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David Sheward



Reviews

A+

This

Gibson wisely keeps them from turning into whiners and gives them such expressive zingers as "I hate the word 'blog'; it sounds like a large accumulation of snot" and "I have no problem with self-involvement, except in others." They fight their battles of raging emotions with words as weapons. The vague title refers to the uncertain state of affairs created by their messy feelings. "What do we do about this?" asks Jane when Tom reveals his longing for her. Fortunately, the playwright is as specific in dealing with her characters' inner conflicts as her title is general. Director Daniel Aukin balances the razor-sharp observational comedy with naturalistic staging. Louisa Thompson's lived-in set, which looks like you could move right in, contributes to the lifelike atmosphere. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Mace is the narrator and Borges stunningly delivers his long, often hilarious monologues at submachine-gun speed. Yet he doesn't stint on Mace's inner turmoil, carefully delineating his love-hate affair with his chosen profession. It's a breakout performance and needs to be seen. Archie offers a dead-on portrait of the narcissistic Deity whose ego is even bigger than his biceps. He manages to be dead serious when bragging about the size of the crispers in his refrigerator, which is a feat in itself. Michael T. Weiss is a ball of Satanic fire as the amoral CEO of the wrestling federation. Usman Ally captures V.P.'s brash swagger and his urgent need to be taken seriously. Christian Litke rounds out this exemplary ensemble with full-bodied work as three quickly-dispatched wrestlers. (Read Full Review)

A+

Passion Play

Passion Play is the most exciting, stimulating, and thrilling piece of theater to hit New York since Angels in America. Epic in scale, this three-hour-and-45-minute panorama is appropriately being presented by Epic Theatre Ensemble at the Irondale Center, a converted Sunday school in the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. Ruhl, who previously explored how cultural phenomena influence everyday lives... here examines the ways faith and art interact with politics and personalities, as re-enactments of Christ's Passion change the destinies of the performers...It's a rich, textured tapestry of a play that all followers of serious theater and thought should trek to Brooklyn to see. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Importance of Being Earnest

For a lesson in playing brittle and brilliant farce, head to the American Airlines Theatre for a near-perfect staging of The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde's whimsical 1895 classic. Director Brian Bedford, who is also starring in drag as Lady Bracknell, remembers that Wilde originally subtitled his play "A Serious Comedy for Trivial People." Bedford has his company play the shallow objectives of the upper-crust Victorian characters with complete seriousness, rather than going for the obvious laughs. Highly stylized and sleekly staged, this is probably the funniest and sharpest production of the comedy, a favorite on regional and community stages, I've ever seen (Read Full Review)

A+

Diary of a Madman

Now in its American debut, the show shatters our expectations of what a satisfying evening in the theater should look and sound like. In New York, we are so used to safe representational dramas that when a play shatters the fourth wall and employs presentational elements, it's scary—but here it's scary good. Armfield's staging and Rush's performance go far beyond realism, combining influences of the circus and Brecht to create a kind of existentialist cabaret. Rush is perfectly in character as the titular lunatic, yet he acknowledges the audience and the two musicians (the marvelous Paul Cutlan and Erkki Veltheim) seated in a box off to the side of Catherine Martin's nightmarish set, which depicts a depressing St. Petersburg tenement attic and a stark asylum. Mark Shelton's masterful lighting aids with the transitions. (Read Full Review)

A+

Anything Goes

What can you say about perfection? The Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of "Anything Goes" is such a giddy, goofy, giggly experience, it's almost impossible to describe. But I'll try. Imagine eating all the chocolates you want without getting full or watching all your favorite Hollywood musicals on TCM without suffering from camp overload. Kathleen Marshall's sleek staging and joyous choreography recall the best of Hermes Pan and Busby Berkeley, with an expert chorus tapping, shimmying, and buck-and-winging it for all they're worth. When your eyes aren't being dazzled by those glorious dancers, your ears are filled with the riches of the classic Cole Porter score. (Read Full Review)

A+

Sleep No More

After staggering out of Sleep No More...I found myself hungry to go right back in the next night. To the best of my recollection, that's the first time I've had that feeling in almost 50 years of theatergoing. I've wanted shows not to end, but never have I yearned to re-immerse myself in the world of a production after a day's worth of puzzling it out...The show is more like a dream than any other I've encountered...A hypnotically fascinating nightmare from which you won't want to wake up. (Read Full Review)

A+

As You Like It

And what a Rosalind. Katy Stephens gives us perhaps the most charming and vivacious heroine of this jolly comedy in recent memory. (Read Full Review)

A+

Billy Elliot

Count me as a big old Billy fan. What could easily have become a feel-good treacle fest—particularly with the king of pop ballads, Elton John, composing the music—turns out to be one of the smartest and most satisfying Broadway musicals in years...Tough, intelligent, exuberant, electric, politically savvy, and fun are all accurate adjectives for Billy Elliot. Long may he dance on Broadway and across the country. (Read Full Review)

A+

West Side Story

It happened for me during "America." I forgot I was sitting in a Broadway theatre watching professional actors in a revival of West Side Story. I was spying on a group of high-spirited girls kidding each other about living in New York after enduring the poverty of their native Puerto Rico. They weren't executing Jerome Robbins' classic choreography, as re-created by Joey McKneely, on James Youmans' darkly evocative ghetto set; they were flouncing their skirts, jumping on stoops, and inhabiting a specific place and time. This authenticity is only partially due to the Spanish translation of many of the Latino scenes and two of the songs ("I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That"), by Lin-Manuel Miranda of In the Heights fame. The scenes are so real that no English supertitles are required to convey their meaning. (Read Full Review)

A+

Twelfth Night

Raúl Esparza, Audra McDonald, and Anne Hathaway convey such depth in these roles that they are unquestionably the center of the production, while the more obviously comic characters are rightfully in support...Esparza is so intense in his unrequited ardor that Orsino's passion engulfs the stage...Hathaway demonstrates she is one of our most promising young actors. Not content to rest on her film stardom, she bravely takes on one of the Bard's trickier heroines...Audra McDonald shines the brightest in this comic constellation....Rather than stealing the spotlight, Sir Toby and crew are charming entertainers who romp on stage while the lovers get a rest...John Lee Beatty's sylvan-glade set, Jane Greenwood's colorful 18th-century costumes, and Peter Kaczorowski's poetic lighting enhance the beautifully bucolic Central Park environment for one of the best productions of Twelfth Night I've ever seen.

