Theatre Reviews Limited is your source for reviews of many of the shows currently running in Manhattan as well as in New Jersey and around the United States.
Anthony Burgess’ “One Hand Clapping” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday May 31, 2015) Read Article>
The world is going to hell in a handbasket and Howard Shirley (Oliver Devoti) knows that perhaps better than anyone. Not only does he have a photographic memory, but he is clairvoyant so Howard – if anyone would - knows the center is not holding and it might be time for him and his wife to check out. In an impassioned plea, Howard tells his wife Janet (Eve Burley), “It’s a rotten world, love. We gave it a chance. We fed money into it like it was a big machine and it paid out nothing. And it’s all collapsing all around us, decaying with rottenness. It won’t last much longer if it goes on as it is going on. It’ll be finished soon.”
“Cool Hand Luke” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday March 31st, 2015) Read Article>
What matters about “Cool Hand Luke” is the corpus of enduring questions Donn Pearce’s rich text raises and what matters about Emma Reeves’ stage adaptation of the 1965 novel is whether or not those enduring questions transfer from Pearce’s rich word to the engaging adaptation of the novel currently running at 59E59 Theaters. On the surface, "Cool Hand Luke” is about the troubled Luke Jackson (played with the perfect balance of grit and vulnerability by Lawrence Jansen), the war veteran who takes the tops off parking meters to make ends meet and it might appear this is the story of a specific man against the broken and unjust system he encounters. However, when one strips away issues of sexual status, age, and race, “Cool Hand Luke” is ultimately an extended metaphor (an allegory) for every person’s struggle with systems that violate rather than free the human spirit. The play effectively raises rich and deep questions through this extended metaphor.
Simon Callow in “Tuesday’s at Tesco’s” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday June 7, 2015) Read Article>
The only thing that interrupts the samsara of Pauline's (Simon Callow) hum-drum life is the string of dream ballets that spontaneously burst forth from the piano in her cramped apartment, or from inside the cramped interior of her expansive mind when she is out an about. These brief balletic romps remind Pauline of the life that could have been if only she were loved unconditionally and nonjudgmentally by her father for whom she cares and shops on Tuesdays.
“Forever” at the New York Theatre Workshop (through Sunday May 31st, 2015) Read Article>
With rhythms more reminiscent of song than spoken word, Dael Orlandersmith’s “Forever” is a requiem with three movements with a choir of Ms. Orlandersmith’s relatives looking on and an orchestra of audience members in awe of Ms. Orlandersmith’s remarkable artistry. The playwright’s long-awaited trip to Paris and her spiritual encounters with the “ghosts” of Jim Morrison, Richard Wright, Balzac, Modigliani, Piaf, and Oscar Wilde in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery comprise the first movement (the Introitus). These encounters lead her to reflect upon another “ghost” – that of her abusive and alcoholic mother Beula. This ghost “pulls her back” to her birth in October of 1959, through her childhood and adolescence, and to her eventual escape from her mother’s powerful hold.
"Nirbhaya," at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre Read Article>
In the words of Theatre Critic Charles Spencer, “there are moments in my line of work when criticism seems impertinent.” The Culture Project’s Nirbhaya seems such an occasion. The show consists of six Indian women recounting their personal stories of sexual abuse in response to the 2012 gang-rape murder of the medical student in Delhi. (Nicknamed ‘Nirbhaya’ or ‘Fearless One’ by the media) The event sparked massive protest and paradigm shift throughout the nation.
"Six Rounds of Vengeance," at the New Ohio Theatre (Through May 16, Wed.–Sun. at 8 p.m.) Read Article>
If you buy into the old adage ‘good writers steal,’ then Qui Nguyen is the best playwright in town. His post-apocalyptic epic ‘Six Rounds of Vengeance’ presented by the ever-infamous Vampire Cowboys is a flashy potpourri of Tarantino-esque homage. One could practically make a bingo game from the sheer volume of references to Mad Max, Blade, Fallout: New Vegas, Hack/Slash, I Am Legend, Dark Tower, and and the rest. (If you don’t know any of these franchises, steer clear. This isn’t your bag.)
“Do This One Thing For Me” at the Barrow Group Theatre Read Article>
How do we remember The Holocaust in 2015? Writer/performer Jane Elias grapples with this behemoth question in her profoundly moving, exquisitely personal solo show ‘Do This One Thing For Me’ currently running at Barrow Group.
The play chronicles Jane’s relationship with her late father, a Greek-Jewish Holocaust survivor. His own family having been brutally murdered in concentration camps, all Mr. Elias wants is for his little girl is for her to have a family of her own, a desire that come into conflict with his daughter’s more modern sensibilities. As their bond blossoms throughout the years, Jane’s father strengthens her with his tale of perseverance and nags her with his desire for her to settle down ...
“Trash Cuisine” at La MaMa E.T.C. Ellen Stuart Theatre (Through May 17, 2015) Read Article>
Exiles from Europe’s last true dictatorship, the Belarus Free Theatre delivers a knockout punch with its monumental “Trash Cuisine”, now onstage at La MaMa. An amorphous dedication to capital punishment under the guise of an international cooking program, the show gruesomely highlights socially sanctioned killing from around the globe. Leather straps, machetes, and bulk food items are brought ominously to bear in this expertly crafted, magnificent work.
"The Belle of Belfast" at Irish Repertory Theatre (Through June 7, 2015) Read Article>
It’s Doubt meets Lolita in Nate Rufus Edleman's pontifical comedy The Belle of Belfast, currently at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Anne, a seventeen-year-old girl living in Belfast during the violent Troubles, falls in love with Ben, a dashing young(ish) priest. Initially he resists, but when Anne shows up at his parish soaked through from the rain and teary over her parent’s bombing death, Ben gives in to his carnal impulses, and hijinks ensue. Sort of.
“It Shoulda Been You” at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Sunday September 13, 2015) Read Article>
Whether the audience member chooses to appreciate “It Shoulda Been You” as a delightful old fashioned musical with a solid score, a serviceable book, and an outstanding cast or chooses to explore the musical’s rich layers of plot, either way, the opportunity to experience David Hyde Pierce’s exemplary and creative staging of the new musical at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre is an opportunity not to be missed.
“The Tailor of Inverness” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday May 3, 2015) Read Article>
“The Tailor of Inverness” is the compelling and often haunting story of playwright Matthew Zajac’s inexhaustible search for the truth about his father Mateusz’s past after discovering new information about him after his father’s death in 1992. This information is provided through a powerful and engaging performance by Matthew Zajac in this first offering of 59E59 Theaters’ “Brits Off Broadway” Festival.
Pompie’s Place at Don’t Tell Mama (Through Thursday May 28, 2015) Read Article>
A welcomed case of the blues has landed in Manhattan at the new pop-up blues supper club currently residing at the iconic Don’t Tell Mama on Restaurant Row in midtown Manhattan. Under Ehud Asherie’s music direction, three of New York’s most distinguished blues and jazz singers croon and make the audience swoon with their rich blend of voices and superlative interpretive skills. With Ken Peplowski on reeds, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, Jackie Williams on drums, and David Wong on upright bass, the three chanteuses charm the audience with a program of blues standards that pleases any blues-lover’s palate.
“Hand to God” at the Booth Theatre (On Sale through July 26, 2015) Read Article>
There are soliloquies. There are asides. These are two dramatic conventions that allow the audience to know what an actor is thinking and feeling without the other actors on stage knowing. And now there is Tyrone the sock puppet who turns out to be the darker side of his puppeteer Jason (Steven Boyer) for whom things have not been going so well since the death of his father. Jason fashioned Tyrone for his weekly participation in his mother Margery’s (Geneva Carr) Christian puppet ministry. In that setting with fellow teens Timothy (Michael Oberholtzer) and Jessica (Sarah Stiles), Tyrone begins to find his own voice – or is it really the voice of Jason’s id slowly gaining the upper hand over his ego and superego? This is the stuff of the brilliant and sometimes shockingly disturbing “Hand to God” currently running at the Booth Theatre.
“Finding Neverland” at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Sunday December 20, 2015) Read Article>
For those who have never grown up and still indulge in imaginative child’s play, conjuring up backyard scenes with swashbuckling pirates or configuring protective forts from blankets and sofa cushions to ward off the enemies - perhaps while babysitting - should quickly head to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre where you will certainly recognize a character who might have encouraged such whimsical behavior. “Finding Neverland,” the new musical based on the motion picture of the same name and the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” is a complicated, interesting, and magical theatrical journey. At a stop somewhere between Alice’s Wonderland and Dorothy’s Oz is where we find Peter’s Neverland. It is a place where you go to escape social pressure, expectations and fears, to learn about hope and courage, but more important a place to heal. The moment you hear the soothing vocal of the incredible Matthew Morrison deliver the intriguing lyrics of the opening number “If the World Turned Upside Down” you connect, understand and start emotional gears that transport you into the heart of J.M. Barrie. So hold on tight, something wonderful is about to take flight.
“Hamlet” at Classic Stage Company (Through Sunday May 10, 2015) Read Article>
Classic Stage Company’s “Hamlet” might just be the definitive “Hamlet” for the twenty-first century. Staged with shimmering creativity, the iconic Shakespearian tragedy bristles with a contemporary edge firmly rooted in tradition. The castle in Elsinore here is a swanky mansion with a designer dining table, bar, and contemporary seating areas. The platform, the room of state, Polonius’s house, the churchyard, and other rooms in the castle are unadorned playing areas at the fringes of the room of state (the main setting). The action often takes place in minimal light, or a fully lighted theatre, or in delicious pools of light provided by lighting designer Justin Townsend. And the Ghost does not speak in this production: we only know of the Ghost of Hamlet’s father through the eyes and ears of Hamlet.
“Underland” at 59E59 Theaters (through Saturday April 25, 2015) Read Article>
Lost in space, the Robinson family knew they had landed in a dangerous place. But danger is not found only in outer space: indeed, Earth itself is a dangerous place. The danger is sometimes closer than one thinks, lurking in the shadows, rustling in the closet at night, waiting under the bed, or even in the quarry just beyond the chain-link fence in a small dusty town in the middle of Australia – down under as it were. Ruth (Kiley Lotz) and Violet (Angelina Stark) two high school students know this only too well as they navigate through the danger inherent in their small-minded town in Alexandra Collier’s “Underland” currently running at 59E59 Theaters.
