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Theatre Row

Theatre Row is the name for a section of 42nd Street in New York City which is the location for a number of small theatres; it is also the name of a large theatre complex built in 2000 to house six theatres.

What We Wanted

January 7, 2017

While Harms has a fine ear for dialogue, the play moves by revelation and incident. Consequently, it plays like a sophisticated soap opera as every scene brings a new wrinkle not previously suggested. Drew Foster’s direction is smooth and polished but he can’t prevent the play’s plot from having too many incidents that aren’t foreshadowed. Steven Hauck, Elizabeth Rich and Amy Bodnar are charming in a worldly, cultivated way. However, we learn so little about each of them other than how events affect them that they seem one-dimensional. Important facts are left out: what is the rooming situation, are Julian and Agnes married, etc.? The sexual tension is clearly defined: dancing seems to be foreplay to sex. But one can’t live on love alone. [more]

Poison

November 17, 2016

“He” and “She” are a 40ish upper middle class couple who divorced ten years earlier following the traumatic death of their young son who was hit by a car. Due to toxic waste from a nearby gas factory, 200 graves, including their son’s will have to be dug up and the remains reinterred elsewhere. This unpleasant circumstance instigates this reunion after a long estrangement at a cemetery in Holland. [more]

Hoi Polloi

November 4, 2016

"Hoi Polloi" was Coward’s tribute to the London working class that was trying to get back on its feet after the devastation of World War II. Partly out of his element and partly as Coward never saw the show in production, both the book and the score seem like part of a first draft which needs to be fleshed out. Mindy Cooper’s tame production with a hard-working cast of ten seems at best second-rate Coward rather than any unjustly lost rediscovery. The Master may have realized that he had not solved his story’s problems. [more]

Tick, Tick… BOOM!

October 27, 2016

Out of this frustration, Larson in 1991 began performing a rock monologue about his life and stalled career called 30/90, as it was set in 1990 as he turned thirty. Later it was retitled "Boho Days" and then "tick, tick... BOOM!," as a chief device is the ticking of a clock. The show was performed for short engagements at several New York City venues and ignited Larson’s career, leading to the creation and presentation of Rent Off-Broadway in 1996. [more]

She Stoops to Conquer

October 17, 2016

The scenic design by Brett Banakis is a functional, minimalist configuration of a slightly raised wooden performance platform surrounded by a wooden frame dotted with small antlers suggesting the pub. There’s an assemblage of vintage furniture, potted plants, screens and vines that are shifted about to designate the various locations. This all contributes to a deficit of visual grandeur that the production is understandably striving for on a limited budget but doesn’t achieve. These design flaws could be superseded by an abundance of bravura performances, but there aren’t. [more]

The Trial of an American President

October 10, 2016

Trial is stacked against Bush from the get-go. The torrent of facts alone convicts him. The director, Stephen Eich, the author and probably the actor, Mr. Carlin, seem to have decided to make Bush weak-voiced, full of twitches, nervous eye movements and religious fervor. Had Bush been portrayed as a stronger man who truly believed in what he did, the play might have had a dramatic spine. The very fact that after being convicted by a jury of audience members Bush’s last word is a tearful outcry (“Laura”) serves to induce not empathy, but pity. [more]

A Day by the Sea

August 30, 2016

Now that we have been through all the angry play movements, literate writers like N.C. Hunter and Terence Rattigan are once again ripe for revival. While in his own time, Hunter was criticized for being too much like Chekhov that now seems a plus in the days of sloppy craftsmanship and plays that are really movie scenarios staged in the theater. "A Picture of Autumn" was obviously a post-war British variation on Chekhov’s "The Cherry Orchard," while Waters of the Moon resembles "The Sea Gull." "A Day by the Sea" owes a great deal to Chekhov’s "Uncle Vanya" and includes the same basic cast of characters. [more]

Implications of Cohabitation

August 16, 2016

Directed by Leni Mendez, "Implications of Cohabitation" is a smooth running machine, albeit some undeveloped moments in the script. The staging is fluid and the story is clear, but some exchanges between characters are borderline inauthentic. The set design by Anna Grigo is effective, but slightly repetitive. The main set piece is an empty apartment, and the decorum of the apartment is changed to reflect the change in location. Unfortunately, these changes are minimal and don’t do much to enhance or differentiate one scene from the next. [more]

Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep

July 10, 2016

"Phoenix Rising: Girls and the Secrets We Keep" takes place in two worlds: the New York CBGB punk scene of 1985, and a dark, Greek mythological other world of indeterminate time and place. In 1985, a high school social worker by the name of Grace mentors an after-school, trauma therapy session. In the other world, the Archetypal Mother/Storyteller presides over her “damaged souls” and reads from an ancient tome, the “Phoenix Book.” [more]

