E V I E W S
Reviews, Cabaret Reviews and Film
Reviews are in their own sections
|THE HARD PROBLEM -- Chris O’Shea as Spike and
Adelaide Clemens as Hilary. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
The Hard Problem
Stoppard's "The Hard Problem" turns intellectual inquiry into
a soap opera. Throw up issue of moral consciousness, of how science wires
the brain, how capitalists (sometime predatory) make fortunes, how young
quants or scientific brain analysts figure out how to use or scam the
former, and throw in a Pilates instructor. Along with scenes of a Venice
canal and the London City [financial district] skyline. This pretentious
play does not seriously address or answer the questions it is supposed
to pose: where does morality come from, is it hardwired in the brain or
developed by culture, and how does this affect how people interact –
especially in the world of capitalism. By Lucy Komisar.
|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.
|Ben Cherry as Lemml and the cast of "Indecent."
Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
"Indecent" at Arena Stage
When Paula Vogel’s incandescent “Indecent” opened in
New York in 2016 it was the darling of the LGBT theatergoing world. Arena
Stage positioned its recent production as a play addressing Jewish themes.
Both angles are, of course, correct. As one of the characters in “Indecent”
asserts, “the play belongs to the people who labor in it and the
audience who put aside the time to see it.” As this play also asserts,
however, neither labor nor audience is a permanently fixed thing, and
my vote is for this being a play about endurance, perseverance, and principles,
although the pressure points here are certainly lesbianism, Jews, intolerance,
Clueless, The Musical
“Clueless, the Musical” has a book and score by Amy Heckerling,
who authored the film, based on Jane Austen’s “Emma.”
This means the musical retains much of the tongue-in-cheek zest that made
the film so agreeable. By Paulanne Simmons.
|Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale.
Photo: Peter Cunningham.
First premiered in 2016 in Massachusetts, and then performed at the George
Street Playhouse in New Jersey a year later, “American Son”
dealt with racially-charged encounters between police officers and Black
males during years in which that theme was so prevalent. Now open on Broadway,
this play tells the story once more of eighteen-year-old Jamal, who tells
an emotional tale while his distraught mother reports her son missing.
The mother deals with a mixed experience with the law-enforcement officers
she encounters, and throughout the ordeal, tension with her separated
spouse. The play is directed by Kenny Leon and runs 90 miutes. By Philip
|Turna Mete and Carson Elrod in "Panties, The
Partner and The Profit." Photo by Carol Rosegg.
The Panties, The Partner and The
Here's a quiz for American drama afficionados. What three-part play features
an American family as stand-ins for "all of us"; unfolds over
a few eras; shows the widespread effects of ordinary people's greed and
aggression, often in the name of being hardworking; has some illicit sex;
ends in the ruins of the family's one-time home; brings a large reptile
onstage; and concludes with the family soldiering on? If you guessed "The
Skin of Our Teeth," good for you, but the play in question is David
Ives's "The Panties, The Partner and the Profit," subtitled
"Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Class" and now in
its debut at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. By Dorothy
|Raúl Esparza as Arturo Ui. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
Two views of "The Resistable
Rise of Arturo U1"
Brecht's "The Resistable Riuse of Arturo Ui" is set
in Chicago, which appears in the play to be unable to keep out gangsters.
This satire serves as a brilliant allegory of fascism and the rise of
Hitler. The play was in fact written by while the playwright was a refugee
at the time of Hitler’s takeover of Europe, and as such, it served
as a way for Americans to better understand Hitler’s rise to power
and the tactics his regime used. Lucy Komisar and Ed Rubin weigh in on
|THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT -- Bobby Cannavale and Daniel
Radcliffe. Photo Peter Cunningham.
The Lifespan of a Fact
Based on a nonfiction work about a real fact-checker, Jim D’Agata,
this play deals with an important problem for journalism, beginning with
a rather trivial argument over whether the bricks in a building are red
or brown. Perhaps the building blocks represent more than what they seem
to. With a strong cast, consisting of Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones,
and Bobby Cannavale, and directed by Leigh Silverman, this play feels
very real. By Lucy Komisar.
|Tyne Daly and Tim Daly in Primary Stages
production of "Downstairs"
Imagine: Stella Dubois has grown old and has no child. Stanley's sex appeal
vanished as he aged; he is now simply a bully. They live in an ordinary
house in an ordinary neighborhood. She rescued two dogs, whom she loved,
but they disappeared. "Downstairs," Theresa Rebeck's new play
at the intimate Cherry Lane Theatre, is a three-hander in which everyone
plays with the truth. In this play, Rebeck is deliberately vague, leaving
perhaps too much to the imagination. But the emotions are real. By Glenda
Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara
The mind of the playwright can be a most mysterious country. Fengar Gael
has taken one line from Shakespeare’s “TheTempest” and
woven it into an odd, delicious piece of theatre. “Sycorax: Cyber
Queen of Qamara,” stylistically directed by Joan Kane at Here Theatre,
combines the ancient Muslim world, black magic and computer science to
bring us a story of feminist assertion, complete with a hero and a villain
who are the same person. The script is filled with magic and metaphors.
