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Signature Theatre

Boesman and Lena

March 12, 2019

The production of "Boesman and Lena" at The Pershing Square Signature Center directed with attention to every detail by Yaël Farber is stark and unforgiving in a way that would have been shocking in 1970.  Even though apartheid has been lifted, this play still resonates with its bleak display of human survival in the face of unimaginable terrors and its condemnation of racial inequity. [more]

Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine

December 20, 2018

A hard-edged picaresque fable is what playwright Lynn Nottage came up with in her enjoyable, "Fabulation, or The Re-Education of Undine" that premiered in 2004. A two-time Pulitzer-Prize winner for Drama, Ms. Nottage is in a lighter mood here but her comic sequences have a bracing tone and the dialogue has her customary skillful depth. We’re in the exaggerated territory of "Watermelon Man" and "Bonfire of the Vanities." [more]

Tom Pain (based on nothing)

November 23, 2018

Hall is not helped by an over-zealous production that, for some reason, turns the Signature’s Irene Diamond Stage into a construction site, complete with drop cloths, ceiling netting and lots of ladders ringing the stage—an odd, misleading choice by set designer Amy Rubin. Jen Schriever’s lighting manages to make this set mysterious. Schriever is also tasked with following Hall/Pain in his travels into the auditorium, using houselights along with stage lights with great skill. [more]

Paradise Blue

May 25, 2018

In many ways Dominique Morisseau’s "Paradise Blue" shares similarities with August Wilson’s brilliant, if long-winded, Pittsburgh based plays.  "Blue" is part of Morisseau’s Detroit Project, a three-play cycle that takes place in three different eras.  Blue, developed with the aid of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Public Theater and the McCarter Theatre is a snapshot of desperate people occupying a part of Detroit on the verge of vast changes—read gentrification. [more]

Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo: Homelife & The Zoo Story

February 28, 2018

Lila Neugebauer has directed these two one-acts to bring out their naturalism. In the past, "The Zoo Story" was usually performed with an odd, surreal quality.  Neugebauer has given the conversations a flow that reveals this play to be about people, not walking symbols, a lesson Albee had thoroughly absorbed by the time he wrote "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"   [more]

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

November 14, 2017

Guirgis and Brokaw manage to find the back-handed humor and pathos of this scene which sets the mood for a profane and scatological play that hits the audience between the eyes with its fresh use of language and its deep understanding of the two main characters.   Guirgis turns profanity into a poetic x-ray of the human psyche. [more]

Venus

May 26, 2017

The adept cast is led by Zainab Jah in the title role. In the one detail in which Parks’ play matches "The Elephant Man," Ms. Jah, a shapely, lovely actress, transforms herself into Venus right in front of the audience, painfully pulling on a padded costume that leaves nothing to the imagination. Ms. Jah’s Venus is a strong figure who rolls with the punches but is no match for the hypocrisy of the powers that be. She is a strong enough actor to keep her head above the fray. [more]

The Antipodes

April 28, 2017

Every new play by Annie Baker is a marvel over the play before. It’s been nothing less than a privilege to accompany her on her journey, as she has been joining ranks with the best American playwrights. Part of what makes Baker the “best,” is that she has her own voice. Whether with "Circle-Mirror Transformation," the marvelous "The Flick," or her latest and current, "The Antipodes," Baker seems to devote a certain amount of attention to group dynamics, which is, after all, the basis of any drama. And how can I have left out reference to John, Baker’s play from last year, which was her first as part of her enrollment with the Signature Theater, and arguably the best of all? [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 Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA The Negro Book of the Dead

December 5, 2016

There is no plot, just a series of verbal jousts played out on Riccardo Hernandez’ sleek, two-tier set with just the image of trees looming over the actors wearing Montana Blanco’s colorfully exaggerated costumes. From the childlike Prunes and Prisms of Ms. Sithole to the angrily twisted Bigger (a reference to Richard Wright) of Mr. Piniella, the actors recite the difficult lines, goaded to do their finest by director Lileana Blain-Cruz who totally understands the work. [more]

