CEOExpress
Subscribe to This Blog | Author Login | Join CEOExpressSelect | Private Label CEOExpress

 
Theatre Reviews LImited  Your Source for Theatre Reviews in New York City
By David Roberts
  
Amazon | CNN | Wikipedia | Theatre Reviews Limited | CEOExpress 
David's Blog
News


  Navigation Calendar
    
    Days with posts will be linked

  Most Recent Posts

 
<< 1-50 Posts 51 - 100 of 971 101-150 >>
Off-Broadway Review: Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” Explores the Angst of Adolescence with Cathartic Wit at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater (Extended through Sunday June 17, 2018)

Photo: Camila Canó-Flaviá, Ellen Maddow, Ikechukwu Ufomadu, Lucy Taylor, Dina Shihabi, Eboni Booth, and Purva Bedi in “Dance Nation.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” Explores the Angst of Adolescence with Cathartic Wit at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater (Extended through Sunday June 17, 2018)
Written by Clare Barron
Directed and Choreographed by Lee Sunday Evans
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” Explores the Angst of Adolescence with Cathartic Wit.

Separation-individuation is one of life’s most difficult passages: it is completed successfully by most; however, more than might be suspected remain in the mire of adolescence all their lives. Prepubescence is supposed to erupt in adulthood – adults emerging where clingy parent-dependent pre-teens once held sway. It is a passage equally traumatic to boys as it is to girls, but in “Dance Nation” currently running at Playwrights Horizons’ Peter Jay Sharp Theater, playwright Clare Barron chooses to focus on this process from the point of view of “pre-pubescent” girls. The trope chosen to immerse the audience in this time of trauma is the extended metaphor of the dance studio.

“The dance,” although appearing a cooperative endeavor in performance on stage, is as competitive a sport as one might imagine. Thirteen-year-old girls have enough difficulty maneuvering the path to self-understanding in a male-dominated environment without pitting themselves against one another as they learn the various ballet positions and attempt to absorb the “positions” of adulthood. The girls explore their fantasies, their fears, their longings, their sexual development, their private thoughts as they work at the barre, or on the floor, or in private conversations with one another or their Moms (Christina Rouner). They tolerate Dance Teacher Pat’s (Thomas Jay Ryan) self-absorbed “instruction” (a trope for the male-centered society?) and counterpoint the adolescent woes of Luke (Ikechukwu Ufomadu) – the only boy in the class – with their own.

Under Lee Sunday Evans’ crisp direction, with her alluring choreography, and with the care of the all-female production team, Purva Bedi (Connie), Eboni Booth (Zuzu), Camila Canó-Flaviá (Sofia), Ellen Maddow (Maeve), Christina Rouner Vanessa), Dina Shihabi (Amina), Lucy Taylor (Ashlee), and Ikechukwu Ufomadu (Luke) deliver authentic performances and give their disparate characters a genuine grounding in the conflicts they are experiencing as adolescents and might experience as adults in engaging scenes of foreshadowing and foretelling. Their journeys are a microcosm of dance epitomize the macrocosm of gender parity and self-acceptance.

In an explosive unison Greek-Chorus, the girls share their wish that society would urge the importance of their personal individuality as much as their sexually stereotyped identities. It is best for the intensity and the diction of this chorus to be experienced firsthand by the audience. Some might find the tone exhilarating while some might find the rant a tad impolite. Either way, the performance is powerful and authentic and represents the beginning of the evolution into adulthood. These thirteen-year-olds yearn for more than perfect genitalia: they yearn for “greatness” and “perfection” in “face,” “body,” and “soul.”

Dance Teacher Pat and Luke join the chorus exemplifying that perhaps the process is not complete until boys and men can join the chorus of equality. The recent announcement by Benedict Cumberbatch that he will not accept a role unless his female co-stars are paid the same salary is one example of gender awareness. Keenly aware of their psychosexual development into adulthood, the teenagers are also hoping to be more than their sexuality: they yearn for gender equality in education, employment, and community.

After the opening dance number – one that none too subtly discloses the variety of levels of “development” in the young dancers – Vanessa turns the “wrong way” and suffers what appears to be a compound fracture. The stage manager asks her to get off the stage, ignoring her dilemma and her pain. Her opportunity for winning ends in debilitating injury. At the end of “Dance Nation,” Amina rehearses the dynamics of her winning this way: “I rode the wave/Like I always knew how to ride the wave/And others kept falling along the way/But I kept riding/Til I was alone.” There can be no more existential angst than this remembrance of things to come.

DANCE NATION

The cast of “Dance Nation” features Purva Bedi, Eboni Booth, Camila Canó-Flaviá, Ellen Maddow, Christina Rouner, Thomas Jay Ryan, Dina Shihabi, Lucy Taylor, and Ikechukwu Ufomadu.

The production features scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, costume design by Ásta Bennie Hostetter, lighting design by Barbara Samuels, and sound design by Brandon Wolcott. Production Stage Manager is Erin Gioia Albrecht. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

The performance schedule for “Dance Nation” is Tuesday through Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Single tickets, $39.00-89.00, may be purchased online via www.phnyc.org, by phone at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8:00 p.m. daily) and in person at the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 West 42nd Street (between Ninth and Tenth Avenues). For further information, visit https://www.playwrightshorizons.org/. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Camila Canó-Flaviá, Ellen Maddow, Ikechukwu Ufomadu, Lucy Taylor, Dina Shihabi, Eboni Booth, and Purva Bedi in “Dance Nation.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, May 14, 2018

Broadway Review: “Carousel” at the Imperial Theatre (Open Run)

Photo: Amar Ramasar and the Company of “Carousel.” Credit: Julieta Cervantes.
Broadway Review: “Carousel” at the Imperial Theatre (Open Run)
Music by Richard Rogers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Jack O’Brien
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The beloved Rogers and Hammerstein “Carousel” has not often been revived on the Broadway stage since it first opened to critical acclaim in 1945, so this third incarnation, after a long hiatus since the highly successful production at Lincoln Center in 1994, will be welcomed by audiences who savor the familiar lavish score. Theater aficionados will be delighted by the superb vocals that illuminate such favorites as “If I Loved You,” “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” along with the new sumptuous orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Although the score is still heralded as one of the best among the classic musicals of its era, the book is quite complex and does not withstand the test of time.

The musical revolves around the complicated love story between Billy Bigelow, a disreputable carousel barker, and Julie Jordan, a young innocent but venturesome local mill worker. It takes place in the state of Maine at the turn of the twentieth century. The egregious relationship is hardly the fairy-tale romance: it is laden with anger, deception and abuse, themes that do not translate well to the present socio-political atmosphere. The second act is heavy-handed, dealing with the themes of afterlife and redemption, crossing the borderline to the sanctimonious, putting the brakes on any momentum established in the plot previously. It also contains the laborious “Ballet, “appearing near the close of the show, originally choreographed by Agnes de Mille, fashioned after her similar ground breaking, successful scene in “Oklahoma.”

Joshua Henry portrays a formidable Billy delivering his wrenching “Soliloquy” with accurate poise and conviction, accompanied by vocal prowess. Jessie Mueller creates a less convincing, reserved Julie and although vocally accomplished, lacks character stability. What becomes most problematic is the absence of chemistry between the couple. The incomparable Renee Fleming establishes a solid and sagacious Nettie Fowler, deftly conquering the prominent “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with her clear tonal quality and sincere delivery. Lindsay Mendez provides essential comic relief as best friend Carrie Pipperidge and her betrothed Enoch Snow, enthusiastically inhabited by Alexander Gemignani with a big, bold and beautiful vocal, stealing his every scene.

Choreographer Justin Peck executes excellent dance sequences that only elevate the dark and stilted storyline. Director Jack O’Brien manages to move the plot along at an ever-slow pace and does not ennoble character development in order to embrace current moral judgement. The result is a mixed bag, but certainly worth a visit if enthralled by classic musicals that have become a part of theater history.

CAROUSEL

The cast for “Carousel” features Joshua Henry, Jessie Mueller, and Renée Fleming. They are joined by Lindsay Mendez, Alexander Gemignani, Margaret Colin, John Douglas Thompson, Amar Ramasar, and Brittany Pollack.

The ensemble of “Carousel” features Colin Anderson, Yesenia Ayala, Nicholas Belton, Colin Bradbury, Andrei Chagas, Leigh-Ann Esty, Laura Feig, David Michael Garry, Garett Hawe, Rosena M. Hill Jackson, Amy Justman, Jess LeProtto, Skye Mattox, Kelly McCormick, Anna Noble, Adriana Pierce, Rebecca Pitcher, David Prottas, Amy Ruggiero, Craig Salstein, Ahmad Simmons, Antoine L. Smith, Corey John Snide, Erica Spyres, Ryan Steele, Sam Strasfeld, Halli Toland, Ricky Ubeda, Scarlett Walker, Jacob Keith Watson, and William Youmans.

The creative team of this new production of Carousel includes Santo Loquasto (Scenic Design), Ann Roth (Costume Design), Brian MacDevitt (Lighting Design), Scott Lehrer (Sound Design), Jonathan Tunick (Orchestrations), and Andy Einhorn (Musical Supervision, Direction, andVocal Arrangements). Production photos by

“Carousel” runs at the Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). For further information, including the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.carouselbroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes including one intermission.

Photo: Amar Ramasar and the Company of “Carousel.” Credit: Julieta Cervantes.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, May 11, 2018

Broadway Review: Valor Rules Supreme in “Three Tall Women” at the John Golden Theatre (Currently On)

Photo: Alison Pill, Glenda Jackson, and Laurie Metcalf in “Three Tall Women.” Credit: Brigitte Lacombe.
Broadway Review: Valor Rules Supreme in “Three Tall Women” at the John Golden Theatre (Currently On)
By Edward Albee
Directed by Joe Mantello
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Three Tall Women” by Edward Albee Grapples with the Dignity and Valiancy of Death.

What if the seven “characters” in Jacques the melancholy’s monologue in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” could “meet” and share with one another the experiences they had in their particular “stage of life?” What if “the lean and slipper'd pantaloon” could let the “soldier” know how his life would change, or if both could warn the “infant” of the pitfalls of adolescence and adulthood? And then what if “second childishness and mere oblivion; sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything” could communicate to all his “stages” the importance of humor and perspective? The protagonist in “Three Tall Women,” currently running at the John Golden Theatre, manages that achievement with grace and charming caprice.

In the second act of Edward Albee’s play, after she suffers a stroke at ninety-Character A (Glenda Jackson) joins Character B (Laurie Metcalf who looks rather as A would have at 52) and Character C (Alison Pill who looks rather as B would have at 26) for a conversation about “their” life. The playwright’s conceit is an engaging and complicated metaphor allowing the audience to explore this valiant (tall) character’s mind as she slips into the recesses of dementia. She/they reflect upon many the surprises life brings, the status of her/their son, the death of her/their husband, and what defines a “happy time.” Character A answers the question. “I was talking about . . . what: coming to the end of it; yes. So. There it is. You asked, after all. That’s the happiest moment. When it’s all done. When we stop. When we can stop.”

This conversation occurs downstage with Character A lying in bed upstage behind a transparent wall in a room that mirrors the downstage room. The upstage room (the real “present” in the second act) is vacated by Characters B and C at the beginning of the second act as they move downstage and are met by Character A. Miriam Buether’s inventive set and Paul Gallo’s surreal lighting allow the audience to be reflected in the set’s transparent wall. The audience not only “listens in” to the conversation: the audience members are “in” the room, hovering over character A’s body and mind, sharing the boy’s “visit” to his mother.

Act One (the real universe) sets the stage for Act Two (the surreal, alternate universe) and provides the exposition for the remainder of the play. A’s caregiver B (Laurie Metcalf) and A’s legal advisor C (Alison Pill) spar with the cantankerous nonagenarian about age, incontinence, the loss of control, the loss of dignity, the loss of memory, mortality, retribution, parenting, horseback riding, marriage, infidelity, amputation, racism, friendship, regret, and osteoporosis. Think T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” on steroids. Condescension and sarcasm careen around the room – from chair to bed and back – and establish the tone for the following act.

Under Joe Mantello’s exquisite direction, the complex action moves forward with clarity and precision. Glenda Jackson delivers a stunning performance as the quarrelsome A whose descent into senility provides the backdrop for “Three Tall Women.” Laurie Metcalf and Alison Pill provide equally brilliant portrayals of B and C – as “real” characters and as residents of A’s “alternate universe.” The three actors clearly care for one another and support one another in bringing to life three valiant women in the stages of one life that prepares for what might be life’s most valued and happiest moment.

THREE TALL WOMEN

The cast of “Three Tall Women” features Glenda Jackson, Laurie Metcalf, and Alison Pill.

The creative team includes Miriam Buether (scenic design), Ann Roth (costume design), Paul Gallo (lighting design), Fitz Patton (sound design), and Campbell Young Associates (hair and makeup design). William Joseph Barnes serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Brigitte Lacombe.

“Three Tall Women” runs at the John Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue) on the following performance schedule: Tuesday (7:00 p.m.), Wednesday (2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.), Thursday (7:00 p.m.), Friday (8:00 p.m.), Saturday (2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.), and Sunday (3:00 p.m.). Tickets ($47.00 - $169.00) are available at https://www.telecharge.com/ or at the theatre box office. Further information about“Three Tall Women” is available at http://threetallwomenbroadway.com/. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Alison Pill, Glenda Jackson, and Laurie Metcalf in “Three Tall Women.” Credit: Brigitte Lacombe.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, May 7, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: Sensibility Reigns in “Summer and Smoke” at Classic Stage Company (Through Friday May 25, 2018)

Off-Broadway Review: Sensibility Reigns in “Summer and Smoke” at Classic Stage Company (Through Friday May 25, 2018)
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Jack Cummings III
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Begun in 1945, and first produced in 1947, Tennessee Williams called “Summer and Smoke” a “drama of sensibility.” Rich in allegory, yet grounded in realism, the play explores the deep conflicts between body and soul and between the sacred and the profane and examines the themes of the marginalized and the results of having a poorly integrated sexuality. Currently running at Classic Stage Company, this revival of “Summer and Smoke” is presented by both Classic Stage Company and the Transport Group and is directed by Transport’s Jack Cummings III.

Throughout the play, lifelong acquaintances John Buchanan (Nathan Darrow) and Alma Winemiller (Marin Ireland) wrestle with their seemingly irreconcilable understandings of the spiritual and corporeal and their struggles with successfully responding to complex emotional influences. These characters, and others, in “Summer and Smoke” collide with those of other Williams’ plays, notably “The Glass Menagerie” and “Streetcar Named Desire.” And the rhetorical devices in one rumble throughout all three, connecting the characters’ intertwined quests for self-discovery, self-awakening, and unconditional love.

Alma and John live next door to one another and explore the play’s themes from their early visits to the fountain in the town’s square to their separation at the play’s end. “Summer and Smoke” follows the antithetical development of Alma and John. Initially, Alma’s deep Protestant spirituality does not allow her to express her affection for John in ways he understands and needs, and John’s corporeal needs do not allow him to love Alma in ways she understands and needs. As the play develops, Alma becomes more “carnal” and John becomes more “spiritual” and at the end of the play – as at the beginning – the two are unable to connect. Their developmental paths never intersect at points of opportunity for a meaningful relationship. In a sense, Alma jumps on the “streetcar named desire” too late and John realizes he has been on that car far too long – the couple never on the same car at the same time.

Under Jack Cummings III’s careful direction, the cast captures the essence of Tennessee Williams’ seminal work in the Classic Stage/Transport production. Each member of the ensemble cast develops her or his character with sensitivity and each delivers an authentic and believable performance. Marin Ireland’s Alma is as frail as she is frightened of her own sexual status. Ms. Ireland allows Alma to develop subtly and surreptitiously in counterpoint to John’s more erratic movement forward. Nathan Darrow’s John is infectious, sensual, and gritty. Mr. Darrow, in a tour de force performance, reveals a John in a lifelong quest for someone to fill his emptiness and his longing.

Dane Laffrey’s set design honors Williams’ hope that “walls are omitted or just barely suggested.” Mr. Laffrey chooses to use a stage that remains bare except for a few chairs, the “fountain,” and the medical chart in John’s “office.” This expanse allows for a emotionally powerful scene that leaves Alma looking very much like Wyeth’s Christina understanding her limitations but attempting to move beyond them. Kathryn Rohe’s costumes and R. Lee Kennedy’s lighting further support the emotional strength of the play.

Both Alma and Blanche lack sensitivity and suffer from psychological frailty. Alma, Blanche, and Laura are both outsiders as well as artists. Like John and his father and Reverend Winemiller (the appropriately laconic T. Ryder Smith), their artistry is not defined by what they create or practice, but by their temperament and taste. In “Summer and Smoke,” Alma’s art is her vocal ability which she sabotages with her attacks of “anxiety.” John’s art, his practice of medicine, is sabotaged by his self-doubt and lack of integration. Reverend Winemiller’s art is his ministry at which he fails miserably through his faithlessness and hypocrisy. For Tennessee Williams, one cannot practice one’s craft without full psychological and spiritual integration. This developmental truth is given a captivating interpretation in this well thought out production.

SUMMER AND SMOKE

The cast of “Summer and Smoke” will feature Glenna Brucken, Phillip Clark, Nathan Darrow, Hannah Elless, Elena Hurst (Rosa Gonzales), Marin Ireland (Alma Winemiller), Tina Johnson, Gerardo Rodriguez, T. Ryder Smith, Ryan Spahn, Jonathan Spivey, and Barbara Walsh.

Set design is by Dane Laffrey, costume design by Kathryn Rohe, lighting design by R. Lee Kennedy, fight direction is by Dan O’Driscoll, and sound design by Walter Trarbach. Original music by Michael John LaChiusa. Casting by Nora Brennan Casting. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.

“Summer and Smoke” performs Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $60 ($50 during previews). Prime seats are $125 ($75 during previews). For tickets, visit classicstage.org, call (212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111, or in person at the box office (136 East 13th Street). For further information, visit http://www.classicstage.org/. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes including one intermission.

Photo: Marin Ireland and Nathan Darrow in “Summer and Smoke.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, May 4, 2018

Broadway Review: “My Fair Lady” at Lincoln Center Theater’s Vivian Beaumont Theater (Open Run

Broadway Review: “My Fair Lady” at Lincoln Center Theater’s Vivian Beaumont Theater (Open Run)
Book and Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Music by Frederick Loewe
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is something magnificent happening at Lincoln Center Theater, and it has to do with a powerful and intriguing woman, who has currently walked onto the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater, revealing that Eliza Doolittle has arrived in the twenty-first century, branding “My Fair Lady” as an old musical destined for a new era. The phenomenal revival directed by Bartlett Sher puts a new and welcomed spin on the classic Lerner and Loewe musical, and is delivered in a big, lavish production, with magnificent sets by Michael Yeargan, atmospherically illuminated with the lighting of Donald Holder, and clad in the impeccable period costumes of early twentieth century London, by Catherine Zuber. It is spellbinding from the first moment you hear the familiar overture of the lush score, with the delightful musical arrangements of Robert Russell Bennett and Phil Lang resonating from a full orchestra. Whether emanating the proper and sophisticated milieu of the “Embassy Waltz” or generating a rousing rendition of “Get Me to the Church on Time,” the choreography of Christopher Gattelli will please the eye. The entire creative team has forged a seamless new production from start to finish that is smart, intelligent and polished, representing what should be expected on a Broadway stage.

There are few words that could aptly describe this cast but oh what a perfect cast it is. Harry Haddon-Paton turns in a complicated, chauvinistic Henry Higgins, who radiates a beguiling narcissism in conflict with his yearning for love. Allan Corduner portrays an endearing Colonel Pickering with a solicitous wisdom. Norbert Leo Butz uses every opportunity to dig deep into the abusive father Alfred P. Doolittle, giving some depth to the egregious character while at the same time, managing to deliver a lighthearted, comical performance you hate to love. Once you hear the clear tonal quality Jordan Donica lends to his lovelorn, yet persistent Freddy, it becomes clear why “On the Street Where You Live” has become a classic. Then there is the superlative Lauren Ambrose who redefines the character of Eliza Doolittle, infusing her with strength, determination and a will to survive. You can see the grit in her demeanor, hear the resilience in her voice and be moved by the beauty of her soul as she takes you on her journey. Do not be deceived by her honest and solid rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night” for she may be love-struck, or more appropriately, life struck, but she is a force to be reckoned with.

The story based on the play “Pygmalion” by Bernard Shaw has always struggled with a controversial ambiguous ending where the audience was given the choice to decide what happens to Eliza, what she will do and who she will marry, if anyone at all. When it was to be transformed into a stage musical it was conceived as a romantic comedy with a somewhat happy ending which supported female submission. Mr. Sher envisions a new fair lady, empowered to become all she is capable of being, unshackled from a male dominated society and free from shame and abuse. It is an important and brave interpretation that serves our present social atmosphere, shedding a new perspective on an old story. There is nothing more to say, except “Bravo!”

MY FAIR LADY

“My Fair Lady” features a cast of thirty-seven, led by Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Paton, with Norbert Leo Butz, Diana Rigg, Allan Corduner, Jordan Donica, Linda Mugleston, and Manu Narayan.

Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” features choreography by Christopher Gattelli, and has sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Donald Holder, sound by Marc Salzberg, and casting by Telsey + Co. Music Director Ted Sperling conducts a 29-piece orchestra performing “My Fair Lady’s” original musical arrangements by Robert Russell Bennett and Phil Lang, and dance arrangements by Trude Rittmann. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

For further information about “My Fair Lady” at Lincoln Center Theater’s Vivian Beaumont Theater (10 Lincoln Center Plaza), including the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.myfairladybway.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 55 minutes including one intermission.

Photo: Harry Hadden-Paton, Lauren Ambrose, and Allan Corduner in “My Fair Lady.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, April 23, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “The Seafarer” at Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)

Photo: Matthew Broderick, Michael Mellamphy, Andy Murray, Tim Ruddy, and Colin McPhillamy in “The Seafarer.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
Off-Broadway Review: “The Seafarer” at Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)
By Conor McPherson
Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The latest offering of the Irish Repertory Theatre is the revival of “The Seafearer” by Conor McPherson, which opened on Broadway in 2007 and was nominated for a TONY award for best play that season. It follows the renowned style of the playwright, producing incredible natural dialogue, executed in somewhat ordinary life situations, with a collection of disreputable characters, and always providing a mysterious twist to maintain an interesting plot. In this case it is the story that revolves around the Faustian character “Sharky” who won a card game with the devil while in jail for murder, where the stakes were high: his soul or his freedom with the condition that if he won there could be a rematch at any time.

The festivities begin on Christmas Eve morning in the basement hangout of the Harkin brothers, Richard (a perfectly cantankerous Colin McPhillamy) and his younger brother James aka “Sharky” (a completely cogent Andy Murray), who has returned home to help his brother who is now blind as a result of a drunken brawl. Emerging from the decrepit, cluttered surroundings (impeccably designed by Charlie Corcoran) is good friend, neighbor and drinking buddy Ivan Curry (a hysterical and charming Michael Mellamphy), who cannot find his eyeglasses or his right mind amidst the dreck and the hangover from the drinking the night before. After spending the day trying to recover and get prepared for Christmas the next day, it is revealed that Richard has invited Tim Ruddy, (played with a comic Machiavellian flair by Nicky Giblin), an arch rival of his brother to stop by for a visit and a drink for the holiday. When he arrives, he brings with him an unexpected visitor, Mr. Lockhart (a sober and somber Matthew Broderick). This mysterious character that appears is soon disclosed as the devil who is here for the card game rematch that Sharky promised, to claim his soul. So, the plot continues with a card game ensuing surprising twists and turns that would only serve as a spoiler alert if mentioned.

Director Ciaran O’Reilly unravels the plot ever so slowly with precision enabling the actors to fully develop a character and allowing the audience to revel in the rich and often poetic dialogue for which playwright is well known. It is not until Mr. Lockhart arrives, that the pace should begin to accelerate given the evil and sinister reason he appears. It is always a pleasure to see Mr. Broderick take the stage, and it is admirable that he lends his star power to a successful off-Broadway company, but he has not taken full advantage of the menacing and malicious traits that usually accompany this persona. This diminishes the tension and the ability to realize the full potential of the suspenseful script.

Considering all creative factors, including the realistic, yet moody lighting design provided by Brian Nason, the talented cast can forge an enjoyable evening of theater that compliments the young, Irish playwright and gifted storyteller.

THE SEAFARER

The cast of “The Seafarer” includes Matthew Broderick as “Lockhart,” Colin McPhillamy as “Richard,” Michael Mellamphy as “Ivan,” Andy Murray “Sharky,” and Tim Ruddy as “Nicky.”

The production will feature set design by Charlie Corcoran, lighting design by Brian Nason, costume design by Martha Halley, sound design by Ryan Rumery and M. Florian Staab, and original music by Ryan Rumery. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.

