E V I E W S
Reviews, Cabaret Reviews and Film
Reviews are in their own sections
|Ademide Akintilo (Algernon) and Connie Castanzo (Cecily)
in NY Classical Theatre's the Importance of Being Earnest. Photo by
Summer In Manhattan: Laughter
In the Parks with “The Importance of Being Earnest”
New York Classical is celebrating its 20th season of free
summer theatre in the New York City parks with – laughter and gender-bending.
In its latest offering, the dress – not the hat – unmakes
the man. In one version of “The Important of Being Earnest,”
the Oscar Wilde masterpiece of comic invention, men are men, women are
women, and often the twain collide, flirt, propose and battle for happiness.
The plot is boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl with marvelous
blocking agents and lots of delicious deception. For years critics were
under the mistaken belief that Wilde’s aphorisms and quips were
funny nonsense. A few are – like the dental jokes (cut from this
production)– but most find truth in hidden places and have a depth
that is probably one secret of the play’s continual freshness. By
| Michael Shannon as Johnny and Audra
McDonald as Frankie. Photo by Deen van Meer.
“Frankie & Johnny in
the Clair de Lune,” a story of working-class love lives
It opens with sensual and noisy sex in the bed, the bodies turning and
pushing against each other, the familiar noises with great realistic direction
by Arin Arbus. And then not quite what you might expect. Frankie falls
out of bed. And the post sex conversation; he compliments her breasts.
She is not pleased. Is this how a love affair begins? By Lucy Komisar.
|Lidia Velezheva as Baroness Shtral and
Leonid Bichevin as Prince Zvezdich in practice duel. Photo by Valery
“Masquerade,” a Lermontov
classic given striking surreal touch
Part Commedia dell’arte, part pageant, part ballet,
with a touch of music hall comedy, “Masquerade” is a visual
feast. Presented by the Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia in
Moscow, it is directed by Rimas Tuminas of Lithuania. Though the major
actors are all prominent in Russia, Tuminas is the unseen star of the
show. By Lucy Komisar.
|Kathleen Littlefield as convention cochair,
Ginnie House as Frances Perkins and Claire Mikelle Anderson as Henry
Wallace. Photo by Ahron R. Foster.
"Convention,” a terrific
reprise of 1944 Dem convention that chose moderate Truman for VP instead
It could be the corruption of a convention where Bernie Sanders is set
against a corporate Biden. State signs are set behind banks of seats.
The music is of the 40s. Flags on the wall have 48 stars. Author Danny
Rocco and director Shannon Fillion create an ambience at Irondale that
makes you think you are there. By Lucy Komisar.
|Danielle Brooks as Beatrice and Grantham
Coleman as Benedick, Photo by Joan Marcus.
Public’s “Much Ado
About Nothing” takes Shakespeare to black Atlanta
A large banner on the brick house says “Stacey Abrams
2020.” It’s next spring. Abrams, who last year lost a close
race for governor of Georgia amid reports of voter suppression, had talked
then about running for president. The relevance of the sign is that Abrams
is a black woman, and this version of Shakespeare’s play about love
and trust – or mistrust — sets it not Messina, Italy, but
in modern-day Atlanta, with a black cast speaking in the local accent.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Nathan Lane as Gary, Kristine Nielson as Janice.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
“Gary: A Sequel to Titus
Andronicus” surreal comedy of mass political murder
Wildly funny and clever, this is a play a serious theater-goer cannot
miss. It’s a terrific campy surreal take on murderous war from the
point of view of the workers who have to clean up the mess, the bloody
bodies of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.”It takes
only three actors, though the set requires some imagination. It should
be produced all over the country! By Lucy Komisar.
|Kate Hamill (Meg), Carmen Zilles (Amy),
Ellen Harvey (Hannah), Paola Sanchez Abreu (Beth),and Kristolyn Lloyd
(Jo). Photo by Matt Ross.
Louisa May Alcott’s
“Little Women,” transcribed by Kate Hamill
If you don’t know Kate Hamill, make haste to do
so. New York theater is dominated by mega hits and movies turned Broadway
show. But for those looking for more personal, thought-provoking evenings,
Ms. Hamill, just 36, is making quite a name for herself in not just transcribing
classic literature into plays, but doing so in a modern, wickedly fast-paced
meter that leaves nothing sacred. This has earned her many professional
honors, including a Helen Hayes Award for Most Outstanding Production
and The Wall Street Journal’s Best Playwright of the Year. By Eric
|Pedro Pascal as Edmund & Jane Houdyshell
as his father, Earl of Gloucester. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.
“King Lear” with Glenda
Jackson is brilliant and annoying
This “Lear” with Glenda Jackson as the king is sometimes brilliant,
sometimes annoying.To be male and even supercilious, she makes her voice
and demeanor angry, harsh, raspy, cackling. Indeed, Jackson is a brilliant
actress, her voice and demeanor might be male, but she didn’t persuade
me she was a king. Or perhaps she was on the edge of madness very early
in the plot, after her daughters’ duplicity. As the play went on,
I wasn’t sure if she would shrivel or explode. By Lucy Komisar.
|Anthony Arkin and Jane Bruce Photo by Russ Rowland
“Original Sound” Has
an Interesting Theme
In our age of sampling, remixes and computer generated music, the definition
of originality seems more than a little vague. Do artists own their work?
Are they stifling creativity when they protect their copyrights? Are they
merely protecting their own interests? All these questions, and a good
deal more, are explored in Adam Seidel’s “Original Sound,”
now staged at Cherry Lane Theatre, under Elena Araoz’s skilled direction.
By Paulanne Simmons.
|L-R: Alexandra Bonesho, Brad Fryman (as Bruno), John
Gazzale, Elizabeth Inghram in "Zen A.M."
Larry Litt writes that "Zen A.M." by Natalie Menna is an expose
of the contemporary art and high society world that calls itself high
culture. The play is a farce about the trials and tribulations of an untidy,
inconsistent artist named Bruno, who has to fulfill a commission or else
all hell will break loose.Well, it breaks loose anyway. If you have any
interest in art and society, writes Larry, this comedic farce is well
worth taking in. By Larry Littany Litt.
|Alice Ripley. Photo by Jazelle Artistry
"The Pink Unicorn"
At the beginning of Elise Forier Edie’s new play, “The
Pink Unicorn,” Trisha Lee (the luminous Alice Ripley) does not understand
her young daughter when she announces she is genderqueer. By the end of
the play she still does not understand but she has learned to accept and
even celebrate human diversity. By Paulanne Simmons.
|John Lithgow as Clinton, Laurie Metcalf as Hillary.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.
“Hillary and Clinton.”
You are hit by the overwhelming sadness of everyone involved in Hillary
Clinton’s 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign against Barack Obama.
Playwright Lucas Hnath and director Joe Mantello create a landscape of
utter sleaze and despair. By Lucy Komisar.
|Heidi Schreck at American Legion hall
with white men’s photos on the walls. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“What the Constitution Means
If you don’t want to go to a lecture about what is wrong with how
the US government treats women and minorities, it’s more interesting
to go to a play. Such as “What the Constitution Means to Me,”
Heidi Schreck’s take on how the Constitution is honored in the breach,
“rugged” as the copy she carries says. Adult audiences in
New York and other liberal enclaves nod their heads, and it’s a
good teaching moment for kids. Higher marks for politics than for drama.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Rana Roy as Stephanie Rahn and Jonny
Lee Miller as Larry Lamb. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The Sun is a popular newspaper for the undereducated British
masses. It was a broadsheet started in 1964, then reinvented as a tabloid
five years later by the Australian Robert Murdoch and Larry Lamb, a North
Englander he named as editor. They were outsiders to the London Fleet
Street crowd and felt it. “Ink” a vivid newspaper story mixed
with Murdoch’s Sun melodrama.
By Lucy Komisar.
|Benjamin Walker as Chris Keller, Tracy Letts as Joe
Keller, Annette Bening as his wife Kate and Hampton Fluker as George
Deever. Photo by Joan Marcus.
