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Pam MacKinnon

Toni Stone

June 30, 2019

Lydia R. Diamond’s "Toni Stone" is a tour de force for one actress and Obie Award winner April Matthis gives a bravura performance as the first woman to play professional baseball as part of the Negro League. Although she is backed by eight men who from time to time make up the teams she was on, this is basically a one-woman show. In fact, this might have been a better play if Toni was the only character we had to follow on stage. However, director Pam MacKinnon excellently defines each character as we meet them in various combination; we just don’t know who they are most of the time. [more]

Log Cabin

June 26, 2018

Harrison’s dialogue is well-crafted and often in setup punchline mode peppered with plentiful pop culture references that falls flat. The overall effect is of a rote accumulation of touchstones appealing to this strata. It’s all without resonance unless one is like the characters being depicted. It’s certainly possible to dramatize the concerns of differing classes with cross-sectional interest but that is not the case in "Log Cabin." This title is most likely a play on Log Cabin Republicans who are gay and might reflect that some of the characters are actually more Conservative then they let on. [more]

The Parisian Woman

December 12, 2017

Inspired by Henri Becque’s notorious 1885 "La Parisienne," credited as the first Naturalistic French play, Willimon has taken its plot, characters and themes of sex, adultery, betrayal and power. To this he has added modern politics as it is being practiced in Trump’s Washington. Tom, a high-powered Beltway tax lawyer who works with both Democrats and Republicans, and Chloe, his socialite wife, are in an open marriage. While she is attempting to break up with her lover Peter, a banker, Tom asks for his help in getting the nomination for an appointment on the circuit court though he has never been a judge before. When it looks like Tom is no longer in the running, Chloe decides to act on her own and approaches her new friend Jeanette, the President’s choice for Chair of the Federal Reserve, a staunch Republican power broker and contributor. How this plays out shows the ins and outs of Washington negotiating. While none of this is particularly new, Willimon uses some of the latest contemporary wrinkles. [more]

Amélie

April 10, 2017

"Amélie" is frustrating. The characters exist as two-dimensional cartoons that a talented cast almost brings to life. The uneven rhythms and poor timing of the show bog it down. An inability to find stage equivalents for the film’s gimmickry also hurts. It does have a game cast who vie with undistinguished songs, choreography and staging. Finally, there is Phillipa Soo who radiates warmth amidst the disarray. [more]

China Doll

January 10, 2016

The title is never explained and remains a cryptic point of thought. Is it the name of the jet that the plot revolves around? Is it a reference to a woman? What could it mean? Knowing the work and personality of David Mamet, perhaps it’s a "House of Games" con device that has no significance at all just like the play itself. Muddled and rambling it comes across as an arrogantly tossed off minor exercise by an eminently established author solely for profit. The dialogue is a grating rehash of his patented style of staccato vulgarisms and explosive tirades interspersed with pauses that result in self-parody. If "Glengarry Glen Ross" was his zenith, "China Doll" is his nadir. [more]

The Qualms

June 26, 2015

Norris is interested in examining issues so often argued in black and white terms by drawing out the—pun intended—shades of grey. However, while wryly entertaining and largely incisive, his new work suffers from some of the same missteps as does his aforementioned "Clybourne Park." Namely, he paints Chris—his ostensibly well-intentioned, under-informed, straight white male character—as so downright nasty that it is almost impossible to listen to any of his arguments, however logical some of them may be. While the action of the play operates under the guise of an engaging debate that includes various different perspectives, the scales are tipped and its presentation of arguments is uneven. [more]

The Heidi Chronicles

March 22, 2015

The maternal ending was considered problematical in 1988, but seems less of a copout in 2015. In fact, the feminist thrust of the play has also dulled in the ensuing decades, making Ms. Wasserstein’s play far less effective as an instructive tool. " The Heidi Chronicles" has always been weighed down by too much polemic passed off as drama. What keeps this production afloat now is the incredible filigreed and witty lines that so quickly delineate each character’s foibles and feelings. [more]

Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance

January 27, 2015

Although the play is written in the retro form of upper middle class drawing room comedy, it has a serious message and theme. The fear or terror that Edna (Higgins) and Harry (Balaban) bring to the home of Agnes (Close) and Tobias (Lithgow) is that which all people have to deal with: loneliness, abandonment, illness, ageing, death. When asked what one of his plays was about, Harold Pinter, a playwright with a similar sensibility to Albee, declared, “The weasel under the cocktail cabinet.” On a surface level, this flippant remark appears meaningless, but on deeper level it means the hidden fears that lurk in the dark corners of our lives to which we avoid giving a name. This also sums up the theme of Albee’s play which is couched in difficult set pieces and elliptical dialogue. [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]