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Russ Rowland

Russ Rowland photographs everything from theater and corporate events to portraits, abstracts, street scenes, landscapes and images that he creates on the computer in various ways. Many things interest him visually, and he’s a relentless experimenter. http://www.rrsnapshop.com

Heartbeat Opera: Butterfly

June 9, 2017

The artistic team responsible for this "Butterfly" made radical decisions and changes. Puccini’s original three acts of linear story – love and “wedding,” waiting, betrayal and death – are reorganized and abbreviated into three scenes of waiting, remembered love, and then betrayal. Some minor characters in the original opera are eliminated to create a caste of just five singing characters. The entire orchestra is reduced to a chamber orchestra of just six musicians, the Cantata Profana. The adaptation of Puccini’s orchestral score for this small chamber group by Daniel Schlosberg is remarkable: unexpectedly, its absolute faithfulness to Puccini’s musical intent at almost every turn made up for the diminished number of musicians. [more]

Vanity Fair

April 11, 2017

Tucker’s production uses seven actors playing 20 named characters plus members of the ensemble: the women (Joey Parsons and Hamill play one each, good girl Amelia Sedley and bad girl Becky Sharp, respectively) and the men play all the rest, including other female characters with the addition of wigs and slight costume changes. This allows the cast to demonstrate tremendous versatility in these juicy roles. [more]

Church & State

April 4, 2017

Rob Nagle (who created the role in the Los Angeles production) plays “compassionate conservative” North Carolina Senator Charles Whitmore who is up for reelection in a statistical dead heat in just three days’ time, running on a campaign slogan of “Jesus is my Running Mate” (chosen by his wife Sara). However, earlier that day he has been shaken by attending the funeral of 29 students shot by a lone gunman at the local elementary school which his sons attend. It could have been his sons who had been killed. [more]

Diva: Live From Hell

April 4, 2017

"Diva: Live From Hell," an energetic, campy variation on the “All About Eve” theme, is performed with manic glee by Sean Patrick Monahan who also wrote the book and created all the colorful characters. His partner in crime is Alexander Sage Oyen who provided the music and lyrics. Sex (requited and unrequited), ugly violence and dark humor are all thrown into the story which is told by Desmond Channing (Monahan, who also plays virtually a high school’s worth of characters). [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]

Ring Twice for Miranda

February 19, 2017

Although "Ring Twice" is filled to the brim with socio-political symbolism, it’s not likely that the author was trying for any direct reference to the current maddening political scene since gestation periods for plays are notoriously long. Clearly this play was written well before the 2016 election, so any vague commentary appears to be inadvertent. This is not to say that the metaphors and symbols Hruska uses aren’t intriguing in their own way. [more]

The Portal

December 12, 2016

While the visual aid is being projected in the background, a rock concert/spectacle is taking place on stage in front of the screen, and this is--thankfully--more interesting that the latter content. Billy Lewis Jr. is the physical manifestation of Kelly’s Dante; a rock star whose belting is a metaphorical echo of his counterpart’s internal strife. Lewis Jr. is a natural at singing rock music, and his vocal prowess is a saving grace for the production. [more]

Public Enemy

October 16, 2016

Ibsen’s "An Enemy of the People" is a classic of modern drama but at times it can seem musty in a poor translation. David Harrower’s "Public Enemy" is not only a shrewd, accessible adaptation, it also makes clear the contemporary relevance of the dangers of the herd instinct in a seemingly just society. The Pearl Theatre Company production is a must-see for all good citizens, particularly in these perilous times. [more]

A Taste of Honey

September 22, 2016

Director Austin Pendleton made some choices which don’t help the now creaky play. Although Peter is described as ten years younger than Helen, Pendleton has cast the ever reliable Bradford Cover who unaccountably looks to be Helen’s age or older. This changes the dynamic of the play as with a younger man it would be obvious why Helen doesn’t think she has much hold over him. While the apartment is described as dirty with junk all over it, Harry Feiner’s set is spotlessly clean. This changes the environment a good deal and makes Jo’s life much less intolerable than described. In addition to the on-stage jazz combo which was also part of the original 1958 London production, Pendleton has several of the characters occasionally speak directly to the audience which makes this play more surreal than the kitchen sink milieu would imply. All of this makes the revival much less affecting than it might have been. [more]