My Sons” denounces America’s murderous corporate corruption
Jack O’Brien’s crisp staging of Arthur Miller’s
iconic 1947 American morality play lays bare the corruption underlying
the normalcy of American society. This story of 70 years ago could be
easily replicated today. Oh, so easily. By Lucy Komisar.
|Kelli O’Hara as Katherine. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Kiss Me Kate" at The
How do you take a 40s musical built around a sexist Shakespeare play and
make it delight today’s audiences? With pizazz and charm, if you
are Roundabout Theatre director Scott Ellis. In this version of Cole Porter’s
and the Spewacks’ “Kiss Me Kate,” the feisty heroine
gives as good as she gets, and she and her erstwhile spouse playing Katherine
and Petruchio land some good kicks to the others’ derrieres. By
|Mary Candler (Mary) and Jory Murphy (Melville) in
":Mary Stuart". Photo by Allison Stock.
Hedgepig Ensemble in "Mary
Sometimes the best theatre experience is at the small, off off-Broadway
houses, like Access Theatre. It can begin with the journey – up
the many stairs to the fourth floor space or the wait, while the company
sends the elevator down to you. And it’s even better when the company
brings its passion to the stage, as Hedgepig Ensemble did to their revival
of Mary Stuart. By Genda Frank.
|Karl Kenzler and Tasha Lawrence
in "All My Children." Photo by Maria Baranova.
All Our Children
"All Our Children" by Stephan Unwin is a story of Kindertransport
in Nazi Germany. It is familiar and if you know the history, the play
has no surprises, but the echoes of current events are chilling. By Glenda
|Andre De Shields as Hermes. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
The afternoon Paulanne Simmons saw Anais Mitchell and Rachel Chavkin’s
“Hadestown,” at the moment when Orpheus, despite Hades’
injunction, turns around to face Eurydice, a young lady seated several
rows in front of her gasped, “Oh no!” It’s possible
she was not familiar with the myth and thus was not prepared for its tragic
ending. But Paulanne likes to think the dramatic staging and absorbing
retelling of this ancient tale so captivated her that she forgot everything
she had previously known. Great theater can do that.
|AIN'T NO MO! -- Fedna Jacquet and Ebony Marshall-Oliver
as TV show ladies. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Ain't No Mo!" at the
This very funny, clever, often campy satire of black life
and stereotypes by Jordan Cooper hits every button, starting with a noisy
evangelical church service for Brother Righttocomplain who is being interred
because he was "murdered by the election of First Negro President
of these United States." Director Stevie Walker-Webb expertly plays
the camp to its heights, until you are surprised by reality peeking through.
By Lucy Komissar.
|Brandon Lee Olson as Tom in "Electronic City"
The absurdity of modern life is so often portrayed that it gets boring
to hear that our lives are hell. Yeah we live in hard times. We try to
connect and sometimes we do for a while. But then there's the inevitable
end game when we know something isn't working. The end is nearing to jobs,
friends, relationships, homes and our lives. Pretty awful, no? That's
why it's good to see a comedy about our lives that catches the potential
laughs that make these lives worth living. Ildiko Nemeth the award winning
director puts high energy life into Falk Richter's mad display of lives
gone wild under the control of digital forces. By Larry Litt.
|L-R: Ugo Chukwu, Megan Hill, Justin Long.
Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Do You Feel Anger?"
"Do You Feel Anger?" by Mara Nelson-Greenberg at the Vineyard
Theatre is an inventive, incisive and – yes! – a funny funny
absurdist comedy about male privilege in the corporate world. "Do
You Feel Anger?" received its world premiere at the 2018 Humana Festival
of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It's a very
good play, which is rare. It has been extended until April 27. Go see
it. By Glenda Frank.
|L-R: Isabelle Huppert as Anne, Chris Noth as Pierre.
Photo by Ahron R Foster.
"The Mother", played at the Atlantic Theater Company,
is a very feminist play about a woman whose life is destroyed because
she has no other existence but through her son. It reminded me of the
enigmatic cinema of the great French Nouvelle Vague. It is the perfect
platform for an actress as subtle, complicated and accomplished as Huppert.
And a fine work by Florian Zeller. The story is contemporary, subtle and
surreal. Anne (a brilliant Isabelle Huppert), who has done nothing in
life except be a mother, plays out scenarios about her husband, her son
and his girlfriend. The very inventive Florian Zeller writes this not
as a narrative that moves smoothly through time, but as a time-shifting,
repeating replay of the same events. Under Trip Cullman's clear, austere
direction, that becomes smartly, vividly apparent. By Lucy Komisar.
|The Lehman Trilogy
Two views of “The Lehman Trilogy”
Glenda Franbk writes that the production, directed by Sam Mendes ("American
Beauty"), is mesmerizing. The trilogy is filled with comical and
quirky touches, all intrinsic to the characters. Lucy Komisar addds: it's
a quite extraordinary play of how generations of an immigrant family create
a major financial institution that starts as a southern cotton farming
supply shop and ends as a multinational bank whose crash helps bring on
the Great Recession of 2008.
|L-R: Matthew Amendt, as Cassius and Brandon J. Dirden,
as Brutus. Photo by Gerry Goldstein.
The Noblest Roman Tragedy: "Julius Caesar"
If your attention has wandered during the last third of Shakespeare's
"Julius Caesar," you are not alone, but redemption is at hand.
Theatre for a New Audience's portrayal of the aftermath of the assassination
of Caesar, running through April 28 at Polonsky Shakespeare Center in
Brooklyn, is a revelation. Following Cassius's conscription of Brutus,
who rationalizes his initial doubts, and the killing and funeral orations,
all played out grippingly, the ensuing violent power struggle is must-watch
Theatre. By Philip Dorian.
|L-R: Ephraim Sykes, Jawan M. Jackson, Jeremy Pope,
Derrick Baskin, and James Harkness in AIN'T TOO PROUD. Photo by Matthew
Two views of "Ain’t Too Proud–
The Life and Times of The Temptations" at the Imperial Theatre.
Paulanne Simmons writes, "The story behind 'Ain't Too Proud,' as
told by book writer Dominique Morisseau, is mostly a story of the music
and not the men. This is both a strength and a weakness in the show. To
be sure, the music of The Temptations is some of the best that ever came
out of Motown." Ed Rubin adds, "I wish that I could say that
Aint Too Proud turned me inside out and sent me directly to heaven."
|Photo by Joan Marcus.
August Strindberg's "The Dance of Death"
As far as the theater arena which where most of the world knows him best,
Strindberg wanted his plays to attain what he called "greater Naturalism."
He disliked the expository character backgrounds that characterized the
work of Henrik Ibsen and rejected the convention of a dramatic "slice
of life" because he felt that the resulting plays were mundane and
uninteresting. Strindberg felt that true naturalism was a psychological
"battle of the brains:" two people who hate each other in the
immediate moment and strive to drive the other to doom is the type of
mental hostility that Strindberg stove to describe. He intended his plays
to be impartial and objective, citing a desire to make literature akin
to a science. And a verbally-sparring warring couple, akin to Albee's
razor-tongued George and Martha, is what we get in Classic Stage Company's
production of Strindberg's "The Dance of Death." By Edward Rubin.
|Photo by Pavel Antonov.
"Strangers in the World"
Honor is one of the six remaining settlers from the first Puritan
colony in Massachusetts in "Strangers in the World," a new play
by Randy Sharp. Distance, Coldweather, Killsin and Constance are her companions.
Randy Sharp, the Artistic Director of Axis Theatre, which is celebrating
its 20th anniversary, chose this unlikely bit of American history to create
a moving, stylized theatre piece. Even as phrases and gestures crisscross
and repeat, something new is added, sparking our attention and adding
to the conflicts on stage. By Glenda Frank.
|The "Too Darn Hot" number. Photo by Joan
Kelli and Cole spark a "Kiss Me, Kate"
"Kiss Me, Kate" was the first Cole Porter show with musical
numbers that advance the plot, none more clearly than the curtain-raiser,
"Another Op'nin', Another Show." Petruchio's description of
Katharina, while playful, applies to Kelli O'Hara in full measure. "She
is beautiful, witty and affable, he has heard, among other wondrous qualities,”
and he has arrived "to make mine eye the witness of that report.”
You might consider doing the same. By Philip Dorian.
|Faust and his servant, Wagner, with Vit
Horejs (in floor).
