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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]

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]

Appropriate

January 10, 2024

Not only is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ "Appropriate" a classic American family drama with a new wrinkle, it is also a trenchant and scorching look at American racism which is just under the surface. So fine a playwright has Jacob-Jenkins become that every line of dialogue develops character and plot. What is most shocking about the play is how little the younger generation depicted knows about its American history, things we all should be aware of. Lila Neugebauer’s production for Second Stage mines all of the play’s nuances and her staging is smooth and effortless. The cast led by stage, screen and television stars Sarah Paulson, Corey Stoll and Elle Fanning (in her Broadway debut) make the most of their many opportunities. "Appropriate" is the most satisfying new American play on Broadway at this time and should not be missed. The running time may seem long but the rising tension and periodic revelations make the play feel like it could even be longer. [more]

(pray)

October 15, 2023

nicHi douglas’ vision is one of evocative beauty, one that gives us stage pictures to treasure for some time. The seated women fanning themselves with beautiful white fans as they watch one of their own reading a passage or singing is a natural touch. Even the graphic for the show gives us pause – the word “pray” surrounded by two hands creating the parentheses denotes how personal the power of an individual’s prayer is. douglas’ church is almost utopian in its design in that it welcomes all with no judgment…even the “mixed company” of whites present at the service who might be startled by how genuinely euphoric the service is. Her choreography, like her direction, is empowered by a true spirit of celebration, reminiscent of the great Alvin Ailey masterwork, "Revelations." [more]

Infinite Life

September 21, 2023

Ever since Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker adapted 'Uncle Vanya" for a 2012 production at the Soho Rep, her plays like "The Flick," "John" and "The Antipodes" have becomes more Chekhovian: not a great deal happens but characters live out their daily lives. In her new play "Infinite Life," she has gone even further with the silences and the pauses that she has become famous for. Under James Macdonald’s superb direction, we watch five women and one man read, sleep, talk and sip water or juice on the patio of a wellness clinic in Northern California trying to deal with their chronic pain. Not much happens but, on the other hand, these people reveal their whole lives before they complete their treatments and go back to their previous existences. [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]

You Will Get Sick

November 8, 2022

Ostensibly a comedy, or a tragi-comedy, or a dystopic mashup of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Field of Dreams," Diaz's play could possibly be enjoyed as a befuddling trifle if not for its serious pretensions about morbidity and mortality. Both aspects of this double downer involve a young man (the hopelessly adrift Daniel K. Isaac) recently diagnosed with a terminal disease that Diaz, desperately straining for universality, never identifies. He also doesn't note any character names in the program's cast list, referring to each of the actors only by the numbers 1 through 5, even though character names are used in the script. This concealment likely is a way of protecting the play's huge final reveal, or it could have another point that exists in Diaz's noggin but not in mine. [more]

Baldwin & Buckley At Cambridge

October 14, 2022

"Baldwin & Buckley at Cambridge" should stir up controversy as their 1965 topic is still relevant. Such a debate today would have a great deal more ammunition than either of these men had at the time. However, one can still hear both points of view today given by liberals and conservatives, respectively. The fact that the Baldwin/Buckley debate is still relevant can be witnessed from the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2013 as well as the 2019 publication of "The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the Debate over Race in America" by Nicholas Buccola. This is a question which has not been resolved in the intervening 57 years. [more]

Golden Shield

May 23, 2022

Although playwright Anchuli Felicia King’s plays have been performed in London, Washington, D.C., Staunton (Virginia), Melbourne, and Sydney, her Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-nominated "Golden Shield" appears to be her first New York main stage production. Ostensibly about a young, idealistic lawyer’s attempt to bring her sister on board as a translator in a risky legal battle with a multinational tech corporation, the play is about half a dozen other things as well: sibling rivalry, child abuse, ethical turpitude, human rights issues, governmental suppression of the internet, legal loopholes, and corporate greed. The play actually conflates two different very real lawsuits (against internet giants Yahoo and Cisco) which may explain why it is initially so complicated. [more]

Out of Time

March 5, 2022

Conceived and directed by Les Waters, his staging of Out of Time is of purposeful simplicity. The actors are seated, standing or in motion fulfilling the intentions of each author. The stage is set with scenic designer dots’ atmospheric assemblage of gauzy curtains and minimal furnishings which abstractly suggest different locales and tones. Reza Behjat’s clinical lighting design and Fabian Obispo’s modulated sound design successfully accentuate and realize each of the diverse works. Black, white and red are the colors of Mariko Ohigashi’s smart costume design. "Out of Time" is a fine opportunity to experience some stimulating new dramatic writing and uniformly superior acting. [more]

Morning Sun

November 12, 2021

In a departure for him, the three actresses play all of the characters, both female and male, and are listed in the program simply as 1, 2 and 3. While the play feels undramatic and has no high points it does put the entire 67 years of the life of its heroine Charlotte (Charley) McBride played by Falco center stage. This low-key form seems to be the point for Stephens: life is a series of moments, like beads on a string, rather than big explosions or confrontations. With Brown playing her mother Claudette and Marin playing her daughter Tessa, both actresses also take turns narrating and playing other people in Charley’s life: her father Harold, her best friend Casey, her lover Brian, her husband Edward, her Uncle Stanley. Not only is the drama low-key, the characters play ordinary people, a saleswoman at Macy’s, a receptionist at St. Vincent, a janitor at the YMCA, the sort of people one had met or can identify with, unpretentious and unassuming: what most of the world is made up of. [more]