“The Seafarer” runs at Irish Repertory Theatre (132 West 22nd Street) on the following performance schedule: Wednesdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Tickets to “The Seafarer” range from $50-$70 and are available through Irish Rep’s box office at 212-727-2737 or online at www.irishrep.org. Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Matthew Broderick, Michael Mellamphy, Andy Murray, Tim Ruddy, and Colin McPhillamy in “The Seafarer.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, April 20, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Mlima’s Tale” at the Public’s Martinson Hall (Extended through Sunday June 3, 2018)

Photo: Sahr Ngaujah (foreground) in “Mlima’s Tale.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Mlima’s Tale” at the Public’s Martinson Hall (Extended through Sunday June 3, 2018)
By Lynn Nottage
Directed by Jo Bonney
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“I'm Mlima of the Great Plains. Eldest of my clan. I was tracked for many days, taken by a poison arrow. Why are there so many of you?! Mumbi? Koko? Do you hear me?”

Mighty Mlima, “Kenya’s most famous elephant,” – the old, large elephant “with extraordinary tusks” – is murdered for those tusks by the Somali poachers Raman and Geedi. The story of that slaughter and how the magnificent tusks become part of the global illegal ivory trade is the subject of Lynn Nottage’s “Mlima’s Tale,” currently running in the Public’s Martinson Hall. This monstrous tale is relayed with exquisite detail and stirring magical realism from the killing of Mlima to the display of his intricately carved tusks in the new flat of nouveau riche Alice Ying in Bejing.

After Milima’s transformation to Tusks and Spiritul Presence, streaking his face and body with ivory paint and dust in a ritualized manner, he appears in every scene. Sahr Ngaujah’s personification of the elder pachyderm is a powerful presence as he emerges from the shadows, sits, looms over, and follows the characters that gather to determine the “fate of Mlima’s Tusks. They pass through the hands of poachers, a regional warden, a White Kenyan Director of Wildlife, a reporter, a Tanzanian businessman from Zanzibar, a ship’s captain, a customs officer, a carver, a Vietnamese trader, and a nouveau riche customer. Each of these characters – except perhaps Warden Wamwara Machau – exudes greed, deceit, dishonesty, and equivocation. Their entitlement and privilege are branded with the white marks of complicity (the marks of Cain?) Mlima places on them before he leaves the stage after each scene.

Sahr Ngaujah’s performance as Mlima and Mlima’s Tusks is spellbinding, spiritualistic, and primordially otherworldly. Mr. Ngaujah’s “elephant dances,” his contorted posturing of pain, anger, and judgement leaping from the stage directly into the hearts of the members of the audience is accompanied by the music (keyboard, percussion, and instrumental) and the haunting vocals of Justin Hicks. Throughout the play, Mr. Ngaujah and Mr. Hicks seems to breath in unison with hearts that appear to beat as one as Mlima. Mr. Ngaujah dominates the stage with an incomparable strength and persona. His Mlima is larger than life and transcends pain and death.

Adapting the form of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 play “La Ronde,” Lynn Nottage retains one character from each of her scenes into the next. For example, from Scene II, the character of Geedi appears in Scene III with Githinji. Githinji then appears in Scene IV with Wamwara. This literary device repeats through Scene XV with Mlima (tusks) appearing alone in the first and last scenes. Ms. Nottage employs this device with great care infusing each scene with her unique perspective and carefully developed characters that reverberate with believable authenticity. These characters are easily distinguishable and have unique traits and personalities. A brilliant cast of Three Players – Kevin Mambo. Jojo Gonzalez, and Ito Aghayere – play all the characters. Each scene is “titled” with an appropriate African proverb like “The teeth are smiling, but is the heart?”

Under Jo Bonney’s fluid direction, the scenes move seamlessly from one to the other. A sliding panel (sometimes more than one) signals the scene changes allowing the action to proceed without full blackouts. Riccardo Hernandez’s set design is stark and sparse, lighted with perfection by Lap Chi Chu in overlapping pools of encroaching animus. The themes of Lynn Nottage’s transformative script transcend the confines of the illegal ivory trade: “Milma’s Tale” counterpoints every “tale” of greed, deceit, dishonesty, and equivocation extant in every transaction – economic or political – that threatens the spiritual core of the global community.

MLIMA’S TALE

The complete cast of “Mlima’s Tale” features Ito Aghayere (Player 3), Jojo Gonzalez (Player 2), Kevin Mambo (Player 1), and Sahr Ngaujah (Mlima).

“Mlima’s Tale” features scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez, costume design by Jennifer Moeller, lighting design by Lap Chi Chu, sound design by Darron L West, hair and makeup design by Cookie Jordan, music composition and direction by Justin Hicks, movement direction by Chris Walker and fight direction by Thomas Schall. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“Mlima’s Tale” runs in The Public’s Martinson Hall through Sunday, June 3, 2018 on the following performance schedule: Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. (There is no 8:00 p.m. performance on Sunday, April 29.) Public Theater Partner, Supporter, Member and full price tickets, starting at $75.00, can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Running time is 80 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Sahr Ngaujah (foreground) in “Mlima’s Tale.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, April 20, 2018

Broadway Review: “Children of A Lesser God” at Studio 54 (Open Run)

Photo: Lauren Ridloff and Joshua Jackson in “Children of a Lesser God.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
Broadway Review: “Children of A Lesser God” at Studio 54 (Open Run)
By Mark Medoff
Directed by Kenny Leon
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“For why is all around us here/As if some lesser god had made the world/But had not force to shape it as he would?” – Alfred Tennyson

The current Broadway revival of the groundbreaking play “Children of a Lesser God,” the first since it opened thirty-eight years ago to win the TONY award for best play, does not seem to have the emotional impact as the original. Playwright Mark Medoff has penned the love story of James Leeds, a speech therapist at a school for the deaf, and Sarah Norman, deaf since birth, who is not a student but works as a custodian at the school. The technique used to present the play is intriguing, since the actor portraying James speaks his dialogue and repeats Sarah’s words as she signs her responses, speaking for both characters. This is certainly an enormous task, and although an ingenious concept, it does lend itself to complications in relating emotional content and depth of character. Time has not been kind to Mr. Medoff’s script, which now seems histrionic, lending no insight into understanding the incapacitating relationship but rather just hoping for a dramatic solution to the problem. The result seems sanctimonious which sabotages the reality and tries to influence the emotional response of the audience without educating them. The play contains several means of communication which include verbal, physical expression, sign language and now the addition of super titles so hearing-impaired audience members can read vocal dialogue which is not signed.

Joshua Jackson gives a valid and notable performance as James, which masters the extensive dialogue, and is fine when executing his own words, but lacks the impassioned tone that should complement Sarah’s expressions when delivering her lines. If you watch her face as she signs and listen to his voice as he recapitulates, there is a disconnect, which tends to eradicate emotion and merely tell the story. Lauren Ridloff is a joy to watch as Sarah and gives an impressive Broadway debut, sculpting words with fluid movements that float in the air, accompanied by miens of anger, joy, passion and concern. Her entire being is a tool for communication. Both actors deftly execute their roles with integrity but lack a certain chemistry needed to elevate the relationship. The supporting roles are just that, although performed by a talented cast, seem to exist merely to fill the gaps that exist in the script. Kecia Lewis gives an honest and endearing nature to Mrs. Norman (Sarah’s mother) filled with empathy, strength and solicitude.

The stark, clean contemporary scenic design by Derek McLane seems less real and more atmospheric and is supported by the almost futuristic lighting by Mike Baldassari, perhaps purposely to escalate the premise that this all takes place in the mind of James. Neither aspect aids in humanizing the relationship and renders a sterile environment void of any imperfection. Director Kenny Leon has approached this production from too many angles that never seem to align to form a complete shape.

Mr. Medoff’s play will forever hold its place in theater history, but now in the twenty-first century there seems to be a surge in social equality and Tennyson’s words may now refer to all those who exercise their ability to hurt, hate, kill and murder as the product of a lesser god.


CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD

The cast of “Children of A Lesser God” features Julee Cerda, Treshelle Edmond, Anthony Edwards, Joshua Jackson, Kecia Lewis, John McGinty, and Lauren Ridloff.

The creative team for “Children of A Lesser God” features Derek McLane (set design), Dede Ayite (costume design), Mike Baldassari (lighting design), Jill BC Du Boff (sound design), Branford Marsalis (original music), and Alexandria Wailes (director of artistic sign language). Casting for the production is by Telsey + Company. Production photos by Matthew Murphy.

Tickets for “Children of A Lesser God” can be purchased at www.telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200, or at the Studio 54 box office (254 West 54th Street). For more information about “Children of A Lesser God,” including performance times and cast biographies, visit childrenofalessergodbroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 35 minutes including one intermission.

Photo: Lauren Ridloff and Joshua Jackson in “Children of a Lesser God.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, April 20, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Miss You Like Hell” Redefines Redemption at the Public’s Newman Theater (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)

Photo: Gizel Jiménez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Michael Mulheren, David Patrick Kelly in “Miss You Like Hell.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Miss You Like Hell” Redefines Redemption at the Public’s Newman Theater (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)
Book and Lyrics by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Music and Lyrics by Erin McKeown
Directed by Lear deBessonet
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

After seeing her estranged daughter’s “veiled suicide threat” on her “anonymous” blog, Beatriz (the irrepressible Daphne Rubin-Vega) drives her truck “like a bat out of hell” from California to Philadelphia to take her daughter Olivia (the deeply reflective Gizel Jiménez) on a seven-day road trip. After some mild mid-adolescent protestations, Olivia – sixteen – agrees to the trip hoping, perhaps, for reconciliation with her mother and an end to her deep and debilitating angst and depression.

The road trip seems to go well until Beatriz’s motivation for the trip east is disclosed and the fragile trust between mother and daughter begins to crumble: Beatriz needs Olivia to testify for her in her upcoming immigration hearing for permanent residency. The problem: Beatriz has a has a criminal record – a misdemeanor from sixteen years ago, for marijuana, and she needs to convince the judge not to consider it in the determination of status.

Quiara Alegría Hudes’s characters are authentic and their multi-layered conflicts are believable and connect easily to the important issues of separation-individuation, parenting, conflict resolution, and the difficulty of attaining legal immigration status, including the risks of even exposing oneself to that daunting process. The plot and sub-plots driven by these conflicts are developed with care and extraordinary sensitivity by the authors of “Miss You Like Hell.” And the music and lyrics that support the touching story of Beatriz and Olivia are fresh, innovative and completely engaging.

There are eighteen original songs (two of them reprised) with powerful and emotionally engaging lyrics and music that cross several genres and provide deep insights into the characters and their individual and corporate struggles with self, other, and the world. Of interest are “Prayer (Lioness),” “Over My Shoulder,” “Bibliography,” “Now I’m Here,” “Dance with Me,” and the title song “Miss You Like Hell.” Both Ms. Rubin-Vega and Ms. Jiménez approach their numbers with impressive interpretive skills and the rare ability to tease from the music and lyrics nuance, subtlety, and ethos.

Lear Debessonet directs with a fluidity that allows her cast to discover the nuances of their characters and their relationships to one another. The members of the ensemble cast embrace their several characters with attention to believability and with measurable depth. Marinda Anderson (Lawyer), Andrew Christi (Motel Desk Guy), Shawna M. Hamic (Legal Clerk) and Marcus Paul James (Police Officer) also add their rich voices to the ensemble numbers. Riccardo Hernandez’s set design and Tyler Micoleau’s lighting design not only support the book, music, and lyrics; they also draw the members of the audience into the action to experience and take responsibility for what they see and hear.

“Miss You Like Hell” is more than a redemptive mother-daughter reunion drama. The new musical is a daring exploration of the meaning of family, the depth of commitment in relationships, and the importance of love during the anti-immigration, anti-immigrant sentiment extant in the current American political climate where isolationist foreign policy threatens the core of the nation’s values. This is an important work that exposes the dangers facing all who are outcasts and living on the margins of society – “castaways” like Olivia, Beatriz, Manuel (the salvific Danny Bolero), Pearl (the energetic Latoya Edwards), Mo (the devoted Michael Mulheren) and Higgins (the endearingly loyal David Patrick Kelly).

This story of a mother and daughter – both who have lost their ways and their centers – find their ways to break down all the walls that have separated them in the past and start over as “lioness” and “warrior.” The redemptive quality of Quiara Alegría Hudes’s and Erin McKeown’s musical is not grounded in sentimentality but in the strength derived from connection to culture and sexual status. This is a road trip not to be missed.

MISS YOU LIKE HELL

The complete cast for “Miss You Like Hell” includes Marinda Anderson (Ensemble), Danny Bolero (Manuel), Andrew Cristi (Ensemble), Latoya Edwards (Pearl), Shawna M. Hamic (Ensemble), Marcus Paul James (Ensemble), Gizel Jiménez (Olivia), David Patrick Kelly (Higgins), Michael Mulheren (Mo),
Daphne Rubin-Vega (Beatriz), and Martín Solá (Manuel Understudy).

“Miss You Like Hell” features scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez; costume design by Emilio Sosa; lighting design by Tyler Micoleau; sound design by Jessica Paz; and hair and makeup design by J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“Miss You Like Hell” runs through Sunday, May 13. Public Theater Partner, Supporter, and Member tickets, as well as single tickets starting at $90.00, can be accessed now by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. (There is no 8:00 p.m. performance on Sunday, April 22 and Sunday, April 29). Running time is 100 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Gizel Jiménez, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Michael Mulheren, David Patrick Kelly in “Miss You Like Hell.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, April 19, 2018

Broadway Review: “Mean Girls” Pleases at The August Wilson Theatre (Open Run)

Broadway Review: “Mean Girls” Pleases at The August Wilson Theatre (Open Run)
Book by Tina Fey
Music by Jeff Richmond
Lyrics by Nell Benjamin
Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new Broadway musical “Mean Girls,” based on the 2004 hit movie, is sure to secure a home on the Great White Way for some time to come, as it tickles the fancy of a new generation of young woman who might be liberated by the recent movements of empowerment and anti-bullying. It is certainly a crowd pleaser and whether you are a fan of the movie, you will enjoy the flashy, energetic production which aims to please form start to finish. The book by Tina Fey remains close to the screenplay, repeating some of the same popular quips and smart wit while also adding new material to update and take full advantage of current social and political events.

Cady (a convincing Erika Henningsen) is the newcomer at North Shore High moving to Chicago after being isolated and home schooled by her parents in Kenya. Attempting to fit in she is quickly taken under the wings of artsy outsiders Damian (a flamboyantly confident Grey Henson) who is “too gay to exist,” and Goth inspired Janis (a brooding, angst ridden, Barrett Wilbert Weed). Soon enough Cady infiltrates the Mean Girls clique led by the unscrupulous Regina (played with a dominating flair by Taylor Louderman), and unwavering followers Gretchen (a devout, lonely and conflicted Ashley Park) and Karen (an endearingly dumb Kate Rockwell). What conflicts ensue are entertaining, yet predictable, but perpetuate the hostility and discord that has plagued high school society and beyond. The illustrious Kerry Butler is remarkable, bringing her versatility to three roles, but stealing every scene as the sumptuous, “wannabe teenager” Mrs. George.

Lyrics by Nell Benjamin support the situations and help develop characters. Jeff Richmond supplies a variety of musical styles that gives director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw enough punch, to keep the overzealous cast on their toes in creative, albeit sometimes frantic, dance numbers, (sometimes repetitive) or poignant ballads. Costume design by Gregg Barnes is vibrant, fashionable and appropriate, polishing another facet of each character’s personality and mood. Finn Ross and Adam Young have managed to take video design to a new level, complimenting Scott Pask’s scenery with sharp, vivid and ultra-dimensional realistic images that unfold to create seamless scene change.

This show certainly has lasting power and tourist appeal, but also suffers from some familiar musical comedy pitfalls. Although the cast is brilliant and vocally astounding the depth of their characters sometimes suffer from stereotype and incessant jokes that jeopardize authenticity. It is too long and loses its potency with musical numbers that sometimes provide little or no payoff and do not move the plot forward. What it is lacking in profundity is offset by the sheer entertainment factor the creative team has brought to the stage.

MEAN GIRLS

The cast of “Mean Girls” is led by Erika Henningsen, Taylor Louderman, Ashley Parks, Kate Rockwell, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Grey Henson, Kerry Butler, Kyle Selig, Cheech Manohar, and Rick Younger. The cast also includes Stephanie Lynn Bissonnette, Tee Boyich, Collins Conley, Ben Cook, DeMarius R. Copes, Kevin Csolak, Devon Hadsell, Curtis Holland, Myles McHale, Chris Medlin, Brittany Nicholas, Becca Petersen, Nikhil Saboo, Jonalyn Saxer, Brendon Stimson, Riza Takahashi, Kamille Upshaw, Zurin Villanueva, Gianna Yanelli, and Iain Young.

The creative team includes Scott Pask (Set Design), Gregg Barnes (Costume Design), Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design), Brian Ronan (Sound Design), Finn Ross & Adam Young (Video Design), Josh Marquette (Hair Design), Milagros Medina-Cerdeira (Make-Up Design), Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Music Director), John Clancy (Orchestrations), Glen Kelly (Dance and Incidental Music Arrangements), Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Jeff Richmond, and Natalie Tenenbaum (Vocal Arrangements), Howard Joines (Music Coordinator), and Telsey + Co / Bethany Knox, CSA (Casting). Production photos by Joan Marcus.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com, by calling (877) 250-2929, and in-person at the August Wilson Theatre Box Office (245 West 52nd Street; Monday – Saturday: 10am - 8pm). Information on performance schedule, lottery, and rush ticket policies can be found at www.MeanGirlsOnBroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes, with one intermission.

Photo: (L-R): Kyle Selig (Aaron Samuels) and Erika Henningsen (Cady Heron). Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Admissions” Dissects Belief Systems at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (Through Sunday May 6, 2018)

Photo: Jessica Hecht, Andrew Garman, and Ben Edelman in “Admissions.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
Off-Broadway Review: “Admissions” Dissects Belief Systems at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater (Through Sunday April 29, 2018)
By Joshua Harmon
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

When a speaker raises alternate views of a significant problem and seems at one point to take “one side” and then “the other side,” and then advocates for the purity of moral ambiguity – presenting profound rhetorical arguments for each of those points of view – the audience is left bombarded by what seems like conflicting ethos, pathos, and logos and also is left with their heads spinning, alternately laughing and then feeling guilty for laughing and not laughing and puzzled why they didn’t laugh. And in the end, confused about what kind of catharsis has just released their repressed emotions unawares.

The “speaker” here is the cumulative voice of Joshua Harmon’s deeply evocative “Admissions” currently running at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. The assumed topic is the percentage of students of color at Hillcrest the “second tier, on-the-cusp-of-being-a-first-tier prep/boarding school in rural New Hampshire” and the goal of the Admissions Director Sherri Rosen-Mason (the captivating Jessica Hecht) to raise that percentage to twenty percent. The underestimated topic is far less admirable than inclusiveness and “shakes the windows and rattles the walls” (Bob Dylan) of not only the hallowed halls of Hillcrest but the foundation of the Hecht household.

“Admissions” is a convincing and cogent exposé of white privilege and entitlement generated by members of the white community itself. It is a gripping new play that challenges the beliefs and actions of the “very liberal” Head of Admissions” and her equally “very liberal” Head of the School husband Bill Mason (the solidly grounded Andrew Garman) and brings their son Charlie Luther Mason (Ben Edelman) to a late adolescent crisis of identity and belief. When Charlie is not accepted into Yale his first-choice college and Perry his “less qualified” friend of color is granted acceptance, the issue of “quotas” at Hillcrest and at American institutions of higher learning moves front and center as does the correlative issue of “preferential treatment” afforded other minorities.

Ben Edelman’s (Charlie) tour-de-force performance, sparked by unexamined privilege, erupts from a place of intense teenage angst. And although it might seem his outbursts are mere reflections of a shaky Make America Great Agenda, his immature weltanschauung is consistent with what he has heard and seen in his own home and in his own environment. It makes no sense for his father Bill to berate him (to the point of accusable verbal abuse) because Bill is the source, the epicenter of white privilege waiting to be unpacked. Mr. Edelman’s believable and authentic performance moves his character Charlie to make decisions – after extensive self-examination and episodes of public confession – that bring his parents to levels of disbelief and pushback that disclose deep pockets of hypocrisy and dishonesty in the liberal matrix of their value system.

Under Daniel Aukin’s captivating direction, the engaging cast reveals the depth of meaning and the layers of rhetorical argument in Joshua Harmon’s explosively honest and intriguing script. ‘Admissions’ ricochet rapidly across the expanse of the Mitzi Newhouse Theater. Admissions to colleges accepted, rejected, and withdrawn. Admissions of guilt. Admissions of racism. Admissions of duplicity. Admissions of disappointment and misunderstanding. Admissions of vulnerability and fallibility. It is impossible to leave a performance of “Admissions” without being deeply moved and deeply unsettled.

Credit is due Ann McDonough whose “Roberta” brilliantly encapsulates the difficulties of marketing Sherri’s vision and credit is due Sally Murphy whose “Ginnie Peters” (Perry’s mother) confronts her friend Sherrie’s underbelly of racism and pseudo-liberalism. Riccardo Hernandez’s detailed set allows the audience the space it needs to imagine what happens when Charlie bounds up the stairs and to calculate the mood of those entering the playing space before being seen. Toni-Leslie James’ costumes and Mark Barton’s lighting further rivet the action to expansive levels of reality.

Wear your values and firmly-held beliefs loosely around your core when you see “Admissions” and expect to have both challenged and revealed in redemptive ways.

ADMISSIONS

The cast of “Admissions” features Ben Edelman, Andrew Garman, Jessica Hecht, Ann McDonough, and Sally Murphy.

“Admissions” has sets by Riccardo Hernandez, costumes by Toni-Leslie James, lighting by Mark Barton, and sound by Ryan Rumery. Production photos by Jeremy Daniel.

“Admissions” runs at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre (150 West 65th Street) through Sunday May 6, 2018 on the following schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday at 2:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. For further information, including to purchase tickets at $90.00, please visit http://www.lct.org/shows/admissions/. Running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.

Photo: Jessica Hecht, Andrew Garman, and Ben Edelman in “Admissions.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Broadway Review: “Escape to Margaritaville” at the Marquis Theatre (Open Run)

Photo: Lisa Howard, Alison Luff, Paul Alexander Nolan and Eric Petersen in “Escape to Margaritaville.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
Broadway Review: “Escape to Margaritaville” at the Marquis Theatre (Open Run)
Music and Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett
Book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley
Directed by Christopher Ashley
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Russia, Mueller, Syria, War, The Wall, Elections, Stormy, Stock Market, Tax Cuts, Scandal, Tariffs, DACA, Immigration and Tweets, are a few current headlines monopolizing the news, infecting and affecting our everyday lives. How can we avoid the negative socio-political environment and get away from it all? The answer may be easier and closer than you think. “Escape to Margaritaville” may just be the ticket to remedy the effects of the constant cynical behavioral bombs that seem to be dropped on us every day by those lofty politicians. Arrive early to take your seat, sip on a frozen Margarita from the bar to begin your attitude adjustment, then just slip away for two and a half hours to the carefree island of laid back music composed by Jimmy Buffett and brought to you by a cast of vocal powerhouses. If you are looking for intellectual stimulation you are in the wrong place for this is a journey filled with senseless situations, silly dialogue and storybook romance, all connected by the lyrics that serve this perpetual beach party. To put it simply, it writes a new amendment, the “Freedom of Fun.”

“Escape to Margaritaville” is a uke-box musical featuring the music and lyrics of Jimmy Buffett, but the twist comes when the book by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley is written solely to serve as a connector between the lyrics and the contemporaneous situations, weaving together an old fashioned, frivolous, romantic musical comedy. The energetic ensemble is put to task by choreographer Kelly Devine, who supports director Christopher Ashley in maintaining a fast pace to keep the party going. No need to dissect the simple plot that makes sense, appropriately, with a beginning, middle and happily ever after end that is a winning formula for musical comedy.

The cast is over qualified for the material, but an absolute pleasure to hear and watch as they fill the theater with a passionate vitality that reaches the core of the audience who is obviously there to have a good time. Paul Alexander Nolan (an infectious Tully) with a smooth, pure tone has perfect chemistry with Alison Luff (a strong and determined Rachel) who exhibits fine vocal prowess. Lisa Howard (an endearing and hysterical Tammy) practically steals the show with her Broadway belt and impeccable comic timing, as executed with love interest Eric Petersen (a wonderfully vacuous Brick). Paul Sparks (a resilient J.D.) clearly embodies the resident beachcomber who wins the heart of resort owner Marley (a soft but stern Rema Webb).

Of course, if you want to dig into the story, there are life lessons to be discovered, but the real treasure that everyone will find without any effort is fun. Do yourself a favor, forget your troubles and chill on this colorful, exuberant island where a volcano erupts but what covers the island is pure rapture. A young Buffett was highly influenced by his exposure to Mardi Gras and the ritual parade where Folly chases Death out of town. He is quoted as saying “Forty-five years later, I still vividly recall that first encounter with Death, and learning that Folly was the only way to deal with it. You know that Death will get you in the end, but if you are smart and have a sense of humor, you can thumb your nose at it for a while.”

ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE

The cast of “Escape to Margaritaville” features Matt Allen, Tessa Alves, Sara Andreas, Tiffany Adeline Cole, Marjorie Failoni, Samantha Farrow, Steven Good, Angela Grovey, Albert Guerzon, Lisa Howard, Keely Hutton, Justin Keats, Alison Luff, Mike Millan, Justin Mortelliti, Paul Alexander Nolan, Eric Petersen, Ryann Redmond, Jennifer Rias, Julius Anthony Rubio, Nick Sanchez, Don Sparks, Ian Michael Stuart, Brett Thiele, Andre Ward, and Rema Webb.

The creative team includes Walt Spangler (Scenic Designer), Paul Tazewell (Costume Designer), Howell Binkley (Lighting Designer), Brian Ronan (Sound Designer), Leah J. Loukas (Wigs, Hair, and Makeup Design), Flying By Foy (Flying Effects), Michael Utley (Orchestrations), Christopher Jahnke (Music Supervisor), Foresight Theatrical (General Management), and Telsey + Company / Rachel Hoffman, CSA (Casting). Production photos by Matthew Murphy.

Tickets for “Escape to Margaritaville” are available at the Marquis Theatre box office, via Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 877-250-2929. For further information, including performance schedule, please visit http://escapetomargaritavillemusical.com/. Running time is 2 hours 20 minutes, including one intermission.

Photo: Lisa Howard, Alison Luff, Paul Alexander Nolan and Eric Petersen in “Escape to Margaritaville.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, April 13, 2018

Broadway Review: “Lobby Hero” at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)

Photo: Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley, Michael Cera, and Chris Evans in “Lobby Hero.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Broadway Review: “Lobby Hero” at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)
By Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Trip Cullman
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“I just don't want to be one of those pathetic guys in lobbies who are always telling you about their big plans you know they're never gonna do. I'd rather just be in the lobby and just be in the lobby. To tell you the truth, sometimes I feel like I was worn out the minute I was born.” – Jeff to Dawn

Some might describe security guard Jeff (played with a disarming ambivalence by Michael Cera) as a loser. That would be somewhat inaccurate, however. Jeff is more the embodiment of the anti-hero than the typical loser unawares. To get what he wants, in this case rookie New York City cop Dawn (played with a cunning charm by Bel Powley), Jim is willing to eschew following his moral compass and disregard the qualities of the classic hero: loyalty; bravery; humility; wisdom; and virtue. How Jeff navigates the terrain of principles and values under pressure is the engaging “stuff” of Kenneth Lonergan’s “Lobby Hero” currently in revival at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater.

Jeff has not had much luck in his short life: his overbearing Navy father stops talking to him when Jim is discharged from the Navy for drug use; his father dies; he is stalked by the loan sharks he borrowed money from to play poker; he owes his brother Marty five-thousand dollars; his girlfriend is a prostitute “on the side;” and he cannot afford his own apartment and lives with his brother. As we meet Jeff in the first scene of “Lobby Hero,” he has scored a job as a security guard at an apartment building and under the strict tutelage of his supervisor William (played with a well-earned bravado by Brian Tyree Henry), who hired him, Jeff is trying to get his life together and get back on track to adulthood. This quest quickly goes off track when Jeff’s love interest shows up in the lobby with her partner uber-cop Bill (here a diabolically charming Chris Evans) whose visit to Room 22J unhinges the lid to Pandora’s Box.

William is hard on Jeff, but it is something William shares with Jeff that threatens to impede his progress and throw the denizens of the lobby into chaos. William’s bother has been arrested for “going into a hospital to steal pharmaceutical drugs” and participating in the murder of a nurse. To avoid prosecution, his brother claims he was with William at the time of the murder. In a series of events that unfold with clockwork precision – all revolving around Jeff’s obsession with Dawn – William’s brother’s alibi becomes suspect and loyalties are challenged and what is true and what is false becomes blurred as moral ambiguity rattles the rigors of heroism.

“Lobby Hero” raises rich and enduring questions. What is loyalty and how does one earn another’s loyalty? How much of one’s present can be determined by past events? Can one go through life blaming one’s past for the mistakes made in the present? What is a lie and is it ever acceptable to tell a lie? Dawn tells Bill, “don't expect me to sit down here and cover for you when the dispatcher wants to know where you went. I signed up to be a cop, not lookout patrol at the whorehouse.” Is it “right” for police officers to cover for one another to avoid reprimand or removal?

Under Trip Cullman’s discerning and originative direction, the action moves carefully from scene to scene with the tension created by the unfolding conflicts of the characters driving an engaging and carefully developed plot. David Rockwell’s slowly revolving set allows not only for the passing of time but also discloses the variety of points of view that make Kenneth Lonergan’s script so gripping and transparent. “Lobby Hero” remains exceedingly relevant in this time of American politics where cries of “fake news” and an abundance duplicity threaten the foundations of constitutional law and the very halls and chambers of justice.

LOBBY HERO

The cast of “Lobby Hero” features Michael Cera, Chris Evans, Brian Tyree Henry, and Bel Powley.

“Lobby Hero” features scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Paloma Young, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Darron L West and casting by Telsey + Company. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“Lobby Hero” runs at Second Stage’s Helen Hayes Theater through Sunday May 13, 2018. For more information, including the performance schedule and ticket purchase options, please visit https://2st.com/shows/current-production/lobby-hero. Running time is 2 hours and 25 minutes with one intermission.

Photo: Brian Tyree Henry, Bel Powley, Michael Cera, and Chris Evans in “Lobby Hero.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “The Low Road” at the Public’s Anspacher Theater (Through Sunday April 8, 2018)

Photo: Chukwudi Iwuji and Chris Perfetti in “The Low Road” at the Public’s Anspacher Theater. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “The Low Road” at the Public’s Anspacher Theater (Through Sunday April 8, 2018)
Written by Bruce Norris
Directed by Michael Greif
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft a-gley.” – Robert Burns

Ever wonder how Adam Smith might spin his own free market economic theory in the throes of the current global economic turmoil? Ponder no more. “The Low Road,” currently running at the Public’s Anspacher Theater, ends the need for further speculation. In the engaging and entertaining play by Bruce Norris, the iconic eighteenth-century Scottish economist and philosopher (played with unscrupulous charm by Daniel Davis) narrates a tale of two centuries and how his economic theory “worked out” in the gap between theory and praxis.

The earlier tale takes place in eighteenth century America and finds Adam Smith devotee Jim Trewitt (the captivating and engaging Chris Perfetti) attempting to apply the economist’s “Wealth of Nations” theories to his sex workers’ business at his benefactor Mrs. Trewitt’s (the comedic and endearing Harriet Harris) establishment. It is no holds barred for the young entrepreneur who manages to utilize theory for his personal gain at any expense: his greed and disregard for any moral center is without limit. Jim’s penchant for monetary gain counterpoints his entrenched white privilege as well as his moral depravity. His disregard for his “property,” his servant John Blanke (the intense and gracious Chukwudi Iwuji) is as despicable as his xenophobia and the depth of his corruptibility.

Is Jim Trewitt’s preference for taking the low road something specific to this eighteenth-century spin on a free market economy? Apparently not if the beginning of the second act of “The Low Road” is any indication of the forward movement of humankind. The action moves to the twenty-first century where the audience “looks in” on a roundtable discussion led by Margaret Low (Harriet Harris) during which the participants (from a variety of backgrounds) boast about the “blessings” of wealth and its unbridled accumulation. The connection between past and present is clear and taking the low road remains the economic path of choice.

Under Michael Greif’s exacting and precise direction, the action moves forward smoothly with clarity and determination. The cast of eighteen, many of whom play multiple roles, are uniformly remarkable in their delivery of authentic and believable performances. In addition to those cast members already highlighted, Gopal Divan remains throughout fully committed to his various roles and engages with his colleagues with a welcomed intensity. Daniel Davis (Adam Smith) is remarkable in his ability to so successfully hold the sprawling piece together.

David Korins’ set is compact and serviceable. The multiple exits/entrances at the Anspacher keeps this compactness from seeming claustrophobic. The costumes by Emily Rebholz ring with credibility in both decades and the lighting by Ben Stanton seems to anticipate the moods of the action with uncanny accuracy. “The Low Road” is often unsettling; however, its importance to current discussions on greed and corruption is undebatable.

THE LOW ROAD

The complete cast of “The Low Road” features Tessa Albertson; Max Baker; Kevin Chamberlin; Daniel Davis; Crystal A. Dickinson; Gopal Divan; Harriet Harris; Jack Hatcher; Josh Henderson; Chukwudi Iwuji; Johnny Newcomb; Chris Perfetti; Susannah Perkins; Richard Poe; Dave Quay; Aaron Michael Ray; Joseph Soeder; and Danny Wolohan.

“The Low Road” features scenic design by David Korins; costume design by Emily Rebholz; lighting design by Ben Stanton; sound design by Matt Tierney; wig, hair, and make-up design by design J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova; and music composition by Mark Bennett. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“The Low Road” runs at The Public’s Anspacher Theater through Sunday, April 8 on the following performance schedule: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Public Theater Partner, Supporter, Member, and single tickets, starting at $75.00, are available by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.

Photo: Chukwudi Iwuji and Chris Perfetti in “The Low Road” at the Public’s Anspacher Theater. Credit: Joan Marcus.
1 Comment - Read Comment | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at The Pershing Square Signature Center’s Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre (Through Sunday April 1, 2018)

Photo: Terrence Mann and Will Swenson. Credit: Monique Carboni.
Off-Broadway Review: “Jerry Springer – The Opera” at The Pershing Square Signature Center’s Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre (Through Sunday April 1, 2018)
By Richard Thomas (Music, Book, Lyrics) and Stewart Lee (Book, Additional Lyrics)
Directed by John Rando
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

When one thinks of the Jerry Springer Show (past and present), one might not think of ‘opera.’ However, in 2000, the seeds of that exact concept were planted by Richard Thomas at London’s Battersea Arts Centre with his “Tourette's Diva” and in 2001 with his “How to Write an Opera About Jerry Springer” at the same venue. The success of those productions, and teaming up with Stewart Lee, culminated in “Jerry Springer – The Opera” which has found its way to the New Group at The Pershing Square Signature Center’s Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre.

Does the name-calling, bickering, and often offensive banter of the television series work as an onstage opera in four acts? The short answer is ‘yes.’ Jerry Springer has often described his television as “silly.” Silliness abounds in “Jerry Springer – The Opera” supported by the more sophisticated “bones” of the operatic genre. And the combination is delightful, particularly given the none-too-subtle themes of confession, forgiveness, and redemption. The success of “Jerry Springer – The Opera” springs from the treatment of the original television series as an extended metaphor, an allegory in fact, that exposes the redemptive quality of “getting it all out there” (confession), having an audience offer some sort of “acceptance” (confession), and somehow “moving on with one’s life” (redemption). All this theological discourse with a bit of purgatory and hell thrown in seems to satisfy.

This is a sung-through musical (except for Jerry’s (Terrence Mann at the performance reviewed here) spoken narrative and the Warm-Up Man’s (Will Swenson) brief narratives. Under John Rando’s direction, the action moves forward quickly, and the members of ensemble cast uniformly deliver engaging performances. Their voices blend easily with the operatic style and their arias, recitatives, and chorus numbers are compelling – even when the lyrics are less than “polite” or “genteel.” Just ponder the titles of these two numbers in Act I: “Diaper Man” and “This Is My KKK Moment.”

There is no reason to rehearse the story line (the book) of the opera. “Jerry Springer – The Opera” is entertaining and has a pleasing message. Despite the “language” and a few questionable “choices,” what could be wrong with a musical that ultimately encourages the audience members to “Take care of yourselves and each other” and features a “dying Jerry” exhorting his “followers” with this: “I’ve learned that there are no absolutes of good and evil, and that we all live in a glorious state of change.” And how can one disagree with Jerry’s belief that “for better or for worse, history defines us by what we do or what we choose not to do. Hopefully what will survive of us is love. Love.” You only have until April 1 to decide.

JERRY SPRINGER – THE OPERA

“Jerry Springer – The Opera” features Jennifer Allen, Florrie Bagel, Brandon Contreras, Sean Patrick Doyle, Brad Greer, Luke Grooms, Nathaniel Hackmann, Billy Hepfinger, Justin Keyes, Beth Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth Loyacano, Terrence Mann, Tiffany Mann, Jill Paice, Kim Steele, Will Swenson, and Nichole Turner. Beginning March 13, Matt McGrath joins the company in the role of Jerry Springer.

This production also features Michael Brennan (Music Direction / Keyboard), Rick Bertone (Keyboard), Harry Hassell (Woodwinds) and Adam Wolfe (Drums); Orchestrations by Greg Anthony Rassen; Scenic Design by Derek McLane; Costume Design by Sarah Lauwx; Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter; Sound Design by Joshua D. Reid; Projection Design by Olivia Sebesky and Fight Direction by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum. Casting is by Telsey + Company, Cesar A. Rocha, CSA. Production Stage Manager is James Harker. Production photos by Monique Carboni.

Tickets for “Jerry Springer – The Opera,” now through April 1, are on sale now. General playing schedule: Tuesday – Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday matinees at 2:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Regular tickets start at $95.00. For single ticket purchases, please visit www.thenewgroup.org. Single tickets can also be purchased by calling Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, or in person at 416 West 42nd Street (12:00-8:00 p.m. daily). Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

Photo: Terrence Mann and Will Swenson. Credit: Monique Carboni.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “At Home at the Zoo” at the Pershing Square Signature Center’s The Irene Diamond Stage (through Sunday March 25, 2018

Photo: Paul Sparks and Robert Sean Leonard. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “At Home at the Zoo” at the Pershing Square Signature Center’s The Irene Diamond Stage (through Sunday March 25, 2018)
By Edward Albee
Directed by Lila Neugebauer
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Hey, I got news for you, as they say. I'm on your precious bench, and you're never going to have it for yourself again.” – Jerry to Peter

Was anyone putting the disparity between “the one percent” and the remaining “ninety-nine percent” under the cultural microscope in the late 1950s? The Baby Boomers were booming and most believed the middle-class was firmly entrenched in an ever-expanding story of financial success. Unfortunately, not enough attention was being paid to the underbelly of this post-war ebullience nor to those clinging to that nether portion of the socio-economic divide.

One of those “paying attention” was playwright Edward Albee whose first play “The Zoo Story” (written in 1958 and first produced in Berlin in 1959) “explores themes of isolation, loneliness, miscommunication as anathematization, social disparity and dehumanization in a materialistic world.” In the absurdist play, currently running as Act Two of Edward Albee’s “At Home at the Zoo,” textbook publisher Peter (Robert Sean Leonard) joins in a rambling repartee with Jerry (Paul Sparks) who approaches Peter on a park bench to announce he had “been to the zoo.” One has the feeling this is not the first time Jerry has told this story; however, this is the first (and last) time Jerry manages to seduce his listener into doing what Jerry has desired for quite some time.

Paul Sparks delivers a scintillating performance as Jerry who has “come to a great weariness” and has discovered a conniving means to a desirable end. The lithe, leering Jerry he creates seduces Peter from his Upper East Side comfort zone and brings him to the brink (and beyond) of ego strength dissolution. Robert Sean Leonard’s Peter provides a perfect foil to Jerry, first replying to the intruder with his bookish weltanschauung and then succumbing to Jerry’s psychological attacks. Mr. Sparks and Mr. Leonard skillfully navigate the playwright’s cat-and-mouse game bringing it to a horrific and somewhat unexpected ending. The audience hangs on Mr. Sparks’ every word as he describes Jerry’s living situation and his descent into isolation and dehumanization and draws Peter further into his maelstrom of despair and unrepentant rage.

That rage is expressed in Jerry’s existential challenge to Peter’s complacency. “You don't even know what you're saying, do you? This is probably the first time in your life you've had anything more trying to face than changing your cats' toilet box. Stupid! Don't you have any idea, not even the slightest, what other people need?” The irony here is that Jerry can get exactly what he needs from Peter on

But what happened to Peter just before he headed out of his house to sit in the nearby Central Park on his favorite bench? Why did his encounter with Jerry unnerve him so? How could he allow Jerry’s rambling story about why he visited the zoo provoke him to resort to “animal” behavior? Those answers come in “Homelife” which Mr. Albee wrote in 2004 as the first act to “The Zoo Story” and intended to be performed only with the earlier play.

To be clear, the audience (unless formerly familiar to “The Zoo Story”) does not know about Peter’s encounter with Jerry but learns Peter’s back-story – the back-story Jerry later teases from Peter’s life of denial and uses to “win him over” to his seditious plot.” “Homelife” is the story of Peter and his wife Ann (Katie Finneran) and their family of daughters and pets. Katie Finneran’s Ann, like Jerry in “The Zoo Story,” needs to talk to Peter about something he’d rather avoid. She is as isolated from Peter and her sense of self as Jerry is from society. Their conversation covers everything from Peter’s circumcision and Ann’s possible diagnosis of cancer to the couple’s somewhat unsatisfying (at least to Ann) sex life – and all things in between. Like the conversation with Jerry later, this encounter opens a Pandora’s Box of disharmony, disillusionment, denial, and destruction. Under Lila Neugebauer’s capable direction, the three actors distill Edward Albee’s characters with authenticity and believability. No captives are taken here in this brilliant battle for survival, personhood, and forgiveness in two oddly similar zoos.

AT HOME AT THE ZOO

The cast “At Home at the Zoo” includes Katie Finneran, Robert Sean Leonard, and Paul Sparks.

The creative team includes Andrew Lieberman (Scenic Design), Kaye Voyce (Costume Design), Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design), Bray Poor (Sound Design), UnkleDave’s Fight House (Fight Direction). David Lurie-Perret is the Production Stage Manager. Casting by Caparelliotis Casting. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“At Home at the Zoo” runs through Sunday March 25th, 2018 on The Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues). For further information, please visit https://www.signaturetheatre.org/. Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.

Photo: Paul Sparks and Robert Sean Leonard. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, March 23, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Hal and Bee” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Saturday March 31, 2018)

Photo: Candy Buckley and Jeff Hayenga” in “Hal & Bee” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Hunter Canning.
Off-Broadway Review: “Hal and Bee” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Saturday March 31, 2018)
By Max Baker
Directed by Sarah Norris
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

What are two aging ex-hippies supposed to do when the socio-political environment around them escalates its full-frontal assault on the values they espoused and fought so passionately for in the sixties and seventies? Not only do they continue to feel “stalked” by “corporate bastards” like the cable company, but they are about to be evicted from their rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so the owner of their building can realize its intention “to restructure a number of rental units to better reflect the market opportunities in [the] neighborhood.” The heated “discussions” around these external topics counterpoint the internal animus between Bee (a supercharged and rascally Candy Buckley) and her longtime husband Hal (a malcontented and “tuned-out” Jeff Hayenga).

This animus is the combative “stuff” of Max Baker’s “Hal & Bee,” currently being presented by Stable Cable Lab Company and The New Light Theater Project at 59E59 Theaters. In this allegorical extended metaphor, “civilization and its discontents” camps at the doorstep of the scrapping couple’s apartment in a rapid-fire exchange laced with flights of fantasy and just the hint of buyer’s remorse. Without disclosing too much of the plot driven by the exaggerated (albeit authentic) conflicts of the play’s colorful and well-developed characters, it is probably sufficient to mention there are multiple murders, a myriad of cover-ups, and a morsel of a suicide attempt. Whether these events are real, or the trappings of fantasy need to be decided by the members of the audience.

Hal and Bee bicker in the style of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf’s” George and Martha. The arguments in “Hal & Bee” are not exacerbated by a real or imagined child but by are exacerbated by the real or imagined success of the “baby” of the boomers’ generation. Daughter Moon (a misdirected and “old soul” Lisa Jill Anderson) tries to ignore the parental caterwauling and simply sell drugs to her dad and navigate her own adventures at finding love. And the Bug Man (a brilliant and convincing Arthur Kriklivy at this performance) reframes Hal’s savage fantasies with stories of discovering and removing mold in one’s house. Under Sarah Norris’s astute direction, the cast handily delivers Max Baker’s intriguing script with energy and determination.

Brian Dudkiewicz’s Upper West Side apartment is stunning and beautifully crafted, lighted carefully by Michael O’Connor. Hopefully, before the end of the run, the black curtain outside the apartment door will be replaced with a “wall.”

What goes on at 450 West 99th Street might rattle the imagination; however, Hal and Bee’s story confirms the discontents of the current inhabitants of the global neighborhood and seems to portend that all we might have to look forward to is a survival signaled by the sound of our breathing, as we nestle together in an attempt to stave off “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that threaten to undo us and mire us in self-pity and fear.

HALL AND BEE

The cast of “Hal and Bee” features Lisa Jill Anderson, Candy Buckley, Jeff Hayenga, and Arthur Kriklivy.

The creative team includes Brian Dudkiewicz (scenic design), Genevieve V. Beller (costume design), Michael O’Connor (lighting design), Andy Evan Cohen (sound design), and Scott Barrow (fight director). Nikki Castle serves at production stage manager. Production photos by Hunter Canning.

The performance schedule is Tuesday – Friday at 7:30 PM; Saturday at 7:30 PM; and Sunday at 2:30 PM. There is an added matinee performance on Saturday, March 31 at 2:30 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 ($20 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Run time is I hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Candy Buckley and Jeff Hayenga” in “Hal & Bee” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Hunter Canning.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Sunday, March 18, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday April 22, 2018)

Photo: Ben Caplan and Mary Fay Coady in “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story.” Credit: Stoo Metz Photography.
Off-Broadway Review: “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday April 22, 2018)
Created by Hannah Moscovitch, Ben Caplan, and Christian Barry
Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Directed by Christian Barry
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Steeped in tradition, a musical commentary relevant to the current socio-political atmosphere, and an old tale told with songs that echo the poets of the past and the spoken word of the present, are the skeleton of “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story,” the Klezmer-folk music-theater hybrid now playing at 59E59 Theaters. The Wanderer (a captivating Ben Caplan) is the soul, casting a spell that captures your emotions, sneaks into your heart, shrouding it with sadness and then leaves you filled with joy ready to celebrate the human spirit. A showman, emerging from a shipping container, he has traveled from somewhere, only stopping to share a revelation, then moving on and as his hands artfully punctuate the music, he weaves together the stories of two Jewish Romanian refugees, who fled to Canada in 1908. He travels with a motley group of talented actor-musicians, who bring the narrative of two refugees to life and accompany him with klezmer music. As he twirls and drifts across the stage he reinforces a cultural heritage, using dance to express joy, mourning or any other emotion related to the time and event. He is mesmerizing.

Chaya (a simply striking Mary Fay Coady) enhances the sorrow of her troubled journey to a new land that resulted in the death of her husband. She orchestrates her somber emotions with words and the lament that wails from her violin. Chaim (an innocent and determined Chris Weatherstone) manifests the will of a young man who experienced the horrors of war but clings to hope. He challenges despair with honesty, integrity and the haunting sounds of his woodwinds. Graham Scott on keyboard and accordion, along with Jamie Kronick on percussion complete the skillfully accomplished ensemble.

The deft direction by Christian Barry keeps the journey fluid, never wasting a glance or movement to communicate an emotion. Playwright Hannah Moscovitch presents a script that is clear, concise and colored with empathy but never sentimental. Mr. Caplan and Mr. Barry produce songs that transcend time and bridge centuries providing an understanding of the human condition regardless of race, color or creed. The set and lighting design by Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry is dark and moody but illuminates the story and sheds the proper glow to make the players shine. Costume designer Carly Beamish clads this troupe in the appropriate attire whether an impresario or immigrant. The entire creative team has created a remarkable experience that could only be accomplished with true theatrical collaboration. This is a not-to-be-missed theatrical event everyone should behold and like Chaya and Chaim possibly be persuaded to look “into the eyes of God.”

OLD STOCK: A REFUGEE LOVE STORY

The cast of “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” features Ben Caplan, Mary Fay Coady, Jamie Kronick, Graham Scott, and Chris Weatherstone.

The design team includes Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry with Andrew Cull (set design); Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry (lighting design); and Carly Beamish (costume design). The Production Stage Manager is Louisa Adamson. Production photos by Stoo Metz Photography.

“Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, April 22. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Friday at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 - $70 ($25 - $49 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Running time is 80 minutes with no intermission.

Photo: Ben Caplan and Mary Fay Coady in “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story.” Credit: Stoo Metz Photography.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Sunday, March 18, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Amy and the Orphans” at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (Through Sunday April 22, 2018)

Photo: Vanessa Aspillaga, Jamie Brewer, Debra Monk, and Mark Blum in “Amy and the Orphans.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Amy and the Orphans” at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (Through Sunday April 22, 2018)
By Lindsey Ferrentino
Directed by Scott Ellis
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

In the new play “Amy and the Orphans,” disability, dysfunction, and delusion are the contentious components that drive an anomalous family unit to a place they were not expecting to visit called reality. Presented by Roundabout Theater Company at The Laura Pels Theatre, the play is carefully and skillfully penned by Lindsey Ferrentino, is inspired by her own family members, and explores the journey of three adult siblings, one of whom has Down Syndrome, as they reunite in the wake of their father’s death. The situation unearths deep-seated secrets, provokes frustration, challenges the definition of family, and observes the choices that occur when seeking survival, a sanctuary of reassurance or unconditional love. It is a brave undertaking which reveals the fragile, yet selfish and broken elements of the human condition. Under the astute tutelage of director Scott Ellis, the excellent cast delivers remarkable performances.

