News Ticker

New York City Center – Stage I

Bella Bella

October 31, 2019

Like a great many history plays, Harvey Fierstein's "Bella Bella" is as much about the present as the past, paralleling everything that's gone wrong now with what went wrong then. Unsurprisingly, it's also shamelessly biased, with the first word in the play's title apparently meant to be read in Italian as part of Fierstein's banally straightforward tribute to Bella Abzug, the feistiest of feisty 1970's New York City politicians, best known for her take-no-prisoners liberalism as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. One's enjoyment of the play probably depends on how prone you are to clap or hiss along with the rest of the unambiguously sympathetic Manhattan Theatre Club audience, even if it's only in your own head. [more]

Long Lost

June 11, 2019

The play offers no catharsis as the actors are so low-key throughout, all much too calm even when the stakes are rising. As a result, there is little or no tension even when we realize the pattern that each scene will offer a worse revelation than the one before. Tergesen’s black sheep Billy gives us no clue as to the reason for his malignant behavior. Both AuCoin as his brother David and Parisse as David’s wife Molly are cool and sophisticated when they should be losing their temper. Wolff’s Brown University freshman is too inarticulate, but unfortunately he is straitjacketed by the dialogue he has been given. [more]

The Cake

March 17, 2019

Brunstetter overloads the issue in the play by making Jen have doubts about being in love with a woman against her parents’ religious teachings, even though she cannot imagine life without the caring, compassionate, uninhibited Macy. Additionally, when Della quotes the Bible to Macy, Macy retaliates by pointing out that as a childless woman Della has not fulfilled her religious duty as a wife. The plot then goes in another direction to show us Della and her husband Tim who has lost interest in sex since he discovered he had too low a sperm count. The play builds to Jen revealing her real childhood feelings to Macy, as well as Della demanding that after years of estrangement Tim make passionate love to her as he did at the beginning of their marriage. Ultimately, Brunstetter wants to have it both ways with an ending that does not resolve the religious question at all. [more]

India Pale Ale

November 8, 2018

Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus made an auspicious splash with her adventurous and inventive 2016 play Men on Boats about Major John Wesley Powell’s 1868 Colorado and Grand Canyon expedition which was played by all women as a satire of the machismo of this all-male trip. In her new play, India Pale Ale, Backhaus, who is part Punjabi, writes of something must closer to home: the Punjabi community in Raymond, Wisconsin. While the play’s authenticity is palpable in both its writing and acting, the play in its four acts seems to be pulling in four different directions. It is not so much that the play does not have much of a plot, but that is inconsistent in its theme and message. [more]

Dan Cody’s Yacht

June 18, 2018

Both Kevin and Cara are single parents, which is only the beginning of the many parallels and contrasts at the heart of "Dan Cody’s Yacht." Though it might come to seem overly formulaic, both the play and the production are good enough to rise above such a criticism. If Cara lives in the middle-income, fictional town of Patchett, and Kevin in the upscale, fictional town of Stillwell--“both towns in the far outer ring of suburbs around Boston,” as we’re told in a program note--she also teaches in Stillwell. [more]

In the Body of the World

February 20, 2018

"Body" dovetails Ensler’s personal agonizing battle with cancer and her involvement with a feminist group in the Democratic Republic of Congo where women have faced violence, rape and almost unending disruption of their lives.  Ensler’s input was requested by Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist whose ministrations to the female victims of the sadism of soldiers and government officials paints a litany of one tragic event after another. [more]

Cost of Living

June 30, 2017

The play is enlightening for a physically abled audience as to the needs of the disabled both physically and emotionally. Both stories include a tender, poignant bathing scene as the caretakers learn how to adapt to their charges. However, there is more to Majok’s story. Both Jess and Eddie are dealing with their own problems. We discover that Jess is a first generation Princeton graduate down on her luck, all of her family having returned to her native country, never named. Eddie has been a long time alcoholic (which probably wrecked his marriage) and has lost his license and his job after a DUI charge. Ultimately, we discover that Jess and Eddie are coping less well than their charges and adversity is just around the corner. [more]

