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The Public Theater

The Public engages one of the largest and most diverse audiences in New York City in a variety of venues—including the Delacorte Theater; its landmark downtown home, which houses five theaters and Joe’s Pub; and the Mobile Shakespeare Unit, which tours Shakespearean productions for underserved audiences throughout New York City’s five boroughs.
http://www.publictheater.org/

Eve’s Song

November 19, 2018

Both a theatrical surprise and a very accomplished dramatic work, Patricia Ione Lloyd’s "Eve’s Song" is one of the best theatrical experiences to be had in New York at this time. With a cast led by De’Adre Aziza who is well known to Public Theater audiences, director Jo Bonney, totally attuned to the author’s unique style, delivers an exquisite and provocative evening in the theater. It is always a pleasure to herald the arrival of a new and talented writer, particularly one as masterly and sophisticated as newcomer Lloyd. [more]

Mother of the Maid

November 1, 2018

Jane Anderson’s "Mother of the Maid" would probably not be very compelling without Glenn Close’s Isabelle Arc as the play itself is following the dots in filling in the little that is known with mostly common historic and unsurprising details. (One exception is after Isabelle has seen the unicorn tapestries at the palace, she naively asks if there were any of the animals to be seen.) However, with Close who gives a constrained and moving performance the play becomes something else: a persuasive portrait of a mother and wife who has an awakening to the ways of the world based on what happens to her daughter. [more]

Girl From the North Country

October 12, 2018

Set in a dark time, "Girl From the North Country" creates a community on stage as do the best plays and musicals. Its tale of lost souls attempting to keep their heads above water is universal in both its message and its approach. Conor McPherson has never written so accessible a play before for Americans, and Bob Dylan’s songs have never sounded so poignant. "Girl From the North Country" is both unforgettable and not to be missed. [more]

The Gospel at Colonus

September 8, 2018

The complexities of this Greek tragedy are shoe-horned into a Gospel service with songs ranging from the thoughtful (“The Invocation”) to the formal (“Creon Comes to Colonus”) to the awe-inspiring (“The Descent of Oedipus”) and finally to the heartbreaking (“The Sermon” and “Closing Hymn”), all variations on the well-known Gospel/Blues/Christian Hymn musical repertory. [more]

Fire in Dreamland

July 27, 2018

Built in 1904, Dreamland was considered the most elegant and ambitious of Coney Island’s amusement parks--until it burnt to a crisp in 1911. A new play by Rinne Groff, "Fire in Dreamland" is ostensibly about the disaster, in which no humans but most of the animals perished. But to add that it’s set a little more than a century later--in 2013, or some months after Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast--should begin to suggest that there’s more going on here than, unfortunately, ever meets the eye. [more]

Teenage Dick

July 8, 2018

Add to this list Mike Lew’s new witty and clever "Teenage Dick" (being given its world premiere by Ma-Yi Theater Company in association with the Public Theater), both an update and a parody of Richard III now set in Roseland High School. However, while most of these other adaptations just want to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan stories, "Teenage Dick" has an additional agenda: does society’s bullying lead to defining the personalities of those with disabilities? [more]

Cyprus Avenue

July 6, 2018

Sixtyish Eric Miller is an angry white man, hating Catholics, Blacks, homosexuals, women, and other groups. He has also become very nationalistic. He not only wants to tell the world, he thinks he should act on it. Middle America in the age of Trump? Actually, the same problem appears to be happening in Northern Ireland according to David Ireland’s dark play, "Cyprus Avenue," having its American premiere at the Public Theater courtesy of a co-production by The Abbey Theatre (Dublin) and Royal Court Theatre (London). Problem is for all the sound and fury, Cyprus Avenue, which is a brilliant character study, outlives its welcome long before it is over in this 100 minute play. [more]

Othello (Shakespeare in the Park)

June 20, 2018

In the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi’s "Otello," Otello was white which left no reason for his jealousy if he was identical to all the Venetians around him. In the current Shakespeare in the Park production, using color blind casting, Santiago-Hudson chooses to make at least five of the leading characters people of color so that Othello is no longer an outsider, nor are they. The meaning of the theme is diluted in such a reading. It may be politically correct, but in this play about race there is no getting away from its original meaning. Even The Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis’ program notes remark that Othello is only one of two explicitly black characters in all of Shakespeare, the other appearing in "Titus Andronicus." Other than this casting choice, the production offers no new interpretation of the play or characters, making it more like a staged reading than a full production. [more]

