshua DeJesus), and a transgendered actress (MJ Rodriguez). It would not be hyperbole to say that among this cast are the stars of tomorrow. [more]

Signature Plays

May 30, 2016

It’s clear why Edward Albee’s "The Sandbox" (1959), María Irene Fornés’ "Drowning" (1986) and Adrienne Kennedy’s "Funnyhouse of a Negro" (1964) are considered modern absurdist classics. They hew to the territory the truly greats like Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, the Dadas and Alfred Jarry explored, with Beckett the most influential, particularly in the first two plays, interpreting them with an American spin. If they are not as effective—if they seem somehow clichéd—the playwrights cannot be faulted. The Art World simply moves on. [more]

John

August 31, 2015

Baker fills "John" with telling details, from the food (ever hear of Sailor’s Duff?) to hidden rooms to specifics of Gettysburg, that keep the play from floating away into total surrealism. She is helped by Mimi Lien’s extraordinarily detailed set which evokes worlds within worlds with its amazing array of tchotchkes, perfectly chosen furniture, a player piano that erupts at odd moments, ceiling fans lazily, but ineffectively whirring, and a multitude of doors. Mark Barton’s atmospheric lighting is perfection. Ásta Bennie Hostetter’s costumes are well thought-out and Bray Poor’s sound design gives eerie life to the show. [more]

The Wild Party

July 18, 2015

Sutton Foster is electrifying as Queenie the sexually insatiable nightclub performer who incites men to violence in this revival of the 2000 Off-Broadway musical The Wild Party. Lean and fierce and slinking around in a taut white sequined flapper dress and wearing a curly blonde wig, Ms. Foster’s star quality and performing talents are on dazzling display in this problematic Jazz Age ode to decadence. She continues to grow in her versatile stage career that has included such light shows as "Thoroughly Modern Millie," "The Drowsy Chaperone," "Shrek," "Young Frankenstein," and the more recent serious "Violet." [more]

A New Brain

June 30, 2015

The very talented and youthful Jonathan Groff is excellent as Gordon. His charming presence known from his work on stage (Spring Awakening, Hair) and on television (Glee, Looking) adds considerably in filling out the role of Gordon. He also has the advantage of having the most developed and sympathetic part. [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]