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Rebecca Naomi Jones

Fire in Dreamland

July 27, 2018

Built in 1904, Dreamland was considered the most elegant and ambitious of Coney Island’s amusement parks--until it burnt to a crisp in 1911. A new play by Rinne Groff, "Fire in Dreamland" is ostensibly about the disaster, in which no humans but most of the animals perished. But to add that it’s set a little more than a century later--in 2013, or some months after Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast--should begin to suggest that there’s more going on here than, unfortunately, ever meets the eye. [more]

Describe the Night

December 15, 2017

The themes of Rajiv Joseph’s latest political play are not only valid but relevant in today’s climate. However, "Describe the Night" is too convoluted for its own good and attempts to make connections where none actually exist. While the cast led by Danny Burstein and Zach Grenier give solid performances, they never seem to develop in any way even though the play covers 90 years. Such momentous events as the Stalinist Purges and the fall of the Berlin Wall are treated almost in passing without their real significance being explored. Ambitious and epic in scope, Describe the Night becomes tiresome rather than enlightening. [more]

Significant Other

March 17, 2017

It’s well constructed, the dialogue is snappy and filled with some funny one-liners. The milieu is that of upper middle class Manhattan white-collar workers. Moderately entertaining, it attempts to explore a prevalent societal issue, but is undermined by its off-putting main character and its rarified sensibility. There is minimal sex talk and that is mostly cute, rather then revelatory. Jordan rhapsodizes about a male co-worker’s body, but doesn’t extoll anything much below the waist. [more]

Marie and Rosetta

September 30, 2016

The two women size each other up, first by Sister Rosetta singing such gospel numbers as “This Train,” “Rock Me” and “Sit Down,” while Marie demonstrates her style with “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord.” Then they move into a series of dynamic duets, each one more robust and rousing then the last. Eventually they sing a few of the pop songs that Sister Rosetta has made famous: “I Want a Tall Skinny Papa” and “Four or Five Times.” A sleight of hand is their writing “Up Above My Head” together while we watch and listen to the song unfold as if for the first time. Lewis brings her powerful, full-bodied voice to her songs, while Jones has a smaller, mellower sound (the real life Knight was a contralto). However, when they join together in song, the results are glorious, and each duet will make you hungry for the next one. [more]

Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

July 30, 2016

The charming and charismatic Broadway leading man Santino Fontana performs the role of Elliot Rosewater with as much commitment as if he were playing J. Pierrepont Finch. Mr. Fontana’s performance is the magnetic anchor of the show. Kilgore Trout is a loony science fiction author of 117 novels and over 2000 short stories and is a recurring character in Vonnegut’s novels. Here he appears briefly near the end of the show wearing a hunting cap and rising from a wheelchair. That he is played by the legendary 85-year-old James Earl Jones with his thundering voice, joyous presence and sly comic timing is wonderfully jolting. Mr. Jones also is the narrator. [more]

The Fortress of Solitude

November 7, 2014

Despite the novel's length of 511 pages, its focus on the music of its period would make this a natural for musicalization. The resulting show is an unusual stage work blending time and space, realism and magic, and exploring themes of race and gentrification, culture and self-discovery, fathers and sons, and how music defines the generation we live in. The music and lyrics in Friedman's magnificent and complex pastiche score includes pop, rock, rhythm & blues, soul, punk, hip-hop and heavy metal. While the musical doesn't entirely reach its goal as of now, it is most of the way to being an extraordinary new theater work. In defining a community and a generation through its music, it attempts to create a new form of musical. [more]