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.
“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.
Karen Wyman – “The Second Time Around” at the Metropolitan Room (Returning in March 2014) Read Review>
A national sensation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Karen Wyman has decided after twenty-three years to stage her comeback and continue what has always been her passion: singing for her live audiences. That decision comes after having successfully raised her family and realizing that musically she had “a lot of growing up to do” in terms of truly understanding the lyrics she was singing intuitively “as a kid” in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Recent appearances at Birdland and the Mabel Mercer Foundation and this current appearance at the Metropolitan Room prove incontrovertibly that this was the quintessential time for Karen Wyman’s return to the cabaret stage and that she not only has full control of her splendid vocal instrument but also understands every word she sings with renewed passion and authenticity ...
Bernard Dotson “Live” at the Metropolitan Room (Returning on Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.) Read Review>
Any doubt that Bernard Dotson is an intriguing multi-talented performer is soon dismissed after seeing his new energy packed show which debuted at the Metropolitan Room and will soon take flight around the country. “I don’t know how to begin/ To let myself let you in” are the opening lyrics heard from an offstage voice and will soon prove to be an ironic and mistermed phrase as the evening wears on and Mr. Dotson shows his ownership of the stage. His presence, poise, voice and honesty provide proof of a first rate entertainer and contribute to his ability to captivate an audience with charm. His journey which brings him to this time and place is revealed throughout and shows evidence of gratitude and humility, coinciding with interest and humor ...
Jason Morris: Musically Yogic at the Metropolitan Room (Returning on Monday March 17, 2014) Read Review>
MetroStar's 1st Runner Up Jason Morris is not only an international trainer of yoga teachers and a successful entrepreneur involved in a successful chain of yoga centers; he is also an accomplished and unique performer. In his recent appearance at the Metropolitan Room, Mr. Morris continues to validate his mantra: “music has not only the power to move us to feel, but more importantly, the power that propels us to act and heal.”
Spending time with Jason Morris and his music is indeed powerful: his insistence on being in the present and being completely authentic is healing for the mind, the body, and the spirit ...
“Row After Row” at the Women’s Project Theater at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday February 16, 2014) Read Review>
Trope after trope thrusts Jessica Dickey’s “Row After Row” into a kaleidoscope of images present and past celebrating humankind’s insistence on moving forward through often seemingly insurmountable “battles” on an off the theatres of war. Currently running at New York City Stage II, “Row After Row” is part of the Women’s Project Theater’s thirty-sixth season of presenting plays written by and directed by women. Ms. Dickey’s play is a haunting, albeit comedic, reminder of the existential angst of living isolated in a vacuum of power with “no army, no flag, no uniform” not knowing “which direction to march, what to kill, what to save.”
“Almost, Maine” at the Gym at Judson (through Sunday March 2, 2014) Read Review>
Ginette (Kelly McAndrew) and Pete (John Cariani) provide the dramatic context for Mr. Cariani’s “Almost, Maine” currently running at the Gym at Judson and already extended one week even before its opening date. These two complex characters and their equally sophisticated conflicts drive an intricate plot about the complexities of human relationships. Their search for intimacy in the midst of ennui and profound loneliness counterpoints the same quest in the lives of eight other couples who venture out on the same snowy Friday night in the uncharted terrain of Almost, Maine.
“Beertown” at 59E59 Theater C (Through Sunday February 16, 2014) Read Review>
The current research on memory is not only exhaustive but exciting as well and although this data is not within the purview of this review of dog & pony dc’s “Beertown,” the questions about memory are relevant to this significant theatre piece currently running at 59E59 Theater C. What is memory and is it static or dynamic? What is sacred to a village and who decides that question? What really matters in a community’s history and in the re-collection of that history?
“The Window” at the Cherry Lane Theater (Through Sunday January 26, 2014) Read Review>
There is an interesting, stylish and refreshing short play entitled “The Window” debuting now at the Cherry Lane Studio Theater, produced by Teatro Italiano Network. It is an intriguing work which plays well on stage but also has the uncanny ability to present itself somewhat as a television series which you want to tune into next week to see what happens to the characters. It appears as only one minor episode in their complicated yet ever so human existence certainly having an interesting past and an exciting future. It is a story of three characters coming to terms with who they are and what they want, accepting that knowledge, and moving on to more discoveries about themselves and others. The plot is clever but it is the characters that are fascinating as they peel away superficial layers to expose their true selves and enjoy the revelation. The entire cast is excellent and wears the 1950’s time period well in fashion and social mores.
Stacy Sullivan: A Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee at the Metropolitan Room (Through Saturday April 26, 2014) Read Review>
Any day is a good day when it includes sitting in the iconic Metropolitan Room listening to the equally exemplary Stacy Sullivan and her “Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee.” Ms. Sullivan understands the nature of a tribute as she examines the career of Peggy Lee, knowing who she was and what she was and using that vehicle to take the audience on a transcendent ride through her own reconstructed and re-imagined tour of the musical icon’s songbook.
The music, lyrics, and Ms. Sullivan’s style, phrasing and pure tone transport her audience to another time and place where she “messes with” the material ...
Marilyn Maye: “Marilyn by Request” at the Metropolitan Room (Thursday January 9, 2014) Read Review>
Cabaret legend Marilyn Maye extends the celebration of the New Year with seven glorious performances at the Metropolitan Room in Manhattan. Joined by Billy Stritch (piano), Tom Hubbard (bass), and Warren Odze (drums), Ms. Maye dazzles her fans for ninety remarkable minutes with her unique blend of song stylist, lyricist, and shaman.
Baby Jane Dexter: More Rules of the Road (Fridays April 18 and 25, 2014) Read Review>
Baby Jane Dexter will return to the Metropolitan Room on two Fridays in April 2014. Here is a review of her “Rules of the Road” from December 2013.
Baby Jane Dexter steps onto the stage of The Metropolitan Room on the first evening of her current nine-show run with the confidence and grace that have become hallmarks of this cabaret legend. Most accomplished vocalists use their physical instruments to create what becomes their signature “style.” Baby Jane Dexter sings with not only her vocal instrument: she also sings with her entire body, mind, and spirit. In fact, there are times when her vocal “instrument” includes her musical director Ross Patterson. It is sometimes difficult to discern where voice and accompaniment diverge.
“Miss Lead” at 59E59 Theater B (Through Sunday January 26, 2014) Read Review>
Any controversy resulting from the atrocities heaped upon the nations of the Original Peoples of North America by the United States and its corrupt and capricious Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is an important and somber discussion. Mary Kathryn Nagle’s “Miss Lead” brings sharp and disturbing focus to the events surrounding the Tri-State Mining District in Joplin, Missouri.
“Devin Bing and the Secret Service Part Deux” at the Metropolitan Room (Through February 28, 2014) Read Review>
On April 7, 2013 Theatre Reviews Limited observed that the engaging Devin Bing was on a journey to success and that it was important for this delightful and talented crooner to decide soon which “road” would be the best choice for him. This review comes after returning to the Metropolitan Room to revisit musical artist Devin Bing to hear his “Secret Service Part Deux” and to observe how Mr. Bing has progressed in his career.
“I Am the Wind” at 59E59 Theater C (Through January 26, 2014) Read Review>
Billed as the confrontation of the inexorable mystery of fate by two friends spending a day boating, Jon Fosse’s “I Am the Wind,” currently running at 59E59 Theater C is better understood as a brilliant and often disturbing examination of ontology – “the philosophical study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.”
“She is King” at Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery (Through January 26, 2014) Read Review>
Laryssa Husiak’s “She is King,” currently running at Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery, is a heartfelt and emotionally compelling tribute to the life and spirit of tennis superstar and innovator Billie Jean King. Ms. Husiak, who also portrays Billie Jean King, provides a sensitive and authentic depiction of the tennis star’s passion for gender equality, the importance of tennis being an open sport, and the importance of an entertainer’s “emotional involvement” with the audience/spectators.
“She is King” includes verbatim accounts of three important interviews in King’s long career ...
Anita Gillette: “After All” at the Metropolitan Room (December 16, 2013) Read Review>
When an actor sings, lyrics and music are transformed into a performance of a unique kind. When that actor has appeared in fourteen Broadway shows as well as in film and on television – as Anita Gillette has – the performance is majestic and transformative. For example, when Anita Gillette sings Kander and Ebb’s “Don’t Tell Mama” (from “Cabaret”) or Bob Merrill’s “Mira” (from “Carnival”), her body is firmly planted on the stage of the Metropolitan Room but her spirit is on the stages of the Imperial Theatre, the Broadway Theatre, and the Winter Garden Theatre.
Anita Gillette’s passion for where she has come from and her celebration of the moment is exhilarating and is evident in each song that she styles ...
“I Could Say More” at the Hudson Guild Theatre Read Review>
Billed as a “the tale of a modern family,” “I Could Say More” is primarily the tale of a train wreck of a summer weekend (and a fast forward to its fall conclusion) shared by the newly-married hosts Carl (Chuck Blasius) and Drew (Brett Douglas), their adopted son Jason (Brandon Smalls) and a smorgasbord of family, friends, and their assorted mates. If one defines “modern family” as infidelity, rancor, jealousy, homophobia, and unhappiness incarnate then Mr. Blasius’ new play is about the nature of the modern family. Hopefully, however, the future of the American family is far from what “I Could Say More” attempts to portray.
“What’s It All About?” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through January 5, 2014) Read Review>
When Kyle Riabko finishes his improvised introduction of the band and the origin of “What’s It All About” which he co-conceived with David Lane Seltzer, he glides into his soulful arrangement of “Anyone Who Had A Heart” (Bacharach/Hal David). The audience collectively leans in (Mr. Riabko intentionally makes his audience pay attention) and everyone is immediately aware they are in the realm of re-imagination – somewhere just beyond the iconic Never Neverland. And the journey for the remaining ninety minutes is exhilarating, redemptive, and restorative of spirit.
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Walter Kerr Theatre (Open Run) Read Review>
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is a rollicking romp through the hilarious escapades of Monty Navarro (Bryce Pinkham) as he eagerly disposes of any relative who appears to be an obstacle in his desire to become the heir to the Earl of Highhurst and the D’Ysquith family fortune. It is a sumptuous theatrical feast that serves up seven delectable courses of death and murder, accompanied by two delicious vintage love affairs, with flavors that are complex and combustible. This delectation is presented with wonderful melodic music, clever lyrics and incredibly detailed, lush period costumes by Linda Cho that capture every mood and scene to perfection.
“And Away We Go” at the Pearl Theatre Company (Through December 15) Read Review>
Terrence McNally’s “And Away We Go,” currently running at The Pearl Theatre Company, has the capacity to shake even the most torpid theatre-goers to tears. In fact, it literally shakes the theatre! The Pearl’s 30th Season world premiere celebrates the endurance of the theatre throughout the ages and consecrates the “spirit” of the theatre that transcends time and space. That spirit has survived all plagues (ancient and modern), all revolutions, all man-made and natural disasters, and all fiscal challenges (local and global). Indeed, all of these challenges have served to strengthen the entity we call the theatre and make it even more resilient and more resplendent. “Away We Go” is pure theatrical brilliance.
“Witnessed by the World” at 59E59 Theater B (Through December 15) Read Review>
With thousands of books published about John F. Kennedy, including tomes promulgating a variety of assassination conspiracy theories, it would seem risky to write a script about the events surrounding yet another conspiracy theory. Notwithstanding, Ronnie Cohen and Jane Beale decide to take that risk on the 50th Anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination with their new “Witnessed by the World” currently playing at 59E59 Theater B. It is regrettable to report that their concerted effort does not result in the success they most likely anticipated. The production falls flat on almost every level.
“One Night …” at the Cherry Lane Theatre (Through December 15, 2013) Read Review>
The utter moral ambiguity of war and its accoutrements is powerfully reflected in Charles Fuller’s spellbinding “One Night …” the co-production of Cherry Lane Theatre and Rattlestick Playeright’s Theatre currently running at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Although Mr. Fuller’s play provides no new information about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in returning war veterans – that is not the purpose of this important play – it does focus on important matters of motivation, including the need to confess and the desire to be forgiven.
“All That Fall” at 59E59 Theater A (Through December 8, 2013) Read Review>
During her belabored round trip from her home to the train station to pick up her husband Mr. Rooney (Michael Gambon) on his birthday, Mrs. Rooney (Eileen Atkins) rehearses the variety of her physical and emotional deficits: there is much that has “bowed down” this seemingly broken older woman; however, she has all but given up on any chance of divine intervention for redemption or release. The Rooney’s malaise is the subject of Samuel Beckett’s timeless “All That Fall” currently gracing the Theater A stage at 59E59.
What’s On – A List of Some of My Favorite Arts Organizations (Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
When I moved to Cincinnati with my family four years ago I was immediately impressed by the richness and variety of the arts in our city, while at the same time feeling disoriented and under-informed about what was available and how to find it. There was no arts calendar in the single remaining daily paper and the alternative free newspapers were not always comprehensive or accurate in their listings of museums, galleries, theatres, films, plays and concerts. I had to hunt and peck ...
In an effort to help all of my Cincinnati friends – newly-arrived or long-term residents – I offer this short list. While by no means comprehensive, it includes arts organizations in Cincinnati in several categories: museums, theatres, concert series, all of which are among my favorites.
“Fix Me, Jesus” at Abingdon Theatre Company’s Dorothy Streslin Theatre (Through November 24) Read Review>
There appears to be a considerable amount of fixing going on in Dallas, Texas in November of 1986 and in the preceding decades leading up to Annabell Armstrong’s (played with brilliance by Polly Lee) last minute shopping spree at Dallas’ famed Neiman Marcus store. Primarily, almost everyone in Annabell’s life has thought she needed fixing – everyone except Jesus.
