Theatre Reviews Limited is your source for reviews of many of the shows currently running in Manhattan as well as in New Jersey and around the United States.
FringeNYC – Past, Present, and Future of New York City's Annual Fringe Festival Read Article>
Theatre Reviews Limited was there at the beginning eighteen years ago when “the scrappy few” founded FringeNYC: Aaron Beall, John Clancy, Jonathan Harris, and (current Artistic Director) Elena K. Holy recognized the need for a Fringe Festival in New York City. John Clancy and Elena K. Holy were the founders of FringeNYC’s producing organization The Present Company. This is part of that 1997 manifesto:
“We need a place where the artists who do all the hard work, the early work, can incite and excite each other. We need a time set aside to look at all the exploration, a time for the front-line soldiers in our endless Cultural War to report back from their patrols." ...
“Ryan Is Lost” at FringeNYC 2014 at the 64E4 Mainstage Theatre (Closes on Sunday August 24, 2014) Read Review>
The NY International Fringe Festival is presenting “Ryan Is Lost” a new play by Nathan Wellman which is an intriguing, interesting and brooding two character drama. If one could imagine, it would be the offspring of “Waiting for Godot” and “The Zoo Story.” It is absurdly provocative as it slowly retrieves simmering emotions to the surface, allowing a boiling pain and intense relief.
Waiting here are Avis and Frank – an odd couple if ever there was one. Claiming to be sister and brother with a (perhaps) abusive father and one with a parole officer, they wait on a bench in a shopping mall for their nephew Ryan who has wandered off and not yet returned to the designated meeting area ...
“Poor Behavior” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street (Closes on Sunday September 7, 2014) Read Review>
Theresa Rebeck asks an important and rich question in her new “Poor Behavior” currently running at the Duke on 42nd Street the new home of Primary Stages. This question might go unnoticed it is so intertwined with Ms. Rebeck’s rant about the state of marriage in contemporary “civilized” culture: and it is a good rant indeed. The real question though is not just whether the institution of marriage is sustainable, but whether the institution of America is sustainable. If there were a time when William Butler Yeats might have an attentive audience, it is at this maleficent moment of antinomian delight midway through the first decade of the twenty-first century.
“Breaking the Shakespeare Code” at FringeNYC 2014 at 64E4 Mainstage (Closes on Wednesday August 20, 2014) Read Review>
There ought to be a warning posted above the entrance to the Mainstage Theatre at 64 East 4th Street Theatres on the days “Breaking the Shakespeare Code” is running. Something like, “Fasten your seat belts or prepare to be blown away!” It takes Martha and George years of angst-ridden and explosive off-campus confrontations to break the “kid” code in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” It takes Curt and Anna sixteen years of angst-ridden and explosive on-campus confrontations to break the Shakespeare code that has bound them together in John Minigan’s brilliant and demanding new play currently running at FringeNYC 2014.
“Moses, The Author” at FringeNYC 2014 at The Players Theatre (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014) Read Review>
Andrew R. Heinze’s “Moses, The Author” is a new play currently running at Fringe NYC 2104 and is awarded Theatre Reviews Limited’s “Best Play of Opening Weekend” at Fringe NYC. This smart, funny, and provocative new comedy highlights the limitations of religious literature to adequately portray the essence of a people’s/nation’s faith. For all religions of “a book” (Judaism, Islam, Christianity), difficulty arises when the community, fearful of heresy and the death of reliable storytellers and mindful of the need for pedagogy, commits orally transmitted mythos to writing. The flexibility accepted in the oral tradition – as the needs of the community changed or new information required altered world views – became impossible to sustain: what was written was written and could not be changed. In fact, it became the word of the gods transmitted to humankind through special agents (priests, prophets, and kings) and infallible and incontrovertible. Moses (Mitch Tebo) was one of those special agents.
“Cover” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at The Dorothy Streslin Theatre (Closes Tuesday July 29, 2014) Read Review>
David and Zan, a young Westchester married couple and Peter and Beth, a married couple in their late 40s collide in a fragile foursome in Bill McMahon’s new “Cover” currently running in NYC at part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. What happens in this refreshing play might not “make sense” to any of the four characters; however, they each come to understand they “are in the middle of something” important – and that something has everything to do with love and becoming honest with themselves and their true identity and status.
