E V I E W S
Reviews, Cabaret Reviews and Film
Reviews are in their own sections
Between Riverside and Crazy
In this dysfunctional family near-soap opera by Stephen Adly Guirgis,
the “good guys” and the “bad guys” are all con
men, or women. The venue, a middle-class apartment on Riverside Drive
in Manhattan, is a place for drive-by scams and attacks that have you
shifting the characters between the hero and villain columns. And asking
some questions for which answers are never there. Austin Pendleton directs.
By Lucy Komisar.
Broadway-bound "Merrily We
Roll Along" at NY Theatre Workshop
“How did you get to be here?” A common question often rephrased
in conversation. But this Stephen Sondheim – George Furth production
takes it dramatically smarter in multiple musical flashbacks, each chosen
year before the previous one. And each vignette is a surprise.
"Darkness After Night: Ukraine"
Writer/director/actor Stephan Morrow offfers us a raw organic play that
attempts to give an intimate look at the horrendous event that continues
to unfold in front of us.
“Kimberly Akimbo” is revival about an aging girl; the
play didn’t age so well. By Lucy Komisar.
"Becky Nurse of Salem"
Lucy Komisar writes that Sarah Ruhl’s “Becky Nurse of Salem”
falters, tying 17th century of oppression of “witches“ to
today’s women’s issues.
"Ohio State Murders"
This 75-minute drama by Adrienne Kennedy is largely a monologue, delivered
expertly by Audra McDonald, but still a monologue. It was first produced
thirty years ago, but this is the first time it’s been on Broadway.
By Lucy Komisar.
John Kelly in "Underneath
Billed as “A Penetrating Portrayal of A Queer Giant,” performance
artist John Kelly’s explosive gay-themed show "Underneath the Skin"
– bolstered by actor/dancers Hucklefaery, Estado Flotante, and John
Williams Watkins, each playing multiple characters, a slew of videos,
(one featuring Lola as Gertrude Stein), lots of song and dance, oodles
of simulated male to male sex, and a cornucopia of informative lecture-like
projections, all centering around the life and work of little known historical
footnote Samuel Steward (1909-1993), was extended due to popular demand.
By Edward Rubin.
Some Like It Hot
"Some Like It Hot," with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by
Shaiman and Scott Whittman, directed by Casey Nicholaw, sizzles when it
doesn't fizzle, according to Paulanne Simmons.
Lucy Komisar calls it "Brilliant, clever, trendy, stunning, wonderful,
the best musical of the season, every number a show-stopper."
"Ain't No Mo'"
“Ain’t No Mo’” by Jordan E. Cooper is a fantastical
surreal In-your-face satirical pastiche of American black experience.
It targets blacks (read the black bourgeoisie) as well as whites. You
won’t find anything as adventurous on or off Broadway. Which makes
it sad it has posted a closing notice for Sunday, Dec. 18th, just two
weeks after its opening. By Lucy Komisar.
“Afghanistan is Not Funny”
A Brit comic writer’s take on western media lies about the American
war. By Lucy Komsar.
The Very Last Dance of Homeless
The many brilliant, lyrical passages of Rich Courage’s tragicomedy
remind us of the importance of hearing stories, understanding others,
and learning from them. By Karen Bardash.
The Rat Trap
It’s not hard to figure out why a play about marriage earned the
title, "The Rat Trap." For those who aren’t sure, the
answer comes midway during the Mint Theater’s production of this
rarely seen Noel Coward play. Not long after rhapsodizing about marriage,
a young wife realizes, “We’re like two rats in a trap.”
By Eric Uhlfelder.
You Will Get Sick
Ed Rubin writes that "You Will Get Sick," currently playing
Off Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre here in NYC through Sunday, December
11, is the most riveting, and mind-stretching play that he has seen this
season. The reason being, is that you really have to pay close attention
to know where you are at any given moment, as there are more twists and
turns then a frog in a blender. Blink and you are in another world.
Jefferson Mays Intrigues in "A
Charles Dickens’ novella, “A Christmas Carol,” was first
published Dec. 19, 1843. It met with immediate critical and popular success.
The first run of 6,000 sold out by Christmas Eve. Three stage productions
opened in February 1844. And since that time, the story has been adapted
for film, radio, opera, ballet, animation, musicals and even a mime starring
Marcel Marceau. One might well ask, what can anyone add to these numerous
manifestations of the Dickens’ classic? And then along comes Jefferson
Mays’ solo show that fascinates, entertains and frightens in its
own unique way. By Paulanne Simmons.
“Two Jews, Talking”
is a sitcom-style play with comic dialogue & serious message
It’s not quite Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year-Old Man,”
but Ed Weinberger attempts a take with two 3500 year-old geezers wandering
in the desert on Moses’ famous trek to “the promised land.”
By Lucy Komisar.
“Topdog Underdog” tells
the fantasy and fakery of the underclass
Suzan-Lori Parks’ plays is about fantasy and fakery, the desperation
and dysfunction of the underclass. In this revival at the Golden Theatre,
the actors are terrific. The script becomes soporific.By Lucy Komisar
Catch as Catch Can
In “Catch as Catch Can” by Mia Chung, directed by Daniel Aukin
at Playwrights Horizons, Rob Yang gives a masterly performance as Tim
Phelan, who has been hospitalized after an attempted suicide. The rest
just confused our reviewer Glenda Frank.
"The Piano Lesson" still
makes us take note.
"The Piano Lesson" was written twenty-five years ago. But, as
this current Broadway production proves, the questions it asks about family
relationships, our past and our future endure and prevail. By Paulanne
Simmons and Lucy Komisar.