“How to Make Friends and then Kill Them” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through November 24) Read Review>
Co-dependent sisters Ada (Katya Campbell) and Sam (Keira Keeley) and their alter-ego sidekick Dorrie (Jen Ponton) suffer from a somewhat classic case of disambiguation and their individual and corporate arrested development occupy the stage in Helley Feiffer’s complex and often disturbing “How to Make Friends and then Kill Them” currently running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
“Disaster!” at the St. Luke’s Theatre (Open Run) Read Review>
As parodies go, Seth Rudetsky’s “Disaster!” is among the best. Eschewing lampooning just one disaster-genre movie, Mr. Rudetsky and Mr. Plotnick successfully spoof several of the catalog of doomsday films of the 1970s that feature the disfigurement, death, and discord that results from some combination of electrical or natural gas disturbances; earthquakes; floods; tsunami; sinking ships; plagues; or infestations. There is even a nod to the volcano disaster films. But no spoilers will be proffered here. Audience members will have to find their own way through the morass of movie mayhem. Suffice it to say that in “Disaster!” floating casino guest Shirley (Mary Testa) chooses tap dancing over swimming to save the day for fellow casino guests and staff.
The 25th Annual Festival of New Musicals Read Review>
Anyone with fears that there is a dearth of new musicals on the horizon can stop worrying: the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) has been hard at work since 1989 introducing writers and their new musicals to significant theatre industry leaders. The nine new musicals introduced at this syear’s Festival garnered overwhelming support from those leaders who packed Stages 2 and 4 at New World Stages in New York City to develop a working relationship with the new musicals and their writers.
"Singing in the Rain," at College-Conservatory of Music (Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
OK, let’s have a show of hands here! How many of you have not seen Singin’ in the Rain? The movie…Anyone hasn’t? …Well, I have news for y’all! Meet the triple-threat kids of the College-Conservatory of Music. Location: Cincinnati, Ohio. Smack in the middle of middle-America...fly-over land for some of you fancy folks out there… And…golly-geez, can they dance up a storm! And sing…and make you laugh!
“Romeo and Juliet” at Classic Stage Company (through November 10, 2013) Read Review>
Anyone attempting to assist students (high school or college) grapple with the multi-layered meanings in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” ought to be banging down the door of Classic Stage Company’s box office to schedule a performance for their classes before this scintillating and often disturbing production of the Bard’s classic closes on Sunday November 10, 2013. The rest of the population – groundlings though we be – should be clamoring to get to the box office before the faculty does.
Cabaret at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
With their Broadway show Cabaret, Fred Ebb (lyrics), John Kander (music), and Joe Masteroff (book) brought to life a unique concept musical in which two plot lines run concurrently on parallel tracks until they fatefully intersect.
Cabaret, tells the story of Sally Bowles on her journey from small-town England though the seediest corners of the Berlin of the early 1930’s, and on to the brink of doomsday. A secondary yarn, counterpointed by the naughty acts that appear on stage in the cabaret of the title, is that of Clifford, an aspiring American writer, in search of his true literary and sexual identities ...
“The Landing” at the Vineyard Theatre Read Review>
“The Landing” is a smart new musical that frames three short tales. Each – “Andra,” “The Brick,” and “The Landing” – has unique characters with unique conflicts; however, the three are cleverly connected thematically. They are also consociated by the powerful image introduced by Collin (Frankie Seratch) in the final tale of the three-part musical: the “big boat with a long rope” serves as a scintillating extended metaphor for the difficulty one encounters when passion runs amok and the best laid plans of women, men, and harbingers of doom “gang agley” (as they often do). Desire, love, and loss connect each tale with a sometimes humorous, sometimes chilling result.
“The Downtown Loop” at 3LD Art and Technology Center through November 16, 2013 Read Review>
“Downtown Loop” often takes the same “swimming” break (euphemism for a nap) its unnamed tour guide (Greg Carere) indulges in during its often exciting but sometimes boring journey through downtown Manhattan. With his trainee (Sam Soghor), the energetic but somehow jaded tour guide talks his passengers through the streets and canyons of the “demon god” of the city that never sleeps. His tour, interrupted by the coming and going of tour participants and a variety of street vendors and characters from the guide’s life, includes fact and fiction and far too often veers off course.
“Juno and the Paycock” at the Irish Repertory Theatre through December 8, 2013 Read Review>
The Boyle family is a wounded family whose vitality has been disarmed by struggles within the family system and a myriad of conflicts without the confines of that system. Perhaps the Boyles’ most significant problem is economic: “Captain” Jack Boyle (Ciarán O’Reilly) abhors work and the mere suggestion of responding to an offer of work sends sharp pains up and down one leg and then the other. His wife Juno (J. Smith-Cameron) and daughter Mary (Mary Mallen) do their best to keep the family tenement supplied with life’s necessities. Adding to the family’s difficulties is son Johnny (Ed Malone) who lost his arm in Ireland’s War of Independence.
“The Model Apartment” at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theater A Read Review>
One cannot pay off the past. Unless it is confronted and dealt with, it just keeps impacting the present and future. Although Donald Margulies’ “The Model Apartment” seems to deal solely with the detritus of Holocaust fallout, the play is about far more and warrants the current Primary Stages revival of this 1995 OBIE Award winning play at 59E59 Theaters.
Holocaust survivors Max (Mark Blum) and Lola (Kathryn Grody) escape from Brooklyn and their daughter Debby (Diane Davis) in the “middle of the night” hoping to escape not only the ghosts of the Holocaust but the present reality of their suffering in the symbolic personage of Debby ...
“Jericho” at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
All the characters in Jack Canfora’s “Jericho” have lost their footing. In their post-9/11 world of 2005, things have fallen apart and their moral and emotional centers have failed to hold. Their pre-9/11 ceremony of innocence is long past. Lacking conviction, the best of these characters wrestle with the passionate intensity of the worst among them and the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.
“Bronx Bombers” at Primary Stages at the Duke Read Review>
Reggie Jackson (Francois Battiste) in Eric Simonson’s “Bronx Bombers” is spot on: much of his bombastic rhetoric in the meeting in a hotel room in the Boston Sheraton in 1977 with Yogi Berra, Thuman Munson, and Billy Martin is “a metaphor.” Indeed, Mr. Simonson’s powerful play is an extended metaphor for the rewards of struggle, triumph over adversity, and managing crisis at the crossroads of life.
The lengthy but important first act of “Bronx Bombers” provides the exposition of the play’s dramatic structure ...
Seven Spots on the Sun at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
In KJ Sanchez’ bracing staging of Martin Zimmerman’s Seven Spots on the Sun now receiving its world premiere production on the Thompson Shelterhouse at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, we meet the denizens of a small rural town somewhere in Latin America. Reconstructing their lives after a civil war that has taken its toll on their community, the men and women of the town relive their past, piece together their present and trace an outline of what the future may bring.
“Lady Day” at the Little Shubert Theatre Read Review>
“Lady Day,” the musical currently playing at the Little Shubert Theatre, opens with the band and Billie Holiday’s manager Robert (David Ayers) waiting for the star’s late arrival for the final rehearsal for that night’s concert at a London Theatre. What is an annoyance for the band becomes a treat for the audience when the quartet decides to rehearse “Rhythm Is Our Business,” instantly setting the tone and mood for what is to come. Although these polished musicians are excellent with a well-crafted style and fine technical skill, their performance is no barometer of future proceedings ...
"Bike America" at the Theatre at St. Clement's Read Review>
Just as Penny, Rorie, Annabel, Ryan, and Tim Billy make several significant stops on their bike trip from Boston to the west coast, “Bike America” makes several significant stops on its way to its dramatic climax, falling action, and resolution. Although a variety of interesting conflicts drive a variety of interesting story lines, Mike Lew’s play, like its protagonist Penny, never seems to find itself. Interestingly, that is not in itself a negative thing. Mr. Lew’s play perfectly counterpoints the “millennial moments” Penny experiences as she attempts to “drop down on some other life” than her own.
“A Lady Is Waiting” at the cell (A Twentieth Century Salon) Read Review>
There are at least fifty ways to leave your lover – or your spouse (Paul Simon). Doris’ newfound friend suggests the forgive-and-forget approach, the time-to-move-on mantra. Doris takes a more direct approach, as might her deceased aunt Claire: Doris burns the house down when she discovers her husband Joseph, Sr. left her for her newfound friend’s male fiancé. This decision landed her in hospital until she recovered from her burns and later in sanatorium for obvious reasons.
“The International” at the cell (A Twenty First Century Salon) Read Review>
The recent chemical warfare waged by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people is a graphic reminder of how indiscriminate war is and how equally indiscriminate those who wage war are. Playwright Tim Ruddy uses the July 1995 genocide at Srebrenica to underscore what happens when innocent people are caught in the crossfire of conflict and are even targeted for extinction as the boys and men at Srebrenica were. Ruddy’s “The International” views the genocide from three distinct points of view: first from that of Irena Hasanovic a Muslim woman living in the area of incursion; second from that of Hans a member of the International forces charged with protecting the locals from the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS); and finally from the point of view of Dave a young truck driver who is watching the genocide play out live on television at his Los Angeles home and local bar. All three are hedging their bets on a felicitous outcome in real time.
“Natural Affection” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row Read Review>
If one of TACT’s missions is to discover and produce lost plays, their endeavors have reached a significant level of success in their recent production of William Inge’s “Natural Affection” which has not been seen in New York City since its short 1963 run at the Booth Theatre. The significant themes of this remarkable play are precisely the themes of the twenty-first century global community. This is the perfect time for a production of “Natural Affection.”
“The Morons” at the cell Read Review>
Imagine Arthur Miller’s Loman family: Willy, Linda, Biff, and Happy. Now add Edward Albee’s Martha and George and their “son” to the mix. Finally, append Shakespeare’s thoughts on old age from “As You Like It” beginning with “All the world’s a stage” and concluding with “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” The resulting blend resembles something close to Dan McCormick’s play “The Morons” currently running at the cell as part of the 1st Irish Festival’s Next Generation Series.
“Shakespeare’s Sister” at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (La Mama) Read Review>
Something is cooking at the ever so edgy and inventive La Mama Ellen Stewart Theatre – Irina Brooks’ adaptation of “Shakespeare’s Sister” – and it is absolutely delicious.
Bloomsbury Group writer Virginia Woolf imagined the existence of Shakespeare’s sister while she was preparing a lecture on women and fiction, a somewhat ambiguous subject. Woolf wrote, “The title women and fiction might mean women and what they are like; or it might mean women and the fiction that they write; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them; or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together.”
“Fetch Clay, Make Man” at the New York Theatre Workshop Read Review>
The ancient Mesopotamians, the ancient Egyptians, the African peoples of Silluk and Pangwe, the Amerindians, the Karens of Burma, and the Incas all have folkloric tales about the creation of humans from clay, earth, or mud. Their deities, in short, fetched clay and made humankind. Will Power’s “Fetch Clay, Make Man” chronicles the making of the man Muhammad Ali from the clay of companionship with Hollywood star Stepin Fetchit. Both men were unpopular at the time of Ali’s 1965 contest with Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine. Critics complained that Lincoln Perry’s Stepin Fethit – “the laziest man in the world” – was not only racist but ultimately subversive. Critics affirmed that Ali’s ego and bravado were not what the African American community needed or wanted.
“McGoldrick’s Thread” at Theatre 80 Read Review>
One of the many facets of Origin’s 1st Irish Festival is the little jewel “McGoldrick’s Thread” which shines with family values that are steeped in Irish tradition. It carries a heartfelt message that is timeless and delivers it with the help of some high spirited Irish dancing and sentimental songs. The story is simple with an old theme. There can be some definite improvement in the book and dialogue, but they serve the purpose and the story captures the audience in an endearing way. The music and lyrics could soar with a more sophisticated approach to vocal and instrumental arrangements but for now they lack the necessary complexity to achieve the maximum dramatic punch. The entire cast transcends the material and provides the necessary elements for a fine evening of entertainment that is filled with pride in the Irish heritage.
“Fly” at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
Even fifty-three years ago, when I first came to this country, the sight of men and women, African-Americans and Latinos and Whites working together in the same branch of the military would have been rare. Were it not for the revelatory work of the playwriting team of Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan, authors of the impressive play FLY, now on stage at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, their vicissitudes and eventual triumphs in the days of segregated US Armed Forces of WWII would continue to be as ignored as it was five decades ago.
“Brendan at the Chelsea” at the Acorn Theatre Read Review>
When the synopsis of a dramatic performance offers more information than the performance itself, the creative team needs to perhaps evaluate ways to more effectively translate script to stage or examine the script itself to see if it needs the intervention of a dramaturge. Such is the case with Janet Behan’s recent offering about the life and times of her famed uncle’s early nineteen sixties stay at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City.
Interview: Lynn Meyers: Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati – 2013-2014 SEASON (Cincinnati, OH) Read Interview>
Our man-in-Cincinnati Rafael de Acha chats with Lynn Meyers, Producing Artistic Director of the ground-breaking Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, described in her own words as "the only fully professional Equity theatre in the region (to) support local professional artists and actors...whose primary purpose is to bring premiere works to Greater Cincinnati."
RDA - "How did you decide to define your identity as 'Cincinnati's home for premiere productions' and to locate in the difficult Over-the Rhine neighborhood?...
“Other Desert Cities” at Lynn Meyers’ Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
Jon Robin Baitz was recognized early on in his career as the brightest and most promising playwright in the dog-eat-dog world of New York theatre. He then went west to helm the TV series Brothers and Sisters as principal writer. Seven years of absence from the boards did not cause him to lose his playwriting chops. In 2011 New York beckoned and Baitz bit hook, line and sinker, giving his latest play to Lincoln Center, where it had a good run before transferring to Broadway for yet another respectable outing.
