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Theater for the New City

A Healthy House

June 7, 2022

Diriwachter is particularly skilled in writing working class vernacular.  The Father and Tim speak the same language and he catches all the subtleties of decades of ups and downs.  He also is wonderful with the two salesmen, cleverly finding the rhythm of their spiels that build up to the final pitches.  His salespeople are written as clever but not unfeeling so that the audience never totally believes that the Father and son are being betrayed and cheated. [more]

The Oracle

May 20, 2022

This premiere five-performance Off-Off-Broadway showcase run of "The Oracle" is best viewed as a tryout, and the production’s presentational flaws are cited with that belief. Co-author Elliott also directed; while he’s assembled, well-positioned and guided the industrious cast to lively performances, his physical staging is variable. The play is structured as 34 brief scenes over two acts. Instead of rapid transitions, there’s a pause between each scene while recorded music plays as the actors get in place. This intrusive strategy slackens the pacing and adds to the running time. [more]

The Unamerican

March 2, 2022

So rages legendary Right Wing Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in playwright Claude Solnik’s well-observed historical fantasia about the 1950’s anti-Communist Blacklist, "The Unamerican." Besides a comically accurate Hopper, Mr. Solnick offers rich portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan. The romance of Miller and Monroe and the clash between those male friends and colleagues over their disagreements of how to deal with testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) are perceptively rendered by Solnick’s erudite research and keen writing. A highlight is the background of "The Crucible," with Monroe reciting a speech from it. When "The Unamerican" focuses on the interplay between its four main characters it soars. [more]

Di Froyen (The Women)

January 24, 2022

The New Yiddish Rep’s (David Mandelbaum, artistic director) production of the Yiddish language "Di Froyen (The Women)" is a bittersweet, anger-inducing portrait of modern day Chasid women caught between orthodox Jewish ideology and the rush of modern society’s laws and attitudes into their lives. Adapted by Malky Goldman and Melissa Weisz from Naomi Regan’s "Women’s Minyan," "Di Froyen," in one compact, tense hour, opens up a previously secret world to the public.  Here are six women, all wearing sheitels (wigs that orthodox Jewish women must wear because showing their own hair is proscribed by religious law) and all under immense pressure from within and without their enclave. [more]

I Just Want to Tell Somebody

January 11, 2022

He used the gimmick of preparing to perform the very show he was performing for his audience in the Cabaret Theater of the Theater for the New City; but by the end of his fascinating and grueling life story he was on fire with his tale of his life in the theater and film.  He grew up in the Sixties when the U.S. was in turmoil and it seemed that everyone was getting high. Smokey’s career began with a first prize in his Washington, D.C., high school talent show and some performances at the Arena Stage.  He quit school to try his luck in California but failed and returned to D.C. where he joined an all-Black repertory theater and appeared in his first commercial which he showed on a large screen.  Much later he appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s "The Cotton Club" as a featured musical performer.  His number in the film was shown proving he was an impressive dancer and singer partnered by Jackée Harry. [more]

A Christmas Carol, Oy! Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan

December 25, 2021

Not only is this a puppet show but it is also an extended concert. This year’s vocalists are Valois Mickens, of West African, Celtic, and Native American origin,  and Katarina Vizina, a transplant from Slovakia,  who sing pieces of about 20 carols and songs including “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Silent Night,” and “The Dreidel Song” in the original languages. Occasionally they participate in the action, as well as in the prologue that sets up the show. [more]

The Dark Outside

November 13, 2021

The Off-Off-Broadway world premiere of "The Dark Outside," nonagenarian English playwright Bernard Kops’ poetic, archetypal and fantastical family secrets drama is problematic. Directorial excess combined with intrusive conceptual design clash with authorial vision. The play was originally performed as a reading at London’s National Portrait Gallery on January 17, 2020. It’s likely that its potential was more realized and faithful to Mr. Kops’ text during that simple event. [more]

