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Plays

Nora

December 2, 2015

Pendleton has made some strange directorial choices. Characters appear on stage and stand silently long before their entrances. This is distracting as one wonders are they supposed to hear the conversations taking place. Many of the entrances and exits take place through the main aisle of the theater which breaks the fourth wall convention continually. He has also cast several actors as older than they are described so that this shifts the character relationships appreciably. The most famous scene in the play when Nora slams the door, possibly the most iconic moment in modern drama, is diluted considerably as there is no door for Nora to slam. Harry Feiner’s set design has the drawing room and bedroom visible side by side throughout the play which seems somewhat inappropriate for the 19th century setting. [more]

Night Is a Room

December 2, 2015

The pleasure of" Night Is a Room" is watching these three expert actors speak Wallace’s rich, insightful language which veers from wittily highfalutin to excitingly vulgar. Charting their emotional reactions which teem with hyperbolic outbursts, she has her finger on the pulse of these three self-deluders. Bill Rauch directed with total comprehension, walking a fine line between permitting the audience to observe the drama and also be mystified and appalled by these awful people. [more]

Dear Elizabeth

December 1, 2015

The great mid-20th century American poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell were friends from 1947 until his sudden death 30 years later. As they were usually in different cities and countries (Bishop lived in Brazil for many years while Lowell lived in New York City and Boston), they wrote each other over 450 letters which were published in 2008 as "Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell." Sarah Ruhl, an adventurous playwright whose plays tend to be very different from each other, has adapted the letters for the stage in a homage to writing and friendship called Dear Elizabeth in which all of the words are that of the poets. Kate Whorskey’s fascinating production for WP Theater (formerly The Women’s Project) has staged the play much in the manner of last year’s revival of A.R. Gurney’s "Love Letters" and also with revolving casts. [more]

Incident at Vichy

November 28, 2015

Arthur Miller is having a great posthumous 100th birthday! "A View from a Bridge" opened on Broadway to sensational reviews to be followed soon by "The Crucible." Now a revival of "Incident at Vichy," his frightening, microcosmic examination of Nazi-occupied France during the height of World War II, is enjoying a fine revival at the Signature Theatre. While the first two plays are each experiencing radical re-assessments, the director of Vichy, Michael Wilson has opted for a straight-forward, naturalistic interpretation in which each character exists as a finely etched portrait and the set (by Jeff Cowie) is a real, frightening place down to the period French newspapers plastering the holes in the windows. [more]

Alison’s House

November 26, 2015

Metropolitan Playhouse has done itself proud with its revival of the rarely seen "Alison’s House." Alex Roe’s splendid production with its accomplished cast demonstrates the vitality of Susan Glaspell’s play as well as its contemporary relevance. This is a revival of the highest caliber. [more]

Gluten!

November 25, 2015

From offstage we hear the hyperbolic exclamations of a young man, Copious Fairchild, as he masturbates mixed with the soundtrack of a television cooking show. He enters the living room with a jar containing his semen and places it on the coffee table. After favorably commenting on its magnitude his young wife Hibiscus Van Der Waal, takes it and goes offstage. We soon hear her orgasmic sounds as she inseminates herself during this anti-sexual reproductive process called “coagulating.” It’s a pivotal sequence in Stephen Kaliski’s excruciating futuristic spoof "Gluten!" [more]

Promising

November 24, 2015

Aside from the obvious theme of morality in politics, the play also deals devastatingly with issues of privacy in public life and in the information age. Can David keep the news of the abortion secret? How will the press deal with his Asian sister showing up? Which side are the pundits on the web on? Can the Carver campaign ride out the storm? The contemporary issue of date rape is also explored thoroughly. "Promising" ends with a sensational denouement which will leave the audience with much to think about. [more]

Kick

November 24, 2015

Ms. Rush is also the performer and she is stupendous. In addition to playing Bernadette, she portrays a gallery of characters she encounters. These include her parents, a priest, her gay male best friend, her Rockette confidante, her husband, her son and a few others. Rush effortlessly switches back and forth among these multiple roles with precision and vivid physical and vocal details, offering great depth to each. [more]

