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Plays

Doubt: A Parable

March 21, 2024

In this Roundabout/Scott Ellis production, Amy Ryan’s Sister Aloysius (stepping in for the originally cast Tyne Daly) comes across as less absolute in her suspicions while Liev Schreiber’s Flynn is less wavering than was the more nervous O’Byrne.  Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that, unlike the original casting, Schreiber is physically more imposing than Ryan making her seem more like a small creature attempting to take down much larger prey. The current production, brilliantly and realistically designed by David Rockwell and costumed by Linda Cho, has a more human feel than the original which, unfortunately, makes the play’s last scene less effective.  The war Sister Aloysius imposes on her church and school becomes more a battle of old against new and the lack of power of nuns versus the entitled males of the Catholic Church. [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]

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]

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]

Fair Winds and Winds of War

March 17, 2024

Kahn has a good ear for the subtleties of each character and the period.  However, "Fair Winds" doesn’t handle all the major themes smoothly and the use of the narrator sometimes feels like a way to make up for her storytelling shortcomings, although Maisonett is an accomplished enough actor to make it work. [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]

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]

Existentialism

March 10, 2024

The text created by Bogart in collaboration with Maddow and Zimet is a collage of assembled passages from the works of Sartre and de Beauvoir, amongst others. Maddow and Zimet don’t often speak to each other in the piece, yet they are still very much “in dialogue.” The piece is designed as to keep them separate, though inseparable. The moments where they share stage action: putting away groceries, having sex (brief, then on to the next thought), and dancing is charming as comic relief in contrast to all the other serious content of the piece. One tongue-in-cheek moment that sheds light on how much history they share is their little jazz dance routine abruptly segueing into the Jim Carroll Band’s New Wave classic, “People Who Died.” The change is as abrupt as it is disconcerting, but it is seamlessly incorporated into the stage business. [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]

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 Maid & The Mesmerizer

March 6, 2024

Lynn’s dialogue is astute and subtle, following the heartbeat of this strange, but understandable couple lifting it out of soapiness and melodrama.  She has written a very modern drama. ... Jenn Susi’s direction helps transform conversations into a real one-act play with natural rhythms and a satisfying ending. [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]

This is not a time of peace

February 29, 2024

"This is not a time of peace" has a stream of consciousness feel effectively handled by the director Jerry Heymann. There is never any confusion about who is who and what they represent despite overlapping dialogue and quick segues from one era to the other. It is Cohn’s performance as Alina that is the strong spine of the play.  She opens and closes the play going from a matter-of-fact opening monologue to an impassioned closing statement, leaving the audience to empathize with her and comprehend all the frustrations she experiences. [more]

The Seven Year Disappear

February 29, 2024

While "The Seven Year Disappear" may challenge and confuse many theatergoers, people used to performance art may get the in-jokes. Jordan Seavey whose play "Homos, or Everyone in America" was seen in 2016 in the Labyrinth Theater Company at the Bank Street Theater is a sophisticated, seasoned playwright and he and director Scott Elliott make no concessions to their audience. "The Seven Year Disappear" may be most appreciated by devotees of experimental theater but it does make one hungry for Seavey’s next play. [more]

Deadly Stages

February 27, 2024

While we could use a good murder mystery stage play, "Deadly Stages" is too derivative to suit the bill. The cast work hard mostly playing multiple roles, but the play seems to have attempted to outdo Charles Busch’s output without having the wit or the cleverness to bring it off. Although "Deadly Stages" has amusing moments, it is a tired retread of better and more subtle works in this genre. [more]

The Life & Slimes of Marc Summers

February 26, 2024

Christopher Rhoton's Double Dare-inspired set belies these weightier autobiographical details, offering enough of a time-warping simulacrum to help middle-aged members of the audience shed a few decades when Summers interrupts his fraught remembering to twice become a kid's game show host again. Those who legibly scribble their names on a piece of paper dropped into a fishbowl before the performance, eventually get the chance to head onstage (not sure if mezzanine ticket buyers are eligible), answer trivia questions, and launch pies on a catapult (a warning for the first few rows). Amid all the cheers, laughter, and chaotic fun, there's also an opportunity for the quick-witted Summers to go off-script, asking the theatergoers-turned-contestants trite questions like "Where are you from?" and "What do you do?" to set up a slightly mischievous back-and-forth. [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]

