E V I E W S
Reviews, Cabaret Reviews and Film
Reviews are in their own sections
|Jessica Sherr as Bette Davis. Photo: Kent Campbell.
Bette Davis Ain't
Of all the celebs channeled by drag queens and female impersonators, Bette
Davis, like flies to honey, has always been at the top of every performers
list. Her mannerisms, her clipped New England cadences, her famous lines
like “fasten your seatbelt this is going to be a bumpy ride,”
and the forever dangling cigarette in her airborne hand, like the actress
herself, are legendary. Nevertheless, not until actress Jessica Sherr
penned her one woman show, "Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies,"
has anybody dared to give us a wildly exciting, action-packed recounting
of Bette Davis’ life as a young aspiring actress hellbent on becoming
a star. By Edward Rubin.
New Federal Theatre's 2020 Poetry
Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre presented its "2020 Poetry
Jam: She Speaks, He Speaks, We Speak, Generations Speak," described
as a program to "honor powerful voices, from revolutionary trailblazers
to torch-bearing young artists, who invigorate today's Black verse."
I tuned in on September 21. The group of poets represented an impressive
variety of styles and themes, with an emphasis on social injustice and
tragic murders in the Black community. Most of the poems were delivered
by the eminent collection of poets themselves in deeply felt, passionate
renderings. By Paul Berss.
Theater Is Live And Well In New
Philip Dorian voyages to Weathervane Theatre in Whitefield, New Hampshire
to find that New Hampshire summer stock repertory theater is the first
in the nation (since the pandemic's quarantines began in March) to offer
live, professional indoor productions. Mr. Dorian reviews their two musicals:
"The World Goes 'Round" (a total joy) and "Little Shop
of Horrors" (never a dull moment).
Street Theater morphs into a virtual
oratorio with "Liberty or Just Us: a City Parks Story."
For over four decades New York City summers have been blessed with Theater
for the New City’s annual Street Theater tour, which visits all
five boroughs and entertains while it raises social awareness. This year,
street theater has become virtual theater as Crystal Field and her band
of troubadours embrace technology to bring their latest creation into
the homes and hearts of New Yorkers. By Paulanne Simmons.
T. Scott Lilly sings "Joe
Cheryl Gadsden as Billie Holiday
singing "Strange Fruit"
| Kimberly Immanuel in "Learn Your Lessons Well."
Photo by Emma K. Rothenberg-Ware.
in the Berkshires
Philip Dorian attends the Berkshire Theatre Group Colonial Under the Tent
production of "Godspell," the first Equity-approved stage production
since the pandemic began, and muses "Who could have predicted back
in 1970 that fifty years later, John-Michael Tebelak and Steven Schwartz’s
modest musical homily would be, for a few weeks anyway, the most famous
play in America?"
Tartuffe by Zoom
Watching Tartuffe on a zoom digital screen was like watching hungry birds
around a bird feeder. Each actor was interesting in their own way however
none of them could hold hold the spinning feeder in place. That’s
not saying the acting wasn’t up to the task. It was. by Larry Litt.
|Dharon E. Jones as Jets leader Riff and Amar Ramasar
as Sharks leader Bernardo. Photo by Jan Versweyveld.
West Side Story 2020
Ivo van Hove’s brilliant reimagining of “West Side
Story” tells gritty tale of immigrants, racism and police brutality.
The Laurents/Sondheim story of a Hamlet style romance between two cultural
opposites Tony (Isaac Powell) and Maria (Shereen Pimentel) turns much
tougher, more realistic, darker, grittier than it’s ever been before.
This is not your grandma’s “West Side Story.” By Lucy
|Jennifer Van Dyck, Christopher Borg, Charles Busch.
Photo byu Carol Rosegg.
The Confession of Lily Dare
In or out of drag, whether on stage or page, the 65-year-old actor playwright
Charles Busch, with some forty years of show business under his belt,
is a force to be reckoned with. "The Confession of Lily Dare,"
Busch’s latest outing as both playwright and lead actress, is a
humorous, fast-paced dish of delicious camp, a perfect antidote to calm
one down in this age of age of anxiety. By Edward Rubin.
|Beth Malone, center front, and cast. Photo by Carol
Two views of "The Unsinkable
Philip Dorian tells us that a buoyant performance re-floats
“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” at Abrons Arts Center. Lucy Komisar
cheers how the production puts a progressive, feminist spin on this 1960
|Michael Rogers and Joyce Sylvester in New Federal
Theatre's production of "Two Can Play" by Trevor Rhone.
Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
"Two Can Play" by Trevor
This delightful comedy by Jamaican playwright Trevor Rhone (1940-2009)
celebrates several landmarks. First of all, it is 35 years since the play
was introduced to New York audiences in 1985 by the Negro Ensemble Company
under the direction of Clinton Turner Davis, who is also the director
of the current revival produced by Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal
Theatre. Both companies, NEC and NFT, are venerable African American companies
that have brought the most important voices of African American theater
for more than half a century to the stages of New York and beyond. In
fact, the New Federal Theatre under Founder and Producer Woodie King Jr.
celebrates the 50th anniversary this season in its present home at Castillo
Theatre. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|Alfie Fuller and Khiry Walker in "Blues
for an Alabama Sky." Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Blues for an Alabama Sky"
Glenda Frank writes that Keene Company's production of “Blues for
an Alabama Sky” by Pearl Cleage offers a wonderfully old-fashioned
drama about hope. It’s set in 1930 in Harlem. The Harlem Renaissance
is at its peak. The gifts of black artists and intellectuals have flourished
and found new audiences. The Great Migration, the movement of six million
African Americans from the rural South to the urban North, still offer
promise. But the Great Depression is beginning to gobble up everyone’s
dreams. As the Covid-19 recession springs upon us, the play may offer
ennobling lessons for us all about how to keep your sunny side up. Too
bad it closed March 14, just as the quarantines began.
|Ben Porter as Kipps going into the secret room. Photo
by Jenny Robinson.
“The Woman in Black”
is engrossing, entertaining English ghost story, in a bar
Arthur Kipps (David Acton), a London solicitor in his 60s, is a man with
a story that must be told. In fact, the story has been running in London
since 1989. It started in a bar in Scarborough, Yorkshire, moved to the
West End, and now it’s in a bar at the Club Car at the McKittrick
Hotel on West 27th Street in New York. By Lucy Komisar.
|Craig Smith as Ivan Ilyich. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
"The Death of Ivan Ilyich"
With this American premiere, based on the novella by Leo Tolstoy and adapted
by Stephen Sharkey, the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble invites us to witness
a man’s descent into the purgatory of dying. Craig Smith stars as
"Twelfth Night or What You
Will" at The Guthrie
Venice is literally the watery city on the canal in the Guthrie's version
of "Twelfth Night or What You Will." There were other pleasures,
too. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|Alfred Molina as André in "The Father"
at Pasadena Playhouse. Photo by Jenny Graham
"The Father" at Pasadena
"The Father" depicts André, a feisty, independent man somewhere
on the far side of sixty who has a bit of a mean streak and who travels
a journey mandated and mapped by dementia. Starting out in his nicely
appointed apartment, he appears in the play’s final scene in the
austere room of a nursing home crying for his mother while cradled in
the arms of a nurse. Director Jessica Kubznasky’s production had
its fair share of Pasadena audience members gasping and, in a few cases,
weeping before the curtain call. By Dorothy Chansky.
|Gabriel Cañas, Paulina Giglio,
Guilherme Sepúlveda, and Carlos Donoso. Photo by Maria Baranova.
Bonobo from Chile in "Tú
Amarás (You Shall Love)"
After performing around the world, Bonobo, the internationally acclaimed
Chilean experimental theater company finally made its way to New York
City’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, with "Tú Amarás
(You Shall Love)," a socio-political offering with a surreal touch
that examines what is an enemy, how do we create one, and how do we connect
to others. By Edward Rubin.
Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
The Good Soul at Irondale
Irondale Ensemble Theatre has been staging plays by Brecht since 1984
with the first “The Good Person of Szechwan." It was a wild,
raucous production. Their "Life of Galileo" last Fall was an
impressive achievement, full of clever surprises and invention. Their
"Good Soul" has much to commend it but it is a work in
progress. By Glenda Frank.
|CHEKHOV/TOLSTOY: LOVE STORIES -- Anna
Lentz (Genya) and Alexander Sokovikov (Nicov) In “The Artist.”
Photo by Maria Baranova.
Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories
Seeing unbearable poverty and injustice in Russia, Tolstoy asked, “What
then must we do?” Miles Malleson, a little known 20th century English
playwright whom The Mint Theater has brought to life in several remarkable
productions, sought to address this question in plying together short
stories by Leo Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov. Seeing the works of two of Russia’s
most critically acclaimed 19th-century writers come to life makes for
an intriguing evening, but leaves you wondering if there might not be
much more. By Eric Uhlfelder.
Bob & Carol & Ted &
Alice are at it again, with music
The film "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" may have been
cutting edge fifty years ago, but that same subject matter translated
into the new musical adaptation from the New Group, with a book by Jonathan
Marc Sherman, seems as appealing as a hangoverm says Paulanne Simmons.
Edward Rubin chimes in noncommitally, adding reflections on the film.
|Elise (Natalie Menna), in cahoots with her son-in-law
Axel (Ryan Feyk), hides her deceased husband's letter from her daughter,
Gertrude (Baily Newman).
Strindberg's "Isle of the
Dead" and "The Pelican"
Theater for the New City and The Strindberg Rep must be commended for
presenting August Strindberg’s two chamber plays together on stage
for the first time ever. Strindberg had written the play “The Pelican”
in 1907 for his Intimate Theater in Stockholm and intended “The
Isle of the Dead” as a prologue. However, the two plays were never
played together until Ingmar Bergman directed them as a radio play in
2003; it was his last dramatic production. The new translation from Swedish
into English by Robert Greer, the Artistic Director of The Strindberg
Rep and director of this production, has dramatic bite and lays bare the
psychic angst of the characters. It is Strindberg at his most virulently
morbid in an Expressionist style that almost anticipates theater of the
absurd. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|L-R: Imana Breux, Mystie Galloway, Nya
Bowman, Marc Deliz, Adrian Washington.
"a photograph / lovers in
Ntozake Shange's “a photograph…” has been re-imagined/adapted
and directed by Ifa Bayeza, her sister and frequent collaborator, in a
production of Negro Ensemble Company at Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks. The
play is set in the late 70s and deals with the raw emotions of African
Americans, men and women, as they struggle with their legacy of interracial
violence, sexual brutalization and self-hatred, the economic advances
of a Black middle class whose identity as Blacks is contested by the Black
Power movement, and the problematic social relationship between African
Americans and white integrationists who had fought for equal justice alongside
Blacks during and after the violent Civil Rights movement in the 60s.
By Beate Hein Bennett.
|Celia Rose Gooding as Frankie, Derek
Klena as Nick, Elizabeth Stanley as Mary Jane, Sean Allan Krill as
Steve. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
"Jagged Little Pill" gets it right
"Jagged Little Pill" is a terrific pop/rock morality tale, a
soap opera musical for teens to help them understand their parents. Not
bad for parents either. It’s based on the music of Alanis Morrisette,
with a book by Diablo Cody and smart direction by Diane Paulus. It’s
a mix of a few terrific professionals and very good all around musical
theater actors. Especially Celia Rose Gooding gets into your blood and
is hard to forget. By Lucy Komisar.
|Jerry O’Connell as Captain Charles Taylor and
Blair Underwood as Captain Richard Davenport. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Roundabout's production
of "A Soldier's Play"
The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. presented "A Soldier's Play"
by Charles Fuller, one of its "signature plays," twice in 2017-18
as part of its 50th Anniversary Season: first at Theatre 80 St. Marks
and then again at Gene Frankel Theatre. Now The Roundabout Theater Company
has picked it up. Charles Fuller’s mystery race play, brilliantly
directed by Kenny Leon, is still a stunner. By Lucy Komisar.
|Romeo (Nikita Burshteyn) courting Bernadette (Anna
Kostakis). Photo by Russ Rowland.
Along comes “Romeo and Bernadette,” which lovers of Shakespeare,
musical theater and the blending of both, are urged to visit at A. R.
T. Theatres at West 53rd and Tenth. Loosely (but recognizably) inspired
by the tale of the star-crossed lovers, the play is a compact, two-hour
treat from curtain to curtain. By Philip Dorian.
| Laura Linney as Lucy Barton, and the Greenwich Village
brownstone. Photo Matthew Murphy.
Two Views of "My Name is Lucy
We have seldom had two critics disagree so soundly. Lucy Komisar writes
that Laura Linney creates a fine portrait of a women seeking to pull a
life out of a harrowing childhood in a play that unfortunately descends
into soap opera. “My Name is Lucy Barton” was a book by Elizabeth
Strout, here adapted by Rona Munro and staged by Richard Eyre. Director
Eyre, like Linney very accomplished, does a good job, almost making you
forget that this is a potboiler. Edward Rubin tells us that the play,
still essentially a piece of literature, is better read than seen. And
being far too intimate for such a large venue; it is all but lost in space.
|Benajmin Banneker puppet. Photo by Chris Ignacio.
The Transfiguration of Benjamin
These days, “arts and sciences” sounds like about as likely
a pairing as, oh, maybe snowshoes and spaghetti, what with STEM and humanities
understood by so many as antitheses with no hope of appeal across the
aisle. The eighteenth-century Benjamin Banneker felt and acted otherwise,
and in Theodora Skipitares’s inventive theatrical investigation
of this extraordinary man’s life, science inspires poetry and sculpture,
while painting is the realm of farmers and astronauts. By Dorothy Chansky
and Beate Hein Bennett.
Fragile Explosion: Nina Simone
Larry Litt writes of seeing the closest he’ll ever get to Nina Simone
Live. Playwright Michael Monasterial’s latest biographical tribute
is titled "Fragile Explosion: Nina Simone." It’s a low
budget, high energy and way great musical that tells the truth about her
successes, her friends, enemies and troubles through music and dialogue.
Monasterial’s well chosen words make valuable points and revelations
about those turbulent times.
Photo by William Reynolds.
It’s always a pleasure to see a revival. But it’s a singular
pleasure to see a revival by the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players,
who seem to have an instinctive knowledge of how to get these Victorian
masterpieces right and relevant in the 21st century. By Paulanne Simmons.
|Max William Bartos & Zara Devlin. Photo by Matthew
In 2012 the musical, “Once,” opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs
Theater after making its off-Broadway debut at New York Theatre Workshop.
Based on the 2007 John Carney film of the same name, the musical was about
a Dublin street musician who is inspired by a beautiful young woman. The
show won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, which meant it lasted
another two and a half years on Broadway before closing in January 2015.
This season, New York Theatre Workshop hopes to have similar success with
an all too similar musical, “Sing Street.” Paulanne Simmons
thinks it was too much of the same.
|Rachel Pickup and Colin McPhillamy. Photo by Carol
Charlotte Moore’s production of “London Assurance” by
Dion Boucicault at the Irish Repertory Theatre is scrumptious. This is
especially surprising for a British comedy of manners from 1841, one penned
by 20 year old novice. Strong women and clever phrasing are script stand-outs.
Reviewed by Glenda Frank and Edward Rubin.
|Luke Kirby (Thomas Hudetz). Photo by Stephanie Berger.
“Judgment Day” by Ödön
von Horváth at the Armory
Sometimes fate forces us into lives that are too large, too complicated,
too challenging. If the station master had not been so handsome, the train
wreck would never have happened and 17 people would still be alive. Director
Richard Jones has transformed Ödön von Horváth’s
1937 Expressionist drama into a comment on fate. “Judgment Day”
is a test of human courage in a world of shifting values, where guilt
and innocence are not just intertwined, but sometimes integral. The satire
is incisive, comical, and part and parcel of the tragic. Jones’
surgically precise, sure-footed direction is ideal for the 55,000 foot
theatre space of the Park Avenue Armory. This production is a work of
art. By Glenda Frank.
|Photo by Valeriya Landar
Opera GAZ at La MaMa
GAS, a word like a scream engulfing space! Gas, an element permeating
space! Gas, an energy that can kill! Gas, an industrial product and present
in the bowels of the earth! GAS is silent until it explodes! The Ellen
Stewart Theatre LaMaMa presented the audience with a theatrical explosion--"Opera
GAZ," imported from Kyiv, Ukraine. Virlana Tkacz, director of the
YARA Arts Group in New York, created with the ensemble of Nova Opera Kyiv
a production that is partly historical recovery, partly revolutionary
music theater. By Beate Hein Bennett and Larry Littany Litt.
|The cast of "Judgment Day." Photo by Stephanie
"Judgment Day" at the
"Judgment Day" is a riveting combination of Brechtian social
criticism and Ionesco political allegory, both à propos for
a surreal story about Nazi era Europe. The events created by Odon von
Horváth, the Austro-Hungarian playwright and novelist, are directed
smartly at the Armory by Richard Jones. This important play by Von Horváth,
who tragically died at 36, suggests he would have been a worthy member
of the Brecht-Ionesco political playwrights group. By Lucy Komisar.
|Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Fires in the Mirror”
by Anna Deavere Smith, directed by Saheem Ali
In 1991 Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York erupted. So why drag up history,
especially such ugly history? Anna Deavere Smith saw an opportunity to
let all sides be heard, perhaps to make peace. In the premiere at the
Public Theatre, Smith performed and won the 1993 Drama Desk Award for
Outstanding One-Person Show. In the current production, the versatile
Michael Benjamin Washington plays the dozens of intersecting voices. The
production is powerful both as theatre and as social commentary. By Glenda
Art history can be a boring subject. Nerdly academics and rich girls wanting
to be in the art industry abound in the best galleries and museums. Not
the case with Bated Breath’s "Unmaking Toulouse-Lautrec."
