News Ticker

Theater for the New City

Party Clown of the Rich and Famous & The Hungry Mind Buffet

June 7, 2024

There’s so much fascinating material in "Party Clown of the Rich and Famous" and its companion compendium of four short works, "The Hungry Mind Buffet" that it pains me that the works aren’t presented with classier production values, unfortunately a reality in cash-strapped Off-Broadway presentations.  Even so, the evening offers much to savor. [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]

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]

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]

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]

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 Gospel According to Chaim

December 29, 2023

There are few issues that raise the ire of the religious as a member changing religions.  Apostate is the mildest term used for such a person. Mikhl Yashinsky’s "The Gospel According to Chaim" at Theater for the New City tells of such a person, the eponymous Chaim Einspruch, played with beatific authority by the author, himself.  This is a true story and a rarity: a contemporary play written in Yiddish. (Supertitle translation is provided.) Chaim Einspruch wrote the first Yiddish translation of the New Testament, a shanda of the highest order since this acknowledges the existence of Jesus as “the Savior.” [more]

Becoming Chavela

December 25, 2023

Ranchera is a style of traditional Mexican folk music with origins in the ranchos of rural Mexico. The songs are about love, patriotism, or nature and are usually sung by men. The vocals have a rough, raw quality in contrast to the more refined vocalizations of the urban singers. In Mexico City, Chavela defied the norms and sang rancheras with her style and interpretations while staying true to the rawness of delivery and the ideas expressed by the lyrics. Trudeau transforms herself into Chavela with an on-stage costume change and then provides solid interpretations of some of Vargas’ classic rancheras as she takes the audience on an exploration of Vargas' life in Mexico City, a brief time in Cuba and to the mid-1970’s when she stopped performing as a result of all the tequila she had consumed over the years. Although Trudeau's voice is more refined, she still delivers the songs with all the passion and fire needed in some and the introspection and sadness in others. Her embodiment of Vargas is complete. [more]

Killin’ Republicans

December 6, 2023

"Killin’ Republicans," concept and libretto by Dick D. Zigun and music by Arturo Rodriquez, directed by vagabond, is billed as a rock opera about violence towards certain Republican Party leaders since the mid-nineteenth century. It deals with a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations of Republican leaders from the 1850s to President Reagan in 1981. It is supposed to be a discussion about the reasons for the attacks and not a call for violence against Republicans. The entire show is sung or performed in spoken form in various styles as more of a concept concert than an opera. The libretto covers a wide range of events attempting to give context to the multiple incidents but fails to clarify the point of the show. It is a mistake in its present form. [more]

Twisted

October 5, 2023

It takes considerable skill for competent actors to play at being bad actors, and many of the cast members succeed. It is not a bad play, but the overarching problem with the show is that it is playing to a niche audience. If you do not know anything about the B-movies of the 50’s and 60’s, you will react as I did in thinking it is a terrible play. If you are familiar with the work of Roger Corman, William Castle, or any other B-film directors, or any of the films, such as "Galaxy of Terror," "The Little Shop of Horrors," "The Tingler," "The Curse of the Werewolf," or any of the dozen movies of that period, you may enjoy this production [more]

Bliss Street

May 7, 2023

The main issue with this show is the lack of clarity in the book. Who is the play about, the father or the son? Act I is primarily a story about Paul Sub and his business ventures leading up to the creation of The Coventry. Act II is more about Charlie Sub and how his father's business decisions impacted Charlie's life. In both cases, the story's elements need to be restructured to make it more compelling. Does it matter what type of romantic relationship Charlie develops in LA? Did Paul's liquor store fail after the robbery? The book needs to be edited to define clearly which story is being told and to eliminate the scenes that do not advance the story. [more]

The Conductor

March 18, 2023

"The Conductor," by novelist Ishmael Reed and directed by Carla Blank, is a play that uses the revival of the Underground Railroad system as a device to address several contemporary socio-political issues related to race and ethnicity. It is a show that directly addresses extremist conservative groups and their movements that seek to restrict and limit governmental and social actions used to address institutional inequality. Reed utilizes the result of a school board recall election in San Francisco as the basis for illustrating the insidious nature of these reactionary groups. [more]

Who Murdered Love?