“The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle” at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
It is in Eric Argyle’s (Dave McEntegart) worrying about tomorrow and in his search for a life that matters that he begins to slowly (but indubitably) die. All of this occurs long before he decides to “save time crossing the road by not looking” at 1:03 a.m. And all of this occurs before he finds himself before some “celestial” interrogator (Moderator Katie Lyons) who tells Eric’s dead self, “Tonight, you’re going to be looking at a series of pre-selected events and answering questions about them.”
“The Cheaters Club” at the Abrons Art Center Read Review>
At the beginning of the second act of Derek Ahonen’s “Cheaters Club,” Susan, Pat, Charlie, and Linda storm Savannah’s Chaney Inn looking for their cheating spouses. After the first act, the audience re-enters the Abrons Art Center feeling equally bamboozled by their hosts The Amoralists. This well-intentioned (and hastily concocted) mélange of Southern Gothic, magic realism, SNL comedy, and Seth MacFarlane-esque humor quickly veers from the co-founders’ goal of producing theatre dedicated to “the American condition, plunging the depths of the social, political, spiritual, and sexual characteristics of human nature.” Although one does not expect Harper Lee, Carson McCullers, or Tennessee Williams fare, one does expect the highest standards of writing and acting normally proffered by The Amoralists.
“The Awake” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Despite the watchmen’s recurrent and plaintive admonition to join the ranks of the awake, humankind has doggedly chosen to consort with the perhaps less discomfiting echelons of the asleep, the unconscious, or perhaps even the lifeless. Ken Urban’s masterful “The Awake” chronicles the interconnected lives of three characters balanced precariously between the world of the awake and the world of the unconscious. Mr. Urban’s script is a mind-splitting journey into the individual lives of these characters and what ultimately conjoins them in a new and lonely pilgrimage to hope.
Malcolm (Andy Phelan) has put his life on hold to stay at home with his mother. “My mom needs me,” he tells Gabrielle. “My dad left us when I was a kid and she took it really hard.” ...
“Reunion Run” at the New York International Fringe Festival at Teatro Latea Read Review>
Despite being second cousins, Ronnie (Jessica Myhr) and Danny (Seth Reich) have had a romantic attraction to one another since childhood and are finally able to confess and consummate their love for one another at the annual family reunion in Philadelphia in January 2009. This is not an easy reunion: Ronnie is married to gambling-addicted Steve with children and second cousin Danny is recently divorced with children. Nonetheless, both star-crossed lovers believe they were “meant to love” each other.
“Peninsula” at the New York International Fringe Festival at the Robert Moss Theater Read Review>
It is ironic that by refusing to go to New York City, his last opportunity to escape into freedom, protagonist Tiago (Josue Gutierrez Guerra) is murdered then pushed off a thirty-nine foot sail boat wrapped in sailcloth. He begins his descent into death’s memory vault and launches into his role as unreliable narrator extraordinaire. Tiago’s remarkable and mind-splitting postmortem narrative is corroborated real time by his most recent boss at the orchard where he worked as a migrant laborer on the quiet peninsula in Northern Michigan where Brazilian Boy Tiago ran and swam headlong into the worst apparition of the American Dream.
“Soul Doctor” at Circle in the Square Read Review>
Affirming that the world needed love in 1965 and continues to need love in the twenty-first century is a lovely thought and a fitting mantra for a world mired in ennui and daily teetering on the brink of global conflict. However, what the world has always needed is a qualified purveyor of love: the world needs someone who not only appreciates what love is but also apprehends how to share love in non-judgmental, unconditional, and prodigal ways. What the world needs is a love doctor, a soul doctor.
“Bully” at the New York International Fringe Festival at the Steve and Marie Sgouros Theatre Read Review>
After a full fifteen-minute intense visceral, sweaty, and well-rounded pre-curtain warm-up, Lee J. Kaplan launches into his equally intense visceral, sweaty, and well-rounded boxing match with all things bullying. Mr. Kaplan makes it clear that if one is to beat the bully at his/her own game, one needs to be in excellent shape or know someone in better shape to be at one’s back.
Extending the metaphor of boxing throughout his sixty-minute marathon performance, Mr. Kaplan rehearses his history of being bullied from his sixth grade class with Mrs. Dolittle (who literally does little to help Lee other than spew platitudes and stand at the sidelines of abuse) to his present struggles with self-esteem and self-acceptance despite his successful career as an actor and voice-over artist ...
“Luke Nicholas” at the New York International Fringe Festival at Teatro Circulo Read Review>
“Luke Nicholas” is the quintessential example of what should be found at the ongoing NY International Fringe Festival. It is good theater, refreshing, new, innovative and well written, always keeping the audience engaged with surprising twists and turns. It examines the parameters of an open gay relationship testing boundaries only to realize what is required to survive the sometimes ugly, hurtful and unintentional battles. Dissected, the script is simple, the sum of its parts propels it to a complicated, and intriguing “art imitates life” or vice versa, turn of events.
The plot revolves around a playwright, his husband and a bisexual stripper. To reveal more is not necessary and would affect audience viewing pleasure. It concerns trust, truth, limits, lust, love and priorities that affect, build or destroy a relationship. It is human, real, raw and honest in depicting present day social mores ...
“cal and grey” at the New York International Fringe Festival at CSV Kabayitos Read Review>
Cal and Grey (“with an ‘e’”) are two teenage boys considered to be expendable. They were warehoused in their post-infancy by the revolutionary regime whose takeover eliminated “all men and women” and placed all children in orphanages until they were twenty-one. With many other institutionalized children, Cal and Grey survive by adhering to a diet of strict obedience to a warden and his abusive staff who have become their dysfunctional extended family.
In the course of Becca Schlossberg’s parabolic new play “cal and grey,” Cal (Justin Blake Broido) falls deeply in love with Grey (Nick Martin) and the consummation of their affection for one another is the turning point of this remarkable play whose important themes of self-worth and survival reverberate with the honest and authentic performances furnished by the play’s focused and abstracted cast ...
“Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea” at the New York International Fringe Festival at CSV Kabayitos Read Review>
Friends from childhood, Adam (Topher Rasmussen) and Steve (Logan Tarantino) each need validation from the other as they move forward from graduation and decide where to spend their college years together. Adam needs to know his friend affirms his strong commitment to Mormon values and, after coming out to Adam, Steve needs to know his friend truly understands his sexual status and accepts him. An idyllic pre-Fall scenario which does not play out as planned. Mormon and gay simply do not mix.
Matthew Greene’s script folds scenes from Adam and Steve’s competitive and naïve childhood into scenes from post-high school and into the future of these two friends ...
“Gertrude Stein SAINTS!” at the New York International Fringe Festival at the Ellen Stewart Theatre – La MaMa Read Review>
[The Prelude: Joseph and I believe that the thing we call theatre – from idea to performance to review and beyond – is a collaborative process. No one entity in that process is more important than another. Writers, directors, casts, creative teams, critics, audiences are all accountable to preserve the core of the dramatic process and are accountable to one another. This is our first collaborative review and we believe it should be a model for the critical process. Let us know what you believe and what you think, and what you feel about our belief.]
The Fugue: Joseph and I asked the cast to determine how they would approach their work as critics: what was important to evaluate? ...
“Harbor” at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theater A Read Review>
It is difficult to encounter Chad Berguelin’s “Harbor” and not utilize significant critical psychological-mythological strategies for viewing and understanding his exceptional new play which is currently running at 59E59 Theaters as the first installment in Primary Stages’ new season. “Harbor” is all about family dysfunction, the condition agonizing the Adams and Adams-Weller families “for a long time.”
All the characters in Mr. Berguelin’s drama are in some fashion “disabled” and assiduously waiting for a “savior:” someone to heal them, transform them, and lead them to healing stirred-up waters ...
“Love, Genius and A Walk” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre Read Review>
Long walks are important not only for those on foot but also for those left behind waiting for the return of (most often) the beloved. Has the one loved left them? Has the beloved perhaps come to some harm? Are they ever coming back? When they do return, will things ever be the same?
The ‘walk’ in Gay Walley’s “Love, Genius and A Walk” is an extended metaphor for the vicissitudes of human relationships as well as the metamorphoses in the individual human being. The ‘genius’ is more sophisticated than reference to the gift of high intellect of Gustav Mahler or Sigmund Freud: ‘genius’ in Wally’s well-constructed play is more about having the right stuff – in this case, the right stuff to explore human love in all its complexity and mystery.
“Crossing Swords” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre Read Review>
“Crossing Swords” is an important new musical with multilayered and interweaving plot structures driven by a matrix of well-developed, dynamic characters who share a repository of complicated plots that the audience can readily identify with and understand. Joe Slabe has created an endearing book musical with transcendent lyrics and music and powerful and redemptive themes spun by an unexpected love triangle and a seemingly impossible love affair between a Francophile and an Anglophile living in more than different cultural worlds.
“I Forgive You, Ronald Reagan” at The Beckett Theatre Read Preview>
Performances continue at The Beckett Theatre (410 West 42nd Street) for “I Forgive You, Ronald Reagan,” the new play by John S. Anastasi in which the present is on a collision course with the past. Opening Night was on July 30 at 7:00 p.m. In “I Forgive You, Ronald Reagan,” when it comes to air traffic, Ray Deluso has everything under control. But on the ground, his life is a struggle after a rebellious political decision in the early eighties. Twenty years later, pride, anger, and obsession threaten the only things that matter to him: his wife and daughter. Can Ray find forgiveness and gain control, even if it means letting go?
Directed by Charles Abbott, the cast features: PJ Benjamin (“Wicked,” “Damn Yankees”), Danielle Faitelson (“Honky”), Robert Emmet Lunney (“Born Yesterday”, “Mauritius”), and Patricia Richardson (“Home Improvement” – Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominee) ...
“Dancing on Nails” at Theatre 8 Read Review>
If one desired seeing someone dancing on nails, he or she could view one or more of several short videos on You Tube depicting that activity: one woman even balances pots on her head while dancing on nails. Alternatively, one could view Paul Manuel Kane’s new play “Dancing on Nails” at the wonderful Theatre 80 in St. Mark’s Place in New York City. The latter choice is preferable and certainly more rewarding.
All the characters in Mr. Kane’s delightful tragic-comedic drama are dancing on nails except, perhaps, Luba Fogel (Bryna Weiss) who shares the story of a man dancing on nails in the West Village with her acquaintance (it is not really a friendship) Sam Heisler owner of a hardware store in the Village in 1953 ...
“The Violin Maker” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the Jewel Box Theater Read Review>
Space (by itself) and time (by itself) fade away in Roark Littlefield’s scintillating and intriguing new short play “The Violin Maker” currently running in New York City as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival. Sixty-three year old violin maker Simon is in a coma and attempting to “rewrite” some of his past. This past includes Amy a musician he “met” when they both were in their twenties. However, Amy cannot play the violin, talks to the father she lost to death years ago, and seems to be a figment of the dying Simon’s mind. Or is she?
Just as the audience congratulates itself in having unraveled the complex and convoluted conflicts in “The Violin Maker” and feels confident that Amy is a creation of Simon’s mind, Amy declares that she “was convinced that [Simon] was not real” and that she “had made him up.” ...
“Motel Rasdell” at the Midtown International Fringe Festival at the June Havoc Theatre Read Review>
The new musical “Motel Rasdell” debuting at MITF has a talented cast that works enthusiastically to overcome the blatant obstacles that are set before them. This new work offers nothing new or innovative as it attempts to continue development. The music is repetitive and derivative and to use the old tired theater cliché “vamps till death” with no evident purpose. Some musical numbers may be deleted since they are not plot driven and deemed as unnecessary inventory. The book is weak and the plot thin introducing characters we have seen time and time again. Direction and choreography uses the space and limited resources well which provides some entertaining moments when the opportunity arises.
“The Dark I Know” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre Read Review>
Alex Eisen’s and John Watts’ “The Dark I Know” chronicles the lives of two boys growing up in Frankfurt Germany during Adolph Hitler’s meteoric rise to maniacal power in post Work War I financially ruined Germany. Transported from Berlin to Frankfurt by his adoptive mother Hannah Schenck (Sabina Petra), Lukas (Johnny DiGiorgio) experiences the horrors of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend) and the growing Nazi threat as he befriends his new Jewish friend Noah Freeman (Noah Parets) his new neighbor in Kauffs’ (Warren Schein) building.
A variety of intertwining conflicts drive a dark plot in this new musical and serve as an extended metaphor for the horrors of the holocaust and all movements (past and present) which attempt to break the spirits of free people and enslave them in tyranny and torture ...
“Marry Harry” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre Read Review>
Anyone who enjoys good old fashioned musical theater should certainly find comfort in a new endeavor titled “Marry Harry” which completed a successful run as part of NYMF at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre. This is a full two-hour production which tackles the impetuous plot of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl with a slightly modern day twist. Accessing sorted familiar themes like family values, soul searching youth, contemporary relationships in the age of social media and single parenting, the book is relevant but serves up nothing new or exciting, settling into a tepid, pleasant musical romp. The comical, all too familiar conflicts may keep your interest but would be better served if the pace was quicker and a bit more impulsive.
“Safe” at East to Edinburgh at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
The short description of “Safe” provided by the producers indicates that Penny Jackson’s play is about Nina, “an affluent prep school girl from the East [who] meets a dangerous man” and raises the question whether Nina “will be safe.” The wonderful thing about Ms. Jackson’s play is that the audience is never quite sure whether the dangerous man is suspected sex offender Phillip Goodrich (played with stunning brilliance by Nick Palladino) or Nina’s father Paul (played with the right dash of creepiness by David Lamberton). “Safe” is brimming with moral ambiguity and serves up a delicious taste of what is right and what, ultimately, is wrong.
After her mother’s forced visit to rehab in Minnesota, Nina Foster is forced to stay with her estranged father in New York City (one assumes Central Park West) and during the visit all hell breaks loose ...