In this wildly funny, sexy, and dare we say educational romp through the
master’s life we’re treating to music, dance, eroticism and
beautiful women as Henri T-L may have seen and felt them. By Larry Littany
| Adrienne Warren as Tina Turner, Daniel J. Watts
as Ike Turner. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“Tina: The Tina Turner Musical”
Even if you don’t like rock, you will appreciate Adrienne Warren’s
bravura performance in this feminist story about a woman who puts up with
abuse for years and finally throws off her Svengali to become a world-famous
singer. By Lucy Komisar.
|Raúl Esparza as Harry gazes at
his signature seared salmon. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Seared" by Theresa Rebeck
On the menu of this clever, succulent play are the characters who make
up the back of a boutique restaurant in Park Slope, a trendy neighborhood
in Brooklyn where playwright Theresa Rebeck lives. Director Moritz Von
Stuelpnagel makes them all eminently real, albeit somewhat New York neurotic
in their own ways. By Lucy Komisar.
|Len Cariou and Craig Bierko. Photo by Maria Baranova.
Harry Townsend's Last Stand
If it is true, as often stated, that there are only seven basic plots
from which all plays are derived, one of the seven certainly involves
conflicted parent-offspring relationships. Think “King Lear”
and “Death of a Salesman” for prototypes. While George Eastman’s
“Harry Townsend’s Last Stand” is not in those plays’
lofty firmament (Is any?), it is definitely in that plot category. The
play is a perfect fit for New York City Center’s intimate Stage
II. While it might not be substantial enough to sustain a long run in
the Big City, Eastman’s gentle comedy should have a viable afterlife.
Two characters, one set, geriatric jokes, an excellent tag line (Sometimes
it's harder to like someone than it is to love them) and a two-hour running
time: a Regional/Community Theater dream. By Philip Dorian.
Sarah Lemp. Photo by Nonoka Judit
Near to the Wild Heart
Ildiko Nemeth's stage adaptation of "Near To The Wild
Heart" by Clarice Lispector is a prime example of how difficult literature
succeeds on stage. Powerful and meaningful, showing us the heart and mind
of well rounded characters, it’s a must see for seekers of refined
drama. By Larry Littany Litt.
Most of the cast of "The
Photo by Ashley Garrett.
Our Eric Uhlfelder has no doubt that if Eric Tucker was given a shoebox
in which to direct a play, he could concoct a hit. Played out across his
trademark minimalist staging that focuses attention on actors and their
words, Tucker’s latest production--Arthur Miller’s “The
Mike Thornton as Trump.
The Capitol Steps
In The Capitol Steps' satirical revue, "The Lyin' Kings," the
players announce that they put the “mock” in democracy. But
there’s no argument that both Republicans and Democrats in the best
government money can buy mock the rest of us. By Lucy Komisar.
|Publicity photo for Nancy Redman
Nancy Redman's still got it.
Well-known comic and actress Nancy Redman kept the audience at Theatre
Row in splits with her one-woman show, "At Wit's End: A Home for
Retired Comics," directed by Bill Cosgriff. In a red shirt,
black trousers and a walking stick, she makes her way to the stage which
is nothing more than a bare set up with a desk, chair and a hat, and a
screen displaying Redman in her younger comic days. She’s the fourth-floor
representative at a nursing home for retired comics and we’re all
residents. A clever premise, indeed, one that works not just for the seniors
in the audience but also for the younger lot such as our reviewer Lyle
|Off to the ball! -- Cinderella (Ashley Blanchett),
carriage driver (John Peterson) and Fairy Godmother (Donna English).
Photo by Evan Zimmerman.
Cinderella in NJ
“Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” comes by that
official title honestly. Having gone through several revisions since its
debut as a TV special in 1957, the show depends for its success (or not)
on how well (or not) that legendary team’s musical score is realized.
How the vocal numbers are sung, how the orchestral arrangements are played,
how the dance portions are choreographed. Plhilip Doran reports that the
Paper Mill Playhouse production (of the 2013 Tony-nominated Broadway version)
excels in those three categories and complements them with glittery special
effects, creative lighting and gorgeous costumes.
|Harvey Fierstein as Bella Abzug. Photo by Jeremy
Lucy Komisar deems Harvy Fierstein's solo play on Bella Abzug a "very
moving story, an excellent performance by author Fierstein, and a monologue
that should be delivered throughout the country."
|Brian Cox as Lyndon Baines Johnson. Photo by Evan
"The Great Society" at Lincoln Center
Lucy Komisar writes, "This is an incredibly important play. And brilliantly
performed by Brian Cox and the others. It should be staged around the
U.S. in major theater, community and college settings."
|Francis Jue and the company of Soft Power. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
In 2015 David Henry Hwang was stabbed on a street in Brooklyn. Some people
might react with fear or anger. Hwang decided to write a musical, or rather
what the authors call a “play with musical.” By Paunanne Simmons.
|Christian (Blake Jenner) and Roxane (Jasmine Cephas
Jones) kiss. And Cyrano? If only. Photo by Monique Carlini.
“Cyrano” gets a makeover
(and a nose job)
A new off-Broadway adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano
de Bergerac,” titled simply “Cyrano,” plays fast and
loose with the 19th-Century playwright’s masterpiece. Adapted and
directed by Erica Schmidt, whose schoolgirl-cast “Mac Beth”
was a stunner, the New Group production runs through December 13 at the
Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square. By Philip Dorian.
of the Fouth Turning
Will Arbery’s latest play, Heroes
of the Fourth Turning, having been extended two times by popular demand,
is now running Off-Broadway through Sunday, November 17 at Playwrights
more religious, personal, and political exposition (read talk) than many
a mind can absorb at one sitting, Heroes of the Fourth Turning is
essentially a snapshot of the current divisive state of affairs in this
country. By Edward Rubin.
A fun night at "Carnival of
It's movie night karaoke fun with this doctored, neonized version
of "Carnival of Souls" by Jack Feldstein and Ari Figueroa. The
play, presented by New York Fringe Festival, is visually both film noir
and psychedelic at once, giving me the feeling of being behind the action
in some beautifully colored, mirrored, just-out-of-reach world. By Larry
|FOR COLORED GIRLS -- The company, photo by Joan Marcus.
Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide/when the Rainbow is Enuf"
still raises consciousness
Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play is a dramatized and choreographed
consciousness-raising session. This is about blacks, so it includes a
lot of race specific cultural facts. It could have been about women of
any race or ethnic group. If you were a feminist in the 70s, you were
likely in a consciousness-raising group. This was a powerful, visionary
play for its time, and it gets a worthy revival at the Public Theater.
By Lucy Komisar.
|FORBIDDEN BROADWAY -- Joshua Turchin, Immanuel Houston,
Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano and Jenny Lee Stern, spoofing
‘Moulin Rouge,’ photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Forbidden Broadway's The
Next Generation" is Woke
This marks "Forbidden Broadway's" 37th year of its
much-anticipated musical parodies. The repertoire includes a variety from
"Moulin Rude (Rouge)" to "Harry Potter & his Cursed
Children," "Woke-lahoma" to "Evan Has-Been (Hansen)"
and more.With performers who are smart, comic and in excellent voice,
along with musical commentary that keeps you grinning, this year is another
great show. By Lucy Komisar.
|LINDA VISTA -- Caroline Neff as Anita, Ian Barford
as Wheeler, Troy West as Michael, photo by Joan Marcus.
In Linda Vista, it's not a pretty
view of a womanizer
This play depicting a womanizer going through a mid-life crisis
is well-delivered. "Linda Vista" is an astute telling of a mid-life
womanizer by a male playwright, it's certainly worth the watch. By Lucy
|IS THIS A ROOM -- TL Thompson as Agent Taylor,
Peter Simpson as Agent Garrick, Emily David as Reality Winner and
Becca Blackwell as unnamed agent, Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Is This A Room ends up as a Boring
FBI Encounter story
With a title that's as vague as the play itself, "Is This A Room"
by Tina Satter fails to impress. The attempt to subtly promote another
"lack of U.S. intelligence, Russian-election hacking" story,
the play, showcased at The Vineyard Theater, gives a false impression
of "Reality," perhaps not strong enough to sway theatre-goers.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Emun Elliott and Marisa Tomei in "The Rose Tattoo."
Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Rose Tattoo with Marisa Tomei
and Emun Elliott
Roundabout’s revival this season is blessed with leads that bring
the happy couple to lusty life. Marisa Tomei is passionate, funny and
sometimes just shy of tragic as the widowed Serafina Delle Rose, and Emun
Elliot, is charmingly awkward as the truck driver who stumbles into her
life and keeps it from falling apart. By Paulanne Simmons.
Nancy Redman, at her Wit's End
Nancy Redman returns to the United Solo Theatre Festival with her one-woman
show "At Wit's End: A Home for Retired Comics," directed by
Bill Cosgriff. By Jane Goldberg.
“(A)loft Modulation” is a flawed play in a flawed production
but it brings that period of time back to vivid life. It’s as though
we were a fly on the wall. The slice of life play is not for everyone,
but for those of us with a deep affection for Smith and the period, the
play is catnip. By Glenda Frank.
|Jimena Perea plays the young girl with dreams in "WIFEY." Photo
by Christiana Rifaat.
Trump most recently suggested the U.N. withdraw support for abortion.
Where does that leave a woman -- the mother that could have been, or chose
not to? What is the role of a woman when she becomes a significant other?
Does she carry an expiration date?“WIFEY” tackles such poignant
questions against the backdrop of the 2016 and upcoming 2020 elections.
The experimental play written and directed by Sarah E -- attorney by day
-- is evocative with potential for a ripple effect, be it in the realm
of women’s or immigrant, or basic human, dignity. By Lyle Andrew
Boeing Boeing at Phoenicia Playhouse
This hilarious revival of Marc Camoletti’s 1962 comedy is brilliant
and charming because of Director Michael Koegel’s insightful and
glamorous casting. Boeing Boeing ran for seven years in London. The 2008
Broadway production won a Tony award. Working with local theater professionals,
Koegel has woven as tight a web of farce as Larry Litt has ever seen.
|Jonathan Groff and Audrey II. Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser.
"Little Shop of Horrors"
From the moment the girl group (also known as the Urchins)
sings the opening “Prologue” of Little Shop of Horrors,”
in the new revival at the Westside Theatre, directed by Michael Mayer,
we know we’re in for two hours of exuberant joy. By Paulanne Simmons.
|T. Ryder Smith, John Keating, Tom O'Keefe, and Daniel
Molina. Photo by Ashley Garrett Photography.
Inspired by climate change and increasing magnitude of man-made and natural
disasters, along with an actual anti-aircraft platform built 12 miles
off the English coast (known as Sealand), playwright Barbara Hammond sees
"Terra Firma" as a metaphor for the human predicament. By Eric
|Tom Hiddleston and Zawe Ashton. Photo by Marc Brenner.
Straight from a successful run in London this past spring, we have Pinter's
"Betrayal" again on Broadway. It is swathed, deservedly so,
in over-the-top glorious reviews for both its director Jamie Lloyd, its
English cast Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton, Charlie Cox, and the play’s
pitch-perfect technical team. By Edward Rubin.
Sean Gormley and Haskell King.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Kingfishers Catch Fire
Robin Glendinning has set “Kingfishers Catch Fire,” his remarkable
two-hander in a cramped prison cell in Rome, Italy, after World War II.
Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, a Vatican priest who worked with the
Resistance, is visiting Herbert Kappler (Haskell King), nicknamed “The
Beast,” a Nazi war criminal condemned to life imprisonment only
because Italy has outlawed the death penalty. O’Flaherty says God
told him to visit but during their conversation, we learn that the priest
attended Kappler’s trial and was astonished to hear him confess,
condemning himself in sworn testimony. He has come to take the measure
of his most formidable enemy. By Glenda Frank.
|Stan Buturla, Connor Bond. Photo by Anthony Paul-Cavaretta.
"Ludwig and Bertie"
Theater for the New City presented Douglas Lackey's "Ludwig and Bertie,"
a historically-based play about the relationship betweenthe philosophers
Bertrand Russell and Ludwig WIttgenstein. While the older Lord Russell
was an established professor of philosophy and mathematics at Cambridge
University’s Trinity College with a long life and some eccentric
“side trips,” Ludwig Wittgenstein’s life, abbreviated
by cancer, was marked by intellectual brilliance, quixotic solipsism,
and social upheaval. The juxtaposition of these contradictory personalities
promises explosive drama, perhaps more than can be contained in one session
of theater. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|Robert Cuccioli (Caesar) and Teresa Avia Lim (Cleopatra).
Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Caesar & Cleopatra"
at The Gingold Theatrical Group
The great thing of demanding so much from so little is it requires the
audience to be that much more imaginative and engaged. David
Staller’s rapid-fire 2-hour production of this brief visit back
to ancient times and his superb casting enables us to make the trip without
a trick of stagecraft. By Eric Uhlfelder.
|THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM -- Eileen Atkins as Madeleine,
Jonathan Pryce as André. Photo by Hugo Glendenning.
The Height of the Storm
What happens to the partner of a 50-year marriage living without the other?
What if the husband André dies and the wife Madeleine survives?
What if the wife dies? What would each do? How would each cope? How would
their children, in this case grown daughters, react?The Roundabout's “The
Height of the Storm,” written by Florian Zeller, translated from
the French by Christopher Hampton, directed by Jonathan Kent, is a mystical
memory play about surviving death and loss. By Lucy Komisar.
Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo
Such a surprise! To see a large, decidedly blonde and obviously Caucasian
man performing a traditional Japanese art. Meet Katsura (Storyteller)
Sunshine, the King of Kimono Comedy. Rakugo is the 400-year-old art of
comic narration, and Sunshine is one of only two (of the 800) Rakugo masters
who was not born in Japan. Yet it is Sunshine who was chosen to be Master
of Ceremonies at the opening reception of the G-20 Summit in Osaka in
2019. Soon into the show, you understand why. By Glenda Frank.
|WIVES -- Aadya Bedi as Diane, Sathya
Sridharan as Henri II, and Purva Bedi as Queen Catherine de Medici.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
The first half of Jaclyn Backhaus’ feminist satire “Wives”
is hilariously funny. The mordant wit doesn’t last till the end,
but the first parts are so good, it’s very much worth seeing. The
idea is to focus on the wives of some famous men. You haven’t seen
anything like it. By Lucy Komisar.
Alaine Hutton in "This Is
Why We Live."
This is Why We Live
Poetry as concentrated language that shifts in tone and mood has always
had a stronger impact when spoken, and if one adds the body as the conveyor
of these shifting tones and moods, the experience is one of concentrated
empathic sensations. The Open Heart Surgery Theatre accomplished this
magnificently with Wislawa Szymborska’s poetry in "This Is
Why We Live" at La MaMa. By Beate Hein Bennett.
Sea Wall/A Life
"Sea Wall/A Life," two extraordinarily powerful one act plays,
presented in monologue form, are holding court at the Hudson Theatre on
Broadway. Fueled by strong reviews, and the star power of film and stage
actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Strurridge, it is one of the most deeply
moving productions currently gracing the stage here in New York City.
By Edward Rubin.
|Tara Lake in "I Know It Was The Blood: The Totally
True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman."
Tara Lake knows it was the blood.
In "I Know It Was The Boood," actress, singer, story teller
Tara Lake takes the audience on a trip through her own coming of age,
beginning with an untroubled orderly middle-class childhood in New Jersey
through the trials and tribulations of parental divorce and her ultimate
triumph of gaining selfhood and identity rooted in the rich ancestral
fabric of African-American womanhood. Her performance is a tour de force
of song, poetry, and story that traverses generations, family celebrations,
traditions of faith and church. By Beate Hein Bennett.
Strindberg's "The Father"
In plays, such as “Dance of Death,” or “Ghosts,”
the wives are shown to gradually drive the men insane by their infantilizing,
emasculating, and surreptitiously undermining actions while the husbands
grow more and more paranoid and erratic in their attempts to maintain
authority over themselves and their household. The present Strindberg
Rep production of “The Father” in a new translation and directed
by Robert Greer with editing by the actors Natalie Menna and Brad Fryman
who play respectively the roles of the wife Laura and her husband, The
Captain (the Father) exhibits the full range of Strindbergian angst with
its deadly consequence. By Beate Hein Bennett.
Amie Bermowitz and Steve Brady.
Photo by Andrea Phox.