1-2-3 Manhunt

October 11, 2021

DiMurro writes with an acute sense of the rhythm of New York speech and its old-school jargon, helped by director William Roudebush’s complementary sense of timing, not to mention four expert actors who know how to embody these characters. Herrick Goldman’s atmospheric lighting and Andy Evan Cohen’s brilliant urban soundscape immeasurably added to the overall impact of "1-2-3 Manhunt." [more]

The Wayward Daughter of Judah the Prince

September 27, 2021

It is to the credit of the entire cast—dressed in Anthony Paul-Cavaretta’s period tunics and flowing robes—that Lackey’s sometimes over-the-top dialogue lands credibly. Two other elements elevate the play:  Michael Sirotta’s lovely, mood-enhancing score and Jon DeGaetano’s imaginative scenery which includes large, stage-spanning curtains that cleverly serve as entranceways, sails and even ancient columns.  Michael Redman’s moody projections enhance Sirotta’s contributions. [more]

Tomorrow We Love

March 11, 2020

There is plenty of over-the-top acting, physical antics and far-fetched story lines, all perfectly acceptable ingredients for a zany gender-bending farce. The only thing missing are the laughs. Even the high school-quality set design by Ryan Goff and delightful costumes by Jimmy Moon are on par for this campy send up of a 1950’s rom-com. Ultimately, Vause’s script reads funnier than it plays, so there is more amiss than the smoking gun in this screwball comedy. [more]

A 2019 Ten Best List

December 19, 2019

These superior revivals, bold new plays and a terrific solo show were the most fascinating and memorable productions I experienced this year. [more]

Hooked on Happiness

November 19, 2019

Although the show is 80 minutes without an intermission, it just breezes right by and one is never bored. The music, played by Peter Dizozza (on piano), Ralph Hamperian (on bass) and Art Lilliard (on drums), keeps the show moving at perfect tempo. From ballads to disco tune, from rap to group numbers, the music is spot on. Sound designer Alex Santullo delivers a pitch-perfect musical. [more]

A Life in the Rye

November 9, 2019

A seated actor dressed all in black wearing a beret beats a conga drum on a confined playing area.  Other actors in period costumes sit at small cabaret tables and chairs as thick wafts of smoke envelop the stage. On the back wall is a white screen and from behind it is the shadow of a woman dancing. Such is the arresting 1950’s classic beat coffee house imagery director Joe John Battista conjures up for playwright Claude Solnik’s fascinating fantasia derived from the life of J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), "A Life in the Rye." [more]

Ludwig and Bertie

October 3, 2019

"Ludwig and Bertie," written by Douglas Lackey, gives us insight into the relationship of two of our greatest twentieth century philosophers, the younger Jewish Ludwig Wittgenstein and the 20-year-older atheist Bertrand Russell. Bertie, played smartly by Stan Buturla, is the wise old professor at Cambridge when he meets the almost half his age young student Ludwig, poignant, headstrong and hungry for more knowledge, insight and truth, played passionately by Connor Bond. [more]

Dining with Ploetz

September 13, 2019

"Dining with Ploetz" at Theater for the New City consists of three short plays by writer, director and teacher Richard Ploetz. The program adds up to slightly under two hours’ running time (with one intermission). The plays are all billed as comedies, and—as the title implies—they all, to one degree or another, involve “dining.”  They are, however, quite diverse in terms of style and tone. The first and last of them (both of which the playwright directed) hold the audience’s attention fairly well. The middle piece, directed by Steven Hauck (who acts in the other two), is riveting. [more]

Barabbas

July 3, 2019

While Will T.F. Carter’s "Barabbas" is very outspoken on the topic of political corruption in Peru, the play is dramatically weak as so much of it is exposition. In each scene we learn a little bit more about the men’s lives, but little that is new happens in the play’s 90 minutes. The tepid direction by Eduardo Machado gives us too much time to consider the play’s deficiencies and makes the play seem longer than it is. Carter’s anger at what is going on in Peru is commendable, but Barabbas does not utilize that indignation except on an intellectual basis. [more]

Shareholder Value

March 31, 2019

Attea’s point concerns business models that are overly focused on the needs of shareholders, rather than on those of management and employees. But the play is curiously bloodless. Strong plays about the ferocity of capitalism—from Arthur Miller’s "Death of a Salesman" to David Mamet’s "Glengarry Glen Ross"—take interest in the human equation. They focus on the personal anguish that the system can induce. Attea doesn’t delve that deeply here. [more]

Thelonious!