“Miserable Lesbians” at East to Edinburgh at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Storm the Prison for Wretched Lesbians! Free the Lezzers from the Jodi Foster Wing! So chants the well-meaning straight Nair-do-well Jean Jackman (Anthony Wemyss) as he rallies the “troops” to free imprisoned lesbians who, twenty years since the start of the French Revolution, still do not have civil rights. Surely the man who helped bring down the oppressive absolute monarchy of King Louis XVI at the infamous barricade can free a few lesbians from the local hoosegow. Does this sound like a parody of “Les Miserables?”
Parodies are meant to be thought-provokingly awful and Sandro Monetti’s new musical “Miserable Lesbians” succeeds in its delicious awfulness as it prepares to move from 59E59’s East to Edinburgh Festival to the veritable Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
“Yesterday Iran/Today Iraq” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Read Review>
War is a damn ugly business and it is no respecter of time, space, civilians, or soldiers. War “breeds strange circumstances.” “Yesterday Iran/Today Iraq” is a short by powerful look at these circumstances as Pvt. Steven “Stippy” Goodman, on the eve of his deployment to Iraq, finds a shoebox full of his grandfather’s World War II V-Mail which he sent to Stippy’s grandmother Belle. Young Pvt. Goodman is fresh out of Basic and Specialized Training and ready to serve, ready to obey orders, ready to make “kills.” Stippy has ingested and digested all the Army has taught him about the glory of war and the invincibility of the United States Armed Services.
“Hollywood! Hollywood!” at the New York International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre Read Review>
“Hollywood! Hollywood!” is a pleasant book musical that follows a group of “young hungry hopefuls faking, taking, and making it in Los Angeles for their chance to star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame” and a pair of older successful Angelenos – Hollywood star Laura Tanner (Trudi Posey) and her agent and paramour Freddy (Robert Zanfini). Ms. Posey’s and Mr. Zanfini’s vocal and dramatic skills ground this sometimes fluffy musical and help the young cast find direction and a center for their characters. The musical has been around since 2005 and one assumes it has seen many productions with multiple casts. It is difficult for actors to find their characters during a short run. Without well-rounded dynamic characters, their conflicts become weak and drive less than engaging plots.
Relationships between former Chippendale Vincent (Ken McGraw, Jr.) and Claire (Erika S. Lee) and between Hollywood malcontent Ryan (John P. Hollingsworth) and stand-by-her-man Melanie (Meghan Ginley) are surrounded by and supported by other Hollywood hopefuls who sing and dance their way through this delightful musical replete with scenes reminiscent of “A Chorus Line,” a Busby Berkeley routine, and the Andrews Sisters (among others) ...
“Bend in the Road” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the PTC Performance Space Read Review>
“Bend in the Road” is a delightful character-driven musical lifted from the framework of the classic 1908 novel “Anne of the Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The musical - like those before it - closely follows the plot of the novel and includes all of the significant moments in Montgomery’s delightful story of Anne Shirley’s coming of age at Green Gables with adoptive parents Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.
The action of the musical occurs primarily in Marilla’s kitchen, Anne’s bedroom, the schoolhouse and yard, Diana Berry’s home, and the “haunted” wood ...
“Margarita and Max” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Read Review>
What could be more absurd than a talking black plastic bag once home to a six-pack of beer? Perhaps more absurd would be hearing the bag talking to Margarita Mariposa as she waits in Cedar Chips, New Jersey for the bus to Manhattan, or hearing Margarita talking to the bag and taking the bag on the bus with her to her job interview at 1515 Broadway. Conceivably, most absurd would be that the bag “becomes flesh and dwells [with Margarita] full of grace and truth (after John 1:14).”
“Boys Will Be Boys” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Studio Theatre Read Review>
Billed as an ‘Out-rageous Musical Revue,’ “Boys Will Be Boys” presented at the Studio Theater as part of the ongoing NYMF certainly lives up to its claim. Almost everything from concept, lyrics, characters, parodies and innuendos are completely over the top and as gay as one can possibly imagine. It is a fun romp very reminiscent in style to the gay revues produced in the 80’s and 90’s with constant sexual innuendo, musical theater parodies and sharp gay wit and slurs. There is nothing ground breaking or new except situations and language has of course been brought up to date. Most of the characters appear as stereotypes which wear thin after a short time and at times are offensive or annoying.
“Color of Life” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival” at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre Read Review>
Sachiko Ishimaru’s “Color of Life” chronicles the relationship between Rachel (Shino Frances) and Kazuya (Yasuhiro Ito) a young couple who meet on a flight to the United States from Tokyo. Kazuya is a young rising Japanese painter on his way to New York and Rachel is a half-Japanese lesbian young woman on her way back from Tokyo where she was visiting her mother. They have ninety days – the length of Kazuya’s visa – to determine how they relate to one another and what kind of relationship makes sense for them.
“Longing for Grace” at the East to Edinburgh Festival at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
“Longing for Grace” is a short play examining the misfortunes of Grace Kelly during her life as the fairytale princess of Monaco and after marrying Prince Rainier III whom she had met while attending the Cannes Film Festival. There are no surprises in the script of the all too familiar story which hailed major publicity about Grace Kelly’s private life and marriage after she died in an accident in the car she was driving as she was taking her daughter Stephanie to a dance recital.
“The Linguists” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the Jewel Box Theatre Read Review>
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal, Vaclav Havel and Edward Albee is a formidable task to undertake. Even to attempt to write a play in the absurdist genre is an impressive accomplishment.
EJ Sepp introduced his new (and his first) play to the pre-curtain audience by reminding them that it was all right to be confused; in fact, being somewhat confused during and after viewing his short play would be a good thing indeed ...
“Dwight” at the Fresh Fruit Festival at the Wild Project Read Review>
“Dwight” is an ill-conceived new play about a group of unlikable LGBT friends (well, no one really knows Cash’s precise sexual status) who hang out in Cash’s BIN, recycle, create art from their recycled treasures, and grumble a lot, especially when Dwight is around – which is most of the time. They unfortunately mistake ex-gangbanger Lex as their enemy even though he is Stacey’s new squeeze. Despite Lex’s efforts to “fit in” (his homophobia does create some tension), he expresses his caring by offering Dwight a condom, urging him to stay clean. Not only does this occur after the friends decide to throw Lex out, but Dwight takes great offense (he takes offense about everything) and initiates a fight with Lex. Lex returns later to make amends but is again evicted from the BIN. It is true that the audience needs to see Lex as a scurrilous cur so they can later blame him for shooting Dwight’s father but enough is enough!
“The Pirates of Finance” at the NYMF at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre Read Review>
Things are not always what they seem on the high seas or in the competitive world of finance. The high-flying team of Veley and Sullivan deliver a delicious convoluted plot in Charles Veley’s “The Pirates of Finance” currently running at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Charles Veley’s lyrics neatly complement Sir Arthur Sullivan’s music (melodies from at least eight Gilbert and Sullivan musicals) to spin a story about love, finance, dastardly deeds in the boardroom, trickery, treachery, and reconciliation ...
“The Year I Was Gifted” at the East to Edinburgh Festival at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Monica Bauer’s one-woman show “The Year I Was Gifted” deals with the heartfelt and endearing themes of loyalty, integrity, survival, and perseverance. It also highlights what occurs when the antitheses of these themes prevail in any segment of the human community and, particularly, in LGBT community and its community of authentic supporters.
In “The Year I Was Gifted,” the fifteen year old wrong-side-of-Omaha, Nebraska’s-tracks narrator needs to “get out of Dodge” before its cattle-slaughtering milieu not only breaks her spirit but breaks her heart ...
“Rubber Ducks and Sunsets” at the Gene Frankel Theatre Read Review>
Bereavement is a lengthy and often painful process. Not only does the “next of kin” need to scramble through the thick underbrush of anger, denial, and bargaining – hoping to accomplish some degree of acceptance – but that person also has to cope with the unraveling of the social system of which he or she has been a part often with deleterious and life-changing results. Catya McMullen’s complex and fascinating “Rubber Ducks and Sunsets” is at its core a play about bereavement and a group of friends’ search for meaning in the madness of loss.
“The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein at the Fresh Fruit Festival at the Wild Project Read Review>
Brian C. Petti’s “The Love Song of Sidney J. Stein” is an impressive retelling/re-imagining of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and the third in a trilogy involving the life of Sidney J. Stein. Although the new play is billed as “a gay relationship story for the new millennium,” its rich characters, their hidden motivations, and their sometimes disquieting conflicts drive a plot far more cathartic than a single gay relationship.
The relationship in question is between forty-five year old halfway house employee Sidney J. Stein (Jim Pillmeier) and seventeen year old gay street hustler Dennis (Dalton Gray) ...
“Life Could Be A Dream” at NYMF at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre Read Review>
The new jukebox musical at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater, presented as part of NYMF, is aptly titled “Life Could Be A Dream” (lyrics from the opening musical number) and is a collection of songs from the late 1950’s Doo Wop era (rather than songs focused on one particular group). The musical numbers are so well integrated that they actually become a part of the clever, comical, endearing but most importantly entertaining script which exhibits a fast paced seamless flow. It is your all American feel good musical that captures your heart, keeps your toes tapping, and vocal chords humming some fond memories. If you have any connection to this distinctive era it is a celebration not to be missed.
“Trapped” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre Read Review>
There is a remarkable gem playing at the June Havoc Theatre as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival which needs more audience attention than it received at its first performance. Henriette Rise’s “Trapped” is a provocative, mind-bending play about the importance of not allowing creativity and freedom to be trapped by “structure, normality, society, and authority.”
Some characters like painters Raoul Dufy and Pablo Picasso and his mistress Dora Maar might be easily identifiable as is feminist Claude Cahun ...
“Swiss Family Robinson” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Linney Theatre Read Review>
In Johann David Wyss’ “The Swiss Family Robinson,” the worst disaster in their ten-year stay is the loss of their donkey to a thirty-foot boa constrictor. There are no donkeys and not one boa constrictor in John and Patrick Kennedy’s reimagining/retelling of Wyss’ classic children’s story. There is another family with a daughter and there are anti-pirates – though the family here is quite different and quite unique (a group of orphans who have grown up on the island with their housemother/queen) and the pirates are a group of rogue French sailors who arrived on the island in a different scenario but are equally fearsome.
“sExtOrtiOn” at the Fresh Fruit Festival at the Wild Project Read Review>
The eleventh annual Fresh Fruit Festival launched its All Out Theatre offerings with Patrick Thomas McCarthy’s “sExtOrtiOn” a complex, multi-layered drama which tackles morally ambiguous themes with a stunning cast portraying equally morally ambiguous characters. In some ways this is an odd “place” for the Festival to begin: the gay characters in this interesting ninety-minute play are neither likable nor lovable (there is a difference).
The only out boy at his high school, Quin Quimby (Joshua Warr) narrates the harrowing tale of sexting gone wrong – terribly wrong ...
“Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies” at East of Edinburgh at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Jessica Sherr has those Bette Davis eyes along with remarkable Davis lookalike hair and lips. This actor utilizes all of these assets to create a winning retrospective of Bette Davis’ personal life and career. The 1939 Academy Awards ceremony on February 29, 1940 serves as bookends to an alluring and earnest memory trail of events from the actor’s rise to success. After Davis leaves the Award ceremony (having discovered from the leaked Los Angeles “Times” article she forfeits the Oscar to Vivien Leigh), she returns home where she reminisces about the vicissitudes of her dark victory.
Ms. Sherr gives performances that are both comedic and dramatic and each of them displays Bette Davis’ feisty demeanor and her distaste for weakness and persons who have nothing “to be passionate about.” ...
“After the Chairs” at the Fresh Fruit Festival at the Wild Project Read Review>
All goes extremely well in David Koteles’ “After the Chairs” - his inventive reimagining/retelling of Ianesco’s “The Chairs” - until the otherwise well constructed play’s end. Marc (Allen Warnock) and his partner Richard (Don Cummings) are unique re-tellings of Ianesco’s Old Man and Old Woman. Here the couple is trapped in an absurdist cycle of caregiver-patient conversation that serves as an extended metaphor for the madness and meaningless of life outside the hospital room as well. The couple, for example, looks out the window at the decay of autumn which counterpoints the decay of Marc’s disease-ridden body and soul.
Marc is determined to give the performance of his life (he admits to abandoning his dream of the stage for the money of the workplace) and he and Richard wonder “who will visit them.” Marc intends to perform “a one-man show” featuring “the highlights of his life.” Amidst their banter, the invisible guests begin to arrive and Richard scurries to fill the hospital room with chairs to accommodate the guests – all somehow related to Marc.
“My Machine Is Powered by Clocks” The Ice Factory at the New Ohio Theatre Read Review>
In a re-telling/re-imagining of Robert Heinlein’s 1958-1959 short story “All You Zombies,” B. Walker Sampson’s “My Machine Is Powered by Clocks” tackles weighty concepts using a treasure trove of rhetorical schemes and tropes. The artful syntax of parallelisms, juxtapositions, and antitheses (schemes) are perfect stylistic devices for a play dealing with time travel. That futuristic concept is also handily supported by Sampson’s artful diction which makes use of metaphor (the beach, the bus), simile, personification, and hyperbole.
In fact, Sampson’s script is an extended metaphor for self-knowledge, self-acceptance, issues of regret and self-forgiveness, and the inter-connectedness of all living beings and the land they share. His play, though unnecessarily more esoteric than Heinlein’s straightforward tale, has recognizable merit ...
“Buyer & Cellar” at Rattlestick Playhouse Theater Read Review>
Reality collides with fantasy in Jonathan Tolins’ new play “Buyer & Cellar” resulting in a near-nuclear reaction of comedy, sentimentality, and sheer brilliance.