“Soldier X” at the Ma-Yi Theater Company at HERE (through Sunday April 19, 2015) Read Article>
After seeing Rehana Lew Mirza’s “Soldier X” at the HERE Arts Center, one wonders whether the playwright takes on too much, just enough, or not quite enough in her intriguing new play about how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan affect those returning from the battlefields and those welcoming them home. Ms. Mirza’s play tackles PTSD, rape, racism, sexism, cultural and religious conflicts, and the cycle of violence on and off the battlefield. The answer might be the playwright needs to tackle all of these war-related issues because they are all connected in a matrix of madness created by the dynamics of conflict.
Interview with the Cast of “Music Hall” at 59E59 Theaters (Closes on Sunday April 12, 2015) Read Article>
I recently had the opportunity to interview the cast of Jean-Luc Lagarce’s “MusicHall” currently running at 59E59 Theaters in Manhattan. “Music Hall” is a remarkable and important play with rich themes and a brilliant cast. The responses from each cast member follow the questions.
Theatre Reviews Limited: Jean-Luc Lagarce’s script is often challenging and demanding for the audience. Do you depend in any way on the audience to fuel your performance and is your performance in any way different because of the audience?
Jeffrey Binder's Answers (The Artiste): The audience in this show is almost literally another character on stage. I'm constantly speaking to them individually, as individuals, so I'd say yes - they absolutely influence the rhythm and tenor of the show, but they don't dominate it ...
“My Name Is Rachel Corrie” at the Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project (through Sunday April 12, 2015) Read Article>
Rachel Corrie was a remarkable young woman who willingly traded the comfort and privilege of her neo-liberal Olympia, Washington family for her visit to Rafah to live with and advocate for the Palestinians in Gaza whose homes were routinely being destroyed and whose access to employment beyond the Gaza Strip increasingly blocked. Rachel was martyred in Palestine on March 16, 2003 when an Israeli backhoe struck and buried her intentionally. Charlotte Hemmings portrays Rachel and narrates her story from the time of Rachel’s arrival in Rafah until her untimely and brutal death. If ever there was a place where “mere anarchy” was being loosed upon the world and where “the best [lacked] all conviction” it was and it remains the fragile “border” between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East.
“Macbeth” at the Acting Company at the Pearl Theatre (through April 9, 2015) Read Article>
The Acting Company in association with The Guthrie Theater has delivered a trimmed and taut reinvention of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (“The Scottish Play”) to audiences at the Pearl Theatre in Manhattan as part of its current tour paired with Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” This ninety minute “Macbeth” delivers the Bard’s iconic tragedy compressed with explosive energy and is performed to perfection by a resplendent cast. Think “House of Cards” on steroids and the image created begins to match the reality of what the Acting Company has accomplished with this “Macbeth.”
“The Undeniable Sound of Right Now” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (through Sunday May 2, 2015) Read Article>
The insidious sounds of “right now” that threaten to relegate the present to the past creep eerily into Hank’s Bar in Chicago in 1992. Hank (played with a droll, brooding intensity by Jeb Brown) loves his gritty rock club that has launched a good number of performance careers. He loves his daughter Lena (played with a focused intensity by Margo Seibert) even more. And he still has a deep love for his ex-wife Bette (played with a powerful charm by Lusia Strus) who continues to support Hank and Lena with tough doses of advice and admiration. The final member of this intentional family is Toby (played with a wistful, wry, and willing demeanor by Brian Miskell). Toby is bookkeeper, booker, and unrequited lover of Lena.
“Music Hall” at 59E59 Theater C (through Sunday April 12, 2015) Read Article>
Somewhere, someone is waiting backstage – or even on stage – to perform, to dance, to sing, or to tell a story to a gathered few sitting in the dark. Those gathered, for whatever reason, might be attentive, or not so attentive. They might even be eating or drinking or snoozing or chatting amongst themselves. Nevertheless, the one on stage, the performer, the artiste must go on “as cool as you please” and begin her or his act “slow and unconcerned.” Another someone tells the story of that Artiste assisted by two “Boys” in the remarkable and well-crafted “Music Hall” currently running at 59E59 Theater C.
Karen Mason: “Mason at Mama’s in March” at Don’t Tell Mama (through Monday March 30, 2015) Read Article>
First things first: Karen Mason’s appearance at Don’t Tell Mama in March is an iconic seventy minutes not to be missed. Since opening the main room at Don’t Tell Mama thirty-three years ago with Nancy LaMott, Karen Mason’s career has become iconic with stellar performances on Broadway, in movies, and on cabaret stages around the world. Ms. Mason has always been a force to be reckoned with and her current run at Don’t Tell Mama is no exception. Her voice is as strong and big (her description) as ever. Her ability to interpret a lyric and own it is incomparable and always remarkable and her vocal control is beyond comparison. Her placement of notes is deliberate and the interpretative choices she makes are always impeccable. Accompanied by the incomparable Christopher Denny and directed by Barry Kleinbort, Karen Mason’s “Mason at Mama’s in March” is a tour de force from start to finish.
“Every Brilliant Thing” at the Barrow Street Theatre (through Sunday March 29, 2015) Read Article>
“Social isolation — or lacking social connection — and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely, respectively increasing mortality risk by 29% and 32%.” (Brigham Young University Researchers)
Jonny Donahoe has received rave reviews for his performance in Duncan Macmillan’s “Every Brilliant Thing” since the show opened at the Barrow Street Theater back in December(and before in the U.K.) and the show is getting ready to launch its second U.K. tour after its final performance at the Barrow Street Theatre on March 29, 2015 ...
“I of the Storm” at the Playroom Theater (through Wednesday April 29, 2015) Read Article>
What is a successful money manager to do after serving time in prison for the misappropriation of funds and finding he is bereft of family, friends, and home? The Speaker in Def Poet RJ Bartholomew’s “I of the Storm” faces that precise circumstance and chooses to come to terms with his homelessness by embracing it and “letting go.” This Speaker now lives in the same New York City Park he used to pass through on his way to work when he missed the shuttle or could not get onto the subway. He spends his days sharing his experiences with passersby (in this case, the audience) and encouraging them to focus on not being “programmed” by the world – as he was - but rather seeking opportunities to be thankful and to overcome the world’s negativity.
“John & Jen” at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row (through Saturday April 4, 2015) Read Article>
The charming chamber musical “John & Jen” opened in 1995 at the Lamb’s Theatre and is enjoying its twentieth anniversary revival at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row. It is a musical montage of the lives of Jen Tracy (Kate Baldwin), her brother John (Conor Ryan) and Jen’s son John also played by Mr. Ryan and explores the sometimes complicated dynamics of family and the family system, particularly the relationships between sister and brother and the often tumultuous relationship between mother and son.
“Everything You Touch” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre at the Cherry Lane Theatre (through Sunday March 29, 2015) Read Article>
“Everything You Touch” is a time warp and space warp marathon, pushing and pulling at the audience as it takes audience members on a roller-coaster ride through events in real time, through events in the past, and ultimately to that place where all events initiate and resolve: the human mind. Sheila Callaghan’s play, currently running at the Cherry Lane Theatre, explores the important themes of love, longing, and loss in the context of indifference, suffering, and objectification. Her play is at the same time complex and compelling and worth every bit of the effort it takes to connect with the enduring questions it addresses, including the question of how we truly affect those whom we know and those we might not know.
“Abundance” at the Beckett Thereat on Theatre Row (through Saturday March 28, 2015) Read Article>
Referencing the word “Abundance” in the dictionary, several meanings appear, including ‘an extremely plentiful or over sufficient quantity or supply,’ ‘overflowing fullness,’ and affluence or wealth,’ which all diligently support the aptly titled Beth Henley epic play. The current revival of this important work by TACT, now occupying the Beckett Theater, closely examines the plight of two brave, unrelated, young women in the 1860s moving out west to find a new life and conquer dreams of love, wealth and prosperity. It is a tale of survival, human instinct, intelligence and courage that proves there will always be an abundance present, whether it be love or lust, wealth or poverty, happiness or complacency, kindness or cruelty, feast or famine and that it will continually be prevalent.
“Woyzeck, FJF” at the New Ohio Theatre (Through Saturday March 21, 2015) Read Article>
What if – instead of drowning while trying to dispose of the knife he used to murder his unfaithful wife – Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck ended up in an insane asylum wondering why he was there and what it was he had done to result in his hospitalization? And what if the things Woyzeck actually wondered, questioned, and imagined were instead surmised, evaluated, and fantasized by his army mate Andres? There is no need to guess any longer for this is what occurs in Jeremy Duncan Pape’s and D. L. Siegel’s clever retelling of Georg Buchner’s unfinished play “Woyzeck” currently running at the New Ohio Theatre. The adapters (really they are playwrights) attempt to finish what Buchner’s death in 1837 left unfinished with their inventive “Woyzeck, FJF.”
“The Events” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday March 22, 2015) Read Article>
Reportedly, Anders Breivik - the rightwing extremist who bombed a government building in Oslo, Norway in 2011 killing eight people then shooting sixty-nine more in a youth camp - smiled at his trial in 2012 when he was declared not to be insane. To have been declared insane would have been “the ultimate insult.” Odd concern for a mass murderer. Breivik claimed to have committed the murders in an effort to “battle multiculturalism” in Europe.
“The Events,” currently running at the New York Theatre Workshop, was inspired by playwright David Greig’s visit to Norway in the fall of 2011 to research this attack and massacre and by his meeting with a female vicar who ran a community choir ...
“Lives of the Saints” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street (Through Friday March 27, 2015) Read Article>
Sigmund Freud’s iconic phrase might be an apt descriptor for David Ives’ “Lives of the Saints” currently running at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street. When Mr. Ives tackles the vicissitudes of the human condition (tackles the lives of the saints) as he does in the satisfying “It’s All Good,” he is at his best. Unfortunately this new collection of Ives’ tales contains mostly physical comedy, repetitious word play (double entendre, innuendo, etc.), and enough sight gags to challenge a “Three Stooges” gig. And that is fine if that is all the audience expects and desires – which seemed to be the case at a recent showing of these six shorts.