February 10, 2023

What is a mystery inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma? A Winston Churchill question from 1939 aptly fits a play with music set in 1924 that toys at being a murder mystery. As a play with music "Who Murdered Love?" doesn't work. As a play without music, it doesn't work as well. It is Dadaism with Surrealist overtones, and Surrealism with Dadaist overtones, if anyone in the audience knows what Dada or Surreal means. [more]

Not About Me

January 19, 2023

Eduardo Machado’s 11th play to premiere at Theater for the New City is called "Not About Me" which is a complete misnomer as it is about his life for the last 40 years with his alter ego at its center. Marketed as a “memory play that takes audiences on a haunting journey through the mind of a playwright during Covid-19 lockdown,” in fact, it is about his friends who died during the last pandemic, the mysterious “gay disease” that came to be called AIDS. Other than as a tribute to those lost friends, it is difficult to see the message of the play as it depicts a great deal of risky behavior. [more]

Darkness After Night: Ukraine

December 27, 2022

"Darkness: unfolds in many very short scenes with some confusing transitions.  Dubashin, the traitor to Russia, finally gets to confront Number One in a knock-down personal battle.  The only thing that can be said for this denouement is that it is wishful thinking of the highest order. There is more than a whiff of a vanity production here, leavened by Morrow’s “good intentions.”  Morrow is, perhaps, a tad self-indulgent to have put himself in the action hero part of a military do-gooder and he could use a dramaturg who could shape the disparate scenes into a well-oiled whole. [more]

A Healthy House

June 7, 2022

Diriwachter is particularly skilled in writing working class vernacular.  The Father and Tim speak the same language and he catches all the subtleties of decades of ups and downs.  He also is wonderful with the two salesmen, cleverly finding the rhythm of their spiels that build up to the final pitches.  His salespeople are written as clever but not unfeeling so that the audience never totally believes that the Father and son are being betrayed and cheated. [more]

The Oracle

May 20, 2022

This premiere five-performance Off-Off-Broadway showcase run of "The Oracle" is best viewed as a tryout, and the production’s presentational flaws are cited with that belief. Co-author Elliott also directed; while he’s assembled, well-positioned and guided the industrious cast to lively performances, his physical staging is variable. The play is structured as 34 brief scenes over two acts. Instead of rapid transitions, there’s a pause between each scene while recorded music plays as the actors get in place. This intrusive strategy slackens the pacing and adds to the running time. [more]

The Unamerican

March 2, 2022

So rages legendary Right Wing Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in playwright Claude Solnik’s well-observed historical fantasia about the 1950’s anti-Communist Blacklist, "The Unamerican." Besides a comically accurate Hopper, Mr. Solnick offers rich portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan. The romance of Miller and Monroe and the clash between those male friends and colleagues over their disagreements of how to deal with testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) are perceptively rendered by Solnick’s erudite research and keen writing. A highlight is the background of "The Crucible," with Monroe reciting a speech from it. When "The Unamerican" focuses on the interplay between its four main characters it soars. [more]

Di Froyen (The Women)

January 24, 2022

The New Yiddish Rep’s (David Mandelbaum, artistic director) production of the Yiddish language "Di Froyen (The Women)" is a bittersweet, anger-inducing portrait of modern day Chasid women caught between orthodox Jewish ideology and the rush of modern society’s laws and attitudes into their lives. Adapted by Malky Goldman and Melissa Weisz from Naomi Regan’s "Women’s Minyan," "Di Froyen," in one compact, tense hour, opens up a previously secret world to the public.  Here are six women, all wearing sheitels (wigs that orthodox Jewish women must wear because showing their own hair is proscribed by religious law) and all under immense pressure from within and without their enclave. [more]

I Just Want to Tell Somebody

January 11, 2022

He used the gimmick of preparing to perform the very show he was performing for his audience in the Cabaret Theater of the Theater for the New City; but by the end of his fascinating and grueling life story he was on fire with his tale of his life in the theater and film.  He grew up in the Sixties when the U.S. was in turmoil and it seemed that everyone was getting high. Smokey’s career began with a first prize in his Washington, D.C., high school talent show and some performances at the Arena Stage.  He quit school to try his luck in California but failed and returned to D.C. where he joined an all-Black repertory theater and appeared in his first commercial which he showed on a large screen.  Much later he appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s "The Cotton Club" as a featured musical performer.  His number in the film was shown proving he was an impressive dancer and singer partnered by Jackée Harry. [more]

A Christmas Carol, Oy! Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Ramadan

December 25, 2021

Not only is this a puppet show but it is also an extended concert. This year’s vocalists are Valois Mickens, of West African, Celtic, and Native American origin,  and Katarina Vizina, a transplant from Slovakia,  who sing pieces of about 20 carols and songs including “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad,” “Silent Night,” and “The Dreidel Song” in the original languages. Occasionally they participate in the action, as well as in the prologue that sets up the show. [more]

The Dark Outside

November 13, 2021

The Off-Off-Broadway world premiere of "The Dark Outside," nonagenarian English playwright Bernard Kops’ poetic, archetypal and fantastical family secrets drama is problematic. Directorial excess combined with intrusive conceptual design clash with authorial vision. The play was originally performed as a reading at London’s National Portrait Gallery on January 17, 2020. It’s likely that its potential was more realized and faithful to Mr. Kops’ text during that simple event. [more]