Pillars of New York

July 15, 2016

The score that Mr. Antin composed and wrote the lyrics for is a serviceable collection of songs that could possibly have succeeded in a show about the conflicts among married couples. Wedged into a dramatization of a horrendous historical event, they’re hollow and rarely achieve other then a filler quality. [more]

A Persistent Memory

June 3, 2016

The Cast of “A Persistent Memory” (Photo credit: Russ Rowland) Courtney Marie, Critic Jackob G. [more]

The Dingdong

April 29, 2016

Shanahan’s adaptation has a great many delicious one-liners and double-entendres (“I don’t go out for mutton when I can have filet mignon at home;” “Keep referring to me as a plate of food and you’ll be dining a la carte;” “I put a leash on my ‘inner beast’ and take him out for a walk every once in a while;” “Looks like you have a bad case of the puberty, kid. You should see a doctor,”) as well as witty exchanges between the warring couples. Much of the fun of the play is seeing the same actors return over and over again in different roles often within a matter of seconds. Best is Kelly Curran who throws herself into four very different women, one more enticing than the other: the Parisian vixen Claudia Pontegnac, the tempestuous Italian Fabiola Soldignac, the oversexed New Yawker Mandy, and a very sexy French maid in bouffant costume with a feather duster. [more]

Vincent

April 10, 2016

Leonard Nimoy intended "Vincent" as a vehicle for himself that would showcase his talents. In this Off-Broadway premiere presented by Starry Night Theater, "Vincent" is now such an outlet for Nimoy’s worthy successor James Briggs in this entertaining and insightful production. [more]

Stupid Fu**ing Bird

April 1, 2016

Posner has turned Chekhov’s four-act play into two-part meta-theater: not only do the actors acknowledge the audience and solicit our participation, but they each have a monologue addressed directly to us. The actors sit around the stage when they are not in a scene, almost like they are attending a rehearsal. Aside from the obvious use of contemporary American vernacular, Posner has fun with iconic Chekhov lines that have grown stale. When asked why she always wears black, Mosh at first says, “Black is slimming,” before giving her original answer (“I’m in mourning for my life.”) He has changed Mosh and Dev’s story, giving them a different ending. While Chekhov’s Konstantin talks of the theater needing new forms, Posner’s version is the very new form that was predicted all those years ago. Finally, Posner has added an epilogue in which the actors address the audience one by one and give us a new take on the original ending. [more]

Utility

February 8, 2016

Schwend’s dialogue is realistic, believable, and true to life, as are the characters. As a play, however, it is a bit of a downer as we watch Amber become wearier without any relief in sight. Aside from Chris who is always putting everything off until tomorrow, Amber’s mother (who has been conned into liking him as a good father) is always begrudging about helping out though she lives down the block and doesn’t have anything else to do. The atmosphere and the characters are real, but each scene is just more and more of the same which becomes depressing and tiresome – just like Amber’s life. There is also the question of where the money comes from to buy all of the items that are carried in the door – unless the family is living on credit card debt which is never mentioned. This is also the sort of play where we hear a get deal about the children Janie, Max and Sammy, but the author manages to keep them off stage all evening. [more]

Gluten!

November 25, 2015

From offstage we hear the hyperbolic exclamations of a young man, Copious Fairchild, as he masturbates mixed with the soundtrack of a television cooking show. He enters the living room with a jar containing his semen and places it on the coffee table. After favorably commenting on its magnitude his young wife Hibiscus Van Der Waal, takes it and goes offstage. We soon hear her orgasmic sounds as she inseminates herself during this anti-sexual reproductive process called “coagulating.” It’s a pivotal sequence in Stephen Kaliski’s excruciating futuristic spoof "Gluten!" [more]

