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.
NOTE: As of early August 2015, our site is undergoing a redesign.
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"The Quare Land” at The Irish Repertory Theatre at the DR2 Theatre (Through Sunday November 15, 2015) Read Article>
Hugh Pugh (Peter Maloney) neither bathes nor opens his mail on any regular basis. He has not bathed in four years and his mail has been abandoned under the letter box “this decades.” Hugh succumbs to a bubble bath in anticipation of the visit from his ninety-one year old alcoholic brother. Hugh is ninety and is a small-time farmer living alone up a mountain in County Cavan Ireland. Things are going well for Hugh and his ablution – despite the pending visit – until his dog Jessie’s loud barking signals the arrival of an unexpected guest. The interaction between Hugh and this guest is the intriguing and often hysterical story line of John McManus’ “The Quare Land” which is part of the current Irish Repertory Theatre Season and is also part of the 1st Irish Festival.
“Fondly, Collette Richland” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday October 18, 2015) Read Article>
In a recent New York Times interview (September 4, 2015), playwright Sibyl Kempson affirms that “you don’t have to struggle to understand” her new play “Fondly, Collette Richland” currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop. That affirmation is true, but that understanding comes only after one exits the theater and realizes that what transpires on the street is even more confusing than what plays out on the stage inside. Ms. Kempson’s text is dense and to claim it is not would be to discredit the sophistication of the script. There are “big impossible problems to contend with” in this world premiere and all of them are hauntingly delightful.
“Hamlet in Bed” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday October 25, 2015) Read Article>
‘Clever’ morphs to ‘profound’ as film noire narration counterpoints with spoken word and played scenes, in Michael Laurence’s “Hamlet in Bed” a play within a play within a play. Playwright Michael Laurence constructs a fascinating and engaging retelling of the “Queen’s closet scene” in “Hamlet” (Act III, Scene 4) where Hamlet confronts his mother about her infidelity and her complicity in the murder of his father. Mr. Laurence’s premise is shared with the audience early on: “An actor and an actress perform a play./(It’s a play within a play.)/The actor and the actress may or may not be mother and son,/and they may or may not know it./You know the play, the play is Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Yes, ‘that’ mother and son.”
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” at MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (Extended through Sunday October 11, 2015) Read Article>
With only one glitch (more about that later in the review), Matthew Lopez’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride” is a high-energy, high-octane song and dance extravaganza that plays with exotic and explosive exuberance and verve on the stage of the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Manhattan’s West Village. It is a heartwarming story of courage and acceptance and it is about the ongoing need to reinvent oneself, do whatever needs to be done to support and protect loved ones, and learn to confront the “ghosts” from the past that haunt the present and interfere with self-realization and self-actualization. This play is more than exhilarating drag performances – although these are exquisite – and glitzy costumes. The title character (Georgia McBride) makes a legendry leap into very unfamiliar territory to regain his sense of purpose and his determination to accept who he is.
“Pondling” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday October 4, 2015) Read Article>
If the world we are born into and expected to flourish in fails us, we sometimes need an alternate place to inhabit where we can find nurture and acceptance, and surcease from our emotional and spiritual pain. Madeleine’s world in Froam fails her miserably and she creates an alternative universe and a persona that rescue her from the dreariness and falsehood of her mundane life. She dons new raven black shoes to woo her intended beau Johnno Boyle O’Connor and fantasizes killing his “long armed girlfriend.” Madeleine fuels her imagination with frequent visits to “Mrs. Green’s second hand shop [where she] collects all sorts, teacups and matching saucers, small figurines of animals getting in and out of little shoes or maybe a framed display of rare and exotic moths.” It is at Mrs. Green’s that she also finds the workout video that assists Madeleine in her quest to be “proud, brave, and beautiful.”
“Stoopdreamer” at the cell (Through Sunday September 27, 2015) Read Article>
Playwright Pat Fenton's "Stoopdreamer" - part of the 1st Irish 2015 Festival – holds special meaning to the Irish American community of Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn and it holds an equally special meaning to all residents of urban communities who have experienced the process of gentrification over the past quarter century (or more) – gentrification by outsiders and by urban planning and development.
“Desire” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday October 11, 2015) Read Article>
59E59 Theater's critically acclaimed 5A Series begins the 2015-2015 Season with “Desire” described as “an evening of new plays based on stories by Tennessee Williams.” Divided into two Acts, the short plays are adaptations by six contemporary American playwrights. The “special people” celebrated by John Waters inhabit these six new plays with traits that are – as they were for Waters – salvific and often non-conformist and all of which tackle the fascinating dynamics of human desire.
“Laugh It Up, Stare It Down” at the Cherry Lane Theater (Through Saturday October 10, 2015) Read Article>
Life throws a lot at its participants during their time from birth to death. Some of the experience is pleasant, some of it unpleasant, some of it tolerable, and some of it intolerable. And some of what humankind “suffers” is just odd. One can either choose to take what comes lightly and laugh it up, or be more proactive and stare down the vicissitudes of life until they have to look away. The delightful characters Joe and Cleo in Alan Hruska’s new play “Laugh It Up, Stare It Down” spend a lifetime together trying to decide which approach might work better.
“Mercury Fur” at the New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Sunday September 27, 2015) Read Article>
One's person's/group’s dystopia is another person’s/group’s perfectly normal utopia: nothing abnormal or frightening or undesirable. It might be all about point of view. What the audience sees play out in Philip Ridley’s “Mercury Fur” currently playing at the New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center might seem like a dystopian future or nightmare; however for Spinx (played with a gang-bent oligarchic panache by Sea McHale) it is just another day of “fun.” With his partner Lola (played with cross-dressing charm by Paul Iacono), Spinx oversees their underlings Elliot and Darren whose job it is to locate a place for Spinx’s parties, arrange the space for the party participants and guests, and not overthink the horror with which they collude.