Bergen Record A+
(Robert Feldberg) Hilarious and joyful – a terrific evening. The play has an unusually generous number of significant roles, with three pairs of lovers and no fewer than six comic figures. And the strength of the production – besides the boundless imagination of director Daniel Sullivan, who's supplied dozens of witty staging touches — is the depth of the cast. There are superb performers all the way down the line, even in the smaller roles...You might think the weak link in the company would be Anne Hathaway, a movie star with little stage experience. But...she's a revelation. Not only does she speak Shakespeare's poetry clearly and with feeling, and provide a lovely, spirited presence, she turns out to be a marvelous physical comedian...Everyone in this production seems to have been touched by the same antic inspiration...It's a pity the name is already taken; otherwise, the play could aptly be titled "A Midsummer Night's Dream." (Read Full Review)

A+

An Iliad

Each performer gives a tour de force turn technically and emotionally dazzling—this critic attended both performances. Yet each is distinct in his attack.... In both versions, director Peterson switches up her staging admirably, moving from slow and tender amorous encounters to fast and furious bloodbaths without grinding gears. (Read Full Review)

A+

A Steady Rain

Though its plot sounds like one you might hear at a Hollywood pitch meeting, Keith Huff's "A Steady Rain" offers one of the most powerful theatrical experiences in many seasons. This is mainly due to John Crowley's tight direction and the masterful performances of a pair of movie hunks best known for their adventure capers. Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman prove they are much more than James Bond and Wolverine in this heavyweight smackdown... Jackman and Craig endow Denny and Joey with a deep history, vivifying Huff's backstory. Jackman displays an almost animalistic rage that comes from a different place than Wolverine's. Denny cares deeply for his family, and that provides the justification for his criminal actions. Jackman pulls off an acting miracle in managing to make this violent racist sympathetic. Craig gives Joey the same demons but convincingly portrays his questioning, unsatisfied nature, which forces him to fight them. (Read Full Review)

A+

Let Me Down Easy

Smith captures every hesitation and search for the right word as well as every pain and every adrenalin-induced rush of her myriad interviewees. She never condescends to them, but allows us to make our own conclusions. There are screamingly funny moments as when Smith's aunt recalls the startlingly unusual last words spoken to her by a dying sister, and heartbreaking ones exemplified by the recollections of a South African orphanage director about her AIDS-infected charges. As the nation vociferously debates health care reform, "Let Me Down Easy" removes the high-decibel name-calling that characterizes the argument taking place in Washington, D.C. and at town hall meetings. Smith lets us down easy into the complicated issues. This stunning 90-minute essay in play form should be required viewing for tea-baggers, progressives, and anyone who has a body. (Read Full Review)

A

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Off-Broadway)

Rocking and roaring...ready to rip through your senses and political perceptions. This irreverent history lesson on our seventh president combines fact with outrageous lampoon and offers savage commentary on America's past and present...But this is much more than an extended "Saturday Night Live" skit. Timbers' wild script and Michael Friedman's hard-driving score make sharp points about the messy way our country was founded and grew, as well as the complexities of democratic government...The simplistic speeches and rock anthems to populism sound as if they could be heard at a Sarah Palin rally. In the title role, Benjamin Walker is a sexy bundle of narcissism and fury...The rest of the energetic young cast play multiple roles with fearless verve. (Read Full Review)

A

Old Jews Telling Jokes

To paraphrase Chuckles the Clown from that immortal episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”: Sometimes you just need a little song, a little dance, and a little seltzer down the pants. That’s basically all that’s on offer from new entertainment “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” which is easily summed up by its title. Three mature performers and two younger ones spend 90 minutes rattling off gags, most of which deal with the state of being Jewish. There are a few old chestnuts which we’ve all heard at family gatherings, but the material is delivered with such loving, gentle humor, speed, and an eagerness to please that we don’t mind the over familiarity. Almost all of the jokes are genuinely funny and land solidly thanks to the expert timing of the cast and the admirable pacing of director Marc Bruni. I found myself jotting down many of jokes in my program so I could repeat them to friends. (Read Full Review)

A

The Lyons

The script has been trimmed somewhat, and the performances and staging have been pitched slightly broader to accommodate the larger house after a successful run at the Vineyard Theatre, but this merciless comedy of a dysfunctional family dealing with mortality and regret is still an intimate and scary examination of how we cope with loneliness and disappointment. Linda Lavin continues to give a master class in comic timing...Director Mark Brokaw balances the guffaws of merriment with the gasps of sympathy, knowing just when to extend a comic piece of business and when to cut it short. (Read Full Review)

A

Superior Donuts

A funny and moving evening of theater. Just as he rethought the dysfunctional-family play in "August: Osage County," here the playwright brings quirky twists to familiar themes and finds universal truths in them. This transfer from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, directed with no-nonsense toughness by Tina Landau, handily avoids sentiment and delivers a slice of life as fresh and tasty as a doughnut right out of the oven...Each of these people is as real, detailed, and flawed as James Schuette's lived-in set, with its grease stains, broken clock, and wall menu with missing letters.

Lighting & Sound America A
(David Barbour) Under Tina Landau's finely detailed and warmhearted direction, Superior Donuts is anchored by two superb performances. Michael McKean, a slump in his walk and exhaustion in his eyes, captures every bit of Arthur's resignation, especially in the monologues that reveal his lifetime of disillusionment...McKean's skillful underplaying is a perfect foil for Hill, an energy cell disguised as a human being...Many reviews of Superior Donuts, even the favorable ones, have made patronizing remarks about Letts' supposedly old-fashioned tendencies. (The word "sitcom" has been tossed about -- rather carelessly, in my opinion.) What others call old-fashioned, I see as craftsmanship; Letts takes the time to build a solidly constructed narrative filled with characters who engage your interest and sympathy. What starts as a tart, tangy comedy darkens bit by bit until it reaches a wrenching and funny climax. That's not a talent to be taken lightly. Letts also has an uncanny way of making his plays into telling parables of the American mood. (Read Full Review)

A

You Better Sit Down: Tales From My Parents' Divorce

Uncompromising and funny...To paraphrase Sondheim, these people have had good times and bum times, but they’re still here...With the aid of Ben Stanton’s warm lighting, Mimi Lien’s homey set, and Caite Hevner’s atmospheric projections, Kauffman and the cast re-create the feeling of a visit to see the folks, with all the fear, loathing, and love such a trip can entail. (Read Full Review)