Unseamly

October 20, 2015

Director Sarah C. Carlsen does an excellent job of utilizing minimalism to tell the story. "Unseamly" is told in a non-linear format, and relies heavily on flashbacks. Instead of having set pieces rolling in and out to change scenes, the play is presented in a bright white room which has secret doors and set pieces that pop out of the walls to change the environment and accommodate the next flashback. The set and costumes are both designed by Brian Dudkiewicz, and there is definitely a consistent style throughout. Minimalist with flashes of bright color, the clothing is sexy and trendy, and contributes to the overall theme of the play: costumed liberally, the whole production is steeped in sexuality. [more]

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Pearl Theatre

September 29, 2015

If you thought Bedlam’s artistic director Eric Tucker had created physical productions for his acclaimed acting troupe in the past, think again. His "A Midsummer Night Dream," seen this summer at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and now in residence at the Pearl Theatre, gives the actors a workout from beginning to end. Whether all audiences will go along with it – it is tiring for both performers and viewers – is a question, but like watching a world-class circus or ballet troupe, you know at the end of the evening that you have seen an extraordinary imagination at work. Tucker just expects everyone to go the extra mile. This is not a "Midsummer" for people who have never seen the play before, but one for whom the traditional interpretation no longer has anything to offer. [more]

Sex of the Baby

September 15, 2015

With the quirky poignancy of Lanford Wilson, the ferociousness of Edward Albee, and the farcical precision of Alan Ayckbourn, playwright Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s superb new comedic drama "Sex of the Baby" culminates literally in a shattering conclusion. [more]

In Bed with Roy Cohn

September 4, 2015

If "In Bed With Roy Cohn" were seen at a theater event such as The New York Fringe Festival, it could be viewed as a promising offbeat creation. But as a commercial Off-Broadway production it is quite deficient on a basic narrative level that undermines its other successful and outrageous qualities. [more]

Don Juan

May 27, 2015

The Pearl Theatre Company’s express aim in reviving this curiosity according to translator Jess Burkle, responsible for this world premiere adaptation, is “to connect the experience of the play in the original French to American audiences in 2015.” Burkle’s method is to use “alliteration, idiom, and mixed metaphor” as “the key to getting us all to pay attention to Moliere’s glowing words.” Much of the problem with Hal Brooks’ production is that while all of the characters aside from Don Juan (who is clothed as a rock star) are dressed in 17th century costumes, the text is made up of contemporary language. [more]

A Queen for a Day

May 10, 2015

If the casting of four powerhouse actors hadn’t been the case—including Proval’s "The Soprano"’s co-star Vincent Pastore--this play would not falter. Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s writing is consistent and engaging, and the dialogue between the characters is so fluid and effortless that it feels like two real people having a conversation. Full of powerful social commentary, this is a dark, exciting, and at times violent story with a little bit of something for everybody.   [more]

Clinton the Musical

April 15, 2015

After a brief stint in the future, the show jumps back in time to the 1992 evening of Bill Clinton’s election. As the First Lady, Broadway veteran Kerry Butler is bold with her characterization, using vocal variation and employing highly stylized physical choices to bring Hillary to life. Still grandiose at best, Butler brings just enough warmth and heart to the character to ground the few fleeting dramatic moments. Early on the music is quite simply that of a musical comedy, but the writers manage to incorporate signature moments to showcase Butler’s true vocal abilities, in none more so than “Both Ways,” a power ballad performed by Butler with familiar command and ease. [more]

Clinton: The Musical

July 28, 2014

A grimacing hyper actor in a cheap white wig carries on as Newt Gingrich. Kenneth Starr strips down to a leather harness, mesh and leather underwear. Eleanor Roosevelt appears periodically in a hat and a fur, and says "Oh, shit." Al Gore is there as a life-sized cardboard cutout. [more]

Enter at Forest Lawn

July 27, 2014

Author Roberts plays Jack, the megalomaniacal producer/writer of a TV hit about a charming, witty, womanizing uncle who runs off the rails regularly. [more]

The Qualification of Douglas Evans

July 25, 2014

Presenting himself thus, in the character of Douglas Evans, with such vigorous, non-stop awfulness, takes courage as well as rampant ego and a chilling comment on his, the actor/playwright's own life, which might well have been written and delivered with an ironic god-awful humor and given the audience something to care about but Ahonen sticks to his guns. [more]