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Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

Each season, Rattlestick’s core programming is comprised of at least four Mainstage Off-Broadway productions. In addition to our Mainstage season, our Emerging Playwrights Program & Reading Series organizes 40-50 staged readings followed by talkback sessions for the playwright with our artistic director and literary managers.  http://www.rattlestick.org/

Seven Spots on the Sun

May 14, 2017

Director Weyni Mengesha’s physical staging is proficient since for 80 minutes the actors are competently placed throughout for a fluid presentation. Unfortunately, Ms. Mengesha has the sound at full blast and that’s distracting. Just as egregiously, Mengesha has the talented cast performing at full throttle, resulting in overwrought and collectively overall ineffective characterizations. [more]

Nibbler

March 6, 2017

Urban may have an admirable mission, in attempting to document the customary passage from youth to adulthood--or high-school to college, to be more precise--as he focuses on five graduating seniors in a middle-class suburb, in 1992, when one of them, Adam, remains behind, without any prospects for a glorious future. But the otherwise realistic play that unfolds quickly veers into surreal territory, as an alien from another planet enters their midst, and the eponymous “Nibbler” becomes ever more real a presence on stage, via a puppet, manipulated by several of the quite visible cast-members. [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]

My Name Is Gideon: I’m Probably Going to Die, Eventually

November 22, 2016

Mr. Irving has an amazing singing voice that soars from octave to octave. His witty songs include a funny one about texting. He tells an epic story about his parents meeting. His musicianship is tremendous as he plays banjo, bouzouki, shruti box, mbira, jew's harps, whirly tube, scacciapensieri, and the ocean harp during the show. He does a wild dance to America’s “A Horse With No Name.” [more]

Cal in Camo

May 25, 2016

Playwright William Francis Hoffman offers a quirky, weirdly compelling if not totally satisfying take on contemporary American life. Mr. Hoffman’s dialogue is richly expressive bordering on poetic and enhances his true to life melancholic characters. The plot is slender and problematic. It has the sense of a symbolism-laden short story adapted for the stage rather then a developed play. [more]

Ironbound

March 22, 2016

Darja, the grounding force of the entire production, is played with rawness and vigor by Marin Ireland. Ms. Ireland—no stranger to the New York stage as of late—delivers an unnerving performance as a woman who has had no run of good luck in her time in America. Jumping in time between the early 1990’s, the year 2014, and stopping in the middle (2006) along the way, Ireland’s performance is riveting and heartfelt from beginning to end—no matter the decade. [more]

Hamlet in Bed

September 22, 2015

The play is told mainly in monologues by both actors on microphones, alternating with rehearsal scenes from the Gertrude/Hamlet confrontation. This makes the evening more of a performance piece than a stage play. Once we are given the facts, the ending becomes very predictable though the actors are very intense throughout the play’s 90 minutes. Except for the battered white mattress, Rachel Hauck’s set is entirely black, as are most of the costumes by Jessica Pabst. Sometimes due to Scott Zielinski’s lighting, the actors fade into the dark walls of the set. [more]

Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait

June 10, 2015

“Don’t step on the sand,” cautions the usher as she hands out programs and directs patrons to the their seats at The Gym at Judson. Indeed, the stage and floor is filled with sand that’s been artfully arranged into a barren vista of mounds and dunes. There is a concrete staircase leading to the roof of a small structure. Above is a rectangular screen where later images of the sky and a forest are projected. There is a concrete block with a pole in it on stage. Unfortunately Raul Abrego’s impressive set is the most outstanding feature of playwright Daniel Talbott’s cryptically titled and exasperating 90-minute War Is Hell fantasia, "Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait. " [more]

New Country

May 24, 2015

In addition to his superior writing achievement, Mr. Roberts also plays the complex old codger, Uncle Jim. He has written a grand vehicle for himself, and his performance is as tremendous as his writing. Blusteringly entering, carrying a garish blow-up sex doll, and resembling a grizzled Duck Dynasty figure with a big scraggly beard, wearing a cap, camouflage gear and orange sneakers, he instantly gets laughs. With a unique, guttural, singsong twang, he delivers numerous zingers, but soon the pathos and depth of this disaffected character is poignantly revealed. [more]

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now

April 15, 2015

Like Laura Eason’s "Sex with Strangers" seen at The Second Stage last summer, "The Undeniable Sound of Right Now," her new play having its world premiere in New York in a joint production of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Women’s Project Theater, has a pulsating urgency that pulls you into it from the moment the lights come up. Director Kirsten Kelly, another long time Chicago resident along with Eason, has obtained dynamic characterizations from her cast of six including Jeb Brown, Margo Seibert and Daniel Abeles. While the play has a rather abrupt and unsatisfying ending as well as its clunky though accurate title, it brims with the authority of real life rather than theatrical artifice. [more]

Everything You Touch

February 14, 2015

It’s a stylized “family secrets” drama, presented with a broad comedic tone. Heightened and arch (often including lengthy florid speeches) the dialogue has shades of "The Devil Wears Prada." Though mostly dense and opaque, there are emotionally involving sequences, particularly as the play reaches its conclusion. Ms. Callaghan also explores the theme of women’s self-image and how that issue clashes with society’s idealized view and the resulting conflicts. Bordering on the didactic, this nevertheless does yield moments of poignancy. [more]

Shesh Yak

January 31, 2015

Theatergoers knowledgeable with "Death and the Maiden" will find "Shesh Yak" very familiar territory. Those who aren’t will still find this play tediously predictable as this scenario has been played out in a number of other dramatic works. The writing is flat, formulaic and rudimentary. [more]

A Fable

June 1, 2014

Playwright David Van Asselt's is set "Somewhere, almost anywhere, below the equator." It feels like an academically imagined recreation of something that would have played at LaMaMa in 1967 for a thesis project. Debatably borrowing from Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, The Living Theatre, Candide, Urinetown and The Cradle Will Rock, it's a wearying odyssey. [more]

The Few

May 18, 2014

Gideon Glick as Matthew is terrific, physically disappearing into his character so completely that he would not be recognizable in the street. Actors can get away with playing misfits as a collection of tics, so it's a great thing to see Glick dig deeper and infuse Matthew's every movement with his particular personality. [more]