A

Peter and the Starcatcher

Has [this] dazzlingly fun riff on the Peter Pan legend that lit up the intimate New York Theatre Workshop last season...lost any of its luster in a trip to the Never Never Land of Broadway?...I'm happy to report that Peter has not given up a speck of its fairy dust–infused whimsy. This is a celebration of youth and of the power of theater to inspire children and adults alike...In one of the most hysterical over-the-top performances New York has seen in years, Borle channels Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, and Cyril Ritchard's Captain Hook, yet he gives this foppish cutthroat his own stamp. (Read Full Review)

A

Two Unrelated Plays By David Mamet

Directed with perfect timing by Neil Pepe [Keep Your Pantheon] centers on a down-at-the-heels acting troupe as it chases gigs and keeps one step ahead of the landlord. The running gag is the amorous interest that almost every character -- all of them male -- takes in young Philius, the troupe's handsome but talent-free boy apprentice. This time, Mamet is not out to make points about power, greed or sex (gay or straight); he just wants to tickle the funny bone. (Read Full Review)

A

Oleanna

Hughes wisely paces the play slowly at first, and those unfamiliar with it may be bored. But they should stick with it, because Hughes and his actors incrementally increase the tension till it explodes. It's hard to believe the same director staged the rollicking comedy "The Royal Family," which opened just a few days earlier.... the most intense show on Broadway. (Read Full Review)

A

End of the Rainbow

What Bennett...offers is not an imitation but the essence of Garland...Whirling about the stage like an out-of-control wind-up toy, Bennett generates an electric current as she limns Garland’s bottomless need for love, sending that charge shooting out into the Belasco Theatre...This is the kind of star turn for which the phrase “tour de force” was invented. As for Quilter’s play, it’s little more than a vehicle for Bennett’s amazing performance...Despite the script’s shortcomings, Rainbow is a definite high...Rush to the Belasco to catch Bennett and revel in her—and Garland’s—glory. (Read Full Review)

A

A Boy And His Soul

Even though the template has been used before—gay youth finds himself through art and tentatively comes out to his confused but ultimately accepting loved ones—Colman brings a captivating freshness to the material, staged snappily by Tony Kelly. From Aretha Franklin's cry for respect to James Brown's declaration that this is a man's world to the Stylistics' velvety love anthems, each of the songs provides a lesson, a memory, or an opportunity to do the robot, electric boogie, or pop-and-lock. Domingo is a skillful dancer and performs Ken Roberson's energetic choreography with unflagging style. This guy is like a one-man "Dancing With the Stars." He's also a talented writer. He conjures dozens of memorable word pictures by citing specific details, including the color of the tumblers from which he and his mother would drink iced tea and the paprika sprinkled on the deviled eggs packed for road trips. (Read Full Review)

A

Oohrah!

Skillfully depicts how the demands of military service affect an individual family and society as a whole. Brunstetter's people are real and funny. She never condescends to them or treats them as symbols to put a point across...Director Evan Cabnet and the cast deliver a solid production that balances wildly absurd comedy with genuinely moving moments...A big hurrah for "Oohrah!"

On Off Broadway A
(Matt Windman) An unflinching look at a marine's awkward return home to his North Carolina family following an extended stay in Iraq...Brunstetter sincerely and successfully explores the helplessness and depression one could feel upon entering a new social environment. She ends her play not with a firm resolution, but rather lots of unsolved conflicts. It's a pretty gutsy move that really pays off. (Read Full Review)

A

A Lifetime Burning

The slippery nature of truth is examined with wit and insight in Cusi Cram's play "A Lifetime Burning," ... Family history and social commentary are seamlessly interwoven in the sharp dialogue as the two sarcastically joust ... Emma could easily have come across as a spoiled brat, but Jennifer Westfeldt pulls off an admirable feat of acting legerdemain by making us care for this hot box of crazy ... Christina Kirk is equally skillful in adding dimension to a potentially narrow character ... Isabel Keating nearly steals the show as Lydia, the sharklike publisher ... Raúl Castillo makes Alejandro, the hunky Latino lover, more than just a hot guy, painfully exposing the character's disappointment when he discovers Emma has been using him. Pam MacKinnon's fluid staging handles the transitions between the present, the past, and Emma's imagination with nary a bump, aided by David Weiner's subtle lighting and the set by Kris Stone, which is as chic and stylish as Cram's elegant script. (Read Full Review)

A

Once

Cristin Milioti brings new meaning to worn out adjectives such as "gamine" and "pixyish" as the enigmatic Girl. With a deadly deadpan and a sweet smile, she delivers sarcastic zingers like a charming assassin one minute, and the next she's a lost little waif playing heartstrings as easily as she does the piano. She is matched perfectly with Steve Kazee, who imparts the bruises and batterings of Guy's ruined romance in a voice so raw and strong it wounds. When they get together, the spark between them charges through the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre like electricity. At their parting, my heart broke along with theirs. (Read Full Review)

A

If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet

Young Annie Funke is a revelation as the needy Anna, combining a tough bluster with a tender, almost kittenish vulnerability. Michelle Gomez expertly conceals Fiona’s blighted interior with icy efficiency... Gyllenhaal gives a refreshingly unflashy performance. Like Anna, Terry uses anger and profanity to cover up his wounded heart, and Gyllenhaal carefully keeps Terry from becoming a repulsive lout. The guy is a bit of a jerk, and you can see why his bid at romance failed, but Gyllenhaal remembers Terry has feelings too, and the actor exposes them with subtlety. Best of all is Brian F. O’Bryne’s George. This absent-minded professor is so consumed with his cause of protecting the melting polar icecaps, he doesn’t notice the disintegration of his family. (Read Full Review)

A

An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

Like peanut butter and jelly, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin are two great tastes that taste great together...I've never seen a better example of acting the intentions of a song, with each actor taking the objective in the dialogue and letting it lead him or her into the subtext of the musical portion. For a class in musical performance, you couldn't ask for two better instructors...To quote the Gershwins, who could ask for anything more? (Read Full Review)

A

Avenue Q

Seth Rettberg has boyish charm as the puppet protagonist Princeton and endearing fussiness as Rod, the closeted investment banker. Anika Larsen displays a supple, powerful voice as well as impressive comic timing as Kate Monster, Princeton's girlfriend, and Lucy the Slut, the vampish skank who turns his head—and a few other body parts. Sala Iwamatsu lands most of Christmas Eve's sarcastic quips, but her character's Japanese accent is so thick at times that the punch lines get lost. As her comedian-wannabe husband, Brian, Nicholas Kohn has the least showy role, but he holds his own in a cast of puppets and furry monsters. Danielle K. Thomas makes a delightfully nasty Gary Coleman, the former child star turned janitor. Cullen R. Titmas and Maggie Lakis endow a variety of characters, including the cute and destructive Bad News Bears, with puckish personality. (Read Full Review)