The Tiger’s Bride

February 21, 2024

Director/writer Suzanne Karpinski has made a valiant effort to corral the chaos by encouraging the audience to get a card stamped by the actors in the various spaces, presumably in the hopes they’ll avoid revisiting the same scene more than once, but the four floors of the building are quickly explored and there’s nothing new to discover after far too short a time. Sounds and dialog bleed across scenes in different areas separated only by curtains, splintering the audience’s attention. To the actors’ credit, they’re all having a marvelous time playing their parts; their enthusiasm is infectious, even if their acting often lacks the subtlety which the intimate playing spaces beg for. [more]

Sunset Baby

February 20, 2024

"Ain't nothin' sentimental about a dead revolution." Wearing a too-short, too-tight dress, shiny thigh-high boots, and a long fuchsia wig, the twentysomething Nina (Moses Ingram) attempts to plunge these words like a dagger straight into her estranged father's idealistic heart, which has survived a long prison stretch for an armored truck robbery committed decades ago to aid the Black liberation movement. Coming early in Signature Theatre's revival of Dominique Morisseau's "Sunset Baby," it's obvious Nina's flinty declaration will never be genuinely up for debate--at least not for Nina--nor should the audience get even passingly optimistic about a dewy-eyed mending of the broken familial bond between Nina and the recently freed Kenyatta (Russell Hornsby). It's a lot to so quickly take off the dramatic table, but the unrelenting Morisseau does it forthrightly and thoroughly to serve the play's one overriding objective: being true to Nina. [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]

Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance

February 20, 2024

It is a rare author indeed that can take uncomfortable material, and by uncomfortable that is, to hear, digest, and process a subject no one likes as a subject of conversation, and then give an audience the opportunity to take away from the experience a profound enlightenment. But when that author is Dael Orlandersmith we have come to expect nothing else. The playwright’s new work, "Spiritus/Virgil’s Dance," is a contemplative meditation on mortality as much as it is an examination of how we choose to pass and live out our days until our own “conclusion.” [more]

Between Two Knees

February 19, 2024

At the performance under review, part of the audience found the show hilariously funny, while others proverbially sat on their hands. The show makes use of history, parody, satire, burlesque, musical comedy and tragicomedy, never being consistent to any one genre. At two and a half hours this kind of parody seems a bit too long. "Between Two Knees" is a noble effort to tell the story of one hundred years of Native American suffering through the Lakota tribe, but it seems to want to cover too much in too parodistic a style. [more]

Warrior Sisters of Wu

February 17, 2024

Inspired by 20th century film and video games based on the classic Chinese novel of the 15th century, 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms," Damon Chua’s delightful and engrossing "Warrior Sisters of Wu" takes two minor female characters and puts them center stage. Using the framework of Jane Austin’s "Pride and Prejudice" with the two best characters, male and female, taking an instant dislike to each other but eventually coming to see each other’s good traits, Warrior Sisters of Wu takes place at the end of the Chinese Han Dynasty in 200 A.D. when war is certain and society is changing. Stylishly directed by Jeff Liu for the Pan-Asian Repertory Theatre with top-notch fight choreography by Michael g. Chin, the play is both exciting and romantic including both vigorous swordfights and tender love scenes. Like Mr. Bennett in Austin’s novel, Lord Qiao has a problem: having only daughters, his estate is entailed to his next male heir, the indolent Cousin Xie who comes to visit in order to see about marrying either sister Wan or Qing, who are accomplished swordswomen. However, like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, Xie is an obnoxious social climber and does not interest either sister, Wan who is engaged to General Zhou Yu in a love match, nor Qing who has not found anyone who is her equal. [more]

The Apiary

February 16, 2024

Unfortunately, at 70 minutes the play seems skimpy. Structured in a great many short scenes, only one thing happens in each, so that there is a sameness to it all. Basically a two character play with two lab assistants Zora (April Matthis) and Pilar (Carmen M. Herlihy) attempting to come up with new solutions to the problem and spoken in the level-headed tone of scientific investigation, the play does not offer climaxes or high points but moves on the same plane. The four actors playing seven characters remain on the same level without developing or changing. Kate Whoriskey’s direction appears to have eschewed raising tension to make the play more interesting or more dramatic, something it sorely needs. [more]