Here I Sit, Brokenhearted

July 7, 2016

Bathroom humor is an art of its own kind, but Seth Panitch’s musical parody "Here I Sit, Brokenhearted: A Bathroom Odyssey" takes this particular blend of humor and exploits it entirely. The moment the stage lights rise to full, marking the beginning of the production, a monstrous flush of a toilet rings through the audience, and that’s about as sophisticated a moment as any to be expected from the rest of the evening. [more]

The Healing

June 28, 2016

Samuel D. Hunter’s latest play, "The Healing," is a commission by Theater Breaking Through Barriers, dedicated to advancing the work of performers with disabilities. Not surprisingly, the play gives roles to six disabled actors out of the seven characters in the play, and they acquit themselves well. This story of a reunion of childhood friends in their thirties who have gathered for the funeral of one of their members is made very real by the acting of the cast. The problem with the play is that it appears so tentative and low-key that the explosion we keep waiting for never happens. Under the direction of Stella Powell-Jones, the healing of the title is so subtle that the play could be said to be anti-theatrical. [more]

All Over the Map

May 1, 2016

The cheery Mr. Bowers also explains that in the mime tradition only mimes in whiteface are silent. He simply but breathtakingly mimes a multitude of actions, objects and situations that precisely conjure up the intended imagery. Written by Bowers, the show is comprised of a series of stories of varying length that perfectly transition from one to the other. [more]

When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout

April 21, 2016

You might wonder why Morag, Fiona’s mother, in Sharman Macdonald’s groundbreaking Scottish play, "When I Was a Girl I Used to Scream and Shout," is so repressive about sex. What the program doesn’t tell you about this play having its Off Broadway premiere at the Clurman Theatre is that it was first produced in 1984 in London and that the daughter’s childhood goes back to the fifties when female sexuality was frowned upon. Then it becomes obvious that this play is now a period piece dealing with a time when feelings about female sexuality were changing but the older generation was still stuck on the other side of the divide with the teachings of their childhood. While the play seems to be two generations behind the times, what the play continues to be is a blistering portrait of a toxic mother-daughter relationship. [more]

Wonderful Town

April 8, 2016

"Wonderful Town" is one of those musical comedies which seem to get better as they age due in this case to the classic quality of the Bernstein/ Comden & Green score and the witty book by Fields and Chodorov. Director Evan Pappas has given the Musicals Tonight! revival a bright, breezy, high-spirited production that is certain to put a smile on your face, while for a change you can go out humming the songs. Much more should be seen of Elizabeth Broadhurst who sparkles as would-be writer Ruth Sherwood. [more]

Straight

March 31, 2016

The authors of "Straight" would have you believe that in 2016 26-year-old straight- acting investment banker Ben, living in Boston where same sex marriages have been legal for the last eight years, would still be in the closet. Seeing girlfriend Emily for the last five years since senior year at college, Ben finds sex with men more satisfying than with women, but he does not see himself as gay. He has just begun a sexual relationship with almost 21-year-old Boston College student Chris and he doesn’t want Emily to find out. However, Emily’s roommate is moving out and she wants him to move in. After all, it is five years and what is he waiting for? [more]

Boy

March 15, 2016

In his widely produced 1977 play," The Elephant Man," Bernard Pomerance employed the theatrical device of having the grotesque John Merrick portrayed by an actor (invariably a handsome one) without makeup. "Boy" is similar in that the magnetic Bobby Steggert plays Samantha and later Adam without any external differentiation. Acclaimed for his New York City appearances in such musicals as "Yank" and the 2009 Broadway revival of "Ragtime," as well as the Terence McNally play "Mothers and Sons," Mr. Steggert here delivers a powerful performance. Low-key yet animated, he commandingly conveys all of the anguish and endurance of the character with heartbreaking effect. His characterization is particularly outstanding considering he alternates between being a child, an adolescent and an adult throughout the play. Each permutation is depicted with absolute focus. [more]

Widowers’ Houses

March 14, 2016

Director David Staller has ingeniously staged this small-scale production with numerous theatrical flourishes. Scene transitions are accomplished with actors in character moving furniture, there are hilarious slapstick bits, voice-over recordings are heard representing a character’s thoughts and the very precise stage choreography all enrich the presentation while faithfully representing the author’s intentions. Mr. Staller has also assembled a first-rate cast of talented actors who are all expert at crisply delivering Shaw’s wordiness while sustaining vivid characterizations. There is also clever double casting. [more]