A

Fragments

Directed sparely and with precision by the legendary Peter Brook and Marie-Hélène Estienne for Brook's CICT/Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord company, "Fragments" is so bare that every glance, gesture, and twitch of the three magnificent actors speaks volumes. (Read Full Review)

A

Venus In Fur

There is some loss of intimacy in the transfer from CSC's vest-pocket three-quarter space to the Samuel Friedman's Broadway-scale proscenium, but Walter Bobbie's staging remains robust, seamlessly shifting from theater-insider comedy to near-porn-level eroticism...Arianda remains the engine that drives this intermissionless thrill ride, revving on all cylinders as she progresses from desperate actor to imperious seductress to all-powerful goddess. She gets an added fuel injection from her new acting partner. (Read Full Review)

A

Penny Penniworth

A rollicking good time...Chris Weikel's script is a razor-sharp riff on the complete works of Charles Dickens, tangling multiple plotlines borrowed from Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and Nicholas Nickleby, plus a bit of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights for good measure. Weikel also throws in enough double entendres to make both Charles Ludlam and Charles Busch proud...Mark Finley's direction is a spot-on parody of the Royal Shakespeare Company's story-theater staging of Nickleby. (Read Full Review)

A

All-American

Brownell, a writer for the HBO series "Hung," carefully presents each member of the Slattery clan in full color, creating a complex and rich portrait of parents and children in crisis. No one is the villain or hero, and Brownell avoids easy answers and tidy resolutions.... [S]he uses Aaron as the focal point, turning the work into an unexpected study of what it's like to live among the shadows in a family of stars.
(Read Full Review)

A

The Best Of Everything

There’s always the danger of imitation when a famous film is translated to the stage, but that pitfall is expertly avoided here. The movie drips with melodrama and today is little more than a campy hoot featuring Crawford at her most bitchy, but in this neatly packaged stage version, Kramer offers only a hint of parody. (For instance, at the office Christmas party the steno pool dances with male cardboard cutouts—indicating that their prospective boyfriends are identical and flat.) The director mostly presents the material without irony, so what emerges is an unflinching portrait of the sexual mores of the late 1950s in ultra-sophisticated Manhattan. Through this unfiltered perspective on the past, we see how women’s lives have altered in the ensuing decades, yet that they are still held to different standards than their male counterparts. (Read Full Review)

A

All In The Timing

The five-member cast skillfully juggles Ives’ witticisms while maintaining believable characterizations. Matthew Saldivar deftly delivers an intellectual monkey and a wistfully philosophical Trotsky. Liv Rooth is sweetly eager as the young woman in “Sure Thing” and wry as Mrs. Trotsky. Jenn Harris makes a miraculous transformation as the shy student blossoming under the influence of the gibberish language and is delightfully deadpan as a bored waitress. Eric Clem only has a few bits, but he milks them for all they’re worth. The standout is Carson Elrod. Whether playing an anxious potential boyfriend, an enraged chimp, or a verbally dexterous instructor, Elrod makes every gesture and line land for maximum effect. It’s a textbook lesson in—appropriately enough—timing. (Read Full Review)

A

Sons of the Prophet

Add Stephen Karam to the short list of young playwrights who artfully chronicle the messy, funny, and sad turns that contemporary life takes... What I love about Karam's work is the overlap of humor and sorrow. One minute Joseph is getting a spinal tap, and the next he is engaging his brother in a tickle fight. Director Peter DuBois perfectly captures this balance. He and a sterling cast understand that Karam's humor is not the dark, almost cartoonish brand employed by Christopher Durang and Nicky Silver. It's quirky and sometimes eccentric, but not outlandish. (Read Full Review)

A

The Lyons

Though the title is a bit obvious and the theme is one the playwright has tackled numerous times before, Nicky Silver's "The Lyons," at the Vineyard Theatre, is an uproariously dark cartoon of a play, full of belly laughs and stark insights. Since the 1990s, Silver has been employing the dysfunctional-family template, usually with monstrous, narcissistic mothers, absent or distant fathers, unbearably lonely gay sons, and barely functional daughters. The characters' neuroses lead them to commit insane acts like stalking strangers, kidnapping, pedophilia, and even murder. "The Food Chain," "Pterodactyls," "The Eros Trilogy," "Fit to Be Tied," "Beautiful Child," and numerous others employ some variation on this basic setup. (Read Full Review)

A

Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling

Adam Rapp manages to balance the overt theatrics with more-believable dramaturgy in his dark and wild new comedy...Atlantic artistic director Neil Pepe's staging is also a perfect blend of riotous farce and insightful character observation. The estimable cast plays the bizarre situations with deadly seriousness, making them that much funnier and believable despite their outlandishness...[A shockingly hilarious and stirringly moving play. (Read Full Review)

A

Septimus and Clarissa

Despite the luminous presence of Vanessa Redgrave in the title role, a 1997 film version of Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," perhaps her finest examination of the inner turmoil of post–World War I life in Great Britain, missed the mark by dwelling on the elegant upper-class settings rather than focusing on the internal struggles of their inhabitants. Ripe Time, a Brooklyn-based company that emphasizes visual and aural design, takes up the challenge of theatricalizing "Mrs. Dalloway" and succeeds admirably with "Septimus & Clarissa," now at Manhattan's Baruch Performing Arts Center. This is a breathtaking fusion of Woolf's text, Ellen McLaughlin's adept adaptation, Gina Leishman's evocative musical score, Rachel Dickstein's imaginative direction, as well as well-chosen design elements and choreography created in collaboration with the intense and sensitive ensemble. The title refers to Woolf's protagonists: a shell-shocked veteran contemplating suicide and a soc (Read Full Review)

A

The Select (The Sun Also Rises)

The capable cast fully inhabits this rudderless crew, fleshing out Hemingway's minimalist prose. I can recall despising Brett, the aristocratic British siren who discards men like tissues, when I read the novel. But the bewitching Lucy Taylor makes her such a charming vixen that you can understand why all the males crawl after her, even when she treats them like dirt. As the narrator and autobiographical figure Jake, Mike Iveson avoids the macho, bullying Hemingway stereotype and delivers a vulnerable, compassionate man who desperately seeks a moral center in an immoral world.
(Read Full Review)

A

Yank!

