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Plays

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]

Mary Jane

May 5, 2024

The play is an expression of the quiet whirlwind within Mary Jane’s soul, exquisitely expressed by the warm McAdams, surrounded by the boundless support of the others. Director Anne Kauffman masterfully allows the play to express vast emotions in the most subtle ways.  What might have been a tearjerker is so much more, a chance to completely belong in this character’s mind and heart. [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]

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]

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]

Patriots

April 28, 2024

If there's a compelling reason to see "Patriots," it's Stuhlbarg, a Julliard-trained actor who can elevate flawed material with the best of them. In "Patriots," his talent bridges a director and writer who are never in sync, finding meaning in Goold's absurdity and a recognizable person in Morgan's pomposity. Actually, the latter frequently has benefited from this type of good fortune. молодец, mate! [more]

Stereophonic

April 27, 2024

David Adjmi’s "Stereophonic" at the Golden Theatre, a transfer under the auspices of Playwrights Horizons, is a minutely detailed, almost minute-by-minute recreation of a recording session by a rock band, purportedly based on Fleetwood Mac’s creation of its epic album "Rumours" in 1976.  (Adjmi has denied that this was his inspiration, claiming that the show has an amalgam of sources.) [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]

Oh, Mary!

April 9, 2024

No one should be sacrosanct or above satirical treatment, not even our heroes.  Everyone has feet of clay.  Cole Escola in their huge hit "Oh, Mary!" at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Greenwich Village certainly believes this.  Their over-the-top, irreverent take on Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth is so scurrilously sexual that it is difficult to avoid guffawing at their magnificent awfulness helped by Escola’s constant silly shtick and blatant playing to the audience, all of whom seemed to be having fun. [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]

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]

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]

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]
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