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Articles by Scotty Bennett

About Scotty Bennett (80 Articles)
Scotty Bennett is a retired businessman who has worn many hats in his life, the latest of which is theater critic. For the last twelve years he has been a theater critic and is currently the treasurer of the American Theatre Critics Association and a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics. He has been in and around the entertainment business for most of his life. He has been an actor, director, and stage hand. He has done lighting, sound design, and set building. He was a radio disk jockey and, while in college ran a television studio and he even knows how to run a 35mm arc lamp projector.

Push Party

June 14, 2024

"Push Party" is a story by Nia Akilah Robinson that reaches into the supportive community spirit that celebrates a woman’s status as a mother, independent of a child or children. It is a story that explores the relationships of a group of friends as they gather to celebrate the impending birth of a new child to one of their numbers, but in this case, a child that has been born but is not yet in the arms of her mother. It would be a relatively simple story if that were the only focus, but Robinson gives something much more with socio-political commentary on the conditions under which pregnant women must endure in a patriarchal society, and most especially, women of color. [more]

How to Eat an Orange

June 4, 2024

This is the story of Claudia Bernardi, a visual artist and activist, as told in a one-woman show, "How to Eat an Orange." It tells of Bernardi’s time growing up in Argentina in the profound gloom of the military junta and the stories of the “desaparecidos,” the missing ones. It was written by Catherine Filloux, a French Algerian American playwright who traveled to and wrote plays about human rights conflicts in countries worldwide. She brings a first-hand narrative understanding of what Bernardi experienced during and after the time of the junta and her work in other countries with this collection of desaparecidos' stories. [more]

Winesday: The Wine Tasting Musical

May 24, 2024

When it comes to coffee klatches, wine seems to be a good substitute, or at least that is the case with the women in "Winesday: The Wind Tasting Musical," with book and lyrics by Jenne Wason and music by Joseph Benoit. It is a show that could leave you tipsy at the end but generally satisfied with the experience. The songs are clever and well-sung by a solid group of five actors, and the book doesn't rely on a straightforward plot but provides a series of entertaining vignettes that help define the characters' lives with details about their ups and downs. Jamibeth Margolis's direction effectively guides the cast to deliver funny, well-integrated performances in a constrained setting. [more]

My True Love: A Perfect Musical Fairytale

May 21, 2024

'My True Love: A Perfect Musical Fairytale" is a musical fairy tale, written by Ben Boecker, about the choices made when the world is a place of dreams. Solid direction by Carolyn Popadin guides the diverse cast as it takes the audience on a romp through a magic land of self-discovery as a young witch explores the complex ideas surrounding consent, self-realization, and acceptance. Don’t let the heavy-sounding themes throw you off; the show is a frothy musical comedy with a good ensemble and a couple of outstanding individual performances. It intentionally comes close to a feeling of a student production, but that idea strongly supports the overall thrust of the show. [more]

Small Acts of Daring Invention

May 15, 2024

If the play's goal is to pay homage to Wright, it misses the mark for most audiences. If one is unfamiliar with Wright, most of the symbols revealed in the play will not be understood in terms of her life story. This fact is not necessarily a distraction from the action since the play provides a suitable level of mystery, imagination, and surprise, resulting in an entertaining but possibly unsettling experience, starting with the opening and carrying through to a satisfactory ending, all without spoken dialogue. [more]

Redemption Story

May 11, 2024

"Redemption Story," written by Peregrine Teng Heard, is an exploration into the psyche of Connie Lee, an actor with 20 years of experience acting in noir films of the 1940’s and 1950’s, who now calls herself a housewife. Christine Toy Johnson expertly embodies the character, skillfully revealing the psycho-social dynamics that keeps her somewhere between the reality of 1971 and the roles she played in film. Director Sarah Blush guides a strong cast, effectively supporting the narrative themes of the show as it explores the idea of redemption in a self-perception fashioned by past film roles. It is coupled with the social alienation of being an Asian woman playing stereotypical characters. It was the norm in the movie business in those years, but if those issues are not enough, mix in feelings of conditional love and estrangement. [more]

David and Katie Get Re-Married

May 7, 2024

"David and Katie Get Re-Married" is the creation of David Carl and Katie Hartman. Using original songs, funny and timely commentary, and interesting props, they take a musical romp through the trials and tribulations of tying the knot again. Michole Biancosino provides outside-the-box direction for the humorously demented exploration of whether marriage is an institution or whether the people doing it should be institutionalized. In the end, it becomes clear that it is, maybe, both. It is a show to be savored in the afterglow of the experience. [more]

