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Sophia Silver and Andrew Dits.

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.

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 Metropolitan Playhouse
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 "Holiday Inn"
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 Philip Dorian.

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: a Life"
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 Bruce.
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 Philip Dorian.


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 Maid"
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 Court Theatre
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 Dorothy Chansky.


MIDNIGHT AT THE NEVER GET -- Sam Bolen. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

"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 Republican struggle

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 pl
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 Komisar.


ON BECKETT -- Bill Irwin. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Bill Irwin "On Beckett"

Whether you’re interested in a master class on Samuel Beckett or the art of acting and mime, or you just love Bill Erwin, “On Becket” at the Irish Repertory Theatre will not disappoint. In 90 minutes, Irwin demonstrates unequivocally why he’s a great actor and Becket is a great writer. By Paulanne Simmons.


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 Jordan.

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 Rosegg.


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 Brinkley"
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 Marcus.

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 Murphy.


"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 Lucy Komisar.

HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD -- The company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

"Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," a stunner for set & magic
Mixed with the magic and terrific scenery, there's a lot of stuff about fathers and sons, which is really the theme of the play, or the two plays which you can see on succeeding nights or a one-day marathon. Critics were requested not to give away the plot, which is easy to comply with since it's rather silly. By Lucy Komisar.


ARENDT-HEIDEGGER: A LOVE STORY -- Alyssa Simon, Joris Stuyck. Photo by Rina Kopalla.
Three views of "Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story"
Author Douglas Lackey and director Alexander Harrington have managed to extract a thought provoking stimulating performance from two of the most controversial public intellects of the twentieth century: Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), a German-Jewish philosopher and social theorist and Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), one of the most renowned German philosophers to have succumbed to Nazism. The subject of their romantic entanglement, in conjunction with their political trajectories over the course of forty years, from the mid 1920s to 1964, is the dramatic core of this play in a series of 23 concisely scripted scenes. By Beate Hein Bennett, Edward Rubin and Larry Litt.
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 politician

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 of BITEF.


Belgrade International 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 with Jews)"
"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 Thorpe.

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 Studio.

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” 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 Fabio Nedrotti.

“Brexit”: Politics 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 (Brent Harris)

"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 a Diet"
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
“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 Dorian.


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 Simmons.






Stanley Allyn Owen (Tarzan) and Leopard. Photo by Cayce Calloway.

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 Theater
Jessie Shelton and Jeremy Beck. Photo by Todd Cerveris
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.



"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 of "Songbird"

"Songbird" at Two River Theater
“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.




Stoppard's "Travesties"
“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
“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 Joan Marcus.



Saint Joan
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 designed (Miriam Buether) as well as excitingly directed by Joe Mantello, one of Broadway’s most honored directors. Herbert Simpson and Lucy Komisar weigh in ambivalently. Lucy writes she'd love to see a feminist “Three Tall Women, Part 2.”


Tamyra Gray as Papa Ge. Photo by Joan Marcus.




"Once on this Island" is a Gorgeous Folk Opera About Color and Class in the Caribbean
Called a charming, surreal, and politically sharp-edged play, Lucy Komisar advises audiences not to arrive late to this production. Full of magical realism created by director Michael Arden, this charming folk opera is about class and race. By Lucy Komisar.


Mark Rylance as King Phillippe V in the Shakespeare's Globe production of "Farinelli and the King." Photo by Joan Marcus.



Two Views of mark Rylance in "Farinelli and the King"
Edward Rubin thought no one could rescue Rylance from his wobbly and unsatisfing portrayal of Phillipe V. However, Lucy Komisar thought this was a thrilling performane. See how the two compare. By Edward Rubin and Lucy Komisar.





Katrina Lenk as Dina and Tony Shalhoub as Tewfiq in
The Band's Visit. Photo by Matthew Murphy.



"The Band's Visit"
When a musical transfers from off-Broadway to Broadway, there are always a few essential questions. Will the production work on a bigger stage? Will the sound fill a larger house? Will the show be true to the original, even with new members in the cast? Happily, The Band’s Visit, helmed by David Cromer, answers all these questions with a resounding yes. By Paulanne Simmons.


SPAMILTON: Putting down Phantom, Aladdin and Cats. Photo by Carol Rosegg.


The fellow on stage looks familiar. He wears an 18th-century blue coat and gold buttons and is rapping. In Alessandrini's "Spamilton", an affectionate pastiche of Broadway heroes which will ring true with any seasoned audience. Laugh along as Alessandrini spoofs on "The Lion King," "Cats" and of course "Hamilton" itself. If you can't get tickets to that particular constitutional classic, "Spamilton" will keep you smiling for days. By Lucy Komisar.


Bette Midler as Dolly Gallagher Levi and waiters at the Harmonia Gardens. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.


