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Susan Hilferty

Present Laughter

April 23, 2017

As the ageing matinee idol who never forgets to check his appearance in the mirror, Kline plays a man who is always acting, both on stage and off. His animated physicality in his roles has always been in evidence but here he outdoes himself. Using his arms, hands, head, face and body as his canvas, he is almost never still showing us what can be done on each and every line. He makes even an ordinary line into a witticism and his comebacks wither with every additional jibe. He cajoles, seduces, emotes, wheedles and at the same time suggests he pities himself. He creates a bigger than life character (is John Barrymore his model?) and watching him is a lesson in consummate acting. So completely does he make Garry Essendine his own, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role – although among other New York revivals he has been played by such stars as George C. Scott, Frank Langella, Victor Garber and Coward himself. [more]

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

March 30, 2017

Marisa Tomei excels as George, the narrator of "How to Transcend…" --and of her own story. Thanks to Tomei’s vocal and visual expressions, we constantly share in George’s ongoing surprise, as she graduates from naivety to knowledge. In the end, it is George who has the most “transcendent,” and religious, experience. (It is not insignificant that we’re told George is the only Catholic in the group.)“It seems like you have omniscience,” says George, in her closing monologue, “when you can talk to the audience in a play.” And talk to us, she does, in the playwright’s smart, yet snappy language. Consider George also telling us that Jenna, “over time forgave us,” after walking in on her parent’s participating in a sex orgy. And “the trauma of seeing her parents’ aberrant sex lives up close--it became an anecdote in a college application.” Or consider David’s saying: “I’m from everywhere. And nowhere. I moved constantly as a child…. as a result, I don’t really believe in nationality.” [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]

Women of a Certain Age – Play 3 of The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family

November 14, 2016

Told in real time from five to seven PM on Election Day, November 8, 2016, not much happens in the play but as the Gabriel women talk, they reveal their hopes, their fears, their desires and their memories. By the end of the play, we know everything there is to know about them. Under Nelson’s direction, his cast of six who now have played these people in three plays since February 27 (first "Hungry" and then "What Did You Expect?" which began previews on Sept. 19) are not so much acting these characters as living them. [more]

Love, Love, Love

November 5, 2016

British actor Richard Armitage making his New York stage debut and Tony and Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan work hard to make Kenneth and Sandra three-dimensional, likeable people, but, as written by Mr. Bartlett, their crassness is the fatal flaw in "Love, Love, Love." Why should we enjoy spending so much time with two people who so adroitly care only for themselves? [more]

What Did You Expect? – Play 2 of The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family

September 21, 2016

Like his "Apple Family Plays," Nelson’s "The Gabriel" cycle all take place in a kitchen on a specific day in almost real time using the same six actors to play the family members. These are occasional plays which define a moment in time, as well as being chamber plays, small cast plays set in one place. Not much happens but much gets said and discussed. Described as “Chekhovian” by Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public, "What Did You Expect?" is less so as there really is no dramatic event as in such Chekov plays as "The Cherry Orchard" or "The Sea Gull." However, leisurely told and extremely detailed, "What Did You Expect?" offers its own rewards but may not be for all theatergoers. It is an evening of excellent talk which defines a family of have nots in our own time. [more]

Turn Me Loose

May 20, 2016

Wearing a black suit, white shirt and black tie, the mature Morton with his expressive face, smooth resonant voice and fluid physicality, vividly captures the essence of “The black Lenny Bruce” at various stages of his life. He forcefully addresses and engages the audience while at a microphone during his act, backstage, sitting near the front row of the stage or walking through the theater. It is one of those memorably electrifying performances to be treasured. [more]

Hungry: Play I of The Gabriels

March 19, 2016

"Hungry" is both an occasional play (written for this moment in time) and a chamber play. Not much happens but a great deal is implied. It will not please all theatergoers. However, it will be interesting to see how Nelson develops the next two plays in the series, "What Did You Expect?" and "Women of a Certain Age," with the same actors. Demonstrating their expertise, the cast is real enough to make you think they are not performing. [more]

Buried Child

March 13, 2016

After a twenty year hiatus from the New York theater scene, Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning "Buried Child" is back in the Big Apple but in a more intimate setting. This latest iteration of the dramatic classic sees its return to the world of Off-Broadway, with a limited engagement at The Pershing Square Signature Center. Loaded with a powerhouse cast led by Ed Harris, the latest from the The New Group is a fresh take on an American classic. [more]

Familiar

March 9, 2016

The family tension is defined in terms of the strong female relationships between mother Marvelous (Tamara Tunie) and the bride-to-be, who differ when it comes to wedding plans as well as the bride and her younger sister, Nyasha (Ito Aghayere) who clash over lifestyle choices. Big sister is the accomplished, serious professional woman who is strongly tied to her religious beliefs and customs, and the free-spirited little sister (who wasn't even asked to be a bridesmaid) who is tired of being berated for her choices. Tendi looks more to her aunt from Africa for guidance than her mother and is determined to have her look upon her choices as favorable. The source of comic relief in Familiar is Donald, the father (played by Harold Surratt), who sits back observing all the conflict and tries his best to take it all in stride. This family is one for the ages and how they deal with each other and common familiar issues is something all audiences can relate to. [more]

Mercury Fur

September 1, 2015

In his 2005 "Mercury Fur," being given its belated Off Broadway premiere by The New Group under the direction of its intrepid artistic director Scott Elliott, there has been a complete breakdown of society: gangs roam the city and kill and destroy in supermarkets and museums, while the population is addicted to hallucinogenic butterflies. The one redeeming factor: people will still go to any lengths to save the ones they love. However, "Mercury Fur" is not for the squeamish or faint-hearted: Ridley’s original publisher refused to publish the text. [more]

The Spoils

June 5, 2015

Can an obnoxious, sadomasochistic nerd be the central character of a play? This is the thought that will run through your mind as you watch Jesse Eisenberg’s third play, "The Spoils," being given its world premiere by The New Group. As it turns out if you knew Ben, the latest role Eisenberg has written for himself, you would probably run the other way. However, staged by The New Group’s artistic director Scott Elliott,"The Spoils" is absorbing theater and you sit riveted to see if Ben will get what he deserves.  [more]

Posterity

March 30, 2015

In Doug Wright’s "Posterity" at the Atlantic Theater Company two monumental cultural figures of 19th century Norway lock horns in a battle of wits and sensibilities with tragic results. Wright, who seems to have a penchant for writing about real people (viz. "Quills," "I Am My Own Wife," and "Grey Gardens"), here, takes on Henrik Ibsen, monumental 19th century playwright, and sculptor Gustav Vigeland, forty years his junior. [more]

Sticks and Bones

December 1, 2014

With "Sticks and Bones"' theme of the displacement of the returning American army veteran once again topical due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the play would seem to be entirely relevant once again. Unfortunately, Scott Elliott's production which has a shifting tone throughout does not make a very convincing case for this Vietnam era family drama. Holly Hunter, Bill Pullman, Richard Chamberlain and company are fine actors left adrift by a flawed and confused production. [more]