Some rich and impressive collaboration has ignited the stage of the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater with the opening of Jonathon Tolins’ new play aptly titled “Buyer and Cellar.” First is the combination of the fascinating, well structured script and the compelling solo performance of Michael Urie. Next is the extremely competent and confident story telling which melds with the variety of characters the actor manages to inhabit during the ninety minute escapade. Finally, the story is simple and enlightening: the characters are clear, intelligent and thoughtful as well as clever and vulnerable. They never appear as a parody or impersonation but are brought to life with subtle physical nuance and enormous emotional content. Michael Urie gives a tour de force performance that is engaging and endearing ...
“The Orpheus Variations” at HERE Read Review>
No text - including the text of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld - has one meaning; in fact meanings are multiple and even contradictory. Deconstructionists take apart a text and its critical tradition and display its inconsistencies. The Deconstructive Theatre Project Company counterpoints this theory of literary criticism with a brain-freezing frenzy in its reprised production of “The Orpheus Variations” running at HERE through June 30, 2013. The project received its world premiere at Brooklyn’s Magic Futurebox in October of 2012.
“Sontag: Reborn” at the New York Theatre Workshop Read Review>
Globally, it is an easy time to quit. It is an easy time to quit believing in equality under the law; to quit believing in justice; to quit believing in freedom, equal pay for equal work, or the freedom to vote. It might also be an easy time to quit believing that “everything matters.” In 1946, when she was just sixteen years old, Susan Sontag affirmed, “I intend to do everything. I shall anticipate pleasure everywhere and find it too for it is everywhere! Everything matters!"
“The Two-Character Play” at New World Stages Theatre 5 Read Review>
At the interval of the Saturday June 22nd performance of Tennessee Williams’ “The Two-Character Play,” a seemingly perplexed patron approached a member of the house staff at New World Stages and asked if she could “go into one of the other theatres because this play is not my cup of tea.” The staff person informed her she could only re-enter the theatre she was ticketed for. Although she chose not to return, the rest of the audience took their seats for the second scene and experienced the remarkable performances of two actors portraying the dissolution of the human psyche and the human spirit.
“Rantoul and Die” at the Cherry Lane Theatre Read Review>
The new play “Rantoul and Die” is playwright Mark Roberts’ debut with the Amoralists and one can only hope that this outstanding collaboration is only the beginning of a long relationship. This latest production now playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre strikes a perfect chord in the harmony between script and actor while still completely supporting the theatre company’s mission statement. The intimacy of the studio space allows the audience to eavesdrop on the situation with such intense involvement that betimes reality is morphed to surrealism. The rapid fire dialogue bites, cuts and stings, bleeding profusely with feeling and emotion, while infecting the audience member with unavoidable laughter to ease the pain. It is not a question whether the audience wants to connect but rather how involved they become. It sounds like the play is the thing, but wait.
“Charles Ives Takes Me Home” at The Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre Read Review>
In the new play “Charles Ives Takes Me Home,” playwright Jessica Dickey tackles an old theme of parent child conflict choosing to elaborate on the relationship between a professional violinist father and a strong willed, sports minded, basketball playing daughter who are both consumed with their individual passion. The twist lies in the introduction of a third character, the composer Charles Ives who exists in the mind of the father John who is struggling with his musical success or for that matter life failures. He is the perfect narrating referee, since Mr. Ives was a star athlete at Yale before becoming one of Americas most noted composers. His works intricately involved polytonality, which blends solo parts composed in different keys creating dissonant harmonies. Daughter, coach Laura and her father have distinct aspirations that certainly exist in different keys searching for some sort of harmonious relationship. This clever device and the rapid fire comic but strained dialogue keep the 85 minute conflict moving but unfortunately does not provide any valid substance to the plot. It is merely one collision after another.
“Botallack O’Clock” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Surrealism collides with abstract expressionism in Eddie Elks “Botallack O’Clock” currently running at 59E59 Theater C as part of the “Brits Off-Broadway” Festival. Mr. Elks’ dramatic canvas reinvents and reimagines the brush strokes of Roger Hilton’s richly complex life and the result is performance art at its best.
Eddie Elks’ palette includes paint pots full of real interviews with Hilton (Dan Frost), imaginary radio interviews on Desert Island Discs “at the worst time of night,” stream of consciousness, a man in a bear’s costume portraying a female bear (replete with red nails), a wife upstairs who does not respond to Hilton’s call bell, memories, fantasies, nightmares, dreams, crystal clear thoughts, delusional thoughts, and pertinent pedagogy.
“Bunty Berman Presents” Presented by The New Group at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row Read Review>
There are only five more opportunities to see “Bunty Berman Presents” presented by The New Group at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row through Saturday June 1, 2013. Ayub Khan Din’s new musical counterpoints traditional Bollywood music and dance with its more traditional Euro-American cinematic counterparts as it carefully unfolds the story of film producer Bunty Berman (Ayub Khan Din)who is facing a crisis of truly epic proportions. Berman’s audience share is dwindling and he does not have enough capital to finish the movies planned for release. Part of Berman’s problem is his longtime friend and leading man Raj Dhawan (Sorab Wadia) who is far past his prime and refuses to step down.
“Broadway on 22nd” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
Monday May 13th marked the first anniversary of “Broadway on 22nd,” the now annual star-studded Cabaret Series produced by Joseph Macchia at the iconic Metropolitan Room. This Series gives Broadway performers the opportunity to share their craft in a cabaret setting and gives the audience the opportunity to see some of their favorite stars in a more intimate and interactive setting. The audience heard performers from “Brooklyn,” “The Lion King,” “In the Heights,” “The Producers,” Dreamgirls,” Finian’s Rainbow,” “Imaginary Friends,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Ragtime,” “Chicago,” and others. The assembled talent almost begged belief.
“The Drawer Boy” at SoHo Playhouse Read Review>
On Tuesday May 14, the SoHo Playhouse hosted a talkback following the performance of the critically acclaimed “The Drawer Boy” by Michael Healey. The topic of the talkback was “The Making and Fate of Off-Broadway.” Ironically, just two days following the talkback on May 16, The SoHo Playhouse and Artistic Director Darren Lee Cole announced the premature closing of “Drawer Boy” for Sunday May 19. I saw this extraordinary play on Saturday May 18, the day before it closed. Surprisingly, the super-charged performances belied no lack of energy or spirit on the part of the three outstanding actors, all who gave bravura performances. Haunted by the power of the play, I continue to be equally haunted by the power economic factors can have on the success of Off-Broadway theatre.
“Basilica” Presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre at the Cherry Lane Theatre Read Review>
On the surface, “Basilica” is about choices gone awry: Father Gil (Alfredo Narcisco) chooses to return to his hometown to pastor the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady Of San Juan del Vale in San Juan, Texas; despite the admonition from Lela Garza, his high school sweetheart, the good Father chooses to make a connection with Ray Garza (Jake Cannavale) the son he fathered with Lela as a teenage boy and abandoned shortly thereafter; Ray’s assumed father Joe Garza (Felix Solis) has chosen to marry Lela, accept Ray as his own son, and forego football for family; Ray chooses to leave San Juan to distance himself from the mother lode of dysfunction that threatens to dehumanize him; and his mother Lela chooses to give her life in a redemptive act of suicide.
“Bull” at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
Lifeboat Ethics collides with and colludes with evolutionary theory’s “survival of the fittest” and places the audience adrift in a moral sea in Mike Bartlett’s “Bull” currently playing at 59E59 Theater B.
On the surface, “Bull” seems to be about office downsizing drama. Tony’s (Adam James) team of two – Isabel (Eleanor Matsuura) and Thomas (Sam Troughton) – are a triad soon to become a dyad. Two of them will be spared their positions in their company, one cast out into the utter darkness of a job search replete with the weeping and gnashing of teeth which accompanies the realization there are no jobs to be found in an economic culture in which downsizing far outpaces hiring.
“I’m A Stranger Here Myself” at The York Theatre Read Review>
Among the most important music of this genre was and remains the music of the Weimar Republic, democratic Germany before the reign of Adolf Hitler. Mark Nadler, in his impressive “I’m A Stranger Here Myself,” has researched the music of this era and created a remarkable work of theatre which focuses on the music created by composers who found themselves strangers in their own land and targeted for extinction by a ruthless and maniacal leader. This music – this veritable ship – transported a relatively small number of Jews and homosexuals to safety in America and other locations.
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
A group of brave and talented women left hearts aching after their performances: aching men’s hearts; aching women’s hearts; aching celebrity hearts including those of Bea Lillie, Tallulah Bankhead, and Joan Crawford. What sort of women had this kind of broad audience appeal? What sort of songstress had the ability to leave so many aching hearts behind when on and off the stage?
“Chemistry of Love” at La MaMa First Floor Theatre Read Review>
Oscar Wilde’s belief that “Life imitates art, more than art imitates life” was confirmed during the performance of Jill Campbell’s “Chemistry of Love” currently playing at the La MaMa First Floor Theatre. As the cast struggled on stage to make sense of Ms. Campbell’s script about the meaning of making art and how the making of art counterpoints with the rise and fall of relationships, several audience members – completely confused or just completely insensitive to any attempt at creativity – concocted a few interesting love potions themselves.
“The Wonderful Wonderettes – Caps and Gowns” (Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
The two-hour show features some thirty-five songs by songwriters from the heyday of teeny-bopper music, two-tone shoes and wide skirts with apliqued daisies on them. With titles such as Don’t Mess with Bill, Hooked on a Feeling and My Boy, Flat Top, we can be certain we’re not on Stephen Sondheim territory. Not that I mind and not that the full-house audience on Thursday night did. In fact we all loved the complete silliness of it all – the doo-wops…the sha-na-na-nahs…the incoherent sentimentality and the joyful banality that says more about the “don’t worry, be happy” 50’s than any work of literature can.
“Double Indemnity”(Cincinnati, OH) Read Review>
Two actors from the Seattle area collaborated on the adaptation of the original novel now being given a solid production on the Marx stage at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Under the firm direction of Michael Evan Haney, the cast of seven works hard to sustain the interest of the audience over an intermission-less one hour and forty minutes. On opening night the leisurely pacing could afford to have picked up more speed.
Lunch with Aubrey Berg (Cincinnati, OH) Read Interview>
I just returned to Cincinnati from New York, where I attended CCM’s 21st Musical Theatre Senior Showcase at the Alvin Ailey Theatre. In one of America’s premiere music schools right in the heart of the Midwest, Aubrey Berg has trained and inspired countless theatre artists who have become part of Broadway’s elite. Berg helms CCM’s Musical Theatre Department.
As we settle down to lunch, Aubrey Berg’s affable charm immediately disarms me ...
A Letter from New York to Cincinnati and Back: Reviews of Matilda, Once and Nicolai and the Others Read Review>
Last week I was up in New York to support the graduating class of the College-Conservatory of Music Musical Theatre triple-threats in their annual rite of passage showcase before an audience of talent managers and casting agents. On three separate evenings I enjoyed the superb theatre offerings that one can find in NYC on a year-round basis. First came Richard Nelson’s Nikolai and the Others – currently on a limited run at the Mitzy E. Newhouse theatre in Lincoln Center. Later in the week we took in Once at the Jacobs on Broadway and, on Saturday the new musical hit of the season (if my crystal ball serves me right), Matilda, based on Roal Dahl’s children’s book. Here is my three-in-one review ...
“Collapse” at New York City Center Stage II (New Home of the Women’s Project Theater) Read Review>
Things fall apart (Chinua Achebe) and the center sometimes just does not hold (W. B. Yeats). For Hannah (Hannah Cabell) and David (Elliot Villar) the center fails when the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in 2007 sends David’s car into the river (almost drowning) and the so-called Global Financial Crisis of 2008 threatens Hannah’s position at her law firm. David is suffering from PTSD and feels he is inadequate as a husband and helpmate and Hannah has gone into caregiver overdrive, exacerbating David’s feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. They each feel the other is ready to bolt and neither is communicating their fears with any degree of adequacy. Things are in a heightened state of collapse. David admits, “Things collapse. Bridges. Companies. Marriages.”
“Southern Discomfort” in the Huron Club at the SoHo Playhouse Read Review>
Being strangers in a strange land and being forever alone haunt the six intriguing characters in Elisabeth Gray’s “Southern Discomfort” currently playing the Huron Club at the SoHo Playhouse. Their stories illuminate the ennui and discomfit of a people who somehow lost a significant piece of their history and culture in the Era of Reconstruction following the America Civil War.
Prison-pent, Ms. Gray’s characters are not only lonely and construct a variety of tactics to address their loneliness; these memorable characters who are based on actual Southerners Gray has met and known in her years growing up in the South are also abused and abashed and adept at sublimating the depths of their considerable emotional pain ...
“Devin Bing and the Secret Service” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
Devin Bing is on a journey to success. It is important for this delightful and talented crooner to decide soon which “road” will be the best choice for him. His engaging appearance at the Metropolitan Room on Sunday April 7, 2013 suggests at least three important choices that might need to be made.
Mr. Bing has a pleasant jazz-blues-rock voice which he effectively presses into service to deliver the meaning behind the lyric in any of these three musical genres ...
“Bullet Catch” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Leave it to an illusionist to work diligently for seventy-five minutes to achieve the essence of reality. Rob Drummond (a.k.a. William Wonder) reads minds, levitates a small table, proffers games of chance to audience members, and tells the remarkable story of the illusionist William Henderson who was inadvertently killed by a volunteer from the audience while performing the Bullet Catch illusion in London in 1912.
“Cougar the Musical” at St. Luke’s Theatre Read Review>
Sometime success comes in simple packages. A successful new musical needs interesting characters; these characters need engaging conflicts; the action of the musical needs to take place in a variety of inviting settings; and, finally, the plot driven by the conflicts must feature important themes. Donna Moore’s “Cougar the Musical,” currently running at St. Luke’s Theatre in Manhattan, addresses all four literary elements and brings to the boards a successful and entertaining theatrical experience.