"The Devil Made Me Do It…" A
Puppet Version of the Infamous Faust Legend
Theater for the New City presents Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre
in "Johannes Dokchtor Faust, a Petrifying Puppet Comedye," translated
and directed by Vit Horejs. In this brief but entertaining production,
staged in the intimate cellar space of TNC, two popular items are conjoined--the
ancient art of puppetry and the dramatic legend of Dr. Faustus. In modern
times, puppetry has regained attention in serious theatre as a means to
express perennial topics larger than life, for example, through the art
of Theodora Skipitares and Basil Twist and, since the 60s, Peter Schumann
has dealt with social ills in his stagings with The Bread and Puppet Theater,
a frequent and popular guest at TNC for decades. By Beatre Hein Bennett.
"The Immigrant" settles in George Street
Ever wonder what happens to the inhabitants of Anatevka after they
are driven from their village at the end of "Fiddler on the Roof?”
We know that some of Tevye's family will be staying with Uncle Abram in
America (he doesn't know it yet), but there must have been hundreds more
than are represented in the "Fiddler"exit tableau. By Philip
|L-R: Philip Moore, Eric Berryman, Jasper McGruder.
Photo by Bruce Jackson.
"The B-Side: Negro Folklore from Texas State
Prisons," a record album interpretation
"The B-Side" is a show about doing time. Obviously—we
can see simply from the title—that means it's a show about serving
a sentence in prison. But in the hands of the charismatic and chameleonic
actor/singer Eric Berryman under the subtle direction of the disciplined
and imaginative Kate Valk, some other meanings present themselves. Performing
music is, among other things, a doing of time. And, here, trenchantly,
the performers (Berryman shares the stage with Jasper McGruder and Philip
Moore) are doing what so many actors do when they render the lives or
words of bygone people. They are "doing” the past to allow
its spirit to show up in the present. By Dorothy Chansky.
|L-R: Conan McCarty, left, Eleanor Handley, Andrew
Rein. Photo by SuzAnne Barabas.
Go to "The Source”
for Journalistic Intrigue
There is some real good acting on display these days at New Jersey Repertory
Company. Not only do the three cast members of "The Source,”
Jack Canfora's trippy excursion into the world of news management, toss
off their snappy dialogue with wit and precision, they also appear comfortable
with the inter-twined plot that might stymie lesser talents. In a scenario
that swings non-sequentially among places and dates, that plot hinges
on the ethics of gathering the news versus the business of disseminating
it. It would seem that in Canfora's view, "journalistic integrity"
is an oxymoron. By Philip Dorian.
"The Life of Galileo"
"He who does not know the truth when he sees it is an
idiot. But he who knows the truth and chooses to deny it, he is something
much worse. He is a criminal.” This quotation from "The Life
of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht, which is enjoying a fresh, innovative
production by Irondale Ensemble, could have been written yesterday instead
of 1938. There are other lines that resonate. They create uncomfortable
parallels between the Inquisition that eventually forced the astronomer
to recant his discoveries; the rise of Hitler in Europe; and contemporary
politics. By Glenda Frank.
|L-R: Hari Nef and Ronald Peet in Jeremy O. Harris.
Photo by Monique Carboni.
Two views of "Daddy"
"The play takes on something of a tragic aura that does
not exactly fit its flippant beginning."
"There is nothing like an odd directorial choice to shift the audience
out of the play." Glenda
Frank. Here are two different point of views about the"
Daddy." Even if the two critics had different feelings about the
whole play and the director's choices, both of them agree on the great
performance of the actors.
|Kate Wetherhead, Michelle Beck and Danielle Skraastad.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Hurricane Diane" Veers
At the very beginning of Madeleine George's new play, "Hurricane
Diane,” the Greek God Dionysus appears onstage as a butch lesbian
named Diane (Becca Blackwell). Dionysus, dispirited by the state of the
environment in the 21st century, has come to earth to gain followers in
this campaign to save the environment. This gives many in the audience
the impression they are going to see a play that tackles many of the issues
involving global warming, pollution, habitat destruction, and much more.
Alas, this is not the case. By Paulanne Simmons.
|Brenda Wehle and Zachary Booth.
There's a lot to talk
about in “Theo"
Criticizing a play for being too wordy might seem counter-intuitive.
Character dialogue, after all, is words. But unlike narrative stories
or essays, plays need to balance telling with showing. Martin Moran's
“Theo," world-premiering at Two River Theater Company, relies
mostly on telling, with what showing there is serving to point up the
imbalance. If good intentions were enough, “Theo" would be
a masterpiece. As it is, with a boatload of good intentions crammed into
one dysfunctional-family drama, the result is diffuse and, at nearly three
hours (including intermission), overlong. By Philip Dorian.
|Photo by Marielle L'Hostis
Theater for the New City presented writer/actor/comedian Donald E. Lacy,
Jr. in his one-man show, "ColorStruck." Lacy's winning personality
is evident from the outset - he's a natural performer and communicator.
It's a seamless ride from hate and injustice to funny and heartwarming,
all artfully blended and delivered by a master entertainer who is at once
an actor, a comedian, a thinker and an activist. By Paul Berss.
|Tyler Fauntleroy as Taj, Kim Sullivan
as Baraka. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
"Looking for Leroy"
In "Looking for Leroy," which is having its work premier presented
by Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre, Larry Muhammad’s dramatic
attempt to discover the authentic Leroy raises basic questions: What is
the place and purpose of Black theater and the Black artist’s relationship
to himself and to his audience? These are highly charged political, existential,
and aesthetic questions with artistic straightjacket potential. By Beat
|Tracy Sallows (Thomas’ wife), Donald
Corren (Thomas) and Emma Geer (Annie, Thomas’ daughter) Photo
by Todd Cerveris.
"The Price of Thomas Scott"
One can only imagine the anticipation that must have greeted
"The Price of Thomas Scott” when it came to Manchester’s
Gaiety Theatre in 1913. Whether out of design or the lack of interest,
and in spite of favorable reviews, the play enjoyed only a single showing.
That didn’t stifle Jonathan Bank, the Mint Theater’s artistic
director, from bringing Baker across the pond, targeting production of
no less than three of Baker’s plays. By Eric Uhlfelder.
|The cast lurches into "The Murder At Haversham
"The play that goes wrong”
goes right Off-Broadway
Something funny happened to "The Play That Goes Wrong”
on the way from Broadway to Off-Broadway. Fear not; everything that was
funny during its nearly two-year run in the 922-seat Lyceum Theatre is
just as funny at the 360-seat New World Stages, where it re-opened this
week. The difference, though, is a subtle pickup in how the audience relates
to the characters. For me – and I sensed it throughout the house
– it became personal, akin to cheering-on a perpetually losing team.
But a ton more fun. By Philip Dorian.
|Laiona Michelle as Nina Simone. Photo by T. Charles
A Blazing Performance As Nina Simone
In "Little Girl Blue”
Laiona Michelle portrays Nina Simone in "Little Girl Blue: The Nina
Simone Musical" at George Street Playhouse. Her evocation of the
iconic vocalist, musician and activist is an amazing piece of work. A
creation, to be sure, but equally important, a re-creation of the life,
times and persona of Ms. Simone. Not only does she virtually disappear
into her subject, but except for the songs, Nina’s own and a dozen
others, Michelle also wrote the emotionally stirring show. By Philip Dorian.
|Ethan Hawke as the drinking brother Lee
and Paul Dano as Austin. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"True West” by Sam
Shepard is a 1980 too over-the-top satire of movies
A satire about media ought always to be in fashion. The current
revival of the film "Network” as a play works brilliantly
to skewer corrupt television. This revival of Sam Shepard's satire about
the Hollywood movie business doesn't hit that mark. Maybe it worked
in 1980 when it premiered, but nearly 40 years later, it's too over-the-top.
Interesting as a piece of the times. By Lucy Komisar.
|THE GLEN -- Photo by Shelter Studios
“The Glen," written, produced, and directed by Peter B.
Hodges is a ‘must see' play. Currently running through Saturday,
February 16 theShelter Studios' intimate 60-seat theater, "The Glen"
is one of those plays, due to its short run, that sadly disappear as quickly
as they appear. Hopefully future productions – its writing, direction,
and acting is wonder-filled - will keep it alive and kicking. Though the
play, with many unexpected twists and turns, was inspired by the life
of Hodge's friend and mentor, the late theater and art critic Glenn Loney
(1928-2018), the play's lead character, the twenty something year old
Dale Olsen (Matthew Dalton Lynch), as the playwright's program note informs
us, is not Glenn Loney. Dale is only “the character that enabled
me to explore questions of identity, sexuality and family while following
a path not entirely unlike the path that Glenn himself would describe
to me as his personal journey." By Edward Rubin.
|Musical director William Foster McDaniel
as Thomas "Fats" Waller
at Westchester Broadway Theatre'
To describe a play or musical as ‘dated’ mightindicate that
the piece is no longer relevant by virtue of evolved social or moral standards.