“In Bed With Roy Cohn” at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row (Through October 3, 2015) Read Article>
The life and times of the notorious Roy Cohn have been chronicled in fiction and non-fiction and perhaps most notable in Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” where Ethel Rosenberg “appears” at Cohn’s deathbed in a series of over-the-top conversations about her trial and execution. In a 2006 article in “The New York Times,” Adam Liptak wrote, “Mr. Kushner said he did not use historical figures for instruction or verisimilitude. ‘There is a power that you access that doesn't have to do with credibility but with a shared understanding,’ he said, adding that there was a transgressive thrill to it, too.”
“Informed Consent” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd (Through Sunday September 13, 2015) Read Article>
The real power in Deborah Zoe Laufer’s play “Informed Consent” is not what it first appears to be. The play is not about mythos versus logos – storytelling versus science. The play is not about early onset Alzheimer’s or one’s awareness that “something is different” and one’s short-term memory is slowly deteriorating. It is about decision-making and how that process might be affected by cultural norms and scientific information. It is also about motivation and transparency. However, it is difficult to sort all of that out in Ms. Laufer’s play.
“Sense of an Ending” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday September 6, 2015) Read Article>
Theatre-goers in New York City have the opportunity to see Ken Urban's haunting "Sense of an Ending” at 59E59 Theaters through Sunday September 6, 2015. This is a short run of Mr. Urban’s successful play (Theatre503 in London in May-June 2015) and it is playing in the smallest of 59E59 Theater’s performance spaces. As of this writing, three of the performances are sold out and the remaining performances will fill quickly. Therefore, it is imperative you secure tickets to see this remarkable play that raises the enduring and rich questions that challenge not just the broad issues of guilt and innocence but also challenge the larger issues of right and wrong and the ambiguity of morality.
“Death of the Persian Prince” Reopening for a Limited Engagement at the DMAC-Duo Muticultural Arts Read Article>
Joseph and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the cast of the critically acclaimed “Death of the Persian Prince” on the day of their final performance at South Asian International Performing Arts Festival. The run at SAIPAF followed the new play’s successful run at the 2015 Midtown International Theatre Festival. Theatre Reviews Limited has just learned that “Death of the Persian Prince” will enjoy an extended run at the DMAC-Duo Multicultural Arts Center beginning Thursday September 17, 2015 with the same cast.
“Threesome” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday August 23, 2015) Read Article>
On a visit to Cairo, Egyptian-American Leila (played with a passionate intensity by Alia Attallah) suffered great pain on two occasions. The assault in a crowd and the additional assault at the police station left her first chilled, then in a stupor, unable to let go what had happened to her. Her decision to write a book about her experience initiated a sequence of events that would change her life forever. Alia’s journey to “letting go” is the gritty mix that makes up “Threesome,” currently running at 59E59 Theaters as part of their 5A Season.
“The Weir” at Irish Repertory Theatre at the DR2 Theatre (Through Sunday August 23, 2015) Read Article>
Conor McPherson’s “The Weir,” a haunting play of effervescent charm, finds a cozy home at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Directed by Irish Rep veteran Ciarán O'Reilly, the play bathes comfortably in old-country charm, fireside folk tales, and sepulchral gloom.
The play centers around one night at a bar in rural Ireland. Excitement stirs in the placid village when Valerie, a young woman from Dublin, moves into town ...
“Moses Man” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Alice Griffin Theatre (Through Monday July 13, 2015) Read Article>
“Moses Man,” currently running at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, is based on the true story of writer Deborah Haber’s parents Kalman and Lily Haber whose nine-year journey from Nazi-occupied Austria throughout Europe, Cyprus, Palestine, and Africa finally – against many odds – leads to freedom and a new home in the United States. In “Moses Man” that survivor Opa (Kevin McGuire) shares the story of survival with his grandson Moshe (Evan Daves) as Moshe is opening his exhibition about his grandfather’s journey. Apparently Moshe curates this installation without consulting or seeking the facts from his grandfather. Although this seems odd, it is the convention Ms. Haber uses to relate her story: past and present coexist on the stage and Moshe can see the events of his grandfather’s journey play out before him. The only thing he cannot do is speak to those from the past.
“Acappella” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival” at the PTC (Through Tuesday July 14, 2015) Read Article>
It is difficult to imagine it getting any better: a group of talented a cappella singers (Broadway veterans and vocal band members), beatboxing, traditional American spiritual hymns, and a decent book about finding one’s voice and finding one’s way. All of that is featured in the new musical “Acappella” enjoying its weeklong run at the Pearl Theatre Company as part of the 2015 New York Musical Theatre Festival. Conceived by the show’s Executive Producer Greg Cooper, “Acappella” has been twelve years in the making and this NYMF run gives the creative team an opportunity to further develop what is already an entertaining experience about the journey of a young rock star from fame and fortune to the rediscovery of his faith in other and in self.
“spot on the wall” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at Theater 3 (Through Tuesday July 14, 2015) Read Article>
“spot on the wall,” currently playing at Theater 3 as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, is a complicated, entangled love story utilizing art and mythology as metaphors. The book by Kevin Jaeger introduces themes including a love triangle, unfaithful marriage, struggling artists, and father/son antagonism that provide no perspicacity, resulting in feeble dialogue and idealistic situations. Mr. Jaeger’s clever lyrics fare much better and help character definition and plot development although at times too self-absorbed. The music by Alex Mitchell is soothing, creating beautiful undertones but quite tedious consequently not supporting the drive and angst of the vocalist’s interpretation. Two Sondheim like numbers “Just Keep Living” are given due justice by Neal Mayer and “Who Cares,” a duet delivered delightfully by Madison Stratton and Robert Hager, are great examples of promising careers.
