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Articles by Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (990 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

David, A New Musical

June 14, 2024

"David" now at the AMT Theater is an ambitious Off Broadway musical dramatizing the story of the youth of the hero David, later second king of Israel. It has a bouncy contemporary score by Albert Tapper and a large talented cast. Somewhat indebted to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Biblical musicals, it is narrated by the older King David on his deathbed to the Prophet Nathan. Most of David’s adventurous exploits take place off stage, while the dramatized scenes are mainly political and dramatic. [more]

Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Wonder of Wonders: Celebrating Sheldon Harnick”

June 7, 2024

While most of the songs presented were standards, there were some oddities and curiosities like five cuts songs, one song from a Ford Motor Company industrial show by Bock and Harnick, and two songs Harnick wrote with others, one to his own lyrics. Sperling himself sang three of the five cuts song, starting with Amalia’s song of anxiety before her date with “Dear Friend” pen pal for the unashamedly romantic "She Love Me," “Tell Me I Look Nice,” replaced by the more powerful “Will He Like Me?” (created by Barbara Cook, and sung here by Zavelson). [more]

Breaking the Story

June 6, 2024

The dialogue is smart and sophisticated. The author’s unfocused theme seems to be the conflict between Marina and Nikki as to journalistic ethics. Marina believes in reporting the story whatever it is and let the audience decide. Nikki only reports on people and stories she can champion not wanting to give an outlet to evil-minded people. (There is something to be said for both points of view.) However, Scheer doesn’t take this argument very far and drops it quickly each time the two reporters clash without a resolution. The playwright also flirts with the idea that the danger of her work is adrenaline for Marina who couldn’t live without it, rather than just obtaining and breaking the story. Aside from the obvious meaning of the title, Nikki wants to name her podcast on Marina “Breaking the Story: The Life of Marina Reyes.” [more]

The Opposite of Love

June 3, 2024

Ashley Griffin’s "The Opposite of Love" is not afraid to tackle questions of sex, intimacy, abuse and suicide. It does so with great sensitivity and delicacy. It is as though the author does not want to frighten off those who have similar problems. However, it is this very timidity that makes the play feel so tame, as though not only are the actors awkward around each other but the author is too coy with her material. However, the actors and the direction always hold our attention even when the subtext is left to the audience. [more]

All of Me

May 24, 2024

Laura Winters’ "All of Me" is a lively rom-com of rich boy meets poor girl much on the lines of 1930’s film comedies. However, the new wrinkle here is that Lucy is disabled using a motorized scooter and a text-to-speech Augmentative and Alternative Communication device to speak, while Alfonso uses a motorized wheelchair and also uses an AAC device to speak as well. Both are independent people though Lucy needs a great deal of help while Alfonso’s wealth gives him staff to take care of his needs. They would seem a perfect fit for each other except that their mothers don’t think so. Ashley Brooke Monroe’s production is spirited and animated. What she cannot overcome in the smart and nimble dialogue is the delay in the response time using AAC devices so that there is an unavoidable pause between the responses in the repartee. Another problem is that though the main characters are played engagingly by Madison Ferris and Danny J. Gomez, the rest of Lucy’s dysfunctional family seems clichéd and familiar. [more]

A Groundbreaking Achievement of Outrageous Importance That People Scroll By, Barely Impacted

May 23, 2024

Playwright Jake Shore has something serious on his mind but his scatter-shot take on Artificial Intelligence does not make the case. The repetitious dialogue and events only undercut the intended satire. The attempts at humor like “You just make sure to tell the cell phone you’re dating that I’m excited to meet her,” “Love is like … a charcuterie board. All different types of pretzels and cheeses … and crackers,” and “I think I want to triple major in English, Math and Non-human Biologics” are neither funny nor absurd enough to count as satire. The acting and directing style fail to elevate all this to a level of farce or lampoonery. There is a very important play to be written about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence but this isn’t it. [more]

Just Another Day

May 20, 2024

Dan Lauria’s "Just Another Day" is quite leisurely in its delivery but Lauria and McCormack inhabit their roles. While the play could use some pruning, it is a charming portrait of two elderly people drifting into an age when they cannot count on their memories but know that there is something important they wish to recall. Their hidden backstories and their changing recollections at times make this play like a mystery as well as a comedy. "Just Another Day" is a tribute to those people old enough to know that their pasts are slipping away unless they can pin them down. [more]