“Rasheeda Speaking” at the New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Sunday March 22, 2015) Read Article>
When a play asks rich, deep, and enduring questions – truly rich and deep and enduring questions – there should be “a kind of a hush” over the audience throughout the performance. Indeed, the appropriate response to the curtain call might be that same awe-fulled hushed silence. Joel Drake Johnson’s “Rasheeda Speaking” asks enduring questions that are rich and deep; however, at times, the audience response was not hushed. In fact, after several “black-outs” which were clearly scene changes, the audience applauded thunderously hoping Mr. Johnson’s well developed and rich characters would indeed stop asking any more challenging questions about race and racism in America.
“The Road to Damascus” at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday, March 1, 2015) Read Article>
It is easy to get trapped in the seductive Siren-like lure of reality when watching Tom Dulack’s “The Road to Damascus” currently running at 59E59 Theaters as part of its innovative and successful 5A Series of plays. The events of the play – a future terrorist bombing of Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the hawkish response of the new third-party President – play out in a powerful albeit predictable way that satisfies the audience and leaves it members thinking deeply and asking rich questions about the dystopian future of the United States in an environment of seemingly escalating global anti-American sentiment. How can the United States successfully combat world-wide terrorism? Will the terrorists ultimately win out? Is anyone safe from the scourge of international terrorism? But it is in the rich layer of metaphor that lies beneath the play’s plot that the magic of “The Road to Damascus” resides and proves Tom Dulack to be a skilled and worthy wordsmith.
"Kill Me Like You Mean It," at Fourth Street Theater (Through March 8th, 2015) Read Article>
If Eugène Ionesco and Martin McDonagh watched The Maltese Falcon, they may very well have come up with something akin to Stolen Chair’s Kill Me Like You Mean It; but it wouldn’t be nearly as good as the comedic masterwork currently running at Fourth Street Theatre.
When private eye Ben Farrell is hired to investigate a series of crimes seemingly inspired by a pulp-fiction writers detective stories, he’s shocked to discover that the next predicted murder will almost certainly be his own ...
"Loveplay/Playmoney," at La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street (Through February 22, 2015) Read Article>
A naked man, a disco ball, and a discourse on drunk moose sets the events of ‘Loveplay’ and it’s companion piece ‘Playmoney’ into motion. Written and performed (emceed, really) with loveable braggadocio by Sam Alper, the plays are a sequence of riffings on romance (Loveplay) and success. (Playmoney) With funky poetics, awkward vignettes, occasional improv and no fourth wall to speak of, Alper’s play comically probes what it means to be on the hunt for love and money in 2015.
Marcus Goldhaber and the Jon Davis Trio at the the Kitano Jazz Club Read Article>
Marcus Goldhaber and the Jon Davis Trio slid onto the stage of the Kitano Jazz Club as eager as you’ll ever see a Jazz ensemble. After a racther clinical litany about proper Jazz etiquette from the Kitano’s musical director, the group warmed the crowd with an easy listening number. The performance consisted of mostly cover work with a few songs from Goldhaber’s new album ‘A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,’ and the show sufficingly lived up to the title.
Shesh Yak at Rattlestick Playwright's Theatre (Through February 22, 2015) Read Article>
‘You made me hate Syria! You made me hate my home!’ howls a wrathful Jameel. Haytham, a gentle, middle-aged man, sits bound and gagged in a claustrophobic apartment as Jameel inflicts atrocity after atrocity on his fragile body. It’s the grim ritual of history and violence now playing at Rattlestick Theatre. Playwright/Performer Laith Nakli spins a tale of suffering past and present; a chilling, challenging play that swells from a few small embers into a fully fledged inferno.
Villainous Company at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre (Through January 31) Read Article>
There is a special kind of merriment in a mystery play, and no, I’m not talking about Medieval liturgical drama. A mystery play lives and dies by the intensifying of suspense, the genius of its plot, and the brilliance of its characters always being ever-so-enjoyably one step ahead (or behind) the rest of us. The theatrical equivalent of Sudoku, it’s a risky enterprise, though, as a bad caper struggles to find any sort of aesthetic whatsoever.
"Winners," Ensemble Studio Theatre (Through February 8, 2015) Read Article>
Ensemble Studio Theatre's Winners makes me yearn for my years of reviewing psychotic performance art in meat lockers. Those days were horrific, to be sure, but at least ritalin-deprived cacophonies have the potential to evoke some sort of reaction. Maggie Bofill’s new play not quite thoughtful, not quite comedic, but something wedged woefully in between. Something of a manic artsy sitcom, Winners cannot deliver anything other than cheap chuckles, sparkling set changes, and Wes-Andersonian schmaltz.
"Everybody Gets Cake," 59E59 Theater C (Through February 8, 2015) Read Article>
You know you’re in for a treat at the theatre when one of the performers brings down the house by taking a single, stylized breath of air. Yes, the New York Times decreed that the veteran performance group Parallel Exit could get laughs ‘simply by breathing,’ and the capable comedians were quick to prove them right. Their new show Everybody Gets Cake is modern vaudevillian gold. Parallel Exit’s players are masters of all things physical, boisterous, and fun.
“Side Show” at the St. James Theatre (Closes on Sunday January 4, 2015) Read Article>
“Side Show’s” messages of self-acceptance, unconditional and non-judgmental love, and commitment bring audiences to their feet at the close of the re-imagined musical currently playing at the St. James Theatre and surprisingly scheduled to close on Sunday January 4, 2015. The musical opened to exceptionally positive reviews in November and nightly has elicited (rarely experienced from Broadway audiences) acclamations from the audience during the performance. So with these accolades, new music by Henry Krieger and an outstanding cast, the question remains, why is this musical closing early? Is there something inherent in this story that has challenged two attempts at a successful Broadway run?
“The Last Ship” at the Neil Simon Theatre (Tickets Available through March 31, 2015) Read Article>
Everything is just right about “The Last Ship” currently running at the Neil Simon Theatre. With music and lyrics by Sting and a cohesive and engaging book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, this new musical does not disappoint. Indeed, it is a powerful exploration of the dynamics of love and loss and hope and destiny. The new musical is rich with tropes, specifically the extended metaphor of the ship/boat and the river which figure prominently in American literature (“Moby Dick,” “Song of Myself,” “Tom Sawyer” to name a few) and it is appropriate to use that metaphor here and urge readers not to miss the boat and be sure to see “The Last Ship” for a journey that is heartfelt and restorative of hope and spirit.
“The Invisible Hand” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through January 4, 2015) Read Article>
Ayad Akhtar’s “The Invisible Hand” currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop is an intelligent, emotionally charged, and captivating exploration of the complex dynamics of self-interest in a globally codependent environment. Under Ken Rus Schmoll’s electric direction, the ensemble cast leads – sometimes propels – the audience through a series of “ah-ha” moments which culminate in the kind of rare catharsis that allows the audience to not only settle back in their seats but also equips them with a renewed awareness of the fragility of global politics and economics.
“On a Stool at the End of the Bar” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Sunday December 14, 2014) Read Article>
Transgender themed movies far outnumber transgender themed plays: “In a Year of 13 Moons” (1978); “Paris Is Burning” (1990); “Ma vie en rose” (1997); “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999); and “Transamerica” (2005) all have raised the consciousness about transgender women and men who not only struggle with the important issue of sexual status and gender reassignment surgery but also battle fear, rage, and harassment from family, friends, and society at large. So it was with much anticipation this reviewer attended a performance of Robert Callely’s “On a Stool at the End of the Bar” currently playing at 59E59 Theater B. Mr. Callely’s play deals with the inadvertent “outing” of Chris McCullough (Antoinette Thornes) by her brother Michael (John Stanisci).
“Asymmetric” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Saturday December 6, 2014) Read Article>
There has been “Acoustic Kitty” and “Project Pigeon” in the CIA’s arsenal of operations. Marc Rogers’s “Asymmetric” currently running at 59E59 Theater C adds another: the rather oddly named “Icarus Drone” operation. Mr. Rogers’s tasty espionage drama centers on retired agent Josh (Sean Williams) using his interrogation skills to discover to whom the fifth floor mole has been leaking information about the Icarus Drone project. Unfortunately for Josh, this necessitates the interrogation of his former wife and partner Sunny (Kate Middleton) who has the information the CIA needs to stop information from getting into the wrong hands.
“Sticks and Bones” at the New Group at the Pershing Square Center (Through Sunday December 14, 2014) Read Article>
As soon as Rick (Raviv Ullman) enters his family’s house in David Rabe’s “Sticks and Bones,” the audience knows it is in for a bumpy ride. After a somewhat serious chat with Father Donald (Richard Chamberlain) during which the good priest attempts to recruit Ozzie (Bill Pullman) to coach the church basketball team, the play’s tone shifts and the sitcom on steroids atmosphere signals the audience to prepare for occasional brain-freeze. This is not a drama for the weak of heart or the closed of mind. David’s return and soldier story paves the way for Ozzie’s story to unlock Pandora ’s Box with little chance for finding hope at its bottom.
“Wiesenthal” at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Sunday February 22, 2015) Read Article>
"I have survived them all. If there were any left, they'd be too old and weak to stand trial today. My work is done," said the real Simon Wiesenthal before he retired from his work as a Nazi Hunter in 2003. But the Wiesenthal given to us by writer/performer Tom Dugan is anything but satiated on the day of his retirement. Simon reminisces with the audience (who play the role of a visiting group of American tourists) about the horrors he endured during the holocaust, his life as an agent of justice, and his anxiety of leaving his work unfinished. As he recalls his momentous life, he’s beleaguered by phone calls about his final target, a retired nazi living in Syria who has eluded him up to this point.
“Allegro” at the Classic Stage Company (Through Sunday December 14, 2014) Read Article>
Most of us (at least the Everyman in most of us) get through life by continuing to put one foot in front of the other day in and day out despite life’s often unseemly vicissitudes. This works until we encounter some “road block” and often that road block can be the fast-paced life, one of those “roads not taken” that leads us to the dizzying heights of success. Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1947 “Allegro,” currently running at the Classic Stage Company, is a fitting metaphor for this “brisk tempo” trip from birth to death and all that transpires in between.