"American Mill #2" at La MaMa Gallery June 25, 26 and 27 at 7:30pm Read Article>
Based on the experience of child textile workers in industrial-era United States, Pioneers Go East Collective’s American Mill #2 is about as by-the-book as a postmodern theatre piece can be. Multimedia, song and movement, found text, and an ephemeral premise touch on all the conventions to which we’ve grown accustomed. PGEC shows their youth in American Mill #2 ; some of these tropes work well for the piece, others are extemporaneous, but who can fault their passion.
“This Is Mary Brown” at La MaMa (Through Sunday June 28, 2015) Read Article>
Everything seems to be in place in Winsome Brown’s one woman tribute to her late mother Mary. Ms. Brown has gathered stories from her mother’s life, written a script which tells those stories from the points of view of a cast of fifteen characters (in addition to several Irish cousins), used more than the requisite number of rich tropes, and packaged it in a palatable seventy minute performance – a product she intends to take to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. And although Ms. Brown's commitment to honoring her feisty mother’s memory is admirable, there are concerns about the overall success of this well received performance piece.
“Cuddles” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday June 28, 2015) Read Article>
Under the guise of a grippingly gory vampire story, Joseph Wilde’s “Cuddles” exposes more than throbbing veins. His sharp and witty (actually, it is) tale of two sisters living a symbiotic life in the elder’s home exposes the throbbing and broken hearts of two women whose co-existence has bordered more on mutual control than mutual love and just might be no longer necessary for survival. How can the younger exist without the supply of the elder’s blood? Therein lies the wonderful conflict between two well developed and – oddly - easily accessible characters. “Cuddles” is part of the very smart Brtis Off Broadway Festival currently running at 59E59 Theaters.
“My Perfect Mind” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday June 28, 2015) Read Article>
Who we are, who we were, who we think we are, who we think we were, who others think we are, and who others think we were is the stuff of the process of examining one’s practice – even the stuff of metacognition. Such thinking can be restorative or contemplative; however, often it results in a kind of restlessness that skews one’s perception of the world or even one’s perception of one’s self. "Restless Mind Syndrome” sufferers lie awake for hours, deprived of sleep, thoughts and images racing through their minds in a seemingly unstoppable barrage of data demanding attention and/or resolution. “My Perfect Mind” splays the contents of Edward Petherbridge’s post-stroke mind in kaleidoscopic wonder across the stage at 59E59 as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival.
“Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre at the Gym at Judson (Through Saturday June 27, 2015) Read Article>
Daniel Talbott has written one of the best surreal, kaleidoscopic fables about not just the horrific legacy of combat on “foreign” soil but perhaps more importantly about the specter of all human conflict – physical, psychological, and spiritual. The unnamed military outpost that serves as the setting for Daniel Talbott’s “Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait” serves as a trope for all of the “mental wards in the middle of the desert” where feelings become numb and connections to moral centers become unhinged.
“For the Last Time” at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row (Through Saturday June 20, 2015) Read Article>
When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote "The Marble Faun" (his last novel), he was concerned about themes that recur in his previous novels. Are there any benefits extant in human suffering? What happens when humans fall into sin? Does guilt result in changes in one’s identity? This last novel also includes Hawthorne’s interest in how prolonged exposure to a foreign culture exacerbates the descent into sin and mortality. The new musical “For the Last Time” is based on Hawthorne’s novel and focuses on Donatello’s (Britton Smith) fall from grace and subsequent isolation and takes place in the “foreign culture” of the New Orleans jazz and artist scenes.
“Nice Girl” at the Labyrinth Theatre Company at Bank Street Theater (Through Sunday June 21, 2015) Read Article>
What is a nice girl to do when her grieving mother insists she keep the promise made to her now deceased father that she would return home from her freshman year of college after the funeral to care for her mother? If the young woman were nineteen it might seem a reasonable and necessary – although temporary – decision: suspend matriculation at college, spend some bereavement time with mum, and return to her studies. Unfortunately, this is not the case In Melissa Ross’s new play “Nice Girl,” currently playing at the Labyrinth Theatre Company. Josephine Rosen (Diane Davis) the nice girl is late thirty-something and never returned to college, never dated, never married and is now - in her words - a spinster. And her mother Francine (Kathryn Kates) is an insufferable and controlling agoraphobic hypochondriac who never encouraged her daughter to return to college and has sacrificed Josephine on the altar of arrested development.
“The Spoils” at the New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Sunday June 28, 2015) Read Article>
Jesse Eisenberg's "The Spoils," currently running at the New Group, is the “This Is Our Youth” for the twenty-first century millennial generation and captures the angst of this generation with gripping honesty and often disturbing realism. The complicated dynamics between the protagonist Ben (Jesse Eisenberg), his Nepalese roommate Kalyan (played with a charming innocence by Kunal Nayyar), Kalyan’s girlfriend Reshma (played with a steely veneer by Annapurna Sriram), Ben’s high school mate Ted (played with the right mix of naiveté and revenge by Michael Zegen) and his fiancé Sarah (played with splendid resolute dignity by Erin Darke) enliven the iconic Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and splay the stage at the Pershing Square Signature Center with identification, projection, delusional behavior, magical thinking (to name but a few) and near ego strength meltdown. Mr. Eisenberg’s script is the best on or off Broadway at the present time and for quite some time before.
