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Wilson Chin

Space Dogs

February 27, 2022

Heyman and the rest of the production team quickly turn "Space Dogs" into an exercise of quantity over quality. More lights. More noise. More projections. More props. It's theater as sensory overload, with success measured by distraction. The major problem is that it also leads to a lot of other annoyances, with Nathan Leigh's sound design doing nothing for the intelligibility of Hughes and Blaemire's lyrics, Mary Ellen Stebbins' concert lighting occasionally blinding the audience in MCC's small off-Broadway space, and Stefania Bulbarella's numerous projections just stoking the meaningless hurly-burly. [more]

A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet

October 5, 2021

While Marshall Pailet’s direction is breezy and fastpaced, the dialogue has too many Borscht belt jokes (“Take my Grandma, for instance. No really take her-,” Camp Rosenblatt, “As my Grandma used to say,” etc.”) and lyrics with too many quotes from much better song writers such as Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim and Bock and Harnick. References to Barry Manilow and Hanson don’t really land and the show counts on a great many current memes like making Wyse’s neurotic lyricist gay and Fankhauser’s self-effacing composer straight. Unfortunately, they are rather bland when they should be bigger than life in this three-character musical. The fact that they have no names and are referred to in the program as “Man 2” (there is no “Man 1”) and “Other Man” is pretentious rather than endearing. [more]

Pass Over

September 19, 2021

The spartan set design by Wilson Chin features a large tin can, a tall streetlamp, a very large tire, a milk crate, and a high basketball net. The first two actors, Jon Michael Hill (as Moses) and Namir Smallwood (as Kitch) take shifting turns sitting on the large can and the milk crate. But when we initially meet them, they’re running rapidly in place. They’re also speaking what eventually becomes a tedious and redundant black vernacular, without seeming to have much to say to each other or to us, even as they traffic in racist clichés. As indicated by the character named Moses, Pass Over is riddled with Biblical references. It’s 28 minutes into the play when they’re joined by Mister (although I kept hearing them call him “Master,” which under the circumstances, would have made more sense). He also removes an enormous amount of food from the straw basket he brings with him, which he was ostensibly taking to his mother, as he also sings, “What a Wonderful World.” Mister is played by Gabriel Ebert, who also plays “Ossifer,” an alcoholic’s way of pronouncing “Officer.” [more]

Mothers

September 26, 2019

The first act of Anna Moench's "Mothers" concludes with a genuine shock as the playwright startlingly upends all of our expectations. Visually punctuated by Wilson Chin's suddenly not-so-stable set, this audacious turn suggests Moench's intermittently funny satire of upper middle-class motherhood at a "Gymboree-style playroom" has only been a prelude to something much more challenging and profound. Unfortunately, what you soon begin to suspect is that Moench just ran out of narrative steam and started writing something else. [more]

American Moor

September 16, 2019

Cobb is titanic in this piece bringing his resonant voice and impressive physical presence to bear on the most famous classic role for a Black actor in the canon as well as his thoughts about race and the theater. His justifiable anger when the director tells an anecdote about a woman who drove across the country in diapers to confront her rival as an example of the effects of jealousy is enough to flay one alive. His analysis of the man Othello and his relationship to the white Venetians is a brilliant explication of both character and society. Cobb’s understandable problem with white directors who want to tell him how to play a Black man exposes race in America from a new point of view. American Moor may make you angry but it is always enlightening and right on target. Although Cobb’s passion gets the better of him, you will never feel that he has gone too far or misrepresented things as they are. [more]

The Thanksgiving Play

November 6, 2018

Many comic artists have noted that great humor often comes from great tragedy, though, inevitably, sometimes the latter overwhelms the former, and all you’re left with is a lot of indignation and nobody laughing. As the late Joan Rivers once remarked, "comedy is anger, but anger is not comedy." It's a maxim that the Sicangu Lakota writer Larissa FastHorse takes to heart in "The Thanksgiving Play," as she manages to keep us smiling while four white characters attempt to turn a half-millenium of genocide into a 45-minute children's show. [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]

A Walk With Mr. Heifetz

February 22, 2018

Although an interesting idea, James Inverne’s "A Walk With Mr. Heifetz" has lofty ambitions which it is unable to fulfill. While the advertisement proclaims that these two encounters “changed the world as we know it,” none of that comes through in the play. The thinness of the material and the two-dimensional characters fail to bring the story to life. Much more needs to be known or revealed to flesh out this intriguing but undramatized story. [more]

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord

October 10, 2017

Although director Kimberly Senior who also piloted the Chicago production has staged the play with elegance, she never really turns up the heat so that there are not many sparks in Carter’s debate. Discord, yes; but no fireworks which might have made the discussion more dramatic. The play uses titles on the back wall to name each of the 14 scenes much in the manner of Brecht’s alienation effect. This breaks up the play but is not very informative. The device of the invisible fourth wall being a mirror in Wilson Chin’s all blue-grey interrogation room seems a gimmick to allow the men to face the audience directly for much of the play. [more]

Cost of Living

June 30, 2017

The play is enlightening for a physically abled audience as to the needs of the disabled both physically and emotionally. Both stories include a tender, poignant bathing scene as the caretakers learn how to adapt to their charges. However, there is more to Majok’s story. Both Jess and Eddie are dealing with their own problems. We discover that Jess is a first generation Princeton graduate down on her luck, all of her family having returned to her native country, never named. Eddie has been a long time alcoholic (which probably wrecked his marriage) and has lost his license and his job after a DUI charge. Ultimately, we discover that Jess and Eddie are coping less well than their charges and adversity is just around the corner. [more]

The Gravedigger’s Lullaby

March 13, 2017

Playwright Jeff Talbott offers an overall well-written and plotted social drama that detours into a strident political battle over capitalism. The sympathetic characters are trapped by their circumstances, as well as by Mr. Talbott’s rudimentary scenario. [more]

Informed Consent

August 24, 2015

Deborah Zoe Laufer’s fascinating and engrossing "Informed Consent" tells three interlocking stories that eventually become one by the end. Under Liesl Tommy’s assured direction and with Tina Benko’s riveting central performance as a research scientist, the play, co-produced by Primary Stages and Ensemble Studio Theatre under the auspices of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, deals with such issues as genetic testing, science versus religion, scientific ethics, and early onset Alzheimer’s. Inspired by a true story," Informed Consent" uses various theatrical devices to tell its compelling story and remind us of the necessary work needing to be done if we are to find cures for unsolved diseases like diabetes which involve a great many victims. [more]

Abundance

March 2, 2015

Inspired by real life events of the 1860's and concerned with telling the relatively unknown stories of women pioneers, "Abundance" is highly engrossing, steeped in historical details, and a poignant examination of relationships and friendships. Each of the four main characters is precisely detailed. The complexity of their virtues and flaws are examined with great clarity. The good and bad sides of everyone are shown realistically. [more]