The Actors

May 20, 2024

Ronnie Larsen, Allen Lewis Rickman and Jeni Hacker in a scene from Larsen’s “The Actors” at [more]

The Wiz

May 16, 2024

The eye-filling sets by Hannah Beachler and video and projection design by Daniel Brodie include subtle tributes to Black Culture that not all theatergoers may notice on a first look. When Dorothy first lands in Oz, the landscape and houses are reminiscent of Tremé, the Black neighborhood in New Orleans decimated by Hurricane Katrina. The overhead set piece is inspired by the arch in New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Park as well as incorporating patterns found in quilts on the Underground Railroad. African symbols are carved into the bark of the trees along Dorothy’s path on the Yellow Brick Road as well as depicted on the sides of the theater proscenium arch. When Glinda enters, she comes out of house at the address 1804, commemorating the year of Haiti’s independence. The red and black sets and costumes (by Sharon Davis) for the sequence in the Castle of Evilene are a tribute to West African culture. [more]

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

May 13, 2024

The lead of the show is film star Eddie Redmayne, who won the Olivier Award for his performance as the Emcee in the London production and is also Tony nominated for this show. Director Rebecca Frecknall’s staging (with her British production team) is imaginative and innovative, quite unlike any Cabaret you have seen before. The new Sally Bowles is Scottish American actress Gayle Rankin who appeared as Fraulein Kost on Broadway in Sam Mendes’ 2014 Broadway revival of "Cabaret" which appeared at Studio 54. Frecknall’s interpretation is more dissolute and dissipated than most versions so that when American writer Clifford Bradshaw arrives in Berlin to get material for a novel the city is already deep in the throes of degradation and degeneracy when he meets second-rate singer Sally Bowles as the party girl par excellence and lead female singer of the Kit Kat Club. [more]

Jordans

May 12, 2024

In fact, the play which ought to be hilarious is almost devoid of jokes as the premise which is politically incorrect will make many white playgoers uncomfortable – unless this is the point of the play. As the setting is an event space/rental studio/production facility, we see a trendy photo shoot of a high fashion model, a taping of a motivational speaker, and a business meeting to plan a new advertising campaign for a rapper’s new product line, a pop star whose street cred is that he is on trial for aggravated assault and has been to jail a few times for drugs and theft. All of this is pushed to the limit which undercuts its humorous possibilities. Of course, there are the obvious jokes about Michael Jordan and wearing Jordan jeans. [more]

I Ought to Be In Pictures

May 9, 2024

Director Nicholas Viselli has done well with the characterizations but is unable to resolve the thinness of the backstories which are not fleshed out by the script. The shallow set which has most of its furniture and appliances lined up across the stage makes some of the blocking awkward and repetitious. Making her Off Broadway debut as Libby in the role that won Dinah Manhoff the Tony Award, Makenzie Morgan Gomez is spunky and quick with the retort. She has a breezy, wise stage presence. Her use of a wheelchair and a cane is no problem to the character but when she says that she has hiked and hitched her way across half of America one wonders if this is realistic. And today in 2024 do 19-year-old women risk hitching alone that distance? [more]

La Musica Deuxième

May 8, 2024

Jessica Burr’s Blessed Unrest production of Marguerite Duras’ "La Musica Deuxième" in the 1992 translation by Barbara Bray is like a violent Jean Paul Sartre short story directed in the cool style of filmmaker Éric Rohmer. Whether this is best for the material, you will have to decide for yourself. Aside from the 2023 film of Duras’ play Suzanna Andler, this is the first New York presentation of one of her plays since Savannah Bay at the Classic Stage Company in 2003. [more]

Hell’s Kitchen on Broadway

May 3, 2024

The new musical "Hell’s Kitchen" has made a successful transition to Broadway from The Public Theater and the new version seems to have corrected some of the flaws from before. This juke-box musical with a score by singer/songwriter Alicia Keys and a book by playwright Kristoffer Diaz (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity), is a big ambitious show, a love letter to New York, and inspired by the coming of age story of Keys’ 17th year. It is no longer over-miked by sound designer Gareth Owen, characters seemed to have deepened, the plot seems to have gelled into a distinct coming of age story, and the redesigned set by Robert Brill has moved much of the action closer to the audience. It is a crowd pleaser with the iconic Keys’ songs “Girl on Fire,” “Fallin’” and “Empire State of Mind.” Excitingly performed by its cast made up of a handful of characters and a large ensemble of 15 singer/dancers, its most famous leads Shoshana Bean and Brandon Victor Dixon as Ali’s parents are given less to do as this is the daughter’s story. In the leading role of 17-year-old Ali, making their professional Broadway debut, is Maleah Joi Moon who proves to be an exciting musical personality who can hold a show such as this together. [more]