You needn’t be familiar with 20th Century Russian – Soviet
Union, that is – history in order to appreciate D. W. Gregory’s
“Memoirs of a Forgotten Man.” While a sense of that history
will enhance the experience, “Forgotten Man” stands on its
own as a gripping mystery-drama, premiering now through September 15 at
New Jersey Repertory Company. By Philip Dorian.
|Galen Ryan Kane as Bigger and Jason Bowen as the
Black Rat in "Native Son." Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
“Native Son," written by Nambi E. Kelley, is based on the 1940
novel by Richard Wright. Directed by Seret Scott, it is staged by The
Acting Company at The Duke on 42nd Street. Galen Ryan Kane gives a shattering
performance as Bigger Thomas, the anti-hero victim of Nambi Kelley’s
bravura take on Richard Wright’s 1940 novel of the desperation of
inner-city black men. With the help of a very talented Acting Company
cast, Kelley and Scott have crafted a theatrical gem out of Wright’s
|Adam Huff (Romeo) and Anwen Darcy (Juliet) on Juliet's
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
presents "Romeo and Juliet"
Shakespeare in the Parking Lot proudly presented a well paced and engrossing
production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" for its 25th
Anniversary Season.. Running one hour and 45 minutes and free to the public,
the play was set on the Lower East side of New York and performed in casual,
even funky, modern dress. By Paul Berss.
|Jacqueline B. Arnold as La Chocolat, Robyn Hurder
as Nini, Holly James as Arabia and Jeigh Madjus as Baby Doll. Photo
by Matthew Murphy.
“Moulin Rouge,” according to Lucy Komisar, is a hokey melodrama
with old songs to choke a juke box. It's playing now at the Al Hirschfeld
Theater. For how long, who knows, but the qualities Lucy cites were also
present in the 2001 film, which only her editor and some other very select
people still remember with disgust.
|Ato Blankson-Wood and Robert Gilbert as Dembe and
Sam. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
"The Rolling Stone" -
a play about the deadly plight of gays in Uganda
While New York City recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall
uprising with much hoopla and an enormous traffic-stopping Gay Pride parade
that went on well into the night, New York’s Lincoln Center Theater
chose to feature the other side of the coin by mounting the American premiere
of playwright Chris Urch’s The Rolling Stone. Sensitively directed
by Saheem Ali – the play an import from London – is scheduled
to run through Sunday, August 25th. In 2010 The Rolling Stone, a Ugandan
newspaper, urged on by anti-gay Christian missionaries from the United
States, started to publish the names, addresses and photos of suspected
gay men which in turn inspired Urch to write this play. It is very real.
By Edward Rubin.
|Jonathan Cake as Caius Martius. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The "Coriolanus" caveat
"Coriolanus" is the Bard's warning of politicians' contempt
for the people. In Shakespeare in the Park, Jonathan Cake is terrific
as Caius Martius, the Roman general who is a master of war and an abject
failure at politics. By Lucy Komisar.
|The cast and Lauren F. Walker as Puck. Photo by Chad
Two views of "Midsummer: A
Lucy Komisar writes that A café performance of “Midsummer
Night’s Dream” is quite a delightful way to spend any mid-summer
eve. And the actors of "Midsummer: A Banquet” at Café
Fae (829 Broadway), who double passing out tapas and wine to patrons,
are as good as any you’ll see on the boards. Paulanne Simmons calls
it a very tasty tribute to the Bard, adding "Of all Shakespeare’s
plays, probably none goes better with a multi-course meal than this much
| Jacqueline Novak. Photo by Monique Carboni.
Organs, Oral and Orgasms, Oh My:
“Get On Your Knees”
Let us clarify up front: the title of Jacqueline Novak’s
90-minute theater piece is not an invocation to prayer. Rather, it refers
to a position often identified with the performance of oral sex, a phrase
Ms. Novak scorns in favor of the other two-word street term for the act.
By Philip Dorian.
| Andrew Mayer (plaid shirt) and Emma
Degerstedt (green dress) and
cast of "I Spy a Spy". Photo by Russ Rowland.
Musical Score Lifts "I SPY
The best element of the musical “I Spy a Spy,” running
through September 21 at the Theatre at St. Clements, is its music. Sohee
Youn’s diverse score is mostly easy-to-take rock and jazz, peppered
with Latino, middle Eastern and Russian themes, befitting the ethnic makeup
of the characters. And the four musicians who play it, anchored by musical
director Dan Pardo’s own versatile keyboard, might constitute the
best small pit band off Broadway. By Philip Dorian.
|Annie Golden as Annie. Photo by Matthew
“Broadway Bounty Hunter”
a hokey comic thriller with message for women
A bit of summer fluff, slightly hokey, but with a good underlying
message, this play by Joe Iconis, Lance Rubin, and Jason Sweettooth Williams,
is about an “older woman,” Annie (Annie Golden) who can no
longer get roles in theater and is scooped up by a bounty hunting firm
on the track of a drug trafficker hiding out in the jungles of Ecuador.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Joe Raik, Brendan Cataldo, Jim Haines,
Nathan Tylutki, Brady Adair,
Jennifer Laine Williams.Photo by Rachelle White.
Between Actual and Fake: “The
Potemkin Play” by Seth Garben
The story goes that Grigory Potemkin, one of the ministers and
lovers of Catherine the Great of Russia, built an entire trompe l’oeuil
village out of card board to fool the empress during an inspection tour
into believing that he had done wonders in implementing her reformist
policies in her “New Russia.” It can be considered an early
example of a marketing ploy that packages a simulacrum of reality to produce
an illusion of actual reality. Seth Garben’s “The Potemkin
Play” bundles the present political reality, the state of theater
in our cultural milieu of commerce, and the historical Potemkin village
story into a satirical romp. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|:John-Andrew Morrison,L Morgan Lee,John-Michael
Lyles,Jason Veasey,Larry Owens(plaid shirt),Antwayn Hopper,James Jackson,
Jr.StrangeLoop. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Letting It All Hang Out. And Then
Some:A Strange Loop at Playwrights Horizons
In the past few years or so there has been a small tsunami
of beautifully crafted, wonderfully acted, and solidly produced black-centric
plays both on Broadway and Off that have examined from every conceivable
angle - historically, sociologically, and psychologically - what it means
to be black in the United Sates, both past and present.But not since "A
Strange Loop," which is currently running thru July 28th at Playwrights
Horizons, have we come across a many faceted in your face gay male character
like Usher (the extremely talented Larry Owens) who spares no detail,
however raw, intimate, personal, scatological and sordid – and it
is all of those and more - in the telling and showing of his life. By
Week 2 Phoenicia Fringe Festival
This is the second week of Phoenicia Fringe Festival 2019. In this
article, there are six short reviews of week two including: "Mind
Salad," "Nazis and Me,""The Piece,""Fury!,""Invisibility,""Shadow
Queens Rising," By Larry Littany Litt.
|Pictured (I to r): Harvy Blanks, Jonathan
Burke, Daniel J. Bryant, Ezra Knight, Toney Goins, Eric Berryman,
Phillip James Brannon, April Matthis and Kenn E. Head. Photo by Joan
Two views of "Toni Stone"
April Matthis, as Toni Stone (1921-1996), the first woman
to play professional baseball in the Negro League, is knocking it out
of the ballpark every night at the Laura Pels Theater through August 11.The
play, lightly based on Martha Ackmann’s book “Curveball: The
Remarkable Story of Toni Stone,” is overwhelmingly inspirational,
deeply humane, and totally moving. By Edward Rubin and Lucy Komisar.
|Santino Fontana as Dorothy, Julie Halston
as Rita Marshall. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
“Tootsie” updates the
gender-bending 80s film with a few nods to feminism
It's a stories about men pretending to be women walk a fine line
between skewering sexism and practicing it. “Tootsie” falls
on both sides of that divide. Book by Robert Horn based on the 1982 film,
is somewhat outdated. Real gender-bending stuff makes it unbelievably
tame. And those stereotypes just don’t go away. By Lucy Komisar.
|Taylor Symone Jackson as Mary Wilson,
Candice Marie Woods as Diana Ross and Nasia Thomas as Tammi Terrell.
Photo by Matt Murphy.
“Ain’t Too Proud: The
Life and Times of the Temptations” is glorious Motown
This is the best juke box musical since “Motown” and
“Jersey Boys.” In fact, it’s about a Motown group that
also started in Detroit and had the famous manager Berry Gordy. As one
local explains, In Detroit, “you either sang or you join a gang.
If you can’t do neither, better learn to run.” By Lucy Komisar.
