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Stacey Derosier

Where the Mountain Meets the Sea

November 19, 2022

A touching portrait of a father and his alienated son unfolds in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s "Where the Mountain Meets the Sea" by Jeff Augustin, directed by Joshua Kahan Brody. ... "When the Mountain Meets the Sea" is not only about two different people, but two different time periods.  Jean exists in memory while Jonah’s journey is to cross the country, retrieve Jean’s ashes and spread them over Haiti. [more]

Weightless

October 4, 2022

"Weightless" is an engaging little indie rock musical, little in the sense that it has only three characters plus a narrator and runs only 75 minutes of playing time. The show features the Bay Area rock band The Kilbanes (married songwriting and performing duo bassist Kate Kilbane and keyboard player Dan Moses) who also wrote the show, and the cast that also filmed the show in 2021 during the pandemic. Like "Hadestown," "Weightless" is based on a story in Greek mythology and includes the gods on Mount Olympus; in this case the source material is from Ovid’s "Metamorphoses," a work written in Latin. "Weightless" is performed as if it were a concept album staged as a concert with the characters all played by the six member band who sit or stand on the stage placed on various platforms. Peiyi Wong’s set design does not allow for much stage movement and Tamilla Woodard’s direction does not give the actors much to do in the way of stage business. However, the storytelling is clear and the characters well defined. [more]

This Beautiful Future

September 25, 2022

If you like your W.W. II history unadulterated, you may object to a love story between a French teenage girl and a Nazi soldier even if they are inexperienced and innocent and unaware of what is to come. The fact that they are both hopeful of life in the future in the middle of war and devastation notwithstanding, were people ever this naïve and unworldly? While "This Beautiful Future" is tastefully presented, it does not deal with the moral issues that the play hints at but refuses to recognize. [more]

Fat Ham

May 30, 2022

James Ijames’ "Fat Ham" (all puns intended) is the latest and most successful modern riff on the Bard turning Hamlet into an expression of the Black experience while at the same time having much fun at Hamlet’s expense. As one of the few comedies to ever win the Pulitzer Prize, we should be hearing more soon from this talented playwright whose "Kill Move Paradise" in 2017 appears to be his only other New York credit, also directed by Saheem Ali. Already an associate artistic director/resident director with The Public Theater, Ali has previously worked wonders with "Merry Wives," "Nollywood Dreams," "Shipwreck," "Fires in the Mirror," "The Rolling Stone," "Passage," and "Fireflies," among others at various theaters around town. As usual his casting choices are perfect to the nth degree. [more]

Wedding Band

May 9, 2022

Alice Childress’ "Wedding Band," which is a difficult play to stage due to its shifts in tone, is a major rediscovery. However, it straddles a thin line between realism and romance and its poetry needs to be handled very carefully. Unlike the tamer "Trouble in Mind," "Wedding Band" has a very strong message and a good deal to say about racism in American in telling its sensitive interracial love story about a time when it was a love that dared not speak its name. While this production makes some problematic choices, the time has certainly arrived for this play to be returned to the American stage. [more]

sandblasted

February 27, 2022

A woman’s arm falls off soon into playwright Charly Evon Simpson’s engrossing allegory, "sandblasted." Ms. Simpson’s tone beautifully mixes the comic with the wistful, her dialogue is glorious, and her characters are appealing. Structured as 18 punchy short time-shifting scenes, with duologues, trialogues and monologues, the play builds to a stirring conclusion. Simpson quotes Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett in stage notes, their aesthetic influence is evident. The setting is a sandy landscape, the time is “now. after. future.” [more]

This Beautiful Future

January 17, 2022

First presented in London in 2017, this shimmering U.S. premiere affirms its acclaim. The Australian-born Ms. Kalnejais’ writing is highly crafted, imaginative and affective. Kalnejais was inspired by a 2016 museum exhibition containing W.W. II-era film footage to create this entrancing historical tale during a sense of worldwide political chaos. “I wanted to write something hopeful and delicious and gorgeous and put something gorgeous out into the world,” she has said in an interview. [more]

The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

January 13, 2022

Her nine years on SNL would seem excellent preparation for "Search" which requires her to portray ten different characters alternately. However, although Strong has tremendous stage presence, she has not yet grown into all of the roles or given all of the characters (nine women and one man) distinct, separate voices. While still a tour de force for one performer, the play seems dated after 37 years with one scene using a coin pay phone and several references to the Equal Right Amendment (ERA), neither of which are in common parlance anymore. On some level, a good deal of the play takes place in the past (Betty Friedan, LSD, Rupert Murdoch, “I mean the Women’s Movement isn’t that old,” etc.) but as no years or dates are mentioned, it feels like it is taking place now which seems like a mistake. Without the intermission, the show presents too many stories to take in all at one sitting. [more]

The Last of the Love Letters

September 19, 2021

We’re transported to Ms. Chen’s boldly oppressive spacious prison set with bars, an austere bed, a urinal, a tank to vomit in, and a retractable metal staircase for a menacing authority figure to descend from. Here, we meet the incarcerated “You No.2,” the male who gives his side of the romantic breakup during a cryptic and histrionic 40 minutes. We gradually realize he’s an artist being held in a government mental institution for crimes against the state. The finale strives for an emotionally resonant Twilight Zone-style twist ending, but it doesn’t make much impact, like the rest of this synthetic play. [more]