“Fable” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014) Read Review>
All John (Dan Rosales) wants is to celebrate his 2014 high school graduation with close friends Chelsea (Gerianne Perez) and her brother Tucker (Alex Walton) and bound-for-Princeton Emmy (Marisa O’Donnell). Reading his post-graduation speech is all that is really on John’s agenda. Somehow college lacrosse star Richie (Michael Luwoye) is invited and interloper Amelia (Madison Micucci) breaks in through window and screen to add to the growing matrix of post-graduation melancholy. What begins as a simple celebration develops into group therapy spiced with an abundance of alcohol.
“Mr. Confidential” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014) Read Review>
“Mr. Confidential” is the new musical currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. With an outstanding book, lyrics that complement and successfully expand the scope of the book, and music pleasing to the ear and heart, this is a big brassy musical with a Broadway beat begging for attention. With a cast headed up by Kevin Spirtas, “Mr. Confidential” tackles the meteoric rise and softer fall of Robert Harrison the 1950s iconic journalistic purveyor of scandal, gossip, and the art of the expose.
“Madame Infamy” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 27, 2014) Read Review>
“Madame Infamy,” a new musical being presented at the Alice Griffin Theatre as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, is an undertaking of epic proportion. The attempt to capture the lives of two important historical women namely Marie Antoinette and Sally Hemings in parallel, with Madame Tussaud as their liaison and storyteller, complete with singing narrative, is certainly no easy task. This production certainly has the feel of mega musical partly due to the sometimes sweeping, soaring melodies and intricate orchestrations of composers Cardozie Jones and Sean Willis; however the musical sometimes falters when those orchestrations are entwined in the book and lyrics ...
“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” at 59E59 Theater A (Closes Sunday August 24) Read Review>
Mona Golabek’s “The Pianist of Willesden Lane” is an extraordinary Master Class in the resilience and healing of memory, the power of storytelling, and the enduring mystery of the art of the piano and its impressive repertoire. Ms. Golabek shares the inspiring story of her mother Lisa Jura using the rhetorical devices of pathos, ethos, and logos. The audience member feels for Lisa Jura from her childhood through adulthood: the audience member identifies with the marginalization Lisa experienced: the audience member understands it is not reasonable to commit genocide.
“Oprahfication” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Thursday July 24, 2014) Read Review>
What happens when a powerful actor with an equally powerful voice portrays one of America’s most powerful (and wealthiest) women ever? Let’s call it “Oprahfication!” Currently running at the New York Musical Festival, “Oprahfication” highlights Oprah Winfrey’s 25th Anniversary Episode through the eyes and heart of actor and singer Rachel Dunham. Ms. Dunham – who watched Oprah live and recorded in the 20th Anniversary DVD Collection - celebrates the years Oprah dominated daytime television and presents the “ultimate interview.”
“The Snow Queen” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 20, 2014) Read Review>
“The Snow Queen,” the new musical being presented as part of NYMF at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, is a new twist on the age old fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. Coming on the heels of a recent reinvented animated movie based on the same story, this reincarnation takes a completely different path. Although the musical has a strong Brechtian epic theatre influence and a more modern approach to the fable - where some of the cast are incorporated into the action playing instruments, providing vocals, and playing multiple characters clad in exquisite bohemian influenced costumes - at times it is a bit unclear what the production wants to be. It certainly is dark enough to captivate adults along with appealing and seductive staging for the teenage crowd and finally a storyline that would be all too familiar with children ...
“The Qualification of Douglas Evans” at Walkerspace (Closes Saturday August 9, 2014) Read Review>
Douglas Evans (Derek Ahonen) is the perfect anti-hero in his anti-epic “The Qualification of Douglas Evans” currently running in repertory with “Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace in New York City. This protagonist struggles with his addiction to alcohol as the codependent son of an alcoholic father (Penny Bittone) and completely codependent mother (Barbara Weetman). The audience experiences this playwright want-to-be fall into addiction and reenter the addictive cycle in an ever circling gyre.
“Enter at Forest Lawn” at Walkerspace (Closes on Saturday August 9, 2014) Read Review>
It is perhaps all those wrong turns into Forest Lawn (and other gateways to divided eternal futures) that seem to get us and Jessica (Sarah Lemp) into trouble. We start out all right (ostensibly). Wounded and be-hooked Clinton (Matthew Pilieci) writes in his journal that we are all “pretty much the same” with similar needs, hopes, and problems. But then we get caught up in Jabberwokian machinations and the world begins to tilt a bit, spin uncontrollably, fall out of focus, and ultimately, as Lewis Carroll observes, non-sense reigns: “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.”