“A Delicate Balance” at the John Golden Theatre (Through February 22, 2014) Read Article>
There might come a day when Edward Albee is treated like Shakespeare. A familiar foreign language with rhythmic underpinnings, Albee’s angst over the unattainability of human connection could be tantamount to The Bard’s dread of the Great Chain of Being. Artists and academics of the age will try to make a name for themselves with his canon: ‘Albee our Contemporary’ could very well be penned. Yes, that day might come. But if Pam Mackinnon’s stale production of “A Delicate Balance” is any indication, it won’t be arriving anytime soon.
“Pitbulls” at Rattlestick PlaywrightsTheatre (Closes Saturday December 13th 2014) Read Article>
Rural green forest swallows the set of “Pitbulls,” the most recent installment from veteran playwright Keith Josef Adkins. Though overwhelming at first glance, the lush stage proves a fitting frame for this gothic tale of love and violence. Mary, a modern-day witch survives in the forest by brewing wine with her son Dipper. When the mayor’s prize-fighting pitbull is killed, suspicion falls upon the boy and his mother. The events of the play put Mary on a collision course with Virgil, the town policeman hell-bent on forcing Dipper into the fold. A Bloody-Mary myth respun in rural, black Appalachia, old skeletons and sins of the past are dug up and revived as the play nears its pinnacle.
“How to Save a World” at Under St. Marks Theatre (Through Wednesday November 26, 2014) Read Article>
Under St. Mark’s Theatre looks like a Eurotrash sex dungeon. Not that that’s a particularly bad thing, but I didn’t expect it to house one of the sweetest shows I’ve seen since “Peter and The Starcatcher.” In the first scene, a gruff, drunk (and preposterously attractive) homeless man gives a frantic dancer his jar of coins so she can make it to a competition on time. From this small act of kindness, a ripple effect touches a whole host of characters, from a Cabbie, to a Guverian Bank Robber, to a pair of anxious actors auditioning for a Lars Von Trier movie.
“Awake and Sing” at John DeSotelle Studio (Through Saturday November 22, 2014) Read Article>
It is a shock to the senses, entering the turn-of-the-century transformation underway at John DeSotelle Studio. A wooden jungle of beams and antique furniture consumes the black box space, a testament to the low-budget ingenuity of set designer Brian McManimon. The 1920’s tenement replica is immersive to say the least, a clever imagining of Clifford Odets’ masterpiece about a poor Jewish family dealing with their lovesick children and fiery Marxist grandfather in the wake of World War II. Imagine my surprise when, like the sounding of funeral bells, a ‘please forgive us’ curtain speech is delivered by director John DeSotelle himself.
“Bohemian Lights” at HERE Arts Center (Through November 23rd, 2014) Read Article>
The first red flag of Live Source’s “Bohemian Lights” (currently at HERE Arts Center) came during the curtain speech. The audience was informed of the cultural significance of the show they were about to see, as if to preemptively warn us we’re imbeciles unable to fathom the genius about to ensue. The play, adapted from the Ramón del Valle-Inclán script of the same name, concerns the blind, degenerate poet Max Estrella who starves to death during the collapse of Franco’s Spain. The poet suffers under the jackboot of oppression, feels the heartbeat of the downtrodden, and dies as a final ‘up yours’ to a society that wouldn't acknowledge his relevance. Although Max Estrella may have been an unrecognized diamond in the rough, the same cannot be said about this ostentatious production.
“Love Letters” at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (Closes February 15th, 2015) Read Article>
By now you’ve discovered the horrible truth, that A.R. Gurney’s ‘Love Letters’ is essentially a staged reading with a $127 price tag, but veteran director Gregory Mosher couldn’t have made a more fitting decision. The play follows the written correspondence of Andrew Ladd and Melissa Gardner, two upper-crust kids growing up, starting careers, creating families, and eventually fading into old age in a melancholic hour and a half. Although a table, two chairs and scripts may seem unfulfilling at first, Andrew and Melissa have as much relationship to the words they’ve written as they have to each other. The reading of the letters, the actual reading of them, gives the play its sacred quality.
“The Oldest Boy” at Lincoln Center Theatre (Through Sunday December 28th 2014) Read Article>
I count myself among the lucid minority not ensorcelled by Sarah Ruhl. Her innocuous ‘tea-and-cookies’ approach to drama lazily encourages an audience to leave their brains at the door. To top it off, her popularity is circumstantial evidence that women writers can only be taken seriously when writing superfluous subject matter. And yet, against all my misgivings, Ruhl finds her element in ”The Oldest Boy” currently playing at Lincoln Center.
T. Oliver Reid: “Drop Me Off in Harlem” at the Metropolitan Room (Through Sunday November 9, 2014) Read Article>
The current renaissance in New York City’s Harlem is not to be mistaken for the Harlem Renaissance of the 1930s (and before). The current revival has much to do with real estate, privilege, and power. The iconic Harlem Renaissance had everything to do with artistic collaboration, white bootleggers, and crazy rhythms. This is the Harlem T. Oliver Reid knows well.
The classy, sassy, tuxedo-clad, soulful songster Oliver Reid takes his audience on a circa 1934 rollicking musical tour stopping at jazz venues(Connie’s) and swanky nightclubs (Cotton Club, Radium Club) that featured the likes of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and the music of the prolific Harold Arlen...
“Barb Jungr – Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen at 59E59 Theater B (Through Sunday November 9, 2014) Read Article>
In her challenging and remarkable performance piece “Hard Rain,” currently running at 59E59 Theater B, Barb Jungr alludes to the often cryptic nature of Bob Dylan’s lyrics. There is yet another bit of cryptic poetry from a source often mined by both Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen; namely, the Bible. It is best not to argue that point. The imagery of both writers is informed by the rich imagery of the sacred books of the Judean-Christian communities. This does not mean that either poet has a faith construct consistent with either faith; it simply means they – like other modern and contemporary authors – allude to this material for its rich imagery and metaphorical treasure trove.
“Spacebar: A Broadway Play by Kyle Sugarman” at the Wild Project (Through Sunday November 9, 2014) Read Article>
You remember that kid from high school? The one who was totally obsessed with Broadway, who had written their own play, with a near encyclopedic knowledge of playwrights, musicals, and Tony Award nominees? Well, Michael Mitnick has written a show about him; and his name is Kyle Sugarman.
The play opens in heart rending fashion as a young Kyle’s father informs him his sister died in a swimming accident. Fast-forward to the present day as the sixteen-year-old Kyle emerges with a play, and an impassioned plea to Broadway ...
“Lift” at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday November 30, 2014) Read Article>
What Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” did for the complacency of the 1960s, Walter Mosley’s “Lift” attempts to do for the beginning of the twenty-first century. These important plays collectively challenge the racial, cultural and class consciousness of the American landscape. “Lift” uses the trope, here an extended metaphor, of the elevator – the lift – and its unexpected passengers in a New York City skyscraper under attack by terrorists to deliver its message. Of course, the attack itself it also an important metaphor for all that threatens necessary shifts in racial, cultural, and class consciousness.
“The Brightness of Heaven” at the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre (Through Sunday December 14, 2014) Read Article>
When Ed Kilgannon (played with powerful panache by Peter Cormican) stretches out on his favorite chair in his Buffalo, New York home, he is not simply snoozing; the head of the Kilgannon clan is doing his best to hide from the matrix of disturbing truths that threaten the fabric of his nuclear and extended Kilgannon-Jablonski families. And he is hiding from his own truth which has held him hostage in a judgmental family system all of his married life.
Laura Pedersen’s “The Brightness of Heaven” focuses on a middle-class upstate New York extended family that has depended on its Roman Catholic faith to keep its members in check at the expense of their attempts to discover themselves and their places in the changing world of the 1970s ...
“Billy and Ray” at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday November 23, 2014) Read Article>
Plays about the making of plays or the making of movies ought to adhere to the conventions of the genre being dramatized. Playwright Mike Bencivenga fails to accomplish this important writer’s task in his new “Billy and Ray” currently running at the Vineyard Theatre. This play about the collaboration between Billy Wilder (Vincent Kartheiser) and Raymond Chandler (Larry Pine) on the adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1943 novella ”Double Indemnity” for the screen portrays Wilder and Chandler as flat and static characters on the set of a television sit-com with walls that shake when windows and doors are closed. Director Garry Marshall oddly does little to animate his cast and the lot of them seems ready for the final curtain not long after it rises. This is an unfortunate circumstance for a talented cast more than capable of animating a script and for an audience more than ready to appreciate its collective craft.
“Deliverance” at the 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday November 9, 2014) Read Article>
Obadiah tried to warn Edom to repent of its pride, its inexorable hubris – but to no avail. The nation had its literal and figurative “home on the heights” and presumed no one or nothing could bring it “down to the ground. Lewis (Gregory Konow) has similar concerns in Sean Tyler’s adaptation of James Dickey’s “Deliverance” currently being presented by the Godlight Theatre company at 59E59 Theater C in Manhattan. “Y’know,” warns Lewis, “one day the machines are gonna fail, and the political systems are gonna fail.” Ed (Nick Paglino) asks him, “And what are we gonna do then?” Lewis responds, “I had an air-raid shelter built.”
“Lennon Through A Glass Onion” at the Union Square Theatre (Through Sunday February 22, 2015) Read Article>
There have been a plethora of Beatles tributes on and off Broadway in the recent past but none honors the Beatles songbook better than “Lennon Through A Glass Onion” currently running at the Union Square Theatre. Conceived and Performed by John R. Waters, this complex and engaging musical focuses on the music of John Lennon through a “peeling back of the onion” of Lennon’s life and work and revealing how the two are inextricably reticulated.
“Big: The Musical” at the York Theatre Company (Through Sunday October 19, 2014) Read Article>
In mufti, with all the typical theatrical trappings stripped away, “Big: The Musical” becomes just small enough to really understand the characters in this iconic musical, clearly relate to their conflicts, and share in and relate to the stories these child and adult-sized conflicts spin. In its current run at the York Theatre Company, there is nothing to distract the audience from the raw emotion of a boy having his wish to be grown up granted only to discover adulthood has its own complexities especially when seen through the eyes of a twelve year old going on thirteen.