Phoenicia Fringe Festival - Six
Phoenicia Playhouse in the charming upstate village of
Phoenicia NY is producing the Phoenicia Fringe Festival two weekends in
July. The Playhouse was built in 1887 for the Odd Fellows, a fraternal
organization of theatrically inclined bizarre residents. In this article,
there are six short reviews including: "Voice of Authority,"
"Om Shaadi Om," "I’m Just Kidneying," "I
Favor My Daddy," "Smoker" and "American Horror Story."
By Larry Littany Litt.
|Saycon Sengbloh, Nathaniel Stampley,
Eisa Davis, Anastacia McCleskey, &LaChanze in "The Secret
Life of Bees." Photo by Ahron R. Foster.
“The Secret Life of Bees”
Does Not Live Up to the Buzz
Fans of Sue Monk Kidd’s 2002 novel, “The Secret
Life of Bees,” certainly greeted with great enthusiasm the news
that it was soon to be turned into a musical. And considering the book
had spent two years on the New York Times best seller list and was made
into a film in 2008, this news came as no surprise. However, the musical
that was created by Lynn Nottage, Duncan Sheik and Susan Birkenhead does
not completely meet the novel’s potential or the expectations of
its fans. By Paulanne Simmons.
|The cast in a hoedown. Photo by Little
with new look at women in early 1900s western territory
“Oklahoma.” music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar
Hammerstein II; directed by Daniel Fish.Based on the Play “Green
Grow the Lilacs” by Lynn Riggs. Racks of rifles are on walls circling
the audience. Seven musicians sit in a center pit. The cast walks onto
the plywood floor in cowboy boots. Patrons in the front rows are behind
white-topped tables with red crock pots. The scene and audience are lit,
no mikes except some hand mikes. This is going to be different. By Lucy
| Reeve Carney as Orpheus and Eva Noblezada
as Eurydice. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
is a theme of stunning radical play “Hadestown”
“Hadestown,” written and composed by Anaïs Mitchell and
directed by Rachel Chavkin, is a very radical play. It takes the audience
to Hell, which is peopled by oppressed workers who have been indoctrinated
to fear those who are poorer. Though that is probably not how it is described
in the reviews you have read in mainstream media. It won the Tony for
best musical play. But you probably have no idea what it is about. It's
the censorship of cultural ideas. By Lucy Komisar.
|THE MOUNTAINS LOOK DIFFERENT -- Liam Forde, Ciaran Byrne, Cynthia Mace,
Paul O'Brien, Jesse Pennington, McKenna Quigley Harrington, Daniel
Marconi and Brenda Meaney. Photo by Todd Cerveris
Darkness On the
Edge Of Town: "The Mountains Look Different"
New York’s Mint Theater brings to the States one of Ireland’s
leading 20th-century playwrights, Michael mac Liammóir, whom The
Irish Times described as “the dominant figure in the Irish theatrical
world.” Last Thursday night, "The Mountains Look Different,"
last produced 70 years ago in Ireland, finally enjoyed its American premiere.
By Eric Uhlfelder.
|Ademide Akintilo (Algernon) and Connie Castanzo (Cecily)
in NY Classical Theatre's the Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by
Summer In Manhattan: Laughter
In the Parks with “The Importance of Being Earnest”
New York Classical is celebrating its 20th season of free
summer theatre in the New York City parks with – laughter and gender-bending.
In its latest offering, the dress – not the hat – unmakes
the man. In one version of “The Important of Being Earnest,”
the Oscar Wilde masterpiece of comic invention, men are men, women are
women, and often the twain collide, flirt, propose and battle for happiness.
The plot is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl with marvelous
blocking agents and lots of delicious deception. For years critics were
under the mistaken belief that Wilde’s aphorisms and quips were
funny nonsense. A few are – like the dental jokes (cut from this
production)– but most find truth in hidden places and have a depth
that is probably one secret of the play’s continual freshness. By
| Michael Shannon as Johnny and Audra
McDonald as Frankie. Photo by Deen van Meer.
“Frankie & Johnny in
the Clair de Lune,” a story of working-class love lives
It opens with sensual and noisy sex in the bed, the bodies turning and
pushing against each other, the familiar noises with great realistic direction
by Arin Arbus. And then not quite what you might expect. Frankie falls
out of bed. And the post sex conversation; he compliments her breasts.
She is not pleased. Is this how a love affair begins? By Lucy Komisar.
|Lidia Velezheva as Baroness Shtral and
Leonid Bichevin as Prince Zvezdich in practice duel. Photo by Valery
“Masquerade,” a Lermontov
classic given striking surreal touch
Part Commedia dell’arte, part pageant, part ballet,
with a touch of music hall comedy, “Masquerade” is a visual
feast. Presented by the Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia in
Moscow, it is directed by Rimas Tuminas of Lithuania. Though the major
actors are all prominent in Russia, Tuminas is the unseen star of the
show. By Lucy Komisar.
|Kathleen Littlefield as convention cochair,
Ginnie House as Frances Perkins and Claire Mikelle Anderson as Henry
Wallace. Photo by Ahron R. Foster.
"Convention,” a terrific
reprise of 1944 Dem convention that chose moderate Truman for VP instead
It could be the corruption of a convention where Bernie Sanders is set
against a corporate Biden. State signs are set behind banks of seats.
The music is of the 40s. Flags on the wall have 48 stars. Author Danny
Rocco and director Shannon Fillion create an ambience at Irondale that
makes you think you are there. By Lucy Komisar.
|Danielle Brooks as Beatrice and Grantham
Coleman as Benedick, Photo by Joan Marcus.
Public’s “Much Ado
About Nothing” takes Shakespeare to black Atlanta
A large banner on the brick house says “Stacey Abrams
2020.” It’s next spring. Abrams, who last year lost a close
race for governor of Georgia amid reports of voter suppression, had talked
then about running for president. The relevance of the sign is that Abrams
is a black woman, and this version of Shakespeare’s play about love
and trust – or mistrust — sets it not Messina, Italy, but
in modern-day Atlanta, with a black cast speaking in the local accent.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Nathan Lane as Gary, Kristine Nielson as Janice.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
“Gary: A Sequel to Titus
Andronicus” surreal comedy of mass political murder
Wildly funny and clever, this is a play a serious theater-goer cannot
miss. It’s a terrific campy surreal take on murderous war from the
point of view of the workers who have to clean up the mess, the bloody
bodies of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.”It takes
only three actors, though the set requires some imagination. It should
be produced all over the country! By Lucy Komisar.
|Kate Hamill (Meg), Carmen Zilles (Amy),
Ellen Harvey (Hannah), Paola Sanchez Abreu (Beth),and Kristolyn Lloyd
(Jo). Photo by Matt Ross.
Louisa May Alcott’s “Little
Women,” transcribed by Kate Hamill
If you don’t know Kate Hamill, make haste to do
so. New York theater is dominated by mega hits and movies turned Broadway
show. But for those looking for more personal, thought-provoking evenings,
Ms. Hamill, just 36, is making quite a name for herself in not just transcribing
classic literature into plays, but doing so in a modern, wickedly fast-paced
meter that leaves nothing sacred. This has earned her many professional
honors, including a Helen Hayes Award for Most Outstanding Production
and The Wall Street Journal’s Best Playwright of the Year. By Eric
|Pedro Pascal as Edmund & Jane Houdyshell
as his father, Earl of Gloucester. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.
“King Lear” with Glenda
Jackson is brilliant and annoying
This “Lear” with Glenda Jackson as the king is sometimes brilliant,
sometimes annoying.To be male and even supercilious, she makes her voice
and demeanor angry, harsh, raspy, cackling. Indeed, Jackson is a brilliant
actress, her voice and demeanor might be male, but she didn’t persuade
me she was a king. Or perhaps she was on the edge of madness very early
in the plot, after her daughters’ duplicity. As the play went on,
I wasn’t sure if she would shrivel or explode. By Lucy Komisar.
|Anthony Arkin and Jane Bruce Photo by Russ Rowland
“Original Sound” Has
an Interesting Theme
In our age of sampling, remixes and computer generated music, the definition
of originality seems more than a little vague. Do artists own their work?
Are they stifling creativity when they protect their copyrights? Are they
merely protecting their own interests? All these questions, and a good
deal more, are explored in Adam Seidel’s “Original Sound,”
now staged at Cherry Lane Theatre, under Elena Araoz’s skilled direction.
By Paulanne Simmons.
|L-R: Alexandra Bonesho, Brad Fryman (as Bruno), John
Gazzale, Elizabeth Inghram in "Zen A.M."
