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Off-Broadway

Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait

June 10, 2015

“Don’t step on the sand,” cautions the usher as she hands out programs and directs patrons to the their seats at The Gym at Judson. Indeed, the stage and floor is filled with sand that’s been artfully arranged into a barren vista of mounds and dunes. There is a concrete staircase leading to the roof of a small structure. Above is a rectangular screen where later images of the sky and a forest are projected. There is a concrete block with a pole in it on stage. Unfortunately Raul Abrego’s impressive set is the most outstanding feature of playwright Daniel Talbott’s cryptically titled and exasperating 90-minute War Is Hell fantasia, "Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait. " [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 Spoils

June 5, 2015

Can an obnoxious, sadomasochistic nerd be the central character of a play? This is the thought that will run through your mind as you watch Jesse Eisenberg’s third play, "The Spoils," being given its world premiere by The New Group. As it turns out if you knew Ben, the latest role Eisenberg has written for himself, you would probably run the other way. However, staged by The New Group’s artistic director Scott Elliott,"The Spoils" is absorbing theater and you sit riveted to see if Ben will get what he deserves.  [more]

Permission

June 3, 2015

Robert Askins’ hilarious and engrossing new play is set in Texas just like his Hand to God also produced by MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 2014 and now on Broadway. And just like "Hand to God," this comedy-drama is about needy, unfulfilled people, but this time it is about adults, rather than damaged teenagers. He writes full rounded characters and clever, believable dialogue that reveals the speakers at all times. Here and in "Hand to God," he also deals with fresh subject matter not seen on our stage before. While nothing really shocking happens on stage in Permission, it is most definitely for adults – and prudes should stay home. [more]

The Two Gentlemen of Verona 

May 31, 2015

For those who saw Fiasco Theater’s inventive and clever version of "Into the Woods" at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre earlier this year, you know what a delightful take this company has on material that has previously been performed in a traditional manner. If you didn’t see their Into the Woods or their previous production of "Cymbeline," then you are in for an absolutely delightful treat with their latest production, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," now at the Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center. Performed with a cast of six talented and resourceful actors (five of whom were members of both the "Cymbeline" and "Into the Woods" casts) in a barebones production which hits all its marks, this early Shakespeare comedy is always hilarious, always surprising, always accessible and always romantic. [more]

The Way We Get By 

May 31, 2015

Mr. LaBute achieved prominence by writing and directing the films "In The Company Of Men" (1997) and "Your Friends and Neighbors" (1998). These scabrous works were followed by the unsettling play "The Shape of Things" in 2001, where a young woman seeks to physically transform her nerdish boyfriend into the perfect man. In succeeding years New York City has seen the premieres of a succession of such idiosyncratic formulaic explorations of the relationships between men and women. Here, this shtick is weak and totally unrewarding. [more]

Nice Girl

May 28, 2015

Set in Boston in 1984, "Nice Girl" is the story of Josephine “Jo” Rosen (Diane Davis), a 37-year-old secretary who lives with her mother. Davis’ Jo is the epitome of a “nice girl.” She keeps to herself, puts others first, and is afraid to say how she really feels in spite of clear emotional stress. Davis is an actress with immense emotional depth, and provides a varied and complex look at a protagonist whose self-inflicted pain, from an outsider’s perspective, is frustrating and also subtle enough that it feels totally conceivable. [more]

Don Juan

May 27, 2015

The Pearl Theatre Company’s express aim in reviving this curiosity according to translator Jess Burkle, responsible for this world premiere adaptation, is “to connect the experience of the play in the original French to American audiences in 2015.” Burkle’s method is to use “alliteration, idiom, and mixed metaphor” as “the key to getting us all to pay attention to Moliere’s glowing words.” Much of the problem with Hal Brooks’ production is that while all of the characters aside from Don Juan (who is clothed as a rock star) are dressed in 17th century costumes, the text is made up of contemporary language. [more]