Misery

November 23, 2015

The best role in the story is that of sociopath, deranged Annie Wilkes. Metcalf runs the gamut of emotions from bliss to murderous rage and back and turns on a dime. Unlike Willis, she uses her face to show all of her moods both pleased and black. Always interesting to watch, her Annie is revealed as crazier the longer the story goes on. The scenes in which she has to get Paul back into bed suggest that her Annie not only contains tremendous emotional extremes but also enormous strength from years running her farm. Playing the role less childless-like than Kathy Bates did in the movie, she makes Annie Wilkes all her own. As the third member of the cast in the minor role of the sheriff, Brown is completely convincing but he hasn’t been given much to do in his few brief scenes. [more]

Dada Woof Papa Hot

November 20, 2015

It was inevitable that legalized gay marriage would lead to plays about gay parenthood. "Dada Woof Papa Hot," Peter Parnell’s sweet-natured, but frustratingly narrow-focused, new play at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater explores the kind of child rearing issues formerly supposedly experienced only by straight couples, at least straight couples with large bank accounts. To bring the theme of gay marriage further into the mainstream, divorce also rears its ugly head. [more]

King Charles III

November 19, 2015

Admittedly, many of the ideas in the play are hardly new or revolutionary: the first measures to limit the scope of the British monarchy’s power date back to the 1215 Magna Carta and subsequent arguments challenging the divine right of kings include the American Declaration of Independence, drafted in 1776. Rather, this production’s merit lies in the shocking immediacy it brings to the subject. Acutely aware of the fact that the nearly 90 year-old Queen will not live forever, Bartlett takes us into a not-too-distant future where the inevitable change of the empire’s figurehead sends the nation into a state of upheaval. His England is just melodramatic enough that to allow us to see it as fictional yet a shade too realistic to feel truly dystopian. [more]

Lost Girls

November 16, 2015

The title refers to three generations of women whose lives have been derailed by early pregnancies. When the play begins, we are in the modest home of embittered, single mom Maggie (Perabo) who is late for work at the Bloomingdale outlet during a nor’easter when she finds that her car has been stolen. When she also discovers that her daughter Erica hasn’t been to school that day, she realizes that her car hasn’t been stolen but taken by her daughter who it turns out has a boyfriend her mother knew nothing about. However, Maggie can’t afford to lose her job - or her mortgage - as her cushion this month is all of $23 and she is a “pizza an’ a six pack away from bouncing the electric bill.” This is life on the edge of subsistence for many Americans. [more]

Charles Francis Chan, Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery

November 16, 2015

The National Asian American Theater Company’s world premiere of Lloyd Suh’s "Charles Francis Chan, Jr.’s Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery" is best categorized as fiercely provocative satire. The play has two storylines. The first follows a 1960’s Frank who is developing and producing a murder mystery; the second being scenes from the aforementioned murder mystery, which is a stylized production featuring an Asian woman in white face as an elegant old debutant, and conversely an American Vietnam veteran in brown face as the Asian Detective Charles Chan, namesake to the production. [more]

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus Live!

November 16, 2015

Handled as stand-up comedy, Story tells us that he did not at first accept Dr. Gray’s theories until he heard one of his lectures, and then he became a convert to the concept that men and women’s thinking and feeling is so different that they might as well be from separate planets. Story uses his own life as an endless source of comic anecdotes to illustrate Gray’s ideas: his own courtship, marriage and life with his wife Megan. Basically, the theory boils down to men needing trust and approval while women need attention and understanding. Initially, Story’s mirthful tales are of how he caused unnecessary conflicts with his wife by not following these rules. Eventually, he learns the hard way through trial and error, and ultimately improves his life and marriage. [more]

The Humans

November 12, 2015

For the first half of Stephen Karam’s “The Humans,” the Blake family Thanksgiving seems to be nothing but a banal seasonal gathering. And then suddenly the author’s message comes into focus and the play becomes a haunting drama and unnerving ghost story which is unlike anything you have seen lately. The superb cast headed by Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell under the direction of the always interesting Joe Mantello who has piloted many important new plays turns The Humans into a memorably unique experience. Karam, whose plays include Speech and Debate and Son of the Prophet, has been given a splendid Roundabout Theatre Company production for its third premiere of one of his plays. [more]