Formulated like a split screen that is decades apart, there are two plays in which one is a prelude to the present main attraction. No need to mention a sort of spoiler alert. The present action plays out as siblings Maggie (an irrefutable neurotic Debra Monk) and Jacob (a compulsive eccentric Mark Blum) retrieve sister Amy (the inspiring Jamie Brewer) who has Down Syndrome, from her group home to inform her of their father’s recent demise and mother’s death a year ago, as they begin a journey to their childhood home on Long Island to plan the funeral. They are joined on the road trip by health care worker Kathy (the big-hearted, blunt and opinionated Vanessa Aspillaga), who informs them that she is now Amy’s legal guardian since their father signed her care over to the state. It is a wildly humorous ride with enough bumps and sudden sharp turns to keep the trip more than interesting and entertaining. The characters may seem too broad or stereotypical, but this is merely the armor they wear to protect from the slings and arrows of the truth. Amy speaks like a pundit, with recycled dialogue from her favorite films, which she has most likely seen several times since she has now been promoted to manager of the local movie theater. Jacob, born into a Jewish family is now a born again Christian and juicer. Maggie mistakes a skittle fallen into her bra, for a lump in her breast causing a cancer scare. There is no deliberation of who might be dysfunctional and needing attention.

So after finally arriving at reality, these characters are faced with the consequences of abandonment, whom they left behind, whom they choose to love and how it affects their relationships. Perhaps we learn the disabled are fully functional and the dysfunctional are truly disabled. It is not a perfectly scripted play but is able to use humor to provide a powerful and potent message. Ms. Brewer rises to deliver an exceptional performance full of fierce bravery, standing tall to deliver an unwavering curtain closing speech comprised of familiar movie lines that cuts to the emotional core. It is a moment that is so honest the words spoken take on a completely new meaning that resonate heartbreaking hope.

AMY AND THE ORPHANS

The cast includes Vanessa Aspillaga, Mark Blum, Jamie Brewer, Diane Davis, Josh McDermitt, and Debra Monk.

The creative team includes Rachel Hauck (Scenic Design), Alejo Vietti (Costume Design), Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design) and John Gromada (Sound and Original Compositions). Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“Amy and the Orphans” runs at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 West 46th Street) through Sunday April 22, 2018 on the following schedule: Tuesday through Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. with Wednesday, Saturday matinees at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m. Tickets and further information, including performance times, are available online at www.roundabouttheatre.org. Run time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Vanessa Aspillaga, Jamie Brewer, Debra Monk, and Mark Blum in “Amy and the Orphans.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Kings” at the Public Theater’s LuEsther Hall (Through Sunday April 1, 2018)

Photo: Gillian Jacobs and Eisa Davis in “Kings.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Kings” at the Public Theater’s LuEsther Hall (Through Sunday April 1, 2018)
By Sarah Burgess
Directed by Thomas Kail
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

If there was any doubt about the monumental influence of lobbyists on Members of Congress in Washington, D.C., that uncertainty was dispelled quickly after the tragic murder of seventeen students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday February 14, 2018. Barely had the nations bereavement process begun before the NRA and the massive “I Carry” movement swept in blaming everything and everyone except the easy access to firearms in the United States. The NRA lobbyists were already at work to ensure their agenda would continue to prevail. And after the Florida Legislature passed a progressive gun control bill, that same NRA recently sued the State of Florida.

Though not quite as strident as the NRS’s spokesperson Dana Loesch, Iridium Policy Group’s Kate Totten (Gillian Jacobs), the aggressive lobbyist for the Podiatrists’ Association, tries to cultivate Rep. Sydney Millsap (Eisa Davis) at her fundraiser in Vail to introduce legislation that would require “a patient on Medicare or Medicaid who sees a non-specialist physician and complains about severe pain in the ankle or foot would have to see a podiatrist before receiving a prescription for any opioid-based painkiller.” Millsap is “the first woman and first person of color ever to represent [her] district,” so Kate (inappropriately) uses these status issues to garner the Representative’s support.

Shortly thereafter, Lauren (Aya Cash) lobbies Sydney Millsap to vote “No” on a bill (The Carried Interest Fairness Act) the congressperson supports. And Sen. John McDowell (Zach Grenier) tries to convince Millsap to leave Washington and return home to Texas for a civilian job. All this backhanded chicanery gets extremely complicated: it gets probably more complicated than it needs to be and obfuscates the important themes driven by the characters’ important and relevant conflicts.

It is difficult for a script and a cast of actors, even as talented at this “King’s” cast, to compete with the reality of the headlines. The challenge comes not only from the vigor of the daily news, bit also from the somewhat dated material in the narrative itself. Under Thomas Kail’s uneven direction, the actors often appear to be talking “at” one another instead of engaging in believable conversation.

Somewhere beneath the veneer of relevance, there are buried rich, enduring questions. However, the burdensome script obfuscates these with the odor of freshly made and served on-stage Chili’s fajitas, and cumbersome conversations cluttered with predictable rhetoric. For example, is it true in the realm of American politics that “no good deed goes unpunished” or that honesty and integrity will always be upended?

Occasionally, Eisa Davis’s Millsap and Zach Grenier’s McDowell ratchet up that rhetoric with compelling performances that briefly enliven the otherwise bland action. Whether those moments justify the remainder of staging remains up to the audience member who can make that judgement until April 1, 2018.

KINGS

The cast of “Kings” features Aya Cash, Eisa Davis, Zach Grenier, and Gillian Jacobs.

The creative team for “Kings” features Scenic Design by Anna Louizos, Costume Design by Paul Tazewell,
Lighting Design by Jason Lyons, and Original Music & Sound Design by Lindsay Jones. CJ LaRoche serves as Production Stage Manager. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“Kings” runs at the Public Theater (425 Lafayette Street) through Sunday March 25, 2018. For more information, including the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.publictheater.org/Tickets/Calendar/PlayDetailsCollection/17-18-Season/Kings/. Running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Gillian Jacobs and Eisa Davis in “Kings.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
2 Comments - Read Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, March 12, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “A Letter to Harvey Milk” at Theatre Row’s Acorn Theatre (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)

Photo: Adam Heller, Cheryl Stern, and Julia Knitel in “A Letter to Harvey Milk.” Credit: Russ Rowland.
Off-Broadway Review: “A Letter to Harvey Milk” at Theatre Row’s Acorn Theatre (Through Sunday May 13, 2018)
Lyrics by Ellen M. Schwartz with Additional Lyrics by Cheryl Stern
Music by Laura I. Kramer
Book by Jerry James, Ellen M. Schwartz, Cheryl Stern, and Laura I. Kramer
Directed by Evan Pappas
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The new musical “A Letter to Harvey Milk” has good intentions but becomes confusing as it attempts to address too many issues and wavers from emotional drama to Borsht Belt comedy. Death and grieving, homosexuality, Judaism, rejection, loneliness, and creativity are just a few of the topics unearthed in a short ninety minutes but never fully developed. It almost seems that the four writers (Ellen M. Schwartz, Cheryl Stern, Laura I. Kramer and Jerry James) collaborated on the book and each chose a favorite issue and ran with it but in all different directions, never ending up in the same place. The lyrics by Ms. Schwartz, with Ms. Stern adding her touch, deal with each scene effectively, whether executed for humor, drama or sentimentality, but seem isolated, not moving the plot forward, but merely contributing to and punctuating each scene. There is no connective tissue. The music is derivative merely serving the lyrics and does not provide emotional reinforcement.

The story begins as Harry (Adam Heller), a widower, lost and lonely, is lying awake in bed writing and is suddenly visited by his dead wife Frannie (Cheryl L. Stern), who pops out of the bed and lies next to him. She manages to stick around throughout the evening, eaves dropping and boldly commenting on the activities, in a stereotypical rendition of a relentless Jewish mother. Harry discovers a creative writing class at the local community center and is persuaded to join by the writer-blocked teacher Barbara (Julia Knitel) who is a lesbian ostracized by her family. For one assignment Harry writes a letter to Harvey Milk, the openly gay politician, assassinated some eight years ago, with whom he had formed a close father-son relationship. Barbara wants the letter to be published by a gay magazine called “Triangle,” whose logo the pink triangle she also proudly displays on the T-shirt she is wearing. This angers Harry and stirs up buried memories from the past when he was held in a concentration camp and had a brief homosexual encounter with Yussl (Jeremy Greenbaum). All is revealed and resolved in an emotional denouement. Sounds complicated and confusing? It is.

The characters seem to be messengers delivering information without an emotional investment. What adds to the disconnect, is the overload of comic relief and lack of focus on any specific topic. The book manages to provide a catharsis for the characters but not for the audience. The cast is more than competent but cannot overcome the tedious and disjointed script. Mr. Heller gives a toned down, subtle performance that is sincere and honest. Ms. Knitel turns in a high spirited performance along with a fine vocal. Michael Bartoli gives a believable representation of Harvey Milk. Based on the short story by Leslea Newman, the play deals with an interesting time in the history of the Gay movement but fails to provide a positive outlook or generate interest in the events of the past.

LETTER TO HARVEY MILK

The cast of “A Letter to Harvey Milk” features Michael Bartoli, Jeremy Greenbaum, Adam Heller, Julia Knitel, Aury Krebs, CJ Pawlikowski, and Cheryl Stern.

The creative team includes set design by David Arsenault, costumes by Debbi Hobson, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind, and sound design by David Margolin Lawson. Sara Sahin serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Russ Rowland.

“A Letter to Harvey Milk” runs through Sunday May 13, 2018 at Theatre Row’s Acorn Theatre (410 West 42nd Street) on the following performance schedule: Tuesdays - Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m.; Matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2:00 p.m.; Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $79.00 - $99.00 and can be purchased at www.Telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200, or by visiting https://www.lettertoharveymilk.com/. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Adam Heller, Cheryl Stern, and Julia Knitel in “A Letter to Harvey Milk.” Credit: Russ Rowland.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Saturday, March 10, 2018

Broadway Review: “Farinelli and the King” at the Belasco Theatre (Through Sunday March 25, 2018)

Photo: Iestyn Davies, Mark Rylance, and Melody Grove in “Farinelli and the King.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Broadway Review: “Farinelli and the King” at the Belasco Theatre (Through Sunday March 25, 2018)
By Claire Van Kampen
Directed by John Dove
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Italian castrato Farinelli (Sam Crane) soothes the troubled mind of Spain’s King Philippe V (Mark Rylance) who suffers from what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders would code as a bipolar disorder. Despite support from the King’s physician Dr. Jose Cervi (Huss Garbiya), the Chief Minister of Spain Don Sebastian De La Cuadra (Edward Peel) advocates for the King’s abdication because of his assumed mental illness (“possession”). Philippe’s wife Isabella Farnese (Melody Grove) insists the King’s behavior is not due to a mental illness but “a disposition” that “will pass.” While in London, Isabella discovers Farinelli and brings him back, hoping his singing will somehow “cure” the King.

This remarkable story (based on fact), is the substance of Claire Van Kampen’s “Farinelli and the King,” currently running at the Belasco Theatre. Director John Dove’s staging gives the breadth and depth of Ms. Van Kampen’s script the “space” it needs to unfold and embrace the audience with its pathos and ethos. The scenes between Farinelli and the King brim with effusive energy, beginning with the scene where Farinelli first visits Philippe and awakens him with his singing (Iestyn Davies and James Hall alternate). Mark Rylance gives awakening to the recitative from Handel’s “Ho perso il caro ben” a truly mystical tone. And Sam Crane brings an authentic vulnerability to his role as Farinelli that counterpoints brilliantly with the tempered desperation of Mark Rylance’s Philippe.

Amidst palace intrigue and political shenanigans, the relationship between Farinelli and the King blossoms as Philippe identifies deeply with the famous maestro, comparing their “regal” identities and the concomitant “imprisonment” their “reigns” afford them. This consanguinity between “patient” and “healer” (an “affair” that parallels that of David and King Saul) thrives in the palace and in the King’s new “forest home.” Whether their relationship can survive La Cuadra’s attempt to send Farinelli away, or Isabella’s fondness for Farinelli comes into question.

The King’s death, Isabella’s mourning, and Farinelli’s new role in the palace consume the ending of the play and seem to need more detail to strengthen the narrative; but, the denouement is necessary to fully appreciate the importance of Farinelli in Philippe’s life and reign and how his voice “kept away the other voices” in the King’s head that threatened to undo him.

Jonathan Fensom’s design and Paul Russell’s lighting deepen the overall success of this new play. Although I expected to be moved more deeply by the singing of Handel’s arias, it is clear to the audience how Farinelli and the King walked together in distinction and in imprisonment.

FARINELLI AND THE KING

The cast of “Farinelli and the King” features Sam Crane, Iestyn Davies, Huss Garbiya, Melody Grove, James Hall, Lucas Hall, Colin Hurley, Edward Peel, and Mark Rylance.

The creative team includes Jonathan Fensom (Designer), Claire van Kampen (Music Arranger), Paul Russell (Lighting Designer), Bill Barclay (UK Music Supervisor), Evangeline Rose Whitlock (Production Stage Manager), James Latus (Stage Manager), and Jim Carnahan, C.S.A. (US Casting). Production photos by Joan Marcus.

Tickets for “Farinelli and the King” can be purchased by visiting www.telecharge.com, calling Telecharge at 201-239-6200, or by visiting the Belasco Box Office (111 West 44th Street). For additional information, including the performance schedule, please visit http://farinelliandthekingbroadway.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission.

Photo: Iestyn Davies, Mark Rylance, and Melody Grove in “Farinelli and the King.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, March 9, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Hangmen” at Atlantic Theater Company (Through Sunday March 25, 2018)

Photo: Johnny Flynn and Sally Rogers in “Hangmen.” Credit: Ahron R. Foster.
Off-Broadway Review: “Hangmen” at Atlantic Theater Company (Through Sunday March 25, 2018)
By Martin McDonagh
Directed by Matthew Dunster
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley.” – “To A Mouse” by Robert Burns

Despite his claim to be “quite content to keep [his] own counsel, as [he] sees fit, and leave the jibber-jabber to the riff-raff, the riff-raff,” former hangman Harry Wade (played with a menacing panache by Mark Addy) seems quite content to “tell all” to anyone who asks his opinion about almost anything, including his spin on his feelings about the abolition of hanging in England in the mid-1960s. Harry has been a “servant of the Crown in the capacity of hangman” for twenty-five years and currently, with his wife Alice (played with a repressed steely strength by Sally Rogers) runs a pub in Oldham, England where they live with their teenage daughter Shirley (played with a playful and whiny wisdom by Gaby French).

Somewhere between a bedroom farce and film noire, Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen,” currently running at Atlantic Theatre Company, spins an intriguing tale about “truth” and “consequences.” The play begins with a jaw-dropping scene set in a prison cell in 1963. Hangman Harry Wade and his sidekick Syd Armfield (played with a pandering exterior that camouflages a sinister interior by Reece Shearsmith) arrive with guards to escort convicted prisoner James Hennessy (played with a cloying innocence by Giles Geary) off to the gallows. Harry, not much concerned about guilt or innocence, is focused on one thing: hanging Hennessy. Wade is less concerned about justice than he is about the convict’s mention of the hangman’s nemesis Albert Pierrepoint (played with regal superiority by Maxwell Caulfield).

In the second scene, the action shifts to Harry’s bar where he holds forth with his three regulars, a local journalist Clegg (Owen Campbell), and a plainclothes policeman Inspector Fry (David Lansbury). The regulars include Bill (Richard Hollis), Charlie (Billy Carter), and the “touch deaf” Arthur (the curmudgeonly John Horton). Think the Three Stooges meet the Keystone Cops and the tone of the setting becomes clear. Clegg has arrived from Manchester to interview Harry about the abolishing of hanging. All this bantering sets the stage for the arrival of “the young stranger” Mooney (played with demonic delight by Johnny Flynn) and the Martin McDonagh bumpy tide begins in earnest.

Mooney’s arrival sets in motion a myriad of conflicts tailormade for the playwright’s fascinating characters: each of these conflicts drives a plot filled with moral ambiguity and gumshoe grit worthy of a Dashiell Hammett novel. After a salacious conversation with Shirley, Mooney convinces her to go to the beach with him. In a meeting with Syd, Mooney claims he has locked Shirley “in a garage in Formby” and he learns Syd has inadvertently (?) implicated Mooney in the murder blamed on the now deceased Hennessey. This tragicomic turn of events wobbles deliciously between slapstick and pathos and keeps the audience on edge.

Shirley’s absence and Syd’s implication lead to another hanging: who’s in the noose, where he is hanged, how, when, and where the hanging takes place is the brilliant game playwright McDonagh plays with the audience’s mind (and heart). Just when it seems clear who Mooney is and whether he kidnapped and harmed Shirley, Albert Pierrepoint shows up at Harry’s pub to “discuss” the derogatory comments Harry made to the reporter. But something is behind the curtain that challenges the moral fiber of the characters and the moral compass of a nation.

Under Matthew Dunster’s keen direction, the members of the cast uniformly deliver stunningly authentic performances that honor Martin McDonagh’s rich, dark approach to disturbingly significant themes, many of which are playing out currently on the national and global stages.

HANGMEN

The cast of “Hangmen” features Mark Addy, Owen Campbell, Billy Carter, Maxwell Caulfield, Johnny Flynn, Gaby French, Gilles Geary, Richard Hollis, John Horton, David Lansbury, Sally Rogers, and Reece Shearsmith.

“Hangmen” features scenic and costume design by Anna Fleischle, lighting design by Joshua Carr, sound design by Ian Dickinson for Autograph, dialects by Stephen Gabis, fight choreography by J. David Brimmer, UK casting by Amy Ball, CDG, and US casting by Telsey+Company; Adam Caldwell, CSA; Will Cantler, CSA; Karyn Casl, CSA. Production photos by Ahron R. Foster.

“Hangman” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, March 4th, 2018 Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater (336 West 20th Street). For more information, including performance schedule and to purchase tickets, please visit https://atlantictheater.org/. Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.

Photo: Johnny Flynn and Sally Rogers in “Hangmen.” Credit: Ahron R. Foster.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, March 8, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “The Amateurs” at Vineyard Theatre (Through Thursday March 29, 2018)

Photo: Kyle Beltran and Jennifer Kim in “The Amateurs.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
Off-Broadway Review: “The Amateurs” at Vineyard Theatre (Through Thursday March 29, 2018)
By Jordan Harrison
Directed by Oliver Butler
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Whether medieval or modern, no plague is comfortable. The first part of “The Amateurs,” currently playing at Vineyard Theatre, is uncomfortable in a different way and the audience wonders, “Can this play be as amateurish as it appears. What is the Vineyard thinking?” As it turns out, the iconic Off-Broadway theatre is thinking outside-the-box and out with the fourth wall, inviting the audience into a rigorous session of metacognition: how do theatre professionals think they make theatre successfully? Should actors be thinking about how they do what they do when they are doing it? And playwright Jordan Harrison uses the story of a medieval itinerant troupe of actors attempting to outrun the “Black Death” ravaging fourteenth-century Europe to address these essential questions.

Larking (Thomas Jay Ryan) does his best to interest his intrepid troupe to improve their craft as they rehearse their play “Noah’s Flood” for presentation before the Duke in two weeks’ time. Larking is hoping that an audience before the Duke of Travo and a successful performance by the troupe will convince the Duke to allow the actors to live within the Duke’s village and avoid death by plague. Mr. Harrison also alludes to the HIV/AIDS plague and the quest for safe spaces and cures.

In the midst of the slow-moving narrative in Act One, secrets are revealed about Rona’s (Jennifer Kim) pregnancy, assumptions are made about the possible father of the child, members of the cast die from the plague, sexual identities are revealed, and a stranger (The Psysic played by Greg Keller) enters the encampment concealing his own agenda in the quest for safety. Some of these secrets are revealed in two well-staged intercessory prayer scenes. Rona prays to St. Felicitas to make her a virgin again, or if that is “asking too much,” at least to “make him a boy.” Brom (Kyle Beltran) begs St. Theresa to help him forget Henry whom he assumes God took back to “wash him clean” of him. And Larking prays to both Saints Dominic and Cosmas to help his troupe “to act well.”

In Act Two, Jordan Harrison decides to break the fourth wall. The actor who portrays Gregory (Michael Cyril Creighton) takes center stage and launches on an extended monologue about the provenance of his fear of being gay, his fear of AIDS, the historical development of “individualism,” and assorted other topics. He ends his exposition with, “This is all to say that I didn’t sit down to write a play about Mr.
Goldsworthy, or the Bubonic plague, even. No, for some reason I was interested in a small strange scene from the 14th century morality play “Noah’s Flood.”

Dissecting the scene between Noah (Brom/Kyle Beltran) and his “unnamed” wife (Hollis/Quincy Tyler Bernstine), “the director” links namelessness with powerlessness – a sort of plague of humankind. This discussion is valuable and raises the questions outlined in the first paragraph of this review; however, the need for the lengthy first act becomes questionable as does the playwright’s choice to use this vehicle to make his important arguments.

Under Oliver Butler’s direction, the actors wrestle with the plays disparate themes (perhaps too many unresolved conflicts?) with honesty. Happy Endings, guilt, fear, catharsis – all get bandied about at the play’s end with more questions raised than answers given. Whether catharsis is “innately complacent” (Playwright) or “delicious” will be up to the audience to decide. We are all, after all, amateurs at this humanity gig.

THE AMATEURS

“The Amateurs” features Kyle Beltran, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Michael Cyril Creighton, Greg Keller, Jennifer Kim, and Thomas Jay Ryan.

The creative team for “The Amateurs” includes David Zinn (scenic design), Jessica Pabst (costume design), Jen Schriever (lighting design), Bray Poor (original music and sound design), Dave Bova and J. Jared Janas (wig, hair, and make-up design), and Raphael Mishler (mask and puppet design). Rachel Gross serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.

“The Amateurs” runs at Vineyard Theatre (108 East 15th Street between Union Square East and Irving Place) through Thursday March 29, 2018. For further information, including the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.vineyardtheatre.org/. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Kyle Beltran and Jennifer Kim in “The Amateurs.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Sunday, March 4, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “An Ordinary Muslim” at New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday March 11, 2018)

Photo: Purva Bedi, Rita Wolf, Ranjit Chowdhry, and Sanjit De Silva in “An Ordinary Muslim.” Credit: Suzi Sadler.
Off-Broadway Review: “An Ordinary Muslim” at New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday March 11, 2018)
By Hammaad Chaudry
Directed by Jo Bonney
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“It won’t stay this – go back to Richard, make amends, sort your life out – but things will get better, easier, with time, people such as yourself ‘n your family start integrating more.” – David to Azeem

What does it mean to be an ordinary Muslim? What does it mean to be an ordinary Christian? What does it mean to be an ordinary Hindu? What does it mean to be an ordinary Jew? What does it mean to ask those questions and what might it indicate about the questioner?

Azeem Bhatti (Sanjit De Silva) is a Pakistani Muslim who was born and raised in the United Kingdom and struggles with the racism and xenophobia he experiences from his boss Richard at the bank where he works. Azeem is hoping for a transfer to the Clapham branch where he would be manager. His longtime friend David Adkins (Andrew Hovelson) has gone behind Richard’s back to assist Azeem in getting the transfer, and Azeem, unwilling to ask Richard for the required reference to seal the transfer, needs David to write the reference instead.

David reminds Azeem that he and Richard were “friends.” Azeem reminds David, they were “not friends, friendly. When he thought I was a secular Muslim. When he saw me sneak out for Friday prayers, saw that Allah and Islam stuff mattered to me, he was not so friendly anymore.” To which David replies, “You hide it pretty well, people assume you’re just an ordinary Muslim not” someone who takes his faith seriously.

Hammaad Chaudry’s new play, “An Ordinary Muslim,” currently running at the New York Theatre Workshop, addresses the difficulties Azeem and his wife Saima (Purva Bedi) experience in West London in 2011 and invites the audience to connect their personal histories to the experiences of Muslims globally who face the increase of nationalism in the countries where they were born or settled as immigrants.

Azeem and Saima – who also faces discrimination at work – live with Azeems’ parents Akeel (Ranjit Chowdhry) and Malika (Rita Wolf) whose dysfunctional relationship exacerbates the difficulties the couple experience in their workplaces. Akeel continues to abuse Malika despite Azeem and his sister Javeria’s (Angel Desai) attempts to intervene. Further complicating their struggles is Saima’s decision to wear her hijab to work, her frequent visits to her mosque, and her growing attachment to Hamza Jameel (Sathya Sridharan) the “son of a preacher man” who currently runs the mosque.