Despite the multitude of gay-themed work this season ("The Pride," "Next Fall," "The Temperamentals," etc.), the musical "Yank!" manages to stand out. Set during World War II, the tender tuner by the brother team of Joseph (composer) and David (book writer and lyricist) Zellnik finds new ways to explore the love that dare not speak its name, at a time when you didn't even think to ask or tell ... Though the script is sprinkled with parody, director Igor Goldin never lets the action descend into broad sketch comedy. He puts the sweet and painful story of Stu and Mitch center stage and keeps it real. This little musical could definitely march beyond its current engagement into a commercial run Off-Broadway and onto the roster of many a regional theater. (Read Full Review)

A

Bluebird

Beg, borrow, or steal a ticket...The basic format of a driver briefly interacting with his fares has been used before...Stephens avoids clichés in his stripped-down, brutally honest dialogue. None of the two-handed scenes turns out as expected, and each leaves you feeling as if you've met a real person rather than a theatrical invention...Fortunately, this is not just a showcase for Beale, although he is brilliant. Each of the eight additional cast members delivers a fully fleshed-out characterization. (Read Full Review)

A

Hair

Still wild, frizzy, and fun...Diane Paulus' energetic staging remains electrifying. Naysayers may question why theatergoers should pay top dollar for a second company, but this troupe retains the intensity and spontaneity that the first string brought to this explosive and touching snapshot of the hippie era...With unpopular wars still raging and the forces of conformism still oppressing the free spirits in American society, Hair remains a vital expression of irrepressible youth and a joyous be-in for all ages. (Read Full Review)

A

Ragtime

In a season full of star vehicles, the revival of "Ragtime" rides onto Broadway with nary a box-office name and steamrollers its way to the top of the heap. Marcia Milgrom Dodge's stripped-down production, transferred from a hit engagement in Washington, D.C., imparts the musical's sweep of history and the intimate story of lives caught up in a ceaseless movement of events. The original 1996 production was a vast pageant on the enormous stage of the Ford Center (later renamed the Hilton Theatre). Now, in the relatively more intimate Neil Simon Theatre, Milgrom's staging focuses on the interactions of three families coping with rapid changes in the American landscape at the dawn of the 20th century. Though that first production remains fresh in my mind, this edition finds new spark and vibrancy. (Read Full Review)

A

Lucky Guy (Musical)

A nifty little show...Granted, there are numerous groaners sprinkled into Beckham's purposely clichéd libretto...Yet Beckham's smart, wink-to-the-audience direction and his go-for-broke cast surmount these boo-boos and even revel in their awfulness, which is the mark of great camp...First and foremost, there's Merman, a plus-size delight as Jeannie Jeannine, the scheming songstress...For much of the evening, she is coupled with diminutive Leslie Jordan...as a backstabbing used-car dealer. With their contrasting sizes, the duo come across as a Tennessee version of Boris and Natasha, garnering as many laughs as that nefarious animated pair...We're all lucky to have this Lucky Guy. (Read Full Review)

A

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark

Hysterically funny...Though this bracing and observant work is a lot funnier than the shattering Ruined, about the horrifying treatment of Congolese women during that country's civil war, Vera Stark deals with the same basic subject: the objectification of black women. This time the brilliant Nottage deals with it in less stark terms (pun intended), employing satire to make her pithy points...Throughout this imaginative and wildly funny trip through 70 years of American pop culture, Nottage expertly demonstrates how movies and TV reflect larger societal shifts in race and gender issues...Director Jo Bonney, who maintains a sprightly comic pace in the first act, deftly juggles the two timelines in the second, while a sensational cast finds both parody and pathos in characters who represent a variety of recognizable showbiz types but are nonetheless still individuals. (Read Full Review)

A

King Lear (BAM)

Director Michael Grandage's forceful, stripped-down production, from London's Donmar Warehouse, is now at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for an all-too-brief run. Any student of acting or humanity should beg, borrow, or steal a ticket.... This is not a perfect performance—Jacobi tends to rely a little too heavily on a cartoonishly high falsetto during the mad scenes—but it is a great one. (Read Full Review)

A

The School For Lies

So for putting a modern spin on a classic of weight and size,
You won't find a play more enchanting than School for Lies. (Read Full Review)

A

Dreamgirls

National tours are often viewed as knockoffs of Broadway originals. The limited run of Dreamgirls at the Apollo Theatre may be the first stop of a national tour, but this electric revival is anything but second-rate. The location alone provides an added zing, as many of the crucial moments take place at the Harlem landmark. But real estate only goes so far. Director-choreographer Robert Longbottom has rebounded from his misfired staging of the Roundabout Bye Bye Birdie with a dazzling and energetic production. In no way beholden to the 1981 premiere edition by Michael Bennett or Bill Condon's 2006 Oscar-winning film version, this "Dreamgirls" is fresh, alive, and bursting with talent. (Read Full Review)

A

Macbeth

This startlingly fresh approach to one of the Bard’s most produced works offers not only a sensational vehicle for the actor but also gives us new perspectives on a familiar classic... in addition to this versatile display, Cumming also supplies a gripping subtext for the nameless patient... Aided by Fergus O’Hare’s disturbing, static-laden soundscape, Natasha Chivers’ nightmarish lighting, and Max Richter’s sorrowful music, directors John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg ingeniously find ways to convincingly and forcefully stage the action... the production features the most terrifying banquet scene I’ve ever encountered... Acting students and fans of daring, scary theater are urged to get a ticket before they are all snatched up. (Read Full Review)

A

The Book of Mormon

The staging—with direction by Nicholaw and Parker and choreography by Nicholaw—strikes the perfect balance between wild lampooning and honest limning. Like the best creations of masters such as Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and John Leguizamo, the Mormon characters are simultaneously skewed sketch figures and believable human beings...The whole company is perfectly in sync with the insanity, with Josh Gad especially loony yet grounded as the lovably schlubby Arnold. Gad turns what could have been an annoying one-joke stock figure into a quivering bundle of insecurities, hilariously desperate to please and wackily willing to do anything, no matter how weird, to gain acceptance. (Read Full Review)

