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Palmer Hefferan

Flex

August 1, 2023

Whether you follow basketball or not, Candrice Jones’ "Flex" is exciting theater. Actually, the play is not only about women’s high school basketball but also passions, future plans, romance, sex, ethics, friendships, rivalries, betrayals, and possible dreams deferred for all of the play’s five teammates as we follow them from their home town games in Plainnole to the 1997-98 Arkansas High School State Championship. Using a cast of relatively unfamiliar performers all of whom are making their Lincoln Center Theater debuts, director Lileana Blain-Cruz best known for her work on new plays has kept the performance as taut as a real game throughout its two hours and 20 minutes length. [more]

The Comeuppance

June 12, 2023

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ "The Comeuppance," the culmination of his decade as a Premiere Resident playwright at Signature Theatre, does for the millennials what "The Big Chill" did for the Baby Boomers. Astutely directed by Eric Ting, this fascinating but uneven play also reviews the stresses and traumas of the last 20 years for that generation. This five-character reunion of people who knew each other at St. Anthony, class of 2002, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is densely plotted and packed with dramatic moments. And then there is a new wrinkle, an uninvited guest. [more]

shadow/land

May 14, 2023

"shadow/land" by Erika Dickerson-Despenza is a play about the August 2005 disaster, Hurricane Katrina. It is the first episode of a ten-part magnum opus. "shadow/land," though, is more than a play.  It is a painfully rich vision of what hundreds and hundreds of stranded rooftop denizens, so touted in the media, must have gone through behind the waterlogged walls of New Orleans.  It is the rare theatrical work that recreates the agony and frustration of a natural disaster that transcends the fourth wall, seemingly without artifice, so involving is the entire endeavor. [more]

Becky Nurse of Salem

December 18, 2022

In any event, Ruhl has not written a play set in 1692 or a sequel to "The Crucible" but a comedy about free-spirited Becky Nurse, a descendant of the accused witch Rebecca Nurse, a pious 71-year-old woman who had nine children and was hard of hearing, who wishes to set the record straight. Although a fascinating premise, the problem with play is that it throws in everything except the kitchen sink – but, in fact, it makes use of metal freestanding toilet. The play attempts to cover multiple themes and topics: revisionist history, the opioid crisis, the generation gap, teenage suicide, the Salem Witch Trial, unemployment, medical care, the supernatural, adultery, and office harassment. Conceived and written between 2016 - 2019, the play also tries to connect Trump Rallies in which the crowds shouted “Lock her up” and Trump’s repeated use of the words “witch hunt” and his attempt to appear the victim to the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trial in 1692. All of this is too much weight for any one play. Director Rebecca Taichman’s uneven production does not help, though much of that is the fault of the shift in tone in the writing. [more]

…what the end will be

June 2, 2022

In four scenes spanning a few months, Ra renders his gay family trio’s life events, medical situations, numerous clashes and resolutions with pungent topicality. The pandemic is referenced, gender and pronouns are discussed, and cultural bromides are stated: “Black people can’t be racist. I read that on the Facebook.” Ra’s characters are given rich portrayals by the splendid cast. With his melodious voice, priceless facial expressions and stage presence, veteran actor Keith Randolph Smith grounds the production with his towering performance as Bartholomew. As Maxwell, the fiery Emerson Brooks supremely conveys the character’s bottled-up emotions, offering a moving psychological portrait. The personable Gerald Caesar’s Tony is a vivid take on adolescent struggle. Randy Harrison as Charles offers a winning take on the supportive spouse with his straightforward vocal delivery and calm manner. Lithe, animated and spunky Ryan Jamaal Swain hilariously and poignantly tranmits all of Antoine’s facets. The radiant Tiffany Villarin combines levity and warmth as the noble Chloe. [more]

BLKS

May 20, 2019

Poet Aziza Barnes’ first play, "BLKS," now at MCC Theater Space is raucous, vulgar, outrageous and contemporary in Robert O’Hara’s hilarious, over-the-top production. Following the adventures of three black women roommates from Brooklyn over a day and a half, it shows us how the Girls are living today - Lena Dunham would approve. However, the loud and busy production in the Newman Mills Theater stage will thrill twenty and thirty somethings, while older people may not be in tune with it. It is an insightful view of modern life today from the black female perspective and as liberated as a play can get at this moment in time. There is likely to be a generational divide to this comedy which pushes the envelope. [more]

Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine

December 20, 2018

A hard-edged picaresque fable is what playwright Lynn Nottage came up with in her enjoyable, "Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine" that premiered in 2004. A two-time Pulitzer-Prize winner for Drama, Ms. Nottage is in a lighter mood here but her comic sequences have a bracing tone and the dialogue has her customary skillful depth. We’re in the exaggerated territory of "Watermelon Man" and "Bonfire of the Vanities." [more]

Wild Goose Dreams

November 24, 2018

In offering a window on a world most New York theatergoers know little about, Hansol Jung’s Wild Goose Dreams is a fascinating look at Korean culture. On the other hand, what appears to be a Korean obsession with the Internet and smartphones often becomes tedious as it goes on so long without bringing us much that is new. Leigh Siverman’s busy production creates a world of its own but is often overwhelming rather than enveloping. The Public Theater staging, a co-production with La Jolla Playhouse, may be of more interest to Millennials addicted to their electronic devices than the rest of the theatergoing public. However, this may be the trend of the future and older theatergoers may just have to get used to it. [more]

Pride and Prejudice

November 27, 2017

While this is not a Bedlam production as was Hamill’s hugely successful stage version of Austen’s second published novel, "Sense and Sensibility," director Amanda Dehnert has staged the play in their inimitable style for this co-production of Primary Stages and Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and has created a clever 19th century entertainment with a decidedly 21st century sensibility. The versatile Hamill has also given herself the plum role of Elizabeth Bennet, here known as Lizzy. [more]

School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play

November 17, 2017

Ms. Bioh’s snappy dialogue perfectly renders the rhythms of teenage lingo and the pain beneath the bravado, emitting the universality of adolescence.  Bioh’s construction is meticulous as the events play out over 70 tight minutes.  Besides the foreign setting there’s nothing really “new” about the play but’s it’s so well written and gloriously presented. [more]

Orange Julius

January 23, 2017

On the one hand, it is a punch in the gut dramatizing the cold hard facts of disintegrating with this disease; on the other, the non-linear time scheme is difficult to follow, offering more questions than it answers. What "Orange Julius" really is could be described more accurately as a screenplay or a teleplay with cuts and fades. There is a powerful work hiding in this material but it still remains unshaped. Under Dustin Wills’ fast-paced direction, Jess Barbagallo, Ruy Iskandar, Irene Sofia Lucio, Stephen Payne and Mary Testa give fine performances despite the fact that the play seems to wander around trying to find its center. [more]