The lovely, young Sycorax is the artist who creates worlds. By Glenda
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Adapted and written by Burt Grinstead and Anna Stromberg, this
production of “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” is the ideal comedy
for fans of the book. Combining slapstick with subtle English Monty Pythonesque
humor, the show under Stromberg’s direction truly embodies high
comedy. By Larry Litt.
Sophia Silver and
Bi-coastal "Fool for Love"
Theater for the New City presented a fine production of Sam Shepard's
1983 "Fool for Love," a four-character drama that was a finalist
for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The director Kymberly
Harris did a fine job with a splendid cast. This Theater for the New City
run closes December 2, but then the producing company, Beetlebung Road
LLC, will move the production to Los Angeles for performances at The Lounge
Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, December 6 to 15. Paul Berss advises
that Angel City theatergoers who have not been introduced to this classic
of Shepard's repertoire would be well advised to catch it
|Erin Beirnard, Trevor St. John-Gilbert,
Michael Turner. Photo by Vadim Goldenberg.
"Shadow of Heroes" at
Robert Ardrey’s play, “Shadow of Heroes” is a documentary
drama about the political struggles in Hungary, beginning in the last
phase of WWII, 1944-45 and ending with the 1956 abortive revolution. During
the fall of 1956 Robert Ardrey (1908-1980) was in Vienna witnessing the
brutal Soviet subjugation of the Hungarian uprising. He wrote the play
in 1958 using real historical characters and facts as they emerged; the
play premiered in London in 1958 and was produced in New York in 1961.
The play follows the trajectory and conflicts of a set of historical figures
central to the history of Hungarian communist politics, including the
“old guard communists” Laszlo and Julia Rajk and Janos Kadar
and Ernö Gerö and Matyas Rakosi, the “elite” party
emissaries from Moscow who are charged with imposing Stalin’s will
on the Hungarians. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|Easter Parade. Photo courtesy of Paper Mill Playhouse.
Irving Berlin songs sparkle in
In "Holiday Inn" at Paper Mill Playhouse, there is no denying
the appeal of the Irving Berlin favorites, including “Cheek to Cheek,”
“Blue Skies” and “Let’s Take an Old Fashioned
Walk,” as well as some lesser-knowns like “The Little Things
in Life” and “Song of Freedom.” Larry Blank’s
orchestrations and music director Shawn Gough’s fine orchestra do
them justice. The Paper Mill principals, while comfortable, are outshone
(with one exception) by the excellent singing/dancing ensemble and, it
should be noted, by designer Alejo Vietti’s fetching costumes. By
In "Inescapable" by Martin Dockery, two guys come on stage claiming
they’re friends taking a short break from a holiday party in the
next room. It’s a big house we’re told owned by one of the
guys who is half of a successful couple. Except that his wife is cheating
on him. Does this sound like a Twilight Zone plot? Somehow it turns into
a fugue state of comedy when Abbot and Costello meet Rod Serling for a
fling with a time machine. A fun night of theater because who isn’t
amazed at déjà vu in a play about déjà vu?
By Larry Littany Litt.
|Blake Morris as King Hedley II. Photo
by T. Charles Erickson
King Hedley II
A 35-year old African-American woman defends her decision to
terminate her pregnancy in an impassioned speech. “I ain’t
raising no kid to have somebody shoot him. To have his friends…or
the police…shoot him,” Tonya says, before relating the gut-wrenching
story of a neighborhood mother whose son was shot and killed even as she
had his favorite meal on the table. An angry, socially conscious play
written in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, right? Wrong! Written
in 1999, set in 1985, it is one of August Wilson’s ten Century Cycle
plays that examine “the unique particulars of black American culture”
through the twentieth century, decade by decade. It is a masterful work,
eerily prescient. By Philip Dorian.