“L’Amour a Passy”
If you are ready for a delightful “rom-com” of a May-September
love affair between the American Venerable Benjamin Franklin at seventy
and a delicious Mme Hardoncourt Brillon at half his age (or less), then
come and see “L’Amour a Passy” by GW Reed, set in 1777/78.
You will spend a charming evening in the company of two witty people—it
is a divertissement in the art of love and diplomacy. By Beate Hein Bennett.
It’s not often that a playwright can prove Shakespeare wrong, but
in “Fukt” by Emma-Goldman-Sherman at The Tank, the name’s
the thing, and a rose called Emma has a different scent from a rose named
Barbara or even one nicknamed Bobby. These are the three faces of a woman
who was sexually abused by her father and who struggles to regain agency
and happiness as she comes to terms with the past. By Glenda Frank
Chekhov's First Play
It’s not really Chekhov’s first play. It a clever take-off
on a manuscript discovered in a Russian safe deposit box in 1921, the
19-year-old Chekhov’s first try and justifiably never staged. Overabundance
of characters, themes and action; it needed an editor. By Lucy Komisar.
The best thing about “1776” is Peter Stone’s script,
which will never change. The controversy about this production staged
by Jeffrey Page and Diane Paulus is about casting the men of this Continental
Congress as female, including whites, blacks and transgenders. By Lucy
Tom Stoppard’s brilliant play is about the self-delusion of upper-class
Jews who thought their absorption into Austrian culture meant that in
spite of years of anti-Semitism and rising Nazism they would not be in
danger. Austrian Socialists and Social Democrats joined the Nazi rallies.
The “Collective West,” including Roosevelt, refused to take
in more than a handful of Jewish refugees and left millions to perish.
Stoppard found his Jewish history only 30 years ago at age 56. All four
of his grandparents and three of his mother's sisters were killed by the
Nazis. The play is how he imagines his family, who lived in Prague, were
murdered in the Holocaust, except for his parents who fled with him first
to Shanghai. By Lucy Komisar.
If we recognize the name Mary McLeod Bethune, it’s through her list
of achievements-- educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, and
civil rights leader. Playwright/actor Richarda Abrams has been fascinated
by the black activist for more than two decades. In “Bethune, Our
Black Velvet Rose,” now at Theatre Lab, she has placed a heart in
the center of the biodrama. By Glenda Frank.
The Kite Runner
Sometimes, a gripping story with universal relevance sells big. Such was
the case of “The Kite Runner,” Khaled Hossein’s 2003
semi-autobiographical novel which was turned into a movie, a graphic novel,
an audio tape, and a new Broadway play. By Edward Rubin
"Susan B." - How can
you all not be on fire?
The line on top are Susan B. Anthony’s own words and could not be
timelier given the present attacks on voting rights and the Supreme Court’s
overturning of Roe v. Wade. The short narrative bio-play “Susan
B.” is centered on Susan B. Anthony’s long fight for women’s
right to vote—a fight whose resolution in 1919 she did not live
to see. By Beate Hein Bennett.
“Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge”
The reenactment of the 1965 Cambridge University debate between James
Baldwin and William Buckley is an interesting if minor moment in civil
rights history, but a disappointment as theater. That is partly because
two long monologues (not really a debate) and two short introducers don’t
provide enough dramatic tension for theater. You want a real interaction.
And partly because two of the actors are fine but the other two are middling
to mediocre. By Lucy Komisar.
"Hedda Gabler 1981"
While “Hedda Gabler” may not appear to have the immediate
topical appeal, as Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People”
where environmental and political corruption is the issue, or “The
Master Builder” with its megalomaniac central character, the play
certainly still resonates in terms of feminist expectations and gender
relations, and the exertion of power. Robert Greer's adaptation of the
play to 1981 Oslo was worth a try, but the production lacked the acting
nuance to fulfill itself. Or else the essential themes of the 1891 version--the
complexity of living under the strain of social conventions while instinctually
longing to break free--don't update nicely. By Beate Hein Bennett.
Noises in my Head
“Noises in my Head,” a new play by Turkish playwright Beliz
Gücbilmez, translated by Manfred Bormann, Defne Halman and Fahri
Öz, compacts the perennial major human catastrophes of war, displacement,
poverty, and violence into a one-act one-woman play. The Woman is a cleaning
woman who has worked in rich people’s homes all her adult life.
It offers the rare chance to hear the voice of a Turkish woman playwright
in a masterful performance of a Turkish/American actress. By Beate Hein
Weightless at WP Theatre
The subject matter of "Weightless," based on Ovid, is often
quite heavy. Nevertheless, those who are willing to go on this modern
journey of an ancient myth will find themselves captivated by a musical
masterpiece. By Paulanne Simmons.
This Beautiful Future
Eric Uhlfeder attended "This Beautiful Future" at the
Cherry Lane Theatre. Its plot of an improbable love story in World War
II, sure to be shamed, may or may not have been "for our time,"
Add “Strings Attached” by Carole Buggé to the list
of recent plays addressing science in our lives. Set in a train heading
to London are two cosmologists and a particle physicist. They are at once
excited and apprehensive about seeing “Copenhagen,” Michael
Frayn’s 1998 drama about the meeting between physicists Niels Bohr
and Werner Heisenberg in 1941. Like Frayn, Buggé had kept her set
simple and brings us three ghosts, who speak separately to each of the
physicists: Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, and Max Planck. By Glenda Frank.