Larry Litt writes that "Zen A.M." by Natalie Menna is an expose
of the contemporary art and high society world that calls itself high
culture. The play is a farce about the trials and tribulations of an untidy,
inconsistent artist named Bruno, who has to fulfill a commission or else
all hell will break loose.Well, it breaks loose anyway. If you have any
interest in art and society, writes Larry, this comedic farce is well
worth taking in. By Larry Littany Litt.
|Alice Ripley. Photo by Jazelle Artistry
"The Pink Unicorn"
At the beginning of Elise Forier Edie’s new play, “The
Pink Unicorn,” Trisha Lee (the luminous Alice Ripley) does not understand
her young daughter when she announces she is genderqueer. By the end of
the play she still does not understand but she has learned to accept and
even celebrate human diversity. By Paulanne Simmons.
|John Lithgow as Clinton, Laurie Metcalf as Hillary.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
“Hillary and Clinton.”
You are hit by the overwhelming sadness of everyone involved in Hillary
Clinton’s 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign against Barack Obama.
Playwright Lucas Hnath and director Joe Mantello create a landscape of
utter sleaze and despair. By Lucy Komisar.
|Heidi Schreck at American Legion hall
with white men’s photos on the walls. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“What the Constitution Means
If you don’t want to go to a lecture about what is wrong with how
the US government treats women and minorities, it’s more interesting
to go to a play. Such as “What the Constitution Means to Me,”
Heidi Schreck’s take on how the Constitution is honored in the breach,
“rugged” as the copy she carries says. Adult audiences in
New York and other liberal enclaves nod their heads, and it’s a
good teaching moment for kids. Higher marks for politics than for drama.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Rana Roy as Stephanie Rahn and Jonny
Lee Miller as Larry Lamb. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Sun is a popular newspaper for the undereducated British
masses. It was a broadsheet started in 1964, then reinvented as a tabloid
five years later by the Australian Robert Murdoch and Larry Lamb, a North
Englander he named as editor. They were outsiders to the London Fleet
Street crowd and felt it. “Ink” a vivid newspaper story mixed
with Murdoch’s Sun melodrama.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Benjamin Walker as Chris Keller, Tracy Letts as Joe
Keller, Annette Bening as his wife Kate and Hampton Fluker as George
Deever. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“All My Sons” denounces
America’s murderous corporate corruption
Jack O’Brien’s crisp staging of Arthur Miller’s
iconic 1947 American morality play lays bare the corruption underlying
the normalcy of American society. This story of 70 years ago could be
easily replicated today. Oh, so easily. By Lucy Komisar.
|Kelli O’Hara as Katherine. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Kiss Me Kate" at The
How do you take a 40s musical built around a sexist Shakespeare play and
make it delight today’s audiences? With pizazz and charm, if you
are Roundabout Theatre director Scott Ellis. In this version of Cole Porter’s
and the Spewacks’ “Kiss Me Kate,” the feisty heroine
gives as good as she gets, and she and her erstwhile spouse playing Katherine
and Petruchio land some good kicks to the others’ derrieres. By
|Mary Candler (Mary) and Jory Murphy (Melville) in
":Mary Stuart". Photo by Allison Stock.
Hedgepig Ensemble in "Mary
Sometimes the best theatre experience is at the small, off off-Broadway
houses, like Access Theatre. It can begin with the journey – up
the many stairs to the fourth floor space or the wait, while the company
sends the elevator down to you. And it’s even better when the company
brings its passion to the stage, as Hedgepig Ensemble did to their revival
of Mary Stuart. By Genda Frank.
|Andre De Shields as Hermes. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
The afternoon Paulanne Simmons saw Anais Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin’s
“Hadestown,” at the moment when Orpheus, despite Hades’
injunction, turns around to face Eurydice, a young lady seated several
rows in front of her gasped, “Oh no!” It’s possible
she was not familiar with the myth and thus was not prepared for its tragic
ending. But Paulanne likes to think the dramatic staging and absorbing
retelling of this ancient tale so captivated her that she forgot everything
she had previously known. Great theater can do that.
|L-R: Ephraim Sykes, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope,
Derrick Baskin, and James Harkness in AIN'T TOO PROUD. Photo by Matthew
Two views of "Ain’t Too Proud–
The Life and Times of The Temptations" at the Imperial Theatre.
Paulanne Simmons writes, "The story behind 'Ain't Too Proud,' as
told by book writer Dominique Morisseau, is mostly a story of the music
and not the men. This is both a strength and a weakness in the show. To
be sure, the music of The Temptations is some of the best that ever came
out of Motown." Ed Rubin adds, "I wish that I could say that
Aint Too Proud turned me inside out and sent me directly to heaven."
|Tyler Fauntleroy as Taj, Kim Sullivan
as Baraka. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
"Looking for Leroy"
In "Looking for Leroy," which is having its work premier presented
by Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre, Larry Muhammad’s dramatic
attempt to discover the authentic Leroy raises basic questions: What is
the place and purpose of Black theater and the Black artist’s relationship
to himself and to his audience? These are highly charged political, existential,
and aesthetic questions with artistic straightjacket potential. By Beat
|The cast lurches into "The Murder At Haversham
"The play that goes wrong”
goes right Off-Broadway
Something funny happened to "The Play That Goes Wrong”
on the way from Broadway to Off-Broadway. Fear not; everything that was
funny during its nearly two-year run in the 922-seat Lyceum Theatre is
just as funny at the 360-seat New World Stages, where it re-opened this
week. The difference, though, is a subtle pickup in how the audience relates
to the characters. For me – and I sensed it throughout the house
– it became personal, akin to cheering-on a perpetually losing team.
But a ton more fun. By Philip Dorian.
|THE GLEN -- Photo by Shelter Studios
“The Glen," written, produced, and directed by Peter B.
Hodges is a ‘must see' play. Currently running through Saturday,
February 16 theShelter Studios' intimate 60-seat theater, "The Glen"
is one of those plays, due to its short run, that sadly disappear as quickly
as they appear. Hopefully future productions – its writing, direction,
and acting is wonder-filled - will keep it alive and kicking. Though the
play, with many unexpected twists and turns, was inspired by the life
of Hodge's friend and mentor, the late theater and art critic Glenn Loney
(1928-2018), the play's lead character, the twenty something year old
Dale Olsen (Matthew Dalton Lynch), as the playwright's program note informs
us, is not Glenn Loney. Dale is only “the character that enabled
me to explore questions of identity, sexuality and family while following
a path not entirely unlike the path that Glenn himself would describe
to me as his personal journey." By Edward Rubin.
|Back-to-back dancers: Isabelle McCalla,
left, and Caitlin Kinunnen "Dance With You". Photo by Deen
A couple kissing in front of Macy’s in Herald Square is hardly newsworthy,
but one at last year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade actually marked a
milestone in live TV – and was also a spoiler for a Broadway musical.
Televised by NBC, “It’s Time to Dance,” the finalé
number from “The Prom,” ended with two young women sharing
a loving kiss. So now you know how “The Prom” resolves. But
any audience member who doubts that Indiana high schoolers Emma (Caitlin
Kinnunen) and Alyssa (Isabelle McCalla) will end up together, are asheartless
as the PTA folks who cancelled the prom because Emma wanted to bring Alyssa
as her date. With composer Matthew Sklar and choreographer/director Casey
Nicholaw, the cast is nigh flawless. Don’t wait until someone else
asks her/him/they/hir/zim. Get yourself a date and go to “The Prom.”
By Philip Dorian.
|NETWORK -- Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale. Photo
by Jan Versweyveld.
This play, based on Paddy Chayevsky's classic film, serves
as a commentary on the corruption of the American system, based on the
idea that a corrupt upper class exploits the middle class and the poor
for its own monetary gain. While the "media" glorifies neoliberalism,
theatrical "fiction" is the only mainstream place where such
ideas are permitted. News anchor Howard Beale (played by Bryan Cranston)
announces he is going to commit suicide on air because he is being fired
for poor ratings, which takes away all attention paid to other major global
news. Directed by Ivo van Hove, the production has the stage set up as
a TV studio with cameras moving around in a unique, immersive multimedia
spectacle. By Lucy Komisar.
The ensemble draws
lots to play Russian Roulette. Photo by James Rucinski.