“Parade” at The Carnegie (Covington, Kentucky) Read Review>
The 1913 trial of Leo Frank, a factory superintendent convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old employee, is the subject of Jason Robert Brown’s "Parade." Brown’s music, set to his own words, and librettist Alfred Uhry’s deeply personal connections to this tragic story about anti-Semitism in early 20th century America’s South give a modicum of dramatic thrust and moral gravity to this stage work, but the authors should have considered turning this work into something other than a Broadway show, in which case "Parade" might have met with a more fortuitous reception from the 1983 Broadway critics and audiences ...
“Good with People” at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
An overturned chair on an otherwise bare carpeted stage “speaks” volumes about the current status of the Seaview Hotel in Helensburgh Scotland. Upright that same chair and the audience is transported back in time to a flashback of epic proportions. Move the chair about the stage during the flashback and the scenes change disclosing a tryst between two persons, two generations, two histories, and two agendas.
This kind of precision and clarity marks the entire 55 minute performance of “Good with People” ...
“I Know What Boys Want” at the WorkShop Theater Read Review>
It is difficult to identify the real antagonist in Penny Jackson’s new play “I Know What Boys Want” running at the WorkShop Theater through April 13. The conflicts are as numerous and entangled as the over-the-top tangle of cell phones dangling from the “ceiling” of the set. The main conflict which drives the predominant plot is between Vicky Walker (Sara Hogrefe) and, oddly enough, a cell phone: she needs to confiscate the cell phone of Oliver (Nick Vennekotter) who surreptitiously filmed Vicky in a compromising sexual tryst with her beau Roger (Liam Rhodes). It is not clear (and it needs to be less ambiguous) whether the act was consensual or not and whether in fact a date rape drug was used. These are significant details – not to be used to lay blame but to identify the precise sources of Vicky’s understandable and appropriate rage against Oliver and Roger.
“Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto” at Culture Project at 45 Bleecker Street Read Review>
Point of view percolates a delicious brew of intrigue in Anna Khaja’s “Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto” playing at Culture Project at 45 Bleecker Street. Through the points of view of eight characters, Khaja’s engaging play focuses on the life and death of Benazir Bhutto and this literary device allows the audience member to have access to a variety of understandings of Bhutto’s controversial personal and political history.
Under Heather de Michelle’s thoughtful and sedulous direction, Ms. Khaja plays all eight characters in an episodic rather than a chronological fashion ...
Marissa Mulder in “Tom … in His Words” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
Most of Marissa Mulder’s patter is not patter at all. Her spoken words introducing songs or connecting songs in “Tom … in His Words” are the words of Tom Waits. This performance choice for her current appearance at the Metropolitan Room results in an engaging evening of song where Ms. Mulder proves unequivocally that exquisite vocal interpretation is more about something one is as opposed to something one does.
This maxim also holds true of the musically articulate work of Mulder’s accomplished band ...
“Unless you are honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with the people who love you.”
Sigmund Freud would have loved “Honky,” Greg Kalleres’s new play running at Urban Stages through April 14th. This play is chock full of repression, transference, hysteria, projection, and it makes people laugh. Freud loved humor and posited in his 1905 “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious” that humankind tells jokes about and laughs about things about which it is uncomfortable. Perhaps the top three things which make us uncomfortable are the power vectors race, sex, and money. “Honkey” bravely tackles these issues with humor, grace, and style.
“Hit the Wall” at the Barrow Street Theatre Read Review>
A slice of gay life or for that matter any selective lifestyle is the scenario that plays out in J. D. Cerna’s solo show “Not as Cute as Picture” taking the stage at the historic Duplex in Greenwich Village. Rather than the common coming out or coming of age drama this falls more into the finding myself category in which Cerna plays himself and a multitude of other colorful characters. The show opens with some powerful energy and slick choreography from the disco eighties that delivers the audience to a place and time where the journey begins. It brought to mind the kinetic energy of an early David Drake whose word, movement, and focus defined his performance.
“Not as Cute as Picture” at the The Duplex Read Review>
A slice of gay life or for that matter any selective lifestyle is the scenario that plays out in J. D. Cerna’s solo show “Not as Cute as Picture” taking the stage at the historic Duplex in Greenwich Village. Rather than the common coming out or coming of age drama this falls more into the finding myself category in which Cerna plays himself and a multitude of other colorful characters. The show opens with some powerful energy and slick choreography from the disco eighties that delivers the audience to a place and time where the journey begins. It brought to mind the kinetic energy of an early David Drake whose word, movement, and focus defined his performance.
“Jackie” Women’s Project Theater at New York City Center Stage II Read Review>
Men (the male of the species, not the generic ‘humankind’) are often (always?) quite a burden to carry when they are among the living. Post mortem, these same men are often (in perpetuity?) even more of a burden to carry - for the living who remember them and for the dead who must share either Paradisio or Inferno with them. The burden of Jack, Bobby, and Ari – their weight, their load – was difficult for Jacqueline Bouvier-Kennedy Onassis while they all shared the mortal frame. That load remained heavy after all shared their disparate journeys through the morgue. The Women’s Project Theater production of Elfriede Jelinek’s “Jackie,” currently playing at New York City Center Stage II, is the story of the burden placed upon the former First Lady by these men (and some women) and the burden she accepted from them – willingly and otherwise.
“Belleville” at the New York Theatre Workshop Read Review>
“Homey: The boys, the ones you not only like, but trust. Term of endearment towards another signifying closeness. Examples: You homeys got my back, right? Hey, you will always be my homey.” (Urban Dictionary)
Star-crossed homeys Abby (Maria Dizzia) and Zack (Greg Keller) transfer their struggling marriage of five years from the United States to Belleville, a colorful multi-ethnic neighborhood of Paris known for its community of artists and musicians and its leftist political base, believing Paris will work its fabled charms and provide a healing balm for the couple’s troubled waters. In the opening scene, Zach tells his French-Senegalese landlord Alioune that he believed “Paris [would be] a cure for all [Abby’s] whatever.”
“On the Head of a Pin” at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
When people want to express the total pointlessness of something, they sometimes say that thing is as silly as "arguing over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin." The familiar phrase is also a rather cynical description of what might be considered a tedious concern with irrelevant details. For Caliban (a civilian version of Taliban perhaps), the civilian contractor overseeing operations at Fathoum Prison in Iraq, it is pointless to tell the truth. Worrying whether prisoners are tortured during interrogation is a tedious concern with irrelevant details: what matters to Caliban’s onsite manager Kathleen Crane (Jen Tullock) is that her untrained and unprepared interrogators get what she needs to secure convictions. Breaking down Sarah Kennedy (Emily Fleischer) who wants to blow the whistle on what goes on at Fathoum is also an irrelevant detail even if it results in Sarah committing suicide.
Parker Scott and Wells Hanley – “No Expectations” at the Metropoitan Room Read Review>
The trio of talent at The Metropolitan Room on Monday February 25, 2013 - Parker Scott, Wells Hanley, and Rubin Kodheli – creates a synchronicity of sound that outreaches perfection. There are times when the voices coming from these three sources are indistinguishable and easily could be one voice. We have said almost all that can be said about Parker Scott’s voice and his unique interpretive skills: the adjectives compound and sometimes serve to show simply the paucity of our critical vocabulary.
Kevin Dozier – “Love’s Never Lost” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
There was so much talent on the stage of the Metropolitan Room for Kevin Dozier’s “Love’s Never Lost” CD Launch that Kevin quipped, “I have no room to move.” Kevin’s new CD, produced by Paul Rolnick, features arrangements and musical direction by Alex Rybeck. Kevin said “The songs I’ve selected are about the many stages of love. They range from Edward’s and Raleigh’s ‘Wonderful! Wonderful!’ and Ann Hampton Callaway’s ‘Perfect’ to the first commercial release of Ahrens and Flaherty’s ‘Love’s Never Lost’ from their musical ‘A Man of No Importance’ and ‘Hold to My Hand ‘ an original song by Carol Hall and Alex Rybeck.”
“Clive” – The New Group at the Acorn Theatre Read Review>
In The New Group’s spellbinding production “Clive” at the Acorn Theatre, Clive the protagonist does all he can to avoid redemption (going in at the door), including forfeiting his soul. Unlike Faust, Clive sidesteps selling his soul to the Devil; instead, he destroys whatever he perceives his soul to be. More like Saint Sebastian, Clive is a martyr, in Clive’s case a martyr for the cause of antinominianism. Clive is indeed exempt from the obligations of moral law. Clive’s soul is repeatedly shot through with the arrows of unbridled yearning until he is bereft of hope, bereft of the self who was/is Clive. Or perhaps Clive is whatever the Devil might be, selling his self to himself.
“Children of Paradise – A Play with Mime” at the Theater for the New City Read Review>
“Children of Paradise,” Richmond Shepard’s new play being performed at the Theater for the New City, is a combination of several mime pieces seen in the film version of the same name and the life story of Baptiste Gaspard Debureau the famous pantomime who performed in France during the 19th century. The spoken dialogue in the script provides information about Debureau’s character, demeanor, and lifestyle offstage while the intricately choreographed mime pieces examine the true brilliance of his craft.
“It’s Only Love” – An Evening of Broadway Love Songs at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
If the opportunity returns next year, plan to spend Valentine’s Day at the Metropolitan Room. Make dinner reservations early in the evening and head over to the Room for dessert and drinks and experience love songs performed - as they were this Valentine’s Day - with a dash of grace, and style, and panache. On this Valentine’s Day, nine talented Broadway and Cabaret performers shared the love songs they cherished in “It’s Only Love” – An Evening of Broadway Love Songs.”
Danny Bolero, Bernard Dotson, and Tom Gamblin – whose “Boys Night Out” played at the Metropolitan Room in January 2013 – performed solo songs.
“All the Rage” at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater Read Review>
As the twenty-first century moves forward, events national and global have not only raised mortgage rates, the rate of unemployment, the amount of the national debt, and the level of bickering in the United States Congress but also has raised the level of national, global, and personal rage. That level of rage is apparent in the experience of many in this decade except one: Martin Moran seems to dodge the vicissitudes of rage and chronicles his experience with rage in his new “All the Rage” currently playing at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater in New York City.
David Brenner at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
David Brenner returns to New York City in his Homecoming Performance at the Metropolitan Room. The Metropolitan Room is the location of the original Gotham Comedy Club, where Brenner performed regularly in his early years. In a tour de force ninety-minute performance, Mr. Brenner laces the engaging story of his iconic career in comedy with an avalanche of humor that buries the audience in delightful laughter, delicious memories, and daring darts and the powers-that-be.
"All in the Timing” at 59E59 Theater A Read Review>
In his seventeenth-century poem “On Time,” John Milton envisions humankind’s triumph over “envious Time.” Milton writes, “When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall clime, / Then all this Earthy grosnes quit, / Attir’d with Stars, we shall for ever sit, / Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee O Time.” Time (and all its vicissitudes) is the subject of “All in the Timing” currently running at 59E59 Theater A in New York City.
Under John Rando’s thoughtful and collaborative direction, the engaging ensemble cast of David Ives’ original six “All in the Timing” plays is able to achieve a remarkable level of artistic excellence. Ives’ six one-act plays employ existentialism, romanticism, wordplay, and a bevy of rhetorical devices to demonstrate how timing teases almost every aspect of life: dating; language; human encounters; humor; even humanity’s understanding of things eternal. And, of course, the plays demonstrate how success in the theatre is often achieved through actors’ understanding of timing.
Carole J. Bufford: “Body and Soul” at The Metropoitan Room Read Review>
Often blending the velvety vibrato of Edith Piaf with the physicality of Judy Garland, Carole J. Bufford creates a unique and savvy song styling with which she graces the Metropolitan Room in her new “Body and Soul” which plays at the iconic Room on Wednesdays through February 27.
Exhibiting a marvelous clear tone and vocal quality, impeccable (and often unique) phrasing, and a remarkable understanding of a song’s lyric and the ability to interpret that understanding, Ms. Bufford successfully breezes through her program of fifteen songs that deliciously stretches the boundaries of The Great American Songbook.
Pia Zadora – “Back Again and Standing Tall” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
The iconic Pia Zadora returned to the New York stage on Thursday February 7, 2013 at the Metropolitan Room for the first of five performances of her new show “Back Again and Standing Tall.” Ms. Zadora is indeed back with the feeling of celebrity status in a room filled with clicking cameras and adorned in glittering Hollywood style sequins to deliver her Vegas style show that simply does not fit into the New York cabaret scene. As for standing tall, both she and her performance fall terribly short. She entered the room at the Metropolitan cursing at her band and demanding they re-start her first number “Pick Yourself Up.” Jerome Kern and Dorothy Field probably gave an ethereal gasp from beyond when Ms. Zadora flung the “F” word at Vinnie Falcone her pianist and musical director.
“The Man Under” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Everyone in Paul Bomba’s “The Man Under,” currently running at 59E59 Theater C, is either in need of being saved (Jeff) or needs to be a savior (Martin), is skilled at being a confessor (Martin again) or is a practiced penitent (Jennifer), is either into holding hands and cuddling (Jeff) or into asphyxiophilia (Lisa). Any or all of these character traits combined with the appropriate conflicts could drive an interesting plot.
“Collision” at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater Read Review>
In the Amoralists Theatre Company’s World Premiere of “Collision” currently running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Grange collides with his new roommate Bromley, Professor Denton one of his instructors, and Doe a fellow student he fancies to bed with. As Grange collides with each of them he sets a variety of situations in motion and causes each person to erupt with unfamiliar and uncomfortable emotions. Each strikes with disgust or revulsion which causes further emotions to surface. All of this colliding ultimately results in a synchronicity of “parasitic oscillations” that shocks the senses and stirs deep feelings and rattles the chains of a Pandora’s Box of catastrophe.