“A Queen for a Day” at the Theatre at St. Clement’s (Through Sunday July 26, 2015) Read Article>
When Giovanni (David Proval) tells his attorney Sanford Weiss (David Deblinger), "I shouldn’t be here,” only he knows why that is true and the audience will not know until minutes before the end of Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s beguiling thriller “A Queen for a Day” currently running at the Theatre at St. Clement’s in New York City. Mr. Ricigliano’s script is pure mob-inspired drama and – in a compelling way – examines the meaning of loyalty, family, and trust. The play also examines the limits of those phenomena: is there a tipping point where acceptance ends and non-acceptance begins?
Anthony Burgess’ “One Hand Clapping” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday May 31, 2015) Read Article>
The world is going to hell in a handbasket and Howard Shirley (Oliver Devoti) knows that perhaps better than anyone. Not only does he have a photographic memory, but he is clairvoyant so Howard – if anyone would - knows the center is not holding and it might be time for him and his wife to check out. In an impassioned plea, Howard tells his wife Janet (Eve Burley), “It’s a rotten world, love. We gave it a chance. We fed money into it like it was a big machine and it paid out nothing. And it’s all collapsing all around us, decaying with rottenness. It won’t last much longer if it goes on as it is going on. It’ll be finished soon.”
“Cool Hand Luke” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday March 31st, 2015) Read Article>
What matters about “Cool Hand Luke” is the corpus of enduring questions Donn Pearce’s rich text raises and what matters about Emma Reeves’ stage adaptation of the 1965 novel is whether or not those enduring questions transfer from Pearce’s rich word to the engaging adaptation of the novel currently running at 59E59 Theaters. On the surface, "Cool Hand Luke” is about the troubled Luke Jackson (played with the perfect balance of grit and vulnerability by Lawrence Jansen), the war veteran who takes the tops off parking meters to make ends meet and it might appear this is the story of a specific man against the broken and unjust system he encounters. However, when one strips away issues of sexual status, age, and race, “Cool Hand Luke” is ultimately an extended metaphor (an allegory) for every person’s struggle with systems that violate rather than free the human spirit. The play effectively raises rich and deep questions through this extended metaphor.
Simon Callow in “Tuesday’s at Tesco’s” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday June 7, 2015) Read Article>
The only thing that interrupts the samsara of Pauline's (Simon Callow) hum-drum life is the string of dream ballets that spontaneously burst forth from the piano in her cramped apartment, or from inside the cramped interior of her expansive mind when she is out an about. These brief balletic romps remind Pauline of the life that could have been if only she were loved unconditionally and nonjudgmentally by her father for whom she cares and shops on Tuesdays.
“Forever” at the New York Theatre Workshop (through Sunday May 31st, 2015) Read Article>
With rhythms more reminiscent of song than spoken word, Dael Orlandersmith’s “Forever” is a requiem with three movements with a choir of Ms. Orlandersmith’s relatives looking on and an orchestra of audience members in awe of Ms. Orlandersmith’s remarkable artistry. The playwright’s long-awaited trip to Paris and her spiritual encounters with the “ghosts” of Jim Morrison, Richard Wright, Balzac, Modigliani, Piaf, and Oscar Wilde in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery comprise the first movement (the Introitus). These encounters lead her to reflect upon another “ghost” – that of her abusive and alcoholic mother Beula. This ghost “pulls her back” to her birth in October of 1959, through her childhood and adolescence, and to her eventual escape from her mother’s powerful hold.
"Nirbhaya," at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre Read Article>
In the words of Theatre Critic Charles Spencer, “there are moments in my line of work when criticism seems impertinent.” The Culture Project’s Nirbhaya seems such an occasion. The show consists of six Indian women recounting their personal stories of sexual abuse in response to the 2012 gang-rape murder of the medical student in Delhi. (Nicknamed ‘Nirbhaya’ or ‘Fearless One’ by the media) The event sparked massive protest and paradigm shift throughout the nation.
"Six Rounds of Vengeance," at the New Ohio Theatre (Through May 16, Wed.–Sun. at 8 p.m.) Read Article>
If you buy into the old adage ‘good writers steal,’ then Qui Nguyen is the best playwright in town. His post-apocalyptic epic ‘Six Rounds of Vengeance’ presented by the ever-infamous Vampire Cowboys is a flashy potpourri of Tarantino-esque homage. One could practically make a bingo game from the sheer volume of references to Mad Max, Blade, Fallout: New Vegas, Hack/Slash, I Am Legend, Dark Tower, and and the rest. (If you don’t know any of these franchises, steer clear. This isn’t your bag.)
“Do This One Thing For Me” at the Barrow Group Theatre Read Article>
How do we remember The Holocaust in 2015? Writer/performer Jane Elias grapples with this behemoth question in her profoundly moving, exquisitely personal solo show ‘Do This One Thing For Me’ currently running at Barrow Group.
The play chronicles Jane’s relationship with her late father, a Greek-Jewish Holocaust survivor. His own family having been brutally murdered in concentration camps, all Mr. Elias wants is for his little girl is for her to have a family of her own, a desire that come into conflict with his daughter’s more modern sensibilities. As their bond blossoms throughout the years, Jane’s father strengthens her with his tale of perseverance and nags her with his desire for her to settle down ...
“Trash Cuisine” at La MaMa E.T.C. Ellen Stuart Theatre (Through May 17, 2015) Read Article>
Exiles from Europe’s last true dictatorship, the Belarus Free Theatre delivers a knockout punch with its monumental “Trash Cuisine”, now onstage at La MaMa. An amorphous dedication to capital punishment under the guise of an international cooking program, the show gruesomely highlights socially sanctioned killing from around the globe. Leather straps, machetes, and bulk food items are brought ominously to bear in this expertly crafted, magnificent work.