“MJ,” a pulsating jukebox
musical, tells superstar Michael Jackson’s career story
Lynn Nottage, who wrote the book for “MJ,” is known for serious
plays about the black experience, and this fits that bill as a struggle
against the system. Director Christopher Wheeldon, also the choreographer,
is the perfect helmsman. The show is about movement and the choreography
is powerful. By Lucy Komisar.
"2 ½ BREATHS"
Every once in a while, a little-known theater company, usually from a
distant city, mounts an amazing ground-breaking theatrical production,
brings it to New York City for a limited run, and then returns to their
home base leaving us all lusting for more. As luck would have it, this
season NYC was graced by two such works of genius. First to open and running
from May 19-June 5 for 15 performances was Las Vegas-based Loriaux House
Of The Arts production of "2 ½ BREATHS," which played
at the Chain Theatre. (The other was "The Orchard" at Baryshnikov
ARts Center.) By Edward Rubin.
Edward Rubin writes, "I seem to remember reading, in all of the hoopla
surrounding the Baryshnikov Art Center’s Production of Chekov’s
The Cherry Orchard, somebody saying “Unlike anything that you ever
saw before.” This talking head could also have said, as audiences
were soon to find out, that this production, adapted, created, reimagined,
and directed by Kiev born Igor Golyak, and starring Mikhail Baryshnikov
is a work of genius. Obviously, the great Chekov is embedded deeply in
Two views of "Audience"
by Vaclav Havel
For the past 30 plus years, the Czech-American Marionette Theatre has
delighted audiences with inventive versions of traditional folk material
and original plays. This time for only four performances, CAMT presents
a play by a contemporary author, by none other than Vaclav Havel (1936-2011)
who, besides having been one of the foremost Czech playwrights, was also
the last President of Czechoslovakia from 1989 until 1992 when the country
was dissolved into two republics. By Beate Hein Bennett and Karen Bardash.
Robert Icke’s “Oresteia” at Park Avenue Armory is a
brilliant takes-your-breath-away modern version of the Greek narrative
of Athens’ war on Troy which, at its heart, is about male warmongering
and sexism. By Lucy Komisar.
Into the Woods
When you’re talking about a musical theater genius such as Stephen
Sondheim, it’s hard to pick favorites among his oeuvres, but “Into
the Woods” is high on the list. Because with Sondheim’s music
and lyrics, and James Lapine’s book, this staging by Lear deBessonet
infuses joy. Because Sondheim-Lapine (who directed the original in 1987)
take some vintage western fairy tales and, mining recognition for surprise,
turn them magically into witty morality tales. By Lucy Komisar.
Mr. Saturday Night
Billy Crystal’s story, book by Crystal, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo
Mandel, based on the 1992 film, requires you to believe that Buddy Young,
a washed-up comic got a new start when an Emmy’s broadcast mixed
up names and announced he had died and the Today Show invited him on to
show it wasn’t true. Maybe this worked 30 years ago. Now the book
is silly, often crude, a bit vulgar, a bit TV, with jokes as dated as
the Borscht belt routines he started out with. By Lucy Komisar.
“POTUS: Or, Behind Every
Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive.”
Lucy Komisr attended "POTUS" and found it misogyny masquerading
as feminism: crude, vulgar, at the intellectual level of 13-year-old boys,
or maybe a local sex-themed comedy club that serves up booze and cheap
The problem of this production is not that Beanie Feldstein does not make
you think of of Barbra Streisand, who created the first “Funny Girl”
star. It is that she does not make you think of Fanny Brice. By Lucy Komisar.
Richard III in the park
Richard III, the evil scheming murderous soon to be king of England after
he murders the competition, was obsessed with his deformity, now believed
to be a disease of the spine, which has been portrayed in Shakespeare’s
play over the centuries as a hump or a withered arm. In the vision of
director Robert O’Hara, that essential part of the play is turned
on its head. Richard, portrayed by the fiery Danai Gurira, is damaged
only in his mind, his ethic, his soul. When he speaks lines about his
infirmity, it makes no sense, at least at first. By Lucy Komisar.
Larry Kirwan’s “Paradise Square” is a smart, entertaining,
serious, important musical about a real time in America, a look at the
role of capitalism in slavery, whites and blacks running the underground
railroad, and how capitalists divided them. Director Moises Kaufman knows
how to make a show suffused with music into a riveting dramatic play.
By Lucy Komisar.
If you want to see a serious, piercing, unforgettable play about the deep
truths of America, see Tracey Letts’ “The Minutes.”
It could be subtitled “The American Killing Fields.” The expansion
of colonial America to the West, its manifest destiny, a myth we’ve
all learned in school, was a cover for genocide. The U.S. was built on
savagery, a holocaust, the slaughter of Native Americans, and Tracey Letts
tells it brilliantly. By Lucy Komisar.
"Epiphany" at Lincoln
In "Epiphany" by Brian Watkins, directed by Tyne Rafaeli, the
guests, most in their 40s and 50s, are artistic or professional, and the
conversation, which is the centerpiece, is the kind that wafts around
New York parties when people show off their knowledge or talents or, no
talent needed, loneliness and the need for other people. They mostly talk
past either other, but it doesn’t matter, because nothing new is
said. Maybe this is satire? Director Tyne Rafaeli. is fine at moving the
guests around, having them interact like at a real dinner party and eliciting
their inner pretentions. OK, maybe this a parody of intellectuals. But
it’s not biting enough. In fact, it’s meager fare. By Lucy
Two views of "Hamlet"
at the Armory
Purists may find fault with the way maverick director Robert Icke has
updated Hamlet with modern technology, media and music. But although Icke’s
additions do result in a production that runs for 3 hours and 40 minutes,
none actually change Shakespeare’s original in any significant way.