Nazis and Me
David Lawson’s “Nazis and Me” is a sparkling, witty
and wise example of personal storytelling mixed with the sad sadistic
history of anti-Semitism and outrageous current neo-nazi headlines. By
Larry Litttany Litt.
|Charlotte Wise as Wanda June & Craig Wesley Devino
as Col. Looseleaf Harper. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
Happy Birthday, Wanda June
Kurt Vonnegut's 1970 surreal satire dissects the extreme alpha male, a
40ish guy who sometime, in his breathing, his grunts and body movement,
seems to turn into an ape. It connects machismo to violence to war. It
gets a very good production by the Wheelhouse Theater Company, directed
by Jeff Wise. By Lucy Komisar.
GLORIA: A LIFE -- Christine Lahti
as Gloria Steinem. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Not for Women Only: "Gloria:
The bumpy road to women’s liberation is dramatically illustrated
in “Gloria: A Life,” written by Emily Mann and directed by
Diane Paulus. By Paulanne Simmons.
|Ronnie Marmo as Lenny Bruce. Photo by Doren Sorell
I'm Not a Comedian...I'm Lenny
You are unlikely to ever see the theatrical title “I’m
Not a Comedian…I’m Richard Pryor.” Or George Carlin.
Or Chris Rock. Or Sarah Silverman. But appending the name Lenny Bruce
is altogether appropriate.The show is recommended for admirers of Lenny
Bruce (or his legend), who already know what all the fuss was about. By
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."
|MOTHER OF THE MAID -- Glen Close as Isabelle Arc,
Grace Van Patten as Joan. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Two views of "Mother of the
Lucy Komisar and Edward Rubin agree that Glenn Close is spellbinding in
"Mother of the Maid," a simple storytelling recast of the life
of Joan of Arc. Close is a terrific actress. She makes it worth watching,
even if you cringe at Jane Anderson's script.
|EAR FOR EYE -- Angela Wynter, Hayden McLean, Anita
Reynolds, Seroca Davis. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey.
"Ear for Eye" at Royal
Debbie Tucker Green is a poet adept at thinking simultaneously in words
and embodiment. "Ear for Eye," Green's new work at London's
Royal Court Theatre, shares some aesthetic DNA with the late Ntozake Shange's
"for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is
enuf." But four-plus decades separate these two indices of the black
side of the racial divide in the United States (and, in this work, to
a smaller extent in Britain). On Green's stage, the gloves are off. By
|MIDNIGHT AT THE NEVER GET -- Sam Bolen. Photo by
"Midnight at the Never Get"
If you want a bit of theatrical heaven, along with a smidgen of hell,
a mini primer of late 60s gay history – with the obligatory nod
to Stonewall included – and a lot of love, all both literally and
figuratively, get thee to "Midnight at the Never Get," the York
Theater's latest musical production before it closes on Sunday, November
4th. With a 5-piece backup band, two talented leads, and a roster of original
songs, about life and love, both found, lost, and found again, well the
90-minute "Midnight at the Never Get," part theater and all
cabaret, is the place to be. By Edward Rubin.
|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.
|MOTHER NIGHT -- Gabriel Grilli as Campbell. Photo
by Carol Rosegg.
Vonnegut's "Mother Night" turns American dealing with Nazis
into political morality play
Howard W. Campbell, an American-born Nazi propagandist and double
agent, served "evil too well and good too secretly." That is
the subtle moral of the Kurt Vonnegut story adapted by Brian Katz in a
fascinating albeit not totally successful stage presentation. Still better
than most of what you will see in New York theater at the moment. By Lucy
|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.
|APOLOGIA -- Stockard Channing. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Stockard Channing Sparks Dysfunctional-Family Drama
Plays about dysfunctional families, with a dinner-party-gone-wrong
and servings of acerbic humor, have become an over-examined genre. What
elevates "Apologia" above the fray is the presence of Stockard
Channing at the head of the table. Also, where many modern plays rely
on multiple mobile phone intrusions to move the plot, "Apologia"
includes just one brief call. And it's a doozy. By Philip Dorian.
|RECOVERY -- Jill Shackner, Caitlin Cohn, Lydia Grace
Recovery, or the nightmare of battling addiction
For the debut production of her play "Recovery" at Theater
for the New City, author Anne Lucas has gathered a fine cast to illuminate
her own experience - living through the drug addiction of her own daughter,
who is now in recovery. Lucas tackles the subject through three drug-addicted
college age women, their distraught mothers, a sincere Reverend who, as
a former addict, does her best to help, and a slippery and seductive male
character called the Demon, who represents addiction. By Paul Berss.
|THE WILD ABANDON -- Leenya Rideout. Photo by Carol
The Wild Abandon of Leenya Rideout
The Irish Repertory Theatre's production of Wild Abandon, Leenya
Rideout's intimate one-woman autobiographical extravaganza – housed
in the Rep's second theatre, an intimate 50-seater – is one of a
handful of Off Broadway plays that everybody is talking about. Critics
are raving, and audiences are returning again and again with friends in
tow, as they simply cannot believe that any one person can be that talented
and not already household name. By Edward Rubin.