"The Belle of Belfast" at Irish Repertory Theatre (Through June 7, 2015) Read Article>
It’s Doubt meets Lolita in Nate Rufus Edleman's pontifical comedy The Belle of Belfast, currently at the Irish Repertory Theatre. Anne, a seventeen-year-old girl living in Belfast during the violent Troubles, falls in love with Ben, a dashing young(ish) priest. Initially he resists, but when Anne shows up at his parish soaked through from the rain and teary over her parent’s bombing death, Ben gives in to his carnal impulses, and hijinks ensue. Sort of.
“It Shoulda Been You” at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Sunday September 13, 2015) Read Article>
Whether the audience member chooses to appreciate “It Shoulda Been You” as a delightful old fashioned musical with a solid score, a serviceable book, and an outstanding cast or chooses to explore the musical’s rich layers of plot, either way, the opportunity to experience David Hyde Pierce’s exemplary and creative staging of the new musical at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre is an opportunity not to be missed.
“The Tailor of Inverness” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday May 3, 2015) Read Article>
“The Tailor of Inverness” is the compelling and often haunting story of playwright Matthew Zajac’s inexhaustible search for the truth about his father Mateusz’s past after discovering new information about him after his father’s death in 1992. This information is provided through a powerful and engaging performance by Matthew Zajac in this first offering of 59E59 Theaters’ “Brits Off Broadway” Festival.
Pompie’s Place at Don’t Tell Mama (Through Thursday May 28, 2015) Read Article>
A welcomed case of the blues has landed in Manhattan at the new pop-up blues supper club currently residing at the iconic Don’t Tell Mama on Restaurant Row in midtown Manhattan. Under Ehud Asherie’s music direction, three of New York’s most distinguished blues and jazz singers croon and make the audience swoon with their rich blend of voices and superlative interpretive skills. With Ken Peplowski on reeds, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, Jackie Williams on drums, and David Wong on upright bass, the three chanteuses charm the audience with a program of blues standards that pleases any blues-lover’s palate.
“Hand to God” at the Booth Theatre (On Sale through July 26, 2015) Read Article>
There are soliloquies. There are asides. These are two dramatic conventions that allow the audience to know what an actor is thinking and feeling without the other actors on stage knowing. And now there is Tyrone the sock puppet who turns out to be the darker side of his puppeteer Jason (Steven Boyer) for whom things have not been going so well since the death of his father. Jason fashioned Tyrone for his weekly participation in his mother Margery’s (Geneva Carr) Christian puppet ministry. In that setting with fellow teens Timothy (Michael Oberholtzer) and Jessica (Sarah Stiles), Tyrone begins to find his own voice – or is it really the voice of Jason’s id slowly gaining the upper hand over his ego and superego? This is the stuff of the brilliant and sometimes shockingly disturbing “Hand to God” currently running at the Booth Theatre.
“Finding Neverland” at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Sunday December 20, 2015) Read Article>
For those who have never grown up and still indulge in imaginative child’s play, conjuring up backyard scenes with swashbuckling pirates or configuring protective forts from blankets and sofa cushions to ward off the enemies - perhaps while babysitting - should quickly head to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre where you will certainly recognize a character who might have encouraged such whimsical behavior. “Finding Neverland,” the new musical based on the motion picture of the same name and the play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” is a complicated, interesting, and magical theatrical journey. At a stop somewhere between Alice’s Wonderland and Dorothy’s Oz is where we find Peter’s Neverland. It is a place where you go to escape social pressure, expectations and fears, to learn about hope and courage, but more important a place to heal. The moment you hear the soothing vocal of the incredible Matthew Morrison deliver the intriguing lyrics of the opening number “If the World Turned Upside Down” you connect, understand and start emotional gears that transport you into the heart of J.M. Barrie. So hold on tight, something wonderful is about to take flight.
“Hamlet” at Classic Stage Company (Through Sunday May 10, 2015) Read Article>
Classic Stage Company’s “Hamlet” might just be the definitive “Hamlet” for the twenty-first century. Staged with shimmering creativity, the iconic Shakespearian tragedy bristles with a contemporary edge firmly rooted in tradition. The castle in Elsinore here is a swanky mansion with a designer dining table, bar, and contemporary seating areas. The platform, the room of state, Polonius’s house, the churchyard, and other rooms in the castle are unadorned playing areas at the fringes of the room of state (the main setting). The action often takes place in minimal light, or a fully lighted theatre, or in delicious pools of light provided by lighting designer Justin Townsend. And the Ghost does not speak in this production: we only know of the Ghost of Hamlet’s father through the eyes and ears of Hamlet.
“Underland” at 59E59 Theaters (through Saturday April 25, 2015) Read Article>
Lost in space, the Robinson family knew they had landed in a dangerous place. But danger is not found only in outer space: indeed, Earth itself is a dangerous place. The danger is sometimes closer than one thinks, lurking in the shadows, rustling in the closet at night, waiting under the bed, or even in the quarry just beyond the chain-link fence in a small dusty town in the middle of Australia – down under as it were. Ruth (Kiley Lotz) and Violet (Angelina Stark) two high school students know this only too well as they navigate through the danger inherent in their small-minded town in Alexandra Collier’s “Underland” currently running at 59E59 Theaters.
“Soldier X” at the Ma-Yi Theater Company at HERE (through Sunday April 19, 2015) Read Article>
After seeing Rehana Lew Mirza’s “Soldier X” at the HERE Arts Center, one wonders whether the playwright takes on too much, just enough, or not quite enough in her intriguing new play about how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan affect those returning from the battlefields and those welcoming them home. Ms. Mirza’s play tackles PTSD, rape, racism, sexism, cultural and religious conflicts, and the cycle of violence on and off the battlefield. The answer might be the playwright needs to tackle all of these war-related issues because they are all connected in a matrix of madness created by the dynamics of conflict.