(You won’t see Neil Simon’s play about the battered alcoholic
Gingerbread Lady any time soon.) But the term can also denote a positive,
as in evoking an era worth re-visiting despite – oreven because
of – some outmoded characteristics. So it is with “Ain’t
Misbehavin’,” sub-titled “The Fats Waller Musical Show,”
enjoying a spirited revival at Westchester Broadway Theatre (a dinner-and-show
venue, with a varied menu of entrees included in the ticket prices). A
compilation of his melodies (Fats wrote the music; various collaborators,
the lyrics) and some others’ songs that he memorably recorded, the
revue is set in a Harlem nightclub in the 1930s, illustrated by the costuming,
the arrangements and the presentation. If there is a hint of minstrelsy,
it is in the service of that time and place; performed here unabashedly,
it is history – not academic, mind you, but a replication, as entertaining
as it is authentic. By Philip Dorian.
|Back-to-back dancers: Isabelle McCalla,
left, and Caitlin Kinunnen "Dance With You". Photo by Deen
A couple kissing in front of Macy’s in Herald Square is hardly newsworthy,
but one at last year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade actually marked a
milestone in live TV – and was also a spoiler for a Broadway musical.
Televised by NBC, “It’s Time to Dance,” the finalé
number from “The Prom,” ended with two young women sharing
a loving kiss. So now you know how “The Prom” resolves. But
any audience member who doubts that Indiana high schoolers Emma (Caitlin
Kinnunen) and Alyssa (Isabelle McCalla) will end up together, are asheartless
as the PTA folks who cancelled the prom because Emma wanted to bring Alyssa
as her date. With composer Matthew Sklar and choreographer/director Casey
Nicholaw, the cast is nigh flawless. Don’t wait until someone else
asks her/him/they/hir/zim. Get yourself a date and go to “The Prom.”
By Philip Dorian.
|THE HARD PROBLEM -- Chris O’Shea as Spike and
Adelaide Clemens as Hilary. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
The Hard Problem
Stoppard's "The Hard Problem" turns intellectual inquiry into
a soap opera. Throw up issue of moral consciousness, of how science wires
the brain, how capitalists (sometime predatory) make fortunes, how young
quants or scientific brain analysts figure out how to use or scam the
former, and throw in a Pilates instructor. Along with scenes of a Venice
canal and the London City [financial district] skyline. This pretentious
play does not seriously address or answer the questions it is supposed
to pose: where does morality come from, is it hardwired in the brain or
developed by culture, and how does this affect how people interact –
especially in the world of capitalism. By Lucy Komisar.
|NETWORK -- Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale. Photo
by Jan Versweyveld.
This play, based on Paddy Chayevsky's classic film, serves
as a commentary on the corruption of the American system, based on the
idea that a corrupt upper class exploits the middle class and the poor
for its own monetary gain. While the "media" glorifies neoliberalism,
theatrical "fiction" is the only mainstream place where such
ideas are permitted. News anchor Howard Beale (played by Bryan Cranston)
announces he is going to commit suicide on air because he is being fired
for poor ratings, which takes away all attention paid to other major global
news. Directed by Ivo van Hove, the production has the stage set up as
a TV studio with cameras moving around in a unique, immersive multimedia
spectacle. By Lucy Komisar.
|Ben Cherry as Lemml and the cast of "Indecent."
Photo by C. Stanley Photography.
"Indecent" at Arena Stage
When Paula Vogel’s incandescent “Indecent” opened in
New York in 2016 it was the darling of the LGBT theatergoing world. Arena
Stage positioned its recent production as a play addressing Jewish themes.
Both angles are, of course, correct. As one of the characters in “Indecent”
asserts, “the play belongs to the people who labor in it and the
audience who put aside the time to see it.” As this play also asserts,
however, neither labor nor audience is a permanently fixed thing, and
my vote is for this being a play about endurance, perseverance, and principles,
although the pressure points here are certainly lesbianism, Jews, intolerance,
Clueless, The Musical
“Clueless, the Musical” has a book and score by Amy Heckerling,
who authored the film, based on Jane Austen’s “Emma.”
This means the musical retains much of the tongue-in-cheek zest that made
the film so agreeable. By Paulanne Simmons.
|Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale.
Photo: Peter Cunningham.
First premiered in 2016 in Massachusetts, and then performed at the George
Street Playhouse in New Jersey a year later, “American Son”
dealt with racially-charged encounters between police officers and Black
males during years in which that theme was so prevalent. Now open on Broadway,
this play tells the story once more of eighteen-year-old Jamal, who tells
an emotional tale while his distraught mother reports her son missing.
The mother deals with a mixed experience with the law-enforcement officers
she encounters, and throughout the ordeal, tension with her separated
spouse. The play is directed by Kenny Leon and runs 90 miutes. By Philip
|Turna Mete and Carson Elrod in "Panties, The
Partner and The Profit." Photo by Carol Rosegg.
The Panties, The Partner and The
Here's a quiz for American drama afficionados. What three-part play features
an American family as stand-ins for "all of us"; unfolds over
a few eras; shows the widespread effects of ordinary people's greed and
aggression, often in the name of being hardworking; has some illicit sex;
ends in the ruins of the family's one-time home; brings a large reptile
onstage; and concludes with the family soldiering on? If you guessed "The
Skin of Our Teeth," good for you, but the play in question is David
Ives's "The Panties, The Partner and the Profit," subtitled
"Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Class" and now in
its debut at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. By Dorothy
|Raúl Esparza as Arturo Ui. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
Two views of "The Resistable
Rise of Arturo U1"
Brecht's "The Resistable Riuse of Arturo Ui" is set
in Chicago, which appears in the play to be unable to keep out gangsters.
This satire serves as a brilliant allegory of fascism and the rise of
Hitler. The play was in fact written by while the playwright was a refugee
at the time of Hitler’s takeover of Europe, and as such, it served
as a way for Americans to better understand Hitler’s rise to power
and the tactics his regime used. Lucy Komisar and Ed Rubin weigh in on
|THE LIFESPAN OF A FACT -- Bobby Cannavale and Daniel
Radcliffe. Photo Peter Cunningham.
The Lifespan of a Fact
Based on a nonfiction work about a real fact-checker, Jim D’Agata,
this play deals with an important problem for journalism, beginning with
a rather trivial argument over whether the bricks in a building are red
or brown. Perhaps the building blocks represent more than what they seem
to. With a strong cast, consisting of Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones,
and Bobby Cannavale, and directed by Leigh Silverman, this play feels
very real. By Lucy Komisar.
|Tyne Daly and Tim Daly in Primary Stages
production of "Downstairs"
Imagine: Stella Dubois has grown old and has no child. Stanley's sex appeal
vanished as he aged; he is now simply a bully. They live in an ordinary
house in an ordinary neighborhood. She rescued two dogs, whom she loved,
but they disappeared. "Downstairs," Theresa Rebeck's new play
at the intimate Cherry Lane Theatre, is a three-hander in which everyone
plays with the truth. In this play, Rebeck is deliberately vague, leaving
perhaps too much to the imagination. But the emotions are real. By Glenda
Sycorax, Cyber Queen of Qamara
The mind of the playwright can be a most mysterious country. Fengar Gael
has taken one line from Shakespeare’s “TheTempest” and
woven it into an odd, delicious piece of theatre. “Sycorax: Cyber
Queen of Qamara,” stylistically directed by Joan Kane at Here Theatre,
combines the ancient Muslim world, black magic and computer science to
bring us a story of feminist assertion, complete with a hero and a villain
who are the same person. The script is filled with magic and metaphors.
The lovely, young Sycorax is the artist who creates worlds. By Glenda
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
Adapted and written by Burt Grinstead and Anna Stromberg, this
production of “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” is the ideal comedy
for fans of the book. Combining slapstick with subtle English Monty Pythonesque
humor, the show under Stromberg’s direction truly embodies high
comedy. By Larry Litt.