“Master Harold” and the boys

November 29, 2016

Watching these three actors is an incredible experience. As Willie, the slower, funnier tea room worker, Sahr Ngaujah, often the butt of the jokes, never loses his humanity. Noah Robbins finds all the complexity in the adolescent Harold, and Leon Addison Brown makes dignity palpable and believable as Sam. [more]

Signature Plays

May 30, 2016

It’s clear why Edward Albee’s "The Sandbox" (1959), María Irene Fornés’ "Drowning" (1986) and Adrienne Kennedy’s "Funnyhouse of a Negro" (1964) are considered modern absurdist classics. They hew to the territory the truly greats like Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, the Dadas and Alfred Jarry explored, with Beckett the most influential, particularly in the first two plays, interpreting them with an American spin. If they are not as effective—if they seem somehow clichéd—the playwrights cannot be faulted. The Art World simply moves on. [more]

Daphne’s Dive

May 25, 2016

Although Quiara Alegría Hudes’ "Daphne’s Dive" follows the lives of seven fascinating people for whom Daphne’s North Philly bar is their true home, it is no "Cheers" and definitely no "The Iceman Cometh." No, "Daphne’s Dive" is a far gentler affair than either of those and more fearless for its gentleness. The seven people in this working class bar and grill affect each others’ lives as the play takes them from 1994 to 2011—and the audience is changed along with them. [more]

Angel Reapers

March 6, 2016

The audience for "Angel Reapers" is immediately immersed in the Shaker world, forced to cross the set—simple board floors, ladder-back chairs, a couple of windows and doors—en route to the seats. Several cast members are already in place. As more characters saunter on and take their seats, men and women on opposite sides, an infectious laughter spreads improbably through the cast before hymns are sung and a long list of proscribed activities is chanted. They also express delight in the “gifts” they contribute: “I have the gift of gathering eggs;” “I have the gift of reaping hay;” etc. [more]

Night Is a Room

December 2, 2015

The pleasure of" Night Is a Room" is watching these three expert actors speak Wallace’s rich, insightful language which veers from wittily highfalutin to excitingly vulgar. Charting their emotional reactions which teem with hyperbolic outbursts, she has her finger on the pulse of these three self-deluders. Bill Rauch directed with total comprehension, walking a fine line between permitting the audience to observe the drama and also be mystified and appalled by these awful people. [more]

Incident at Vichy

November 28, 2015

Arthur Miller is having a great posthumous 100th birthday! "A View from a Bridge" opened on Broadway to sensational reviews to be followed soon by "The Crucible." Now a revival of "Incident at Vichy," his frightening, microcosmic examination of Nazi-occupied France during the height of World War II, is enjoying a fine revival at the Signature Theatre. While the first two plays are each experiencing radical re-assessments, the director of Vichy, Michael Wilson has opted for a straight-forward, naturalistic interpretation in which each character exists as a finely etched portrait and the set (by Jeff Cowie) is a real, frightening place down to the period French newspapers plastering the holes in the windows. [more]

Love & Money

September 4, 2015

"Love & Money" is light, literate entertainment, impeccably acted by its small cast led by the charismatic Ms. Anderman. Mr. Paulik amusingly projects his lack of experience while putting up a gruff front. Ms. Dunlap’s Agnes is priceless. Mr. Brown is a tad too much of a whirlwind as Walker, but as his façade cracks, he warms up nicely. Ms. Kim is onstage for less than four minutes, but made a good impression. [more]

Editor’s Notes: 2014 Tonys Wrapup

June 12, 2014

Broadway had its big night when the 68th Annual Tony Awards, presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, were given out at Radio City Music Hall hosted by the genial and charming Hugh Jackman for the fourth time. One of several of the evening's surprises was the four minute opening number in which Jackman hopped from the street to the stage to backstage and back on stage again, recreating Bobby Van's iconic number from the 1953 MGM musical, Small Town Girl, which went unidentified in the course of the evening. [more]