By Paulanne Simmons and Lucy Komisar
"Chains" by Elizabeth
Baker at The Mint
Jonathan Bank’s Mint Theater finally returned home to Theater Row
after a long COVID-induced hiatus with "Chains" by Elizabeth
Baker. By Eric Uhlfelder.
Lambs to Slaughter
Karen Bardash attended “Lambs to Slaughter,” Khalil Kain’s
playwriting debut, and found it an important and relevant piece that should
not be ignored. Impressively written, directed (by Reginald L. Douglas),
and acted - it deserves a longer run in a larger house, she avers.
Pondering about “existence”—the what, the how, and the
why—probably has been an intellectual and emotional quagmire of
human questioning ever since we’ve evolved into a self-conscious
species. At least for some who straddle the enormous space and time between
Being and Non-Being. David Willinger’s foray into this vast universe
of inquiry is a picaresque, quixotic stage discourse. By Beate Hein Bennett.
Igor Golyak’s adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”
stars a brilliantly effervescent Mikhail Baryshnikov, a fine dreamy Jessica
Hecht, talented supporting players, a giant robotic arm topped by a ring-lit
camera and a cute scampering robotic dog. And that’s only the half
of it, By Lucy Komisar.
The Irish Rep returns to live theater with "Belfast Girls" by
Jaki McCarrick. Between the years 1848 and 1851 over four thousand Irish
females took passage on ships from Ireland to Australia under the Orphan
Emigration Scheme, established by Earl Grey. This action had the effect
of relieving many of the workhouses and poorhouses of Ireland (already
full to the brim with people seeking respite from the ravages of the ‘Great
Famine’), and of providing ‘new blood’ for the Colonies
– wives, servants, farm-workers. The women who left were more generally
known as ‘orphan girls,’ though many were neither orphans
or, strictly speaking, girls. The most notorious and riotous amongst these
– both in transit and on arrival in Australia – were known
as the Belfast girls. By Edward Rubin.
A Healthy House
Karen Bardash attended "A Healthy House" by Tom Diriwachter
at Theater for the New City and was overcome by remembrances of her own
home renovations. She writes, "More than solid construction and an
updated façade, a healthy house is ultimately a home in which the
If you’re in for a cozy interactive piece of chamber-theater—no
more than ten audience members are admitted—make your way to a store
front theater conveniently located near the Brooklyn Metro Center on the
corner of Flatbush Avenue and Willoughby Street. You’ll be admitted
to…well, not a séance but something like a social game…no,
not a murder mystery either but a post-funeral game. By Beate Hein Bennett.
"Golden Shield" shines,
but takes on too much.
"Golden Shield," a new play by Anchuli Felicia King, is nothing
if not ambitious. The issues the play covers include family relationships,
personal responsibility, the law, totalitarian regimes, corporate culpability,
torture and the way language can both help and betray us. The play is
so complicated it takes the author several scenes to wrap things up even
after the drama has pretty much ended. By Paulanne Simmons.
"Three Sisters" and "About
Will Pomerantz’s staging of Anton Chekhov’s “The Three
Sisters” may be small in size, in a space with just a few sticks
of furniture and runtime cut from 3 hours to 2, but the conception and
production work grandly. His "About Love," based on Turgenev’s
short story “First Love,” isn't quite as perfect.
Which Way to the Stage?
Ed Rubin writes that MCC Theater’s production of "Which Way
To The Stage" running through Saturday, May 28 at Robert W. Wilson
Theater Space at 511 West 52nd Street in Manhattan, is one of the most
enjoyable plays he's seen this season. Not only has the play been extended
a week - his very hope while watching the play - but the audience, a heavy
contingent of yeah-saying youngsters, many obviously actors most likely
seduced by word-of-mouth, not only continued to clap after the actors
left the stage, but gathered in the theater’s lobby to continue
the conversation. And why not, as playwright Ana Nogueira, an actress
herself, had just fed them the unvarnished story of life in the theater.
The ups, and downs, and sideways.
Martin McDonagh is brilliant at dark surreal comedy. Lucy Komisar loved
his past plays “The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” “The Pillowman,”
“The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” “A Behanding in Spokane”
(it is as it sounds), and "The Cripple of Inishmaan.” She says
she wouldn’t normally reel off such a list but they are every one
smart, funny and very bleak comments on the human condition. Mayhem and
murder abound. Nothing turns out as expected.
The Skin of Our Teeth
Lileana Blain-Cruz’s direction in thi Lincoln Center production
is sometimes so hokey that you think you’re watching TV. But then
she goes on target. The play at the end seems to show how the bad son
represents the U.S. militarists now threatening America and the world
through their “let’s destroy Russia” operation so they
can be the hegemons/rulers of the world. By Lucy Komisar.
Lucy Komisar writes that Shaina Taub’s “Suffs” is the
play she's been waiting for about the too-little talked about struggle
for American women’s* right to vote. Asterisk: American white women,
but a massive achievement none-the-less. Taub makes clear the internal
conflict of the movement’s failure to recognize black women as partners
If you’re a history buff and a stickler for details, you may take
exception to some of the liberties taken by the book writers of "Paradise
Square," Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan. The musical,
directed by Moisés Kaufman, certainly exaggerates the cordiality
between Blacks and the Irish in New York City’s Five Points prior
to the Civil War. It seems not to recognize how precarious the position
of even free Black men and women was in the North. Its portrayal of Stephen
Foster and his music ignores the fact that Foster never stepped foot below
the Mason-Dixon line and was mostly influenced by the Irish music he grew
up with. And it asks us to believe that a runaway and hunted slave would
risk capture by participating in a dance contest, no matter how much he
needed the money. By Paulanne Simmons.