Sophia Silver and
Bi-coastal "Fool for Love"
Theater for the New City presented a fine production of Sam Shepard's
1983 "Fool for Love," a four-character drama that was a finalist
for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The director Kymberly
Harris did a fine job with a splendid cast. This Theater for the New City
run closes December 2, but then the producing company, Beetlebung Road
LLC, will move the production to Los Angeles for performances at The Lounge
Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, December 6 to 15. Paul Berss advises
that Angel City theatergoers who have not been introduced to this classic
of Shepard's repertoire would be well advised to catch it
|Erin Beirnard, Trevor St. John-Gilbert,
Michael Turner. Photo by Vadim Goldenberg.
"Shadow of Heroes" at
Robert Ardrey’s play, “Shadow of Heroes” is a documentary
drama about the political struggles in Hungary, beginning in the last
phase of WWII, 1944-45 and ending with the 1956 abortive revolution. During
the fall of 1956 Robert Ardrey (1908-1980) was in Vienna witnessing the
brutal Soviet subjugation of the Hungarian uprising. He wrote the play
in 1958 using real historical characters and facts as they emerged; the
play premiered in London in 1958 and was produced in New York in 1961.
The play follows the trajectory and conflicts of a set of historical figures
central to the history of Hungarian communist politics, including the
“old guard communists” Laszlo and Julia Rajk and Janos Kadar
and Ernö Gerö and Matyas Rakosi, the “elite” party
emissaries from Moscow who are charged with imposing Stalin’s will
on the Hungarians. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|Easter Parade. Photo courtesy of Paper Mill Playhouse.
Irving Berlin songs sparkle in
In "Holiday Inn" at Paper Mill Playhouse, there is no denying
the appeal of the Irving Berlin favorites, including “Cheek to Cheek,”
“Blue Skies” and “Let’s Take an Old Fashioned
Walk,” as well as some lesser-knowns like “The Little Things
in Life” and “Song of Freedom.” Larry Blank’s
orchestrations and music director Shawn Gough’s fine orchestra do
them justice. The Paper Mill principals, while comfortable, are outshone
(with one exception) by the excellent singing/dancing ensemble and, it
should be noted, by designer Alejo Vietti’s fetching costumes. By
In "Inescapable" by Martin Dockery, two guys come on stage claiming
they’re friends taking a short break from a holiday party in the
next room. It’s a big house we’re told owned by one of the
guys who is half of a successful couple. Except that his wife is cheating
on him. Does this sound like a Twilight Zone plot? Somehow it turns into
a fugue state of comedy when Abbot and Costello meet Rod Serling for a
fling with a time machine. A fun night of theater because who isn’t
amazed at déjà vu in a play about déjà vu?
By Larry Littany Litt.
|Blake Morris as King Hedley II. Photo
by T. Charles Erickson
King Hedley II
A 35-year old African-American woman defends her decision to
terminate her pregnancy in an impassioned speech. “I ain’t
raising no kid to have somebody shoot him. To have his friends…or
the police…shoot him,” Tonya says, before relating the gut-wrenching
story of a neighborhood mother whose son was shot and killed even as she
had his favorite meal on the table. An angry, socially conscious play
written in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, right? Wrong! Written
in 1999, set in 1985, it is one of August Wilson’s ten Century Cycle
plays that examine “the unique particulars of black American culture”
through the twentieth century, decade by decade. It is a masterful work,
eerily prescient. By Philip Dorian.
Nazis and Me
David Lawson’s “Nazis and Me” is a sparkling, witty
and wise example of personal storytelling mixed with the sad sadistic
history of anti-Semitism and outrageous current neo-nazi headlines. By
Larry Litttany Litt.
|Charlotte Wise as Wanda June & Craig Wesley Devino
as Col. Looseleaf Harper. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
Happy Birthday, Wanda June
Kurt Vonnegut's 1970 surreal satire dissects the extreme alpha male, a
40ish guy who sometime, in his breathing, his grunts and body movement,
seems to turn into an ape. It connects machismo to violence to war. It
gets a very good production by the Wheelhouse Theater Company, directed
by Jeff Wise. By Lucy Komisar.
GLORIA: A LIFE -- Christine Lahti
as Gloria Steinem. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Not for Women Only: "Gloria:
The bumpy road to women’s liberation is dramatically illustrated
in “Gloria: A Life,” written by Emily Mann and directed by
Diane Paulus. By Paulanne Simmons.
|Ronnie Marmo as Lenny Bruce. Photo by Doren Sorell
I'm Not a Comedian...I'm Lenny
You are unlikely to ever see the theatrical title “I’m
Not a Comedian…I’m Richard Pryor.” Or George Carlin.
Or Chris Rock. Or Sarah Silverman. But appending the name Lenny Bruce
is altogether appropriate.The show is recommended for admirers of Lenny
Bruce (or his legend), who already know what all the fuss was about. By
The ensemble draws
lots to play Russian Roulette. Photo by James Rucinski.
"Citizens of the Gray"
Larry Littany Litt swoons for "Citizens of the Gray" by Elia
Schneider and her Teatro Dramma at Theater for the New City, writing "This
stimulating, gratifying and for some mystifying play is well worth your
time. It speaks to our modern social dilemmas in silence, music and new
forms of dance. It is a tragicomedy of philosophies and ideologies worthy
of Charlie Chaplin."
|MOTHER OF THE MAID -- Glen Close as Isabelle Arc,
Grace Van Patten as Joan. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Two views of "Mother of the
Lucy Komisar and Edward Rubin agree that Glenn Close is spellbinding in
"Mother of the Maid," a simple storytelling recast of the life
of Joan of Arc. Close is a terrific actress. She makes it worth watching,
even if you cringe at Jane Anderson's script.
|EAR FOR EYE -- Angela Wynter, Hayden McLean, Anita
Reynolds, Seroca Davis. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey.
"Ear for Eye" at Royal
Debbie Tucker Green is a poet adept at thinking simultaneously in words
and embodiment. "Ear for Eye," Green's new work at London's
Royal Court Theatre, shares some aesthetic DNA with the late Ntozake Shange's
"for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is
enuf." But four-plus decades separate these two indices of the black
side of the racial divide in the United States (and, in this work, to
a smaller extent in Britain). On Green's stage, the gloves are off. By
|MIDNIGHT AT THE NEVER GET -- Sam Bolen. Photo by
"Midnight at the Never Get"
If you want a bit of theatrical heaven, along with a smidgen of hell,
a mini primer of late 60s gay history – with the obligatory nod
to Stonewall included – and a lot of love, all both literally and
figuratively, get thee to "Midnight at the Never Get," the York
Theater's latest musical production before it closes on Sunday, November
4th. With a 5-piece backup band, two talented leads, and a roster of original
songs, about life and love, both found, lost, and found again, well the
90-minute "Midnight at the Never Get," part theater and all
cabaret, is the place to be. By Edward Rubin.
|THE FERRYMAN -- Laura Donnelly as Caitlin Carney,
Genevieve O'Reilly as Mary Carney and Paddy Considine as Quinn Carney.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
"The Ferryman" a stunning indictment of both sides in the Irish
In Jez Butterworth's gorgeous play, directed by Sam Mendes with
subtle power and intelligence, a dark moment suddenly is transformed into
a charming rough idyll of Irish family life. Irish because it involves
a brood of seven children, a lot of whiskey drinking, wit and occasional
dancing of jigs. By Lucy Komisar.
|MOTHER NIGHT -- Gabriel Grilli as Campbell. Photo
by Carol Rosegg.