“The Long Shrift” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Closes on Saturday August 23, 2014) Read Review>
Playwright Robert Boswell has determined to tackle difficult themes in his new “The Long Shrift” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater: when a crime is committed, who is the innocent and who is the guilty? Does the justice system work? What are the long term effects on the accused and the victimized?
At the age of eighteen, Richard (Scott Haze) attends a party where he sees classmate Beth (Ahna O’Reilly) who, he believes, is showing an interest in him personally and sexually ...
“Cloned!” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Saturday July 19, 2014) Read Review>
The new musical “Cloned” at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, presented as part of NYMF, will hopefully find a future in the effervescent New York theatre scene where it belongs. It has pop theatre music, comedy, parody, farce, a puppet and a sincere silly story combined with a cast of imaginative characters. It has a wonderful enthusiastic ensemble that teases every laugh out of the script or any ridiculous situation they may encounter and will tickle your fancy with their absolutely enticing vocals. While viewing the production certain material triggers memories of past shows but not to worry, the company it keeps is more than welcome with shades of “Little Shop of Horrors” and music reminiscent of Cy Coleman’s “Sweet Charity.” The cast is superb as they succumb to the absurd, revel in the farce, sing through the silly, and triumphantly deliver a solid and entertaining performance.
“Searching for Romeo” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
“Searching for Romeo,” currently being presented as part of NYMF at the PTC Performance Space, is a pleasant parody. This new musical is entertaining and clever, however not without fault, offering nothing innovative as far as concept, theme or musical development. It would be unfair to critique the cast and their devoted effort, since the production was afflicted with an unfortunate illness of their leading male; however, in true show business fashion the performance was rescued by the fearless assistant to the Director, standing in with script in hand and vocally prepared. What emerged throughout was the bonding and eloquent behavior of the ensemble to support and contribute to the effort put forth by their comrade. Bravo!
As mentioned the concept is nothing new or groundbreaking and the use of innuendo and parody becomes almost tiring, culminating with a replication of the last scene in “West Side Story.” ...
“Academia Nuts” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
With the sweetness of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” the caustic humor of “South Park,” and the vitriol of “Hairspray,” the new musical “Academia Nuts” chronicles the quiz kid competition between the McCutter Clan of Weiner, Arkansas and the Walla Walla Walruses from the Pacific Northwest. The musical celebrates the strength of the human spirit and the importance of chasing ones dreams. However, “Academia Nuts” is a far darker comedy than its main plot belies and some of its subplots are more about dreams left unfulfilled and the considerable weakness of some humans.
“Coming of Age” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
A new song cycle entitled “Coming of Age” is being presented as part of NYMF at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre and proves to be a good addition to the roster of the Festival’s developing musicals. It deals with the awkward transitional experience when one becomes aware of a problematic situation that affects his or her life; simply put, growing up and taking responsibility for life decisions. What resonates is the universal recognition that is put forth, always passionate and intelligent without being pretentious. The music is complicated and diverse, casting an intriguing veil over the well thought, inspired lyrics that tell each character’s story. It is new and fresh yet worn and comfortable; interesting and diverse yet simple and parallel; recognizing the importance to appeal to all ages, all cultures, all societies and all religions. Rarely does it falter and stray too far from its intent and when it does the cast manages to bring it back on track.
“Somewhere with You” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 13, 2014) Read Review>
“Somewhere with You,” currently running as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, touts itself to be “THE country-rock musical of a new generation.” If by ‘new generation’ the creators mean (in their own words) “Southerners growing up in the early 2000s confronted by the methamphetamine epidemic, the war in Iraq, and other post-9/11 challenges in the rural South,” then this is “THE” musical for a new generation. Unfortunately, these parameters are (hopefully) not the descriptors of the majority of twenty-first century Americans. If the creative team of “Somewhere with You” has determined not to write a musical with more traditional country-western themes, they need to construct a musical with enduring and universal themes. JT Harding’s songs elucidate these themes; unfortunately, the new musical “Somewhere with You” does not.
“The Mapmaker’s Opera” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The PTC Performance Space (Closes on Wednesday July 16, 2014) Read Review>
"The Mapmakers Opera,” currently presented at The PTC Performance Space as part of the ongoing NYMF, is a solid effort to adapt the profound and beautiful novel of the same title by Bea Gonzalez for the stage. The results are commendable but as with any new musical project pitfalls are numerous and the need exists to focus a bit more on the intent and plot without straying into meaningless distraction. The cast shines and makes it worth seeing the production in its infancy just to hear their refined vocal ability.