All the Natalie Portmans

March 2, 2020

MCC Theater’s New York premiere of C.A. Johnson’s new play "All the Natalie Portmans" is a lovely work which resembles other such modern coming of age plays from Carson McCullers’ "The Member of the Wedding" to Lynn Nottage’s "Crumbs from the Table of Joy" as well as moments from Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie" in its depiction of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive. While the play is not entirely fresh, the characters are so honestly drawn that director Kate Whoriskey’s cast not only holds our interest but makes us worry about their futures. The play does not contain many surprises as the family is obviously on a downward spiral but we hope against hope that Keyonna and Samuel will survive the battle. [more]

Stew

February 16, 2020

In making her professional stage debut courtesy of Page 73, Zora Howard has written a powerful kitchen sink drama in 'Stew," as much about making a literal stew as about the emotional stew the four women in the Tucker family of Mt. Vernon find themselves in. While many of the elements are family, Howard combines them in new ways so that the play seems both new and true. With a terrific cast headed by Portia ("The Rose Tattoo," "Ruined," "Rinse Repeat," "Our Lady of 121st Street") as the family matriarch, director Colette Robert keeps the temperature continually simmering on a low boil until all of the secrets and events have been revealed. This is an American tragedy as well as a study in how we live in this era. [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]

Novenas for a Lost Hospital

September 24, 2019

Cusi Cram’s "Novenas for a Lost Hospital" (with dramaturgy by Guy Lancaster) presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is an unusual site-specific theatrical event that pays tribute to the now defunct St. Vincent’s Hospital which for 161 years was situated three blocks from the theater’s location. Directed by Daniella Topol, the play is both uneven and scattershot in its non-linear format and content. However, it conveys a great deal of information in an entertaining manner and has some affecting scenes of life in the hospital in two eras: the 1849 cholera epidemic when it was founded in the mid-19th century and the AIDS crisis in the final years of its tenure in the late 20th century. [more]

Tender Napalm

July 26, 2019

The power and majesty of the theater are affirmed by this ravishing production of the acclaimed English playwright Philip Ridley’s two-character play, "Tender Napalm." For 75 enchanting minutes on a bare stage we follow the fantastical exploits of a young man and a young woman apparently shipwrecked on a jungle island. They engage with monkeys, aliens and serpents and time passes through a gloriously written cascade of memories, erotic verbal exchanges and biographical details. There’s mention of “A dildo shaped like a dolphin from the lost city of Atlantis.” [more]

Six Years Old

July 18, 2019

"Six Years Old" is a gem of a play, its facets polished by the director Helen Handelman.  Every emotional revelation, no matter how subtle is illuminated by the acting of its four-member cast:  Julia Weldon as the willful six-year-old Adelaide, just beginning to find her gender identity; Conor William Wright as her precocious four-year-old brother Dewey; Diane Chen as their put-upon, not very professional babysitter Kim; and Meghan E. Jones as their seemingly calm mother Rachel. [more]

No One Is Forgotten

July 14, 2019

Playwright Winter Miller offers a shakily hollow mélange of Genet, Beckett and Pinter with her two women in a prison cell scenario taking place in an unnamed foreign country. Ms. Miller’s dialogue is well-shaped and achieves sporadic humor and emotional resonance but to no real purpose as her effort comes across as an artificial exercise rather than a realized play. Without explanation sometimes only one character appears, and we’re left to conclude, “Maybe it’s a flashback or one was taken away and returned. Did one of them die?” [more]

Mies Julie

February 12, 2019

Yaël Farber’s adaptation of Strindberg’s classic "Miss Julie," "Mies Julie" shifts the scene and setting from 1880’s Sweden to the Karoo in South Africa on Freedom Day in 2012--or the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s election in 1994--which is long after apartheid was outlawed. Such changes shift Strindberg’s focus on the class system to matters of racism and apartheid today, when, despite any suggestions that we’ve transcended such problems, racist incidents continue to be in the news every day. They also make the play far more relevant than the antique penned by Strindberg, although ironically, it was far ahead of its time when it was written. [more]

Lewiston/Clarkston

November 28, 2018

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater is presenting a theatrical event by Idaho theater poet Samuel D. Hunter ("The Whale," "A Bright New Boise," "The Few," "Pocatello," "The Healing," "The Harvest"): a long one-act masterpiece (Clarkston), a 40-minute communal dinner served on picnic tables of what the characters would be eating and a curtain raiser, "Lewiston," which has the same themes and symbols as the later play. Taken as a whole this is a remarkable achievement, probably the best Hunter has created so far. Director David McCallum must be given some of the credit for this magnificent evening, and in particular actor Edmund Donovan who isn’t so much performing as living his character of Chris in "Clarkston." [more]

1969: The Second Man

August 30, 2018

The mellow sound of Brandt’s score proves to be easy listening, but the individual musical numbers do not build to any dramatic climaxes so that the show seems tamer than material concerning depression and alcoholism suggests it should be. However, the ballad forms and guitar/violin instrumentation are pleasant to the ear. Some of Giles’ dialogue which is not part of Aldrin’s story seems extraneous and the show takes a while to get started. "1969: The Second Man" is entertaining enough in this concert form, but needs some work before going to the next level. Jacob Brandt, however, proves to be a talented new musical voice. [more]