Vonnegut's "Mother Night" turns American dealing with Nazis
into political morality play
Howard W. Campbell, an American-born Nazi propagandist and double
agent, served "evil too well and good too secretly." That is
the subtle moral of the Kurt Vonnegut story adapted by Brian Katz in a
fascinating albeit not totally successful stage presentation. Still better
than most of what you will see in New York theater at the moment. By Lucy
|ON BECKETT -- Bill Irwin. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Bill Irwin "On Beckett"
Whether you’re interested in a master class on Samuel Beckett or
the art of acting and mime, or you just love Bill Erwin, “On Becket”
at the Irish Repertory Theatre will not disappoint. In 90 minutes, Irwin
demonstrates unequivocally why he’s a great actor and Becket is
a great writer. By Paulanne Simmons.
|APOLOGIA -- Stockard Channing. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Stockard Channing Sparks Dysfunctional-Family Drama
Plays about dysfunctional families, with a dinner-party-gone-wrong
and servings of acerbic humor, have become an over-examined genre. What
elevates "Apologia" above the fray is the presence of Stockard
Channing at the head of the table. Also, where many modern plays rely
on multiple mobile phone intrusions to move the plot, "Apologia"
includes just one brief call. And it's a doozy. By Philip Dorian.
|RECOVERY -- Jill Shackner, Caitlin Cohn, Lydia Grace
Recovery, or the nightmare of battling addiction
For the debut production of her play "Recovery" at Theater
for the New City, author Anne Lucas has gathered a fine cast to illuminate
her own experience - living through the drug addiction of her own daughter,
who is now in recovery. Lucas tackles the subject through three drug-addicted
college age women, their distraught mothers, a sincere Reverend who, as
a former addict, does her best to help, and a slippery and seductive male
character called the Demon, who represents addiction. By Paul Berss.
|THE WILD ABANDON -- Leenya Rideout. Photo by Carol
The Wild Abandon of Leenya Rideout
The Irish Repertory Theatre's production of Wild Abandon, Leenya
Rideout's intimate one-woman autobiographical extravaganza – housed
in the Rep's second theatre, an intimate 50-seater – is one of a
handful of Off Broadway plays that everybody is talking about. Critics
are raving, and audiences are returning again and again with friends in
tow, as they simply cannot believe that any one person can be that talented
and not already household name. By Edward Rubin.
"The Resistible Rise of JR
It's all too easy in the Trump era to unleash barbs at the darned
dangerous President and his supporters. Much more difficult to write something
new and different as Edward Einhorn has done. Taking an imagined biography
of a real con man demagogue who lived in the early 20th century, Einhorn
has created a show that gave me a very good conception of where the Trumpster
came from and how he managed to stay in power. By Larry Litt.
|ALL ROADS LEAD TO THE KURSKI STATION -- Rivers Duiggan,
Elliott Morse, Rivers Duggan.
Two views of "All Roads
Lead to the Kurski Station."
At HERE, Vienya, a poet drunkard endures a nightmare journey, soaked in
vodka, from Moscow's Kurski Station to Petushki, a real Moscow suburb
and his hoped for paradise "where the jasmine never stops blooming
and the birds always sing" and where he hopes to be saved by his
love. He never makes it to Petushki because he sleeps in a drunken stupor
through the station and ends where he started, in Kurski station. The
70 minute performance takes us on a wild romp through the underbelly of
Soviet-Russian life with all its horror and absurdities—the laughter
gets stuck in our craw. By Beate Hein Bennett and Larry Litt.
|THE NAP -- Ben Schnetzer, Johanna Day. Photo by Joan
Two views of “The Nap”
Contrary to its misleading title, “The Nap,” Richard
Bean’s newest offering, making its American premiere under the direction
of Daniel Sullivan, has nothing to do with sleep. Rather it’s a
rowdy and riveting farce. By Paulanne Simmons and Lucy Komisar.
|PRETTY WOMAN -- Samantha Barks as Vivian
Ward and Andy Karl as Edward Lewis, at the opera. Photo by Matthew
"Pretty Woman" morality story pits prostitution
v predatory capitalism
A story for our times about a billionaire Edward Lewis (Andy Karl) without
morals, who would destroy a shipbuilding company and fire its workers,
but learns something from a hooker. A Cinderella story which would not
quite make it today. Because it's about a prostitute who reforms her John.
It was a movie hit 20 years ago, but that was an epoch away. The book
is by Garry Marshall and J.F. Lawton, the music and lyrics by Bryan Adams
and Jim Vallance, based on the film by Lawton. Lucy Komisar would reject
the story on the anti-feminist face of it, though turns out she is smarter
than he is. But she liked the show.
|BERNHARDT/HAMLET -- A backstage dinner party. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
Two views on "Bernhardt/Hamlet"
Historical fiction is a tricky genre. Plain history can be academic (read:
boring), and inserting identifiable people as principals in pure fiction
can be presumptuous, or a copout. "Bernhardt/Hamlet" straddles
the extremes brilliantly; the precise inter-action among the actual people
may or may not have happened as portrayed, but their involvement in the
historical events makes it all plausible. Theresa Rebeck's comedy is period-specific
without reinforcing misconceptions about how people related and communicated
‘then'. It is fascinating even just for that. By Philip Dorian and
|HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD -- The company.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.
"Harry Potter and the
Cursed Child," a stunner for set & magic
Mixed with the magic and terrific scenery, there's a lot of stuff
about fathers and sons, which is really the theme of the play, or the
two plays which you can see on succeeding nights or a one-day marathon.
Critics were requested not to give away the plot, which is easy to comply
with since it's rather silly. By Lucy Komisar.
Three views of "Arendt-Heidegger:
A Love Story"
|ARENDT-HEIDEGGER: A LOVE STORY -- Alyssa Simon, Joris
Stuyck. Photo by Rina Kopalla.
Author Douglas Lackey and director Alexander Harrington have managed to
extract a thought provoking stimulating performance from two of the most
controversial public intellects of the twentieth century: Hannah Arendt
(1906-1975), a German-Jewish philosopher and social theorist and Martin
Heidegger (1889-1976), one of the most renowned German philosophers to have
succumbed to Nazism. The subject of their romantic entanglement, in conjunction
with their political trajectories over the course of forty years, from the
mid 1920s to 1964, is the dramatic core of this play in a series of 23 concisely
scripted scenes. By Beate Hein Bennett, Edward Rubin and Larry Litt.
|DESPERATE MEASURES -- Connor Ryan as Johnny Blood,
Lauren Molina as Bella Rose. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
"Desperate Measures," a Shakespeare musical parody, is a hoot
"Desperate Measures," is a supremely clever parody that
moves the Bard's story from 17th century Vienna to the American West in
the 1800s. While continuing of course the rhyming couplets, where brusque
rhymes with dusk. The show, book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg, music by
David Friedman, is a hoot. Director and choreographer Bill Castellino
is the excellent helmsman of a cast whose dancing and singing match anything
on Broadway. By Lucy Komisar.
|THE TRUE -- Edie Falco as Polly Noonan and Glenn
Fitzgerald as Howard Nolan. Photo by Monique Carboni.
Edie Falco in "The True" sears as tough Albany Democratic machine
The dramatic piece is about a possible 1977 primary challenge
to Corning, who held power through patronage and favors to voters as a
product of the machine. Director Scott Elliott makes it a combination
soap opera and political drama. Edie Falco is powerful as the acerbic,
in-your-face, sometimes crude-talking Polly Noonan, a real operator in
Albany's Democratic Party machine politics for about four decades. White's
play suggests that whatever you think of Polly Noonan politics, she is
beneficiary of a corrupt political machine. I'm not sure she would like
this play. The audience will. By Lucy Kromer.
PHANTOM -- Kayleen Seidl as Christine
with the cast of "Phantom". Photo by John Vecchiolla.
"Phantom" (not that one) in Westchester County, NY
While some introductory background is required in a review of the
"Phantom" musical that does not append "of the Opera"
to its title, be advised upfront that the production at Westchester Broadway
(Dinner) Theatre in Elmsford, NY is a top-notch staging of the one-word
version of Gaston Leroux's serialized 1910 novel. Lavishly staged and
costumed and beautifully sung by its leads and ensemble, WBT's "Phantom"
stands very well on its own 58 feet. By Philip Dorian.
|BITEF -- "Jami District". Photo courtesy
Theatre Festival (BITEF) 2018 - Svet Bez Ljudi (World Without Us)
The Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF) was founded in 1967
with the explicit goal of goading audiences to think and, ideally, to
act. This year's festival featured productions from ten countries under
the rubric "World Without Us," itself an invitation to conversation,
as the literal translation would be "world without people."
The focus seemed to be—at least in the six productions I was able
to see—a world without human kindness or decency. By Dorothy Chansky.
|TEVYE SERVED RAW (GARNISHED WITH JEWS) -- Photo courtesy
of the Playroom Theatre.