"The Resistible Rise of JR
It's all too easy in the Trump era to unleash barbs at the darned
dangerous President and his supporters. Much more difficult to write something
new and different as Edward Einhorn has done. Taking an imagined biography
of a real con man demagogue who lived in the early 20th century, Einhorn
has created a show that gave me a very good conception of where the Trumpster
came from and how he managed to stay in power. By Larry Litt.
|ALL ROADS LEAD TO THE KURSKI STATION -- Rivers Duiggan,
Elliott Morse, Rivers Duggan.
Two views of "All Roads
Lead to the Kurski Station."
At HERE, Vienya, a poet drunkard endures a nightmare journey, soaked in
vodka, from Moscow's Kurski Station to Petushki, a real Moscow suburb
and his hoped for paradise "where the jasmine never stops blooming
and the birds always sing" and where he hopes to be saved by his
love. He never makes it to Petushki because he sleeps in a drunken stupor
through the station and ends where he started, in Kurski station. The
70 minute performance takes us on a wild romp through the underbelly of
Soviet-Russian life with all its horror and absurdities—the laughter
gets stuck in our craw. By Beate Hein Bennett and Larry Litt.
|THE NAP -- Ben Schnetzer, Johanna Day. Photo by Joan
Two views of “The Nap”
Contrary to its misleading title, “The Nap,” Richard
Bean’s newest offering, making its American premiere under the direction
of Daniel Sullivan, has nothing to do with sleep. Rather it’s a
rowdy and riveting farce. By Paulanne Simmons and Lucy Komisar.
|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.
|BERNHARDT/HAMLET -- A backstage dinner party. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
Two views on "Bernhardt/Hamlet"
Historical fiction is a tricky genre. Plain history can be academic (read:
boring), and inserting identifiable people as principals in pure fiction
can be presumptuous, or a copout. "Bernhardt/Hamlet" straddles
the extremes brilliantly; the precise inter-action among the actual people
may or may not have happened as portrayed, but their involvement in the
historical events makes it all plausible. Theresa Rebeck's comedy is period-specific
without reinforcing misconceptions about how people related and communicated
‘then'. It is fascinating even just for that. By Philip Dorian and
|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.
Three views of "Arendt-Heidegger:
A Love Story"
|ARENDT-HEIDEGGER: A LOVE STORY -- Alyssa Simon, Joris
Stuyck. Photo by Rina Kopalla.
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.
|DESPERATE MEASURES -- Connor Ryan as Johnny Blood,
Lauren Molina as Bella Rose. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Desperate Measures," a Shakespeare musical parody, is a hoot
"Desperate Measures," is a supremely clever parody that
moves the Bard's story from 17th century Vienna to the American West in
the 1800s. While continuing of course the rhyming couplets, where brusque
rhymes with dusk. The show, book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg, music by
David Friedman, is a hoot. Director and choreographer Bill Castellino
is the excellent helmsman of a cast whose dancing and singing match anything
on Broadway. By Lucy Komisar.
|THE TRUE -- Edie Falco as Polly Noonan and Glenn
Fitzgerald as Howard Nolan. Photo by Monique Carboni.
Edie Falco in "The True" sears as tough Albany Democratic machine
The dramatic piece is about a possible 1977 primary challenge
to Corning, who held power through patronage and favors to voters as a
product of the machine. Director Scott Elliott makes it a combination
soap opera and political drama. Edie Falco is powerful as the acerbic,
in-your-face, sometimes crude-talking Polly Noonan, a real operator in
Albany's Democratic Party machine politics for about four decades. White's
play suggests that whatever you think of Polly Noonan politics, she is
beneficiary of a corrupt political machine. I'm not sure she would like
this play. The audience will. By Lucy Kromer.
PHANTOM -- Kayleen Seidl as Christine
with the cast of "Phantom". Photo by John Vecchiolla.
"Phantom" (not that one) in Westchester County, NY
While some introductory background is required in a review of the
"Phantom" musical that does not append "of the Opera"
to its title, be advised upfront that the production at Westchester Broadway
(Dinner) Theatre in Elmsford, NY is a top-notch staging of the one-word
version of Gaston Leroux's serialized 1910 novel. Lavishly staged and
costumed and beautifully sung by its leads and ensemble, WBT's "Phantom"
stands very well on its own 58 feet. By Philip Dorian.
|BITEF -- "Jami District". Photo courtesy
Theatre Festival (BITEF) 2018 - Svet Bez Ljudi (World Without Us)
The Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF) was founded in 1967
with the explicit goal of goading audiences to think and, ideally, to
act. This year's festival featured productions from ten countries under
the rubric "World Without Us," itself an invitation to conversation,
as the literal translation would be "world without people."