Broadway & the Bard

February 9, 2016

At the top of the show Cariou tells us that he made his Broadway debut in the Stratford Connecticut Shakespeare Festival’s transfer of "Henry V" in 1969 and six months later in the spring of 1970 appeared at the Palace Theatre in the new musical" Applause." Ever since then, he has had the idea to combine Shakespeare and song with “tunes that either support the text or are the antithesis.” The evening proceeds to pair Shakespeare and song thematically, like the opening sequence which offers Orsino’s “If music be the food of love, play on” from "Twelfth Night," followed by Sondheim’s “Love, I Hear” from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and Rodgers and Hart’s “Falling in Love with Love,” from "The Boys from Syracuse," based on Shakespeare’s "The Comedy of Errors." [more]

Our Friends the Enemy

December 14, 2015

Besides playing Boyce, Gwyther depicts other British soldiers as well as Germans. It is an exhilarating display of rapid vocal and physical transformations subtly giving each brief characterization a fleeting depth. With his angular features, intense eyes, expressive voice, and limber physicality, his performance is a superb display of riveting solo theater acting. [more]

Gigantic

December 8, 2015

"Gigantic," the new feel-good musical, is a dynamic up-to-date show about teenagers at a summer weight-loss camp. Previously seen as Fat Camp in the 2009 New York Musical Theatre Festival, Gigantic’s book by Randy Blair & Tim Drucker may be conventional, but its pulsating pop-rock score by Matthew roi Berger to lyrics by Blair is vigorous and high-powered and the energetic, first-rate cast under the fast-paced direction of Scott Schwartz makes the material seem better than it is. This is one of the few teen musicals in which the characters actually sound like modern youth rather than what adults think they sound like. [more]

Rose, The Kennedy Story as Told by the Woman Who Lived It All

December 4, 2015

The legendary stage actress Kathleen Chalfant is appearing in her second one-woman show, a follow-up to her “Mrs. Dalloway” in The Party, from the Virginia Woolf stories in 1993. This time she plays Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 79-year-old matriarch of the most famous political family in 20th century America. It is July 1969 and we meet her in the tasteful living room of her Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, home (designed by Anya Klepikov) one week after her youngest son Teddy’s tragic accident at Chappaquiddick. The premise of "Rose, The Kennedy Story as Told by the Woman Who Lived It All" is that we are members of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Knight of the Redeemer visiting from Dublin. We are invited to stay until Teddy comes back from sailing which he has been doing since the previous day. Her husband Joe, Sr., who has had a stroke eight years before is being cared for in an upstairs bedroom. [more]

Promising

November 24, 2015

Aside from the obvious theme of morality in politics, the play also deals devastatingly with issues of privacy in public life and in the information age. Can David keep the news of the abortion secret? How will the press deal with his Asian sister showing up? Which side are the pundits on the web on? Can the Carver campaign ride out the storm? The contemporary issue of date rape is also explored thoroughly. "Promising" ends with a sensational denouement which will leave the audience with much to think about. [more]

Travels with My Aunt

October 27, 2015

Havergal’s adaptation is unusual in that it uses four male actors to play 25 roles including the central role of Aunt Augusta, with all the actors taking turns narrating the story. Dressed exactly alike in each act, Thomas Jay Ryan, Jay Russell, Daniel Jenkins and Rory Kulz switch identities, nationalities, age, and genders in a madcap adventure told with decided British understatement. This is challenging for the audience as well as the actors: since the performers do not change costumes, it is necessary to follow the plot closely to follow who is who, with the actors sometimes changing characters in the same scene. Steven C. Kemp’s minimal but clever unit set is not much help either as it remains basically the same in each act throughout all of the outrageous adventures that unlikely hero Henry Pulling is taken on by his aunt. [more]

Oh, Kay!

October 22, 2015

From the evidence of Colgan’s Musicals Tonight! production, "Oh, Kay!" not only still works in the original but has a glorious score including such Gershwin classics as “Dear Little Girl,” “Clap Yo’ Hands,” “Do, Do, Do,” “Fidgety Feet,” “Heaven on Earth” and “Someone to Watch over Me.” The three songs cut from the original production (“When Our Ship Comes Sailing in,” “Ain’t It Romantic?”, and “Stiff Upper Lip” used in the film A Damsel in Distress) while not lost treasures are very pleasing lyrics and melodies. [more]

In Bed with Roy Cohn

September 4, 2015

If "In Bed With Roy Cohn" were seen at a theater event such as The New York Fringe Festival, it could be viewed as a promising offbeat creation. But as a commercial Off-Broadway production it is quite deficient on a basic narrative level that undermines its other successful and outrageous qualities. [more]

Happy 50ish!