Joel Perez is delightful as he explores the many facets of his character using his strong, clear and effective baritone ...
“Rescue Rue” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at The Ford Foundation Studio Theatre (Closes on Sunday July 20, 2014) Read Review>
Based on the true story of Rue, the Chiweenie who was rescued from a high-kill animal shelter in the South and found her way to the more humane Badness Brooklyn Animal Shelter, “Rescue Rue” is a charming new musical with enduring themes of universal love and the importance of a supportive home and family.
The story itself is narrated by Sarah Haines and is the relatively straightforward tale of the rescue of Rue from her abusive family to a loving home in Brooklyn, New York ...
“666 DSM” at 59E59 Theater C (Closed July 9, 2014) Read Review>
Douglas de Souza’s “666 DSM” concludes its brief run at the 59E59 East to Edinburgh Festival and prepares to face its opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2014. Mr. de Souza and his director/producer Cindy Sibilsky have several challenges to face and overcome before rubber hits runway in The Burgh ...
Mr. de Souza is a spirited and gifted actor who is capable of portraying a variety of characters giving each a specific persona. However, his script does not give him as an actor much to work with.
“Years to the Day” at 59E59 Theater B (Closes July 12, 2014) Read Review>
Ostensibly eschewing the technology of communication, Dan (Michael Yavnieli) and Jeff (Jeff LeBeau) engage in what proves to be a marathon for gamers par excellence as they reunite at an undisclosed location in “present time adjacent” at a small table. Friends for twenty-five years, these two remaining members of a post-high school foursome of friends engage in exactly the type of exchange Jeff describes when expounding on texting ...
“Commit” at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ (Through Saturday June 7, 2014) (Jersey City) Read Review>
EJC Calvert’s new play “Commit,” currently running at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, NJ, is a dark comedy written in three acts. Each act carefully dissects the vicissitudes of the human condition, in particular the abilities of humankind to commit themselves to a variety of relationships despite their prolific and sometimes unsettling flaws. Three creatures appear in the titles and in the action of the three acts: a bear, lamb, and a bird. And each varmint serves as a delicious trope for the unpredictable and cantankerous nature of humankind in its journey through love, loss, and redemption.
“West Side Story” San Francisco Symphony Live Recording (Released on June 10, 2014) Read Review>
San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas had a long-standing professional and personal relationship with “West Side Story” composer Leonard Bernstein making the June 10, 2014 release of the live recording of the first-ever concert performance of Mr. Bernstein’s complete score for the iconic musical quite significant. Equally significant is the recording itself. Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony not only do justice to the score but excel beyond any expectation at providing the most accessible and enjoyable recording of the iconic musical since its Broadway staging and subsequent recordings.
“A Piece of My Heart” at the Barrow Mansion (Jersey City, NJ) (Through Sunday June 1, 2014) Read Review>
Suggested by a work by Keith Walker, Shirley Lauro’s 1991 “A Piece of My Heart” attempts to celebrate the lives of the women who served in the Vietnam War as enlisted soldiers, nurses, entertainers, and other volunteers. Under director Betsy Aiello Sanders’ steady hand, the talented ensemble cast of the Speranza Theatre Company tackles Ms. Lauro’s script and brings it to life with heartfelt energy and a high dose of authenticity. Speranza is Jersey City, NJ’s newest theatre company staging performances of “A Piece of My Heart” at the historic Barrow Mansion in downtown Jersey City.
“A Fable” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday June 28, 2014) Read Review>
One would think that with Dante Alighieri, Goethe, John Milton, Kurt Weill, T.S. Eliot, Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner (among others) in the house, nothing but a good time would be had by all. No so. The myriad allusions to the aforementioned greats and the usually reliable hand of Rattlestick’s David Van Asselt could not save “A Fable,” currently running at the Cherry Lane Theatre, from unintentional – one would hopefully assume – meaninglessness.
“Too Much Sun” at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday June 22, 2014) Read Review>
In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Jacques solves the eternal question of whether art imitates life or life imitates art: simply, life is art and art is life. Seasoned stage performers have discovered what acting novices will discover during their careers; namely, as Meryl Streep affirms, “Acting is not about being someone different. It's finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding [oneself] in there.” Acting indeed is life’s work.