The Frybread Queen

May 1, 2024

"The Frybread Queen," a unique narrative penned by Carolyn Dunn and brought to life under the direction of Vickie Ramirez, delves into an intergenerational conflict sparked by the death of a man who held significant roles in the lives of four Native American women. While the making of frybread serves as a tool to highlight the characters' diverse attitudes and emotions, it is not the central theme of the play. The primary focus is on the fate of the deceased man's daughter and the mystery surrounding his death. [more]

In the Common Hour

April 28, 2024

"In the Common Hour" is a play with text by Marie Glancy O'Shea inspired by the writings of Italian author Italo Calvino of six stories about an other-dimensional place on the edge of reality. A dream world filled with the consequences of people lost in the projections of their being, unsure of what the next moment holds for them. It is a story, or more realistically, a series of episodes, exploring the liminal space created by dreams and hallucinations. The stories bring to mind the speculative and absurdist work by Rod Serling, Ursula Le Guin, and Philip K. Dick, among others. [more]

Stargazers

April 25, 2024

The scenes establishing the outlines of the mystery tend to be episodic rather than tightly integrated narrative, building tension to a dramatic resolution. Colette Robert's direction of the fine ensemble is spot-on and well-tuned within the confines of the script. Still, the script's structure leads to the production's episodic nature and ultimately fails to develop the strong air of mystery and suspense in a ghost story. [more]

Agreement

April 20, 2024

What makes this play such an extraordinary experience is how McCafferty’s words are presented in a way that captures the intensity and stress of the three days of point and counterpoint. Westenra's direction brings out the power of the presented ideas. It guides the extraordinary cast in putting the audience in the “room where it happened,” borrowing a line from another play. [more]

Sperm Donor Wanted (or, The Unnamed Baby Play)

April 14, 2024

In a funny recounting of what happened when they placed an ad on Craig's List, they finally found a couple they thought would work. Charles and Aaron are a biracial gay couple. Charles is white, and Aaron is black, a factor in the final arrangement for the donations. This racial issue is handled effectively, honestly, and with sensitivity in the story. It is one of the issues that each couple faces while trying to get pregnant. As the weeks turned to months, their relationship became more entwined and complicated. Through this process, the details of the characters' lives are revealed, at times through musings, as if one is talking with him or herself, and at times through addressing the audience with the character's emotional struggle or with each other in discussions about hopes and fears concerning parenthood. Surprising things are revealed in these conversations. Their journeys are ultimately worth the effort. [more]

Witchland

April 10, 2024

David Silberger, Mars Holscher and Geoffrey Grady in a scene from Tim Mulligan’s “Witchland” [more]

Herself

April 5, 2024

The cast of Tim McGillicuddy’s “Herself” at Gural Theatre at A.R.T/New York Theatres (Photo [more]

Bathhouse.pptx

March 26, 2024

Theatrical productions can sometimes be exhilarating, moving, provocative, informative, perplexing, confusing, dull, or bad. "Bathhouse.pptx," written by Jesús I. Valles and directed by Chay Yew, is in the realm of perplexing and confusing. In the words of Valles, “This play is a mess.” and “This play is a group project for perverts.” Even with Yew’s adept direction, the show is, in essence, episodic and, as such, confusing and perplexing. [more]

Pharaoh

March 23, 2024

This show, as conceived by Shulman, creates a unique theatrical experience combining narrative text with Kathakali, a form of traditional Indian dance exquisitely performed by Kalamandalam John. Shulman gives voice to all the characters, principally the Pharaoh. At the same time, John acts out the 54 different characters in an elaborate costume, colorful make-up (costumes and make-up by Dr. Kalatharangini Mary John), intricate gestures, expressive facial movements, and traditional dance moves of Kathakali. [more]

Medea (Fusion Theatre)

March 19, 2024

This production could be more balanced in the performances, with some characters being solidly played and others being line-readings lacking body movements that add to the dialogue. There are also changes to how the story is told. A number of passages have been removed that are important in establishing Medea's state of mind and exploring her internal struggle over how she will punish Jason for his betrayal. In addition to the revisions to some of Medea’s dialogue, the changes in the responses from the three women of the chorus are impactful. The chorus' purpose is to fill in gaps in the story and to clarify the thought processes being exposed by various characters. While the overall thrust of the story has not been altered, some of the nuances of the characters' behaviors have been lost. [more]