“While I Yet Live” at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street (Through Friday October 31, 2014) Read Article>
In 1994, just before the Thanksgiving turkey is carved and served, Calvin (Larry Powell) packs his things, says good-bye to Eva (Sharon Washington) and his sister Tonya (Sheria Irving) and leaves his Pittsburgh house and home. Sexually abused by his stepfather Vernon (Kevyn Morrow) and emotionally abused by a Pentecostal faith that brands his sexual status as “not normal,” Calvin “needs space to grow, to learn how to love myself, in spite of myself.”
“When January Feels Like Summer” at the Ensemble Studio Theatre and Women’s Project Theater (Through Sunday October 26, 2014) Read Article>
It seems everything in Cori Thomas’s “When January Feels Like Summer” is out of synch, out of time, somehow oddly akilter and often akimbo. The weather is not seasonal. Relationships are not functioning within desired limits. Gender shakes itself out of traditional norms. Privilege separates individuals and poorly tolerates all challenges to status. Things need to be rearranged, reordered, reclaimed, and redeemed – the perfect context for propitiating Ganesha the Hindu god of wisdom and learning who removes all obstacles to success.
“Riding the Midnight Express with Billy Hayes” at the Barrow Street Theatre (Through Sunday November 30, 2014) Read Article>
In October 1970, on his fourth attempt to smuggle hashish from Turkey to the United States, “the blond hippie” Billy Hayes was apprehended and remanded to Sağmalcılar prison for a four year and two month sentence. Because of then President Nixon’s war on the smuggling of drugs into the United States and his pressure on countries like Turkey to stem the flow of drugs to the United States, Billy’s sentence was increased to life in prison with the reduced sentence of thirty years. Using his powers of persuasion and monetary encouragement, Billy convinced the prison psychiatrist to arrange his transferred to Imrali Island Prison – the prison with the highest escape rate in the system. From the moment he stepped into the Turkish prison, Billy was determined to escape from that prison, to “ride the midnight express.”
“Scenes from a Marriage” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday October 26, 2014) Read Article>
Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage” is the epic examination of not only why marriages disintegrate but whether marriages are sustainable as a cultural institution. Director Ivo Van Hove’s reimagining of Bergman’s original screenplay – as did the television miniseries, the feature length movie, and prior stage versions – raises what are the essential questions about marriage, truly enduring questions that examine the institution of marriage and its sustainability beyond the twenty-first century. For this reason, the “Scenes from a Marriage” currently running at the New York Theatre Workshop is a remarkable and important piece of theatre: it uses a unique convention to explore the phenomenon of marriage and its relevance to significant human interaction.
“Port Authority” at the Irish Repertory Theatre at the DR2 Theatre (Through Sunday, November 16th, 2014) Read Article>
Shipping ports worldwide are governed by rules of access: regulating who can dock and who cannot; who can ship to and from and who cannot; who has authority to enter and exit and who does not. Unlike those ports of call, the three men in Conor McPherson’s 2001 “Port Authority” have no control of their “ports.” These are men to whom things happen, not men who initiate action. They sometimes believe they are in control of their lives and it is just at those moments the grim specter of reality visits with the announcement that they are really only “pretending to make a decision.”
“Tail! Spin!” at the Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project (Through November 30, 2014) Read Article>
Mario Correa’s “Tail! Spin!” was the breakout hit of the 2012 NY International Fringe Festival (Fastest-Selling Show in FringeNYC history) and the charmingly irreverent show has found its way into the Culture Project’s 2014 Season at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre. What TMZ is to celebrity gossip “Tail! Spin!” is to political gossip and it showcases a delightful romp through the actual emails, text messages, and tweets of four political heavy-hitters. The buzz here is about how these four men get “tail” (an abhorrent metaphor) in real time or cyber time and about how they and their staffs attempt to “spin” the way out of their tight and embarrassing scandalous spaces.
“Juarez: A Documentary Mythology” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Read Article>
The purpose of Theater Mitu’s documentary mythology piece is clear and certainly commendable. Addressing how Juarez, Mexico could have become “The Murder Capital of the World” and to rediscover director Ruben Polendo’s hometown, the company members “began traveling to Ciudad Juarez/El Paso, meeting with anyone who would sit down and talk to [them] to create a piece with and about its citizens; in exploration of and collaboration with these experiences, memories, and hopes.”
“Bauer” at 59E59 Theater A (Closes on Sunday October 12, 2014) Read Article>
Lauren Gunderson’s “Bauer,” currently playing at 59E59 as part of the 5A Series, transforms the rhythm, the form, the line, and the order of Rudolph Bauer’s life and work into sheer unbridled magic. The events of Bauer’s life - from his arrival in the United States in 1939 to his death in 1953 - are well known and accurately rehearsed in Ms. Gunderson’s succinct and brilliant ninety minute play which was commissioned by the San Francisco Playhouse in January 2014. What cannot be well known is the meeting of Bauer, his wife Louise and Hilla von Rebay shortly before his death in the Bauer’s Deal, NJ home: it cannot be well known because it never took place.
“Boys and Girls” at 59E59 Theater B (Closes Sunday September 28, 2014) Read Article>
The boys and girls in Dylan Coburn Gray’s extended prose-poem performance piece are Irish and their particular rant is about life and times in Dublin, which is a specific matrix of cultural fundamentals. Although “Boys and Girls” features four narratives (chapters), the speakers are identified only as A, B, C, and D and therefore these are universal stories that connect not only to all Irish youth, but to all boys and girls finding their way through the often difficult corridors of individuation and separation.
“3Christs” at the Judson Memorial Church (Closes on Sunday September 28, 2014) Read Article>
Something goes terribly wrong after the opening scene of “3Christs” the site-specific play about three delusional patients at a state psychiatric hospital each who believes he is the “one and only Christ.” As each of the three patients enters the stage constructed in the sanctuary of the Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan, each actor quickly defines his character with precision and creates a persona that is believable and identifiable.
Donald Warfield’s Clyde Benson is wiry, wily, and reeks of insecurity and cynicism: his Christ, however, is confident and crafty ...
“Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” at Minetta Lane Theatre Read Article>
What do you call a nation-state that seeks prosperity for its citizens, encourages personal responsibility, prefers not to be dependent on other nation-states for its needs, and supports a deep and abiding faith in an all-powerful deity? The United States? England? Saudi Arabia? Try “Elbowville,” located somewhere in Ragnar Arnarsson’s elbow where the residents depend upon Lobster trapping for income. Ivar Pall Jonsson’s “Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter” (hereafter “Revolution”) is the story of the rise and fall and rebirth of this small but determined elbow-based town.
FringeNYC – Past, Present, and Future of New York City's Annual Fringe Festival Read Article>
Theatre Reviews Limited was there at the beginning eighteen years ago when “the scrappy few” founded FringeNYC: Aaron Beall, John Clancy, Jonathan Harris, and (current Artistic Director) Elena K. Holy recognized the need for a Fringe Festival in New York City. John Clancy and Elena K. Holy were the founders of FringeNYC’s producing organization The Present Company. This is part of that 1997 manifesto:
“We need a place where the artists who do all the hard work, the early work, can incite and excite each other. We need a time set aside to look at all the exploration, a time for the front-line soldiers in our endless Cultural War to report back from their patrols." ...
“Ryan Is Lost” at FringeNYC 2014 at the 64E4 Mainstage Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014) Read Review>
The NY International Fringe Festival is presenting “Ryan Is Lost” a new play by Nathan Wellman which is an intriguing, interesting and brooding two character drama. If one could imagine, it would be the offspring of “Waiting for Godot” and “The Zoo Story.” It is absurdly provocative as it slowly retrieves simmering emotions to the surface, allowing a boiling pain and intense relief.
Waiting here are Avis and Frank – an odd couple if ever there was one. Claiming to be sister and brother with a (perhaps) abusive father and one with a parole officer, they wait on a bench in a shopping mall for their nephew Ryan who has wandered off and not yet returned to the designated meeting area ...
“Poor Behavior” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street (Closes on Sunday September 7, 2014) Read Review>
Theresa Rebeck asks an important and rich question in her new “Poor Behavior” currently running at the Duke on 42nd Street the new home of Primary Stages. This question might go unnoticed it is so intertwined with Ms. Rebeck’s rant about the state of marriage in contemporary “civilized” culture: and it is a good rant indeed. The real question though is not just whether the institution of marriage is sustainable, but whether the institution of America is sustainable. If there were a time when William Butler Yeats might have an attentive audience, it is at this maleficent moment of antinomian delight midway through the first decade of the twenty-first century.
“Breaking the Shakespeare Code” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Mainstage (Closes on Wednesday August 20, 2014) Read Review>
There ought to be a warning posted above the entrance to the Mainstage Theatre at 64 East 4th Street Theatres on the days “Breaking the Shakespeare Code” is running. Something like, “Fasten your seat belts or prepare to be blown away!” It takes Martha and George years of angst-ridden and explosive off-campus confrontations to break the “kid” code in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” It takes Curt and Anna sixteen years of angst-ridden and explosive on-campus confrontations to break the Shakespeare code that has bound them together in John Minigan’s brilliant and demanding new play currently running at FringeNYC 2014.
“Moses, The Author” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Players Theatre (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014) Read Review>
Andrew R. Heinze’s “Moses, The Author” is a new play currently running at Fringe NYC 2104 and is awarded Theatre Reviews Limited’s “Best Play of Opening Weekend” at Fringe NYC. This smart, funny, and provocative new comedy highlights the limitations of religious literature to adequately portray the essence of a people’s/nation’s faith. For all religions of “a book” (Judaism, Islam, Christianity), difficulty arises when the community, fearful of heresy and the death of reliable storytellers and mindful of the need for pedagogy, commits orally transmitted mythos to writing. The flexibility accepted in the oral tradition – as the needs of the community changed or new information required altered world views – became impossible to sustain: what was written was written and could not be changed. In fact, it became the word of the gods transmitted to humankind through special agents (priests, prophets, and kings) and infallible and incontrovertible. Moses (Mitch Tebo) was one of those special agents.