Interview with the Cast of “Music Hall” at 59E59 Theaters (Closes on Sunday April 12, 2015) Read Article>
I recently had the opportunity to interview the cast of Jean-Luc Lagarce’s “MusicHall” currently running at 59E59 Theaters in Manhattan. “Music Hall” is a remarkable and important play with rich themes and a brilliant cast. The responses from each cast member follow the questions.
Theatre Reviews Limited: Jean-Luc Lagarce’s script is often challenging and demanding for the audience. Do you depend in any way on the audience to fuel your performance and is your performance in any way different because of the audience?
Jeffrey Binder's Answers (The Artiste): The audience in this show is almost literally another character on stage. I'm constantly speaking to them individually, as individuals, so I'd say yes - they absolutely influence the rhythm and tenor of the show, but they don't dominate it ...
“My Name Is Rachel Corrie” at the Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project (through Sunday April 12, 2015) Read Article>
Rachel Corrie was a remarkable young woman who willingly traded the comfort and privilege of her neo-liberal Olympia, Washington family for her visit to Rafah to live with and advocate for the Palestinians in Gaza whose homes were routinely being destroyed and whose access to employment beyond the Gaza Strip increasingly blocked. Rachel was martyred in Palestine on March 16, 2003 when an Israeli backhoe struck and buried her intentionally. Charlotte Hemmings portrays Rachel and narrates her story from the time of Rachel’s arrival in Rafah until her untimely and brutal death. If ever there was a place where “mere anarchy” was being loosed upon the world and where “the best [lacked] all conviction” it was and it remains the fragile “border” between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East.
“Macbeth” at the Acting Company at the Pearl Theatre (through April 9, 2015) Read Article>
The Acting Company in association with The Guthrie Theater has delivered a trimmed and taut reinvention of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (“The Scottish Play”) to audiences at the Pearl Theatre in Manhattan as part of its current tour paired with Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” This ninety minute “Macbeth” delivers the Bard’s iconic tragedy compressed with explosive energy and is performed to perfection by a resplendent cast. Think “House of Cards” on steroids and the image created begins to match the reality of what the Acting Company has accomplished with this “Macbeth.”
“The Undeniable Sound of Right Now” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (through Sunday May 2, 2015) Read Article>
The insidious sounds of “right now” that threaten to relegate the present to the past creep eerily into Hank’s Bar in Chicago in 1992. Hank (played with a droll, brooding intensity by Jeb Brown) loves his gritty rock club that has launched a good number of performance careers. He loves his daughter Lena (played with a focused intensity by Margo Seibert) even more. And he still has a deep love for his ex-wife Bette (played with a powerful charm by Lusia Strus) who continues to support Hank and Lena with tough doses of advice and admiration. The final member of this intentional family is Toby (played with a wistful, wry, and willing demeanor by Brian Miskell). Toby is bookkeeper, booker, and unrequited lover of Lena.
“Music Hall” at 59E59 Theater C (through Sunday April 12, 2015) Read Article>
Somewhere, someone is waiting backstage – or even on stage – to perform, to dance, to sing, or to tell a story to a gathered few sitting in the dark. Those gathered, for whatever reason, might be attentive, or not so attentive. They might even be eating or drinking or snoozing or chatting amongst themselves. Nevertheless, the one on stage, the performer, the artiste must go on “as cool as you please” and begin her or his act “slow and unconcerned.” Another someone tells the story of that Artiste assisted by two “Boys” in the remarkable and well-crafted “Music Hall” currently running at 59E59 Theater C.
Karen Mason: “Mason at Mama’s in March” at Don’t Tell Mama (through Monday March 30, 2015) Read Article>
First things first: Karen Mason’s appearance at Don’t Tell Mama in March is an iconic seventy minutes not to be missed. Since opening the main room at Don’t Tell Mama thirty-three years ago with Nancy LaMott, Karen Mason’s career has become iconic with stellar performances on Broadway, in movies, and on cabaret stages around the world. Ms. Mason has always been a force to be reckoned with and her current run at Don’t Tell Mama is no exception. Her voice is as strong and big (her description) as ever. Her ability to interpret a lyric and own it is incomparable and always remarkable and her vocal control is beyond comparison. Her placement of notes is deliberate and the interpretative choices she makes are always impeccable. Accompanied by the incomparable Christopher Denny and directed by Barry Kleinbort, Karen Mason’s “Mason at Mama’s in March” is a tour de force from start to finish.
“Every Brilliant Thing” at the Barrow Street Theatre (through Sunday March 29, 2015) Read Article>
“Social isolation — or lacking social connection — and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely, respectively increasing mortality risk by 29% and 32%.” (Brigham Young University Researchers)
Jonny Donahoe has received rave reviews for his performance in Duncan Macmillan’s “Every Brilliant Thing” since the show opened at the Barrow Street Theater back in December(and before in the U.K.) and the show is getting ready to launch its second U.K. tour after its final performance at the Barrow Street Theatre on March 29, 2015 ...
“I of the Storm” at the Playroom Theater (through Wednesday April 29, 2015) Read Article>
What is a successful money manager to do after serving time in prison for the misappropriation of funds and finding he is bereft of family, friends, and home? The Speaker in Def Poet RJ Bartholomew’s “I of the Storm” faces that precise circumstance and chooses to come to terms with his homelessness by embracing it and “letting go.” This Speaker now lives in the same New York City Park he used to pass through on his way to work when he missed the shuttle or could not get onto the subway. He spends his days sharing his experiences with passersby (in this case, the audience) and encouraging them to focus on not being “programmed” by the world – as he was - but rather seeking opportunities to be thankful and to overcome the world’s negativity.