Linda

March 13, 2017

A revolving stage permits set designer Walt Spangler to depict, with dead-on realism and dispatch, not only Linda’s home--including an upstairs bedroom, which her daughters share--but also various offices at Swan Corporation, among numerous other sites. After a certain point, the dizzying, rotating stage becomes akin to a swirling merry-go-round, as director Lynne Meadow has it turning and turning, with different characters walking on and off, and through different doors, without any dialogue whatsoever, in subdued but effective lighting by Jason Lyons. It all becomes part of the accelerating gallop of the play itself, which ultimately spins out of control, as Linda learns that she’s lost her--well, let’s just say, in the end, everything. [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]

Incognito

June 5, 2016

This is heady theater and demands concentration. However, the excellent cast of four made of Geneva Carr (Theatre World Award winner for "Hand to God"), Charlie Cox (Netflick’s" Daredevil"), Heather Lind (AMC’s "Turn: Washington’s Spies"), and Morgan Spector (Drama Desk Award nominee for "Russian Transport") make this an unforgettable evening in the theater. The versatile cast play 20 characters, some as many as six, without changing costume but with different accents and demeanors, while the succeeding scenes take place almost as fast as the synaptic functions in the brain. The play which alternates in its telling of the three stories is also divided into three parts: "Encoding," "Storing' and "Retrieving." Before each section the cast perform hand gestures create by Peter Pucci that mimic the synaptic actions in the brain. [more]

Prodigal Son

February 16, 2016

Television and film actor Timothée Chalamet (Showtime’s "Homeland" and Christopher Nolan’s "Interstellar") makes an impressive New York stage debut as the play’s young protagonist. The role is almost too small to contain his bigger-than-life portrayal: kinetic, animated, provoking, questioning, vital, dynamic. His moods turn on a dime and he can shift from being a sophisticated adult back to being a little boy in a moment. Tall and lanky, he suggests the author but as he must have looked back in 1965. Also making his Manhattan Theatre Club debut, David Potters as his roommate Austin is tremendously sympathetic as a young man afraid of breaking the rules who has led a very sheltered life up until now. [more]

Of Good Stock

July 18, 2015

Plays about three very different sisters go back to Shakespeare’s "King Lear." In modern times, the topic immediately recalls Chekhov’s "Three Sisters" and more recently Wendy Wasserstein’s "The Sisters Rosensweig" and Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, "Crimes of the Heart." Melissa Ross, whose excellent Nice Girl just completed its world premiere at the Labyrinth Theater Company, has entered the fray with "Of Good Stock" with a cast led by film star Alicia Silverstone returning to the New York stage. While the play is entertaining and believable under Lynne Meadow’s direction, it is also overly familiar without revealing any new depths. [more]

The World of Extreme Happiness

March 16, 2015

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s eye-opening The World of Extreme Happiness reveals the urgent problems in contemporary China in which people from rural communities who move to the cities are second class citizens but where protest is quickly stifled, where the one-child policy causes girl children and women workers to be ignored, and the vast numbers of people in the factory cities have little access to education or money. Eric Ting’s powerful co-production for Manhattan Theatre Club and the Goodman Theatre of Chicago deserves to be seen for turning contemporary social science into the stuff of drama. [more]

Lost Lake

November 23, 2014

Auburn doesn't tell us enough about the back stories of these characters so that the portraits aren't fully drawn, and each scene is structured to reveal only one new item for each. However, Hawkes and Thoms fill in a great many of the gaps with their layered performances. [more]

When We Were Young and Unafraid

June 30, 2014

Yes, it's TV soap trap. Yes, it's really good movie. And yes, it's some of the best theater, because it's the purest entertainment, storytelling, the hardest and the easiest thing to do, all in one. People are endlessly fascinating. All you need is Sarah Treem to let you in. [more]