News Ticker

Barbara Samuels

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]

Public Obscenities

March 11, 2023

Shayok Misha Chowdhury’s "Public Obscenities" having its world premiere at the Soho Rep is an immersive story into Bengali culture in Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta. Directed by the author in 12 episodes which are given chapter names, this two hour and 50 minute play is as much like a television mini-series as it is a family saga. The realistic production resembles a film as much as it is possible on a stage with our attention being guided to various alcoves as though they were film cuts on the remarkable setting by the collective dots. The play is challenging as the first long extended scene is mainly in Bangla, the language of Kolkata, without supertitles. While the rest of the play is translated when it is bilingual, the dialogue is studded with Bangla words which are left up to the audience to figure out. [more]

Becky Nurse of Salem

December 18, 2022

In any event, Ruhl has not written a play set in 1692 or a sequel to "The Crucible" but a comedy about free-spirited Becky Nurse, a descendant of the accused witch Rebecca Nurse, a pious 71-year-old woman who had nine children and was hard of hearing, who wishes to set the record straight. Although a fascinating premise, the problem with play is that it throws in everything except the kitchen sink – but, in fact, it makes use of metal freestanding toilet. The play attempts to cover multiple themes and topics: revisionist history, the opioid crisis, the generation gap, teenage suicide, the Salem Witch Trial, unemployment, medical care, the supernatural, adultery, and office harassment. Conceived and written between 2016 - 2019, the play also tries to connect Trump Rallies in which the crowds shouted “Lock her up” and Trump’s repeated use of the words “witch hunt” and his attempt to appear the victim to the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trial in 1692. All of this is too much weight for any one play. Director Rebecca Taichman’s uneven production does not help, though much of that is the fault of the shift in tone in the writing. [more]

Wolf Play

February 15, 2022

Hansol Jung’s "Wolf Play" is a fantasy on several levels but it is also rather confusing in its details. Inspired by the true case of an Asian adoptee who was “re-homed” on the Internet when his new American parents no longer wanted him, the play also conflates this with the idea of the lone wolf who does not assimilate into a society of like animals. In addition, the Korean adoptee is played by a puppet that is manipulated by a character called “Wolf.” The author who is particularly interested in the families we choose makes the new parents a queer entity, adding another level of complication to the storyline. [more]

Hatef**k

March 13, 2019

There’s stinging dialogue, solid construction and high powers of observation that accurately render the fractious literary milieu with Imran’s offstage agent a major figure. These all enable Ms. Mirza to spin out her enticing scenario over eight scenes in 90 often charged minutes, spanning several months. The characters are impeccably detailed and behave so realistically, causing the possible dynamic for the viewer of siding with one over the other. [more]

Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future 

October 17, 2018

For the first 25 minutes, the bushy red-bearded, receding with flowing hair Mr. Butler appears solo performing a series of his delightful songs. Butler superbly plays the banjo, guitar and harmonica as he conveys a Cat Stevens, Arlo Guthrie and Bob Dylan vibe. Then the ensemble joins him for a serious and light-hearted tuneful enactment. [more]

Dance Nation

May 9, 2018

Ms. Barron’s conception is more of an agenda driven fantastical tract rather than a well-crafted play with a cohesive plot. Her tone is of exaggeration and artifice with mannered dialogue that is intended to be hilarious yet thoughtful. A brief gag about "A Chorus Line" and a reference to the actual Telsey & Company Casting are some of the smug inside humor tossed in. [more]

Against the Hillside

February 8, 2018

The production is not helped by William Carden’s heavy-handed direction.  Scene transitions are punctuated by sound designer and composer Shane Rettig’s blaring, pulsing and overwhelming original electronic music. In near darkness, stage hands wearing black appear to rearrange furniture and set props.  This all becomes formulaic and distracting. Carden’s physical staging is rudimentary and the actions flow weakly. Most unnerving is that Mr. Carden has the actors speaking rapidly and being overly emphatic for much of the time and this sets an artificial tone. [more]

Orange Julius

January 23, 2017

On the one hand, it is a punch in the gut dramatizing the cold hard facts of disintegrating with this disease; on the other, the non-linear time scheme is difficult to follow, offering more questions than it answers. What "Orange Julius" really is could be described more accurately as a screenplay or a teleplay with cuts and fades. There is a powerful work hiding in this material but it still remains unshaped. Under Dustin Wills’ fast-paced direction, Jess Barbagallo, Ruy Iskandar, Irene Sofia Lucio, Stephen Payne and Mary Testa give fine performances despite the fact that the play seems to wander around trying to find its center. [more]

Caught

August 31, 2016

The beauty of Chen’s technique lies in engaging the audience in a guessing game that they don’t immediately know they are a part of – presenting them with certain messages that appear to be true, but challenge them to think about it from a different perception. One of the main themes is examining the different viewpoints between the Chinese and American cultures and how perceptions can be skewed. The result is a clever and eye-opening puzzle that teaches important lessons around the human experience in a shocking way by offering extremes. [more]

O, Earth

February 7, 2016

Nevertheless, Wills’ production is continually taking us by surprise both by his casting and his choices. His transgendered characters are played by transgendered actors. Moran’s Wilder and Angelos’ Ellen look a great deal like their counterparts, while Blankson-Wood and Heleringer as Spencer and Duncan, respectively, are a hoot as young entitled gay men who have totally bought into the capitalist system. “Mizz June” and Gentili, who are themselves transgendered icons, bring an air of authenticity to their roles as the colorful and outspoken Marsha and Sylvia. [more]

Patricia Noworol Dance Theater: “Replacement Place”

May 6, 2015

Four intensively self-involved, but personable, performers meandered on and off the stage which was glaringly lit by the geometrically arranged fluorescent bulbs designed by Barbara Samuels, their paths only occasionally crossing. Each was given or created a simple movement theme: one a stomping walk, another a finger snapping hip sway and a third some steamy hip-hop movement, complete with the usual badly rhymed “poetry” and a plethora of N- and F-words. [more]