“Cover” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (Closes Tuesday July 29, 2014) Read Review>
David and Zan, a young Westchester married couple and Peter and Beth, a married couple in their late 40s collide in a fragile foursome in Bill McMahon’s new “Cover” currently running in NYC at part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. What happens in this refreshing play might not “make sense” to any of the four characters; however, they each come to understand they “are in the middle of something” important – and that something has everything to do with love and becoming honest with themselves and their true identity and status.
“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014) Read Review>
All John (Dan Rosales) wants is to celebrate his 2014 high school graduation with close friends Chelsea (Gerianne Perez) and her brother Tucker (Alex Walton) and bound-for-Princeton Emmy (Marisa O’Donnell). Reading his post-graduation speech is all that is really on John’s agenda. Somehow college lacrosse star Richie (Michael Luwoye) is invited and interloper Amelia (Madison Micucci) breaks in through window and screen to add to the growing matrix of post-graduation melancholy. What begins as a simple celebration develops into group therapy spiced with an abundance of alcohol.
“Mr. Confidential” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014) Read Review>
“Mr. Confidential” is the new musical currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. With an outstanding book, lyrics that complement and successfully expand the scope of the book, and music pleasing to the ear and heart, this is a big brassy musical with a Broadway beat begging for attention. With a cast headed up by Kevin Spirtas, “Mr. Confidential” tackles the meteoric rise and softer fall of Robert Harrison the 1950s iconic journalistic purveyor of scandal, gossip, and the art of the expose.
“Madame Infamy” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014) Read Review>
“Madame Infamy,” a new musical being presented at the Alice Griffin Theatre as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, is an undertaking of epic proportion. The attempt to capture the lives of two important historical women namely Marie Antoinette and Sally Hemings in parallel, with Madame Tussaud as their liaison and storyteller, complete with singing narrative, is certainly no easy task. This production certainly has the feel of mega musical partly due to the sometimes sweeping, soaring melodies and intricate orchestrations of composers Cardozie Jones and Sean Willis; however the musical sometimes falters when those orchestrations are entwined in the book and lyrics ...
“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” at 59E59 Theater A (Closes Sunday August 24) Read Review>
Mona Golabek’s “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” is an extraordinary Master Class in the resilience and healing of memory, the power of storytelling, and the enduring mystery of the art of the piano and its impressive repertoire. Ms. Golabek shares the inspiring story of her mother Lisa Jura using the rhetorical devices of pathos, ethos, and logos. The audience member feels for Lisa Jura from her childhood through adulthood: the audience member identifies with the marginalization Lisa experienced: the audience member understands it is not reasonable to commit genocide.
“Oprahfication” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Thursday July 24, 2014) Read Review>
What happens when a powerful actor with an equally powerful voice portrays one of America’s most powerful (and wealthiest) women ever? Let’s call it “Oprahfication!” Currently running at the New York Musical Festival, “Oprahfication” highlights Oprah Winfrey’s 25th Anniversary Episode through the eyes and heart of actor and singer Rachel Dunham. Ms. Dunham – who watched Oprah live and recorded in the 20th Anniversary DVD Collection - celebrates the years Oprah dominated daytime television and presents the “ultimate interview.”
“The Snow Queen” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 20, 2014) Read Review>
“The Snow Queen,” the new musical being presented as part of NYMF at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, is a new twist on the age old fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. Coming on the heels of a recent reinvented animated movie based on the same story, this reincarnation takes a completely different path. Although the musical has a strong Brechtian epic theatre influence and a more modern approach to the fable - where some of the cast are incorporated into the action playing instruments, providing vocals, and playing multiple characters clad in exquisite bohemian influenced costumes - at times it is a bit unclear what the production wants to be. It certainly is dark enough to captivate adults along with appealing and seductive staging for the teenage crowd and finally a storyline that would be all too familiar with children ...
“The Qualification of Douglas Evans” at Walkerspace (Closes Saturday August 9, 2014) Read Review>
Douglas Evans (Derek Ahonen) is the perfect anti-hero in his anti-epic “The Qualification of Douglas Evans” currently running in repertory with “Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace in New York City. This protagonist struggles with his addiction to alcohol as the codependent son of an alcoholic father (Penny Bittone) and completely codependent mother (Barbara Weetman). The audience experiences this playwright want-to-be fall into addiction and reenter the addictive cycle in an ever circling gyre.
“Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace (Closes on Saturday August 9, 2014) Read Review>
It is perhaps all those wrong turns into Forest Lawn (and other gateways to divided eternal futures) that seem to get us and Jessica (Sarah Lemp) into trouble. We start out all right (ostensibly). Wounded and be-hooked Clinton (Matthew Pilieci) writes in his journal that we are all “pretty much the same” with similar needs, hopes, and problems. But then we get caught up in Jabberwokian machinations and the world begins to tilt a bit, spin uncontrollably, fall out of focus, and ultimately, as Lewis Carroll observes, non-sense reigns: “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.”
“The Long Shrift” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014) Read Review>
Playwright Robert Boswell has determined to tackle difficult themes in his new “The Long Shrift” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater: when a crime is committed, who is the innocent and who is the guilty? Does the justice system work? What are the long term effects on the accused and the victimized?
At the age of eighteen, Richard (Scott Haze) attends a party where he sees classmate Beth (Ahna O’Reilly) who, he believes, is showing an interest in him personally and sexually ...
“Cloned!” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Saturday July 19, 2014) Read Review>
The new musical “Cloned” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, presented as part of NYMF, will hopefully find a future in the effervescent New York theatre scene where it belongs. It has pop theatre music, comedy, parody, farce, a puppet and a sincere silly story combined with a cast of imaginative characters. It has a wonderful enthusiastic ensemble that teases every laugh out of the script or any ridiculous situation they may encounter and will tickle your fancy with their absolutely enticing vocals. While viewing the production certain material triggers memories of past shows but not to worry, the company it keeps is more than welcome with shades of “Little Shop of Horrors” and music reminiscent of Cy Coleman’s “Sweet Charity.” The cast is superb as they succumb to the absurd, revel in the farce, sing through the silly, and triumphantly deliver a solid and entertaining performance.
“Searching for Romeo” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
“Searching for Romeo,” currently being presented as part of NYMF at the PTC Performance Space, is a pleasant parody. This new musical is entertaining and clever, however not without fault, offering nothing innovative as far as concept, theme or musical development. It would be unfair to critique the cast and their devoted effort, since the production was afflicted with an unfortunate illness of their leading male; however, in true show business fashion the performance was rescued by the fearless assistant to the Director, standing in with script in hand and vocally prepared. What emerged throughout was the bonding and eloquent behavior of the ensemble to support and contribute to the effort put forth by their comrade. Bravo!
As mentioned the concept is nothing new or groundbreaking and the use of innuendo and parody becomes almost tiring, culminating with a replication of the last scene in “West Side Story.” ...
“Academia Nuts” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
With the sweetness of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the caustic humor of “South Park,” and the vitriol of “Hairspray,” the new musical “Academia Nuts” chronicles the quiz kid competition between the McCutter Clan of Weiner, Arkansas and the Walla Walla Walruses from the Pacific Northwest. The musical celebrates the strength of the human spirit and the importance of chasing ones dreams. However, “Academia Nuts” is a far darker comedy than its main plot belies and some of its subplots are more about dreams left unfulfilled and the considerable weakness of some humans.
“Coming of Age” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
A new song cycle entitled “Coming of Age” is being presented as part of NYMF at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre and proves to be a good addition to the roster of the Festival’s developing musicals. It deals with the awkward transitional experience when one becomes aware of a problematic situation that affects his or her life; simply put, growing up and taking responsibility for life decisions. What resonates is the universal recognition that is put forth, always passionate and intelligent without being pretentious. The music is complicated and diverse, casting an intriguing veil over the well thought, inspired lyrics that tell each character’s story. It is new and fresh yet worn and comfortable; interesting and diverse yet simple and parallel; recognizing the importance to appeal to all ages, all cultures, all societies and all religions. Rarely does it falter and stray too far from its intent and when it does the cast manages to bring it back on track.
“Somewhere with You” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
“Somewhere with You,” currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, touts itself to be “THE country-rock musical of a new generation.” If by ‘new generation’ the creators mean (in their own words) “Southerners growing up in the early 2000s confronted by the methamphetamine epidemic, the war in Iraq, and other post-9/11 challenges in the rural South,” then this is “THE” musical for a new generation. Unfortunately, these parameters are (hopefully) not the descriptors of the majority of twenty-first century Americans. If the creative team of “Somewhere with You” has determined not to write a musical with more traditional country-western themes, they need to construct a musical with enduring and universal themes. JT Harding’s songs elucidate these themes; unfortunately, the new musical “Somewhere with You” does not.
“The Mapmaker’s Opera” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Wednesday July 16, 2014) Read Review>
"The Mapmakers Opera,” currently presented at The PTC Performance Space as part of the ongoing NYMF, is a solid effort to adapt the profound and beautiful novel of the same title by Bea Gonzalez for the stage. The results are commendable but as with any new musical project pitfalls are numerous and the need exists to focus a bit more on the intent and plot without straying into meaningless distraction. The cast shines and makes it worth seeing the production in its infancy just to hear their refined vocal ability.
Joel Perez is delightful as he explores the many facets of his character using his strong, clear and effective baritone ...
“Rescue Rue” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 20, 2014) Read Review>
Based on the true story of Rue, the Chiweenie who was rescued from a high-kill animal shelter in the South and found her way to the more humane Badness Brooklyn Animal Shelter, “Rescue Rue” is a charming new musical with enduring themes of universal love and the importance of a supportive home and family.
The story itself is narrated by Sarah Haines and is the relatively straightforward tale of the rescue of Rue from her abusive family to a loving home in Brooklyn, New York ...
“666 DSM” at 59E59 Theater C (Closed July 9, 2014) Read Review>
Douglas de Souza’s “666 DSM” concludes its brief run at the 59E59 East to Edinburgh Festival and prepares to face its opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2014. Mr. de Souza and his director/producer Cindy Sibilsky have several challenges to face and overcome before rubber hits runway in The Burgh ...