"TEVYE SERVED RAW (Garnished
"Tevye Served Raw," based on the stories of the incomparable
Sholem Aleichem, is, at times, rollickingly hilarious, at times almost
heartbreakingly sad. Although the stories date from the turn of the twentieth
century, the human conditions they explore are timeless. "Tevye Served
Raw" is far from a museum piece. The acting is always spirited, the
script and innovated direction are clever. The show has been crafted with
love for Yiddish traditions. It not only entertains, but may also motivate
you to learn Yiddish so you too can laugh before reading the supertitles.
As for the supertitles, much of the 90 minutes is in English because of
an instant on-stage translation – and the translation is part of
the comic pleasure. By Glenda Frank.
|MESHANYE -- Zeleniuch, Knight, Nelson. Photo by Asia
Strange People on Quaking Ground
- "Meshanye" by Maxim Gorky
"Meshanye," by Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) was his
first play written within less than five years of the Russian uprising
at the Winter Palace (1905). Owing much to Chekhov, the play takes place
in a family living room, within a brief period of time, with a mélange
of passionate, frustrated, depressed, cynical, and life embracing scharacters
who launch into torrents of feeling. The play is set in the home of Vasily
Bessemenov, owner of a house-painting business in a provincial town. The
central conflict is between the head of the family and his adult children.
"Meshanye" works like chamber music, in that several voices
carry the dialogue forward as characters move in and out of the space,
often overhearing each other off-stage and, as they enter joining the
conversation, they bring a new tonality. To have the opportunity to see
an excellent production of a rarely performed play by Maxim Gorky, one
of the titans of Russian dramaturgy, in a superb new translation should
need no extra incentive. By Beate Hein Bennett.
|FEATHERS OF FIRE -- Zaul and Rudabeh. Photo by Fictionville
FEATHERS OF FIRE: A Cinematic Shadowplay
from the Persian “Book of Kings” (Shahnameh)
Live-action, shadow puppetry, film, animation, music that seems
to be now live, now recorded, images of nature on which the eye gorges,
representations of good and evil, romance and tragedy, associated with
storytelling on rapidly transforming scales--now epic, now lyric, now
comic: Feathers of Fire has high theatrical ambitions indeed. It combines
moving pictures and the stage in ninety minutes of spectacle that seems
to call on story elements from every entry in Stith Thompson's folktale
motif index and that recalls the 1926 shadow-puppet animation of Lotte
Reiniger, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, with which Rahmanian became
enamored to the point of obsession and then surpassed. By Mindy Aloff.
|AGNES -- John Edgar Barker,
Mykal Monroe, Hiram Delgado, Laura Ramadai.
An emerging playwright to reckon
with: "Agnes" off-Broadway
"I don't think I know the difference between sexual harassment
and flirting" might not seem like a ground-breaking admission, but
as spoken by Charlie in Catya McMullen's outstanding new play "Agnes,"
it registers as profoundly moving.
In a prime example of Shakespeare's What's past is prologue,
each character's past influences the present: what they say and do and
how they interact. And all of it – the 'before' revelations as well
as what bubbles up in the present – is written and acted with unself-conscious
naturalism. Catya McMullen is a playwright to watch, and "Agnes"
is a good place to start. By Philip Dorian.
|CONFLICT -- Jessie Shelton as Dare and Jeremy Beck
as Tom Smit. Photo by Todd Cerveris.
“Conflict” a popular
British challenge to predatory capitalism near 100 years ago
Fascinating, writes Lucy Komisar, to see a play written in 1925
that has the politics of a play that could be written today. It was penned
by Miles Malleson, a prominent playwright, screenwriter and actor of the
time who used his work to promote progressive politics. He was a socialist,
pacifist and supporter of women’s suffrage. This is very finely,
subtly directed by Jenn Thompson.
|ROSA LUXEMBURG KABARETT -- The ensemble.
“Rosa Luxemburg Kabarett” tells stirring story of revolutionary
leftist killed by the Germans
“Rosa Luxemburg Karabett” is an historical play with
music about the life of the Russian revolutionary who became an activist
in German politics, opposed WsWI, was imprisoned and, after the war, was
murdered. The production at the Avignon Theater Festival OFF reflects
the tradition of the German political cabaret. This excellent play, in
French, is worthy of translation to reach a wider audience interested
in the development of the world’s anti-war movements. By Lucy Komisar.
|BREXIT -- Tom Corradini and Samuel Toye. Photo by
as vaudeville at Avignon
For clarity about politics, “Brexit” at the Avignon
Theater Festival does as well as any pundits. It’s a clever mime
and vaudeville comic take by a pair as a verbally dueling father and son.
Tom Corradini and Samuel Toye, the work’s authors, plays Charles,
47, and Samuel Toye is his son Eric, 25. Corradini is the director. In
a pastiche of puppets, mime and vaudevillian soft-show, they argue about
the June 2016 vote for the UK to stay or remain in the European Union.
By Lucy Komisar.
|DAYS TO COME -- Larry Bull as Andrew Rodman and Chris
Henry Coffee as worker Thomas Firth. Photo by Todd Cerveris.
Lillian Hellman’s “Days
to Come” hints at important plays of workers’ struggle
Lillian Hellman play about a labor conflict in a small town
in Ohio in 1936 has some fine moments giving hints of stronger plays such
as “The Little Foxes” where she takes on the corrupt, manipulating
rich who exploit workers. “Days to Come,” written at a time
of labor struggles across America, refers to a better future when workers
bested by violent strike-breakers will get the union and rights they are
fighting for. Based on the text, those days would be a long time coming.
By Lucy Komisar.
|GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER -- Mitchell
Jarvis as Mitch. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Gettin' the Band Back Together"
Lucy Komisar writes that John Rando is the best comic theater director
she knows. The creative wit who oversaw “Urinetown,” “The
Toxic Avenger,” “The Heir Apparent” and “All in
the Timing” takes a deliberately jokey rock musical by Ken Davenport
and, with excellent timing and staging, pokes fun at the genre as well
as the state of New Jersey. She doesn't much like rock, she admits. She
liked this play. (So did her editor.)
|BLYTHE SPIRIT -- Ruth (Kate MacCluggage) and Charles
"Blithe" Spirit in NJ
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s “Blithe Spirit”
comes in at a relatively compact two and three-quarters hours, including
intermission. Even at that, Noel Coward’s 1940 play will lift your
spirits. By Philip Dorian.
|Renee Taylor. Photo by Ed Rubin.
Renee Taylor in "My Life on
Most famous people long in the tooth, if they are not dead, quietly retired,
or resting on their well-earned laurels, tend keep a very low profile.
You rarely even hear about them. But not the indefatigable 85-year- old
Renee Taylor, an Energizer bunny whose funny and bittersweet autobiographical
one-woman-show, "My Life On A Diet," is currently playing to
full houses at St Clement’s Theatre here in New York City.
|Jill Eikenberry and John Glover
“Fern Hill” is Michael Tucker’s second full-length play
to premiere at NJ Rep, after “The M Spot” in 2015. Like the
earlier play, “Fern Hill” explores emotional and physical
(read: sexual) relationships, this time among three couples – not
as in swingers, I hasten to add, but three pairs with their own histories
and hang-ups. The six actors have amassed thirty-five Broadway credits
among them, with six Tony Award nominations (and a win) to boot. By Philip
|Eli Gelb and Idina Menzel. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"Skintight" Has Love, Lust, Beauty
and Idina Menzel
The star and calling card of "Skintight" which gives the play its commercial
legs, is Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked, If/Then) in her first non-singing
role. Joshua Harmon’s provocative and wonderfully wordily written
wailings about the joy of sex, emotionally delivered by a major character
or two, do give us something to mull over, which is more than most playwrights
have to offer. By Ed Rubin.
| HEAD OVER HEELS -- Peppermint (center)
as Pythio, The Oracle of Delphi and the ensemble. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“Head Over Heels” Creates
a Topsy-Turvy World
Jeff Whitty’s new musical, Head over Heels, is both a parody and
a tribute to Sir Phillip Sidney’s “Arcadia.” By Paulanne
|Stanley Allyn Owen (Tarzan) and Leopard. Photo by
Tarzan the Stage Musical
While the popularity of Tarzan films has dwindled over the years, replaced
by humongous money-making superhero franchises like Batman and Spider-Man,
theatrical productions of Tarzan, The Stage Musical, especially among
high schools and community theaters, are still being mounted. A recent
example is The Atlanta Lyric Theater’s acclaimed production of Tarzan,
The Stage Musical, which Ed Rubin had the good fortune to attend late
in the run.
|Anika Noni Rose as Carmen Jones. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
At Classic Stage, splendid “Carmen
Jones” places black wartime workers in Bizet’s opera
“Win That War!” sing workers in a parachute factory in a town
about 1,000 miles south of Chicago. It’s a striking transformation
of Georges Bizet’s opera “Carmen,” about a worker in
a Spanish cigar factory in 1820, to wartime US in 1943 with a book and
lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The “Carmen” triangle is still
a sultry tangle between Carmen and a military guy, now army instead of
militia, and a big-time prize fighter replacing the toreador, the word
Bizet’s French opera invented to mean torero (bull fighter) because
it had the right syllables. Hammerstein reset the story with a black cast,
and this is the first major New York revival since its debut on Broadway
75 years ago. Elegantly directed by John Doyle, this is an intimate production
in the Classic Stage’s small theater in the square, a chamber opera
where you can practically touch the performers. By Lucy Komisar.