Perhaps no one knows this better in Nicky Silver’s new play “Too Much Sun” than its protagonist Audrey Langham (Linda Lavin) ...
“The Rivals” at the Pearl Theatre Company (Through Sunday May 25, 2014) Read Review>
There is a great deal of playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan in his rollickingly funny “The Rivals” the comedy of manners he wrote for Covent Garden and where it first appeared in 1775. Riffing the sham chivalry and sham romance of his day, Sheridan drew from his life experiences to develop a roster of comedic characters with absurd conflicts that spin outrageous plots and subplots. The action centers on modern woman Lydia Languish (Jessica Love) who indeed languishes after the glamour of eloping with Ensign Beverly who is in reality the wealthy Captain Jack Absolute (Cary Donaldson).
“The Few” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday June 8, 2014) Read Review>
Long distance truckers are indeed a band of brothers and sisters whose escapades on America’s interstate highways place them among the few. And consumers in the United States owe a great deal to these drivers (the term they prefer) who often put their lives in jeopardy by staying on the road for long hours without rest. The stress of the profession has often led to substance abuse. Long distance drivers Bryan (Michael Laurence), QZ (Tasha Lawrence), and their friend Jim started a newspaper “The Few” to reach out to truckers in and passing through Idaho, give them support, and give them a place to gather and find surcease.
“The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday May 25, 2014) Read Review>
The connections playwright David Rudkin draws between T. S. Eliot’s fictional character J. Alfred Prufrock and Mr. Rudkin’s interest Alfred J. Hitchcock are compelling and make for a riveting and important theatre piece. Adapted from his earlier (1993) “film for radio,” David Rudkin’s “The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock” plays at 59E59 Theater A through May 25, 2014 as part of the Brits Off-Broadway Series.
“Playing with Grown Ups” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Sunday May 18, 2014) Read Review>
Two couples trying to discover who they are as dyadic entities. Four individuals attempting to discover who they are in their unitary states. Oddly, the lives of the couples parallel one another and even more curious, each individual has a doppelganger. These four - coupled in twos - collide on one rainy night in a flat in the midst of Joanna’s (Trudi Jackson) apparent post-partum, post traumatic stress disorder meltdown. This collision and its fallout are the subject of Hannah Patterson’s “Playing with Grown Ups” currently running at 59E59 Theaters at part of its Brits Off-Broadway series.
“Sea Marks” at the Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday June 15, 2014) Read Review>
There is a brooding sadness inherent in and hovering over the love story of Liverpudlian Timothea Stiles (Xanthe Elbrick) and Cliffhorn Heads fisherman Colm Primrose (Patrick Fitzgerald). Gardner McKay’s mesmeric “Sea Marks” echoes the deep sadness of James Joyce and the disputatious anger of Martin McDonagh and, blended with his own unique storytelling style, creates a beautiful tale of love and loss, regret and redemption. “Sea Marks” is not a traditional love story with a happy ending; rather it is a story about what motivates people to do the risky things they do to find happiness or the surcease of loneliness.
“17 Orchard Point” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Saturday May 24, 2014) Read Review>
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Just ask the irrepressible Lydia Rauscher (Michele Pawk) come to visit her daughter Vera (Stephanie DiMaggio) for the baby shower for Lydia’s younger daughter Annie. Lydia flees Cleveland after the death of her husband and son Griffin, leaves Vera to manage the apartment building she owns, and hooks up with Stuart in Las Vegas where what happens remains a secret. But Lydia’s Vegas secrets are no match for the Pandora’s Box of punchy revelations awaiting her at 17 Orchard Point. Anton Dudley and Stephanie DiMaggio’s play – named after that apartment – is a chilling psychological thriller with all the necessary twists and turns to keep the audience gasping and guessing for an emotionally-laden seventy-five glorious minutes at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in Manhattan.
“Family Play” (1979 to Present) at the New Ohio Theatre (Through Friday May 16, 2014) Read Review>
It is difficult to develop well-rounded and rich characterizations when one has not experienced directly or indirectly the significant conflicts and settings of the characters involved in a play or any other performance piece. Actors attempt that theatrical feat often with varying degrees of success. In the case of “Family Play (1979 to Present),” Collaboration Town’s ensemble-driven creative process does not give the young ensemble cast enough interesting content to be able to bring their somewhat lackluster characters to life. In four “sections” – each introduced by a different family “meal time event” – six talented actors spin around a large circular stage and hop on and off entering into a variety of “Readers Theatre” scenarios.
“Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday June 1, 2014) Read Review>
Despite Ranger Steve Reynolds’ (Jeremy Wilhelm) welcoming words to the NYTW audience and his insistence that “Red-Eye to Havre de Grace” is “gonna have a lot of good information [and] some important dates,” there is not much Edgar Allan Poe aficionados do not already know about Poe, his marriage to his thirteen year old cousin Virginia Clemm, his attachment to his mother-in-law (and aunt) “Muddy,” and his life-long battles with the dissolution of his ego strength and his successive descent into madness.
“Peddling” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday May 18, 2014) Read Review>
Words are inherently powerful tools, even more powerful when written and perhaps most powerful when spoken. This is the case with Harry Melling’s compelling script “Peddling” currently running at 59E59 Theater C and part of the presenting organization’s “2014 Brits Off-Broadway Series.” Mr. Melling’s script traces the often explosive day-in-the-life of Michael the nineteen-year-old “boy” peddling his “everyday essentials” as part of “Boris; young offender’s scheme.”
The boy’s story is somewhat universal: Michael – like so many others – “was born and didn’t grow.” ...
“Inventing Mary Martin” at the York Theatre Company at St. Peter’s (Through Sunday May 25, 2014) Read Review>
Stephen Cole’s “Inventing Mary Martin” is ninety minutes of adrenaline driven high energy singing and dancing devoted to remembering, honoring, and celebrating the life and career of the indefatigable Mary Martin. Broadway veteran Jason Graae narrates and hosts the tribute and is joined on the York Theatre stage by a trio of delightful divas: Cameron Adams, Lynne Halliday, and Emily Skinner. After the opening monologue and medley of Mary Martin hits, the cast, under Mr. Cole’s direction, launches into a non-stop succession of solos, duets, trios, and quartets all highlighting Ms. Martin’s successful Hollywood and Broadway careers.
And as the title suggests, this quartet of skilled singers, actors, and dancers address the importance of Mary Martin’s remarkable ability to invent herself, reinvent herself, and know when to allow herself to be reimagined by others ...
“Annapurna” Presented by the New Group at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row (Through Sunday June 1, 2014) Read Review>
Homer recounts the epic ten-year journey of Ulysses after the fall of Troy and chronicles his adventures and misadventures as he attempts to reunite with his faithful wife Penelope and their son Telemachus. James Joyce recounts the epic day-long journey of Leopold Bloom and unfolds his adventures and misadventure in Dublin with corollary characters Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. And Sharr White recounts the epic day-long journey of his equally modernist Ulysses (Nick Offerman) and rehearses his adventures and (mostly) misadventures as he receives a visit from his ex-wife Emma (Megan Mullally) and the impending visit from their son Sam.
“A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” and “Clean” (Through Saturday April 26, 2014) Read Review>
Challenged by a chauvinistic comment after her 2011 Edinburgh Festival solo show, playwright Sabrina Mahfouz is determined to write “a tale of three females who could easily be the basis of crime-based computer games.” The result “Clean” is currently running at 59E59 Theater B as part of the Brits Off-Broadway Series. The short play is paired with Douglas Maxwell’s “A Respectable Widow Takes to Vulgarity” both offerings by Edinburgh’s The Traverse Theater Company. But first, “Clean.”
“The Most Deserving” at The Women’s Project Theatre at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday May 4, 2014) Read Review>
Catherine Trieschmann’s new play “The Most Deserving” is a delicious and raucous mélange of six characters facing their own and others’ sexism, racism, and homophobia as they struggle to bestow a twenty thousand dollar award to a deserving local visual artist. “This artist,” Jolene Atkinson (Veanne Cox) informs her Arts Council, “must have lived in Ellis County for five years. He must demonstrate both artistic excellence and financial need and should preferably be an underrepresented American voice.”
“Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday April 20, 2014) Read Review>
Sans Cerebral Palsy (CD), sans Tourette’s Syndrome, sans his “twisted spine,” Nihal emerges from a block of stone hewn by a surrogate mother/sculptor as his birth mother - who was not with him at his birth and was not with him when he died – watches behind a wall of protective glass. Perhaps that glass wall serves as an extended metaphor for Nihal’s ballad of becoming a young adult – never quite completely breaking through walls of disability into full normalcy.