The focus seemed to be—at least in the six productions I was able
to see—a world without human kindness or decency. By Dorothy Chansky.
|TEVYE SERVED RAW (GARNISHED WITH JEWS) -- Photo courtesy
of the Playroom Theatre.
"TEVYE SERVED RAW (Garnished
"Tevye Served Raw," based on the stories of the incomparable
Sholem Aleichem, is, at times, rollickingly hilarious, at times almost
heartbreakingly sad. Although the stories date from the turn of the twentieth
century, the human conditions they explore are timeless. "Tevye Served
Raw" is far from a museum piece. The acting is always spirited, the
script and innovated direction are clever. The show has been crafted with
love for Yiddish traditions. It not only entertains, but may also motivate
you to learn Yiddish so you too can laugh before reading the supertitles.
As for the supertitles, much of the 90 minutes is in English because of
an instant on-stage translation – and the translation is part of
the comic pleasure. By Glenda Frank.
|MESHANYE -- Zeleniuch, Knight, Nelson. Photo by Asia
Strange People on Quaking Ground
- "Meshanye" by Maxim Gorky
"Meshanye," by Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) was his
first play written within less than five years of the Russian uprising
at the Winter Palace (1905). Owing much to Chekhov, the play takes place
in a family living room, within a brief period of time, with a mélange
of passionate, frustrated, depressed, cynical, and life embracing scharacters
who launch into torrents of feeling. The play is set in the home of Vasily
Bessemenov, owner of a house-painting business in a provincial town. The
central conflict is between the head of the family and his adult children.
"Meshanye" works like chamber music, in that several voices
carry the dialogue forward as characters move in and out of the space,
often overhearing each other off-stage and, as they enter joining the
conversation, they bring a new tonality. To have the opportunity to see
an excellent production of a rarely performed play by Maxim Gorky, one
of the titans of Russian dramaturgy, in a superb new translation should
need no extra incentive. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|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.
|AGNES -- John Edgar Barker,
Mykal Monroe, Hiram Delgado, Laura Ramadai.
An emerging playwright to reckon
with: "Agnes" off-Broadway
"I don't think I know the difference between sexual harassment
and flirting" might not seem like a ground-breaking admission, but
as spoken by Charlie in Catya McMullen's outstanding new play "Agnes,"
it registers as profoundly moving.
In a prime example of Shakespeare's What's past is prologue,
each character's past influences the present: what they say and do and
how they interact. And all of it – the 'before' revelations as well
as what bubbles up in the present – is written and acted with unself-conscious
naturalism. Catya McMullen is a playwright to watch, and "Agnes"
is a good place to start. By Philip Dorian.
|CONFLICT -- Jessie Shelton as Dare and Jeremy Beck
as Tom Smit. Photo by Todd Cerveris.
“Conflict” a popular
British challenge to predatory capitalism near 100 years ago
Fascinating, writes Lucy Komisar, to see a play written in 1925
that has the politics of a play that could be written today. It was penned
by Miles Malleson, a prominent playwright, screenwriter and actor of the
time who used his work to promote progressive politics. He was a socialist,
pacifist and supporter of women’s suffrage. This is very finely,
subtly directed by Jenn Thompson.
|ROSA LUXEMBURG KABARETT -- The ensemble.
“Rosa Luxemburg Kabarett” tells stirring story of revolutionary
leftist killed by the Germans
“Rosa Luxemburg Karabett” is an historical play with
music about the life of the Russian revolutionary who became an activist
in German politics, opposed WsWI, was imprisoned and, after the war, was
murdered. The production at the Avignon Theater Festival OFF reflects
the tradition of the German political cabaret. This excellent play, in
French, is worthy of translation to reach a wider audience interested
in the development of the world’s anti-war movements. By Lucy Komisar.
|BREXIT -- Tom Corradini and Samuel Toye. Photo by
as vaudeville at Avignon
For clarity about politics, “Brexit” at the Avignon
Theater Festival does as well as any pundits. It’s a clever mime
and vaudeville comic take by a pair as a verbally dueling father and son.
Tom Corradini and Samuel Toye, the work’s authors, plays Charles,
47, and Samuel Toye is his son Eric, 25. Corradini is the director. In
a pastiche of puppets, mime and vaudevillian soft-show, they argue about
the June 2016 vote for the UK to stay or remain in the European Union.