"Conflict" at the Beckett
In “Conflict” (1925), we meet Lady Dare Bellingdon (Jessie Shelton),
the spoiled daughter of a powerful, conservative father (a patrician Graeme
Malcolm). She lunches, she shops, she gossips, she clubs past 3 AM, and
Major Sir Ronald Clive (Henry Clarke), who plans to run for Parliament,
her beau, adores her. A homeless man, Tom Smith, (Jeremy Beck), who breaks
into her father’s London residence, will change her life. In rags,
he has come for a handout although he and Clive were once schoolmates at
Cambridge. Bellingdon and Clive condemn him roundly but offer generous alms.
Tom Smith’s next visit is even more surprising. By Glenda Frank.
Shelton and Jeremy Beck. Photo by Todd Cerveris
"The Dog in The Dressing Room"
at The Schoolhouse Theater
Who doesn’t love a backstage drama? The revelations behind the scenes
are the drama in favorites like “Phantom of the Opera,” “Kiss
Me Kate,” and “Noises Off.” “The Dog in the Dressing
Room,” a backstage comedy by Deborah Savadge, is now debuting at
The Schoolhouse Theatre, Westchester County’s longest running Equity
Theatre, on June 14 and will play through July 1. Games, secrets, old
wounds, stalking, champagne, a canine, and love play their parts in this
smashing comedy. By Glenda Frank.
|Caption: Felicia Finley and the company
"Songbird" at Two River
“Songbird” is based, subtly and effectively, on Russian dramatist
Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” an 1896 play you need
not have seen or read (or even heard of) in order to appreciate this multi-faceted
hoedown derivative. Coupled with Michael Kimmel’s affecting book
(and a nudge from a Century-plus-ago playwright), “Songbird”
is a rare blend of foot-stomping rhythms and heart-tugging emotions, that
Two River Theater Company is serving up with style. By Philip Dorian.
|Corey Stoll as Iago and Chukwudi Iwuji
as Othello, photo Joan Marcus.
Public Theater’s “Othello”
at Delacorte Theater
Shakespeare’s “Othello” at the Delacorte Theater in
Central Park seemed more about racism to me than it ever had before. Under
the clear, commanding direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson and featuring
the mesmerizing, almost painfully gut-wrenching acting of Chukwudi Iwuji
as Othello, you imagine what a lifetime of racial slights has done to
his judgment and trust. By Lucy Komisar.
|Catherine (Maggie Horan), left, Eddie
(Rich O'Brien) and Beatrice (Claire Beckman). Photo courtesy of Brave
New World Repertory Theatre.
"A View From The Bridge"
on a barge in Red Hook
Brave New World specializes in site-specific productions, and mounting
“A View from the Bridge” on a barge actually afloat on the
Red Hook, Brooklyn waterfront, is inspired. The ‘Waterfront Museum
& Showboat Barge’ is covered over and cleaned up some from its
seafaring days, but its original weathered deck and spars are intact.
One can only wish that Miller, who died in 2005, were still around to
sneak up the gangplank into a performance. By Philip Dorian.
|Photo of Tony Yazbeck and Irina Dvorovenko
"The Beast in
the Jungle" at Vineyard Theatre
Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, this adaption of Henry James’s
1903 novella “The Beast in the Jungle” is a melancholy treatise
on unrealized romance and thwarted passion that unfolds in James’s
characteristically elaborate prose. The same-titled theater piece inspired
by the story is essentially a ballet, with intermittent narration and
some spare-dialogue passages. By Philip Dorian.
|TRAVESTIES -- Peter McDonald as James Joyce, Tom
Hollander as Henry Carr, Scarlett Strallen as Gwendolen and Sara Topham
as Cecily. Photo by Joan Marcus.
“Travesties” is a glorious kaleidoscope of famous people,
fiction and events that converge in Zurich during World War I and raise
questions about radical politics, the meaning of art, and the validity
of memory to link it all. By Lucy Komisar.
|J. Alphonse Nicholson and Kristolyn Lloyd. Photo
by Joan Marcus.
“Paradise Blue” focusses on what happens when a jazz joint
in Detroit’s Blackbotton neighborhood is thrown into turmoil thanks
to 1940s gentrification; the erratic behavior of Blue (J. Alphonse Nicholson),
the club owner; and the arrival of a sexy and dangerous woman named Silver
(Simone Missick). By Paulanne Simmons.
|Condola Rashad as Saint Joan. Photo by
Bernard Shaw was a feminist. And a religious skeptic. Who better than
to tell the story of Saint Joan? How do you do that when you are a socialist
and not a militarist? You focus on the hypocrisy of the religious establishment,
that had no problem with war, but only with who keeps power. By Lucy Komisar.
Two views of "My Fair Lady"
Paulanne Simmons writes that from Catherine Zuber’s
elegant costumes and Michael Yeargan’s sumptuous set, to the delightful
interpretation of Lerner and Loewe’s magnificent score brought to
life by Ted Sperling’s musical director, Robert Russell Bennett
and Phil Lang’s arrangements, and Marc Salzbeg’s sound design,
Lincoln Center’s “My Fair Lady” is a treat for the eyes
and ears. Lucy Komisar adds that this time there’s a feminist
kick. And some class solidarity. Bartlett Sher's progressive production
brings the musical back to its roots with references to the women's suffrage
movement. Sher is attentive to George Bernard Shaw's intentions to comment
on class disparity and social inequality. With wonderful direction, vocals,
and set design, this comedy of manners is sure to delight.
|Renee Fleming as Nettie Fowler and company. Photo
by Julieta Cervantes.
“Carousel” is a gorgeous show with a hokey, simplistic, no-politics
story, says Lucy Komisar. The vocals are thrilling, led by opera diva
Renée Fleming who presents her solos as if they were arias. And
the naturalistic sets by Santo Loquasto, from the top of the merry-go-round
to whaling boats in the sea and lobster cages are entrancing. It’s
a gorgeous show, if you forget the story.
|Brian Tree Henry as William, Beth Powley as Dawn,
Michael Cera as Jeff, Chris Evans as Bill. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Two views of "Lobby Hero"
It hardly seems possible that a play about murder, rape and police corruption
could be even remotely amusing. Yet, in many ways, Kenneth Lonergan’s
“Lobby Hero” might be the funniest show on Broadway this season.
Paulanne Simmons and Lucy Komisar weigh in.
|Glenda Jackson, Alison Pill and Laurie Metcalf in
"Three Tall Women." Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.
Two views of "Three
Tall Women," 2018
It’s only a few months before the 26th anniversary of the first
American appearance of Edward Albee’s masterpiece, "Three Tall
Women," yet we’ve seen surprisingly few revivals. It’s
admittedly difficult to perform, but hundreds of our high schools have
performed the extremely demanding constant dance numbers of "A Chorus
Line" without even one cast member who can really dance. Certainly
those who love Albee’s plays can rejoice at this masterful new version.
The legendary actress Glenda Jackson—who returned to the stage after
28 years in England’s Parliament and got raves playing King Lear
in Shakespeare’s play with The Royal Shakespeare Company—stars
with two admired, award-winning American actresses. And it’s gorgeously