As the distance between Azeem and Saima widens and Azeem’s reluctance to compromise his values strengthens, his life begins to spin out of control. What happens to Azeem, how he reconciles his identity to his “citizenship,” is the captivating and engaging story Mr. Chaudry develops with a commitment to authenticity and believability. Director Jo Bonney gently teases the pathos and ethos of the script and supports the actors’ choices throughout. These extraordinary actors expose the hypocrisy behind demanding Muslim citizens to be “ordinary” and “start integrating.”

AN ORDINARY MUSLIM

The cast for “An Ordinary Muslim” includes Purva Bedi, Ranjit Chowdhry, Angel Desai, Sanjit De Silva, Andrew Hovelson, Harsh Nayyar, Sathya Sridharan, and Rita Wolf.

“An Ordinary Muslim” features scenic design by Neil Patel, costume design by Susan Hilferty, lighting design by Lap Chi Chu, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop, and fight direction by Thomas Schall. Dawn-Elin Fraser serves as dialect coach, with Stage Management by Lori Ann Zepp. Production photos by Suzi Sadler.

“An Ordinary Muslim” runs at New York Theatre Workshop (79 East 4th Street) through Sunday March 11, 2018. For more information, including the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.nytw.org/. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, including intermission.

Photo: Purva Bedi, Rita Wolf, Ranjit Chowdhry, and Sanjit De Silva in “An Ordinary Muslim.” Credit: Suzi Sadler.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, March 2, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Disco Pigs” at Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday March 4, 2018)

Photo: Colin Campbell and Evanna Lynch in “Disco Pigs.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
Off-Broadway Review: “Disco Pigs” at Irish Repertory Theatre (Through Sunday March 4, 2018)
By Enda Walsh
Directed by John Haidar
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“It will take a Captain Hook like my very own bes pal ta sniff it out, hey! What a treasure you bot are. Dis is really it, Pig!” – Runt

The 20th Anniversary Production of “Disco Pigs,” currently running at Irish Repertory Theatre, is a soul-ripping exploration of the psychological process of separation and individuation and the sometimes-painful experience of facing adulthood without what would seem requisite practice.

Pig (Colin Campbell) and Runt (Evanna Lynch), best pals from birth, have found ways to protect themselves from the world of 1996 Cork City, County Cork, Ireland: the pair has created their own language, sort of a plug-in to personalize the County Cork Dialect; they have kept their relationship platonic, avoiding the complications of a romantic involvement; and they have chosen activities they both enjoy and visit venues where they feel safe.

Under John Haidar’s exquisite direction, “Disco Pigs” follows Pig and Runt through their burgeoning adolescence where they begin to discover disappointment, danger, bullying, and the awareness of others. Just when Pig is “ready” to explore a deeper relationship with Runt, his longtime “pal” and “queen” gets “schlapped” (literally) by reality in the guise of Danny Boy’s girlfriend who “opens up da nose and blood all drip drip drop from da Runt.”

Like other tragic events that encroach upon the adolescent’s sense of safety in seclusion from the world, the event at the disco shatters Runt’s world view and her understanding of self and her relationship with Runt. Eventually, she confronts Pig, “An Runt race good dis time! Mus get away! No mo all dis play and pain! I wan for something else! Somethin differen! Freedom!” Runt discovers her need to get away from the “play” with Pig.

There’s a deep sadness in “Disco Pigs” as well as an exhilarating exploration of freedom found. Pig and Runt will no longer be what they were staring across from one another in the hospital nursery, or growing up next-door to one another, or taking the stage at the disco (what a wonderful trope for the adolescent Weltanschauung). Adulthood collapses in upon adolescence with a vengeance and shatters the protective walls of innocence.

Evanna Lynch finds the core of Runt’s dilemma with a superior acuity. Colin Campbell captures the chilling time when playfulness can become profound commitment. Their characters are authentic, and their performances are astonishingly believable. Their inner conflicts with themselves, each other, and their now frightening world connect powerfully with anyone on a journey of self-discovery.

Richard Kent’s set and costume design heightens the womb-like world of the disco pair and Elliot Griggs’s murky lighting surrounds the couple with the shadows of impending adulthood and all its vicissitudes.

Runt discovers that the sun “it really a beautiful big thing” and that it is “okay” and “all righ” to be alone – a lesson it takes most of us a lifetime to learn.

DISCO PIGS

The cast of “Disco Pigs” features Evanna Lynchand Colin Campbell. Both actors will make their US stage debuts with the Irish Rep production.

The creative team for “Disco Pigs” includes set and costume designer Richard Kent, lighting designer Elliot Griggs, sound designer Giles Thomas, and movement director Naomi Said. Production photos by Jeremy Daniel.

The run of “Disco Pigs” at Irish Repertory Theatre (132 W 22nd Street) has been extended through Sunday March 4, 2018. For further information, including performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit https://irishrep.org/. Running time is 75 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Colin Campbell and Evanna Lynch in “Disco Pigs.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, February 26, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz” at Primary Stages at Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Sunday March 4, 2018)

Photo: Yuval Boim, Mariella Haubs, and Adam Green in “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz.” Credit: James Leynse.
Off-Broadway Review: “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz” at Primary Stages at Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Sunday March 4, 2018)
By James Inverne
Directed by Andrew Leynse
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

In two thirty-five-minute acts, playwright James Inverne attempts to convince the audience that “music helped Israel find its cultural identity during its formative years.” In the first short act that takes place in 1926, Yehuda Sharett (Yuval Boim), a “kibbutznik from the Ukraine” and advocate for a Jewish homeland, takes a walk with Jascha Heifetz (Adam Green) and engages the virtuoso violinist in a conversation about making music and the importance of music to the identity of a people and country. After listening carefully, Heifetz suggests that Yehuda go to Berlin “where [the great composers] eat and drink and breathe music. And it’s full of Jewish musicians. German Jews there are living a great new dream.”

During this first act, violinist Mariella Haubs struts across the stage counterpointing the conversation between Yehuda and Jascha. Although it is not clear why the onstage violinist is needed, her presence and playing are more pleasant than Mr. Inverne’s dialogue between the two men.

In the second short act that takes place in 1946 in Yehuda’s house at Kibbutz Yagur, Yehuda’s brother Moshe Sharett (Erik Lochtfeld) visits to both console Yehuda and urge him to return to “making music.” Yehuda’s wife Tzivia, his sister Rivka and her daughter died in a car crash and Yehuda has not been able to recover from his overwhelming grief. The conversation quickly turns to thirty-five minutes of political rhetoric about the importance of the formation of the State of Israel. The play is no longer about authentic and realistic characters; rather, underdeveloped characters become conduits for a playwright’s polemic. Even though Moshe urges Yehuda to “find the music to bring you through this. Find once again the harmony that can make life make sense for you,” this compassion dissolves into a logos driven diatribe.

Although “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz is more docudrama than drama, Mr. Inverne chooses not to document the complexities of the Jewish migration into Palestine under British rule, complexities which continue to exist in the present. Obviously, this was not the purpose of his play; however, this omission leaves the audience with only a partial understanding of the development of the State of Israel and the continued absence of a Palestinian State.

That said, “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz” does not allow the actors or the director (Andrew Leynse) to exercise their craft within the parameters of a satisfying dramatic arc that provides a cathartic resolution.

A WALK WITH MR. HEIFETZ

The cast of “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz” features Yuval Boim, Adam Green, Mariella Haubs, and Erik Lochtefeld.

The creative team for “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz” includes Wilson Chin (scenic design), Jen Caprio (costume design), John Froelich (lighting design), and M. L. Dogg (sound design). Michael V. Mendelson serves as production stage manager. Production photos by James Leynse.

“A Walk with Mr. Heifetz” runs at Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street) through Sunday March 4, 2018. For further information, including the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit http://primarystages.org/. Running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.

Photo: Yuval Boim, Mariella Haubs, and Adam Green in “A Walk with Mr. Heifetz.” Credit: James Leynse.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Wednesday, February 21, 2018

“John Lithgow: Stories By Heart” at Roundabout Theatre Company at American Airlines Theatre (Through Sunday March 4, 2018)

Photo: John Lithgow in “Stories By Heart.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
“John Lithgow: Stories By Heart” at Roundabout Theatre Company at American Airlines Theatre (Through Sunday March 4, 2018)
Adapted and Performed by John Lithgow
Directed by Daniel Sullivan
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Currently in its Broadway debut, John Lithgow’s “Stories By Heart” first took shape in 2008 at Lincoln Center Theater in a special repertory presentation directed by Jack O’Brien. Then, Mr. Lithgow told one story on each of two nights. Since then he has evolved the play in theaters around the country, produced by Staci Levine, on evenings away from his filming schedule. In this current incarnation, the two stories from a collection of short stories selected by W. Somerset Maugham called “Tellers of Tales” are shared in two acts: the first act features “Haircut, by Ring Lardner; the second act features “Uncle Fred Flits By,” by P.G. Wodehouse.”

“Stories By Heart” is not just the reading of two somewhat obscure short stories. Mr. Lithgow shares with the audience, “I’m also going to tell you some stories about these stories. I’m going to tell you why these two particular stories are important to me, how they connect to my life, and how, over the years, they have helped turn me into a storyteller. /And along the way, I intend to do a little offhand philosophizing about storytelling itself.”

The two short stories seem an odd choice: neither one seems appropriate for children; neither is particularly funny; and neither seems to capture the attention of the audience. What apparently brought the Lithgow children to peals of laughter seems to elude the audience which proffers only occasional laughter and stifled at that. What is spellbinding is Mr. Lithgow’s stories about his father (whom he adored) and how he influenced Lithgow’s life and career in the theatre. The craft of story-telling overshadows the choice of stories and the evening is enjoyable and memorable.

Daniel Sullivan’s direction is competent and allows Mr. Lithgow to tell his stories with effectiveness. John Lee Beatty’s set and Kenneth Posner’s lighting provide space and mood for the actor to capture both the essence of the short stories and the heart of the audience.

John Lithgow is a joy to watch and a joy to listen to. He remains one of our finest actors on stage and on screen. His performance in his “Stories By Heart” is no exception to those expectations. And since “Stories By Heart” is a story within a story paying homage to Lithgow’s father, mother, and three siblings, the result is even more compelling and emotionally charged.

JOHN LITHGOW: STORIES BY HEART

The creative team for “John Lithgow: Stories By Heart” includes John Lee Beatty (Set Design), Jess Goldstein (Costume Design), Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design) and Peter Fitzgerald (Sound Design). Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“John Lithgow: Stories By Heart” plays at American Airlines Theatre (227 West 42nd Street) on the following schedule: Tuesday through Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets for “John Lithgow: Stories By Heart” are available by calling 212-719-1300, online at roundabouttheatre.org, and in person at any Roundabout box office: American Airlines Theatre Box office (227 West 42nd Street); The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 West 46th Street) and Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). Ticket prices range from $39.00-$139.00. For groups of 10 or more please call 212-719-9393 x 365 or email groupsales@roundabouttheatre.org. Running time is 2 hours with one intermission.

Photo: John Lithgow in “Stories By Heart.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, February 19, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Party Face” at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday April 8, 2018)

Photo: Hayley Mills and Gina Costigan in “Party Face.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
Off-Broadway Review: “Party Face” at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday April 8, 2018)
Written by Isobel Mahon
Directed by Amanda Bearse
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

There is yet another theatrical party occurring on stage at City Center developed by Isobel Mahon and billed as the new comedy entitled “Party Face.” This soiree is celebrating the newly designed kitchen by the absentee husband of Mollie Mae (played with distinct dismal despair by Gina Costigan), who has just been released from the psychiatric ward after having a nervous breakdown in the middle of the cereal aisle at the grocery store. The first guest to arrive, complete with gourmet nibbles to replace the chips and hummus, is her widowed mother, Carmel, a hard-hitting social hurricane from the suburbs (portrayed with radiant energy and devious charm by the wonderful Haley Mills). Next to arrive is staunch sister Maeve (characterized by Brenda Meaney, capturing the honest and forthright Irish woman with precision). Appearing fashionably late, clad in trendy designer duds, is the supercilious neighbor Chloe, (an exasperating characterization, spewing potent pretention by Allison Jean White). The absurd gathering could not be complete without the appearance of OCD psychiatric ward roommate Bernie, who is eclectically clad, complete with survival fanny pack concealing her roll of protective plastic wrap (and carefully constructed with realistic and honest integrity by Klea Blackhurst).

Unfortunately this party is too predictable and plays more like a simple sitcom sans substance or stability. Basically everything goes wrong. The script undermines the important relevant core issue of survival and diminishes significant topics such as infidelity, abuse, alcoholism and mental illness with contrived absurd humor. Director Amanda Bearse moves the action along at a steady clip but can do little to overcome the pedestrian script which deteriorates quickly. The cast tries incessantly to wear their best party face but nothing can mask the lackluster and uninspired festivities. What should have been a play that embraced the power and courage of women dwindles to a light fluffy comedy of no consequence.

PARTY FACE

The cast of “Party Face” features Klea Blackhurst, Gina Costigan, Brenda Meaney, Hayley Mills, and Allison Jean White.

The creative team for “Party Face” includes Jeff Ridenour (scenic design), Lara De Bruijn (costume design), Joyce Liao (lighting design), and Damien Figueras (sound design). Melanie T. Morgan serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Jeremy Daniel.

“Party Face” runs at New York City Center Stage II (131 West 55th Street) through Sunday April 8, 2018. For the schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.partyfaceplay.com/. Running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Photo: Hayley Mills and Gina Costigan in “Party Face.” Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Saturday, February 17, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Until the Flood” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday February 18, 2018

Photo: Dael Orlandersmith in “Until the Flood” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Credit: Robert Altman.
Off-Broadway Review: “Until the Flood” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Through Sunday February 18, 2018)
Written and Performed by Dael Orlandersmith
Directed by Neel Keller
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 34:28-29

“Soon and very soon,/We are going to see the King. No more crying there,/We are going to see the King. No more dying there,/We are going to see the King.” - Andrae' Crouch

Humankind’s pan-cultural flood (or deluge) myth motifs – including the Genesis flood narrative (Noah), the Mesopotamian flood stories (Gilgamesh), and the Sumerian flood myth – all reinforce humanity’s penchant for hubris and willingness to continue to “miss the mark.”

Evidence of the results of the correlative “Fall” myth motif is the contemporary chorus of continued denials of systemic racism in America – and indeed amidst the resurgence of white separatist ideologies. In “After the Flood,” currently running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Dale Orlandersmith allows the events of Ferguson specifically to speak for themselves through the eyes of nine fictional characters she created from her interviews with residents if St. Louis in 2015.

These believable and authentic characters – five white and four black – all portrayed by Ms. Orlandersmith in powerful performances, share their “spin” on the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. In the poet/playwright’s narratives, she succeeds in presenting a deep and rich exploration of the vicissitudes of racism: this exploration uncovers an underbelly of “conventional” racist views in addition to a complex matrix of conflicting and “unconventional” aspects of racism. The strength of the piece lies in this honesty and authenticity. Just when an audience member thinks she or he has identified what racism is, Ms. Orlandersmith presents another side – sometimes an unexpected one – of the insidious scourge.

Seventy-year-old black retired teacher Louisa Hemphill, through the lens of Ferguson and her own family experience – has confronted racism from without and from within her own family. After attending City College and becoming involved in student protest movements, Louisa returns home to a surprising encounter with her parents. Seventy-five-year-old white retired police officer Rusty White makes it clear in a none too subtle racist rant that sometimes cops need to use their guns, “goin’ with the tide, goin’ with the flow.” Two young black high school students – Hassan a seventeen-year-old “street kid” and Paul a seventeen-year-old high school student – share their fear and mistrust of the police. Hassan longs for a safe place to live and Paul, when he passes the shrine dedicated to Michael Brown, thinks “it could be me.” Both boys are trapped in a matrix of fear, defeat, and mistrust.

The narratives need to be seen and heard – to reveal the remaining stories would detract from their persuasive rhetoric. Ms. Olandersmith employs riveting rhetorical devices to bring her characters to life and share their cathartic confessions.

With the addition of a scarf or a sweatshirt, Ms. Orlandersmith creates nine distinctive characters with subtle vocal inflections and brilliantly crafted expressions and body movements. The changes occur as the actor moves deliberately from one part of the stage to another, perhaps taking the chair with her or remaining in the same stage location. Scenic designer Takeshi Kata, costume designer Kaye Voyce, and lighting designer Mary Louise Geiger create a space and time and mood that counterpoints precisely the content of each narrative. Neel Keller’s direction is unobtrusive and gently allows the poet to work her magic.

Like the words of most (if not all) traditional and contemporary “spiritual” hymns, phrases like “Soon and very soon,/We are going to see the King” are not references to some heavenly rest; rather they continue to be clarion calls for justice and powerful strains of resistance. Ms. Orlandersmith’s enduring question remains: has America heard the wakeup call – or has it been answered and deleted.

UNTIL THE FLOOD

“Until the Flood” features set design by Takeshi Kata, costume design by Kaye Voyce, lighting design by Mary Louise Geiger, sound design by Justin Ellington, and projection design by Nick Hussong. Production photos by Robert Altman.

“Until the Flood” runs at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (224 Waverly Place) through Sunday February 18, 2018 in repertory with “Draw the Circle” written and performed by Mashuq Mushtaq. For the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.rattlestick.org/. Running time is 1 hour and 10 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Dael Orlandersmith in “Until the Flood” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Credit: Robert Altman.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, February 15, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” at SoHo Playhouse (Extended through Sunday February 25, 2018)

Photo: Drew Droege in “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns.” Credit: Russ Rowland.
Off-Broadway Review: “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” at SoHo Playhouse (Extended through Sunday February 25, 2018)
Written by Drew Droege
Directed by Michael Urie
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The production currently playing at SoHo Playhouse entitled “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” is a self-absorbed, ostentatious, and highly opinionated rant penned by Drew Droege who also holds court on stage for the eighty-minute overwrought outburst. The premise for the tirade is receiving an invitation to his friend’s gay wedding that states guests should eschew from wearing bright colors or bold patterns to the affair. This begins the tantrum that suggests the reason for this distinction is to challenge gay choices and lifestyles and sway the gay community to blend into mainstream society and emulate a heteronormative culture. Could it possibly be that the couple wanted a certain “look,” similar to the era of gay “white” or “black” parties, among other specific requirements for certain events? This escalates to the issue of gay marriage and the reasons why the solo character Gerry (played with pretentious gay demeanor by Mr. Droege) believes it is not necessary, even after the long brutal fight to legalize to protect the rights of members of the Gay community. The script delivers a one-sided point of view eschewing all the paramount issues that made this civil rights issue necessary including discrimination, taxes, health insurance and hospital visiting rights.

The action starts as Gerry arrives at a Palm Beach house the day before the wedding and joins other guests who have already arrived (and are invisible to the audience) sitting around the pool. They include Gerry’s ex and his new boyfriend. What moves the plot forward is the consumption of plenty of alcohol which then accelerates to drugs enabling the rambling fiasco to thrive. The dialogue of quick witted repartee, consists of insults, abusive humor and innuendos that are dated and trivial adding nothing to the dimension of the character or movement of the plot. It almost seems as though it may be a stand- up comedy routine with humor that escapes you even before you stop laughing. The main character seems alone (and lonely), angry and somewhat depressed, using his vitriolic humor to mask his feelings. It is a sad portrayal and a poor representation of gay men in contemporary American society.

Set design by Dara Wishingrad is very colorful, crowded and adds to the timber of the production. Director Michael Urie keeps the evening moving at a rapid pace which helps hide the scripts imperfections. The attempt of a dramatic, meaningful ending is too little, too late and seems incongruous to the previous body of the work. If you (gay or straight) enjoy sarcastic, bitchy gay humor with absolutely no substance this might be a great way to spend the evening.

BRIGHT COLORS AND BOLD PATTERNS

“Bright Colors And Bold Patterns” continues its Off Broadway at SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street, between 6th Avenue and Varick Street in Manhattan), with the new star Jeff Hiller assuming the role of Gerry.

Tickets start at $59.00. The performance schedule and further information are available at www.BrightColorsandBoldPatterns.com. Running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Drew Droege in “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns.” Credit: Russ Rowland.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, February 8, 2018

Broadway Review: “The Children” at Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

Photo: Deborah Findlay and Ron Cook. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Broadway Review: “The Children” at Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
(Through Sunday February 4, 2018)
By Lucy Kirkwood
Directed by James Macdonald
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Yes exactly. I would’ve felt like a traitor. Besides, retired people are like nuclear power stations. We like to live by the sea.” – Hazel to Rose

The success of “The Children,” currently playing at Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, is primarily the result of playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s effective and judicious use of tropes, particularly the extended metaphor of the nuclear “disaster” that has displaced Hazel (played with an unresolved anger tempered with pragmatism by Deborah Findlay) and her husband Robin (played with an openness that conceals deep secrets by Ron Cook) from their dairy farm (too close to the power plant for comfort). Although the farm was outside the “exclusion zone,” the couple felt more secure living further away in a smaller home plagued with touchy plumbing and limited
lighting. Hazel manages the house while Robin makes the daily trek back to the farm to “care for” the cows.

Into this domestic tranquility comes Rose (played with a powerful purposeful energy by Francesca Annis) who, with Hazel and Robin, were largely responsible for building the nuclear power plant that has poisoned the land, sea, and air. Playwright Lucy Kirkwood carefully discloses the purpose for Rose’s surprise visit, initially suggesting she might be interested in continuing an extended affair with Robin. Although Ms. Kirkwood proffers many foreshadowing events – including Hazel accidentally giving Rose a bloody nose and Rose questioning Hazel about “the children” – it is not until later in the play the audience discovers the real reason for Rose’s intrusion into Hazel’s and Robin’s lives.

In a mind-wrenching climax, Rose connects her concern for Hazel’s children with the young team cleaning up the nuclear meltdown: “These . . . young people these children, basically, actually with their whole lives ahead and it’s not fair it’s not right it seems wrong. Doesn’t it? Because we built it, didn’t we? Or helped to, we’re responsible, so I do, I feel the need to, to clear it up.” As the action of the play quickly resolves, Hazel, Robin, and Rose wrestle with the things that have bound them together and the things that have torn them apart and transcend both to create a new future for “the children.”

Under James Macdonald’s purposive and gentle direction, “The Children” raises significant enduring questions left for the audience to grapple with. To whom are we responsible and why does that responsibility exist? Is it possible we are only responsible to and for ourselves? Is the life of a young person more valuable than the life of an older person? What determines the value of any given life? Does what a person has done during his or her life affect that person’s “value score?” Is vicarious punishment operative in the decisions made by Rose, Robin, and Hazel?

Who are our children and how are we caring for them and their future?

THE CHILDREN

The cast of “The Children” features Francesca Annis, Ron Cook, and Deborah Findlay.

The creative team for The Children features Miriam Buether (scenic and costume design), Peter Mumford (lighting design), and Max Pappenheim (sound design). Production photos by Joan Marcus.

Tickets are available at Telecharge.com, by calling 212-239-6200, or by visiting The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Box Office at 261 West 47th Street. Ticket prices are $60-$140. Performance schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m., Thursday at 8:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. For more information, including the holiday performance schedule, visit http://thechildrenbroadway.com/. Running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Deborah Findlay and Ron Cook. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Sunday, January 28, 2018

Broadway Review: “Meteor Shower” at the Booth Theatre (Open Run)

Photo: Keegan-Michael Key, Jeremy Shamos, Amy Schumer, and Laura Benanti in “Meteor Shower.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
Broadway Review: “Meteor Shower” at the Booth Theatre (Open Run)
By Steve Martin
Directed by Jerry Zaks
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Steve Martin has titled his new play “Meteor Shower.” Currently running at the Belasco Theatre, the comedy is as broad as the night sky above and filled with just as many stars and enlists the audience members to listen to and watch the actors on stage as they await occasional bursts of comedy that handily counterpoint the intermittent falling stars that stream across the panorama. The eighty-minute intermission-less comedy is filled with sporadic one-liners and some scenes that rely on farcical physical comedy delivered by the cast with acute timing and instinctive agility. Just when the plot starts to serve the characters with a faint inkling of depth, it falters, only to repeat the scene from a different perspective, not moving forward but providing an outlet for more sitcom one-liners. Director Jerry Zaks moves the piece along at a quick pace and certainly provides a sleek production that is pleasant enough to watch and seems to be over before it even begins. The production contains bouts of absurdity which struggle and conflict with the more straight forward comedic approach and nonlinear structure.

The plot finds Corky (Amy Schumer) and Gerald (Keegan-Michael Key) getting ready for invited guests Norm (Jeremy Shamos) and Laura (Laura Benanti) to arrive at their Ojai, California home to view the highly anticipated meteor shower. The foreshadowing in this first scene occurs during the discussion of the subconscious and the need to allow it to surface and deal with it; otherwise, it will take control. After some absurd, rather ridiculous occurrences, all providing plenty of laughter, begin to start repeating themselves to incur more laughter and a different point of view, the plot wears thin and the characters fall flat, one dimensional and portals for more one-liners. By the end of the play, it is certain that the couple visiting is their alter ego giving the audience a glimpse into the characters’ inner selves. Too little too late and who cares? It is much better to just enjoy the fun and ignore the pseudo substance.