The Flatiron Hex

May 27, 2015

Godwin's talent in seamlessly operating the puppets is an impressive sight and the use of old-fashioned materials, such as a slide projector to represent a lab was a nice choice in this age of advanced technology. The classic "mad scientist" imagery is perfect for evoking historic New York. Some choices are definitely not for the squeamish and audiences should prepare themselves for certain sights and sounds that will definitely prompt a reaction. [more]

New Country

May 24, 2015

In addition to his superior writing achievement, Mr. Roberts also plays the complex old codger, Uncle Jim. He has written a grand vehicle for himself, and his performance is as tremendous as his writing. Blusteringly entering, carrying a garish blow-up sex doll, and resembling a grizzled Duck Dynasty figure with a big scraggly beard, wearing a cap, camouflage gear and orange sneakers, he instantly gets laughs. With a unique, guttural, singsong twang, he delivers numerous zingers, but soon the pathos and depth of this disaffected character is poignantly revealed. [more]

Blood Red Roses: The Female Pirate Project

May 23, 2015

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this devised piece is the venue itself. Boarding the Lehigh Valley Barge off the docks of Red Hook, Brooklyn, is like taking a literal step off the land and a figurative step back in time. During normal business hours, the old barge is a museum dedicated to New York City’s rich maritime history. During the run of this production, however, the rickety, wooden fixture serves as the galley of a ghost ship. At the performance under review, thunder crackled in the distance and the makeshift stage bobbed in the Upper Bay’s stormy waters while the players carry on in costume designer Emily Blumenauer’s grungy, Victorian seafarer wear; if nothing else, "Blood Red Roses' is a chillingly atmospheric evening of theater. [more]

The Butter and Egg Man

May 22, 2015

George S. Kaufman’s only solo effort, the 1925 satire, "The Butter and Egg Man" is a colorfully exaggerated snapshot of the nitty-gritty, seat-of-your-pants theater of a prolific decade when two men could do it all: casting, hiring designers, booking theaters and, of course, raising the dough. How things have changed! It’s the money, and the chicanery involved in raising it, that animates the plot of The Butter and Egg Man. The title, in fact, refers to the rich dilettante who can be duped into investing in a clunker, here played by a wide-eyed Ben Schnickel who makes Peter Jones a sweet guy from the sticks who finally finds a backbone and love. [more]

Forever

May 13, 2015

The press performance under review left audiences hanging on her every word, as Orlandersmith painted a picture of the challenging and draining relationship she had with her mother, including the arguments, the name-calling, the shame and her mother’s constant need for security and attention. Well-spoken and tuned into her emotions, Orlandersmith has a true ability to connect with a large room, making them feel every emotion and sensation that she was feeling. She didn’t sugarcoat one detail and her authenticity aided in processing each thought and feeling, and ultimately allowed Orlandersmith to rise above her past. [more]

A Queen for a Day

May 10, 2015

If the casting of four powerhouse actors hadn’t been the case—including Proval’s "The Soprano"’s co-star Vincent Pastore--this play would not falter. Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s writing is consistent and engaging, and the dialogue between the characters is so fluid and effortless that it feels like two real people having a conversation. Full of powerful social commentary, this is a dark, exciting, and at times violent story with a little bit of something for everybody.   [more]

Cool Hand Luke

May 10, 2015

Director Joe Tantalo’s striking, minimalist production has no scenery and virtually no props. It marvelously relies on purely theatrical imaginative devices. Mr. Tantalo’s accomplished, choreographic staging and the performances achieved yield often intense experiences. [more]

Love Me

May 7, 2015

Charlie is an amiable, 31-year-old struggling actor, writer and motivational speaker, who chickens out while calling a woman from a Village Voice personal ad. He soon becomes romantically involved with Carol, a successful lawyer, and later the temperamental Susan, a controlling singer. During these complications, we meet an assortment of colorful best friends, sidekicks, and view a satirically enacted commercial casting session. Most crucial is “Charlie’s Head,” which is the theatrical device of his subconscious being represented by another actor. This alter ego is always present, commenting on the action with the honesty and insight that Charlie is often unable to articulate. [more]

‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore

May 6, 2015

We associate Jacobean revenge tragedy with the reign of King James I. Each play’s atrocities seemed to dare the next playwright with an unspoken “Can you top this?” Playwright John Ford continued the genre under the next king, Charles I, coming up with new and even more lurid variations. Red Bull Theater which specializes in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries is offering a staging of Ford’s rarely revived masterpiece "‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore." While artistic director Jesse Berger has piloted a solid production which is a good introduction to this unfamiliar play, it all seems a bit tame when the script seems to cry out for tremendous excesses. As always, however, with Red Bull productions, the diction in this revival is impeccable and totally intelligible. [more]

American Moor

April 29, 2015

A play that has much opportunity to expose the relationship of casting director with actor, not merely across the table but across racial backgrounds and stereotypes begins as it promises. Enter Cobb, a large black man, anxiously awaiting the call of the casting assistant as he proceeds to unapologetically disturb the entire waiting room with his nervous behavior. The thought of playing Othello brings back memories of his youth and a single theater teacher unwilling to allow him to play any role other than that which he might be traditionally cast in for an assignment. As the character’s exposition is beginning to evolve, the casting agent interrupts us. We can tell the actor has an agenda to prove; that now as a grown man in this audition things will be different. [more]

The Indelible: The 11th Annual East Side Stories

April 26, 2015

Rodriguez, Brown and McNeill all go that extra mile to establish a connection - and make eye contact with every single audience member contained on the three sides of the theater. As they share their stories, the emotion and passion used to bring out the truth in each of these East Village residents is well translated from a period in time to the present day. While the historical elements are fascinating and provide context, the ultimate theme of acceptance, finding a guiding light to outshine the world's cruelty, and celebrating life creates a lasting impact. [more]

The Belle of Belfast

April 24, 2015

The ample set by John McDermott is an intelligent divide between interior and exterior life, the run down streets of Belfast and a humble, wooden and warm rectory. Contemplation goes on in both places, be it perils of war or morals. Famed film director Claudia Weill returning to the New York stage establishes this well. Each character has his or her place and is well defined. Weill has a clear vision of the conflict at hand. Impressive music, explosions and street noise punctuate the scenes artfully with sound design by Daniel Kluger. [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]

39 Steps

April 23, 2015

Working from Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon’s 1995’s original concept, Patrick Barlow’s adaptation is a witty, tongue-in-cheek, homage that recreates the plot of the film, with comic flourishes. There are also verbal, musical and visual references to other Hitchcock films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, North By Northwest, The Lady Vanishes, Vertigo, The Birds, Strangers On a Train, and Psycho. There’s an updated nod to Downton Abbey. [more]

Hamlet

April 17, 2015

The first problem is the attractive modern setting by Walt Spengler of the wedding breakfast of Claudius and Gertrude with a huge cake in the background. The issue is that the table and the cake remain on stage for the entire evening, a terrible distraction. Does this palace have only one public room? The next situation is that Pendleton has chosen to cut both ghost scenes so that the audience is never told that Gertrude had an affair with her brother-in-law or that Claudius poisoned his brother Old Hamlet. The problem that this creates is that young Hamlet has to be played as paranoid as we have no way of knowing what the off-stage ghost told him, nor do we know what is bothering him when he acts so badly to his mother and step-father. [more]

The Undeniable Sound of Right Now

April 15, 2015

Like Laura Eason’s "Sex with Strangers" seen at The Second Stage last summer, "The Undeniable Sound of Right Now," her new play having its world premiere in New York in a joint production of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and Women’s Project Theater, has a pulsating urgency that pulls you into it from the moment the lights come up. Director Kirsten Kelly, another long time Chicago resident along with Eason, has obtained dynamic characterizations from her cast of six including Jeb Brown, Margo Seibert and Daniel Abeles. While the play has a rather abrupt and unsatisfying ending as well as its clunky though accurate title, it brims with the authority of real life rather than theatrical artifice. [more]