“John & Jen” at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row (through Saturday April 4, 2015) Read Article>
The charming chamber musical “John & Jen” opened in 1995 at the Lamb’s Theatre and is enjoying its twentieth anniversary revival at the Clurman Theatre on Theatre Row. It is a musical montage of the lives of Jen Tracy (Kate Baldwin), her brother John (Conor Ryan) and Jen’s son John also played by Mr. Ryan and explores the sometimes complicated dynamics of family and the family system, particularly the relationships between sister and brother and the often tumultuous relationship between mother and son.
“Everything You Touch” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre at the Cherry Lane Theatre (through Sunday March 29, 2015) Read Article>
“Everything You Touch” is a time warp and space warp marathon, pushing and pulling at the audience as it takes audience members on a roller-coaster ride through events in real time, through events in the past, and ultimately to that place where all events initiate and resolve: the human mind. Sheila Callaghan’s play, currently running at the Cherry Lane Theatre, explores the important themes of love, longing, and loss in the context of indifference, suffering, and objectification. Her play is at the same time complex and compelling and worth every bit of the effort it takes to connect with the enduring questions it addresses, including the question of how we truly affect those whom we know and those we might not know.
“Abundance” at the Beckett Thereat on Theatre Row (through Saturday March 28, 2015) Read Article>
Referencing the word “Abundance” in the dictionary, several meanings appear, including ‘an extremely plentiful or over sufficient quantity or supply,’ ‘overflowing fullness,’ and affluence or wealth,’ which all diligently support the aptly titled Beth Henley epic play. The current revival of this important work by TACT, now occupying the Beckett Theater, closely examines the plight of two brave, unrelated, young women in the 1860s moving out west to find a new life and conquer dreams of love, wealth and prosperity. It is a tale of survival, human instinct, intelligence and courage that proves there will always be an abundance present, whether it be love or lust, wealth or poverty, happiness or complacency, kindness or cruelty, feast or famine and that it will continually be prevalent.
“Woyzeck, FJF” at the New Ohio Theatre (Through Saturday March 21, 2015) Read Article>
What if – instead of drowning while trying to dispose of the knife he used to murder his unfaithful wife – Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck ended up in an insane asylum wondering why he was there and what it was he had done to result in his hospitalization? And what if the things Woyzeck actually wondered, questioned, and imagined were instead surmised, evaluated, and fantasized by his army mate Andres? There is no need to guess any longer for this is what occurs in Jeremy Duncan Pape’s and D. L. Siegel’s clever retelling of Georg Buchner’s unfinished play “Woyzeck” currently running at the New Ohio Theatre. The adapters (really they are playwrights) attempt to finish what Buchner’s death in 1837 left unfinished with their inventive “Woyzeck, FJF.”
“The Events” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday March 22, 2015) Read Article>
Reportedly, Anders Breivik - the rightwing extremist who bombed a government building in Oslo, Norway in 2011 killing eight people then shooting sixty-nine more in a youth camp - smiled at his trial in 2012 when he was declared not to be insane. To have been declared insane would have been “the ultimate insult.” Odd concern for a mass murderer. Breivik claimed to have committed the murders in an effort to “battle multiculturalism” in Europe.
“The Events,” currently running at the New York Theatre Workshop, was inspired by playwright David Greig’s visit to Norway in the fall of 2011 to research this attack and massacre and by his meeting with a female vicar who ran a community choir ...
“Lives of the Saints” at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street (Through Friday March 27, 2015) Read Article>
Sigmund Freud’s iconic phrase might be an apt descriptor for David Ives’ “Lives of the Saints” currently running at Primary Stages at the Duke on 42nd Street. When Mr. Ives tackles the vicissitudes of the human condition (tackles the lives of the saints) as he does in the satisfying “It’s All Good,” he is at his best. Unfortunately this new collection of Ives’ tales contains mostly physical comedy, repetitious word play (double entendre, innuendo, etc.), and enough sight gags to challenge a “Three Stooges” gig. And that is fine if that is all the audience expects and desires – which seemed to be the case at a recent showing of these six shorts.
“Rasheeda Speaking” at the New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Sunday March 22, 2015) Read Article>
When a play asks rich, deep, and enduring questions – truly rich and deep and enduring questions – there should be “a kind of a hush” over the audience throughout the performance. Indeed, the appropriate response to the curtain call might be that same awe-fulled hushed silence. Joel Drake Johnson’s “Rasheeda Speaking” asks enduring questions that are rich and deep; however, at times, the audience response was not hushed. In fact, after several “black-outs” which were clearly scene changes, the audience applauded thunderously hoping Mr. Johnson’s well developed and rich characters would indeed stop asking any more challenging questions about race and racism in America.
“The Road to Damascus” at 59E59 Theater A (Through Sunday, March 1, 2015) Read Article>
It is easy to get trapped in the seductive Siren-like lure of reality when watching Tom Dulack’s “The Road to Damascus” currently running at 59E59 Theaters as part of its innovative and successful 5A Series of plays. The events of the play – a future terrorist bombing of Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the hawkish response of the new third-party President – play out in a powerful albeit predictable way that satisfies the audience and leaves it members thinking deeply and asking rich questions about the dystopian future of the United States in an environment of seemingly escalating global anti-American sentiment. How can the United States successfully combat world-wide terrorism? Will the terrorists ultimately win out? Is anyone safe from the scourge of international terrorism? But it is in the rich layer of metaphor that lies beneath the play’s plot that the magic of “The Road to Damascus” resides and proves Tom Dulack to be a skilled and worthy wordsmith.