Theatre Uncut at the Clurman Theatre Read Review>
Theatre Uncut is a United Kingdom based activist theater group that was established in 2011 to encourage people to think, talk and take action on injustices that they see happening in the world around them. In 2012, the group asked playwrights from Greece, Syria, Spain, the United States, Iceland and the United Kingdom to pen short dramatic responses to the political and economic challenges facing their own countries. These plays premiered at the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “Theatre Uncut” in New York features the New York premieres of a selection of these plays that look at how the everyday person deals with the state of global capitalism, the effects of austerity, the Eurozone Crisis and the Occupy movement. Audiences are invited to join in a dialogue about the issues raised by the plays at the end of each performance.
“The Truth Quotient” at the Beckett Theatre Read Review>
Fiction with themes of artificial intelligence and the manufacture and sale of androids is not a new genre. On that surface level, Richard Manley’s “The Truth Quotient” is not unique. What becomes unique is the play’s focus on the more subtle theme of motivation: the motivation of the manufacturer of the androids and the motivation of those who purchase the technology. Rachel, the company’s representative and omniscient concierge, reminds her customer and the protagonist of the play David that he needs to have faith in “our commitment to make you feel loved and wanted,” something David did not feel with his original set of parents or with his estranged brother Donald.
“Bethany” at New York City Center Stage II (New Home of the Women’s Project Theater) Read Review>
In Laura Marks’ “Bethany,” currently playing at the New York City Center Stage II, protagonist Crystal faces a series of important and life-changing decisions as she attempts to regain custody of her five-year-old daughter Bethany who has been taken from her after Crystal lost her job, her home, and was living with Bethany in her car.
Bethany is Crystal’s child’s name and – in Christian literature – a biblical village that was the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It is the village where Jesus lived after leaving Jerusalem and from which he purportedly parted from his disciples at the Ascension. In Aramaic ‘Bethany’ means ‘poor house’ or ‘house of misery.’ ...
Peter Marshall became a household name as host of the ever popular game show Hollywood Squares. The successful turn was due in part to his multi talent as a singer and actor. He utilized his experience on Broadway and television to guide his on the spot responses and quick wit as he conversed with his celebrity guest stars. This talent cannot be more evident than in his latest cabaret show “And Then She Wrote” which played to appreciative audiences at The Metropolitan Room. Joined by Grammy nominated Denise Donetelli and Juno nominated Carol Weisman, these three artists pay homage to the contributions of woman songwriters to the American Songbook that span ten decades.
Peter Marshall: “And Then She Wrote” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
“Midsummer [a play with songs]” at The Clurman Theatre Read Review>
After tackling the problem of evil in his successful 1978 “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” Rabbi Harold Kushner addressed existentialism, particularly the meaning of life, in his 1986 “When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough: The Search for a Life That Matters.” This latter title could easily be the subtitle of Daniel Grieg’s “Midsummer” currently playing at The Clurman Theatre in Manhattan.
Lauren Fox - "Canyon Folkies: Over the Hills and Under the Covers" at The Metropolitan Room Read Review>
If you were around during the folk-rock evolution or have any interest in this amazing period in musical history, an evening with Lauren Fox at The Metropolitan Room is mandatory. Not only is her pure and unique tonal quality reminiscent of some of the great talents of that time but also her knowledge of the artists living in Laural Canyon, the epicenter of this incredible musical eruption, is informative, interesting and perfectly integrated into this well-structured show.
Ms. Fox is accompanied by Ritt Henn on Bass, Peter Calo on guitar and musical director Jon Weber on piano and keyboard. These four musicians do not play the music; they become the music and successfully transfer the audience to another time and place ...
Marci Kraft: “Singing Again for the First Time” at Don’t Tell Mama Read Review>
Marci Kraft’s auspicious appearance at Don’t Tell Mama Cabaret is a great beginning for a vocalist making her performance debut. Ms. Kraft is a Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at The New York Times and realizes her dream to sing on a cabaret stage with “Singing Again for the First Time” an extensive review of 1920’s and 1930’s songs from The American Songbook.
“The Wonderful Wizard of Song” at St. Luke’s Theatre Read Review>
There is no doubt that it is fitting to pay tribute to and celebrate Harold Arlen one of the most influential and important composers of the Great American Songbook. His unique and interesting expressive style has graced stage and screen for decades. Arlen’s collaboration with some of the best lyricists created a phenomenal range of songs that continue to pay tribute to his legacy. “The Wonderful Wizard of Song” now playing at St. Luke’s Theatre is a valiant attempt by the 3 Crooners, Marcus Goldhaber, George Bugatti and Joe Shepard to accomplish this daunting task, especially given their choice to feature the enormous talent of Antoinette Henry to get the job done. Each of the crooners is vocally capable of delivering their songs in their solo turns and together they produce some interesting and pleasant harmonies. ...
“City Love Song: Home” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Storyteller Jack Finnegan begins his travelogue with a rhetorical snapshot of a few minutes outside his building in New York City. This image, he claims, glorifies the interconnectedness of cultures and values extant in his neighborhood and reflects the common character of the people who love this urban home as much as he does. He uses this story as a springboard for his larger purpose; namely, to share for the third time his collection of anecdotes from his national and – this time – international travels.
“Boys Night Out: The Music of the Rat Pack” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
The group of actors known as The Rat Pack has a long history from the early days (1960’s) of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall until the 1980’s when three of the members (Martin, Davis, and Sinatra) appeared together for the last time in film in “Cannonball Run II” and the same trio staged their ill-fated revival tour which ended after only four performances. Whichever configuration of the pack one identifies with, the one most familiar to audiences and fans is the one celebrated in “Boy’s Night Out: The Music of the Rat Pack:” Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
“The Chess Lesson” at the IRT Theater Read Review>
Sari Caine’s “The Chess Lesson” is a delightful trope for humankind’s inveterate attempt to understand “how things came to be.” Was there a creation? If so, was it a “big bang” or a divinely orchestrated event? Were there rules governing that creation? Did humankind “disobey those rules? Whose rules were/are they: those of some divine being or rules created by humankind itself? What happens when rules are broken? And can humankind – even in brokenness – return to its idyllic “pre-Fall” state?
“Marilyn by Request” at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
Cabaret legend Marilyn Maye extends the celebration of the New Year with five glorious performances at the Metropolitan Room in Manhattan. Joined by Billy Stritch (piano), Tom Hubbard (bass), and Warren Odze (drums), Ms. Maye dazzles her fans for ninety remarkable minutes with her unique blend of song stylist, lyricist, and shaman.
"Flipside: The Patti Page Story" at 59E59 Theater A Read Review>
Google ‘flipside’ and cumulate a variety of search results: from the online fantasy manga/comic to the burger and bar restaurant in downtown Fairfield. The term as it refers to the B-side of a vinyl record is rarely used today with the advent of CD’s, the iPod, and other mp3 players.
Recent Williams College graduate Jonathan Draxton tackles weighty matters in the world premiere of his “Soldier” in New York City at HERE. This tightly wound fifty minute production challenges the audience to question when one who has committed heinous crimes against humanity has demonstrated the level of remorse that warrants forgiveness and reconciliation. These are perhaps questionably attainable qualities for the phantasm of Nazi soldier Heinrich Weiss and the ghosts of his soldiers all who lost their lives at the hands of the Russian army at Stalingrad. However, Mr. Draxton who portrays Officer Weiss, challenges each of the twenty-five audience members to hear his story, believe that he and his men were indeed “animals” and hand over the coins needed to ferry him and his men from purgatory to an underworld that will perhaps proffer redemption and release from their war crimes of the past.
"P. S. Jones and the Frozen City" at the New Ohio Theatre Read Review>
What would result from collaboration between William Butler Yeats, T. S. Eliot, the multiple authors or sources behind the Pentateuch, Julie Taymor, the Trinity, John Wayne, Cain and Abel, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, a host of other luminaries, and the genius of Robert Askins and Jose Zayas? None other than the winning offering from the terraNOVA Collective “P.S. Jones and the Frozen City” currently running at the New Ohio Theater. This gem might easily have a future much like another play from years past.
"13 Things about Ed Carpolotti" at 59E 59 Theater C Read Review>
The stars of Barry Kleinbort’s “13 Things about Ed Carpolotti are Virginia Carpolotti, her intriguing daydreams about her deceased husband Ed, and her imaginary piano-playing and singing friend. These three stars are better known as, respectfully, Penny Fuller, the book by Barry Kleinbort, and pianist Paul Greenwood.
“Working” at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
Jimmy Carter was President of the United States in 1978 when Stephen Schwartz’s “Working” opened on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre in New York City. The national unemployment rate then was 6.1%. Remarkably, after spiking at 9.6% in 2010, the “New York Times” (December 7, 2012) reports the jobless rate is edging down “to its lowest rate in four years at 7.1 %. The strength of “Working” is not its deconstruction of the issues of unemployment and politics; its power lies in the musical’s successful exploration of the meaning of and the tradition of work itself and of those who perform that work. Indeed, the subtitle of Stud Terkel’s 1974 “Working,” upon which the musical is based, celebrates the work people do all day and “how they feel about what they do.”
“Bare” at New World Stages Read Review>
I have taught in urban high schools for the past eight years and have heard many stories from many students about being bullied and have been asked many important questions about coming out by LGBT students. One of the most touching queries came at an open house for middle school students trying to decide which high school to attend. After several questions about availability of Advanced Placement classes, number of science labs, and homework policy, a diminutive eighth-grader fixed his gaze upon mine and asked simply, “Will I be safe at this school?” As much as I wanted to offer him reassurance, I could not and chose to proffer a list of school policies about bullying instead.
“A Civil War Christmas” at the New York Theatre Workshop Read Review>
Paula Vogel’s “A Civil War Christmas” is a profound and uplifting story of the events that occur in the nation’s capitol (and other locations) on Christmas Eve in 1864. A group of actors addresses the audience, and then dons the costumes of a variety of characters including President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. Karen Kandel says, “Welcome to our story. The season is upon us, and whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year’s—it’s a time when we feel our connection to a larger community.”
“A Summer Day” at Cherry Lane Theatre Read Review>
Like her spirit-sister Penelope, the Older Woman in “A Summer Day” waits patiently and anxiously for the return of her “man of the sea” Asle who left one rainy, windy autumn afternoon many years ago on his Odysseus-like epic journey of self-discovery. Jon Fosse’s “A Summer Day” chronicles one day of remembrance for this woman who years ago watched her partner in life walk away from their house on the bay, never to return.
“Forever Dusty” at New World Stages Read Review>
There is more than one reason to see “Forever Dusty” the new musical now playing at New World Stages. First and foremost are the songs made famous by the legendary Dusty Springfield who broke stride and followed a controversial career in the music industry. Next is listening to Kristen Holly Smith who brings to life the voice, style, and image of this iconic songstress. Last but not least is the stunning performance of Christina Sajous as Dusty’s longtime companion Claire whose vocal turns shatter the stage. All of this is supported by a fully capable and talented cast and makes for an enjoyable evening of entertainment.
“Skin Tight” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Inspired by the iconic poem “The Magpies” by New Zealand poet Denis Glover, Gary Henderson’s “Skin Tight” leans heavily on the human heart as it rehearses the vicissitudes of human life, particularly the lives of Elizabeth and Tom who are preparing, perhaps in Tom’s memory, for the ultimate gift one human can give to another: preparing one’s lover‘s body for burial.
Baby Jane Dexter: The Rules of the Road at The Metropolitan Room Read Review>
Baby Jane Dexter steps onto the stage of The Metropolitan Room on the first evening of her current nine-show run with the confidence and grace that have become hallmarks of this cabaret legend. Most accomplished vocalists use their physical instruments to create what becomes their signature “style.” Baby Jane Dexter sings with not only her vocal instrument: she also sings with her entire body, mind, and spirit. In fact, there are times when her vocal “instrument” includes her musical director Ross Patterson. It is sometimes difficult to discern where voice and accompaniment diverge.
“The Outgoing Tide” at 59E59 Theater A Read Review>
When the tide goes out on the Chesapeake Bay, danger lurks for the living creatures left behind: vulnerability for the myriad of clams washed up on the shore that become “fresh seafood” in prestigious local Delaware restaurants; and double jeopardy for the humans left with raw emotions and hidden agendas strewn along the beach.
Jennifer Sheehan at the Metropolitan Room Read Review>
One of the most significant elements of Jennifer Sheehan’s return engagement to the Metropolitan Room with her show appropriately titled “I Know A Place: Spend A Night in the 60’s is its ability to embrace the lyric written during that era. That decade which lived up to the familiar phrase “musical revolution” produced a collective of paramount artists that transitioned from pop to Motown, the British invasion, the Beatles, soft rock, and folk rock. The era’s music that captured joy and optimism and subsequently faded into a searching lyric that questioned human nature, ended with a pulse of anger as poets’ words were sung in protest of a nation at war.
"No Fear Shakespeare's Richard III" at the 4th Street Theatre Read Review>
Barnes & Noble’s “No Fear Shakespeare” is a successful series of Shakespeare’s plays which provide not only the complete text of each original play but also “a line-by-line translation that puts Shakespeare into everyday language.” Countless middle school, high school, and college students have used the series for a thorough introduction and exposition of Shakespeare’s works. The “translation” is not meant to replace students’ grappling with the original text but a vehicle to approach the often difficult text of the original without fear and to make the text more accessible.
"Don't Go Gentle" at the Lucille Lortel Theatre Read Review>
When Dylan Thomas’s father was nearing death, the poet wrote in his now famous villanelle, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” After rehearsing how wise, good, wild, and grave men “burn and rave” at the close of their days, Thomas encourages his father to “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.” Whatever occurred during their history, at the time of his father’s death, Dylan Thomas welcomed his father’s rage and anger, and cursing in addition to any paternal bestowed blessing.