Mlima’s Tale

April 26, 2018

Structured like Arthur Schnitzler’s wicked "La Ronde," "Mlima" begins with a harrowing hunting scene.  Mlima, the giant elephant, is portrayed with dignity and astonishing physical vitality by Sahr Ngaujah ("Fela!," "Master Harold…and the boys"), in traditional African garb (character-perfect costumes by Jennifer Moeller) and colorful stripes of makeup. His opening moments involve an internal dialogue describing his dire situation chased by hunters.  He speaks of his tight family connections and his regrets just before he is slaughtered. [more]

The Low Road

March 20, 2018

Bruce Norris’ plays are so different from each other that you have to take his fingerprints to recognize his hand. His recent New York plays have dealt with racism and gentrification ("Clybourne Park"), politics ("Domesticated"), sexual mores ("The Qualms"), theories of time and space (A Parallelogram), and now in his latest production to reach NYC, "The Low Road" at The Public Theater, he offers a fascinating take on capitalism and the free market told as a picaresque and ribald 18th century tale of colonial America on the brink of statehood. Of course, its real target is today’s untenable global economic situation but his criticism is couched as an historical parable. [more]

Kings

March 8, 2018

Despite some terrific acting, it’s hard to root for any of the four characters in Kings, even if the play is one long competition between all of them. This smart new work by Sarah Burgess ("Dry Powder") fails to introduce little that’s new about the present state of politicians and lobbyists--and their overly intimate relationships. But it’s also been put together with an admirable efficiency that spells it out clearly for those members of the audience who haven’t been paying enough attention to the daily headlines and all they entail. [more]

Latin History for Morons

November 21, 2017

After his teenaged son is called a “beaner” by one of his classmates at a WASPy private school, Leguizamo is inspired to educate the rest of the United States about the overlooked achievements of Latin culture. This is done as a wild, stand-up comedy routine where the audience is directly engaged and occasionally heckled, and with a superior theatrical presentation. [more]

Office Hour

November 20, 2017

Not only is Julia Cho’s "Office Hour" rivetingly acted by Sue Jean Kim and Ki Hong Lee, it is one of the few plays in recent memory to tackle a major social problem and offer an explanation or answer to society’s needs. Under Neel Keller’s astute direction and the production team’s superb physical production, "Office Hour" is both an important play and a compelling event in the theater. You may not agree with Cho’s conclusions but you will not be bored for a moment. [more]

Illyria

November 17, 2017

The conversations revolve around the topics of the New York Shakespeare Festival’s poor finances in 1958, Vaughan’s defection to the Phoenix Theatre which was paying a living wage while the NYSF was not, the choice of Mary Bennett (Vaughan’s choice) or Peggy Papp (Papp’s choice) to play Olivia, George C. Scott’s defection to the movies in his unnamed first film, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee appearances by both Papp and Gersten which has put their jobs in jeopardy, and whether Free Shakespeare in the Park can survive without charging admission. However, none of these conversations are allowed to erupt into real conflict. We are placed in the center of the action as though we are in the room where it happened, but the dialogue remains on the level of chit-chat rather than life or death threatening decisions. The problems never seem to be resolved and the play moves on to its next topic. [more]

Tiny Beautiful Things

October 31, 2017

Cleverly staged by Kail ("In the Heights," "Hamilton," "Dry Powder") on Rachel Hauck’s magnificently realistic set for the ground floor of a suburban house subtly lit by Jennifer Moeller, "Tiny Beautiful Things" is entertaining, poignant and enlightening. You may hear audible sobs at times during the evening as Sugar’s personal stories touch a nerve or a chord in her viewers. Vardalos tells us how she took over the “Dear Sugar” column though she had never written one before nor did she have any training in therapy. Her remarkable success was due to her using her personal experiences as well as her “radical sincerity and open arms.” Her empathy is infinite. [more]

Measure for Measure (Elevator Repair Service)

October 21, 2017

Director John Collins, founder of ERS, has set the play in an office or conference room with three long tables (in Jim Findlay’s design which eventually grows tiresome)  and a great many stick telephones by which the characters often call each other to relay Shakespeare’s lines as if they are working from their offices. The walls of the set become screens for the text to scroll upwards through most of the play; at time we even see it five ways including the ceiling and with four panels in the back as well as on the back wall. Whether this is to remind us that this is a play of language, it is usually distracting and not very revealing. Often the actors speak so fast that it impossible to follow them and then in a brilliant coup de theatre one scene (that between brother and sister Claudio and Isabella) is spoken so slowly that it seems to reveal hidden meanings not noticeable before. [more]