Uncle Vanya

May 1, 2024

Things are not helped by Mini Lien’s bland setting that looks more like a furniture showroom than the family manse held for decades and passed down to the present inhabitants. The new adaptation reduces the plot to one more dysfunctional family story while Chekhov is always more than that. Even more damaging is that the direction by Lila Neugebauer (best known for new plays by Sarah DeLappe, Zoe Kazan, Kenneth Lonergan, Brandon Jacobs Jenkins, Tracy Letts and Annie Baker) has staged the play so that it is in isolated conversations, one that should be called Scenes from the Life of Uncle Vanya. The lighting design by Lap Chi Chu and Elizabeth Harper highlights this by isolating various characters with light changes. Kay Voyce's costumes, except for the surprising brightly caftans of the grandmother, are characterless and monochromatic. [more]

Sally & Tom

April 29, 2024

In the very first scene it becomes apparent that we are watching "The Pursuit of Happiness," a new play from the Good Company, an indie theater group that has been known for radical and experimental work that no one came to see but now wants to reach a wider audience and find a producer who will foot the bill. African American playwright Luce is in an unmarried relationship with her director and costar Mike, similar to that of Sally and Tom whom they are playing, and just like Sally Hemings who bore Jefferson six children, Luce discovers that she is pregnant. The play alternates between scenes backstage among the actors in their dressing rooms and onstage as they rehearse the play with opening night only two days away, making changes as they go along. [more]

Scarlett Dreams

April 26, 2024

A good deal of fun is had by Brian Pacelli’s projection design which is shown on the modern and chic living room/dining room set by Christopher and Justin Swader. It takes us to the virtual reality world inhabited by Scarlett and later Kevin: forests, deserts, jungles, icescapes which change at the drop of a hat. It also lets us keep track of Kevin’s progress with fitness data and the success of the RealFit apps as to the number of new users. Emily Rebholz has created an attractive collection of clothes in monochromatic colors for these fitness-oriented people. The lighting by Jamie Roderick enhances the set and projections by changing the mood each time we find we are projected somewhere else. [more]

Macbeth (an undoing)

April 22, 2024

In attempting to make a feminist statement out of Shakespeare’s "Macbeth", Harris has made Lady Macbeth into the same murderous monster that her husband became in the original. This does not seem to further the feminist cause that if women were in power they would do things differently. Lady Macbeth’s treatment of Lady Macduff (kidnapping her back from her home, attempting to take her child away, etc.) makes her almost worse than Shakespeare’s protagonist. Having eliminated most of the scenes outside of the Macbeth Castle, the second half seems both long and repetitious as things get worse and worse for the new queen. The famous “Tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy is rather chopped up so that it does not make her sympathetic as it did Macbeth when hearing about his wife’s suicide. [more]

Lempicka

April 21, 2024

In telling the life story of Tamara de Lempicka, the show begins with a fascinating premise. Unfortunately, neither the score nor the book lives up to her high standards. Unlike "Sunday in the Park with George" which showed us the workings of the artistic process, "Lempicka" is more interested in the social aspects of the 1920’s and 1930’s Paris than in Tamara’s revolutionary paintings. The cast works hard to put over the new musical but they are defeated by commonplace situations, banal song lyrics, and over-used pronouncements. The musical of Tamara de Lempicka’s life still has to be told. [more]

Las Borinqueñas

April 15, 2024

Nelson Diaz-Marcano’s "Las Borinqueñas," the latest play in the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Science and Technology Project, has a fascinating, little known story to tell: the preliminary trials that led to the creation of the birth control pill which took place in Puerto Rico in the 1950’s up until 1960 when it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the play has too many characters each with a different story and too many themes that are not fully explored. Another problem for English speakers is that much of the play is in untranslated Spanish, all of the jokes and a good deal of the back and forth between the women. One assumes that this is for authenticity but it makes the play challenging for theatergoers who don’t know Spanish. Director Rebecca Aparicio keeps the play’s events swiftly moving along but does not compensate for the script’s deficiencies or confusing attempt to convey too much information. [more]