UNDERLAND

April 15, 2015

By: Courtney Marie Annie Golden and Daniel K. Isaac in a scene from “UNDERLAND” (Photo credit: [more]

A la Carte: A Feast of New Plays

April 15, 2015

"A la Carte: A Feast of New Plays" is a presentation of The Workshop Theater’s leading playwrights that consists of six short plays, all with the theme of food. Most of the works are comic though some are very moving. The styles all vary but the level of writing of each is solid, and contains interesting situations and characters. Cumulatively it’s an entertaining program that gives a wonderful showcase to the excellent cast of actors that have been assembled to portray these often rich roles. [more]

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

April 8, 2015

Since Bedlam theatre company arrives on the radar in 2013, theatergoers have left their performances as devoted fans. Beginning with acclaimed productions of "Hamlet" and "Saint Joan" in the fall of 2013 and an extended run in the spring of 2014 with casts of only four actors, they returned last fall with a delightfully faithful and inventive stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s "Sense and Sensibility." The same four actors who appeared in Bedlam’s "Hamlet" and "Saint Joan" are back (along with Susannah Millonzi) in two alternate versions of the same Shakespeare comedy, one titled "Twelfth Night" and the other, "What You Will." Minimalist and clever to the nth degree, the "Twelfth Night" performance under review brought the audience to its feet at the end of the two (ingenious and intermission-less) hours. [more]

House of Tards

April 5, 2015

Director Paul Dobie’s staging gives the show a fast pace and well utilizes the small playing area, which is the upstairs cabaret theater of The Stonewall Inn, the historic gay bar on Christopher Street, where it is performed once a week on Thursday nights. It premiered there in October 2014 and ran through December 2014. It has returned to New York following engagements in Los Angeles and San Francisco. [more]

Martyrs Street

April 2, 2015

Shulman is a skilled story teller, creating characters that are real and complex: honorable people that make mistakes, some misguided, some well-intentioned or ruthless. People we all know, maybe even in our own families. Shulman makes the head of each household, two women, the focal point of the play. Noor, which means light in Arabic, is a widowed professor at the university with a 16-year-old daughter, Aisha, and a son, Nimer. She doesn’t wear a headscarf, and spends time alone with her late husband’s friend Salim (Alok Tewari), which is frowned upon in the community. Noor received an order from the Israeli government that her house is going to be taken down in 30 days. [more]

Five Times In One Night

April 2, 2015

Through a series of five two-character scenes, Atik’s play charts the evolution (or lack thereof) of sex in humanity. While one segment depicts Adam and Eve fumbling through their first discovery of intercourse, another shows a pair of apocalypse survivors struggling to repopulate earth. In between, Atik includes a medieval couple’s epistolary romance, another couple’s post-breakup fling from “last week,” and a third’s inept attempt at exploring fetishes “next week.” Each with their own unique angle, Atik’s five self-contained shorts add up to a heartfelt, whimsical look at the reasons we pursue sex and the means we employ in order to have it. [more]

The Book of Moron

March 31, 2015

“Who Are You,” recorded by The Who, starts off "The Book of Moron." It’s a well-crafted 80-minute theater piece of observational stand up comedy written and performed by Robert Dubac. The title is a pun on the musical, The Book of Mormon and is representative of Mr. Dubac’s comic sensibility. Those who find him funny will have a great time at this show, and those who don’t, will have a tough time. [more]

Posterity

March 30, 2015

In Doug Wright’s "Posterity" at the Atlantic Theater Company two monumental cultural figures of 19th century Norway lock horns in a battle of wits and sensibilities with tragic results. Wright, who seems to have a penchant for writing about real people (viz. "Quills," "I Am My Own Wife," and "Grey Gardens"), here, takes on Henrik Ibsen, monumental 19th century playwright, and sculptor Gustav Vigeland, forty years his junior. [more]

Irreversible

March 23, 2015

Josh Doucette, Hugh Sinclair and Jordan Kaplan in a scene from “Irreversible” (Photo credit: [more]
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