"Kill Me Like You Mean It," at Fourth Street Theater (Through March 8th, 2015) Read Article>
If Eugène Ionesco and Martin McDonagh watched The Maltese Falcon, they may very well have come up with something akin to Stolen Chair’s Kill Me Like You Mean It; but it wouldn’t be nearly as good as the comedic masterwork currently running at Fourth Street Theatre.
When private eye Ben Farrell is hired to investigate a series of crimes seemingly inspired by a pulp-fiction writers detective stories, he’s shocked to discover that the next predicted murder will almost certainly be his own ...
"Loveplay/Playmoney," at La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street (Through February 22, 2015) Read Article>
A naked man, a disco ball, and a discourse on drunk moose sets the events of ‘Loveplay’ and it’s companion piece ‘Playmoney’ into motion. Written and performed (emceed, really) with loveable braggadocio by Sam Alper, the plays are a sequence of riffings on romance (Loveplay) and success. (Playmoney) With funky poetics, awkward vignettes, occasional improv and no fourth wall to speak of, Alper’s play comically probes what it means to be on the hunt for love and money in 2015.
Marcus Goldhaber and the Jon Davis Trio at the the Kitano Jazz Club Read Article>
Marcus Goldhaber and the Jon Davis Trio slid onto the stage of the Kitano Jazz Club as eager as you’ll ever see a Jazz ensemble. After a racther clinical litany about proper Jazz etiquette from the Kitano’s musical director, the group warmed the crowd with an easy listening number. The performance consisted of mostly cover work with a few songs from Goldhaber’s new album ‘A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening,’ and the show sufficingly lived up to the title.
Shesh Yak at Rattlestick Playwright's Theatre (Through February 22, 2015) Read Article>
‘You made me hate Syria! You made me hate my home!’ howls a wrathful Jameel. Haytham, a gentle, middle-aged man, sits bound and gagged in a claustrophobic apartment as Jameel inflicts atrocity after atrocity on his fragile body. It’s the grim ritual of history and violence now playing at Rattlestick Theatre. Playwright/Performer Laith Nakli spins a tale of suffering past and present; a chilling, challenging play that swells from a few small embers into a fully fledged inferno.
Villainous Company at Theatre Row’s Clurman Theatre (Through January 31) Read Article>
There is a special kind of merriment in a mystery play, and no, I’m not talking about Medieval liturgical drama. A mystery play lives and dies by the intensifying of suspense, the genius of its plot, and the brilliance of its characters always being ever-so-enjoyably one step ahead (or behind) the rest of us. The theatrical equivalent of Sudoku, it’s a risky enterprise, though, as a bad caper struggles to find any sort of aesthetic whatsoever.
"Winners," Ensemble Studio Theatre (Through February 8, 2015) Read Article>
Ensemble Studio Theatre's Winners makes me yearn for my years of reviewing psychotic performance art in meat lockers. Those days were horrific, to be sure, but at least ritalin-deprived cacophonies have the potential to evoke some sort of reaction. Maggie Bofill’s new play not quite thoughtful, not quite comedic, but something wedged woefully in between. Something of a manic artsy sitcom, Winners cannot deliver anything other than cheap chuckles, sparkling set changes, and Wes-Andersonian schmaltz.
"Everybody Gets Cake," 59E59 Theater C (Through February 8, 2015) Read Article>
You know you’re in for a treat at the theatre when one of the performers brings down the house by taking a single, stylized breath of air. Yes, the New York Times decreed that the veteran performance group Parallel Exit could get laughs ‘simply by breathing,’ and the capable comedians were quick to prove them right. Their new show Everybody Gets Cake is modern vaudevillian gold. Parallel Exit’s players are masters of all things physical, boisterous, and fun.
“Side Show” at the St. James Theatre (Closes on Sunday January 4, 2015) Read Article>
“Side Show’s” messages of self-acceptance, unconditional and non-judgmental love, and commitment bring audiences to their feet at the close of the re-imagined musical currently playing at the St. James Theatre and surprisingly scheduled to close on Sunday January 4, 2015. The musical opened to exceptionally positive reviews in November and nightly has elicited (rarely experienced from Broadway audiences) acclamations from the audience during the performance. So with these accolades, new music by Henry Krieger and an outstanding cast, the question remains, why is this musical closing early? Is there something inherent in this story that has challenged two attempts at a successful Broadway run?
“The Last Ship” at the Neil Simon Theatre (Tickets Available through March 31, 2015) Read Article>
Everything is just right about “The Last Ship” currently running at the Neil Simon Theatre. With music and lyrics by Sting and a cohesive and engaging book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, this new musical does not disappoint. Indeed, it is a powerful exploration of the dynamics of love and loss and hope and destiny. The new musical is rich with tropes, specifically the extended metaphor of the ship/boat and the river which figure prominently in American literature (“Moby Dick,” “Song of Myself,” “Tom Sawyer” to name a few) and it is appropriate to use that metaphor here and urge readers not to miss the boat and be sure to see “The Last Ship” for a journey that is heartfelt and restorative of hope and spirit.
“The Invisible Hand” at the New York Theatre Workshop (Through January 4, 2015) Read Article>
Ayad Akhtar’s “The Invisible Hand” currently playing at the New York Theatre Workshop is an intelligent, emotionally charged, and captivating exploration of the complex dynamics of self-interest in a globally codependent environment. Under Ken Rus Schmoll’s electric direction, the ensemble cast leads – sometimes propels – the audience through a series of “ah-ha” moments which culminate in the kind of rare catharsis that allows the audience to not only settle back in their seats but also equips them with a renewed awareness of the fragility of global politics and economics.
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