By Lucy Komisar.
|DAYS TO COME -- Larry Bull as Andrew Rodman and Chris
Henry Coffee as worker Thomas Firth. Photo by Todd Cerveris.
Lillian Hellman’s “Days
to Come” hints at important plays of workers’ struggle
Lillian Hellman play about a labor conflict in a small town
in Ohio in 1936 has some fine moments giving hints of stronger plays such
as “The Little Foxes” where she takes on the corrupt, manipulating
rich who exploit workers. “Days to Come,” written at a time
of labor struggles across America, refers to a better future when workers
bested by violent strike-breakers will get the union and rights they are
fighting for. Based on the text, those days would be a long time coming.
By Lucy Komisar.
|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.)
|BLYTHE SPIRIT -- Ruth (Kate MacCluggage) and Charles
"Blithe" Spirit in NJ
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s “Blithe Spirit”
comes in at a relatively compact two and three-quarters hours, including
intermission. Even at that, Noel Coward’s 1940 play will lift your
spirits. By Philip Dorian.
|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.
|Jill Eikenberry and John Glover
“Fern Hill” is Michael Tucker’s second full-length play
to premiere at NJ Rep, after “The M Spot” in 2015. Like the
earlier play, “Fern Hill” explores emotional and physical
(read: sexual) relationships, this time among three couples – not
as in swingers, I hasten to add, but three pairs with their own histories
and hang-ups. The six actors have amassed thirty-five Broadway credits
among them, with six Tony Award nominations (and a win) to boot. By Philip
|Eli Gelb and Idina Menzel. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Skintight" Has Love, Lust, Beauty
and Idina Menzel
The star and calling card of "Skintight" which gives the play its commercial
legs, is Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked, If/Then) in her first non-singing
role. Joshua Harmon’s provocative and wonderfully wordily written
wailings about the joy of sex, emotionally delivered by a major character
or two, do give us something to mull over, which is more than most playwrights
have to offer. By Ed Rubin.
| HEAD OVER HEELS -- Peppermint (center)
as Pythio, The Oracle of Delphi and the ensemble. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“Head Over Heels” Creates
a Topsy-Turvy World
Jeff Whitty’s new musical, Head over Heels, is both a parody and
a tribute to Sir Phillip Sidney’s “Arcadia.” By Paulanne
|Stanley Allyn Owen (Tarzan) and Leopard. Photo by
Tarzan the Stage Musical
While the popularity of Tarzan films has dwindled over the years, replaced
by humongous money-making superhero franchises like Batman and Spider-Man,
theatrical productions of Tarzan, The Stage Musical, especially among
high schools and community theaters, are still being mounted. A recent
example is The Atlanta Lyric Theater’s acclaimed production of Tarzan,
The Stage Musical, which Ed Rubin had the good fortune to attend late
in the run.
|Anika Noni Rose as Carmen Jones. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
At Classic Stage, splendid “Carmen
Jones” places black wartime workers in Bizet’s opera
“Win That War!” sing workers in a parachute factory in a town
about 1,000 miles south of Chicago. It’s a striking transformation
of Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” about a worker in
a Spanish cigar factory in 1820, to wartime US in 1943 with a book and
lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The “Carmen” triangle is still
a sultry tangle between Carmen and a military guy, now army instead of
militia, and a big-time prize fighter replacing the toreador, the word
Bizet’s French opera invented to mean torero (bull fighter) because
it had the right syllables. Hammerstein reset the story with a black cast,
and this is the first major New York revival since its debut on Broadway
75 years ago. Elegantly directed by John Doyle, this is an intimate production
in the Classic Stage’s small theater in the square, a chamber opera
where you can practically touch the performers. By Lucy Komisar.
"Conflict" at the Beckett
In “Conflict” (1925), we meet Lady Dare Bellingdon (Jessie Shelton),
the spoiled daughter of a powerful, conservative father (a patrician Graeme
Malcolm). She lunches, she shops, she gossips, she clubs past 3 AM, and
Major Sir Ronald Clive (Henry Clarke), who plans to run for Parliament,
her beau, adores her. A homeless man, Tom Smith, (Jeremy Beck), who breaks
into her father’s London residence, will change her life. In rags,
he has come for a handout although he and Clive were once schoolmates at
Cambridge. Bellingdon and Clive condemn him roundly but offer generous alms.
Tom Smith’s next visit is even more surprising. By Glenda Frank.