Tuesdays with Morrie

March 11, 2024

Seadog Theater’s current revival of "Tuesdays with Morrie," with exceptional direction by Erwin Maas, is a beautifully orchestrated presentation starring Len Cariou as Professor Morrie Schwartz and Christopher J. Domig as author Mitch Albom . The chemistry between these actors is riveting, grabbing one’s attention solidly but gently from the opening moments to the tearful end. They are a perfect match to tell this story. Don’t hesitate, for a moment, to see this production. You will laugh, cry, and come away feeling that you just experienced something extraordinary. [more]

Maiden Voyage

March 8, 2024

Under Alex Keegan's skillful direction, the characters are allowed to develop their understanding of who they are and how they fit in an organization traditionally run by men. The captain is the one most aware of the paternalistic nature of military organizations, so she is determined that this patrol will be completed without issues. Crawley shows us the struggle the captain has in finding a balance between her personal actions from a female perspective and those that are conditioned from a male perspective. This male-oriented conditioning is less of an issue with other team members, although there are suggestions that it still influences their official duties. [more]

The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea

February 24, 2024

"The Order of the Golden Scribe: Initiation Tea" is an immersive and interactive theater experience co-created by Shuai Chen and Arlo Howard, who also directed. It combines a story about a secret society of historian scribes with a series of creatively challenging cryptographic puzzles. It is all wrapped up in an elaborate initiation "tea" for new members of the Order. The initiation ceremony requires the initiates to prove themselves worthy of joining the Order by solving the puzzles. Each successful solution is rewarded with first tea, then finger sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and butter, and finally, a dessert. The puzzles are cleverly conceived and presented. The audience is divided into teams of four or five seated at café style tables. [more]

Until Dark

February 20, 2024

The balance is off between the two storylines. If the most crucial dramatic element of the story is the legal issue surrounding consent, the dynamics of the sisters’ current and historical relationship do not satisfactorily clarify that issue. If the story’s primary focus is the nature of the relationship between the sisters, the legal issue overshadows the intricacies and nuances of their relationship. The two main storylines of the play contain strong dramatic elements that would stand well by themselves—the final two scenes attempt to bring closure to the dramatic arcs but miss the mark. They seem to operate as endings to the two stories. While the show is a solid attempt at dramatizing the issue of consent when it comes to sexual relationships, it doesn’t quite squarely hit the mark. [more]

you don’t have to do anything

February 15, 2024

"you don’t have to do anything" written by Ryan Drake is a story that explores a gay man’s coming of age from the time he was in seventh grade until graduating from college. It is set in the period when cell phone and computer messaging were becoming more prevalent. The central theme of the production is the psycho-social impact of homosexuality from a young man’s adolescence into his early twenties. Ryan Dobrin's direction is effective, given the nuanced presentation of the central theme with dialogue that suggests misinterpretation of events and misunderstandings of emotional content. [more]

The Fantastical Fellowship: Final Quest for the Crisis Crystal XXVII

January 31, 2024

The hardworking cast takes us along on the quest by playing multiple characters and using a wide array of props scattered on tables at the edge of the performance space. The transformations are not always smooth, which leads to some humorous moments. The jokes are corny, some of which are groan-worthy. The show lacks coherence and has an amateurish feel, never taking itself seriously as drama. [more]

Crime and Punishment

January 22, 2024

Tyson’s portrayal of Raskolnikov is riveting as he moves through the elements leading inexorably to his mental collapse. The exchanges with Porfiry are woven together with encounters with the people in his life that had an impact on his present mental state. Each of these ancillary scenes are used to fill gaps in the storyline needed to clarify Raskolnikov’s mental state and the exchanges that take place with the inspector. Lenartz gives a first-rate performance not only of Porfiry, but of all the characters he inhabits. He transforms into each of these characters with small changes in costume and with his movement and speech. He makes each of the ancillary characters distinct. This same skill is evident in Stone’s portrayal of all the women in the story, with small changes in costume and physicality she becomes a new character. The only quibble I have is with her portrayal of the character Sonia. The age of the character is important in the story, and although Stone does not fit the part, it does not diminish the impact of the performance. [more]

Brighter than the Sun

January 19, 2024

Hendley is solid in his performance as the narrator of his and his grandmother’s story. His presentation commands attention without demand, smoothly and effortlessly focusing on the words being spoken. He has created a show with a strong storyline but needs a rework of the structure. Although his narrational guidance is well-written and beautifully presented, it adds too much exposition when perhaps the information could be dramatized. [more]