A

Come Fly Away

A jazz, a gas, a cuckoo-cuckoo, ring-a-ding fling, man! There's not much of a plot, but I didn't miss one as 15 sexy, athletic dancers coupled and uncoupled to the Chairman of the Board's recorded voice combined with a rich live orchestra...Tharp...masterfully employs a broad vocabulary incorporating jazz, ballet, ballroom, and a splash of hip-hop to channel the spirit of Sinatra...With the combined audiences of Sinatra and Tharp fans, "Come Fly Away" could easily soar into box office heaven and provide jobs for many Back Stage readers for years to come. (Read Full Review)

A

Ghetto Klown

Still energetic in his mid-40s, though he does have to stop to catch his breath after the numerous dance routines, Leguizamo fully inhabits a dozen different personages, in addition to being himself, for nearly two and a half hours. These characters are much more than comedy sketch cutouts. His gift is for delivering his observations through a satiric lens while never being condescending or shortchanging a figure's humanity. He's not above slipping in a rimshot-worthy punch line. (My favorite quip of the night: "My first marriage was like a tornado: a lot of sucking and blowing at the beginning, but in the end you wind up losing your house.") But the jokes are never made at the expense of the insights. (Read Full Review)

A

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

They just wanna tell a simple story, give us a few laughs, work in a little message about tolerance, and dazzle us with spectacular outfits. The show succeeds brilliantly on its own terms and will probably be keeping a lot of chorus boys in sequins and feather boas for many a season. (Read Full Review)

A

The Royal Family

A rousing revival...under Doug Hughes' crack staging, which appears frenetic at first, but by the final curtain you'll realize that Hughes commands his thespian troops with the precision of a military strategist...Now playing the matriarch Fanny, Harris is just as glowing and youthful as she was then. She radiates the joy of acting, which animates this feisty, lovable, indomitable figure. In this production, she gracefully cedes the spotlight to Jan Maxwell, who delivers a magnificent performance as Julie...When the servants are just as winning as the leads, that tells you this is one regal and enjoyable "Royal Family." (Read Full Review)

A

Peter and the Starcatcher

Rick Elice's sparkling script plays with words the way Timbers and Rees' direction toys with stagecraft. Confusing dialogue is labeled a "nonversation." The native chieftain, Fighting Prawn, employs types of pasta as commands to his tribe. Mrs. Bumbrake, Molly's nanny—played by a man in drag in British pantomime tradition—uses alliteration in almost every sentence. Those are just a few examples of the vigorous verbiage. The text and direction merge perfectly to celebrate the concept of "play" in both the theatrical and childhood senses. While the playwright and directors are merry ringmasters, they have a gang of 12 expert gamesters in the cast. The most exuberant and unbridled of these is Christian Borle, who commits scene-stealing piracy of the first order as the malevolent Black Stache, the future Captain Hook. (Read Full Review)

A

As You Like It (BAM)

The act ends with the death of Orlando's old servant Adam, an addition on Mendes' part. In the original text, the elderly retainer simply disappears after his last scene. Mendes has staged this sequence with a heartbreaking tenderness. After Stephen Dillane as Jaques delivers the famous "Seven Ages of Man" speech, Alvin Epstein's Adam quietly waves goodbye to his young master and silently expires to the strains of Mark Bennett's sweetly melancholic score. This marks the passage of time and the fact that death is an inevitable part of the cycle of life, the cycle that Orlando and Rosalind are just beginning. (Read Full Review)

A

La Cage aux Folles

* Almost a year after its Broadway opening, the Menier Chocolate Factory's scaled-down revival ofLa Cage aux Folles retains its raw appeal and sentimental charm. You still feel as if you're ringside at a slightly sleazy but fun-filled cabaret, rather than way in the back of an elaborate, touristy supper club, as was the case with the 1983 original and the misbegotten 2004 Broadway revival.

(David's review, originally an "A" can be read here) (Read Full Review)

A

Molly Sweeney

The postage stamp–size Irish Repertory Theatre is the perfect setting for this jewellike play. Staged with economy and sensitivity by artistic director Charlotte Moore, the three-part chamber piece achieves a remarkable intimacy. With the actors so close, it feels as if you're sharing a pint with the characters along with their life stories. (Read Full Review)

A

The Misanthrope

Usually portrayed solely as combatants in a contest of wits, much like Beatrice and Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing," Alceste and Célimène here display palpable sexual chemistry. Sean McNall gives the title character—too often played as a dry sourpuss—more than a hint of charisma. It's believable that the flighty Célimène, as well as her cousin Eliante and the priggish Arsinoe, would fall for him. McNall handily avoids the trap of making Alceste a whiny crank and gives him the noble idealism Molière intended. Janie Brookshire is a dazzlingly attractive Célimène, especially as stunningly costumed by Sam Fleming and fitted with a glorious wig by Gerard Kelly. (Read Full Review)

A

Matilda the Musical

... [a] marvelously inventive musical, given a fun and fast-paced staging by director Matthew Warchus and choreographer Peter Darling. Book writer Dennis Kelly keeps Dahl's cartoonish sensibility in developing the outlandish characters and the bizarre dimension they inhabit... The score, by Australian comic-musician Tim Minchin, captures this wacky flavor when it needs to (most of the time), but also expresses the wistful sentiments of childhood games and friendship without getting treacly... Milly Shapiro (at the show reviewed) is a pint-sized Maggie Smith with the face of a Norwegian saga. This little dynamo skillfully imparts the character's dazzling intelligence and taste for mischief, as well as her raging indignation at injustice... But Bertie Carvel in drag as the grotesque Miss Trunchbull nearly steals the show... Carvel creates a monster who still retains a touch of femininity. It's a brilliantly funny performance in one of the best musicals Broadway has seen in years.
(Read Full Review)

A

The Collection & A Kind of Alaska

By pairing early- and late-career Harold Pinter one-acts, the Atlantic Theater Company displays the remarkable range of the late Nobel Prize winner and gives a quintet of New York's finest actors the opportunity to explore the depths of his famous pregnant pauses.... Under Karen Kohlhaas' taut direction, each work comes to bizarre, pulsing life. (Read Full Review)

A

Everyday Rapture

As previously noted, this is not a one-woman show. Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe provide snazzy backup vocals and Supremes-style moves, courtesy of Michele Lynch's choreography. Eamon Foley is an outlandish delight as the energetic YouTube poster. Director Michael Mayer gives the 90-minute show the same combination of intensity and precision he brought to "American Idiot" and "Spring Awakening." Christine Jones' twinkling-star set is illuminated by Kevin Adams' flashy lighting and Darrel Maloney's clever projection design. (Read Full Review)