"Occasionally Nothing" by Natalie Menna, presened by Theater
for the New City, reverberates with Beckettian absirdism. Ivette Dumeng
directed this deceptively simple and funny play very imaginatively in
terms of actor movement and placement that support a precisely paced rhythmic
delivery of the text by a superb trio of actors. By Beate Hein Bennett.
AMERINDA does "The Trojan Women"
What about the history across the American continent of using women and
children as commodities for servitude? As “property”? As commercialized
or trafficked sex objects? And finally what about the history of female
Black and Brown slavery in white male dominated colonial societies? This
includes the fate of Indigenous women and children resulting from wars
and official actions against Native tribes in the history of all the Americas.
AMERINDA tackles this question with their production of “The Trojan
Women.” In the intimate TNC downstairs Cabaret, the painful dirge
of Queen Hecuba and the women of Troy about their loss of family, home
and status, and their impending exile and enslavement passes in a span
of ninety minutes without pause. Sarah B. Denison's adaptation is reviewed
by Beate Hein Bennett.
If, while sitting in Longacre theater, you closed your eyes during most
of Sam Gold’s "Macbeth," you would experience a pretty traditional
presentation of the tragedy, with Daniel Craig a very good Macbeth and
Ruth Negga an exceptional Lady Macbeth. If you opened your eyes, you would
ask yourself where is this play set, what year is it, what are those three
actors cooking? By Paulanne Simmons.
How I Learned to Drive
“How I Learned to Drive” is a brave and difficult piece that
explores forbidden desires and abominable acts. But, after seeing it,
we leave the theater none the wiser, says Paulanne Simmons.
Ildiko Nemeth's New Stage Theatre is presenting “Cosmicomics,"
a theatrically-transformed example of Italo Calvino’s writing and
European thinking. It's an evening of engaging, inspiring theater, says
"God's Way" by Dahlia
The famous saying “God works in mysterious ways” can certainly
be applied to the actions in Jamaican playwright Dahlia Harris’s
play, "God’s Way." It is a tightly scripted family drama
around an absent father whose hidden economic activities are the source
of the prosperous life of his wife and daughter as well as their undoing.
By Beate Hein Bennett.
Spiderwoman Theater in "Misdemeanor
Spiderwoman Theater's "Misdemeanor Dream" is a pageant that
provides a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Native American life, without
any of the stereotypes that have skewed the common perceptions about “American
Indians” fed by innumerable Westerns and novels. By Beate Hein Bennett.
"A Touch of the Poet"
at Irish Rep
Paulanne Simmons opines, Eugene O’Neill was a great playwright.
But "A Touch of the Poet" is not a great play. That's one of the problems
with the current Irish Rep production.
Strindberg's "Dance of Death,
Parts 1 & 2"
August Strindberg’s “Dance of Death”(1901) was “choreographed
by Friedrich Dürrenmatt” into “Play Strindberg”(1968),
trimmed down from both parts into a seriocomic boxing match of twelve
“rounds.” Robert Greer, the Artistic Director of the Strindberg
Rep, translated, has cut and compounded both parts into a compact downward
spiral of mutual destruction. Since Strindberg is rarely performed these
days, a trip to Theater for the New City is worth a re-acquaintance with
this modern classic of intimate psychological probing into the banality
of marital strife. By Beate Hein Bennett.
Eric Ulhfelder hails the Mint's choice in coming back to life (after the
pandemic hiatus) with a remount of D.H. Lawrence's "The Daughter-in-Law,"
helmed by its original director, Martin Platt. Lucy Komisar writes, "D.H.
Lawrence’s 1913 'The Daughter-in-Law”' is a classical misogynist
play. The tired message is that to have a happy marriage, a woman must
be subservient to her husband. This holds even if he’s below her
in intelligence and ambition and disinclined to better himself by work.
She should move herself down a peg. And mothers are controlling harridans
who spoil their sons’ lives if they can."
"Crazy Meshugga Hurricane
Earthquake" and "Di Froyen"
"Crazy Meshugga Hurricane Earthquake" - sounds like a comedy,
no? But in our little village of New York City, it, and a
sister play, "Di Froyen," turn out to be skillfully done works
about basically good people who are deeply hurt, damaged, and in need
of help and understanding that they rarely receive. Presented
by Theater for the New City, and acted by the New Yiddish Rep, both plays
are set in the Hasidic community and sadly could be considered studies in
rigidity, and lack of compassion and basic kindness. By Paul
“Company” revival sheds
sophistication for sitcom, though LuPone & Lenk shine
The 2006 version of “Company” was John Doyle’s spare,
stylized, sophisticated production that was a perfect match for the text.
Actor-musicians sat on swivel stools atop plexi-glass risers. Everyone
was elegantly in black. Hanging above a white Greek pillar was a huge
square chandelier with glittering bulbs. The floor was parquet and the
baby grand a Steinway. The set was a pastiche of soigné Manhattan
apartments. Sigh. Not this one. By Lucy Komisar.
The Music Man
Paulanne Simmons writes, "This is a classically perfect musical,
with a compelling mixture of songs (ballads, patter songs, marches, dances),
two likeable lovers, adorable children, a good deal of farce and some
excellent observations on human nature. All a director has to do is work
with the material and let it shine. Which is exactly what Jerry Zaks does
in this production."
