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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

Because I Could Not Stop: An Encounter with Emily Dickinson

September 28, 2018

Stranger still is the choice of Angelica Page to play Dickinson who looks rather too healthy to be the famously thin and sallow-faced writer known from the one famous photograph. She makes Dickinson sarcastic, arrogant, cynical, self-important and haughty which goes against the voice of the woman in the poems. At times she has been given arty stage directions like posing by a mantelpiece or sleeping on the ground next to what we assume is alongside of her father’s grave. [more]

Be More Chill

August 27, 2018

"Be More Chill" is an impressive musical version of Ned Vizzini’s cult novel. Not only does it reproduce the plot on stage, it also gives it a high tech look that dramatizes the story where the novel left it to the imagination. Joe Iconis, long thought to be one of the most promising new theater composers, makes good on that promise, and Joe Tracz demonstrates for a second time that he can put difficult material on the stage. While Ryan Rumery’s overly loud sound design will turn off older theatergoers who are not more chill, those in the swing of things will have a memorable evening in the musical theater. [more]

Tchaikovsky: None but the Lonely Heart

June 4, 2018

The letters alternate with the musical portions played by Ji on piano, Ari Evan on cello and Stephanie Zyzak on violin in various combinations which are beautiful but it is never clear in what way the selections relate to Madame von Meck except for the Piano Trio in A minor, op. 50, which Tchaikovsky reveals at the beginning of the second act that he is writing for her. It is not stated whether the two excerpts from The Nutcracker, for violin and piano, and for solo piano were created for her. [more]

Our Lady of 121st Street

June 3, 2018

The current staging of "Our Lady" at The Pershing Square Signature Center, directed by Phylicia Rashad, magically now comes across as an addled, profane sitcom.  It’s entertaining and at times moving, but the real magic is that the very same words can be tended by a solid director—this one obviously experienced in sitcoms—and refresh a theatrical experience so completely.  Rashad has shown that scathing can be scathingly funny.  This time I left laughing. [more]

Peace for Mary Frances

May 27, 2018

We learn a great deal about hospice, possibly more than one might want to know in a play. While most death watch plays like Edward Albee’s "All Over" and Scott McPherson's "Marvin’s Room," take place in another room from where the elderly person is dying, Mary Frances alternates between the downstairs living room/dining room and the upstairs bedroom of her split-level house. Unfortunately, this 21-scened play with at least a dozen more scenes which switch between Mary Frances’ bedroom and the living room where the rest of the family eat or watch television requires endless jump cuts like a film and endless lighting cues from designer Tyler Micoleau. [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]

Good for Otto

March 12, 2018

Except for the frustration level of the characters, there does not seem to be a movement towards change or catharsis which may partly explain why the play seems so long. Harris and Madigan retain their cool as therapists throughout until almost the end when they can’t hold in their emotions any more. The most dramatic story is that of 12-year-old Frannie beautifully and realistically played by young Rileigh McDonald. However, as written the role of her foster mother played by Rhea Perlman is a one-note tale and doesn’t give her much wiggle room to make it her own. [more]

Jerry Springer – The Opera

March 9, 2018

"Jerry Springer - The Opera" is not for opera purists nor is for people who are easily offended by four letter words and other bad language of which there is a multitude. However, its irreverence skewers social, religious and political hypocrisy. The New Group’s production directed by John Rando is one of the most exciting musical theater experiences to be currently obtained in New York. It actually seems more relevant in Trump America where this sort of thing is cable-fodder every night of the week. If you are a dedicated theatergoer, miss this show if you dare. [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]

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

December 28, 2017

Fairchild speaks well and communicates much with his physique, but his choreography is repetitive and uninventive.  Here was a chance to breathe new life into a too familiar character.  All Fairchild could come up with is lurching movements and awkward falls to the floor.  He takes the obvious path to create his character with movement when he had a chance to illuminate the Monster’s inner emotions. [more]

Downtown Race Riot

December 15, 2017

Anton Chekhov once advised that if you show an audience a gun you are required to have it go off. Set on September 8, 1976, Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s new play, "Downtown Race Riot," being given it world premiere by The New Group, never takes us to this forgotten event which happened in Washington Square Park but depicts the forces and people involved in the 100 minutes before the riot is to happen. This overheated melodrama which goes on a bit long takes on many important themes (racial hatred, drug addiction, petty crime, sexual identity, financial insecurity, etc.) without making any pertinent point about any of them. While the dialogue and the milieu are gritty, Downtown Race Riot recycles a great many stereotypes and clichés. [more]

20th Century Blues

November 30, 2017

There is nothing much very wrong with Susan Miller’s '20th Century Blues" that a few more revelations or dustups wouldn’t solve. Beth Dixon, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Polly Draper, Kathryn Grody and Ellen Parker play believable, recognizable women at a plateau in their lives when some taking stock is in order as they approach the age of being considered senior citizens. A pleasant evening in this form, but Miller’s play gives an aftertaste that will leave you hungry for more. It seems that in order not to offend, she is playing it too safe. [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]

Van Gogh’s Ear

August 21, 2017

Projected titles indicate place and year—beginning with Arles, 1888 and progressing until van Gogh’s suicide—which we hear as an offstage gunshot—in July of 1890. The audience is treated to Vincent’s thoughts on his painting technique, his poverty, his mental health, his fellow artists, stars, sunflowers, all interrupted by chamber music by Debussy, Fauré, Chausson and Franck played—in various combinations—by Henry Wang (violin), Yuval Herz (violin), Chich-Fan Yiu (viola), Timotheos Petrin (cello), Max Barros (piano) and Renana Gutman (piano). [more]

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]
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