"Citizens of the Gray"
Larry Littany Litt swoons for "Citizens of the Gray" by Elia
Schneider and her Teatro Dramma at Theater for the New City, writing "This
stimulating, gratifying and for some mystifying play is well worth your
time. It speaks to our modern social dilemmas in silence, music and new
forms of dance. It is a tragicomedy of philosophies and ideologies worthy
of Charlie Chaplin."
|THE FERRYMAN -- Laura Donnelly as Caitlin Carney,
Genevieve O'Reilly as Mary Carney and Paddy Considine as Quinn Carney.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
"The Ferryman" a stunning indictment of both sides in the Irish
In Jez Butterworth's gorgeous play, directed by Sam Mendes with
subtle power and intelligence, a dark moment suddenly is transformed into
a charming rough idyll of Irish family life. Irish because it involves
a brood of seven children, a lot of whiskey drinking, wit and occasional
dancing of jigs. By Lucy Komisar.
|ON BECKETT -- Bill Irwin. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Bill Irwin "On Beckett"
Whether you’re interested in a master class on Samuel Beckett or
the art of acting and mime, or you just love Bill Erwin, “On Becket”
at the Irish Repertory Theatre will not disappoint. In 90 minutes, Irwin
demonstrates unequivocally why he’s a great actor and Becket is
a great writer. By Paulanne Simmons.
|PRETTY WOMAN -- Samantha Barks as Vivian
Ward and Andy Karl as Edward Lewis, at the opera. Photo by Matthew
"Pretty Woman" morality story pits prostitution
v predatory capitalism
A story for our times about a billionaire Edward Lewis (Andy Karl) without
morals, who would destroy a shipbuilding company and fire its workers,
but learns something from a hooker. A Cinderella story which would not
quite make it today. Because it's about a prostitute who reforms her John.
It was a movie hit 20 years ago, but that was an epoch away. The book
is by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton, the music and lyrics by Bryan Adams
and Jim Vallance, based on the film by Lawton. Lucy Komisar would reject
the story on the anti-feminist face of it, though turns out she is smarter
than he is. But she liked the show.
|HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD -- The company.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.
"Harry Potter and the
Cursed Child," a stunner for set & magic
Mixed with the magic and terrific scenery, there's a lot of stuff
about fathers and sons, which is really the theme of the play, or the
two plays which you can see on succeeding nights or a one-day marathon.
Critics were requested not to give away the plot, which is easy to comply
with since it's rather silly. By Lucy Komisar.
|ARENDT-HEIDEGGER: A LOVE STORY -- Alyssa Simon, Joris
Stuyck. Photo by Rina Kopalla.
Three views of
A Love Story"
Author Douglas Lackey and director Alexander Harrington have managed to
extract a thought provoking stimulating performance from two of the most
controversial public intellects of the twentieth century: Hannah Arendt
(1906-1975), a German-Jewish philosopher and social theorist and Martin
Heidegger (1889-1976), one of the most renowned German philosophers to
have succumbed to Nazism. The subject of their romantic entanglement,
in conjunction with their political trajectories over the course of forty
years, from the mid 1920s to 1964, is the dramatic core of this play in
a series of 23 concisely scripted scenes. By Beate Hein Bennett, Edward
Rubin and Larry Litt.
|FEATHERS OF FIRE -- Zaul and Rudabeh. Photo by Fictionville
FEATHERS OF FIRE: A Cinematic Shadowplay
from the Persian “Book of Kings” (Shahnameh)
Live-action, shadow puppetry, film, animation, music that seems
to be now live, now recorded, images of nature on which the eye gorges,
representations of good and evil, romance and tragedy, associated with
storytelling on rapidly transforming scales--now epic, now lyric, now
comic: Feathers of Fire has high theatrical ambitions indeed. It combines
moving pictures and the stage in ninety minutes of spectacle that seems
to call on story elements from every entry in Stith Thompson's folktale
motif index and that recalls the 1926 shadow-puppet animation of Lotte
Reiniger, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, with which Rahmanian became
enamored to the point of obsession and then surpassed. By Mindy Aloff.
|GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER -- Mitchell
Jarvis as Mitch. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Gettin' the Band Back Together"
Lucy Komisar writes that John Rando is the best comic theater director
she knows. The creative wit who oversaw “Urinetown,” “The
Toxic Avenger,” “The Heir Apparent” and “All in
the Timing” takes a deliberately jokey rock musical by Ken Davenport
and, with excellent timing and staging, pokes fun at the genre as well
as the state of New Jersey. She doesn't much like rock, she admits. She
liked this play. (So did her editor.)
|Renee Taylor. Photo by Ed Rubin.
Renee Taylor in "My Life on
Most famous people long in the tooth, if they are not dead, quietly retired,
or resting on their well-earned laurels, tend keep a very low profile.
You rarely even hear about them. But not the indefatigable 85-year- old
Renee Taylor, an Energizer bunny whose funny and bittersweet autobiographical
one-woman-show, "My Life On A Diet," is currently playing to
full houses at St Clement’s Theatre here in New York City.
Two views of "My Fair Lady"
Paulanne Simmons writes that from Catherine Zuber’s
elegant costumes and Michael Yeargan’s sumptuous set, to the delightful
interpretation of Lerner and Loewe’s magnificent score brought to
life by Ted Sperling’s musical director, Robert Russell Bennett
and Phil Lang’s arrangements, and Marc Salzbeg’s sound design,
Lincoln Center’s “My Fair Lady” is a treat for the eyes
and ears. Lucy Komisar adds that this time there’s a feminist
kick. And some class solidarity. Bartlett Sher's progressive production
brings the musical back to its roots with references to the women's suffrage
movement. Sher is attentive to George Bernard Shaw's intentions to comment
on class disparity and social inequality. With wonderful direction, vocals,
and set design, this comedy of manners is sure to delight.
Lenk as Dina and Tony Shalhoub as Tewfiq in
The Band's Visit. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
"The Band's Visit"
When a musical transfers from off-Broadway to Broadway, there
are always a few essential questions. Will the production work on a bigger
stage? Will the sound fill a larger house? Will the show be true to the
original, even with new members in the cast? Happily, The Band’s
Visit, helmed by David Cromer, answers all these questions with a resounding
yes. By Paulanne Simmons.
|The famous helicopter escaping the fall
of Saigon, and Vietnamese desperate to get on it. Photo by Matthew
Miss Saigon is Back
Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil found worldwide success
with “Les Misérables,” a drama of the political. The
personal stories were of Jean Valjean, the man imprisoned for stealing
a loaf of bread, and the masses of the oppressed he represented. There
was a minor love story. But in “Miss Saigon,” the star-crossed
lovers are the major focus, with the crisis of America’s war in
Vietnam and how it destroyed the country just a backdrop. So, this play
is often hokey and not very satisfying. By Lucy Komisar.
|Tina Benko as Calpurnia, Gregg Henry, Teagle Bougere
as Casca and Elizabeth Marvel as Marc Antony. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Public’s “Julius
Caesar” brilliantly trolls Donald Trump, and masses “resist”
Oskar Eustis, director of a mesmerizing Public Theater staging of Shakespeare’s
play about taking down an incipient dictator, says that “Julius
Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for
democracy by undemocratic means. To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating
him.” By Lucy Komisar.
|Serhiy Zhadan performing song inspired
by Timothy Snyder's book "On Tyranny." Photo by Waldemart
Zhadan & the Dogs
It is a truism to say that our present world is in turmoil. Most
of us are reeling from news about bombings, civil wars, millions of refugees
migrating over the face of the earth, while fanaticism, nationalism, racism,
xenophobia is grabbing the psyche of young and old. And the sense of political
impotence alternates with rage about signs of backsliding into tyrannical
modes of governance propped up by corruption and cronyism. However, a
fighting spirit has also emerged among peoples. The present production
at La Mama presented by the Yara Arts Group, conceived and directed by
Yara’s Artistic Director Virlana Tkacz, has brought together Ukrainian
and American performing artists that take us through a compendium of political
activism with music, movement, poetry and video imagery. By Beate Hein
|Jonathan Sayer as the butler Perkins pouring liquor
down the phone. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
“The Play That Goes Wrong”
One of the stars of this play is not human. It’s the set for the
riotous slapstick comedy put on by (real) British actors about a disastrous
production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” by a fakeuniversity
drama society. Sometimes slapstick is silly, but this is exceedingly clever.
By Lucy Komisar.
2 Views of“Come From away"
“Come from Away,” a new musical by Irene Sankoff
and David Hein at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, is based on the true
story of the almost 7,000 stranded passengers from 38 flights who were
not permitted to cross into the United States on Sept. 11 and landed in
the small town of Gander, population 9,000. By Glenda Frank and Lucy Komisar.
| Katrina Lenk as Dina, Tony Shalhoub as the conductor.
Photo by Ahron R. Foster.
“The Band’s Visit."
An Egyptian police band, the grandly named Alexandria Ceremonial
Police Orchestra, is supposed to play at an Arab cultural center in Israel,
but gets the town’s name wrong at the bus station and ends up in
an Israeli backwater. “The Band’s Visit” is a charming
gem about human connections across political divides. By Lucy Komisar.
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