Gently Down the Stream

April 17, 2017

In between the scenes between the two men in Beau’s living room, Rufus records Beau’s reminiscences of his life and times. In this way, Sherman gives us a review of what things were like for gay men from 1940 up to the present, from the stories Beau had been told about the war years to his own personal and painful experiences from 1960 on. Beau’s memories include gay life in New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Paris and London and cover police brutality and the rise of AIDS. Besides being flattered to be asked to tell his story, Beau also want to pass on his experiences to the next generation who have had its easier. While the play becomes schematic alternating scenes between the two, Fierstein is so convincing in these authentic but surprising tales of the past that it never becomes simply a device. [more]

Sweat

April 3, 2017

"Sweat" is a classic, “well-made”--or carefully constructed--play, with a focus on the dwindling work for people in the middle of the country, prompting them to install Trump in the White House--to the ongoing dismay of the rest of the world. It couldn’t be more topical even as it helps us understand just exactly what’s been happening to bring us all to this sorry state. It was also based on Nottage’s extensive interviews with many actual residents of Reading, fueling the drama’s impact. [more]

Joan of Arc: Into the Fire

April 1, 2017

Don’t blame singer Jo Lampert who gives a passionate performance as the Maid of Orleans. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been given anything very interesting to sing in this mostly sung-through musical. Her lyrics are trite and repetitious. She may have been a teenager, but there is no reason to have written lyrics that continue to sound like they were written by a junior high school student attempting his or her first songs. The endlessly repeated refrains do not serve to make Joan seem more simple and holy but sound like a lack of imagination. The minimal spoken dialogue is used for the various narrators and the trial testimony taken from the actual transcript of the event. [more]

Party People

December 3, 2016

The framework is a fictional fiftieth anniversary party given in a New York art gallery by collaborating media/visual/performing artists Malik “Mk Ultra” (Christopher Livingston) and Jimmy “Primo” (William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja) to commemorate the creation of both the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords. Their interest is familial: Jimmy is the nephew of Tito (Jesse J. Perez), a former Young Lords Party member still involved with union organizing, and Primo is a “Panther Cub” as he is the son of a Panther member now in prison. They want to pay homage as well as reveal unspoken truths. Malik and Primo have created a video of the many former party members that they have interviewed that they plan on debuting at the event. The party with people who have not spoken for years will be a charged reunion. The troubled legacy of the two organizations is thoroughly explored in the course of "Party People." [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]

Sweat

November 12, 2016

"Sweat," which won the 2016 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, is reputed inspired by interviews conducted by playwright Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey in Reading, Pennsylvania, named the poorest city in America in 2011. By 2007, Reading had seen its factories and mills closing as NAFTA and globalization made it cheaper to produce goods in Mexico or China, without offering its residents anything but unemployment insurance. The play could probably have taken place in one of a dozen places in the Rust Belt. "Sweat"’s main characters are all eventually affected by this downward trend in a community that has few opportunities. [more]

Plenty

October 29, 2016

In his Broadway productions, David Leveaux has often used a strong directorial concept such as his Chekhovian 'Fiddler on the Roof" and his interracial "Romeo and Juliet" which did not work for all theatergoers. Here he seems to have decided that Susan finds life in Britain gray on her return and all of the sets by Mike Britton other than the final one (ironically suggesting the hope of the post-war generation) are made up of gray walls. As a result, none of them have any atmosphere aside from all resembling each other. It is left to the costumes by Jess Goldstein to give clues to the year of each scene which they sometimes do, and sometimes not. [more]

Hamlet (Mobile Unit 2016)

September 24, 2016

The single disadvantage of director Patricia McGregor’s approach is that in cutting so much text, the events of the play seem to occur one on top of each other, making the play a bit melodramatic, and a good deal of character development is sacrificed by the way. However, with dangerous-looking fight direction by Lisa Kopitsky and intriguing movement by Paloma McGregor, this is a "Hamlet" that lives up to its mission to be accessible and entertaining to all, those who know the play well and those seeing it for the first time. [more]

Twelfth Night (Public Works)