Munich Medea: Happy Family

February 15, 2024

Like its unwieldy title, Corinne Jaber’s "Munich Medea: Happy Family" takes its time getting where it is going but is ultimately powerful and revealing in its almost unspeakable tale. It deals with difficult material but finds a way to tell its shocking story that eventually involves many people. Under Lee Sunday Evans’ direction, Crystal Finn, Kurt Rhoads and especially Heather Raffo impress through their characterizations and the baring of their souls. The play never talks down to us but confides in us as though we were complicit in not putting a stop to these long ago horrifying events. This attempt at a modern Greek tragedy is quite successful in a genre rarely seen these days. [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]

Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy

February 13, 2024

Sarah Gancher’s "Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy" is seemingly torn from the headlines - if this were the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election which pitted Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. In 2024, it seems rather past its due date. Although it calls itself a comedy, it is not very funny but rather outrageous in its depicting of Russian misinformation intended for the American internet to influence the voters to cast their ballot for Trump rather than Clinton. What Gancher has written cannot make up its mind whether it is a comedy, satire, parody, drama or tragedy or a combination of all the above, which is problematic. Under Darko Tresnjak’s direction, don’t blame the hard working cast led by film and stage star Christine Lahti, all of whom throw themselves into their offbeat roles with abandon. [more]

The Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes in the First World War

February 8, 2024

The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre (CAMT) is presenting “an innovative re-interpretation of a classic, combining live performances with puppets” at the resourceful Theater for the New City in the East Village. "The Good Soldier Švejk and His Fortunes in the First World War" is a classic journey into a satirical, picaresque anti-war message first revealed in the novel by Jaroslav Hašek published in several volumes in the early twenties. It is one of the most translated books by a Czech writer.  Hašek served in World War I and his experiences fueled his sardonically funny novel. Švejk was adapted for stage productions soon after by such theater luminaries as Erwin Piscator and Bertolt Brecht.  The new, loose-legged adaptation at TNC is by Vít Hořejš who also directed this production. [more]

The Following Evening

February 7, 2024

Although written and directed by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone of 600 Highwaymen, "The Following Evening" is a tribute and a summing up of the 50 year career and marriage of experimental theater legends Ellen Maddow and Paul Zimet, co-founding members of the Talking Band. In the past they were usually seen at La MaMa ETC, but the new show is part of the inaugural season at the Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC NYC) in the black box theater known as Theater C. The space is perfectly suitable to the minimalist performance piece which includes all four actors. [more]

Jonah

February 3, 2024

The play is best at its mysteries which are only slowly revealed. However, audience members may be confused part of the time as to the sequence of events and the relationships. A great deal is never resolved. The scene transitions are accompanied by blaring sound and flashing lights (sound by Kate Marvin; lighting by Amith Chandrashaker) which at times suggest that at least one or more scenes may be fantasies. The costumes by Kaye Voyce remain basically the same but Gabby Beans as Ana seems to grow in poise and maturity though very subtly from teenager to maturity. Although set at first 20 years ago, the male characters often talk of permission for intimacy, something that was not common parlance that long ago. [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]

Our Class

January 26, 2024

Tadeusz Slobodzianek’s "Our Class" is epic in its storytelling and shocking in its specifics. At three hours, the play is never long or boring as every line of dialogue offers new details to be digested as ten lives are laid out for us. While rather busy Igor Golyak’s production is always illuminating, always compelling. The cast of ten mostly young actors, many unfamiliar to New York audiences, are always riveting as they tell their individual and intertwining stories. What may be most shocking is that in Jan Gross’ prose account in his 2001 book "Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwadne, Poland" he reveals was that this is not the only Polish town in which these atrocities against the Jews took place. One realizes why the world premiere of "Our Class" took place in Great Britain and not Poland. [more]

Pride House

January 23, 2024

While “Pride” has come to stand for Gay Liberation in contemporary times, Beatrice has named her house after Jane Austen’s novel as it is made clear when she names her new guesthouse “Prejudice” at the end of the play. The play’s cast of characters includes mostly real people under their own names: John Mosher, film critic for The New Yorker Magazine; Arthur Brill, decorator and furniture designer; Natalia Danesi Murray, a Broadway actress and later journalist and editor; and Edwin Marshall, an African American dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies. Unfortunately, neither the play nor the program makes it clear that these were all real people or that they were well known in their time. The play also does a certain amount of name dropping (Eva Le Gallienne, Gypsy Rose Lee, Janet Flanner) that may go over the heads of many of the younger theatergoers today. [more]
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