A

The Merchant of Venice

When the two tales converge in the blistering trial scene, theatrical fireworks explode as two heavyweights at the top of their game—Pacino and Rabe—clash. Both stars' performances have deepened. Pacino has added even more detail to this complex figure. Shylock has been played as a heartless villain and an innocent victim of anti-Semitism, but Pacino combines elements of both to create a multilayered interpretation of arguably Shakespeare's most controversial character. This Shylock is a shrewd businessman driven to irrational ends by an intolerant world. At first, when making a deal with Antonio and Bassanio, he is jovial and friendly, but as he gradually reveals his anger over the former's bigoted behavior, Pacino slowly uncovers Shylock's obsession with vengeance. (Read Full Review)

A

Devil Boys From Beyond

Two shirtless hunks, four fabulous drag queens, and 90 minutes' worth of high-camp comedy: What more could a fan of ultraridiculous theatrics want? That’s the winning combination on stage in Devil Boys From Beyond, the bizarre, hilarious, gay-themed tribute to low-grade sci-fi films of the 1950s at New World Stages...Whitehill’s sets, Leone’s lighting, and Gail Baldoni’s costumes, along with Gerard Kelly’s wig and hair design, capture the cheesiness of the era, as does the entire goofy enterprise. Devil Boys is a devilish delight. (Read Full Review)

A

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

It sounds like a recipe for disaster: a sung-through musical adaptation of a section of War and Peace employing a contemporary pop-rock vocabulary and preceded by a dinner service in a nightclub atmosphere. But this challenging immersive experience manages to capture the raw universal emotions of Tolstoy's sweeping classic in an intimate setting. Along with Here Lies Love and Murder Ballad, Natasha and Pierre is charting new territory in musical staging, and adventurous theatergoers will want to make the journey. (Read Full Review)

A

Wings

When the right emotionally expressive actor and the right creatively imaginative director meet, the results can be searing and soul-wrenching. That’s what has happened with Second Stage Theatre’s revival of Wings, Arthur Kopit’s 1978 play about a woman relearning language and perception after suffering a stroke. Jan Maxwell and John Doyle have collaborated to create a harrowing portrait of a nightmarish world of illness and the slow road to recovery. (Read Full Review)

A

La Bête

Hirson gives us a spectacular display of ideas, exquisitely expressed in rhyme, as the characters debate the purpose of the theater. His condemnation of pandering by the arts—and by all aspects of public life—to the lowest common denominator is even more relevant today, as reality TV, Fox News, and Tea Party candidates threaten to dominate our culture. Director Matthew Warchus, who proved he can handle raucous comedy with his West End and Broadway stagings of Boeing-Boeing, perfectly balances slapstick farce with sophisticated banter. (Read Full Review)

A

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

In its transfer to Broadway, "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" has gotten even wilder since its incarnations at Off-Broadway's Public Theater last season. This raucous combination political cartoon, rock concert, and extended "Saturday Night Live" sketch now fills the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre with irreverent wit, in-your-face satire, and lots of sweaty sex appeal. Alex Timbers' off-the-wall book and direction and Michael Friedman's pulse-pounding score provide the first two elements, and Benjamin Walker in the lead delivers the third. (Read Full Review)

A

A Life in the Theatre

But the play is more than just a collection of onstage-disaster anecdotes. The scenes chronicle the inverse career tracks of the veteran Robert and the newcomer John.... It's a delicate premise that calls for a director and a pair of actors to delve beneath the easy laughs and explore the passions and joys of living a life among the footlights. Pepe and his two stars, Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight, amply fulfill those requirements. (Read Full Review)

A

A View From the Bridge

Now Liev Schreiber, one of the few American star-level actors to return to the stage on a regular basis, sinks his teeth into this meaty steak of a character and has a regular feast. His Eddie has a vulnerability and thoughtfulness often overlooked. You can tell he not only harbors sexual urges for his wife's niece Catherine but also loves her like a father. These conflicting emotions play across Schreiber's face as Catherine explains her growing love for Rodolpho, an illegal immigrant the family is protecting ... Scarlett Johansson matches Schreiber's intensity as the inexperienced but determined Catherine. This film star makes an impressive Broadway debut, clearly conveying what this girl wants—to be a grown woman—and pushing against the only obstacle in her path: her overly attentive uncle ... Director Gregory Mosher wisely keeps the staging simple so the dramatic fireworks blaze all the brighter. Set designer John Lee Beatty's row of brownstones towers over the players like a menacing giant as they enact this modern version of a Greek tragedy. (Read Full Review)

A

Tigers Be Still

There seems to be a common trait among talented contemporary playwrights: the ability to seamlessly combine comedy and drama. Theresa Rebeck, Lisa Loomer, Sarah Ruhl, David Lindsay-Abaire, Annie Baker, and a handful of others have produced bodies of theatrical work that reflects the wild absurdity of modern society along with the profound sadness and disconnection it causes. Add Kim Rosenstock to this elite group. Her new play "Tigers Be Still," presented as part of the Roundabout Underground series, offers a painfully funny portrait of ordinary people trying to make their way in a suburban wasteland, stalked by the tigers of depression ... Director Sam Gold expertly keeps the comic and tragic elements in perfect balance, as does his quartet of fine actors. "Tigers Be Still" is a funny, ferocious, saber-toothed play you should pounce on. (Read Full Review)

A

Orlando

Ruhl manages to impart the essence of the novel without including every last incident and comma. There is a great deal of narration spoken to the audience, but Ruhl gives us just enough to get across Woolf's brilliant observations before launching into Orlando's romantic interactions with a myriad of noble men and women...The triumph also belongs to director Rebecca Taichman. With just a few props, an able cast of five, Allen Moyer's simple set, and Christopher Akerlind's versatile lighting, Taichman's staging effectively spans continents, centuries, and oceans. (Read Full Review)

A

Hair (2009)

After a run last summer in Central Park, this Public Theater revival has moved indoors, and it looks like the hippies will be grooving there for a long time. In the park, the show was a combination picnic and rock concert, with audiences digging the sweet pop sounds and the energy of the attractive young cast. On Broadway, Diane Paulus' grab-bag staging takes on a more forceful narrative drive. Scott Pask replaces his sylvan set with a Peter Max–inspired crash pad, illuminated by Kevin Adams' psychedelic lighting. Michael McDonald's costumes ground us in the colorful period. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Understudy