The Reef (opera workshop)

April 13, 2024

On April 10, 2024, Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center presented a tantalizing teaser of a musical evening with the world premiere workshop of only the first act of 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis’ new opera, "The Reef." With a libretto adapted by Joan Ross Sorkin, from the 1912 novel by Edith Wharton, this was the first time that the work has been adapted for the stage, though it has been filmed as Passion’s Way. The workshop was sponsored by the Berkshire Opera Festival using a cast of emerging artists all of whom were vocally capable of singing the work. [more]

Fish

April 12, 2024

Aside from its attempt to cover too much at one time (drug addiction, pregnancy, incarceration, high school dropouts, gun violence, lack of health care, underfunded ghetto schools), "Fish" does not tell us anything we don’t already know. It will come as no surprise that public schools teach to the test, truancy is a big problem and students fall asleep in class after working jobs at night to help pay the rent, or that charter schools are better funded than public schools. Nor does it have any answers other than that teachers should be more understanding of students’ home situations and help to do something about inadequate facilities and supplies – other than pay for missing supplies themselves. [more]

Water for Elephants

April 8, 2024

Playwright/bookwriter Rick Elice has written the greatest jukebox musical (so far) in his 2005 Jersey Boys. In his adaptation of Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel Water for Elephants, he may just have written the best stage musical about circuses by making the animals as real as the human characters. The indie folk band Pigpen Theatre Co. has written a varied collection of songs, ingeniously orchestrated, that are always exciting as they both forward the story and reveal the emotions of the people who sing them. However, it is director Jessica Stone assisted with circus design by Shana Carroll who has done the most inventive and original work. [more]

The Notebook: The Musical

April 4, 2024

While the characters age, the use of diversity here has them switch races, so that while one couple has a Black Allie and a white Noah, another has a white Allie and a Black Noah, as well as Allie’s parents being played by an interracial couple. Although it is easy to follow, it is somewhat distracting until one gets used to it. The setting has also been updated from the 1940’s to the 1960’s so that Noah fights in Vietnam now rather than World War II. Brunstetter’s book is faithful to both the novel and the movie, except that while the earlier two versions were recounted by the older Noah reading to his increasingly distracted wife from the notebook that she wrote in chronological order, here there are flashbacks within flashbacks, backtracking some of the events. Brunstetter has also made the ending more explicit than either the book or the film, as well as keeping much of the original sentimentality at bay. [more]

An Enemy of the People

March 31, 2024

The concept of alternate facts was not created under the Trump Administration. In 1882 Henrik Ibsen wrote "An Enemy of the People" in which a medical report that a town’s new spa is polluted by toxic bacteria which will cause an epidemic is contradicted by financial and political interests which will be brought down by the revelation. Amy Herzog’s new American adaptation could not be timelier after the pandemic which we just underwent. This forceful and vigorous production led by television stars Jeremy Strong ("Succession"; "Masters of Sex") and Michael Imperioli ("The Sopranos"; "The White Lotus") is robustly staged by Herzog’s own husband, controversial director Sam Gold. This is a play that has been staged when needed at various times in our history such as Arthur Miller’s adaptation during the McCarthy Era. [more]

Eddie Izzard: Hamlet

March 30, 2024

In this tour de force, Izzard has come up with a different voice and stance for each character: King Claudius is a baritone, Lord Polonius has a limp, Lady Ophelia has a somewhat breathy speech pattern while Queen Gertrude is very emotional. The gravediggers are given two different lower class accents and the humor in the scene is still very vivid. The courtier Osric, who is usually played as somewhat fey, waves his hands around a great deal. The duel scene between Hamlet and Laertes in the last act is mostly successful but eventually it becomes difficult to figure out who is winning and who is losing. [more]