Rahila Gupta’s “Don’t Wake Me: The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong,” is the compelling story of the birth, life, and death of her severely disabled son Nihal ...
“I Remember Mama” at the Transport Group at the Gym at Judson (Through Sunday April 30, 2014) Read Review>
Memory is a tricky thing. Remembering events from one's past is fraught with complications. Like
dreaming, remembering puts the one remembering in complete control of the end product. When
Katrin (Barbara Barrie) decides to write about her family, she has to reconstruct the events from her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. And in that process of reconstruction, Katrin becomes the delightful unreliable narrator whose account of the events in the house on Steiner Street is at the heart of John Van Druten’s “I Remember Mama” currently playing at the Gym at Judson, home of the Transport Group’s 2014 Season.
“Bum Phillips All-American Opera” at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (Through Sunday March 30, 2014) Read Review>
Bum Phillips (Gary Ramsey) is more anti-hero than hero in the opera being his name currently playing at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (La MaMa). The apparently iconic Houston Oilers football coach has to endure the same struggles heroes have always experienced (Ulysses, Antigone, and that lot) but the stakes in the strife seem lower and the return home less glorious. It is this anti-hero status that both weakens and potentially strengthens the impact of the opera.
“Stockholm” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Saturday March 29, 2014) Read Review>
Codependent and cramped in a fantasy of intimacy, Kali (Christina Bennett Lind) and Todd (Richard Saudek) wage a dangerous battle of wits and words and take no hostages in the revival of Bryony Lavery’s “Stockholm” the One Year Lease Theatre Company production currently running at 59E59 Theater B.
There is little healthy fabric remaining in the marriage of Kali and Todd. Honesty has been absent since their first meeting at a restaurant opening when it took three rounds of falsehood to share their real names ...
“The Architecture of Becoming” at the Women’s Project Theatre at New York City Stage II (Through Sunday March 23, 2014) Read Review>
Five writers, three directors, and six actors collaborate (conspire?) in five short scenes to tackle the sticky business of becoming in the Women’s Project Theatre’s current offering at City Center II. Indeed, the performance space itself is the sixth actor in the ensemble cast with its own history of the search for identity and meaning.
Serving as a trope for the discovery of self, purpose, identity, and (perhaps) utility, the specter of the Shriner’s resplendent Mecca Temple is woven into the story of a young Mexican playwright searching for an idea for a script ...
“No Exit” at The Pearl Theatre Company (Through Sunday March 30, 2014) Read Review>
Cradeau, Inez, and Estelle – three war-weary Parisian compatriots – bear transgressions that serve as tropes for the horrors of the events surrounding World War II. Critics often have claimed that Sartre’s “No Exit” is not a war play; however, given the date of authorship and the autobiographical undercurrent of the play, such claims seem gratuitous at best. Though the sins of this hell-trapped trio pale against the backdrop of the atrocities of Hitler’s invasion of Europe, the Holocaust, and the Blitzkrieg, they land in hell – escorted by a Valet (Pete McElligott) - surprised to find no “thumbscrews, whips,” or other devices of torture. What they discover, however, is far worse.
“Arlington” at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday March 23, 2014) Read Review>
Channeling a more introspective and agonized June Cleaver, Sara Jane (Alexandra Silber) has an on-the-surface pleasant dialogue with all that is beyond theatre’s conventional fourth wall. In “Arlington,” currently playing at the Vineyard Theatre, that includes directly engaging the audience and the Pianist (Ben Moss) who appears behind an upstage scrim and not only accompanies Sara Jane’s non-stop singing but also succeeds in his own extrasensory skills channeling Sara Jane’s military husband Jerry. Although Sara Jane momentarily denies she is singing – “No, I’m just—I’m kidding! I’m kidding! I’m not singing” – she is immersed in a full blown operetta. And Victor Lodato’s book (libretto) and Polly Pen’s music shake the Vineyard and its inhabitants to a transformative and soul-purging existential crisis.
“Ode to Joy” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Sunday March 30, 2014) Read Review>
Soteriology, trying to figure out what it means to be a savior, is a difficult business and for the savior it is often a messy business. Saving others can result in considerable personal sacrifice and somehow subsuming the “sins” of others, even the sins of the whole world, can even result in death. For some reason, some humans just do not want to be saved from themselves and their pain. Fortunately, others do.
