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Peter Nigrini

Hell’s Kitchen

November 29, 2023

"Hell’s Kitchen" is both ambitious and noble in its intentions. However, as of now the show on the stage of The Newman at The Public Theater is not there yet. With very few characters developed and too many unanswered questions, the show’s book needs a simple rewrite. The Alicia Keys' score which too often sounds the same could use a reshaping to find some climactic moments other than the drama in the story. The plot lines need to come together more, rather than as disparate elements that take us in new directions all the time. Ultimately, Hell’s Kitchen has great potential when these problems are addressed. [more]

Here Lies Love

August 2, 2023

"Here Lies Love" unreels like an MTV music video with the emotional content lost in the technique.  The real issue of this musical is that it’s impossible to feel anything for the lead characters, with the possible exception of Estrella.  They are moved about the extraordinarily gimmicky set like chess pieces with Imelda checkmating everybody.  Jacobs evinces the boldness of Imelda, the script limiting her ability to show any tenderness or vulnerability.  Llana's Ferdinand is written pretty much as a stolid symbol, hardly human at all. [more]

Plays for the Plague Year

April 26, 2023

While the playlets seem too slight to have much dramatic weight as they are mainly about one minute long, they do have a cumulative effect summing up a year that was like no other in recent memory. Often the scenes feel like they want to go and continue, but Parks keeps them short. Periodically, we have a one sentence scene telling us how many people have died from Covid as of that date. Beginning on March 13, 2020, the first full day of the shutdown, the playlets continue until April 13, 2021, a year and a month from when Parks started. An electronic sign above the stage states the date of each scene and its name which include such titles as “Home,” “Broadway Is Closed,” “The City at 7 PM,” “Who’s Gonna Pay For This?,” and “Hiatus 4 Months: Holding It Together Together.” [more]

KPOP

December 5, 2022

Adopting the hokey framing device of a concert documentary, Kim turns the impending U.S. debut of a South Korean entertainment company's three hottest acts into a triptych of rigorously gendered plots. While attempting to capture all the glitz, glamor, and artistry, the American documentarian (Aubie Merrylees) also relentlessly stirs the pot to heighten any behind-the-scenes discord for the cameras, which doesn't make much sense since his paycheck is signed by Ruby (Jully Lee), the record label's iron-fisted founder and driving force, who obviously wants a glorified promotional video, not an investigative report. But to ascribe dramaturgical logic to the situation is to entirely miss the point. Aided by Peter Nigrini's voyeuristic projections of backstage squabbling, the objective is not truth but, rather, to establish the type of assiduously rendered false intimacy fans perceive as truth. [more]

MJ

February 10, 2022

Wheeldon and Pulitzer Award-winning playwright Lynn Nottage make every effort to hide the fact that MJ is a jukebox musical, despite the fact that the first notes of every song elicited loud shouts and applause (part of the reason the show runs two and a half hours). Nottage has invented a plodding framework for the show.  It is 1992 in Los Angeles. TV reporter, Rachel (a down-to-earth Whitney Bashor who acts as the play’s Greek chorus) and her hyperactive assistant, Alejandro (a charming Gabriel Ruiz) corral a reluctant Jackson to have his rehearsals for his huge upcoming 'Dangerous" tour documented. [more]

Beetlejuice

May 22, 2019

Not all cult movies need to be made into musicals, particularly those that are dependent on special effects which the cinema does better than the stage. This is demonstrated by the new Broadway musical based on "Beetlejuice," the Tim Burton horror-comedy-fantasy. This theme park-type show is visually a spectacle with a set that does all sort of tricks and changes, but as the adage goes, you can’t go home singing the scenery. And the score by Australian composer/performer Eddie Perfect (whose only other American score has been "King Kong the Musical") is eminently forgettable. In the title role, Alex Brightman, who was charismatic in a similar role in "The School of Rock," is so over-the top that he becomes tiresome very quickly. To paraphrase Mae West, too much of a good thing is not wonderful. [more]

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations

March 30, 2019

"Ain't Too Proud to Beg," “Get Ready,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Since I Lost My Baby,” “You're My Everything” and of course “Papa Was a Rollin' Stone” are among the show’s more than 30 numbers. Besides those by The Temptations, there’s a choice selection of songs by their contemporaries such as The Supremes. All of them are rousingly performed by the orchestra and the company under the direction of conductor Kenny Seymour. [more]

Wakey, Wakey

March 14, 2017

"Wakey, Wakey" is Will Eno at his surreal, troubling, beautiful best, a play both challenging and easily absorbed. He truly approaches the unapproachable: the meaning of life. [more]

The Skin of Our Teeth

March 8, 2017

Thornton Wilder’s "The Skin of Our Teeth" with its benign belief in the resilience of the human condition is unlike any other American play you are likely to see. Both heavily influenced by earlier European experiments in theater, it is also influential in itself. While Arin Arbus’ production for Theatre for a New Audience at times seems as though it need tighting up, it is a play that must be experienced in the theater which is why it has never been turned into a Hollywood movie. Go and see for yourself what only the live theater can do to expand your imagination. [more]

Dear Evan Hansen

May 10, 2016

The way Mr. Levenson keeps things moving is both clever and exhausting. The songs mostly explore the inner emotional lives of the characters: “Waving through a Window” (Evan’s feelings of alienation); “Anyone Have a Map?” (frustrations of the two moms); “To Break in a Glove” (Larry Murphy’s heartbreaking song of unfulfilled paternal rituals); and the heartbreak and promise of “For Forever” which ends the show. [more]

An Act of God

June 9, 2015

This 90-minute intermission-less play is a comic and occasionally serious address to the audience by God who often sits on a large white couch as he revises The Ten Commandments. Some are kept and some are replaced by new ones during his arch analysis of human history. Angels Gabriel and Michael who also go out into the audience to take questions assist God. [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]

Here Lies Love

May 10, 2014

The Public Theatre’s LuEsther Hall has been reconfigured to resemble a nightclub where most of the audience stands to view the action which is performed all over the space on stages and platforms on all sides as well as platforms in the center that are moved by stage crew members. Young floor crew members in pink jump suits direct the audience to move around sometimes on stage and to encourage audience dancing and participation at appropriate times. There’s upper level seating away from the scene where one can sit and watch the events. [more]

Here Lies Love

May 10, 2014

David Byrne and his collaborators have created a unique musical theater extravaganza that dramatizes the life of this historical pop icon in all her victories and defeats. [more]