1-2-3 Manhunt

October 11, 2021

DiMurro writes with an acute sense of the rhythm of New York speech and its old-school jargon, helped by director William Roudebush’s complementary sense of timing, not to mention four expert actors who know how to embody these characters. Herrick Goldman’s atmospheric lighting and Andy Evan Cohen’s brilliant urban soundscape immeasurably added to the overall impact of "1-2-3 Manhunt." [more]

The Wayward Daughter of Judah the Prince

September 27, 2021

It is to the credit of the entire cast—dressed in Anthony Paul-Cavaretta’s period tunics and flowing robes—that Lackey’s sometimes over-the-top dialogue lands credibly. Two other elements elevate the play:  Michael Sirotta’s lovely, mood-enhancing score and Jon DeGaetano’s imaginative scenery which includes large, stage-spanning curtains that cleverly serve as entranceways, sails and even ancient columns.  Michael Redman’s moody projections enhance Sirotta’s contributions. [more]

Tomorrow We Love

March 11, 2020

There is plenty of over-the-top acting, physical antics and far-fetched story lines, all perfectly acceptable ingredients for a zany gender-bending farce. The only thing missing are the laughs. Even the high school-quality set design by Ryan Goff and delightful costumes by Jimmy Moon are on par for this campy send up of a 1950’s rom-com. Ultimately, Vause’s script reads funnier than it plays, so there is more amiss than the smoking gun in this screwball comedy. [more]

Hooked on Happiness

November 19, 2019

Although the show is 80 minutes without an intermission, it just breezes right by and one is never bored. The music, played by Peter Dizozza (on piano), Ralph Hamperian (on bass) and Art Lilliard (on drums), keeps the show moving at perfect tempo. From ballads to disco tune, from rap to group numbers, the music is spot on. Sound designer Alex Santullo delivers a pitch-perfect musical. [more]

A Life in the Rye

November 9, 2019

A seated actor dressed all in black wearing a beret beats a conga drum on a confined playing area.  Other actors in period costumes sit at small cabaret tables and chairs as thick wafts of smoke envelop the stage. On the back wall is a white screen and from behind it is the shadow of a woman dancing. Such is the arresting 1950’s classic beat coffee house imagery director Joe John Battista conjures up for playwright Claude Solnik’s fascinating fantasia derived from the life of J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), "A Life in the Rye." [more]

Ludwig and Bertie

October 3, 2019

"Ludwig and Bertie," written by Douglas Lackey, gives us insight into the relationship of two of our greatest twentieth century philosophers, the younger Jewish Ludwig Wittgenstein and the 20-year-older atheist Bertrand Russell. Bertie, played smartly by Stan Buturla, is the wise old professor at Cambridge when he meets the almost half his age young student Ludwig, poignant, headstrong and hungry for more knowledge, insight and truth, played passionately by Connor Bond. [more]

Dining with Ploetz

September 13, 2019

"Dining with Ploetz" at Theater for the New City consists of three short plays by writer, director and teacher Richard Ploetz. The program adds up to slightly under two hours’ running time (with one intermission). The plays are all billed as comedies, and—as the title implies—they all, to one degree or another, involve “dining.”  They are, however, quite diverse in terms of style and tone. The first and last of them (both of which the playwright directed) hold the audience’s attention fairly well. The middle piece, directed by Steven Hauck (who acts in the other two), is riveting. [more]

Barabbas

July 3, 2019

While Will T.F. Carter’s "Barabbas" is very outspoken on the topic of political corruption in Peru, the play is dramatically weak as so much of it is exposition. In each scene we learn a little bit more about the men’s lives, but little that is new happens in the play’s 90 minutes. The tepid direction by Eduardo Machado gives us too much time to consider the play’s deficiencies and makes the play seem longer than it is. Carter’s anger at what is going on in Peru is commendable, but Barabbas does not utilize that indignation except on an intellectual basis. [more]

Shareholder Value

March 31, 2019

Attea’s point concerns business models that are overly focused on the needs of shareholders, rather than on those of management and employees. But the play is curiously bloodless. Strong plays about the ferocity of capitalism—from Arthur Miller’s "Death of a Salesman" to David Mamet’s "Glengarry Glen Ross"—take interest in the human equation. They focus on the personal anguish that the system can induce. Attea doesn’t delve that deeply here. [more]

Thelonious!

February 18, 2019

Welch and the play’s director, Jonathan Weber, seem to be going for a sort of Ionesco-esque ambience here. The story unfolds in a broadly played, cartoonish way. Occasionally, a satirical jab at ivory-tower academics will land, thanks to Welch’s depiction of the shallow and creepy professor, who—as played by the bearded Slone—looks like he just stepped out of a daguerrotype. But, generally speaking, this comedy is rambling, unwieldy and not especially funny. (Few audience laughs were audible during the performance under review.) In the last stretches of the play, a meta element is introduced, with the characters talking about having entered “the epilogue” stage of the story. Once we’ve stumbled into this self-referential territory, it becomes even harder to engage in any real way with the play. [more]
1 2