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Richard Topol

Anatomy of a Suicide

February 23, 2020

"Anatomy of a Suicide"’s title is more than accurate as two suicides are depicted. Dramatizing such subject matter would usually be intrinsically harrowing. However, acclaimed British playwright Alice Birch is concerned with hollow technique rather than rendering fleshed out characters straightforwardly grappling with life’s travails. Instead, we get three women’s cryptic underdeveloped stories mashed together, enacted simultaneously, structured as short scenes in this 90 minutes play. It’s an unsatisfying minor exercise with flashes of emotional resonance. [more]

How to Load a Musket

January 25, 2020

An essay more than a play, with players as opposed to characters, "How to Load a Musket" is a racist diatribe that fails to make its points coherently. The costumes and appointments on the walls of a black box space say all that there is to say in a play that ultimately leaves one wanting for more. The scenic design by Lawrence E. Moten III is the show’s best asset. [more]

The Dance of Death

February 16, 2019

Clark has chosen to direct the play as though it were drawing room comedy. Beginning and ending the play with a game of cards, there is the suggestion that for Edgar and Alice this is all a series of games. Outsiders cannot understand this, particularly her cousin Kurt who visits them for the first time in 15 years. Whether this is the fault of the new translation or the belief that modern audiences unfamiliar with Strindberg’s psychological nightmares would have trouble sitting through this disturbing ritual, the effect is to make "The Dance of Death" seem very superficial, as though Neil Simon had chosen to rewrite an Eugene O’Neill tragedy simply for laughs. [more]

Indecent

April 25, 2017

"Indecent" is, on the surface, the history of Yiddish writer Sholem Asch’s brave Yiddish play "God of Vengeance" which was—incredibly, considering its wise understanding of the Jewish demimonde—written in 1906 during the height of anti-Jewish pogroms. (Asch actually witnessed a pogrom and its ugliness tainted his life thereafter.) It is far more, though. The play is a look at the sweep of Jewish life in the twentieth century using Asch’s creation as the hook. [more]

Indecent

May 21, 2016

The production of "Indecent" now on the stage of the Vineyard is remarkable on many levels, not the least which is how engrossing it is considering the events are all historical record and the play deals with several serious ethical issues. It is ultimately an extremely moving document of human achievement, betrayal, and destruction. Cheers to Paul Vogel and Rebecca Taichman and their superb ensemble cast for this memorable theatrical evening. You will not be untouched by the final scene. [more]