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Off-Broadway

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]

Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn

May 15, 2024

Christie Perfetti Williams’ genial new play "Bettye and the Jockettes Spinning Records at the Holiday Inn" transports the audience back to the moment Elvis Presley became an international star via his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in July 1956. Working at the tiny all-female Memphis radio station, WHER, tucked off the lobby of a Holiday Inn, Bettye (Heather E. Cunningham) is devoted to spinning jazz records and does the occasional interview.  She is not a fan of Presley’s music but is given the assignment of interviewing him, a task made all the more important for the station now that Presley’s career is about to zoom into the stratosphere. [more]

October 7

May 13, 2024

The play, taken by Phelim McAleer from witness accounts in interviews performed by Ann McElhinney and McAleer in Israel in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, is incredibly powerful, if a bit relentless. It opens with people dancing at what we learn is the Nova festival, one of the sites of the October 7 attacks.  Told mostly in direct address monologues, the cast is uniformly excellent, and quick costume changes keep things moving (the simple but effective costume design is by Sara Tzipi bat Devorah). It's difficult to call out any cast member in particular but Paul Louis and Jeff Gurner do nice work as people who go out of their way to help others. Geoffrey Cantor, best known as an actor, does a terrific job staging a complicated narrative. He should get more directing work. [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]

Staff Meal

May 11, 2024

Koogler began writing "Staff Meal" in January 2020 and completed the first draft in April 2020…well, he certainly had time on his hands, but so did a lot of people. It’s a wonder we didn’t have a great outpouring of “the great American novels” during Covid, or at least as we were being released from our lockdowns so we’d have something to read as we made our way back into the subway. What is striking about "Staff Meal" is that we begin with what passes for so much normalcy – two people begin conversation, even if it’s minimal Millennial-bleats, and graduate towards commiserating about the coffee in this particular café finally leading up to finding lunch somewhere…but this won’t be a quick run into a (low-end) McDonald’s or (slightly better than low end) Pret a Manger…this will be a foray into Ruth Reichl territory. They land in a high-end perhaps Michelin-starred restaurant where the staff gathers to eat gourmet cuisine before the dinner crowd comes in. [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]

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]

Exagoge

May 7, 2024

As we are instructed early on, the meal and the service are divided into 15 sections. The Seder is held in the midst, or as a significant part, of the whole of the play. It is then complemented by the opera portions. Einhorn gets a big assist from composer Avner Finberg’s exotic score and musical director Mila Henry as she leads the chamber sextet from the piano. Tenor James Benjamin Rodgers as Moses, soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke as Tzippora, one of the God voices, and a messenger, and lyric bass Matthew Curran as the Pharaoh, Reuel, and the other God voice are exemplary. [more]

Fingers & Spoons: The Ins and Outs of an Open Marriage

May 5, 2024

"Fingers & Spoons" does have its titillating moments, with descriptions of sex and even mild simulations. (The show is sexual enough that it would probably be a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe.) You will leave knowing that Pascale Roger-McKeever, the author and star, likes to be called a slut, at least under the right circumstances. You will not, however, leave with a greater understanding of open marriage. [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]

Orlando

April 30, 2024

While the ensemble cast is excellent throughout, we do feel Taylor Mac’s absence when he goes offstage to change costumes (and that is quite a few times, one more sumptuous than the other – though not rivalling what goes on at a Cher concert). Most importantly the “new gender reveal” in Constantinople also occurs offstage. Inhabiting Orlando as a woman, Mac gives us one of the most heartfelt realizations, “How odd. When I was a young man, I insisted that women be obedient, chaste and scented. Now I shall have to pay in my own person for those desires. For women are not…obedient, chaste and scented by nature. They can only attain these graces by tedious discipline. There’s the hairdressing…that alone will take at least an hour of my morning…there’s looking in the looking glass…there’s being chaste year in and year out…Christ Jesus.” [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]

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]

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]

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]

Still

April 25, 2024

The performances are quite stellar. Jayne Atkinson’s Helen is simply gorgeous. We do see that woman who 30 years ago wore a red dress to a party…and that was enough for Mark and Lorraine to have a fight, as Mark “not to hurt Lorraine” had described Helen as plain. Thirty years later she is still anything but plain. Atkinson is that woman who could have broken up a marriage if Mark and Helen continued communicating over those 30 years. She is vibrant, earthy and quick-witted, all the things Lorraine may not have been. Tim Daly finds that illusive charm in Mark that may or may not allow the audience to forgive that this meeting reeks of the premeditated. He too provides us with an easy glance at what it must have been like for them to be together. He is more prepared for this meeting…the stops and starts and even Helen’s unintentional changes of subject. Daly, despite his character’s references to a heart attack and arthritis, gives us that glimpse of the youthful Mark that Helen fell in love with years ago, and could fall in love with once again. [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]

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]

House of Telescopes

April 19, 2024

Playwright Kairos Looney has given us a gift in these painfully beautiful moments. We explore a family’s various ways of approaching love for and duty to each other with the result that we are all human coming as no surprise. Where sometimes there are breaks in communication, it is not about who gets “to be the better person,” but more about how we find that way to erect that bridge that brings us all together again. [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]

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]

Dali’s Dream

April 13, 2024

The four patients’ stories occupy the bulk of "Dali’s Dream" in an uneven stream of oddball activities which divert the plot from the more important consideration of the Freud/Dali interaction.  Their behavior is whimsical at best, arbitrary at worst. The play becomes an awkward phantasmagoria of the four patients’ crippling neuroses, hiding the fact that the reason for the play, its important focus, the meeting of two major minds of the twentieth century, becomes secondary, not to mention swelling the play’s running time.  Their discussions are never fully realized, but get as far as Dali’s admission that he could remember being in his mother’s womb, more a boast than a revelation. [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]

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]

Travels

April 5, 2024

"Travels" at Ars Nova isn’t just a story of the many places James Harrison Monaco has been.  That’s part of it, the most superficial part. "Travels" is far more:  a deep look at the people in his life, two in particular, whose fascinating and moving stories emerge from a torrent of music, videos, lights and words.  In eight songs/scenes a very personal saga unravels until a chilling coda. On the tiny Ars Nova stage, a console contains the control center of the production.  Constantly moving images give the illusion of flying into a vortex, soon replaced by more informative images that illustrate the stories told by Monaco and his very talented compatriots: El Beh, Ashley De La Rosa, Mehry Eslaminia and John Murchison. [more]

Stalker

April 2, 2024

Peter Brynolf and Jonas Ljung, two coolly elegant Swedes—who wrote the show with Edward Af Sillén (also the show’s director)—perform one mind-boggling feat after another, fed by information culled from the audience.  The two performers also speak of their own lives, although why they have to describe themselves as “two heterosexuals” is questionable. [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]

Orson’s Shadow

March 29, 2024

For those interested in both theatrical history and the lives of our former artistic heroes, Pendleton doesn’t disappoint, even if he exaggerates and manipulates the facts a bit.  He does better with Welles and Olivier, both played smartly and quirkily, than he does with Taff’s almost invisible Plowright and Menna’s ghostly, but glamorous Leigh.  Hamilton’s Tynan is more didactic than dramatic, but he looks terrific and keeps the show rolling along. Listening to these giants kvetch and spew is fascinating and strangely satisfying. [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]

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]
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