February 18, 2019

Welch and the play’s director, Jonathan Weber, seem to be going for a sort of Ionesco-esque ambience here. The story unfolds in a broadly played, cartoonish way. Occasionally, a satirical jab at ivory-tower academics will land, thanks to Welch’s depiction of the shallow and creepy professor, who—as played by the bearded Slone—looks like he just stepped out of a daguerrotype. But, generally speaking, this comedy is rambling, unwieldy and not especially funny. (Few audience laughs were audible during the performance under review.) In the last stretches of the play, a meta element is introduced, with the characters talking about having entered “the epilogue” stage of the story. Once we’ve stumbled into this self-referential territory, it becomes even harder to engage in any real way with the play. [more]

Betty and The Belrays

February 11, 2019

The creator of "Betty & The Belrays," now at the Theater for the New City, pretty much dares you to compare his well-meaning, but cartoony, new musical to Hairspray, a comparison in which the new musical fare poorly. Written—book and lyrics—and directed by William Electric Black, with music by Black, Valerie Ghent and Gary Schreiner, "Betty," like "Hairspray," tells the story of a white high school-aged girl, the eponymous Betty (Paulina Breeze), living in a racially divided city, here 1963 Detroit, where Motown and its distinctive style are being forged. [more]

Lured

November 13, 2018

Frank J. Avella’s "Lured" at the Theater for the New City practices a bit of theatrical legerdemain.  Ostensibly about the perils of being gay in today’s Russia, Avella takes an unexpected turn into revenge melodrama that almost defeats his main political/social theme.  Considering that Lured is based on real events, at the very least he dulls the important political and social points he is making by having the victims and perpetrators behave equally abhorrently. [more]

Subway Story (A Shooting)

March 9, 2018

"Subway Story (A Shooting" is the fifth and final installment of William Electric Black’s Gunplay Series, a sequence of plays “dedicated to all who have lost their lives to the senseless gun violence plague.” In this concluding chapter, ongoing gun violence, particularly its link to urban youths, is the prevailing theme. Black is a seven-time Emmy award-winning writer. His work often broaches societal-conscious issues. [more]

America’s Favorite Newscaster

January 15, 2018

Another irony is that while Fury is kind of a bore, another character is not. Yeah, you guessed it. Him. When the president (David O. Friedman) appears in Fury’s bedroom like the Ghost of Christmas Present, Attea’s writing finally comes to life. His take on you-know-who isn’t unique, but the situation is wonderfully silly, and Friedman’s impression is a funny profile in petulance. [more]

BrouHaHa

January 8, 2018

Washington, D.C.’s acclaimed Happenstance Theater is making is New York debut with its 2015 show "BrouHaHa," which has been seen previously in Baltimore, Maine and New Haven. Taking for its theme what would you do if the world were about to end, this “clownesque escapade collaboratively devised and performed by the ensemble” follows the company of six through a series of skits and journeys almost all of which lead to death but from which the actors bounce back. While the company members are extremely talented, the material lacks impact and structure and cries out for both a playwright and a director. Although intended to be comic, there are no laughs in this show though it may provoke smiles. [more]

Prague, 1912 (The Savoy Café Yiddish Theatre)

November 13, 2017

There is a fascinating story to be told in Franz Kafka’s involvement with the Yiddish theater in Prague during 1912 but Lu Hauser’s play isn’t it. "Prague, 1912 (The Savoy Café Yiddish Theatre)" is both episodic and repetitious without being clear as to the point that it is making. It simply seems to be a collection of scenes on the same themes that endlessly repeats itself. As Paula Vogel’s "Indecent" has demonstrated, there is a renewed interest in the Yiddish theater but "Prague, 1912" has not brought to life this world that is now gone with the wind. [more]