The stellar cast is fine and probably makes the evening palpable by adhering to the slick direction of Mr. Zaks who obviously decided to surrender to lighthearted entertainment taking advantage of the actors’ irreproachable talents. Ms. Schumer is at her best when displaying her broad facial reactions and impeccable timing. Mr. Shamos relies on his adroit physical humor and coy delivery. Mr. Key gives a substantially subtle performance with absolute deadpan delivery and reaction. Ms. Benanti exudes sexuality in a shiny slip dress and easily seduces her counterparts with calm assurance. They are able to overcome the erratic and implausible script by Mr. Martin. It is merely an evening of amusement where the jokes are forgotten as fast as they are delivered, sort of like the meteors streaming across the dark sky during this lackluster theatrical shower.

METEOR SHOWER

The cast of “Meteor Shower” features Laura Benanti, Keegan-Michael Key, Amy Schumer, and Jeremy Shamos.

The creative team includes Beowulf Boritt (Scenic Design), Ann Roth (Costume Design), Natasha Katz (Lighting Design), and Fitz Patton (Sound Design). Casting is by Caparelliotis Casting. Production photos by Matthew Murphy.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.MeteorOnBroadway.com, via Telecharge.com or by phone at 212-239-6200, or by visiting the Booth Theatre box office (222 West 45th Street). For the performance schedule and for further information about “Meteor Shower,” www.MeteorOnBroadway.com. Running time is 80 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Keegan-Michael Key, Jeremy Shamos, Amy Schumer, and Laura Benanti in “Meteor Shower.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Saturday, January 6, 2018

Off-Broadway Review: “Downtown Race Riot” at The New Group at The Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Saturday December 23, 2017)

Off-Broadway Review: “Downtown Race Riot” at The New Group at The Pershing Square Signature Center (Through Saturday December 23, 2017)
By Seth Zvi Rosenfeld
Directed by Scott Elliott
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The 1970s was a decade of unrest across the United States. Racial divides were exacerbated by socio-economic disparities and rising tensions between members of minority communities and the systemic racism inherent in the majority white population. This unrest was particularly evident in urban areas like New York City and, more specifically, in the West Village of Manhattan. One such riot erupted in Washington Square Park in 1976 which resulted in several young men being charged with taking part in a rampage that left one man dead and thirteen persons injured. Eerily reminiscent of that riot is Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s “Downtown Race Riot” currently running at The New Group’s performance space at The Pershing Square Signature Center.

The overwrought and overlong drama focuses on a group of friends who gather at Jimmy Shannon’s (David Levi) Section Eight railroad apartment where he lives with his drug addicted mother Mary (Chloe Sevigny) and his sister Joyce (Sadie Scott), the feisty lesbian who is not averse to seducing his friend Marcel “Massive” Baptiste (Moise Morancy) while Tommy-Sick (Cristian Demeo) and Jay 114 (Daniel Sovich) rehearse the hit placed on Marcel by the cuckolded Baldo. This pair of losers (think the most stereotypical characters from “Saturday Night Fever” and any iteration of “The Godfather”) expect Jimmy (AKA “Pnut”) to deliver Marcel into Baldo’s hands in the Park amidst the most recent riot.

The real riot here, however, is the hot mess of misfits that gather as an embattled brood under the protective wings of mother Mary the opioid queen. Although one immediately understands the connection between the riot without and the riot within, Mr. Rosenfeld’s script is not strong enough to support that rhetorical argument. The play lacks logos, pathos, and ethos and is completely devoid of catharsis. It is difficult to care about any of the characters or their hackneyed conflicts that drive drab, uninteresting plot lines.

The play is replete with bizarre vein-tapping, love circles, and the anecdote about “a white man and an Indian” Mary shares with Jimmy’s friend Marcel between intravenous injections of heroine. There is an excessive amount of shouting, furniture throwing and kicking, exploding blood capsules and the completely extraneous appearance of Mary’s “attorney” Bob Gilman (Josh Pais) whom she met at Olive Garden. The “make-out” session between Mary and Bob while Marcel’s life hangs in the balance must be among the most embarrassing in Off-Broadway history.

Under Scott Elliott’s direction, the talented cast struggles to make sense of Mr. Rosenfeld’s script. Derek McLane’s expansive set sprawls across the entire length of the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre leaving patrons who are not sitting dead-center craning their necks to see the action in one or both bedrooms. Clint Ramos’s costumes and Yael Lubetzky’s lighting – as adequate as they are – fail to raise the level of the production beyond the mediocre.

Failing to address any meaningful discussion about systemic racism or any significant conversation about the 1970s race riots, “Downtown Race Riot” remains a puzzling foray into the realm of the absurd.

DOWNTOWN RACE RIOT

The cast of “Downtown Race Riot” features Cristian DeMeo, David Levi, Moise Morancy, Josh Pais, Sadie Scott, Chloë Sevigny and Daniel Sovich.

The creative team includes scenic design by Derek McLane, costume design by Clint Ramos, lighting design by Yael Lubetzky, sound design by M.L. Dogg, and fight direction by UnkleDave's Fight-House Production. Valerie A. Peterson serves as production stage manager. Casting is by Judy Henderson, CSA and Public Relations by Bridget Klapinski. Production photos by Monique Carboni.

“Downtown Race Riot” runs at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street) through Saturday December 23 on the following schedule: Tuesday – Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. To purchase tickets and to review exceptions to the performance schedule, please visit https://www.thenewgroup.org/. Running time is 100 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Moise Morancy and Sadie Scott in Seth Zvi Rosenfeld’s “Downtown Race Riot.” Credit: Monique Carboni.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Saturday, December 16, 2017

Broadway Review: “M. Butterfly” at the Cort Theatre (Through Sunday December 17, 2017

Photo: Clive Owen and Jin Ha in “M. Butterfly.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
Broadway Review: “M. Butterfly” at the Cort Theatre (Through Sunday December 17, 2017)
By David Henry Hwang
Directed by Julie Taymor
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“M. Butterfly,” the stunning albeit straightforward play about fantasy, deception, espionage, and betrayal seems to have lost its way at the Cort Theatre. Whether this results from David Henry Hwang’s revisions and updates or from something inherent in the production itself is uncertain. This latest iteration focuses on Song Liling’s (Jin Ha) sexual status rather than on French diplomat Rene Galimand’s (Clive Owen) obsessive fantasy driven by his insatiable xenophobia. Notice was given this week that the play would close prematurely on December 17, 2017. What happened to Julie Taymor’s staging of the endearing drama?

First, what did work for this production is the casting of Jin Ha as Song Liling and Clive Owen as Rene Gallimand. Both actors explored the many levels of their complex characters which resulted in powerful, endearing, authentic, and believable performances. Mr. Owen portrays the obsessive Rene with panache and precision and manages to counterpoint the character’s naivete with a passionate need to be in control. Seemingly unaware of Song Liling’s sexual status and political connections, Rene still believes he is secure in his employment and able to dismiss his commitment to his wife.

Jin Ha portrays the elusive Chinese opera star Song Liling with a compelling gravitas that transcends all conversations about the conventions of human sexuality. Mr. Ha’s character is firmly entrenched in the realm of fantasy and the actor skillfully and subtly entraps Rene into that fantasy – so pervasively that Rene cannot follow through on his demands for Song Liling to undress to confirm his growing suspicions about her true status. Rene’s delusion obfuscates rather than clarifies his understanding of the precarious position he is in politically and professionally.

“M. Butterfly” is a fantasia that rattles the gates of reality and questions all preconceived ideas about fidelity, fealty, and the fragility of the human psyche. Questioned also is the understanding of human sexuality. The critical questions about, for example, whether Jin Ha successfully plays a woman belies an underbelly of stereotypes and assumptions that raises rich and enduring questions. What does a man look like? What does a woman look like? What does it mean to even raise these questions? What defines ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine?’ What does it mean to dress like a man or to dress like a woman?

Jin Ha’s performance is not only compelling, as noted earlier, it is also profoundly convincing. Mr. Ha manages to blur the boundaries between what is perceived to be real and what is perceived to be fiction. His portrayal of the complex opera star is the hallucination Rene needs to survive in a world too encumbered by reality. Together with Mr. Owen, the actors elucidate the Yin and the Yang of universal truths.

Working against the performances, unfortunately, is Paul Steinberg’s cumbersome and oddly unimaginative set. The constant movement of stage hands (and actors) pushing, pulling, and spinning panels around the stage distracts from the needed grounding of the plots and subplots driven by the conflicts of the characters so clearly defined by playwright David Henry Hwang. It is lamentable that “M. Butterfly” is closing early; however, choices made by the creative team are crucial to the success of any production. Some choices in this instance were less than commendable.

M. BUTTERFLY

The cast of “M. Butterfly” includes Clea Alsip, Murray Bartlett, Michael Countryman, Celeste Den, Jess Fry, Enid Graham, Jin Ha, Thomas Michael Hammond, Cole Horibe, Jason Ignacio, Kristen Faith Oei, Clive Owen, Erica Sweany, John Leonard Thompson, and Erica Wong.

The creative team for “M. Butterfly” includes Original Music by Winner Elliot Goldenthal, Choreography by Ma Cong, Scenic Design by Paul Steinberg, Costume Design by Constance Hoffman, Lighting Design by Donald Holder, Sound Design by Will Pickens. Wig and Hair Design by Dave Bova, and Makeup Design by Judy Chin. Production photos by Matthew Murphy.

Tickets are available at www.MButterflyBroadway.com or www.Telecharge.com (212.239.6200).
Tickets for “M. Butterfly” range from $39.00 - $149.00. Premium tickets range from $199.00 - $227.00. For group tickets and more information, including performance schedule, please visit www.MButterflyBroadway.com. Running time is 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Photo: Clive Owen and Jin Ha in “M. Butterfly.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, December 15, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will” as Classic Stage Company (Through Saturday January 6, 2018)

Photo: David Samuel and Paco Tolson. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will” as Classic Stage Company (Through Saturday January 6, 2018)
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

A visit to Classic Stage Company for the current production of “Twelfth Night” is almost like a case of Déjà vu: one could be watching the Company’s previous production of “As You Like it” which closed on October 22nd. The formula for both new productions of the Shakespeare classics involve adding music and singing, the same configuration of the theater and basically the same somewhat barren set. The two mistaken-identity, gender bending, all ends well romantic antic farces are too alike to run consecutively as CSC’s 50th season openers, unless they are performed in repertory with primarily the same actors. Even then, some sort of different sets and staging would be essential. It is mentioned in the program by Artistic Director John Doyle that this was done purposefully since it would be interesting to see the companion pieces, written within a short time span, alongside each other. This endeavor only managed to sabotage this current production by Fiasco Theater, not by any fault of their own.

The plot, which is too intricate to explain, deals with shipwrecked fraternal twins, Olivia and Sabastian, who each think the other has perished in the disaster. Viola (the convincing Emily Young) dresses as a man Cesario, to become servant to Orsino (an aristocratic and benevolent Noah Brady) who is in love with Olivia (a fraught and decisive Jessie Austrian). When Orsino sends Cesario with a missive to Olivia stating his affection for her, she falls in love with young Cesario who is really Viola. Sebastian (a demure and virtuous Javier Ignacio) shows up on the scene, who Olivia thinks is Cesario, and quickly marries him as to avoid the grips of Orsino. All is revealed in the end and Orsino marries Viola, along with Olivia’s drunken cousin Sir Toby Belch (an amiable Andy Grotelueschen) marrying her waiting gentle woman, Maria (played with wonderful energetic, devilish charm by Tina Chilip). Rounding out the competent cast are Paul L. Coffey as Malvolio, Daniel Samuel as Antonio and Paco Tolson as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. It is filled with mishaps, subplots, twists and turns as the farcical scenario unfolds.

Co-directed Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, the action moves at a quick pace but is at times burdened by the musical interludes which breaks the pace of the farce. If you have not seen the previous production by the Classic Stage Company, indeed include this incarnation of “Twelfth Night” in your theater schedule. But if you have, there is no need to venture out for the 2-hour and 45-minute rather lackluster production.

TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL

The cast of “Twelfth Night” features Jessie Austrian, Noah Brody, Tina Chilip, Paul L. Coffey, Andy Grotelueschen, Javier Ignacio, David Samuel, Ben Strinfeld, Paco Tolson, and Emily Young.

The creative team includes John Doyle (scenic design), Emily Rebholz (costume design), Ben Stanton (lighting design), Andrew Wade (voice consultant), And Noah Brody (fight choreography). Casting is by Stewart/Whitley. Kristin M. Herrick serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

Twelfth Night” runs at Classic Stage Company (136 East 13th Street) through Saturday January 6, 2018. For the performance schedule and to purchase tickets, visit https://classicstage.org/. Run time is 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one intermission.

Photo: David Samuel and Paco Tolson. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, December 14, 2017

Broadway Review: “SpongeBob SquarePants” at the Palace Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Sunday September 2, 2018)

Photo: Ethan Slater and the Cast of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Broadway Review: “SpongeBob SquarePants” at the Palace Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Sunday September 2, 2018)
Book by Kyle Jarrow
Music Supervision, Orchestrations and Arrangements by Tom Kitt
Conceived and Directed by Tina Landau
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Walking into the Palace Theater to view the new musical extravaganza “SpongeBob SquarePants,” your senses are attacked by a barrage of Crayola colors, shimmering tinsel, happy music and an array of ornamental objects that appear as though Pee Wee Herman went overboard at Party City, shopping for a big beach bash. As you scrutinize the multifarious audience, there is a continuous inspection or marveling at the décor, the obligatory taking of selfies and the murmur of anticipation of what awaits when the performance begins. This group of theatergoers seem to be in familiar territory and has expectations that in part have already been satisfied. The show begins and as the lead character (a limber and enthusiastic Ethan Slater) appears crossing the stage with a sprightly, fluid strut, in a yellow shirt, checkered pants, suspenders and a red tie, a tiny voice from the child behind me exclaims, “that’s not SpongeBob.” Now what?

Not to worry since there are enough neon colors, abstract shapes, flamboyant costumes and elaborate sets by David Zinn, with frantic movements and pedestrian choreography by Christopher Gattelli, to induce a distraction, so elements of plot and depth of characters become paltry. The collection of songwriters assembled, not limited to but including such names as John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles and Lady Antebellum assures a diverse conglomeration of styles from rap to gospel to pop to Broadway. The “save the world” plot that is chock full of morals and optimism is simple and easy to follow, with musical numbers that attempt to move the action forward with little success, but provide actors the opportunity to showcase their vocal ability in big Broadway belt style. Venturing away from the typical Broadway musical formula (sans love interest) it is difficult to describe what this production is trying to accomplish, (albeit entertaining), besides selling an enormous amount of marketing merchandise at the large concession area in the lobby.

The cast is fully competent in execution and seems to be enjoying themselves without being bogged down with character development, or a complicated book accredited to Kyle Jarrow. It is light and fluffy entertainment seen through a psychedelic kaleidoscope of ever-changing shapes and colors that may visually satisfy but lacks that mystical, magical artistic aura that suspends you in disbelief. Ethan Slater produces a limber, buoyant, animated, sanguine SpongeBob, with a fine voice (sometimes in cartoon character) to compliment his character. Gavin Lee is delicious and delirious as Squidward Q. Tentacles, complete with four legs and a lavish, show stopping tap number in the second act. Danny Skinner is admirable as BFF, Patrick Star (a wannabe STARfish). The squirrel Sandy Cheeks is inhabited by the delightful Lilli Cooper with a sense of intelligence. Wesley Taylor portrays a villainous Sheldon Plankton with a slimy complexion. Eugene Krabs is depicted with sharp wit and harmless authority (complete with big red boxing gloves) by Brian Ray Norris.

Tina Landau has created an inventive production that provides enough amusement and razzle dazzle to satisfy audiences that are familiar with this famed Nickelodeon character and his cohorts but will not in any fashion keep the interest of serious theatergoers. It is a vibrant spectacle that sparkles but does not shine.

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS

The “SpongeBob SquarePants” cast includes Ethan Slater as SpongeBob SquarePants, Gavin Lee as Squidward Q. Tentacles, Lilli Cooper as Sandy Cheeks, Brian Ray Norris as Eugene Krabs, Danny Skinner as Patrick Star and Wesley Taylor as Sheldon Plankton. The ensemble includes Alex Gibson, Gaelen Gilliland, Juliane Godfrey, Kyle Matthew Hamilton, Curtis Holbrook, Stephanie Hsu, Jesse JP Johnson, L’ogan J’ones, Jai’len Christine Li Josey, Kelvin Moon Loh, Lauralyn McClelland, Vasthy Mompoint, Oneika Phillips, Jon Rua, JC Schuster, Abby C. Smith, Robert Taylor Jr., Allan Washington, Brynn Williams, Matt Wood and Tom Kenny as the French Narrator.

The design team includes scenic and costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by Kevin Adams, projection design by Peter Nigrini, sound design by Walter Trarbach, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe and casting by Telsey + Company/Patrick Goodwin, CSA. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

For more information on “SpongeBob SquarePants,” visit www.SpongeBobBroadway.com. Tickets are available online via Ticketmaster.com, by calling 877-250-2929 or at The Palace Theatre box office (1564 Broadway - Broadway at 47th Street). Ticket prices range from $49.00 to $159.00. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes

Photo: Ethan Slater and the Cast of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Saturday, December 9, 2017

Broadway Review: “The Parisian Woman” at the Hudson Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Saturday March 11, 2018)

Photo (L-R): Uma Thurman as “Chloe,” Josh Lucas as “Tom,” and Marton Csokas as “Peter.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
Broadway Review: “The Parisian Woman” at the Hudson Theatre (Tickets on Sale through Saturday March 11, 2018)
By Beau Willimon
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Beau Willimon is perhaps best known for creating the successful Netflix original series “House of Cards” which is completing its final season. Much of what made the series so savvy was the way the writers exposed the chicanery and dishonesty of politics without “naming names.” The episodes wisely left making connections to current events to the viewers. Inspired by Henry François Becque’s 1885 play “La Parisienne,” Mr. Willimon’s “The Parisian Woman,” currently running at the Hudson Theatre, overshadows its important themes of love, trust, and the dynamics of relationships with clichés about Number 45 and the shenanigans in the current West Wing.

Successful tax attorney Tom (Josh Lucas), wanting “to make a difference,” is in the running for nomination to a Federal judgeship and his wife Chloe (Uma Thurman) wants to help him get the job despite her affairs with the uber-jealous Peter (Marton Csokas) and a recent female graduate of Harvard Law (the play’s only “surprise”). Chloe’s future with Tom is uncertain. He knows of Chloe’s flirtations and accepts them as part of their “agreement.” But his wife’s penchant for other lovers has grown tiresome and has affected their marriage. After all, Chloe affirms, “You can pretend to love anything for fifteen minutes.” This is a reference to Tom pretending to like port at Jeanette’s (Blair Brown) bash, but proves to be a foreshadowing of things to come. As is Chloe’s interest in Jeanette’s daughter Rebecca (Phillipa Soo) who also attends the party. This is the flimsy plot driven by uninteresting characters with mostly mundane conflicts.

It seems no one knows what do with Beau Willimon’s script: Pam MacKinnon directs it like a daytime television drama and the actors decide to follow her lead and deliver stilted performances that rarely rise above the mediocre. Only Josh Lucas and Blair Brown seem to want to explore the deeper levels of their characters Tom and Jeanette respectively, but Ms. MacKinnon’s lugubrious pacing often gets in the way of the farcical tone that is at the heart of the script. What ought to be light and terribly funny becomes ponderous and overwrought leaving all attempts at exploring the comedy beneath the high drama falling flat.

Derek McLane’s set is exquisite with stunning detail. Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting is delicate and appropriate. Jane Greenwood’s costumes are serviceable but too often oddly ill-fitting which is quite unusual for the iconic designer. The massive drop-down “screen” with Darrel Maloney’s projections seems out of place and simply provides a needless opportunity for the set changes. Actors appearing in “doorways” glancing at one another and the audience then strutting off is odd indeed.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Willimon’s important rich and enduring questions get lost in his muddled script. What is truth? Is truth important? Is telling the truth important? Is there a difference between truth and reality? What is that difference? Grappling with questions like these can be redemptive, especially at times when multiple distractions attempt to cloud verity and validity. “The Parisian” Woman” avoids addressing the questions it raises instead opting for rehashing the political news of the day with disappointing results.

THE PARISIAN WOMAN

“The Parisian Woman” stars Josh Lucas, Blair Brown, Marton Csokas, Phillipa Soo, and Uma Thurman.

The creative team for “The Parisian Woman” Derek McLane (scenic design), Jane Greenwood (costume design), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting design), Darrel Maloney (projections), and Broken Chord (sound design and original composition). Hair Design is by Tom Watson and Make-up Design is by Tommy Kurzman. Casting is by Telsey + Company, Will Cantler CSA. Production photos by Matthew Murphy.

“The Parisian Woman” runs for a limited engagement at the Hudson Theatre (141 West 44th Street). Tickets are now available through www.thehudsonbroadway.com or (855) 801-5876. For further information, including the performance schedule, visit http://parisianwomanbroadway.com/. Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.

Photo (L-R): Uma Thurman as “Chloe,” Josh Lucas as “Tom,” and Marton Csokas as “Peter.” Credit: Matthew Murphy.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, December 7, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Pride and Prejudice” at Primary Stages at Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday January 6, 2018)

Photo: The Cast of “Pride and Prejudice.” Credit: James Leynse.
Off-Broadway Review: “Pride and Prejudice” at Primary Stages at Cherry Lane Theatre (Through Saturday January 6, 2018)
By Kate Hamill (Based on the Novel by Jane Austen)
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Kate Hamill has done it again. The ‘it’ in question, is her remarkable ability to adapt Jane Austen’s iconic novels for the stage. Her adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” had a successful Off-Broadway run of over two-hundred and sixty-five performances. Her current adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” which is playing at Primary Stages at Cherry Lane Theatre should enjoy the same acclimation and longevity. “Pride and Prejudice,” like “Sense and Sensibility,” is more than a mere adaptation: Ms. Hamill’s iteration of the timeless classic is more a retelling of Austen’s story of “how you know when you’ve met the right person.”

Kate Hamill’s retelling also explores the seriousness with which people treat love – romantic and otherwise. Hence, this “Pride and Prejudice” is, in Hamill’s words, “a screwball comedy.” Staged as a delightfully comedic farce, this adaptation rehearses all the novel’s important characters, conflicts, and plots with both a sense of the zany and an awareness of the rich and enduring questions raised by Austen. Director Amanda Dehnert keeps this delightful play moving with a beyond-brisk pace that manages to clearly delineate the novel’s action from beginning to end. If, perchance, an audience member had never read nor heard of “Pride and Prejudice, she or he would easily understand the story and identify every character without confusion or difficulty.

Except for Kate Hamill (Lizzy), Jason O’Connell (Mr. Darcy), and Nance Williamson (Mrs. Bennet), the actors play multiple roles. John Tufts, for example, plays both Bingley (with syrupy bravado) and Mary (with dispassionate jealousy): Mr. Tufts dons a dress and rearranges his hair for Mary. The dress comes off and he rearranges his hair again for Bingley. There are times when Mary becomes Bingley with just the hair adjustment. This might happen because of the rapid costume changes or, perhaps, betimes there is a bit of Bingley in Mary and bit of Mary in Bingley. Anything is possible in this refreshing and engaging retelling.

Mayhem abounds on the Cherry Lane stage as Primary Stages’ “Pride and Prejudice” unfolds its treasure trove of gender-bending antics, near impossible situations, buffoonery, and raucous horseplay. The assumed seriousness of the novel is replaced with the unexpected playfulness of Ms. Hamill’s script, the precision of Ms. Dehnert’s direction, and the brilliant cast assembled for this production. Kate Hamill’s Lizzie bristles with defiance and vulnerability. Jason O’Connell’s Darcy collapses under the weight of reality to understand the importance of true love. Mark Bedard’s Mr. Collins brings comedy to the concept of pedantic.

Chris Thorn’s Mr. Bennet crinkles with austerity and disdain for all things not him and counterpoints Nance Williamson’s Mrs. Bennett’s disdain for Mr. Bennett and all things not her. Rounding out the cast are Kimberly Chatterjee (Lydia and Lady Catherine) and Amelia Pedlow (Jane, Miss DeBourgh) both delivering convincing performances in their multiple roles.

John McDermott’s efficient set design, Tracy Christensen’s durable and character-specific costumes, and Eric Southern’s lighting provide the perfect “space” for Ms. Hamill’s insightful and innovative adaptation. This is a “Pride and Prejudice” for this time and every time and, in its forward-looking approach, invites at least one visit before its proposed closing on Epiphany 2018.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

“Pride and Prejudice” is presented by Primary Stages in association with Jamie deRoy in a co-production with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

The cast of “Pride and Prejudice” includes Mark Bedard, Kimberly Chatterjee, Kate Hamill, Jason O'Connell, Amelia Pedlow, Chris Thorn, John Tufts, and Nance Williamson.