September 5, 2016

Taub’s eclectic score to original lyrics includes jazz, rhythm and blues, pop, Broadway and ragtime. Among Kwei-Armah’s ingenious touches were his use of a series of community cameo groups play back up for individual songs: the Jazz Procession for Countess Olivia’s father was played by the spirited Jambalaya Brass Band. Viola’s inner monologue was interpreted expressively in pantomime by New York Deaf Theatre. Malvolio’s solo Can-Can was performed by the nine energetic and enthusiastic dancers of The Love Show. The duel provoked by Sir Toby was backed up by the thrilling drummers of COBU while his duel masters were portrayed by the electrifying Ziranmen Kungfu Wushu Training Center. Throughout the evening, the Illyriettes made up of six ladies dressed identically in purple sequined sheaths played back up group for various singers and musical numbers. [more]

Troilus and Cressida

August 12, 2016

While "Troilus and Cressida" is rarely staged, Daniel Sullivan’s production full of bombs and smoke suggests that in our time of endless wars it speaks to us again, and the play’s cynicism also seems to capture the current zeitgeist. It also features memorable performances from John Glover, John Douglas Thompson, Max Casella, Sanjit de Silva, and Alex Breaux, among others. [more]

Quietly

July 29, 2016

“The characters in this play both the living and the dead are completely fictional.” This statement explains the play’s overall contrived quality. Both of the lead characters have such striking similarities that at times they come across as mouthpieces academically articulating “The Troubles,” the 30-year war in Northern Ireland between The British and Catholic natives that ended in 1998. [more]

Another Son of Venezuela

April 22, 2016

Dynamic performer Migguel Anggelo exhilaratingly recalls the showmanship of Desi Arnaz and the performance art of Klaus Nomi in his terrific autobiographical cabaret act, "Another Son of Venezuela," that has the razzle dazzle of a Bob Fosse production. [more]

The Odyssey

September 11, 2015

Aside from the wonderfully eclectic score by Almond (jazz, pop, Latin, blues, Broadway, gospel, folk music, etc.) who also acted as narrator and singer, the production offered exciting performances by Brandon Victor Dixon as Odysseus, Karen Olivo as Penelope, Andy Grotelueschen as the Cyclops, Elizabeth Ely as Princess Nausicaa, and Travis Raeburn as the Prince of Phaecia. At times deBessonet was required to work as a traffic cop to get the large number of performers on and off stage, but her work with her leads both professional and newcomers alike was first rate. [more]

Hamilton

August 21, 2015

The Broadway transfer of the acclaimed Off Broadway musical "Hamilton" has finally taken place and the show looks and sounds even more comfortable on the larger stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Alexander Hamilton may have been the unsung hero among the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution but this new musical has changed all that. "Hamilton," now safely ensconced on Broadway, blows the dust off history and turns his story into the most exciting stage show in town. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, triple-threat creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, librettist and star of the show playing the title role, has had the terrific idea to write Hamilton as a through-composed hip-hop, r & b, rap musical which gives the 200-year-old story a tremendous shot of adrenalin. This may well be the first hip-hop musical to reach Broadway but also pays homage to the styles that preceded it. [more]

Cymbeline

August 13, 2015

At The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park venue, director Daniel Sullivan has proved himself a brilliant interpreter of the Bard’s comedies, both dark and light, from the evidence of his "Merchant of Venice," "The Comedy of Errors" and "Twelfth Night," to name only a few. Therefore it is a great disappointment to report that his "Cymbeline," the second and last 2015 Shakespeare in the Park offering, based on his 1999 Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, staging, is both confused and uneven, both visually and theatrically. Even more discouraging, the production wastes the talents of noted stage stars Kate Burton, Raúl Esparza, Patrick Page, and Lily Rabe and Hamish Linklater, the acting couple being reteamed on the New York stage for the fifth time. [more]

Awake and Sing! 

July 16, 2015

"Awake and Sing!" seems at first an odd choice for NAATCO, the acting company dedicated to the advancement of Asian actors, but after an initial wary uneasiness, the cast, under the direction of Stephen Brown-Fried, soon takes command of Odets’ dated language, a mixture of poetic metaphor and heightened colloquialisms which was difficult to speak even in the 1930’s. [more]

Hamilton

March 6, 2015

Alexander Hamilton may have been the unsung hero among the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution but a new musical will change all that. "Hamilton," now at the Public Theater, blows the dust off history and turns his story into the most exciting stage show in town. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s biography, triple-threat creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, the composer, librettist and star of the show playing the title role, has had the terrific idea to write Hamilton as a through-composed hip-hop, r & b, rap musical which gives the 200-year-old story a tremendous shot of adrenalin. [more]
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