At the beginning of Craig Lucas’ “Ode to Joy,” protagonist Adele (Kathryn Erbe) sets the stage for all that follows, asserting that “This is the story of how the pain goes away ...
“My Mother Has 4 Noses” at The Duke (Through Sunday May 4, 2014) Read Review>
Despite the early protestation of playwright Jonatha Brooke, the aft end of the title of her “My Mother Has 4 Noses” is a trope; indeed, ‘4 noses’ is a well-developed and quite brilliant extended metaphor for not only the four seasons of the life of Brooke’s mother Darren Stone (“Stoney”) Nelson; the short phrase is also a metaphor for Stoney’s self-constructed surreal prosthetic devices designed and worn throughout the clown-poet’s life to cover and disguise the deep scars and deformity resulting from her sense of orphancy, her deep-seated depression, her deeply-entrenched bereavement, and the deep scars left by her often irrational faith in the tenets of Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science “magical thinking” – magical thinking which ultimately failed to transform her life into an abundant life and, indeed, was a contributing factor to her death.
“Bitten” at Quinn's Bar (Through Saturday February 22, 2014) Read Review>
Cleopatra knew the allure of the asp, the Egyptian cobra. Its venom, its bite, was – in her opinion – a rather dignified and relatively humane way to administer capital punishment offering “sleepiness and heaviness without spasms of pain.” That same bite, tradition tells us, brought that same surcease to Cleopatra VII Philopater, the last active pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.
While waiting for Pronto Car Service to whisk Stella O’Conner (Lucy McMichael) and her gynecologist grandson Brian (Nick Palladino) off to the Sunset long-term care facility in Tenafly, New Jersey, the patrons of Quinn’s bar in Richmond Hill, Queens (seen and unseen) attempt to confront their panoply of knotty and nagging life challenges ...
“Love and Information” at New York Theatre Workshop at the Minetta Lane Theatre (Through Sunday March 23, 2014) Read Review>
Sans a singular protagonist, sans a singular antagonist, sans clear conflicts, therefore sans plot, Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” depends on a singular trope to provide focus and interest in her new play. This is a risky business – defying the conventions of theatre - but a business which works on many levels to provide an hour and fifty minutes of slide-show scenes of information gone haywire and love’s labor a bit lost. That trope is exemplified in an affirmation made by one of the one hundred characters that comprise Churchill’s new New York Theatre Workshop play currently running at the Minetta Lane Theatre: “she’s just information.” Humankind, in other words, IS information.
“Intimacy” at the New Group at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row (Through Saturday March 8, 2014) Read Review>
Just as Matthew’s (Austin Caldwell) “high end” video camera pans into a scene in his “A Frot in the Neighborhood” porn film” then fades out and goes into and out of focus, intimacy itself engages the audience then retreats in importance and comes into pedagogic focus then blurs into the realm of inconsequence in Thomas Bradshaw’s “Intimacy” currently running at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row as part of the New Group’s current season.
“The Correspondent” at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday March 16, 2014) Read Review>
Bereavement makes for a strange bedfellow. It joins battle with the bereaved and insists on skirmishes with denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and (ultimately) acceptance of the death of the loved one. These incursions into the life of the bereaved are not necessarily ad seriatim events: the skirmishes can coalesce into an anxiety-ridden Armageddon. It is at this point of lamentation the audience encounters Philip Graves (Thomas Jay Ryan) whose wife Charlotte died recently in an accident. Philip’s uncommon and a bit uncanny response to that loss is the engaging subject of Ken Urban’s “The Correspondent” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
“Philosophy for Gangsters” at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row (Through March 1, 2014) Read Review>
Buried somewhere beneath tired (and tiring) humor – much of it in poor taste – lies a story Liz Peak and Barry Peak intended to be engaging as well as humorous. Unfortunately their well-intentioned plan falls mostly flat in the world premiere of their “Philosophy for Gangsters” currently running through March 1, 2014 at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row in Manhattan.
“The Tribute Artist” at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday March 16, 2014) Read Review>
Charles Busch and his band of merry-makers have pitched camp (for all too short a time) at 59E59 Theater A for the final offering in Primary Stages’ twenty-ninth Season, Mr. Busch’s gender-bending and exquisite “The Tribute Artist.” The result of this incursion into the winter blues is nothing short of brilliant. From cast to creative team to direction, this delicious dip into debauchery brims with over-the-top humor and a subtle entreaty for the return of honesty in human relationships. But first, the dip into the debauchery.
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