The creative team for “Pride and Prejudice” includes John McDermott (scenic design), Tracy Christensen (costume design), Eric Southern (lighting design), Palmer Hefferan (sound design), and Ellenore Scott (choreography). Roxana Khan serves as production stage manager. Production photos by James Leynse.

“Pride and Prejudice” runs at Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street) through Saturday January 6, 2018. For the schedule of performances, please visit www.PrimaryStages.org.

Single tickets for “Pride and Prejudice “are priced starting at $80.00 with additional premium seating options offered. All tickets are available at www.PrimaryStages.org or by calling OvationTix at 212-352-3101. Running time is 2 hours and 25 minutes with an intermission.

Photo: The Cast of “Pride and Prejudice.” Credit: James Leynse.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, December 7, 2017

Broadway Review: “Once On this Island” at Circle in the Square Theatre (Open Run)

Photo: (L – R): Mia Mei Williamson, Alex Newell, Hailey Kilgore, and the cast of “Once On This Island.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
Broadway Review: “Once On this Island” at Circle in the Square Theatre (Open Run)
Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Directed by Michael Arden
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

“Once On this Island” was certainly an enchanting and memorable visit twenty-seven years ago and that may in fact cloud the opinions expressed when recently returning to this island and commenting on what had changed. Some audience members may have experienced finding an unknown out of the way place that had a simple and charming ambience, with friendly locals that quickly felt like family, as they shared their history and stories. Then you return to that place many years later finding glitzy hotels, hundreds of tourists, silly souvenir shops and inhabitants that spout the history and stories but never really lived them. That is what came to mind while viewing the current incarnation of this wonderful musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The captivating aura that cast a magical spell fueling the imagination of a little girl as she listens to the folklore of the island is replaced by a big Broadway spectacle that is plagued with excess and self-indulgence.

The play opens with the inhabitants of the island cleaning up after a major storm has devastated the area. Then the folkloric story begins to be told to a little girl (the natural and innocent Emerson Davis). A very long time ago a catastrophic storm destroyed the island and in the aftermath, as two older islanders, (portrayed by the remarkable Phillip Boykin and Kenita R. Miller), were wandering through the debris, they discovered a little girl, Ti Moune, sitting high up in a tree. They became her adoptive parents. As Ti Moune grows, (an enthusiastic Hailey Kilgore) she falls in love with the boy Daniel (infused with energy by Isaac Powell) from a wealthy family on the French side of the island after she sees his car crash. She heals him after making a deal with Papa Ge, the god of death (a menacing and sultry Merle Dandrige) to spare him in exchange for her life. After a short time together, she is rejected by the wealthy family as Daniel has an arranged marriage. She cannot live without her love and Death takes her as she walks into the sea.

It is a beautiful story of young love that is laced with all the right elements for teaching, touching on topics of social rejection, racism, caste, ethics, survival and rebirth. One drawback of this production is that at times the story is lost. Obscured by overwrought staging and a superfluous set that includes a sand filled playing area, the sea (yes, water that extends offstage), the back half of a semi-truck, colorful laundry hanging everywhere, a live goat (complete with diaper) and chickens. The tree that flourishes in the final scene representing a rebirth, the inner beauty of Ti Moune and the resounding spirit of the island is a telephone pole that is raised up, I imagine representing restored power.

Vocally the cast is a powerhouse but over amplified and at times disconnected. A highlight of the evening is the song “Ti Moune” delivered with sensitivity and tenderness by Mr. Boykin and Ms. Miller who provide stable characters, honestly connected throughout the story. It is worth the wait to hear Mr. Powell sensitively sing “Some Girls” with a pure tonal quality expressing a sensible vulnerability. It would be remiss not to mention the crowd pleasers, Hailey Kilgore’s “Waiting for Life” and Alex Newell’s big belt “Mama Will Provide.”

Even with all its distraction and pitfalls, for those who have never visited this island before, it will be a marvelous vacation. There would be no reason to revive a musical unless it is seen in a different perspective with new and inventive ideas and visions. This current production under the direction of Michael Arden delivers a big, lavish Broadway musical with show stopping numbers, which are sure to please the current stream of theatergoers.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

“Once On This Island” features Lea Salonga, Alex Newell, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington, and Hailey Kilgore. The cast also includes Phillip Boykin, Darlesia Cearcy, Rodrick Covington, Emerson Davis, Alysha Deslorieux, Tyler Hardwick, Cassondra James, David Jennings, Grasan Kingsberry, Loren Lott, Kenita R. Miller, Isaac Powell, T. Oliver Reid, Aurelia Williams, and.

The creative team for “Once On This Island” includes director Michel Arden, Lynn Ahrens (bookwriter and lyricist), Stephen Flaherty (music), Camille A. Brown (choreographer), Michael Starobin and AnnMarie Milazzo (orchestrators), Dane Laffrey (Scenic Design), Clint Ramos (Costume Design), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Lighting Designers), Peter Hylenski (Sound Designer), John Bertles/Bash The Trash (Unusual Instruments), Cookie Jordan (Hair/Wig & Makeup Designer), Chris Fenwick (Music Supervisor), and Telsey + Co / Craig Burns, CSA (Casting). Alvin Hough, Jr. is the music director. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

For tickets for “Once On This Island” at The Circle in the Square Theatre (235 West 50th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue) and the performance schedule, visit http://www.onceonthisisland.com/. Running time is 90 minutes without intermission.

Photo: (L – R): Mia Mei Williamson, Alex Newell, Hailey Kilgore, and the cast of “Once On This Island.” Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Broadway Review: “JUNK” at the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center Theater (Through Sunday January 7, 2018)

Photo: Steven Pasquale as Robert Merkin in “JUNK.” Credit: T. Charles Erikson.
Broadway Review: “JUNK” at the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center Theater (Through Sunday January 7, 2018)
By Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Doug Hughes
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The highly anticipated new play by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Ayad Akhtar entitled “JUNK” – referring to the bonds sold in the 1980s by Machiavellian inside traders – does tend to sacrifice intrigue for the sake of entertainment. The plot centers around the fictional junk bond king Robert Merkin (played with unscrupulous charisma by Steven Pasquale), as he manipulates his followers, in the same vein as a religious cult leader, to invest in companies prior to a radical takeover, resulting in high profits from insider trading. The script offers no new insight into a subject matter that has already been played out in books, movies and on major broadcast news. The driving action focuses on the capture of the big whale, Moby Dick (Mr. Merkin’s code name), but this device has been around since the game of Chess, manipulating a pawn to get to the king. This is where the predictability diminishes the suspense. Many of the subplots that adorn the central theme seem more acute, offering inquisitive characters and igniting sparks of sexism, racism, and bigotry in a rather lackluster storyline.

With a cast numbering twenty-three it is problematic that there is not one persona that the audience can love or for that matter abhor, which hints at the lack of depth afforded the characters by Mr. Akhtar. Teresa Avia Lim is a breath of fresh air as the reporter Judy Chen (driven with ambition and confidence) who has a sexual tryst with Leo Tresler (infused with crusty bravura of a good old boy by Michael Siberry). Rick Holmes gives an adequate portrayal of Thomas Everson, Jr. but lacks a sincere emotional investment needed to produce an ounce of empathy from the audience. The remaining cast are all competent and do their best to transcend the material.

Director Doug Hughes moves the action along at rapid pace to match the nature of the activities of radical takeovers, inside trading and federal investigation. The sleek abstract two-story set by John Lee Beatty, complimented by the precise and severe corporate lighting of Ben Stanton, outshines the product as it morphs from scene to scene to frame the players and create an underlying atmosphere to compliment the activity at hand. Although the themes of greed, power, deception, and chicanery are relevant to the present socio-economic and political landscape the content seems safe and tame compared to a nightly news broadcast. To those who lived through the financial debacle of the eighties the production may seem somewhat nostalgic. To others it will translate as an interesting and fast paced chronicle that is presented in a very impressive package.

JUNK

The cast of “JUNK” features Ito Aghayere, Phillip James Brannon, Tony Carlin, Demosthenes Chrysan, Jenelle Chu, Caroline Hewitt, Rick Holmes, Ted Koch, Ian Lassiter, Teresa Avia Lim, Adam Ludwig, Sean McIntyre, Nate Miller, Steven Pasquale, Ethan Phillips, Matthew Rauch, Matthew Saldivar, Charlie Semine, Michael Siberry, Miriam Silverman, Joey Slotnick, Henry Stram, and Stephanie Umoh.

“JUNK” has sets by John Lee Beatty, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Ben Stanton, original music and sound by Mark Bennett, and projections by 59 Productions. Production photos by T. Charles Erikson.

“JUNK” runs at the Vivian Beaumont in Lincoln Center Theater (150 West 65th Street) through Sunday January 17, 2018 on the following schedule: Tuesday (7:00 p.m.), Wednesday (2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.), Thursday (7:00 p.m.), Friday (8:00 p.m.), Saturday (2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.,), and Sunday (3:00 p.m.). For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.lct.org/shows/junk/. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.

Photo: Steven Pasquale as Robert Merkin in “JUNK.” Credit: T. Charles Erikson.
2 Comments - Read Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Hundred Days” Transforms Love’s Limits at New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday December 31, 2017)

Photo: The cast of “Hundred Days” at New York Theatre Workshop. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Hundred Days” Transforms Love’s Limits at New York Theatre Workshop (Through Sunday December 31, 2017)
Music and Lyrics by Abigail and Shaun Bengson
Book by Sarah Gancher
Directed by Anne Kauffman
Movement Direction by Sonya Tayeh
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

With their recent collaboration with Sarah Gancher and Anne Kauffman, Abigail and Shaun Bengson (“The Bengsons”) have redefined the meaning of the theatrical convention of the musical. Without elaborate sets, costumes, large ensembles of singers and dancers, and multi-million-dollar budgets, The Bengsons have successfully mounted a stunning musical with a believable story and a brilliantly executed score. “Hundred Days,” currently running at New York Theatre Workshop, is a musical with heart, hope, and a hundred days of pure love that often brings the audience to a shattering stillness.

After a traumatic event in Abigail’s life when she was fifteen, she finds it hard to trust in the future or to trust in the longevity of significant relationships. This “character trait” is affirmed in recurring dreams about the premature death of a loved one that interferes with Abigail’s full commitment to Shaun. How their relationship develops over the contracted period of a hundred days, and how they managed to stay together for ten years is the compelling story behind “Hundred Days.” By making the decision to develop the “theatrical imagining” about a fictional couple (Will and Sarah) by placing their own love story at the piece’s core, Abigail and Shaun have created a compelling musical treatise about the power of love.

The musical begins with the affirmation of The Bengsons’s status as a married couple (not brother and sister) with the song “Vows” – their wedding vows: “All my life I’ve been looking for you Been looking for you/Take my pride and lay it at your feet/A woven mat to keep you.” The balance of the musical is retrospective of their relationship from their first meeting “at the first rehearsal of a massive anti-folk folk-punk old-timey neo soul band” the year after Shaun moved to New York City to their marriage. Each song in that “history” is the perfect balance of pathos, ethos, and logos easily persuading the listener of the depth of the authenticity of their unconditional and non-judgmental love.

After finding Abigail, Shaun follows her suggestion – “Let’s eat” – and they end up in a diner where Shaun “suddenly feels like he knows her. Like time is bending back on itself” and where Abigail recalls, “It was like every door of my body opened and he just wandered in.” Abigail breaks up with her boyfriend and Shaun “breaks up” with his friend Max (“God Can Be a City Boy”) and their journey begins. The Bengsons’s music is eclectic, unique in tone and its rich thematic synchronicity pervades every song and every space between the songs – songs that celebrate sadness, joy, separation, reconciliation, and redemption with a deep and rich spirituality. “Hundred Days” transcends musical theatre where actors play instruments on stage. “Hundred Days” is a musical featuring a band on stage with its members performing a fully developed musical with a beginning, middle, and end.

The show’s songs continue to explore the growth of the relationship between Abigail and Shaun with a mix of rock, blues, and jazz. Sometimes Abigail and Shaun sing solos, sometimes duets, sometimes with the other performers. And sometimes Jo and Reggie sing solos that provide exposition. The styling and staging here are unique and deeply persuasive.

It is difficult to categorize Abigail’s performance of the standout number “Three Legged Dog” except to affirm that Janis Joplin was “somewhere in the house.” Abigail rehearses the haunting possibility of losing Shaun and how she will “survive” his loss: “When you go my shards will scatter/Half of me is dying too.” In what might be the climax of the musical, she decides to leave. Shaun immediately begins to search for her, singing: “I thought god was a friend/Who would help make things easier/I thought time was/On my side/I thought love was supposed/To make things easier/Now love is/A long goodbye.”

The conversation (“Transcription”) that follows is a prolonged dialogue between Alison and Shaun during which they share their fears and hopes about aging and the vicissitudes of life and look forward to becoming “other stuff together” and overcome Abigail’s concern “That everyone [she loves] gets sick or dies or goes mad” by embracing the inevitability of aging and death. After the sharing, they decide to get married “in real life.”

The show’s final number “Bells” is the first song Abigail and Shaun wrote together: it was written for Abigail to sing after Shaun “is gone.” The lyrics and music are both haunting and life-affirming: “I can sing Gloria/the lights over Astoria/I know you are alone/I know you can’t come home. The musical ends with the couple affirming to “say yes to sickness; to say yes to health; to say yes to riches and to brokenness.” They say yes to the future, to futility, to trying, and yes to death doing us part” affirming “What else can we do?”

The “Family Band” is without comparison: the members not only excel in performance on keyboard, guitar, drums and percussion, cello, and accordion; they also act, sing, and move with “triple threat” persuasiveness. Colette Alexander, Jo Lampert, Dani Markham, and Reggie D. White join Abigail and Shaun in this marathon of a new musical. The creative team of Kris Stone, Sydney Gallas, Andrew Hungerford, Nicholas Pope, and Lindsey Turteltaub create a space where The Bengsons create magic and transcend all expectations set by traditional musical theatre. Sonya Tayeh’s movement direction creates exquisite images throughout the performance.

“Hundred Days” celebrates Saying ‘yes’ to life and all its uncertainties: celebrates facing the fear of loneliness, rejection, and being able to take each other’s troubles “into” each other. It is an event not to be missed and will certainly have a life beyond this iteration at the iconic New York Theatre Workshop.

HUNDRED DAYS

For more information about “Hundred Days” visit https://www.nytw.org/. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: The cast of “Hundred Days” at New York Theatre Workshop. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Torch Song” Wobbles at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater (Extended through Saturday December 9, 2017)

Photo: Michael Rosen and Michael Urie star in the revival of Harvey Fierstein's “Torch Song,” directed by Moisés Kaufman, at Second Stage Theatre. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Torch Song” Wobbles at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater (Extended through Saturday December 9, 2017)
By Harvey Fierstein
Directed by Moisés Kaufman
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Loneliness, the quest for authentic and meaningful love, the fear of rejection, the need for respect, and the excruciating separation from situations of abuse are not unique to members of the LGBTQ community of any decade or location and perhaps that is why audiences have responded positively to Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy” since its Broadway production in 1982 at New York’s Little Theatre (the Helen Hayes). Harvey Fierstein’s adaptation at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater is titled “Torch Song:” it is staged in two acts with Arnold’s (Michael Urie) soliloquy and the original act names intact. Four hours have been trimmed down to two hours and forty minutes.

The characters and their conflicts are familiar – even more familiar than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. And the plots and subplots driven by their conflicts are even more recognizable. Scenes in The International Stud (Act I), Fugue in a Nursery (Act II), and Widows and Children First (Act III) chronicle Arnold’s yearning for love (and family), his falling in love with Ed (Ward Horton), the “straight” man who is dating Arnold and Laurel (Roxanna Hope Radja) concurrently, his significant relationship with Alan (Michael Rosen), his adopted son David (Jack DiFalco), and his confrontation with his possessive mother Ma (Mercedes Ruehl). Michael Urie tenderly and authentically portrays these stages in Arnold’s quest for acceptance and meaningful relationships.

The action of the truncated trilogy is, unfortunately, uneven. In Act I, the extended phone conversation between Arnold and Ed is awkward: the dialogue seems worn and overwrought. Conversely, Mr. Horton delivers a compelling account of his suicide dream. Act II, Fugue in a Nursery, is energetic and well-directed by Moisés Kaufman. Although reminiscent of a scene in Sondheim’s “Company,” the act moves briskly and allows the actors to explore their formidable comedic skills. Sadly, the act also highlights all sorts of infidelity and chicanery too often associated with the LGBTQ community and raises an enduring and rich questions: Why do members of the LGBTQ family respond so positively (standing ovations) to theatre that portrays its members in less than affirmative qualities? Are we simply grateful to have plays that deal with LGBTQ themes?

Act III, Widows and Children First is the least satisfying. Ms. Ruehl delivers a robust Ma; unfortunately, Ma is a despicable and selfish character that Arnold should not need to include in his new understanding of elective family. The ending of the play provides less than a satisfying catharsis.

Under Mr. Kaufman’s careful direction, the members of cast deliver believable performances despite the stereotypical traits of each character. David Zinn’s sparse, elevated, and movable set is functional and appropriate. Clint Ramos’s costumes are period perfect. David Lander’s lighting adds significantly to the mood of the piece and does Fitz Patton’s sound design.

There are times when the characters border on becoming cartoons. This occurs predominantly in Act III after Ma arrives on the scene. The conversations – mostly the arguments – between Ma and Arnold reek of situation comedy. This is unfortunate, because it is in these encounters that Mr. Fierstein’s argument for Arnold’s independence and separation and individuation from his abusive mother are meant to be resolved. It is difficult to discern whether this misfortune is the result of Mr. Kaufman’s direction or Mr. Fierstein’s writing although the latter would be the better choice. The tone here is transparently Fierstein and perhaps the autobiographical nature of the piece unburdens here.

The journey to achieving Arnold’s commendable goals is a universal one as are the characters in “Torch Song.” One wishes for more relevant themes for the LGBTQ community in the first half of the twenty-first century.

TORCH SONG

“Torch Song” features Michael Urie as Arnold Beckoff and Mercedes Ruehl as Ma, as well as Jack DiFalco as David, Ward Horton as Ed, Roxanna Hope Radja as Laurel, and Michael Rosen as Alan.

“Torch Song” features scenic design by David Zinn; costume design by Clint Ramos; lighting design by David Lander; sound design by Fitz Patton; hair design by Charles G. LaPointe; make-up design by Joe Dulude II; and casting by Telsey + Company. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“Torch Song” plays through Saturday December 9, 2017 at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater (305 West 43rd Street New York, NY 10036) on the following schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday at 7:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. For further information and to purchase tickets, please visit https://2st.com/ or call 212-239-6200. Running time is 2 hours and 40 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

Photo: Michael Rosen and Michael Urie star in the revival of Harvey Fierstein's “Torch Song,” directed by Moisés Kaufman, at Second Stage Theatre. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, December 1, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “The Mad Ones” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday December 17, 2017)

Photo: Jay Armstrong Johnson (as Adam) and Krystina Alabado (as Samantha Brown) in Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk’s “The Mad Ones” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Richard Termine.
Off-Broadway Review: “The Mad Ones” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday December 17, 2017)
Book, Music and Lyrics by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk
Directed by Stephen Brackett
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

The New York premiere of the not-so-new musical “The Mad Ones” is making its New York premiere and being presented by Prospect Theater Company at 59E59 theaters. It is a coming of age story that is propelled by the Jack Kerouac’s iconic 1957 novel “On the Road” but laden with clichés, superfluous situations and a skimpy script that tries to invent reasons to perform fourteen musical numbers. The title is taken from a line in the novel “The only people for me are the Mad Ones”. It is hard to determine exactly what creators Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk are attempting to convey when the issues of grief, angst, separation, identity and expectation are merely skirted with no effort to produce a dramatic arc or for that matter any reason to continue to the next scene.

The entire show consists of a series of flashbacks, except for the first and last scenes, where valedictorian Samantha Brown sits in a car deciding on her future. What goes through her mind as she contemplates going to an Ivy League college, staying with her boyfriend or hitting the open road for freedom and adventure, is conveyed by several vignettes, with each containing a song. Any dialogue within or connecting these scenes seems redundant since many of the lyrics usually provide the necessary information and conflicts needed to move the action forward. The musical numbers are written in the Broadway belt fashion and after a while acquire a sameness that diminishes the crisis or turmoil at hand.

The cast is nothing less than remarkable. Krystina Alabado creates an intelligent yet vulnerable Sam with all the angst of a teenager trying to make sense of the world while stepping over the threshold into adulthood. Her vocal stamina is amazing, always delivered with a pure tonal quality. The free-spirited Kelly is infused with undeniable energy by Emma Hunton. Her presence electrifies the stage as she is fierce but fragile, loud but lonely, frivolous but wise with a vocal that erupts to shake the rafters. Leah Hocking brings her endless experience to bring depth and honesty to Beverly, as a single mother and over achiever with a solid vocal that matches her stable character. Jay Armstrong Johnson portrays Adam as oddly simple, content with himself and infused with sensitivity. This a perfectly cast show that manages to overcome the shortcomings of the material.

Direction by Stephen Brackett is conventional and pedestrian which does not match or compliment the complexity of the script’s convention and structure. Orchestrations by Mr. Lowdermilk are heavy on the strings but serve the dramatic content well. Since the project has been around for several years and this is the latest incarnation it should not bow to the problems that still exist. It is not an unpleasant experience but nothing exceptional or groundbreaking.

THE MAD ONES

Produced by Prospect Theater Company, “The Mad Ones” runs through Sunday December 17, 2017 at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues).

The cast of “The Mad Ones” features Krystina Alabado as Samantha Brown; Emma Hunton as her best friend Kelly; and Ben Fankhauser as Adam, her boyfriend. Leah Hocking rounds out the cast as Beverly Brown (Samantha’s mom).

“The Mad Ones” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, December 17. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Thursday at 7:00 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Single tickets are $25 - $70 ($25 - $49 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Jay Armstrong Johnson (as Adam) and Krystina Alabado (as Samantha Brown) in Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk’s “The Mad Ones” at 59E59 Theaters. Credit: Richard Termine.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, November 30, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Harry Clarke” Wrangles with Reality at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday December 3, 2017)

Photo: Billy Crudup in “Harry Clarke.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
Off-Broadway Review: “Harry Clarke” Wrangles with Reality at the Vineyard Theatre (Through Sunday December 3, 2017)
By David Cale
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Harry Clarke (the persona and the person) was born out of the dysfunctional matrix of paternal abuse and maternal collusion that plagued Philip Brugglestein from his childhood through his adulthood. David Cale’s play “Harry Clarke,” currently playing at the Vineyard Theatre, is a complex and engaging psychological study of dissociative identity disorder (DID) and explores the provenance of that condition from the point of view of a man (Billy Crudup) who fled one identity and was pursued by a second that alternately brought him both pleasure and pain.

Mr. Cale’s script is carefully developed: it has a well-defined dramatic arc and it features interesting and well-developed characters with engaging and believable conflicts that drive a plot rich in twists and turns that holds the audience’s interest for the entire eighty minutes when performed. Under Leigh Silverman’s astute and unobtrusive direction, Billy Crudup engages in a dramatic battle with the script and comes up the clear victor, unearthing Mr. Cale’s treasures and bringing Harry Clarke to life with inexorable energy and irrepressible wit. Alexander Dodge’s sparse set and Alan C. Edwards’s judicious lighting contribute to the success of the performance.

Billy Crudup plays twelve characters (or more) in addition to Philip Brugglestein and his cockney Doppelganger Harry Clarke, including his abusive parents and the police officer who awakened Philip to tell him of his father’s death. After Philip’s father’s death, he moves to New York City where he and Harry impose themselves upon Mark Schmidt. Mr. Crudup portrays – rather creates – Mark, Mark’s father and his Mother Ruth, Mark’s sister Stephanie, Luke (whom he meets in a bar) from Camden, and attorneys Brad Gould and Ryan.

Mr. Crudup gives each of these dynamic characters unique personalities, facial gestures, and body movements. He accomplishes this remarkable, near impossible, task with the ease of turning a page in a script and the skill of one of the stage’s most accomplished actors. One can see Crudup’s characters not only in the traditional ways outlined earlier; one can also see the actor imagining these characters “in his head.” He even sings Stephanie’s song “Wide Back Boy” with seductive charm.

Philip and Harry (one needs to mention both personas) make it to England. How and why are the resolution of the play and it would require a spoiler’s alert to provide more details. The journey from Indiana to England provides ample opportunity for Harry to regain control over Philip and place him in challenging – albeit fascinating – situations. Each requires Philip to grapple with his personality, his superego, and his tolerance of taking risks that might result in Philip losing complete control to Harry.