Shelton and Jeremy Beck. Photo by Todd Cerveris
"The Dog in The Dressing Room"
at The Schoolhouse Theater
Who doesn’t love a backstage drama? The revelations behind the scenes
are the drama in favorites like “Phantom of the Opera,” “Kiss
Me Kate,” and “Noises Off.” “The Dog in the Dressing
Room,” a backstage comedy by Deborah Savadge, is now debuting at
The Schoolhouse Theatre, Westchester County’s longest running Equity
Theatre, on June 14 and will play through July 1. Games, secrets, old
wounds, stalking, champagne, a canine, and love play their parts in this
smashing comedy. By Glenda Frank.
|Caption: Felicia Finley and the company
"Songbird" at Two River
“Songbird” is based, subtly and effectively, on Russian dramatist
Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” an 1896 play you need
not have seen or read (or even heard of) in order to appreciate this multi-faceted
hoedown derivative. Coupled with Michael Kimmel’s affecting book
(and a nudge from a Century-plus-ago playwright), “Songbird”
is a rare blend of foot-stomping rhythms and heart-tugging emotions, that
Two River Theater Company is serving up with style. By Philip Dorian.
|Corey Stoll as Iago and Chukwudi Iwuji
as Othello, photo Joan Marcus.
Public Theater’s “Othello”
at Delacorte Theater
Shakespeare’s “Othello” at the Delacorte Theater in
Central Park seemed more about racism to me than it ever had before. Under
the clear, commanding direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson and featuring
the mesmerizing, almost painfully gut-wrenching acting of Chukwudi Iwuji
as Othello, you imagine what a lifetime of racial slights has done to
his judgment and trust. By Lucy Komisar.
|Catherine (Maggie Horan), left, Eddie
(Rich O'Brien) and Beatrice (Claire Beckman). Photo courtesy of Brave
New World Repertory Theatre.
"A View From The Bridge"
on a barge in Red Hook
Brave New World specializes in site-specific productions, and mounting
“A View from the Bridge” on a barge actually afloat on the
Red Hook, Brooklyn waterfront, is inspired. The ‘Waterfront Museum
& Showboat Barge’ is covered over and cleaned up some from its
seafaring days, but its original weathered deck and spars are intact.
One can only wish that Miller, who died in 2005, were still around to
sneak up the gangplank into a performance. By Philip Dorian.
|Photo of Tony Yazbeck and Irina Dvorovenko
"The Beast in
the Jungle" at Vineyard Theatre
Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, this adaption of Henry James’s
1903 novella “The Beast in the Jungle” is a melancholy treatise
on unrealized romance and thwarted passion that unfolds in James’s
characteristically elaborate prose. The same-titled theater piece inspired
by the story is essentially a ballet, with intermittent narration and
some spare-dialogue passages. By Philip Dorian.
|TRAVESTIES -- Peter McDonald as James Joyce, Tom
Hollander as Henry Carr, Scarlett Strallen as Gwendolen and Sara Topham
as Cecily. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“Travesties” is a glorious kaleidoscope of famous people,
fiction and events that converge in Zurich during World War I and raise
questions about radical politics, the meaning of art, and the validity
of memory to link it all. By Lucy Komisar.
|J. Alphonse Nicholson and Kristolyn Lloyd. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
“Paradise Blue” focusses on what happens when a jazz joint
in Detroit’s Blackbotton neighborhood is thrown into turmoil thanks
to 1940s gentrification; the erratic behavior of Blue (J. Alphonse Nicholson),
the club owner; and the arrival of a sexy and dangerous woman named Silver
(Simone Missick). By Paulanne Simmons.
|Condola Rashad as Saint Joan. Photo by
Bernard Shaw was a feminist. And a religious skeptic. Who better than
to tell the story of Saint Joan? How do you do that when you are a socialist
and not a militarist? You focus on the hypocrisy of the religious establishment,
that had no problem with war, but only with who keeps power. By Lucy Komisar.
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.
|Renee Fleming as Nettie Fowler and company. Photo
by Julieta Cervantes.
“Carousel” is a gorgeous show with a hokey, simplistic, no-politics
story, says Lucy Komisar. The vocals are thrilling, led by opera diva
Renée Fleming who presents her solos as if they were arias. And
the naturalistic sets by Santo Loquasto, from the top of the merry-go-round
to whaling boats in the sea and lobster cages are entrancing. It’s
a gorgeous show, if you forget the story.
|Brian Tree Henry as William, Beth Powley as Dawn,
Michael Cera as Jeff, Chris Evans as Bill. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Two views of "Lobby Hero"
It hardly seems possible that a play about murder, rape and police corruption
could be even remotely amusing. Yet, in many ways, Kenneth Lonergan’s
“Lobby Hero” might be the funniest show on Broadway this season.
