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Newman Theater

Soft Power

October 29, 2019

Hillary Clinton wearing a glittery red pantsuit leading a Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen-style production number set in a Busby Berkeleyesque recreation of a McDonald’s with giant sparkling French fries is a highlight of the insipid and disjointed musical fantasia, "Soft Power." It’s just one of its many lame sequences including a "The Music Man"-type explanation of the U.S. electoral system led by a singing and dancing judge. We’re in for two hours of painfully unfunny self-indulgence. Holden Caulfield from "The Catcher in the Rye" pops up too. [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]

Girl From the North Country

October 12, 2018

Set in a dark time, "Girl From the North Country" creates a community on stage as do the best plays and musicals. Its tale of lost souls attempting to keep their heads above water is universal in both its message and its approach. Conor McPherson has never written so accessible a play before for Americans, and Bob Dylan’s songs have never sounded so poignant. "Girl From the North Country" is both unforgettable and not to be missed. [more]

Tiny Beautiful Things

October 31, 2017

Cleverly staged by Kail ("In the Heights," "Hamilton," "Dry Powder") on Rachel Hauck’s magnificently realistic set for the ground floor of a suburban house subtly lit by Jennifer Moeller, "Tiny Beautiful Things" is entertaining, poignant and enlightening. You may hear audible sobs at times during the evening as Sugar’s personal stories touch a nerve or a chord in her viewers. Vardalos tells us how she took over the “Dear Sugar” column though she had never written one before nor did she have any training in therapy. Her remarkable success was due to her using her personal experiences as well as her “radical sincerity and open arms.” Her empathy is infinite. [more]

Joan of Arc: Into the Fire

April 1, 2017

Don’t blame singer Jo Lampert who gives a passionate performance as the Maid of Orleans. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been given anything very interesting to sing in this mostly sung-through musical. Her lyrics are trite and repetitious. She may have been a teenager, but there is no reason to have written lyrics that continue to sound like they were written by a junior high school student attempting his or her first songs. The endlessly repeated refrains do not serve to make Joan seem more simple and holy but sound like a lack of imagination. The minimal spoken dialogue is used for the various narrators and the trial testimony taken from the actual transcript of the event. [more]

Plenty

October 29, 2016

In his Broadway productions, David Leveaux has often used a strong directorial concept such as his Chekhovian 'Fiddler on the Roof" and his interracial "Romeo and Juliet" which did not work for all theatergoers. Here he seems to have decided that Susan finds life in Britain gray on her return and all of the sets by Mike Britton other than the final one (ironically suggesting the hope of the post-war generation) are made up of gray walls. As a result, none of them have any atmosphere aside from all resembling each other. It is left to the costumes by Jess Goldstein to give clues to the year of each scene which they sometimes do, and sometimes not. [more]

Privacy

July 26, 2016

Playing his most mature role to date, Radcliffe, late of Harry Potter, is charming as he begins as an introverted, reticent Englishman and then slowly panics as he realizes the extent to which his obsession with the Internet has left him vulnerable to outside forces. He is particularly fine in the computer dating sequence in which he must do a great deal of quick thinking and ad libbing as the participants change nightly. The mainly British production team includes set designer Lucy Osborne who has created a witty New York apartment for The Writer made up almost entirely of boxes made to look like iconic skyscrapers, and the clever projection design of Duncan McLean. [more]

Barbecue

October 25, 2015

Robert O’Hara’s "Barbecue" may seem like a series of sleights of hand, but as a satirist of American culture, the playwright has a good deal to say about how the media shapes and defines our culture by how it reports the evens of the day. Under the direction of Ken Gash, Barbecue will take your breath away at its invention and cleverness while holding up the mirror to our natures, exactly what theater is supposed to do. [more]

Hamilton

March 6, 2015

Alexander Hamilton may have been the unsung hero among the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution but a new musical will change all that. "Hamilton," now at the Public Theater, blows the dust off history and turns his story into the most exciting stage show in town. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, triple-threat creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, librettist and star of the show playing the title role, has had the terrific idea to write Hamilton as a through-composed hip-hop, r & b, rap musical which gives the 200-year-old story a tremendous shot of adrenalin. [more]