David Cale’s expansive character study of the young Philip Brugglestein from South Bend, Indiana and his “alter ego” Harry Clarke raises the rich and enduring question, “Are there limits to what one does to escape verbal, psychological, and – perhaps – sexual abuse to preserve one’s life?” Additionally, is one always in control of the circumstances surrounding the techniques of survival? Finally, “Harry Clarke” successfully questions all assumptions about individual identity, ego strength, and personality that leave the audience members wondering just how much they know about themselves and their choices.

HARRY CLARKE

“Harry Clark” starring Billy Crudup runs at the Vineyard Theatre through Sunday December 3, 2017.

The design team includes scenic design by Alexander Dodge, costume design by Kaye Voyce, lighting design by Alan Edwards, and sound design by Bart Fasbender. Original songs by David Cale. Casting by Henry Russell Bergstein, CSA. Shelly Miles serves as production stage manager. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.

Tickets to “Harry Clarke” can be purchased online at www.vineyardtheatre.org or by calling the box office at 212-353-0303. The Vineyard Theatre link also includes performance dates and times and further information on the production. Running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes with no intermission.

Photo: Billy Crudup in “Harry Clarke.” Credit: Carol Rosegg.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, November 27, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Stuffed” at the Westside Theatre Downstairs (Through Sunday February 18, 2018

Photo: Marsha Stephanie Blake and Lisa Lampanelli. Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
Off-Broadway Review: “Stuffed” at the Westside Theatre Downstairs (Through Sunday February 18, 2018)
By Lisa Lampanelli
Directed by Jackson Gay
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

If you are in the mood for insult comedy that claims to take the important topic of women and weight seriously – but does not – then Lisa Lampanelli’s “Stuffed,” currently enjoying a revival at the Westside Theatre Downstairs, might be a show to put on your “must-see” list. However, if you think making jokes about the color of Michael Jackson’s skin and other ethnic humor is distasteful (which this critic believes it is), then you would be better off staying home and having a piece of cake and not worrying about your weight. True, Ms. Lampanelli’s trademark ethnic humor is downplayed here; however, when it does take center stage it comes across as completely inappropriate and fails to make any connection to any valuable rhetorical argument about food and its discontents.

“Stuffed” addresses the gamut of issues surrounding weight and its gain or loss (intentional or otherwise), including: body-image; clothing; shaming; anorexia-bulimia; dieting; therapy; favorite foods; binging; purging; peer support; and protein shakes. The playwright alternates between her own style of stand-up comedy with a variety of sketches about the weight issues. She then stuffs the script with monologues from each of the fictional characters meant apparently to seduce the audience into caring and possibly experiencing a needed catharsis.

Lisa Lampanelli plays herself here and, in her stand-up routines, delivers some funny material – mostly when it is self-deprecating or political. Her bit stalking her opponent in a debate on who wins, skinny or fat people, Lampanelli successfully riffs the Trump-Clinton Presidential debate. Joining her are Marsha Stephanie Blake who plays Katey the “skinny” African-American woman who cannot gain weight; Lauren Ann Brickman who plays Marty the “size 18-or-over woman with true inner confidence;” and Eden Malyn who plays Britney the recovering bulimic/anorexic. Ms. Blake fares best here and brings to the lackluster script a sense of authenticity and pathos in her monologue about her mother taking her to buy her first bra.

In one of her monologues, Ms. Lampanelli shares a part of the session she had with her “shrink” after the death of her friend Frank. When the therapist innocently asks how Big Frank died, Lampanelli goes into a comedic rant about Frank’s weight and his diabetes and how her “half-a-clam of a shrink hits her with, you don’t have to be funny.” Her therapist’s suggestion was appropriate, and that diagnosis applies to “Stuffed” as a whole: the playwright tries too hard to be funny about a subject that ultimately is not funny, and which has been covered by comedians for decades. Had the playwright written the story of Big Frank with more sensitivity it could have been persuasive, empowering, and cathartic. Jackson Gay’s direction is tangential at best and might have contributed to some of the questionable choices made in the staging.

Perhaps Lisa Lampanelli might consider performing a shorter stand-up routine and play all the characters in “Stuffed.” If the play remains in its present format, the three characters need to be re-written with clearer and unique conflicts and developed with the depth that would endear the audience to them, caring about them and their significant struggles. “Stuffed” provides some laughs but too often at the expense of the characters it wishes to lift up and champion. In short, “Stuffed” is pleasant stand-up comedy; however, it is not theatre.

STUFFED

The cast of “Stuffed” features Marsha Stephanie Blake, Nikki Blonsky, Lisa Lampanelli, and Eden Malyn.

The creative team for “Stuffed” includes set design by Antje Ellerman, costume design by Jessica Ford, lighting design by Amith Chandrashaker, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop, and casting by Stewart/Whitley. Production photos by Jeremy Daniel.

“Stuffed” performs at the Westside Theatre (Downstairs, 407 West 43rd Street) on the following schedule: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available by visiting http://stuffedplay.com/. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.

Photo: Marsha Stephanie Blake and Lisa Lampanelli. Credit: Jeremy Daniel.
3 Comments - Read Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” at The Pershing Square Signature Center’s Irene Diamond Stage (Through Sunday November 26, 2017)

Photo: Edi Gathegi and Ricardo Chavira. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” at The Pershing Square Signature Center’s Irene Diamond Stage (Through Sunday November 26, 2017)
By Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Mark Brokaw
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

The value of enduring questions is that they are not specific to a time or place or event. Theatre should be raising enduring questions and conflicts that playwrights (and their cultures) grappled with hundreds of years ago and remain relevant today? Stephen Adly Guirgis raises several such questions in the revival of his play “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train,” currently running at The Pershing Square Signature Center’s Irene Diamond Stage. The conflicts occur between: prisoners Lucius Jenkins (Edi Gathegi) and Angel Cruz (played with a passivity that masquerades a deep-seated wrath by Sean Carvajal); the prisoners and their guards Valdez (Ricardo Chavira) and Charlie D’Amico (played with a compassion that does not match his environment by Erick Betancourt; and Angel and his public defender Mary Jane Hanrahan (played with a steely determinism by Stephanie DiMaggio).

Both Lucius and Angel are imprisoned on Rikers Island and – for reasons of their safety – are housed in a special 23-hour lock-down wing. Lucius spends as much time in the wing’s yard where he enjoys the warmth of the sun: Angel spends the same amount of time with no apparent reward except his gradual exposure to Lucius’s peculiar Weltanschauung and dogged proselytization. Lucius in “inside” for murdering eight people. Angel is incarcerated for shooting the Rev. Kim “in the rear” at the pastor’s church from which he hoped to “kidnap” his friend Joey. Joey has been “brainwashed” by Kim’s cult-like congregation. Playwright Guirgis once attempted a similar rescue of a friend from the Unification Church.

Charlie, Lucius’s “benevolent” guard is replaced by Valdez after the “system” discovers Charlie shares too many cigarettes and home-made cookies with Lucius. Charlie knows Lucius will be extradited to Florida where he will be executed by lethal injection and treats Lucius with respect and an unexpected humanity. Valdez – the only character with one name – replaces cigarettes and cookies with body slams, threats, and racist invectives. He is pure evil and is cruelty incarnate, and Mr. Chavira successfully brings to his character the epitome of despicable behavior. “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” carefully strips away the façade of “right and wrong,” “innocence and guilt,” and “good and bad” to expose the horror of “discarding” human being – a discarding that is “irreparable” and will “last forever.” The play also resounds with the horrific wonder of the cycle of redemption.

Lucius is successful at “doing theology,” developing a complex and workable theology that allows him to understand his own situation and share his faith with Angel. This is a remarkable survival technique that theologians have for years attempted to teach “the faithful.” Lucius processes his situation from the POV of the New Testament, specifically the crucifixion of Jesus. He also echoes John’s warning to the Church in Laodicea not to be “lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.” Lucius urges Angel to “speak out” and admit to his wrongdoing, to be either “freezing or blazing” but “never cool.”

Angel, unlike Lucius, fails to “do theology.” He reflects on being “saved” by Jesus who hopped the ‘A’ train to allow him and his friend Joey to release their grip on one another and get off the subways tracks before the arrival of the train. He understands “salvation” in the subway tunnel but not in the special 23-hour lock-down wing of protective custody on Rikers Island where Lucius models salvation in every breath he takes, in every word he speaks. However, just moments before Lucius is extradited to Florida, he “gets through” to Angel and, on the stand, Angel refuses Mary Jane’s stern warnings and admits to shooting and attempting to kill the Rev. Kim.

The play raises rich and enduring questions regarding justice and morality; moral ambiguity; and guilt and innocence. When is it all right to lie to save one’s life? How does systemic racism affect prison populations? Is the justice system just? The playwright uses a variety of rhetorical strategies to address these questions including parallel structures, comparison and contrast, and cause and effect. Other carefully developed tropes used are rich imagery and figurative language.

Contrast the moral integrity of the man who killed 8 people with the man who, with his attorney, tried to get cleared of charges for intending to kill a religious leader (Unification Church Kim) and shot him in the rear. Mary Jane needs a victory and is convinced Angel will be acquitted if only he lies on the stand – to avoid being accused of suborning her client. She “finds honor” in Angel’s attempts to bring his friend Joey back from Rev. Kim’s cult.

Lucius is correct. Those in systems do far worse than he has done with no remorse. Lucius was molested, raped, victimized, and abused as a child. The system never intervened, never attempted to save him. In his final act of defiance and empowerment, Lucius is executed by the same system that failed to protect him – “high as a kite.” Edi Gathegi’s performance is haunting and exhilarating and he portrays Lucius with a depth of authenticity that scatters chards of catharsis across the stage and throughout the theatre.

JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN

The cast of “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” includes Erick Betancourt, Sean Carvajal, Ricardo Chavira, Stephanie DiMaggio, and Edi Gathegi.

The creative team includes Riccardo Hernandez (Scenic Design), Dede M. Ayite (Costume Design), Scott Zielinski (Lighting Design), M.L. Dogg (Sound Design), Deborah Hecht (Dialect Coach), Cookie Jordan (Wig and Makeup Design). Linda Marvel is the Production Stage Manager. Casting by Caparelliotis Casting. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

To purchase tickets for all Signature productions, call Ticket Services at 212-244-7529 (Tuesday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.) or visit www.SignatureTheatre.org. Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

Photo: Edi Gathegi and Ricardo Chavira. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Sunday, October 29, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Occupied Territories” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday November 5, 2017)

Photo: Donte Bonner and Scott Thomas. Credit: Colin Hovde.
Off-Broadway Review: “Occupied Territories” at 59E59 Theaters (Through Sunday November 5, 2017)
Written by Nancy Bannon and Mollye Maxner
Directed by Mollye Maxner
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

One of the territories occupied in Nancy Bannon and Mollye Maxner’s “Occupied Territories,” currently running at 59E59 Theaters, is the Jungle of Vietnam in 1967 during what seemed at the time to be an interminable and unpopular war. In the revival of the Theater Alliance’s 2015 play, that war appears as a haunting memory for Jude (Nancy Bannon) and her sister Helena (Kelley Rae O’Donnell) as, forty-five years later, they begin to sort out the contents of the family home basement following the funeral of their father Collins (Cody Robinson) and begin to grapple – in profoundly different ways – with the beginnings of the stages of grief.

Jude is “on leave” from rehab to attend her father’s funeral and recalls her father as a distant and abusive man who once looked her in the eye at the dinner table when she was nine years old and told her, “Jude, this family stuff is not real love. Real love is between soldiers fighting for each other’s lives. That’s love. Not this.” Jude’s memories of her father include screaming at his wife and family “for hours over nothing” and “duct taping mom’s mouth and hands.” Her father was in Vietnam for eleven months; however, he never shared much about his experiences there with his family.

Helena is more forgiving, relegating her father’s shortcomings to PTSD and “doing the best he could.” She is not as forgiving of Jude and her inability to break the cycle of addiction to drugs and care for her daughter Alex (Ciela Elliott) – despite Jude’s addiction perhaps related to her father’s dependence on prescription pain medication including Oxycontin, Valium, and Percoset which Helena claims Jude “loves.” “Occupied Territories” explores the intricies of Jude’s memory: those times when her memories of her father are reliable and the other times when the crevices of her sometimes-fallible memories need to be caressed with facts. As Jude reads journals and views slides, her “restored” memory is played out in a series of flashbacks.

Under Mollye Maxner’s thoughtful direction, the flashback scenes generated by memory and the basement’s detritus are both realistic and chilling. Spread beyond Andrew R. Cohen’s well-crafted basement set is the expansive Vietnam Jungle where the action of the war is played out just inches from the audience. The flashbacks include an electrifying dance sequence choreographed by Kelly Maxner that serves as an extended metaphor for Collins’s (and others’) experiences in the Vietnam Jungle and in war in general. The powerful pas de duex includes Hawk (Nile Harris) and Hardcore (Nate Yaffe) and covers the entire set with leaps and tosses that seem to defy possibility.

The remaining cast of soldiers are archetypes of what war demands of its participants and the actors portray their characters with a depth of sensitivity and metacognition: Diego Aguirre (Lucky); Donte Bonner (Ace); Thony Mena (Alvarez); and Scott Thomas (Ski) join Mr. Robinson, Mr. Harris, and Mr. Yaffe in rehearsing the intimacy of those who fight in wars together along with their fears, their dreams, and their deep sense of remorse.

One might wish the two worlds of basement and jungle – separated by time and space – were more directly connected; however, these at best are parallel worlds or worlds occupying different dimensions. Realism counterpoints fantasy and memory in “Occupied Territories” in sometimes complex and, perhaps, confusing ways. The overall effect, though challenging, is satisfactory and addresses more than Jude’s “reconciliation” with her father’s life in Vietnam. In addition to the Vietnam Jungle, the play addresses the occupied territories of the childhood home and its basement full of memories; of time and space; between characters; between characters and significant life events; and of addiction and collusion. These are territories not only worthy of exploration but territories necessary for survival, and healing, and redefining the meaning of love.

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES

The cast features Diego Aguirre, Nancy Bannon, Donte Bonner, Ciela Elliott, Nile Harris, Thony Mena, Kelley Rae O'Donnell, Cody Robinson, Scott Thomas, and Nathan Jan Yaffe.

The design team includes Brian MacDevitt (production design); Andrew R. Cohen (set design); Rob Siler (lighting design); Mathew M. Nielsen (sound design and original music); and Kelsey Hunt (costume design). “Occupied Territories” is choreographed by Kelly Maxner. The Production Stage Manager is Kaelyn Kreicbergs. Production photos by Colin Hovde.

“Occupied Territories” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, November 5. The performance schedule is Wednesday - Thursday at 7:15 PM, Friday at 8:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM and 8:15 PM; and Sunday at 3:15 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues). Single tickets are $35 ($24.50 for 59E59 Members). $20 discounted tickets are available to Veterans, Retired, and Active Military. To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org. Running time is 90 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Donte Bonner and Scott Thomas. Credit: Colin Hovde.
2 Comments - Read Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, October 26, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Oedipus El Rey” Creates Mythos at The Public’s Shiva Theater (Through Sunday December 3, 2017)

Photo: Joel Perez, Juan Castano, Brian Quijada, and Reza Salazar. Credit: Joan Marcus.
Off-Broadway Review: “Oedipus El Rey” Creates Mythos at The Public’s Shiva Theater (Through Sunday December 3, 2017)
By Luis Alfaro
Directed by Chay Yew
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

“No one should be considered fortunate until dead.” – Greek Maxim

The fifth century B.C.E. is not the present-day Los Angeles borderlands: although the bones of Sophocles’ tragedy “Oedipus Rex” engaged the citizenry of Athens, urban America needs a Phoenix-like rebirth and retelling of the ancient tale to affect an authentic catharsis. Luis Alfaro’s “Oedipus El Rey,” currently running at The Public’s Shiva Theater, deconstructs the classic distilling it to its essence and reconstructs the tragedy with a painful and sometimes disquieting relevance to metamodernism.

Oedipus (Juan Castano) is serving time in a California State Prison and is about to be released. His father Tiresias (Julio Monge) remains in prison but has prepared his son for this new phase in his life. Oedipus wants to “be something more,” “a man of principle,” “a man with a plan,” “a man with no limits.” He is the playwright’s Everyman who seeks to break free of all systems that oppress, and discriminate, and incarcerate. The Coro (Chorus) provides much of the exposition needed to ready the audience for Oedipus’s journeys to Highway 99, Calle Broadway in Los Angeles, and ultimately to La Casa at 1324 Toberman Street in Pico-Union, Los Angeles, the barrio where, after inadvertently killing his real father Laius (Juan Francisco Villa), and battling his jealous uncle Creon (Joel Perez), he tragically weds his birth mother Jocasta (Sandra Delgado).

Although “Oedipus El Rey” contains scenes highly reminiscent of “Oedipus Rex,” it is important to remember that Mr. Alfaro’s play is something new and transcendent. His Oedipus struggles with Fate and the Parliament of Owls, challenges the Tribunal of Los Healers, and confounds the Sphinx. The focus on the love between Oedipus and Jocasta (before he knows she is his birth mother) is refreshing and transformative. Oedipus challenges her to expose her loneliness and her need for “protection” and “love.” Under Chay Yew’s sensitive direction, Mr. Castano and Ms. Delgado bring the depth of ethos and pathos to their “falling in love” scene between Oedipus and Jocasta (intimacy direction by UnkleDave’s Fight House).

In his initial conversations with Jocasta, it is touching to hear Oedipus rehearse all that he learned while in prison: he completed his G. E. D. “I didn’t cheat. It took me a while, but I got through it. I also got some training in things,” he tells Jocasta. “Serving food. Fixing cars. Cooking. Cleaning.” This is an Oedipus, brilliantly and beautifully portrayed by Juan Castano, who does not want to be defined by his past and who refuses to be controlled by deities or fates. Jocasta, portrayed with a hopefulness rooted in tradition, warns Oedipus, “You might think you have the power to make the world you want to make, but there’s someone upstairs pulling your strings. You think you got here on your own? We all got destiny. We all got a story that was written for us a long time ago. We’re just characters in a book. We’re already history and we just started living. Our story has already been told. Were fated.”

Riccardo Hernandez’s sliding prison doors set counterpoints the themes of imprisonment to institutions and ideas and Lap Chi Chu’s lighting splashes the stage with pools of sensuality, reconciliation, redemption, and release. Director Chay Yew’s exhilarating staging is supported by Fabian Obispo’s haunting original music and sound design.

Luis Alfaro’s “Oedipus El Rey” raises rich and enduring questions, some timeless, some relevant to the current socio-economic environment. Do all choices involve consequences? Is it possible to choose to do something without experiencing consequences? Is there a difference between ‘destiny’ and ‘fate?” What is that difference? Has our story, as Jocasta believes, been already told or can we, as Oedipus hoped, begin a new story? Or the even richer question raised by the Chorus (Reza Salazar, Brian Quijada, and Joel Perez), “Can we live the story not yet told, and the possibility not yet imagined? Or are we fated?” And, for all of these questions, do the “answers” necessitate “either-or” responses?

Also compelling is one of Oedipus’s final questions, “Do we have to believe everything they tell us?” Equally compelling is the question of the Coro, “Do we lay down and take what the world has given us? Or do we break down the cycle, the system, and tell new stories?” The answers to those questions filter out of the theatre with the audience as members grapple with this new and transformative myth that invites new stories brimming with resistance.

OEDIPUS EL REY

The cast of “Oedipus El Rey” features Juan Castano (Oedipus, Coro); Sandra Delgado (Jocasta); Julio Monge (Tiresias, Coro); Joel Perez (Creon, Coro); Brian Quijada (Coro); Reza Salazar (Coro); and Juan Francisco Villa (Laius, Coro).

“Oedipus El Rey” features scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez, costume design by Anita Yavich, lighting design by Lap Chi Chu, original music and sound design by Fabian Obispo, and fight and intimacy direction by UnkleDave’s Fight House. Production photos by Joan Marcus.

“Oedipus El Rey” plays at The Public’s Shiva Theater on the following schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. There is an added 2:00 p.m. performance on Wednesday, November 22. There is no performance on Thursday, November 23 at 8:00 p.m. Public Theater Partner and Member tickets, as well as single tickets starting at $60, can be accessed now by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Running time is 100 minutes without an intermission.

Photo: Joel Perez, Juan Castano, Brian Quijada, and Reza Salazar. Credit: Joan Marcus.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Off-Broadway Review: “Desperate Measures” at the York Theatre Company (Through Sunday October 29, 2017)

Pictured (left to right): Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, and Conor Ryan. Credit: Carol Rosegg.
Off-Broadway Review: “Desperate Measures” at the York Theatre Company (Through Sunday October 29, 2017)
Book and Lyrics by Peter Kellogg
Music by David Friedman
Directed and Choreographed by Bill Castellino
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Although billed as being “loosely based” on the classic Shakespearian comedy, “Desperate Measures,” currently playing at the York Theatre Company, has the “guts” of “Measure for Measure” with the charm and appeal of a traditional Broadway musical. Peter Kellogg and David Friedman are to be commended for achieving this feat and bringing this clever retelling to the stage.

Somewhere out West in the late 1800s, Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan) has been jailed for shooting and killing a man in a fight over Bella Rose (Lauren Molina) the chanteuse at the local saloon. Johnny is scheduled to hang and reaches out to his cell mate Father Morse (Gary MaraCcek) who has been jailed for intoxication and gives more credence to Friedrich Nietzsche than to the Deity. His only hope is his sister Susanna (Emma Degerstedt) who is just days away from becoming a nun – Sister Mary Jo. Hopefully the good Sister sister can convince Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber (Nick Wyman) to pardon her brother and allow Sheriff Martin Green (Pater Saide) to set Johnny free.

The parallels to Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” genuinely please the audience in this rollicking romantic retelling. Susanna and the Sheriff have a crush on one another. The Governor has a crush on Susanna (or is it Bella?). Johnny and Bella want to marry and start a family. And Father Morse just wants to get drunk and correspond with the now dead Nietzsche.

The discerning Shakespeare aficionado will recognize (in addition to the bare bones of the plot): Vincentio the Duke (Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber); a morally unambiguous Angelo the Deputy (Sheriff Green); a Claudio (Johnny Blood); his sister Isabella – with a bit of the Nun (Susanna); Claudio’s Beloved Juliet – with a bit of Mistress Overdone (Bella Rose); and the Duke’s alter ego Friar Peter (Father Morse).

Also present are the engaging themes of “Measure for Measure.” This retelling manages to address law and order, justice, hypocrisy, and moral ambiguity in comedic ways without dismissing their importance in the Wild West and in the current socio-political environment. There’s even a not-so-veiled jab at the current occupants of the White House as well as mistaken identity and Peter Kellogg’s rhyming iambic pentameter. There is enough here for many of the audience members to have seen the musical more than once.

This is a pleasant musical that celebrates the enduring themes of love, commitment, and “being alive.” The cast is uniformly engaging – all triple threats with vocal, acting, and movement skills. They stay true to their characters and deliver authentic and believable performances. The eighteen musical numbers range from the comedic to the sublime. Mr. Friedman’s music is varied in style and inspiration and complements Mr. Kellogg’s lively book and lyrics perfectly. Favorites are Susanna’s “Look in Your Heart,” Johnny’s “Good to Be Alive,” and “The Way You Feel Inside” the trio by Susanna, Bella, and the Sheriff. Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, Lauren Molina, and Conor Ryan have exceptionally fine voices with extensive ranges and can interpret and deliver lyrics with sensitivity and nuance.

Will Sheriff Green and Susanna unite and marry? Will Bella and Johnny get hitched? Will Father Morse discover the truth about the letter he received from Friedrich Nietzsche? Will the Governor show any remorse for his despicable behavior? Perhaps Bella and Susanna’s duet “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Lifelong Commitment” provides a hint. See “Desperate Measures” before it pulls up stakes and leaves town.

DESPERATE MEASURES

Directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino and with music direction by David Hancock Turner, the six-member cast of “Desperate Measures” features Emma Degerstedt as Susanna/Sister Mary Jo, Gary Marachek as Father Morse, Lauren Molina as Bella Rose, Conor Ryan as Johnny Blood, Peter Saide as Sheriff Green, and Nick Wyman as Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber.

The creative team includes James Morgan (set), Nicole Wee (costumes), Paul Miller (lights), Julian Evans (sound), Deb Gaouette (props), Carol Hanzel (casting), Joseph Hayward (associate director), and Kevin Maloof (production manager). The Production Stage Manager is Christine Lemme with Assistant Stage Manager Laura C. Nelson. Production photos by Carol Rosegg.

“Desperate Measures” plays the following performance schedule: Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays at 2:30 p.m.*, Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:30 p.m.* and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. (*Audience discussion follows the matinee performance.) Tickets for “Desperate Measures” are priced at $67.50 - $72.50 and may be purchased by calling (212) 935-5820, online at http://www.yorktheatre.org/, or in person at the box office at the York Theatre at Saint Peter's (Citicorp Building, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue), Monday through Friday (12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.). Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Pictured (left to right): Peter Saide, Emma Degerstedt, and Conor Ryan. Credit: Carol Rosegg.
2 Comments - Read Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Monday, October 23, 2017

<< 1-50 Posts 51 - 100 of 971 101-150 >>