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, a collaboration between the National
Yiddish Theater Folksbiene and New York City Opera which opened Off Broadway
on Holocaust Remembrance Day for a limited run of eight performance from
January 27- February 6 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Sung in English,
also with subtitles, and running three barely noticeable hours with one
intermission, the opera sold out even before it opened. By Edward Rubin.
"The Same" by Enda Walsh
at Irish Arts
Beste Hein Bennett reports, "This is chamber theatre in the truest
sense. The intimacy of the space allows for experiencing the expression
of profound human emotions through the actors’ keen performance
artistry of the spoken word in intimate motion—this is theater at
"I Just Want To Tell Somebody"
with Ronald "Smokey" Stevens
Ronald “Smokey” Stevens gives a hair-raising tour de force
performance in his autobiographical one-man play, “I Just Want to
Tell Somebody,” that follows his fabulous rise as a Black performer/actor
on stage and screen to his cocaine driven fall into oblivion, even prison,
and his ultimate recovery due to his basic will to live and his spiritual
regeneration. By Beate Hein Bennett.
"Kimberly Akimbo," the newly penned musical with book and lyrics
by David Lindsay-Abaire ("Rabbit Hole," "Shrek the Musical")
and music by Jeanine Tesori ("Fun Home," "Caroline, or
Change") is the most loving, loveliest, and poignant theatrical experience
of the year. By Edward Rubin.
The Streets of New York
If there is any melodramatic element Dion Boucicault did not put into
The Streets of New York, this reviewer is at a loss to find it. There’s
an evil banker, the righteous poor, self-sacrificing lovers, a widowed
mother, a vicious vamp, hidden evidence, an unexpected fire, attempted
suicides… The play was written in 1857 and is set in New York City
in 1837 and 1857, when the rich were very, very rich; and the poor were
very, very poor. Sound familiar? By Paulane Simmons.
The Slave Who Loved Caviar
Ishmael Reed whom The New Yorker has called “American literature’s
most fearless satirist” has put his investigative mind and pen with
this play on the ruthless art market as it devours artists for the ever-novelty-hungry
economic elite. The artist becomes a cult object whose personality and
creativity are sucked dry by a vampire market that looks for new blood,
the more exotic the better. Such was the ironic fate of Jean Michel Basquiat
(1960-1988) who, in the 1980s, rose within less than five years from being
a kid street artist to become a celebrated collector’s item--and
not, as the play insists, just as ANdy Warhol's mascot. By Beate Hein
The House of Lehman goes to Broadway
“The Lehman Trilogy” by Stefano Massini appears to be a love
song to American capitalism, though if you look carefully, you will see
some tarnishings and even betrayals. By Lucy Komisar. For Glenda Frank's
review, go here.
Diana, the Musical
Lucy Komissr writes, "I thought this was going to be a tacky, yellow
press redux of the paparazzi chasing Diana. I was wrong. It is a terrific
feminist, anti-royalist story (book by Joe DiPietro) of what happens when
a woman, facing a powerful institution (the “Royal Family”)
has the gumption to stand up and fight for her dignity."
“Cullud Wattah” written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed
by Candis C. Jones is is billed as about “three generations of black
women living through the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,” where
community water was poisoned because the Republican governor, Rick Snyder,
wanted to save money and in 2014 switched from Port Huron water to contaminated
Flint River water. Unfortunately, the political parts are few. By Lucy
Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of British Playwright Simon
Stephen’s three-generation memory play "Morning Sun" is
simply thrilling to watch, see, and feel such a well-seasoned team coalescing
as they slowly invade our innermost being. By Edward Rubin.
Fruit" by Ava Jenkins
I think it was Chekhov who commented that most tragedies happen around
dinner tables. Black families are no exception. It is here that sibling
resentments can fester, sudden revelations happen, and explosions rend
a family apart. In "Forbidden Fruit," Ava Jenkins composed a
compact series of scenes that build towards just such a situation. by
Beate JHein Bennett.
Roundabout's "Caroline, or
In this hokey, schmalzy soap opera about a black maid working for
a Jewish family in 1963 Louisiana, the cast is better than the text. The
script is by Tony Kushner – America’s most over-rated unimpressive
playwright — who based it on childhood memories. It was first presented
in 2003 and it had the same flaws though less glitz, which must have been
added to cover up the flaws. By Lucy Komisar.
Dan Wackerman does well by "Morning's
“Morning’s at Seven” written in 1939 by Paul Osborn,
starts out as a small town family story of the innocent 1920s. It’s
often comic, but it’s also a serious look at the difficulties and
hidden sorrows that afflict people who seem quite comfortable, discontents
that begin to dominate as they get older. This is a fine production, well-acted
by an accomplished Broadway-credits cast and smoothly directed by Dan
Wackerman. By Lucy Komisar.
“The Visitor,” a hokey
soap opera about ICE deportation, founders on politics
There are two good parts to “The Visitor.” The first is when
the sallow-faced economics professor (David Hyde Pierce) attempts to educate
his students about the worst neoliberal economists of our age (Samuelson,
others) though he doesn’t call them that. A very funny and unintended
satire of establishment economics. The second is the professor’s
very passionate – no – raging, excoriation of the American
political system that condemns many asylum seekers to certain death in
the dictatorships they fled, as has in fact been proved. By Lucy Komisar.
The Dark Outside
In this cold ironic and violent age, it takes a 95 year old playwright
to allow the full range of emotions, especially Love (writ large), be
expressed, exhibited, and amplified on stage. Bernard Kops presents the
microcosm of a family where parents and adult children negotiate the delicate
threads of relationships in their private urban garden inhabited by an
ancient mulberry tree that has heard the plaints of generations. By Beate
On election eve, Lucy Komisar went to a political debate between the Democratic
and Republican candidates for mayor of New York. I had a good time. No,
it wasn’t between the two lackluster candidates for mayor 2021.