Mr. de Souza is a spirited and gifted actor who is capable of portraying a variety of characters giving each a specific persona. However, his script does not give him as an actor much to work with.
“Years to the Day” at 59E59 Theater B (Closes July 12, 2014) Read Review>
Ostensibly eschewing the technology of communication, Dan (Michael Yavnieli) and Jeff (Jeff LeBeau) engage in what proves to be a marathon for gamers par excellence as they reunite at an undisclosed location in “present time adjacent” at a small table. Friends for twenty-five years, these two remaining members of a post-high school foursome of friends engage in exactly the type of exchange Jeff describes when expounding on texting ...
“Commit” at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ (Through Saturday June 7, 2014) (Jersey City) Read Review>
EJC Calvert’s new play “Commit,” currently running at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ, is a dark comedy written in three acts. Each act carefully dissects the vicissitudes of the human condition, in particular the abilities of humankind to commit themselves to a variety of relationships despite their prolific and sometimes unsettling flaws. Three creatures appear in the titles and in the action of the three acts: a bear, lamb, and a bird. And each varmint serves as a delicious trope for the unpredictable and cantankerous nature of humankind in its journey through love, loss, and redemption.
“West Side Story” San Francisco Symphony Live Recording (Released on June 10, 2014) Read Review>
San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas had a long-standing professional and personal relationship with “West Side Story” composer Leonard Bernstein making the June 10, 2014 release of the live recording of the first-ever concert performance of Mr. Bernstein’s complete score for the iconic musical quite significant. Equally significant is the recording itself. Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony not only do justice to the score but excel beyond any expectation at providing the most accessible and enjoyable recording of the iconic musical since its Broadway staging and subsequent recordings.
“A Piece of My Heart” at the Barrow Mansion (Jersey City, NJ) (Through Sunday June 1, 2014) Read Review>
Suggested by a work by Keith Walker, Shirley Lauro’s 1991 “A Piece of My Heart” attempts to celebrate the lives of the women who served in the Vietnam War as enlisted soldiers, nurses, entertainers, and other volunteers. Under director Betsy Aiello Sanders’ steady hand, the talented ensemble cast of the Speranza Theatre Company tackles Ms. Lauro’s script and brings it to life with heartfelt energy and a high dose of authenticity. Speranza is Jersey City, NJ’s newest theatre company staging performances of “A Piece of My Heart” at the historic Barrow Mansion in downtown Jersey City.
“A Fable” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday June 28, 2014) Read Review>
One would think that with Dante Alighieri, Goethe, John Milton, Kurt Weill, T.S. Eliot, Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner (among others) in the house, nothing but a good time would be had by all. No so. The myriad allusions to the aforementioned greats and the usually reliable hand of Rattlestick’s David Van Asselt could not save “A Fable,” currently running at the Cherry Lane Theatre, from unintentional – one would hopefully assume – meaninglessness.
“Too Much Sun” at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday June 22, 2014) Read Review>
In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Jacques solves the eternal question of whether art imitates life or life imitates art: simply, life is art and art is life. Seasoned stage performers have discovered what acting novices will discover during their careers; namely, as Meryl Streep affirms, “Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding [oneself] in there.” Acting indeed is life’s work.
Perhaps no one knows this better in Nicky Silver’s new play “Too Much Sun” than its protagonist Audrey Langham (Linda Lavin) ...
“The Rivals” at the Pearl Theatre Company (Through Sunday May 25, 2014) Read Review>
There is a great deal of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in his rollickingly funny “The Rivals” the comedy of manners he wrote for Covent Garden and where it first appeared in 1775. Riffing the sham chivalry and sham romance of his day, Sheridan drew from his life experiences to develop a roster of comedic characters with absurd conflicts that spin outrageous plots and subplots. The action centers on modern woman Lydia Languish (Jessica Love) who indeed languishes after the glamour of eloping with Ensign Beverly who is in reality the wealthy Captain Jack Absolute (Cary Donaldson).
“The Few” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday June 8, 2014) Read Review>
Long distance truckers are indeed a band of brothers and sisters whose escapades on America’s interstate highways place them among the few. And consumers in the United States owe a great deal to these drivers (the term they prefer) who often put their lives in jeopardy by staying on the road for long hours without rest. The stress of the profession has often led to substance abuse. Long distance drivers Bryan (Michael Laurence), QZ (Tasha Lawrence), and their friend Jim started a newspaper “The Few” to reach out to truckers in and passing through Idaho, give them support, and give them a place to gather and find surcease.
“The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday May 25, 2014) Read Review>
The connections playwright David Rudkin draws between T. S. Eliot’s fictional character J. Alfred Prufrock and Mr. Rudkin’s interest Alfred J. Hitchcock are compelling and make for a riveting and important theatre piece. Adapted from his earlier (1993) “film for radio,” David Rudkin’s “The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” plays at 59E59 Theater A through May 25, 2014 as part of the Brits Off-Broadway Series.
“Playing with Grown Ups” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Sunday May 18, 2014) Read Review>
Two couples trying to discover who they are as dyadic entities. Four individuals attempting to discover who they are in their unitary states. Oddly, the lives of the couples parallel one another and even more curious, each individual has a doppelganger. These four - coupled in twos - collide on one rainy night in a flat in the midst of Joanna’s (Trudi Jackson) apparent post-partum, post traumatic stress disorder meltdown. This collision and its fallout are the subject of Hannah Patterson’s “Playing with Grown Ups” currently running at 59E59 Theaters at part of its Brits Off-Broadway series.
“Sea Marks” at the Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday June 15, 2014) Read Review>
There is a brooding sadness inherent in and hovering over the love story of Liverpudlian Timothea Stiles (Xanthe Elbrick) and Cliffhorn Heads fisherman Colm Primrose (Patrick Fitzgerald). Gardner McKay’s mesmeric “Sea Marks” echoes the deep sadness of James Joyce and the disputatious anger of Martin McDonagh and, blended with his own unique storytelling style, creates a beautiful tale of love and loss, regret and redemption. “Sea Marks” is not a traditional love story with a happy ending; rather it is a story about what motivates people to do the risky things they do to find happiness or the surcease of loneliness.
“17 Orchard Point” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Saturday May 24, 2014) Read Review>
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Just ask the irrepressible Lydia Rauscher (Michele Pawk) come to visit her daughter Vera (Stephanie DiMaggio) for the baby shower for Lydia’s younger daughter Annie. Lydia flees Cleveland after the death of her husband and son Griffin, leaves Vera to manage the apartment building she owns, and hooks up with Stuart in Las Vegas where what happens remains a secret. But Lydia’s Vegas secrets are no match for the Pandora’s Box of punchy revelations awaiting her at 17 Orchard Point. Anton Dudley and Stephanie DiMaggio’s play – named after that apartment – is a chilling psychological thriller with all the necessary twists and turns to keep the audience gasping and guessing for an emotionally-laden seventy-five glorious minutes at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in Manhattan.
“Family Play” (1979 to Present) at the New Ohio Theatre (Through Friday May 16, 2014) Read Review>
It is difficult to develop well-rounded and rich characterizations when one has not experienced directly or indirectly the significant conflicts and settings of the characters involved in a play or any other performance piece. Actors attempt that theatrical feat often with varying degrees of success. In the case of “Family Play (1979 to Present),” Collaboration Town’s ensemble-driven creative process does not give the young ensemble cast enough interesting content to be able to bring their somewhat lackluster characters to life. In four “sections” – each introduced by a different family “meal time event” – six talented actors spin around a large circular stage and hop on and off entering into a variety of “Readers Theatre” scenarios.
“Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday June 1, 2014) Read Review>
Despite Ranger Steve Reynolds’ (Jeremy Wilhelm) welcoming words to the NYTW audience and his insistence that “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” is “gonna have a lot of good information [and] some important dates,” there is not much Edgar Allan Poe aficionados do not already know about Poe, his marriage to his thirteen year old cousin Virginia Clemm, his attachment to his mother-in-law (and aunt) “Muddy,” and his life-long battles with the dissolution of his ego strength and his successive descent into madness.
“Peddling” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday May 18, 2014) Read Review>
Words are inherently powerful tools, even more powerful when written and perhaps most powerful when spoken. This is the case with Harry Melling’s compelling script “Peddling” currently running at 59E59 Theater C and part of the presenting organization’s “2014 Brits Off-Broadway Series.” Mr. Melling’s script traces the often explosive day-in-the-life of Michael the nineteen-year-old “boy” peddling his “everyday essentials” as part of “Boris; young offender’s scheme.”
The boy’s story is somewhat universal: Michael – like so many others – “was born and didn’t grow.” ...
“Inventing Mary Martin” at the York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s (Through Sunday May 25, 2014) Read Review>
Stephen Cole’s “Inventing Mary Martin” is ninety minutes of adrenaline driven high energy singing and dancing devoted to remembering, honoring, and celebrating the life and career of the indefatigable Mary Martin. Broadway veteran Jason Graae narrates and hosts the tribute and is joined on the York Theatre stage by a trio of delightful divas: Cameron Adams, Lynne Halliday, and Emily Skinner. After the opening monologue and medley of Mary Martin hits, the cast, under Mr. Cole’s direction, launches into a non-stop succession of solos, duets, trios, and quartets all highlighting Ms. Martin’s successful Hollywood and Broadway careers.
And as the title suggests, this quartet of skilled singers, actors, and dancers address the importance of Mary Martin’s remarkable ability to invent herself, reinvent herself, and know when to allow herself to be reimagined by others ...
“Annapurna” Presented by the New Group at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Sunday June 1, 2014) Read Review>
Homer recounts the epic ten-year journey of Ulysses after the fall of Troy and chronicles his adventures and misadventures as he attempts to reunite with his faithful wife Penelope and their son Telemachus. James Joyce recounts the epic day-long journey of Leopold Bloom and unfolds his adventures and misadventure in Dublin with corollary characters Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. And Sharr White recounts the epic day-long journey of his equally modernist Ulysses (Nick Offerman) and rehearses his adventures and (mostly) misadventures as he receives a visit from his ex-wife Emma (Megan Mullally) and the impending visit from their son Sam.