Shear Madness

November 12, 2015

The energizing conceit of the play is its reliance on audience participation that adds considerably to the entertainment. During the action, the audience gets to ask questions of all those involved and at the intermission a detective is in the theater’s lobby to confer with. It all means that the actors besides sticking to the script must also improvise a great deal. This breaking of the “fourth wall” is done very cleverly and believably. The audience also votes on who the killer is based on all of the facts that have been presented. Therefore, each performance varies based on those in attendance. [more]

Sylvia

November 9, 2015

Directed with comfortable assurance and a leisurely sense of timing, this "Sylvia" benefits from a (mostly) strong cast, including three Tony Award winners: Matthew Broderick (whose wife Sarah Jessica Parker played the title role in the original off-Broadway production), Julie White and Annaleigh Ashford. The brilliant, versatile Robert Sella who expertly and drolly plays three diverse roles, rounds out the cast. [more]

Thérèse Raquin

November 9, 2015

Roundabout Theatre Company has commissioned yet another new stage adaptation from British playwright Helen Edmondson, whose previous plays also include stage versions of Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina" and George Eliot’s "The Mill on the Floss." In the title role, Keira Knightley who has been associated with period drama in her distinguished film career ("Atonement," "Pride and Prejudice," "Anna Karenina," and, of course, the "Pirates of Caribbean" movies) has chosen to make her Broadway debut. She is supported by Tony Award-winner Gabriel Ebert ("Matilda"), British actor Matt Ryan, and two time Tony Award-winning actress Judith Light ("Lombardi," "Other Desert Cities," "The Assembled Parties.") Unfortunately, director Evan Cabnet has chosen to stage this most French of tales in a bloodless, refined English style which doesn’t serve with the material well. [more]

Hir

November 9, 2015

Ms. Nielsen has long been a treasured award-winning fixture of the New York stage with her quirky idiosyncratic comedic and dramatic talents. Here as the omnipotent matriarch Paige she is colossal. With her animated features, giddy voice, and frantic physicality, she delightfully mines every bit of the abundant dark comedy in the play. Alternately when slowing down to express fiercely serious sentiments she is chilling. This searing performance is yet another memorable turn from this incomparable actress. [more]

The Widow of Tom’s Hill

November 8, 2015

In Aleks Merilo’s play, "The Widow of Tom’s Hill," human nature is tested in the face of a life-threatening plague. Under Rachel Black Spaulding’s direction, this play takes place in a small town off the coast of Washington in 1918, with audiences first meeting a young widow named Aideen (Lucy Lavely) struggling to provide for her young child. She must fight for survival and take caution against anyone who crosses her path. From the beginning scene, audiences can surmise the rough past she’s encountered that’s forced her to become her own soldier against the cruel, harsh outside world. [more]

Professor Brenner

November 5, 2015

New Worlds Theatre Project’s mission is to present English language translations of Yiddish plays as comparable to their contemporaries Chekhov and Ibsen. Now they have turned to a first English translation by producing artistic director Ellen Perecman of David Pinski’s Yiddish classic, "Professor Brenner," which appears to have had no previous production. The reason may have been Pinski’s frankness about sexual relations and the controversial nature of the subject matter for the Yiddish–speaking community. [more]

Ripcord

November 3, 2015

Holland Taylor and Marylouise Burke in a scene from “Ripcord” (Photo credit: Joan Marcus) [more]

Perfect Arrangement

November 1, 2015

"Perfect Arrangement," Topher Payne’s first play to reach New York, is a well-crafted and engrossing play with much to say and has been magnificently staged in its Off Broadway debut. Don’t let the initial sit-com style fool you: this play has several serious messages at its heart about our personal freedoms and how repression starts at home. [more]

Veritas

October 31, 2015

Continuing the trend of producing challenging new works of theater in interactive environments, The Representatives are back with a riveting production of Stan Richardson’s "Veritas." Founded by Richardson along with Matt Steiner, the duo behind The Representatives chose to have their newest project performed at The Cave @ St. George’s, the ornately decorated basement chamber of the 300 year old St. George’s Church. [more]

Travels with My Aunt

October 27, 2015

Havergal’s adaptation is unusual in that it uses four male actors to play 25 roles including the central role of Aunt Augusta, with all the actors taking turns narrating the story. Dressed exactly alike in each act, Thomas Jay Ryan, Jay Russell, Daniel Jenkins and Rory Kulz switch identities, nationalities, age, and genders in a madcap adventure told with decided British understatement. This is challenging for the audience as well as the actors: since the performers do not change costumes, it is necessary to follow the plot closely to follow who is who, with the actors sometimes changing characters in the same scene. Steven C. Kemp’s minimal but clever unit set is not much help either as it remains basically the same in each act throughout all of the outrageous adventures that unlikely hero Henry Pulling is taken on by his aunt. [more]