July 27, 2015

Mark Vogel and Lynn Shore in a scene from “Happy 50ish” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel) Darryl [more]

I Know What Boys Want

July 23, 2015

A very powerful and topical theme runs though Penny Jackson’s play, "I Know What Boys Want," but the author’s understandable anger leads to a good deal of melodrama. Tackling the topics of cyberbullying, sexual double standards, and misuse and abuse of the social media are timely and provocative themes and deeply in need of public discussion. However, the play also takes on the topics of drug addiction, teenage drinking, same-sex marriage, date rape, effects of divorce on teenagers, SAT tutoring for rich kids, etc. While the basic story is absorbing, I Know What Boys Want tries to cover a few too many topics in its 90 minutes. [more]

Sayonara, The Musical

July 15, 2015

Although "Sayonara, The Musical" had an acclaimed lavish production at Paper Mill Playhouse in 1987 and a later version at Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars in 1993, it has not been seen in New York until now. Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, now in its 38th Season, is presenting the local premiere of the adaptation with its book by playwright William Luce ("The Belle of Amhurst," "Lillian," "Lucifer’s Child," and "Barrymore"), lyrics by Hy Gilbert and music by George Fischoff. Surprisingly, "Sayonara" has a great deal in common with "South Pacific": the exotic Asian locale, the fraternization between Yankee officers and Asian women, a tale of prejudice and bigotry, and two parallel love stories. Unfortunately, at this post Sondheim junction, the way 'Sayonara" follows the Rodgers and Hammerstein formula seems dated, while the material, based more on the movie than the original novel, has deflated Michener’s story by making it oversimplified and superficial. [more]

For the Last Time

June 9, 2015

As a follow-up to their musical based on Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, lyricist/composer Nancy Harrow and writer/director Will Pomerantz have turned their sights on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1860 novel, "The Marble Faun." Renamed "For the Last Time," this new jazz musical has changed the setting from Rome in 1860 to New Orleans, circa 1950, and uses an all-Black cast to tell the original story. The show’s glory is its magnificent score, a combination of jazz and blues ballads, wonderfully sung by its cast of seven. The problem is that the show started as a concept album and to some extent hasn’t progressed very far from there: the book by Pomerantz and Harrow remains too thin to deal with the plot’s very deep themes. [more]

Devoted Dreams

June 5, 2015

Directed by Anna Bamberger, "Devoted Dreams" is a mind-boggling production. It would seem as if the objective was almost to minimize this production as much as possible, as a challenge to play against the mythical and high-concept subject matter. Despite the short-sighted production values, there are also structural problems in the script which were not concealed in the slightest by the casting decisions and certainly didn’t help the actors. Though it is true in some cases that less is more, in this particular situation the concept might as well be thrown out the window. [more]

The Unexpected Guest

April 23, 2015

Set in South Wales in the 1950’s, "The Unexpected Guest" (first produced in London in 1958) is a mystery surrounding the events that led up to the death of Richard Warwick, patriarch to the Warwick fortune. In the opening minutes of the play, his lifeless corpse is discovered by Michael Starkwedder (Nicholas Viselli), a seemingly random stranger who—upon driving his car into a ditch—stumbled up to the Warwick Estate in search of assistance. Upon discovering the body, Michael is confronted by Laura Warwick (Pamela Sabaugh), now widow to Richard. [more]

Pardon My English

April 10, 2015

Ironically, the only script that has survived is the original one by Hebert Fields (Annie Get Your Gun) and Morrie Ryskind (Pulitzer Prize for Of Thee I Sing). Musicals Tonight! is giving this pleasing confection its second outing since New York City Center Encores! reclaimed it in 2004 with a delightful revival marked by a top-notch cast of comedians. This rarely heard Gershwin score (which premiered “The Lorelei,” Isn’t a Pity,” and “My Cousin in Milwaukee”) is filled with musical riches, both famous and forgotten including two witty songs cut out of town, “Freud and Jung and Adler” and “He’s Oversexed.” [more]

John & Jen

March 23, 2015

"John & Jen" has very little dialog and almost no action that isn't described in the lyrics, so it's only fair to point out that it probably delivers as much on recording or in concert as it does here. That said, this production directed by Jonathan Silverstein with musical staging by Christine O’Grady is unfussy and effective. Scenic designer Steven C. Kemp provides a few static pieces which function as bed, hillside, or fence as needed, and it's a credit to all that their changing roles are never unclear. Given the small playing area, the nicely varied lighting by Josh Bradford helped much in avoiding monotony. [more]
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