“A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” and “Clean” (Through Saturday April 26, 2014) Read Review>
Challenged by a chauvinistic comment after her 2011 Edinburgh Festival solo show, playwright Sabrina Mahfouz is determined to write “a tale of three females who could easily be the basis of crime-based computer games.” The result “Clean” is currently running at 59E59 Theater B as part of the Brits Off-Broadway Series. The short play is paired with Douglas Maxwell’s “A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” both offerings by Edinburgh’s The Traverse Theater Company. But first, “Clean.”
“The Most Deserving” at The Women’s Project Theatre at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday May 4, 2014) Read Review>
Catherine Trieschmann’s new play “The Most Deserving” is a delicious and raucous mélange of six characters facing their own and others’ sexism, racism, and homophobia as they struggle to bestow a twenty thousand dollar award to a deserving local visual artist. “This artist,” Jolene Atkinson (Veanne Cox) informs her Arts Council, “must have lived in Ellis County for five years. He must demonstrate both artistic excellence and financial need and should preferably be an underrepresented American voice.”
“Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday April 20, 2014) Read Review>
Sans Cerebral Palsy (CD), sans Tourette’s Syndrome, sans his “twisted spine,” Nihal emerges from a block of stone hewn by a surrogate mother/sculptor as his birth mother - who was not with him at his birth and was not with him when he died – watches behind a wall of protective glass. Perhaps that glass wall serves as an extended metaphor for Nihal’s ballad of becoming a young adult – never quite completely breaking through walls of disability into full normalcy.
Rahila Gupta’s “Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong,” is the compelling story of the birth, life, and death of her severely disabled son Nihal ...
“I Remember Mama” at the Transport Group at the Gym at Judson (Through Sunday April 30, 2014) Read Review>
Memory is a tricky thing. Remembering events from one's past is fraught with complications. Like
dreaming, remembering puts the one remembering in complete control of the end product. When
Katrin (Barbara Barrie) decides to write about her family, she has to reconstruct the events from her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. And in that process of reconstruction, Katrin becomes the delightful unreliable narrator whose account of the events in the house on Steiner Street is at the heart of John Van Druten’s “I Remember Mama” currently playing at the Gym at Judson, home of the Transport Group’s 2014 Season.
“Bum Phillips All-American Opera” at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (Through Sunday March 30, 2014) Read Review>
Bum Phillips (Gary Ramsey) is more anti-hero than hero in the opera being his name currently playing at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (La MaMa). The apparently iconic Houston Oilers football coach has to endure the same struggles heroes have always experienced (Ulysses, Antigone, and that lot) but the stakes in the strife seem lower and the return home less glorious. It is this anti-hero status that both weakens and potentially strengthens the impact of the opera.
“Stockholm” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Saturday March 29, 2014) Read Review>
Codependent and cramped in a fantasy of intimacy, Kali (Christina Bennett Lind) and Todd (Richard Saudek) wage a dangerous battle of wits and words and take no hostages in the revival of Bryony Lavery’s “Stockholm” the One Year Lease Theatre Company production currently running at 59E59 Theater B.
There is little healthy fabric remaining in the marriage of Kali and Todd. Honesty has been absent since their first meeting at a restaurant opening when it took three rounds of falsehood to share their real names ...
“The Architecture of Becoming” at the Women’s Project Theatre at New York City Stage II (Through Sunday March 23, 2014) Read Review>
Five writers, three directors, and six actors collaborate (conspire?) in five short scenes to tackle the sticky business of becoming in the Women’s Project Theatre’s current offering at City Center II. Indeed, the performance space itself is the sixth actor in the ensemble cast with its own history of the search for identity and meaning.
Serving as a trope for the discovery of self, purpose, identity, and (perhaps) utility, the specter of the Shriner’s resplendent Mecca Temple is woven into the story of a young Mexican playwright searching for an idea for a script ...
“No Exit” at The Pearl Theatre Company (Through Sunday March 30, 2014) Read Review>
Cradeau, Inez, and Estelle – three war-weary Parisian compatriots – bear transgressions that serve as tropes for the horrors of the events surrounding World War II. Critics often have claimed that Sartre’s “No Exit” is not a war play; however, given the date of authorship and the autobiographical undercurrent of the play, such claims seem gratuitous at best. Though the sins of this hell-trapped trio pale against the backdrop of the atrocities of Hitler’s invasion of Europe, the Holocaust, and the Blitzkrieg, they land in hell – escorted by a Valet (Pete McElligott) - surprised to find no “thumbscrews, whips,” or other devices of torture. What they discover, however, is far worse.
“Arlington” at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday March 23, 2014) Read Review>
Channeling a more introspective and agonized June Cleaver, Sara Jane (Alexandra Silber) has an on-the-surface pleasant dialogue with all that is beyond theatre’s conventional fourth wall. In “Arlington,” currently playing at the Vineyard Theatre, that includes directly engaging the audience and the Pianist (Ben Moss) who appears behind an upstage scrim and not only accompanies Sara Jane’s non-stop singing but also succeeds in his own extrasensory skills channeling Sara Jane’s military husband Jerry. Although Sara Jane momentarily denies she is singing – “No, I’m just—I’m kidding! I’m kidding! I’m not singing” – she is immersed in a full blown operetta. And Victor Lodato’s book (libretto) and Polly Pen’s music shake the Vineyard and its inhabitants to a transformative and soul-purging existential crisis.
“Ode to Joy” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Sunday March 30, 2014) Read Review>
Soteriology, trying to figure out what it means to be a savior, is a difficult business and for the savior it is often a messy business. Saving others can result in considerable personal sacrifice and somehow subsuming the “sins” of others, even the sins of the whole world, can even result in death. For some reason, some humans just do not want to be saved from themselves and their pain. Fortunately, others do.
At the beginning of Craig Lucas’ “Ode to Joy,” protagonist Adele (Kathryn Erbe) sets the stage for all that follows, asserting that “This is the story of how the pain goes away ...
“My Mother Has 4 Noses” at The Duke (Through Sunday May 4, 2014) Read Review>
Despite the early protestation of playwright Jonatha Brooke, the aft end of the title of her “My Mother Has 4 Noses” is a trope; indeed, ‘4 noses’ is a well-developed and quite brilliant extended metaphor for not only the four seasons of the life of Brooke’s mother Darren Stone (“Stoney”) Nelson; the short phrase is also a metaphor for Stoney’s self-constructed surreal prosthetic devices designed and worn throughout the clown-poet’s life to cover and disguise the deep scars and deformity resulting from her sense of orphancy, her deep-seated depression, her deeply-entrenched bereavement, and the deep scars left by her often irrational faith in the tenets of Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science “magical thinking” – magical thinking which ultimately failed to transform her life into an abundant life and, indeed, was a contributing factor to her death.
“Bitten” at Quinn's Bar (Through Saturday February 22, 2014) Read Review>
Cleopatra knew the allure of the asp, the Egyptian cobra. Its venom, its bite, was – in her opinion – a rather dignified and relatively humane way to administer capital punishment offering “sleepiness and heaviness without spasms of pain.” That same bite, tradition tells us, brought that same surcease to Cleopatra VII Philopater, the last active pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
While waiting for Pronto Car Service to whisk Stella O’Conner (Lucy McMichael) and her gynecologist grandson Brian (Nick Palladino) off to the Sunset long-term care facility in Tenafly, New Jersey, the patrons of Quinn’s bar in Richmond Hill, Queens (seen and unseen) attempt to confront their panoply of knotty and nagging life challenges ...
“Love and Information” at New York Theatre Workshop at the Minetta Lane Theatre (Through Sunday March 23, 2014) Read Review>
Sans a singular protagonist, sans a singular antagonist, sans clear conflicts, therefore sans plot, Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” depends on a singular trope to provide focus and interest in her new play. This is a risky business – defying the conventions of theatre - but a business which works on many levels to provide an hour and fifty minutes of slide-show scenes of information gone haywire and love’s labor a bit lost. That trope is exemplified in an affirmation made by one of the one hundred characters that comprise Churchill’s new New York Theatre Workshop play currently running at the Minetta Lane Theatre: “she’s just information.” Humankind, in other words, IS information.
“Intimacy” at the New Group at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row (Through Saturday March 8, 2014) Read Review>
Just as Matthew’s (Austin Caldwell) “high end” video camera pans into a scene in his “A Frot in the Neighborhood” porn film” then fades out and goes into and out of focus, intimacy itself engages the audience then retreats in importance and comes into pedagogic focus then blurs into the realm of inconsequence in Thomas Bradshaw’s “Intimacy” currently running at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row as part of the New Group’s current season.
“The Correspondent” at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday March 16, 2014) Read Review>
Bereavement makes for a strange bedfellow. It joins battle with the bereaved and insists on skirmishes with denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and (ultimately) acceptance of the death of the loved one. These incursions into the life of the bereaved are not necessarily ad seriatim events: the skirmishes can coalesce into an anxiety-ridden Armageddon. It is at this point of lamentation the audience encounters Philip Graves (Thomas Jay Ryan) whose wife Charlotte died recently in an accident. Philip’s uncommon and a bit uncanny response to that loss is the engaging subject of Ken Urban’s “The Correspondent” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
“Philosophy for Gangsters” at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row (Through March 1, 2014) Read Review>
Buried somewhere beneath tired (and tiring) humor – much of it in poor taste – lies a story Liz Peak and Barry Peak intended to be engaging as well as humorous. Unfortunately their well-intentioned plan falls mostly flat in the world premiere of their “Philosophy for Gangsters” currently running through March 1, 2014 at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row in Manhattan.
“The Tribute Artist” at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday March 16, 2014) Read Review>
Charles Busch and his band of merry-makers have pitched camp (for all too short a time) at 59E59 Theater A for the final offering in Primary Stages’ twenty-ninth Season, Mr. Busch’s gender-bending and exquisite “The Tribute Artist.” The result of this incursion into the winter blues is nothing short of brilliant. From cast to creative team to direction, this delicious dip into debauchery brims with over-the-top humor and a subtle entreaty for the return of honesty in human relationships. But first, the dip into the debauchery.
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