Corruption

March 28, 2024

Playwright J.T. Rogers ("Oslo", 2017 Tony Award for Best Play) specializes in dramatizing the backstories to true scandals of which the real details behind the facts never made the news. His latest play, "Corruption" at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, is based on the book Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain by Tom Watson and Martin Hickman, the story of the widespread hacking scandal by the News of the World in Britain by two of the main characters in his play. While "Corruption" is fascinating in its evil details and frightening in its all-inclusiveness (no one was exempt neither government ministers, the metropolitan police, the royal family, celebrities or the general public), it is also extremely dense in its characters, has too many scenes, and is very difficult to wrap your head around all of the facts. Bartlett Sher’s production keeps the 46 characters played by 13 actors distinct but his staging is somewhat hampered by the Newhouse’s round configuration and Michael Yeargan’s unit set which has to stand in for a great many places in and around London. [more]

Illinoise

March 21, 2024

While "Illinoise" does not seem bigger than its individual parts nor transcend them, it is both satisfying and moving. Peck’s inventive and derivative choreography at the same time seems to pay homage to his teachers and sources but also is in his own style. Some will find "Illinoise" an emotional experience; others will be impressed by the vigor and high spirits of the dancers and singers. Several of the dancers should be come much better known through their roles in this work. Last but not least, Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 score is remarkable in its continued vitality after all these years. [more]

The Effect

March 20, 2024

Soutra Gilmour’s setting is a sort of empty runway with the audience sitting on either side. The other props are two black chairs at either end for the two doctors. Scenes are created entirely by Jon Clark’s impressive lighting which turns a portion of the stage into a white square, the rest being kept in darkness. Since Connie and Tristan meet in various dorm rooms, doctor’s offices, examination rooms, etc., there is no sense of place. The problem is that each scene looks the same as the previous one and the many scenes covering the four weeks tend to become tiresome without an intermission to break the mood. Gilmour’s costumes which put the doctors in all black and the patients in all white are equally monotonous. [more]

Bedlam’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar as Told by William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw

March 17, 2024

The play is treated like a rehearsal (a conceit also used by Bedlam in their incomprehensible and lame "Henry IV" workshop in Brooklyn in 2023) with the director (Andrew Rothenberg who also plays Shaw’s Caesar) stopping the action periodically and breaking the mood. The costumes (production designed by director/adapter Eric Tucker, wardrobe supervisor Damarius Kennedy) are contemporary; whether this is supposed to be rehearsal clothes or a modern dress version is never made clear. (It is obviously cheaper than having to create period correct Egyptian and Roman costumes.) In terms of continuity, there are two Caesars: Rajesh Bose as Shakespeare’s Caesar and Rothenberg as Shaw’s which destroys any transition from one play to another. In fact, the segues from one text to the other are non-existent with one scene following another from the other play without any transition. [more]

The Ally

March 10, 2024

Itamar Moses’ 'The Ally" is a play of ideas not only torn from today’s headlines but tomorrow’s as well. Ostensibly dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian question on college campuses today, it also deals with censorship, anti-Semitism, racism, capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and white supremacy. The play protagonist, a Jewish liberal teacher on a college campus, is asked to sign a social justice manifesto and finds that it challenges his political, marital, academic, American and Jewish beliefs. This is a good deal for one play to take on, possibly too much, but Lila Neugebauer’s production for The Public Theater almost gets all of it right for this provocative and heady play, with one caveat. [more]

Brooklyn Laundry

March 9, 2024

John Patrick Shanley has become our poet of lonely, desperate working class people trying to make a connection despite their inadequacies and hang-ups in such plays as "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," "Savage in Limbo," "the dreamer examines his pillow," "The Big Funk" and "Outside Mullinger" and, of course, in his Academy Award-winning script for "Moonstruck." In all of these works, the pair makes an unlikely couple who fight against their very attachment as outside of the realm of possibility. In his latest play, the bittersweet "Brooklyn Laundry," he creates another lovely story of an unlikely couple Fran and Owen who find each other just when they need someone most. [more]

The Script in the Closet

March 4, 2024

Playwright Joyce Griffen’s idea of farce in her new play "The Script in the Closet" is a series of 48, mostly very short scenes in which to keep the plot going she continually introduces new characters both onstage and offstage as well as new events. Some of the scenes are less than a minute. A good deal of the play happens over the telephone with characters we never meet. The plot is made more and more complicated by new contrivances that have less and less to do with the original premise. Farces usually trigger laughter and have much physical comedy, none of which is present here. [more]
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