Paulanne Simmons and Lucy Komisar weigh in.
|Glenda Jackson, Alison Pill and Laurie Metcalf in
"Three Tall Women." Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.
Two views of "Three
Tall Women," 2018
It’s only a few months before the 26th anniversary of the first
American appearance of Edward Albee’s masterpiece, "Three Tall
Women," yet we’ve seen surprisingly few revivals. It’s
admittedly difficult to perform, but hundreds of our high schools have
performed the extremely demanding constant dance numbers of "A Chorus
Line" without even one cast member who can really dance. Certainly
those who love Albee’s plays can rejoice at this masterful new version.
The legendary actress Glenda Jackson—who returned to the stage after
28 years in England’s Parliament and got raves playing King Lear
in Shakespeare’s play with The Royal Shakespeare Company—stars
with two admired, award-winning American actresses. And it’s gorgeously
designed (Miriam Buether) as well as excitingly directed by Joe Mantello,
one of Broadway’s most honored directors. Herbert Simpson and Lucy
Komisar weigh in ambivalently. Lucy writes she'd love to see a feminist
“Three Tall Women, Part 2.”
Gray as Papa Ge. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Once on this Island" is a Gorgeous
Folk Opera About Color and Class in the Caribbean
Called a charming, surreal, and politically sharp-edged play, Lucy
Komisar advises audiences not to arrive late to this production. Full
of magical realism created by director Michael Arden, this charming folk
opera is about class and race. By Lucy Komisar.
Rylance as King Phillippe V in the Shakespeare's Globe production
of "Farinelli and the King." Photo by Joan Marcus.
Two Views of mark Rylance in "Farinelli
and the King"
Edward Rubin thought no one could rescue Rylance from his wobbly
and unsatisfing portrayal of Phillipe V. However, Lucy Komisar thought
this was a thrilling performane. See how the two compare. By Edward Rubin
and Lucy Komisar.
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.
|SPAMILTON: Putting down Phantom,
Aladdin and Cats. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
The fellow on stage looks familiar. He wears an 18th-century
blue coat and gold buttons and is rapping. In Alessandrini's "Spamilton",
an affectionate pastiche of Broadway heroes which will ring true with
any seasoned audience. Laugh along as Alessandrini spoofs on "The
Lion King," "Cats" and of course "Hamilton" itself.
If you can't get tickets to that particular constitutional classic, "Spamilton"
will keep you smiling for days. By Lucy Komisar.
|Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi and waiters at
the Harmonia Gardens. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
Aaah, hmmm, but we'll bette you'll
love it too.
“Hello Dolly” with Bette Midler is outdated on feminism and
talent. But the audience loved every starpower minute of it. By Lucy Komisar.
|The famous helicopter escaping the fall
of Saigon, and Vietnamese desperate to get on it. Photo by Matthew Murphy
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
|Gordon Palagi in "The Cooping Theory: Who Killed
Edgar Allan Poe?"
The Cooping Theory: Who Killed
Edgar Allan Poe?
Unlike most immersive experiences, “The Cooping Theory: Who Killed
Edgar Allan Poe?” offers not only sounds and sights but also a delicious
meal and craft cocktails. By Paulanne Simmons.
|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.
|Christy Altomare as Anya, and ghosts of the past. Photo
by Matthew Murphy.
Complex, fascinating and gorgeous, this fantasy tale of the young woman
who might be the surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas of Russia is a colorful
musical mystery with elegant singing, marvelous dancing and costumes that
light up the stage. With a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen
Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, it features the top talents of Broadway.
That goes for director Darko Tresnjak and choreographer Peggy Hickey,
who have “big Broadway show” written all over them. “Anastasia”
a fine colorful big-musical Russian Romanov princess fantasy. By Lucy
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.
|Nick Cordero as Sonny, Hudson Loverro as Calogero.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
“A Bronx Tale"
It’s a knock off of “West Side Story,” here
Italians vs blacks, and very hokey, but “A Bronx Tale” has a
certain charm and pizazz nonetheless. The place is Bedford Avenue, tenements
with fire escapes and pushcarts. And kids singing doo-wop. They are working
class Italians, circa 1960.“A Bronx Tale” is musical coming
of age with a twist: kid grows up among hoodlums By 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.
"A Bronx Tale"
Since “A Bronx Tale” has already been a solo show
and a film, it might have been inevitable that it eventually become a
musical. This is not necessarily a terrible thing. In fact, the show currently
at the Longacre Theater is not at all bad. By Paulanne Simmons.
museums by day,
theater by night
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