Ernie’s Secret Life

January 11, 2024

The show is well presented but lacks a clear narrative, leaving viewers with more questions than answers. Is it about a man's journey to self-discovery or an exploration into a confusing haze of fantasy and hallucination brought on by a mental breakdown? The added storylines used to illustrate narrative points do not clarify the overall thematic structure of the production but add layers to the mystery of Ernie’s mental state. If you like theater, even with the limitations in exposition, it is worth the effort to experience a production outside of what people typically consider dramatic staging. [more]

Becoming Chavela

December 25, 2023

Ranchera is a style of traditional Mexican folk music with origins in the ranchos of rural Mexico. The songs are about love, patriotism, or nature and are usually sung by men. The vocals have a rough, raw quality in contrast to the more refined vocalizations of the urban singers. In Mexico City, Chavela defied the norms and sang rancheras with her style and interpretations while staying true to the rawness of delivery and the ideas expressed by the lyrics. Trudeau transforms herself into Chavela with an on-stage costume change and then provides solid interpretations of some of Vargas’ classic rancheras as she takes the audience on an exploration of Vargas' life in Mexico City, a brief time in Cuba and to the mid-1970’s when she stopped performing as a result of all the tequila she had consumed over the years. Although Trudeau's voice is more refined, she still delivers the songs with all the passion and fire needed in some and the introspection and sadness in others. Her embodiment of Vargas is complete. [more]

The Inheritance of a Long-Term Fault

December 9, 2023

"The Inheritance of a Long-Term Fault," written by Mêlisa Annis and directed by Vanessa Morosco, is an extraordinary play that explores how the societal structures across many cultures have shaped cultural interactions and defined what is viewed as societal norms to the present day. It is a provocative, thought-provoking look at how colonial patriarchal behaviors and attitudes about women's roles persist into the present day. It is a show worth seeing and, more importantly, exploring the ideas engendered by it. [more]

Killin’ Republicans

December 6, 2023

"Killin’ Republicans," concept and libretto by Dick D. Zigun and music by Arturo Rodriquez, directed by vagabond, is billed as a rock opera about violence towards certain Republican Party leaders since the mid-nineteenth century. It deals with a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations of Republican leaders from the 1850s to President Reagan in 1981. It is supposed to be a discussion about the reasons for the attacks and not a call for violence against Republicans. The entire show is sung or performed in spoken form in various styles as more of a concept concert than an opera. The libretto covers a wide range of events attempting to give context to the multiple incidents but fails to clarify the point of the show. It is a mistake in its present form. [more]

United Nations: The Other West

November 28, 2023

"United Nations: The Other West," written and directed by Bossert, is an outstanding example of the hybrid theatrical system he has created. This production is an extension of his 2022 "United Nations: The Border and The Coast" with connections to stories streamed on Thirdwing’s internet platform. This form of theatrical production aims to bridge theater and film in a way that tells important stories that pierce the limitations of traditional theater and allow for a more expansive exploration of characters and themes. Bossert’s direction of an exceptional ensemble delivers an entertaining evening of theatre with humor and important ideas. This is not derivative of any other production; it stands alone as a play worth seeing. [more]

Ode to the Wasp Woman

November 16, 2023

"Ode to the Wasp Woman," written and directed by Rider McDowell, is a play done in the style of film noir and true crime films of the 1950’s. The show focuses on the events leading up to the death of four actors from the B-movies of the 1950’s: Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Susan Cabot, George Reeves, and Barbara Payton. It is essentially four acts in style and dialogue that are uneven in terms of theatrical structure, but given the nature of B-movies, they fit within the two dominant styles of noir and true crime. Even though McDowell captures the feel of a B-movie, there are issues within the production that don't fit. It also takes some knowledge of B-movies in terms of genres and styles. If you do not know what the B-movies were like, you may not like the show, and even if you are a B-movie fan, you may not pick up on the resemblance to those movies. [more]

Hell Dialogues

November 6, 2023

The production was conceived in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a group of actors was performing "No Exit (Huis clos)." They decided to adapt the ideas of Sartre’s work into one that explores human nature amidst turmoil by looking at war, democracy, society, and social interaction using themes from Plato. The play uses physical and verbal improvisation, including, at times, engaging with the audience without breaking character. It is a complex undertaking in which thematic clarity is missing, especially when trying to incorporate the Platonic ideas of social morality and justice. It is for an audience that enjoys the challenge of theatrical experimentation and intellectual stimulation requiring focus and concentration. [more]
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