Aaah, hmmm, but we'll bette you'll love it too.
“Hello Dolly” with Bette Midler is outdated on feminism and talent. But the audience loved every starpower minute of it. By Lucy Komisar.




The famous helicopter escaping the fall of Saigon, and Vietnamese desperate to get on it. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Miss Saigon is Back
Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil found worldwide success with “Les Misérables,” a drama of the political. The personal stories were of Jean Valjean, the man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, and the masses of the oppressed he represented. There was a minor love story. But in “Miss Saigon,” the star-crossed lovers are the major focus, with the crisis of America’s war in Vietnam and how it destroyed the country just a backdrop. So, this play is often hokey and not very satisfying. By Lucy Komisar.



Tina Benko as Calpurnia, Gregg Henry, Teagle Bougere as Casca and Elizabeth Marvel as Marc Antony. Photo by Joan Marcus.


The Public’s “Julius Caesar” brilliantly trolls Donald Trump, and masses “resist”
Oskar Eustis, director of a mesmerizing Public Theater staging of Shakespeare’s play about taking down an incipient dictator, says that “Julius Caesar can be read as a warning parable to those who try to fight for democracy by undemocratic means. To fight the tyrant does not mean imitating him.” By Lucy Komisar.



Serhiy Zhadan performing song inspired by Timothy Snyder's book "On Tyranny." Photo by Waldemart Klyuzko.

1917-2017: Tychyna, Zhadan & the Dogs
is a truism to say that our present world is in turmoil. Most of us are reeling from news about bombings, civil wars, millions of refugees migrating over the face of the earth, while fanaticism, nationalism, racism, xenophobia is grabbing the psyche of young and old. And the sense of political impotence alternates with rage about signs of backsliding into tyrannical modes of governance propped up by corruption and cronyism. However, a fighting spirit has also emerged among peoples. The present production at La Mama presented by the Yara Arts Group, conceived and directed by Yara’s Artistic Director Virlana Tkacz, has brought together Ukrainian and American performing artists that take us through a compendium of political activism with music, movement, poetry and video imagery. By Beate Hein Bennett.


Gordon Palagi in "The Cooping Theory: Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe?"


The Cooping Theory: Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe?
Unlike most immersive experiences, “The Cooping Theory: Who Killed Edgar Allan Poe?” offers not only sounds and sights but also a delicious meal and craft cocktails. By Paulanne Simmons.





Jonathan Sayer as the butler Perkins pouring liquor down the phone. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.


“The Play That Goes Wrong”
One of the stars of this play is not human. It’s the set for the riotous slapstick comedy put on by (real) British actors about a disastrous production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor” by a fakeuniversity drama society. Sometimes slapstick is silly, but this is exceedingly clever. By Lucy Komisar.





Christy Altomare as Anya, and ghosts of the past. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Complex, fascinating and gorgeous, this fantasy tale of the young woman who might be the surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas of Russia is a colorful musical mystery with elegant singing, marvelous dancing and costumes that light up the stage. With a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, it features the top talents of Broadway. That goes for director Darko Tresnjak and choreographer Peggy Hickey, who have “big Broadway show” written all over them. “Anastasia” a fine colorful big-musical Russian Romanov princess fantasy. By Lucy Komisar.



2 Views of“Come From away"
“Come from Away,” a new musical by Irene Sankoff and David Hein at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, is based on the true story of the almost 7,000 stranded passengers from 38 flights who were not permitted to cross into the United States on Sept. 11 and landed in the small town of Gander, population 9,000. By Glenda Frank and Lucy Komisar.




Nick Cordero as Sonny, Hudson Loverro as Calogero. Photo by Joan Marcus.

“A Bronx Tale"
It’s a knock off of “West Side Story,” here Italians vs blacks, and very hokey, but “A Bronx Tale” has a certain charm and pizazz nonetheless. The place is Bedford Avenue, tenements with fire escapes and pushcarts. And kids singing doo-wop. They are working class Italians, circa 1960.“A Bronx Tale” is musical coming of age with a twist: kid grows up among hoodlums By Lucy Komisar.



Katrina Lenk as Dina, Tony Shalhoub as the conductor. Photo by Ahron R. Foster.


“The Band’s Visit."
An Egyptian police band, the grandly named Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, is supposed to play at an Arab cultural center in Israel, but gets the town’s name wrong at the bus station and ends up in an Israeli backwater. “The Band’s Visit” is a charming gem about human connections across political divides. By Lucy Komisar.



"A Bronx Tale"
Since “A Bronx Tale” has already been a solo show and a film, it might have been inevitable that it eventually become a musical. This is not necessarily a terrible thing. In fact, the show currently at the Longacre Theater is not at all bad. By Paulanne Simmons.


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