Empanada Loca

October 27, 2015

Rubin-Vega dazzles from her first moments on stage. She is sassy and witty while sharing her life story in a raspy tone to match the mood, and maintains this intense connection with the audience the entire time. All eyes are on her as we comprehend her past and are in suspense as we see her present life unfold after learning the secrets of this empanada shop. They are unexpected and gruesome and will make the hair stand up on your head. The lighting design by Bradley King adds to the haunting atmosphere as there are moments when the light shines just right on Rubin-Vega and all you see is her face in the dark. [more]

Barbecue

October 25, 2015

Robert O’Hara’s "Barbecue" may seem like a series of sleights of hand, but as a satirist of American culture, the playwright has a good deal to say about how the media shapes and defines our culture by how it reports the evens of the day. Under the direction of Ken Gash, Barbecue will take your breath away at its invention and cleverness while holding up the mirror to our natures, exactly what theater is supposed to do. [more]

Romance Language

October 24, 2015

In Joe Godfrey’s new play, Romance Language, middle-aged Kay (Audrey Heffernan Meyer) is searching for joy again after experiencing a divorce and the death of her husband. Kay’s grown and smart-as-a-whip lawyer daughter Penny (Mairin Lee) is worried about her mother spending the rest of her life alone and insists that her mom find some kind of productive hobby or class to fill her time. With the help of her attractive and charming Italian tutor, Fiore (Jared Zirilli), Kay soon finds herself a lot less lonely. [more]

Cloud Nine

October 23, 2015

What is most remarkable about Caryl Churchill’s time traveling comedy "Cloud Nine" is that this prescient play about sexual politics and repression is now 36 years old, though it could have been written this year. Still a challenging gender-bending play, it asks us how far we think we have come from the Victorians in our attitudes about sex and identity. Set among the British in Africa during the repressed 1879 in Act I and back in England in liberated London in 1979 in Act II, the characters switch roles, genders and ages in the course of the evening. It isn’t obvious until the second half where the play is headed or how brilliant Churchill has been. Cloud Nine (which proves not to be a nirvana for the characters) challenges a great many of our strictly held beliefs about the way the world is or should be. [more]

Unseamly

October 20, 2015

Director Sarah C. Carlsen does an excellent job of utilizing minimalism to tell the story. "Unseamly" is told in a non-linear format, and relies heavily on flashbacks. Instead of having set pieces rolling in and out to change scenes, the play is presented in a bright white room which has secret doors and set pieces that pop out of the walls to change the environment and accommodate the next flashback. The set and costumes are both designed by Brian Dudkiewicz, and there is definitely a consistent style throughout. Minimalist with flashes of bright color, the clothing is sexy and trendy, and contributes to the overall theme of the play: costumed liberally, the whole production is steeped in sexuality. [more]

Sisters’ Follies: Between Two Worlds

October 20, 2015

With a cast led by downtown icons Joey Arias and Julie Atlas Muz, "Sisters’ Follies" includes life size puppets, flying ghosts, music and dance, topless performances, talking masks, and spectacular recreations of their most famous productions. When we first meet them, they are ghosts flying about the stage in long white diaphanous gowns glad to be back in their theater. They then sing a duet of Irving Berlin’s “Sisters” with appropriately new ribald lyrics. From their clever banter, we discover that Alice (Arias) was an actress and Irene (Muz) a dancer who were continually warring over everything from billing to which of them received more flowers to their legacies. Self-centered Alice, the older sister, is always cool and collected while Irene, who worships her even though she always seems to get the short end of the stick, is more passionate and temperamental. Today Irene is remembered as having founded the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, while the acting school they both founded, The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, is also very much alive. [more]

The Gin Game

October 20, 2015

Now the frail-seeming, but elegant Cicely Tyson and imposing, stout-voiced James Earl Jones have taken on "The Gin Game" and make it totally their own, finding nuances in every line, filling in the silences with the kinds of reactions that make live theater an electric experience. [more]
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