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The Pershing Square Signature Center

The Pershing Square Signature Center, Signature Theatre Company’s new Frank Gehry-designed home on 42nd Street, is one of New York’s most exciting additions to the cultural landscape. Signature Theatre Company is located at: The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street. http://www.signaturetheatre.org

Of Human Bondage

July 10, 2017

Director Albert Schultz’s program note explains that the production set itself two challenges: first, that Philip Carey would never leave the 16-foot red square center stage, and that all of the sound (vocal, musical or atmospheric) would be made by the 11 other actors in view of the audience. This may have made for an interesting artistic experiment, but it is not so effective for the audience. While the 16-foot square makes the play claustrophobic (a metaphor for Philip’s life), it also means that scenery has to be carted around for each and every scene. Nevertheless, in Lorenzo Savoini’s clever set design, the transitions between the many scenes are smooth and flowing. The sound effects are made by the actors on stage ultimately become very distracting from the action of the play. Faithful to the novel but necessarily telescoped, Thiessen’s adaptation is fragmented into a series of vignettes which though not disjointed suggest that much is missing. [more]

The Whirligig

June 6, 2017

Say this for actor Hamish Linklater: he writes juicy parts for his fellow actors. He also knows how to set up a sense of community. The New Group production directed by its artistic director Scott Elliott has a fine cast led by two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz and Zosia Mamet, just off six seasons of the recently ended HBO television series, Girls. [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]

All the Fine Boys

March 5, 2017

Playwright Erica Schmidt has a minor aptitude for believably snappy dialogue, but not much else. Her tired scenario is astonishingly familiar and offers no fresh insights. That adolescence is tough is about all there is. That territory has been mined in John Hughes’ films and numerous television shows. There was also the 1985 movie "Smooth Talk," starring Laura Dern and Treat Williams that was based on a Joyce Carol Oates short story. [more]

Everybody

March 3, 2017

The original was aimed at an audience that most certainly was illiterate, so that the clever creators used cartoonish, unsubtle characters who spoke in popular jargon, even spouting profanity, which must have tickled the medieval audiences’ sensibilities and kept them following the actors in their juicy parts. Jacobs-Jenkins follows suit, but with his tongue firmly in his cheek, writing his characters, particularly Stuff (played with a no-nonsense, “from the block” insouciance by Lakisha Michelle May), as immediately recognizable twenty-first century caricatures. When cutie pie child Lilyana Tiare Cornell, playing the character Time, spouts the word “shitty,” the audience at the Diamond Stage giggles nervously. [more]

Evening at the Talk House

February 24, 2017

However, as the title implies it is also a very verbose, long-winded affair giving an excellent cast made up of such veterans as Matthew Broderick, John Epperson (a.ka.a Lypsinka), Jill Eikenberry, Larry Pine, Claudia Shear and Michael Tucker not much to do. Shawn has written the best role for himself but that is not saying much. While the play may be meant as a cautionary tale, it is also over-written and self-indulgent. Long before you realize where the play is going you may have lost interest due to all the explanations. [more]

Sweet Charity

December 28, 2016

The real reason to see the new "Sweet Charity," its third major New York revival, is for Sutton Foster’s bravura performance. Aside from nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Foster has usually played innocent, clean-cut young women caught up in unusual situations. Here she again plays to type – but with a difference: Charity Hope Valentine works as a taxi dancer in a New York dance hall, a sleazy environment. However, she keeps her infectious innocence and her indomitable spirit despite one unfortunate romantic encounter after the other due to her gullibility. Under Leigh Silverman’s direction, Foster may just be the most convincing actress to ever play Charity. [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]

Small Mouth Sounds

July 27, 2016

Inspired by the playwright’s attending a silent spiritual retreat at an upstate New York institute in the woods, this is an absorbing play which immediately causes the viewers to listen intently as our world is never really silent. In Stowe Nelson’s remarkable soundscape, the play begins with a torrential rain, and then proceeds to a great many sounds we usually take for granted (both performed by the actors and recorded): breathing, laughing, clicking of a pen, sighing, a gong ringing, whispers, giggling, crickets chirping, the crunching of chips, birds, a sip of tea, a sneeze, coughing, a cell phone ringing. As a result of this state of affairs and the fact that the actors (in general) don’t speak, we become attuned to watch the smallest facial expression and other forms of non-verbal communication. [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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

John

August 31, 2015

Baker fills "John" with telling details, from the food (ever hear of Sailor’s Duff?) to hidden rooms to specifics of Gettysburg, that keep the play from floating away into total surrealism. She is helped by Mimi Lien’s extraordinarily detailed set which evokes worlds within worlds with its amazing array of tchotchkes, perfectly chosen furniture, a player piano that erupts at odd moments, ceiling fans lazily, but ineffectively whirring, and a multitude of doors. Mark Barton’s atmospheric lighting is perfection. Ásta Bennie Hostetter’s costumes are well thought-out and Bray Poor’s sound design gives eerie life to the show. [more]

What Do Critics Know?

July 27, 2015

Featuring catchy tunes such as “Breakthrough” and “Talk to Tony” as well as inspiring ballads such as “The Life I Was Meant to Live,” "What Do Critics Know?" went beyond the criticism and pressure of the industry to uncover dreams that were once put to rest. The music and lyrics by James Campodonico and bookwriter Gurren were uplifting, powerful and beautifully performed and the lovely voices of Mossberg’s Irma and rising star Dahlia (Sarah Stevens) really brought the heart of the production home. [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]

Rasheeda Speaking

February 23, 2015

Under the assured direction of Cynthia Nixon, renowned actresses Tony Pinkins and Diane Wiest turn Joel Drake Johnson’s "Rasheeda Speaking" into an acting tour de force. A play which investigates office politics and concealed racism, Rasheeda Speaking is a provocative work for our times which asks some serious questions. This spellbinding play increases the tension in each scene to an almost unbearable pitch. Just try taking your eyes away from the stage. [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]

Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story

July 29, 2014

Straight off a Broadway run in that previously mentioned jukebox musical, the magnetic Zak Resnick proves himself exceedingly capable of carrying a production. His Bert exudes raw emotion, boyish insecurity, and irresistible charm. Teal Wicks and Linda Hart shine by his side as the young and old versions of Bert's scrappy, sexy wife Ilene, respectively. However, the true honor goes to Derrick Baskin as Hoagy whose rendition of "Twist and Shout" gives The Beatles a run for their money. [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]

Cloned!

July 10, 2014

Set in New York City in 1993, young, good-natured, genius physicist Wally's experiments in teleportation, first run amok when his pet pigeon (named after Stone's Basic Instinct character) is cloned instead of being transported. [more]

An Octoroon

May 10, 2014

Provocative playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins turns Boucicault’s 1859 classic inside out as he examines 2014 attitudes about race in U.S. [more]