It was a much more exciting, well, much more fun event between the candidates
and campaign boosters of Jimmy Walker (Martin Dockery), running for re-election,
and Fiorella LaGuardia (a terrific Christopher Romero Wilson), seeking
to dethrone the crook. It was "Tammany Hall" at Soho Playhouse.
Brecht on Brecht
Lucy Komisar writes, "I know Brecht through his iconic plays, “Mother
Courage,” “The Threepenny Opera” and more. But I hadn’t
heard his poetry, which was often more directly political than the allegorical
stage works. In “Brecht on Brecht,” the TBTB company at the
A.R.T./New York Theatre on West 53rd Street provides those words
in an entertaining cabaret style pastiche of talk and song that takes
one through his political life and artistic career. "
In “Lackawanna Blues,” master actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson
recreates hardscrabble early life. By Lucy Komisar.
Mrs. Warren's Profession
Eric Uhlfelder writes that with this production, the audience can imagine
just how life was for women without means little more than a century ago,
before they had the right to vote, and the reasons why the world’s
oldest profession persists. Lucy Komisar grees that Shaw’s century-old
feminist satire of women selling sex still reverberates.
Adaptations are tricky. They have to feel fresh and new to people who
know the source, but also remain true to the spirit of the work. And for
those who have only heard the title, clarity and focus are essential,
especially in dramatizing a novel with many characters. The Belgium director
Ivo van Hove’s directorial adaptations – some would say rewrites
-- often seem more interested in shock value but his wide Broadway following,
including me, have forged a third path. Bedlam is a New York gem, a premiere
innovator in transforming classics, especially works by Jane Austen, into
lyrical renderings. Songs, dance, and comedy have provided a lightness
that seems very much in the spirit of Austen’s work. By Glenda Frank.
Paulanne Simmons says, Henry VIII’s wives make a spectacle of themselves
in "Six." The glory of this musical is its glitter, not its
guidance. The lyrics are clever. The beats are infectious. The six singing,
dancing and wisecracking queens have energy, talent and, most important,
stamina! Better to ignore the preaching and party!
To see a Bedlam production constrained by a proscenium stage is like seeing
a Bengal Tiger caged in a zoo. He’ll meander the edges, constrained
by the barriers. But he’ll repeatedly test his confinement through
all means possible. That’s what Eric Tucker’s latest colorful
creation felt like to Eric Uhlfelder.
“Pass Over,” a surreal
satiric chilling view of ghetto’s desperate young men
Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s “Pass Over” is a
surreal satiric funny biting clever horrific vision of what life is like
for two young black men living in a ghetto whose borders are so fixed
they can only dream of getting out, of “passing over,” only
one of the meanings of the play’s title. The psychology of these
members of the brutalized black underclass is riveting in its portrayal.
A self-satisfied white pseudo-liberal is deftly skewered. Centuries of
history are vividly encapsulated. All with smart, tough direction by Danya
Taymor. By Lucy Komisar.
The Last of the Love Letters
“The Last of the Love Letters” features stunning Daniel J.
Watts as enigmatic partner of failed couple. By Lucy Komisar.
Roles and Rules of Comedy
Comedy that captures the absurdities and peculiar coincidences of life
is especially welcome in dark times. It is an essential ingredient for
the healthy survival of the human spirit. Laughter disarms and arms at
the same time—the laughter of derision that takes the prideful down
a few pegs and the laughter that helps to diffuse tension and heals the
wounds of insult. The six comic sketches of “Roles and Rules of
Comedy” written and directed by Harold Dean James catch the pathos
of accidental human collisions as well as the absurdities of such situations.
By Beate Hein Bennett.
Ring of Fire at Weston Playhouse
Ring of Fire, Richard Maltby and Bill Meade’s jukebox musical stab
at portraying the life of Johnny Cash, has just enough script in it to
hold together the songs that are its raison d’être. The narrative
is barebones to the point of almost being generic: hardscrabble upbringing
as a farm boy during the Depression; waiting outside the door of a major
record producer to audition; performing at the Grand Old Opry, the place
where he’ll fall for the sassy June Carter; too much alcohol, too
many pills, regret, and return to Jesus; bringing a modicum of solace
and respect to Folsom Prison inmates. Check, check, check, check, check.
Snippet of a set-up; cue a song. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This didn’t
prevent Weston (Vermont) Playhouse selling out the full run of the show
before it even opened. Because, well, the promise of the songs. By Dorothy
The Book of Moron
During Robert Dubac’s 80-minute monologue, we are introduced to
the various personalities who represent Robert’s inner self (all
played by Dubac). His Common Sense is a redneck. His Voice of Reason is
an Englishman. His Inner Moron is a stoner. His Inner Asshole smokes invisible
cigarettes. And his Inner Child just pouts and makes bad puns. With their
help he finds out who he really is… or as much as one man is capable
of knowing. By Paulanne Simmons.
The "Merry Wives" of
Shakespeare in the Park sheds a new light and different
light on the Bard's farcical warhorse.
This "An Iliad," acted by David Bonanno and produced by Weston
Playhouse in The Tent at Walker Farm in Weston, VT, would be a “don’t
miss” even in a season of too many plays; too little time. By Dorothy
“Judgment Day” is an enormously clever, funny, a bit profound,
play by Rob Ulin about a very corrupt lawyer, Sammy Campo (a terrific,
rotten to the core Jason Alexander). How corrupt? He’s running a
child-slave garment operation where kids get fed “healthy”
paste, if they do the work. See it as a benefit for Barrington Stage.