Up the Rabbit Hole

September 27, 2017

Besides harboring a dwindling dream to become a dancer, thanks to a leg injury, Halliday’s dramatic stand-in, Jack (Tyler Jones), an adoptee, also has to contend with the overwhelming repercussions of having tracked down his biological family, which includes an adult half-brother (Andrew Glaszek) with his own substance-abuse demons. That’s a lot for 90 minutes, and Halliday, despite a valiant effort, can’t keep his play from sinking under the weight of it all. [more]

Diva: Live From Hell

April 4, 2017

"Diva: Live From Hell," an energetic, campy variation on the “All About Eve” theme, is performed with manic glee by Sean Patrick Monahan who also wrote the book and created all the colorful characters. His partner in crime is Alexander Sage Oyen who provided the music and lyrics. Sex (requited and unrequited), ugly violence and dark humor are all thrown into the story which is told by Desmond Channing (Monahan, who also plays virtually a high school’s worth of characters). [more]

About Clarence and Me

September 4, 2016

To call "About Clarence and Me" simply a play is misleading, as the project features an entirely original score by co-writer Scott Hiltzik. A classical musician, Hiltzik’s music is technically striking but carries a modern flare. In additional to their finely tuned performances, both DeMone and Roll impress as musicians as well. Roll proves himself to be quite the accomplished classical pianist, demonstrating mastery of the keys by way of precision and constraint. DeMone, ever his opposite, produces from the piano a sound descendent of a ragtime piano roll, at times accompanied by the veteran singer’s sonorous growl. Directed by Hiltzik’s co-writer Jones, the duo’s intimacy with the material is plain to see in the final product. Full of nuanced moments both thematically and in performance, the writing team’s hands-on approach is responsible for this well-rounded and solid production. [more]

Cabaret journalist/actor Andrew Martin found dead in his home on June 7, 2016

June 9, 2016

A chatty, openly gay bon vivant over the years, Andrew Martin had his feet in many waters; all of them related to show business. He was proud of his long-winded stories and exceptional knowledge of trivia about the famous and infamous. He had many followers on Facebook where he shared sometimes painful stories of his family and personal angst. He wrote openly about being troubled by strained relations within a divided family at times. [more]

Midnight Kill

May 16, 2016

As the actors interact with each other and work to share this story, the spirit and tenacity in which they do so is something remarkable. Their presence and focus in bringing a significant time in history to life leaves the audience with chills. While it is so important to pay attention to the subtitles in this production, as it signifies when time and seasons pass, it is hard to tear your eyes away from the living story taking place on stage. With a set design also by K.K. Wong that uses simple props to illustrate the basic lifestyle of the residents, audience members get a feel for the day-to-day life in this community. At times, it is challenging to keep up with processing the subtitles and watching the action on stage, and intense concentration is essential in understanding the continued series of events. [more]

Allen Wilder 2.0

January 21, 2016

Joe Casey is a charming actor. He exudes a “playboy” vibe which goes hand-in-hand with the character of Michael whose vices range from women to booze and back again. Casey shows an understanding of a man who is largely misunderstood and actually well-intentioned. Steph Van Vlack plays the role of Donna. Nearing 50 and a divorcée with a child, Donna is conflicted in light of the fact that she—a woman of her age—is engaging in an apparent “one night stand.” Among other things, this is also a character deeply disturbed that she’s actually considering sleeping with the child she used to babysit for all those years ago. Van Vlack brings a necessary uncertainty to the character. Playing a woman of certain age, Van Vlack’s performance indicates that Donna still has deep insecurities and still has quite a bit to learn about relationships. [more]

BIKE SHOP, The Musical

September 22, 2015

Barkan doesn’t hold back as she expresses herself through song and dance to share her personal journey. The opening number “Streetwise” is a burst of exhilaration and adventure and pumps the audience up for what’s to come. In addition to the hilarious and entertaining moments, the climax is a literal bump in the road that causes her story to turn somber and results in Barkan hanging up her helmet and retreating to her family’s bike shop as she works on healing emotionally after a tragic accident. The audience is left with one question on their minds: Will she ride again? [more]
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