“Bare: The Musical” - Preview and Interview Read Interview>
Set in a co-ed Catholic boarding school, “Bare” explores the subject of teens exposed to the issues of identity, sexuality and religion. With provocative lyrics and a thrilling rock score, the musical demonstrates how today’s generation is forced to navigate, for the first time, the tightrope between adolescence and adulthood and how far they will go to keep their world intact.
“In The Summer Pavilion” at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
“In the Summer Pavilion” ends as it begins with recent Princeton graduate Ben unclothed, vulnerable, uninhibited, unfettered addressing the audience (the universe) in captivating prose poetry. However, Ben is not the same at the end of the play as at the beginning: he has been transformed by multiple excursions into possible futures with two of his closest college friends, Clarissa and Nabile.
“Untying Love” at TADA! Theater Read Review>
Peggy Willens’ “Untying Love,” currently running at TADA! Theater, is more about the dynamics of family systems than it is about Carolyn’s death at a free-standing hospice facility. Indeed, the setting listed in the program (“in the kitchen of an American house”) might have served the characters and their conflicts better than a hospice facility. For this drama is a poignant recounting of what occurs when even one member of a family system undergoes self-initiated or event-initiated change.
Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano: “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” at The Metropoitan Room Read Review>
The return of Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano to the Metropolitan Room with their new show “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes,” affords New York audiences a chance to embrace the remarkable collaboration of two seasoned performers who have stood the test of time and have become an important thread in the vibrant tapestry of the cabaret scene. They are an integral part of delivering The American Songbook, earnestly committed to honest interpretation and unique phrasing that enhances the music while personalizing the lyric. As solo artists they have distinctive qualities that attribute to their success. Together they merge, sharing their style and musical prowess to create entertaining duets that sustain the original compositions. Mr. Comstock has an unparalleled pure tonal quality and perfect annunciation which respects the lyric and allows you to wallow in the melody and appreciate the accompaniment. Ms. Fasano has a theatrical flair when approaching the material that takes the audience on an emotional journey with taunting expressions and a sexy, sultry timber similar to the great caberet divas of the past.
Interview with cast of “Spring’s Awakening” at TBG Theatre Read Interview>
Joseph and I saw the Marvell Rep production of Frank Wedkind’s controversial “Spring’s Awakening” at the TBG Theatre in Manhattan and were deeply impressed by the uniformly professional performances given by the entire cast and particularly by the young cast portraying the lead roles of the play. We formulated five questions for these cast members and include their astute and thoughtful responses in the interview which follows. The play is scheduled to complete its run on Sunday November 4 and we encourage every reader to make the effort to see this remarkable show with uncommonly outstanding performances as soon as possible. Our review of the show is available here and ticket information is included at the end of the interview.
"God of Vengeance" at TBG Theatre Read Review>
The Torah is clear: the second book Exodus contains the following dictum: “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” No wonder Yankl Chapchovich arranges with Reb Elye to have the scribe make a Torah Scroll for his daughter Rivkele in Sholem Asch’s “God of Vengeance,” currently running at TBG Theatre as part of Marvell Rep’s “2012 Burned and Banned” series. Yankl is convinced that living above and running a brothel with his wife Sore would qualify as “hating God,” especially since Sore was a former “worker” in the brothel and he needs to appeal to God’s better nature to save his daughter.
"5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche" at The SoHo Playhouse Read Review>
The New Colony’s production of “5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche,” now playing at the SoHo Playhouse, is a fun and frolicking farce with delightful and serious undertones. Its themes relate to current political and social issues and make for an enjoyable 70 minutes of good theater. The metaphors and innuendoes abound and are as vivid and colorful as the cast of characters gathered for the annual Quiche Breakfast of The Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein. Though deliciously irreverent at times, the play is not offensive or harmful but evokes provocative humor that is well conceived and well delivered.
"Spring's Awakening" at TBG Theatre Read Review>
When I first saw the musical “Spring Awakening “Off-Broadway in June 2006, I was not impressed. I thought then, and continue to believe, that Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater sterilized Frank Wedkind’s provocative text and substituted substance with an endearing rock musical score. I saw nothing new, nothing innovative, and nothing challenging. Obviously I was misguided: after its move to the Eugene O’Neill on Broadway in December of the same year, the musical garnered eight Tony Awards and four Drama Desk Awards. Unwilling to be completely isolated from Broadway bravura, I listened to the rock-infused alternative rock score and kept my thoughts on the musical as a whole to myself. Until now.
"Closer Than Ever" at The York Theatre Read Review>
The York Theatre Company received a Special Drama Desk Award for its vital contributions to theatre by developing and producing new musicals. Since May 2011, however, York has chosen to celebrate Off Broadway musicals that have previously been produced starting with Nancy Ford and Gretchen Cryer’s “I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road” (1978) and ending with the current offering Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire’s “Closer Than Ever” (1989).
“North” at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
Now playing at 59E59 Theater B, Jennifer Schlueter’s “North” fictionalizes an historical event: the brief meeting between Anne Morrow Lindberg and Antoine de Saint-Exupery in New York City at the Ritz Hotel on August 5, 1939. In the drama, after meeting Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Anne Morrow Lindbergh reflects on her intense emotional response to the meeting by asking herself, “Are you going to look back all your life to an hour’s conversation with a stranger?” Like Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” “North” deals with the hour-long “story of a woman’s life and ordeal.”
Loni Ackerman – “Next to Abnormal” at The Metropolitan Room Read Review>
It was a pleasure to see Loni Ackerman return to The Metropolitan Room for an encore performance of her delightful, somewhat autobiographical show ”Next To Abnormal.” A consummate performer and veteran of the Broadway stage, Ms. Ackerman adds a personal touch to a well structured evening, weaving stories from her childhood in New York City and anecdotes of her show business escapades into the tapestry of thoughtfully chosen songs. She brings what is important in her life now to the stage rather than just recreate the past, which enables her to connect with the material and inspire the audience.
"Fruit Fly" at The Cherry Lane Theatre Read Review>
There is nothing like a romp through an extended metaphor when Leslie Jordan has created the trope. Mr. Jordan’s brilliantly funny “Fruit Fly,” currently running at The Cherry Lane Theatre as part of The All for One Theatre Festival, extends the identification between Jordan and his mother Peggy throughout the ninety-minute extravaganza of ethos, pathos, and sheer hysterical fun.
Leslie Jordan’s testimony to the terror, trials, and triumph of coming out works because he makes it clear that he “has been there and done that” and challenged all things maternal and nurturing: boy choirs, boy camps, boys in general, and his poor mother’s frustration at understanding some of those escapades. Jordan’s appeal to authority and experience works.
"The Exonerated" at The Culture Project 45 Bleecker Street Read Review>
It has been ten years since “The Exonerated” opened in New York at the Culture Project’s 45 Bleecker Street Theatre and brought to the stage the ongoing scrutiny of the American judicial system and its inability to administer justice with exactitude and fairness. Unfortunately, not much has changed since 2002 for those who are innocent and on death row.
"You Want Me To Do What?!?" at The Cherry Lane Theatre Main Stage Read Review>
An amazing opportunity presents itself to experience the wonderfully uplifting performance by Mary Lou Shriber in her new musical “You Want Me To Do What?!?” now playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre as part of the All For One Festival. There are quite a number of accomplishments to admire as you listen to Ms. Shriber reveal her past and celebrate her present through informative dialogue and heartfelt song. Granting her father’s dying wish that she become a nurse and fulfilling her own dream of a career as an actor are certainly rewarding accomplishments. Having the intelligence and personality to do both very well is notable, but to have the essence of each career collide and explode into an emotional exploration of her life is a remarkable achievement. Her compassion and respect for patients as a nurse is transferred to the stage with ease, assuring the audience of her honesty and integrity.
"Belgrade Trilogy" at the 4th Street Theatre Read Review>
Being able to see and review “Belgrade Trilogy” was an important event for me. This review will be more personal than any that I have written. Normally, critical reviews are written in the third person and the critic keeps professional distance from the performance being reviewed. It is difficult to keep that distance after visiting Belgrade and driving through war-torn streets of Serbia and Croatia. It is especially difficult after sharing a meal in a Croatian home with a woman who wonders every day if her young husband will return home from his job as a sweeping and demining the landmines left from the 1991 – 1995 war. To listen to her hopes for the future, for the time when Serbian children and Croatian children would again play together and grow together has remained a daunting memory.
"The Anderson Twins Play the Fabulous Dorseys!" at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Alfred E. Greene’s 1947 film “The Fabulous Dorseys” chronicles the lives of prominent jazz-swing musicians Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey. The Anderson Twins, Peter and Will, play the Dorsey brothers in an exhilarating evening of music with the same moniker as the film.
"Hard Times: An American Musical" at the cell Read Review>
By any standard, these times – our times – are hard times. Individuals and groups of individuals find their way through hard times in a variety of ways: perseverance, ingenuity, luck of the draw, or serendipitous surcease. Those who gathered at Nelly Blythe’s Five Points saloon needed all of those ways to overcome the racism, sexism, and classism of 1863 New York City.
"Asking For It" at The Cherry Lane Theatre Main Stage Read Review>
Joanna Rush once again captivates, entertains, and raises audience awareness in her solo show “Asking For It,” part of the All For One Theater Festival in residence at the Cherry Lane Theatre. She inhabits the life of Bernadette O’Connell as “Bernie” endures a strict Irish Catholic upbringing which, unfortunately, does not prepare her for the daunting task of becoming a Radio City Music Hall Rockette or the lurking shadows of evil that accompany this dream when alone and naïve.
"New Girl in Town" at The Irish Repertory Theatre Read Review>
When Anna (Margaret Loesser Robinson) arrives in New York City in 1926 to visit her father Chris Christopherson (Cliff Bemis), she arrives with more than a single valise. She comes from living with relatives in Minnesota and some baggage she would rather not unpack in New York.
"Fly Me to the Moon" at 59E59 Theater B Read Review>
Wee Davey McGhee’s body lies moldering in his grave (bathroom) while his caregivers Loretta Mackey and Frances Shields concoct ways to acquire and then divvy up his assets. Marie Jones’ dark comedy “Fly Me to the Moon” chronicles their capers from Loretta’s shocking discovery of Davey’s bruised dead body to Frances’ final efforts to cover up their blue collar crime.
"Silent" at The Irish Arts Center Donaghy Theatre Read Review>
When the precise and poetic movements of a tattered blanket soiled with a life story are revealed by the glow of a spotlight and surrounded by the depths of silence, it captivates your eyes, kidnaps your mind and holds your heart ransom. As silky white patches of human flesh dance slowly from beneath their shroud you are suddenly immersed in a mystery of evolution. A face appears, beautiful, striking, and haunting, with eyes that pierce your soul with the glimmer of truth. A voice behind a story that dissects a being, peeling away the layers of emotion and mental anguish until you are left with transplanted vital organs that give you a new understanding of life.
"The Eyes of Others" at The New Ohio Theatre Read Review>
In Ivan Dimitrov’s “The Eyes of Others,” The First Man (Evan Zes) and the Second Man (Michael Frederic) spend their one-hour lunch break together downtown on the Square avoiding food and, instead, using the time to ponder the meaning of existence. Their absurdist conversation brings into sharp focus the realities of the somewhat meaninglessness of work, leisure, economy, and future. They chat about moving forward and the importance of being right and how disastrous a hideous death would be. What really concerns these “Everymen” however is the thought of being anonymous.
"Tender Napalm" at 59E59 Theater C Read Review>
Strains of the Yahwist myth of creation (garden-dwelling Man and Woman) counterpoint contemporary gaming mythos (Sony Computer Entertainment’s “God of War Saga, for example), Marvel Comic’s Super Heroes, and Grimm Brothers fairy tales to construct an understanding of the meaning of life and how to sooth its vicissitudes in Philip Ridley’s “Tender Napalm” currently playing at 59E59 Theater C in New York City.
Interview with Playwright Chris Phillips (FringeNYC 2012 "Pieces") Read Interview>
Chris Phillips’ acclaimed new play “Pieces” recently completed its successful run at the New York International Fringe Festival and has been chosen to be part of the FringeNYC 2012 Encore Series. This prestigious Series is curated by a group of seven professional theatre producers led by Darren Lee Cole, Artistic Director at Teatro Jaco and SoHo Playhouse/Huron Club. Chris Phillips received the FringeNYC 2012 Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting. David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza sat down with Chris recently.
"Auditions, Zoe's Auditions Part 2" at The Drilling Company Theatre Read Review>
Zoe Brown’s journey is one from her “not to be” assessment of herself to understanding that all she needs to do is “be who she is” and “live in the moment.” Zoe has a thankless job at a theatre where everyone is incompetent (except Zoe): the actors are horrid, the product is stale, and no one seems to care much about anything. So Zoe dreams and makes some attempt to better her lot. She hires an agent whose contacts are “mostly dead.” Zoe goes on auditions and rarely takes responsibility to do the right thing: she whines a lot and blames the actions of others for her lateness, her appearance, and her lack of talent. And all of this is precisely what is wrong with Suzanna Geraghty’s “Auditions, Zoe’s Auditions Part 2:” it is difficult to feel compassion for Ms. Geraghty’s character Zoe (played by Ms. Geraghty).
Interview with Actor Nina Millin (Mary Hamilton in "Pieces") Read Interview>
Nina Millin played the role of Assistant District Attorney Mary Hamilton in Chris Phillips’ “Pieces” which recently completed its run at FringeNYC 2012. Nina is reprising that role in the Encore Series run of “Pieces” at SoHo Playhouse. David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza conducted an email interview with Nina.
"Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote" at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theater A Read Review>
Like an awkward young man hoping to find star-crossed love, or a physically challenged young man hoping to find understanding, or a love-sick young man howling at the Harvest Moon, Harrison, TX stealthily and seductively creeps up on its inhabitants demanding answers to hauntingly human questions about the vicissitudes of existence.