By Lucy Komisar,
The Two Noble Kinsmen
You can still catch this open-air “rompcomtragedy”—Besate
Hein Bennett's newly coined phrase for this wildly energetic romp-- in
the parking lot behind The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street on the Lower East
Side until July 30. She caught it in Bryant Park on July 20. The play
is a sort of Shakespearian but more John Fletcher inflected Jacobean sex
tragicomedy with verbal jousts, super-sexed hyperboles, and grandiloquent
heroics. The director, Hamilton Clancy, Artistic Director of The Drilling
Company has produced a cut version of less than two hours. Beate Hein
Bennet writes that she was pleased to see children in attendance who were
fully engaged in the theatrical happening and afterwards felt free to
jump into the performance space; one little girl danced with Palamon (one
of the eponymous kinsmen) while boys chased each other around the statue.
This is the real spirit of theatre as a social art!
Fruma Sarah (Waiting in the Wings)
The very mention of the New York City’s own wildly popular actress
and comedian Jackie Hoffman – she of 1000 facial expressions, bodily
quirks, a score of well-placed adlibs, and a mesmerizing voice that takes
you prisoner with a waterfall of precisely enunciated words – signals
that somewhere lurking around a corner is yet another not-to-missed Hoffman
Happening. Well, the good news for Hoffman lovers is that the ever-glorious
and incandescent Hoffman, along with fellow actress Kelly Kinsella, is
back in the saddle again, and currently chewing up the scenery in E. Dale
Smith’s two-handed serio-comedy "Fruma-Sarah (Waiting In The
Wings)," at the Chelsea-based Cell Theatre
SPEAKOUT: Protest Plays and More
With this online presentation Multistages, led by Lorca Peress, promised
a "multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary online festival of commissioned
new works in theater, dance, poetry, music and multimedia." It did
indeed deliver eleven theater and dance segments of great variety, sensitivity,
clarity, and purpose. Nothing arty or overly complicated; all direct and
with understandable messages. By Paul Berss.
|AUSTRALICANA -- Marc Shairman’s “Fat
As I Am” and Kander and Ebb’s “Me and My Baby”
were Fishman’s lighthearted way of addressing her very obvious
pregnancy. Photo by Neil Cohen.
Celebrating Two Countries:
"Australicana," which made its debut at the Triad, is Alexis
Fishman’s seventh cabaret show, but it’s her first as an American
citizen. The show celebrates her new status with a “deep dive into
the chronicles of cultural confusion, hilarity and challenges of life
as an Australican.” By Paulanne Simmons.
Jacob Storms as Tennessee Williams.
Photo by Ride Hamilton
"Tennessee Rising: The Dawn
of Tennessee Williams"
The amount of deep-diving research which helped Jacob Storms to fashion
"Tennessee Rising," and that includes William’s plays,
movies, short stories, letters, interviews, several biographies, Memoirs
(1975), and conversations with people who knew Williams, all of which
Storms deftly embroidered into this play, is simply mind-boggling. Performed
by the playwright at The Cell, its next stop is Rochester Fringe. By Edward
Tiny Beautiful Streaming Things
“Tiny Beautiful Things,” George Street Playhouse’s filmed
play, based on Cheryl Strayed’s book, “Tiny Beautiful Things:
Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar” (2012), a collection of
Strayed’s columns is beautifully brought to life by actress Laiona
Michelle, who as Sugar, plays a down-to-earth, expletive-spouting advice-giving
columnist. While the play’s three accompanying actors, John Bolger,
Kally Duling. and Ryan George, each playing a wide range of advice-seeking
letter writers, occupy their supporting cameos quite nicely, it is Laiona
Michelle’s emotionally absorbing, take no prisoners star-turn that
commands our fullest attention. By Edward Rubin.
You might want to cover your ears. “Herding Cats” by Lucinda
Coxon (“The Danish Girl”) opens with twenty-something Justine
ranting against her Gen X, pot-smoking, ex-hippy boss. But not listening
would be a mistake. Justine is charismatic, a smart, witty, outraged woman,
wondering how soon she can take a drink. Michael, her roommate, is so
quietly supportive, you know he’s harboring a secret. Maybe more
than one. Ironically this revival of the 2010 play, again directed by
Anthony Banks, has been facilitated by both intergenerational and transatlantic
cooperation in a unique technical experiment. By Glenda Frank.
Bad Dates: A Dazzling Array Of
Shoes, Clothes, Men, Police, and the Roumanian
For great fun, and a breathless romp through one woman’s
topsy-turvy life, "Bad Dates," George Street Playhouses’
filmed version of Theresa Rebeck’s 2003 zany one-woman play starring
Broadway actress Andréa Burns (“In The Heights, “On
Your Feet,” The Nance”), is the hip place to be. By Edward
|Tchaikovsky (Hershey Felder). Photo by Hershey Felder
Presents and Marco Badiani.
The Melancholy Soul
Though the onset of Covid-19 darkened theaters around the world, not one
to be silenced, the ever-spirited and extremely inventive Hershey Felder,
currently sitting out the plague in Florence, Italy, decided to turn his
solo-performed Tchaikovsky play – which premiered at the San Diego
Repertory Theater in 2017 – into a full-length feature film. The
end result being a beautifully crafted and directed (Hershey Felder and
Trevor Hay), filmed and edited (Stefano Decarli and David Becheri), heart-felt
love letter to both Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), the man and his music, and
the city of Florence. By Edward Rubin.
|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.
museums by day,
theater by night
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