Still, The Understudy has plenty of pointed observations on the frustrations of trying to be an artist in a crassly commercial world. Directed by Scott Ellis with straightforward speed and economy, it's a fast, funny 90 minutes. Julie White, probably the sharpest comedian working on stage today, makes Roxanne a delightfully conflicted figure: supremely competent at putting a show together but a mess when it comes to her personal life. Watch her twisted dance of anger as she hides her head in her sweater when she realizes she must work with her former lover. And the way she brandishes her cell phone like a weapon when she threatens Harry with calling the producers to fire him if he doesn't straighten up and fly right is an acting lesson in itself. (Read Full Review)

A-

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

There are still some kinks. If this is a contemporary story, why does everyone at the Daily Bugle use typewriters and look like they just stepped out of the 1940s? (Eiko Ishioka's colorful costumes are otherwise on the money.) Bono and the Edge's rock score is still too generic, but at least Jonathan Deans' sound design has been refined so we can understand all of the lyrics... "Spider-Man" threatened to go down in history as one of Broadway's biggest flops. While it probably won't become one of the street's greatest smashes, it's now a fun family show that will entertain fans of both superheroes and showstoppers. Was it worth the wait? For this combination fanboy and show queen, definitely. (Read Full Review)

A-

When the Rain Stops Falling

Bovell clearly has compassion for his characters, but too much of his plotting is contrived, and one crucial development hinges on an unbelievable coincidence involving a missing little boy and an automobile crash. In addition, the play's resolution, involving a united father and son coming to terms with the family's damaging past, comes across as forced. Fortunately, the staging and acting more than make up for the script's shortcomings (Read Full Review)

A-

Side Effects

Director David Auburn, best known as the playwright of "Proof," another insightful character study, delivers a taut, smart staging that effectively displays Weller's crackling wit and never veers into melodrama. Joely Richardson, who bears a striking vocal and physical resemblance to her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, gives a stunning performance as the mercurial Melinda. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Tempest (BAM)

Mendes brings the proceedings down to earth and turns what is usually a mystical diversion into a touching family reunion...The scenes featuring Thomas Sadoski and Anthony O'Donnell as a pair of drunken servants conspiring with Caliban produce the necessary comic relief, but having Sadoski attired as a kind of 1950s lounge singer is a gambit that falls flat. It's the only false note in this otherwise harmonious Tempest. (Read Full Review)

A-

Freud's Last Session

A compact 75 minutes of bristling intellectual debate...The two spar over the existence of God, the nature of sex, and the meaning of life. It's a stimulating argument, and St. Germain gives equal weight to both sides, never allowing the high-minded talk to descend into a contest between talking heads...This work could easily have been a dry history lesson, but thanks to a thoughtful script, sensitive direction, and heartfelt performances, "Freud's Last Session" is worth a visit. (Read Full Review)

A-

Sweet and Sad

Though Nelson shows his hand a trifle obviously here and there, this is a telling chapter in the lives of an individual family and in our national story. The script provided with the press materials indicates that there will be more plays about the Apples. I look forward to the next one. (Read Full Review)

A-

Figaro

Brooks and the game cast keep the proceedings moving at a rapid but not rushed clip. Figaro’s extended asides—there’s a particularly long one in the last act—don’t feel like interruptions but sharp commentary on the action. That’s largely due to Sean McNall’s disciplined performance. This Obie-winning Pearl veteran makes Figaro a combination of smartass, philosopher, and standup comic. He’s sort of a refined Bugs Bunny, fighting back against powerful foes and topping them with his razor-sharp wit. His foil is the exquisitely pissed-off Chris Mixon, as Almaviva. Watch as his powdered features screw up into a mask of frustration every time Figaro bests him.

(Read Full Review)

A-

Palestine

A fascinating examination of politics, perceptions, and prejudice. Thanks to Saïd's deeply felt performance and the economic direction of Sturgis Warner, the tiny stage of the 4th Street Theatre becomes many locations in the volatile Middle East as the actor recounts accompanying her parents on their homecoming voyages...Saïd wisely avoids too many impersonations of the international characters she encounters. The focus is rightly on her personal evolution and not on her skills as a mimic. Her reactions to Sept. 11 and the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war are the most affecting...My only quibble is that the show is a tad long...With some judicious trimming, this insightful piece would have even more of an impact. (Read Full Review)

A-

Serious Money

The playwright unsparingly shines a harsh spotlight on the culture of blind, excessive monetary profit. Scilla's prime motive in finding her sibling's killer is not to gain revenge or assuage her grief—which is nonexistent—but to grab her share in the huge income Jake was reaping as a percentage of Marylou's deals. The rhyming dialogue is intricate and witty, spinning puns and wisecracks with dazzling ferocity. Director Cheryl Faraone cracks the whip over this mad circus with an authoritative flick of the wrist. Her staging is fast, sharp, and inventive. Particularly engaging are a weekend fox-hunt scene that has the actors energetically miming their mounts and two Brechtian musical numbers choreographed by cast member Alicia Evancho as orgies of avarice. (Read Full Review)

A-

underneathmybed

Fascinatingly bizarre...Lozano...occasionally goes over the top by allowing the confrontational scenes to go on a tad too long and descend into shouting matches. But she skillfully balances the absurdist imagery with the more realistic depiction of the characters...Director Pedro Pascal and his crackerjack cast create a believable world where the surrealistic coexists with the everyday...Want to see a gripping and funny play from a new author? Look no further than underneathmybed. (Read Full Review)

A-

Love Is My Sin

The two actors beautifully convey the vagaries of affection once youthful passion has cooled, seeming like an old couple that has been around the block more than a few times and grown used to each other's quirks. They strike the brightest sparks when fighting during the long "Jealousy" section. When he begins "My love is like a fever," Pennington seems overcome with illness, then works himself into a fit of rage. Parry matches him with a dry, withering sarcasm. During Pennington's rendition of "Those lips that Love's own hand did make," Parry is called on to say "I hate" to him three times. She gives each a different spin, beginning with bristling anger, then doubt, and finally tender pleading for forgiveness. (Read Full Review)

A-

Lend Me a Tenor

The casting error—and it's a big one—is the placement of Justin Bartha in the central role of Max, a nebbishy opera company gofer with singing aspirations. Bartha, whose main claim to fame is a supporting role in the film hit "The Hangover," has a pleasant-enough comic manner and scores when putting over Woody Allenish nerd shtick. But for the plot to work properly, we have to believe that the milksop Max can convincingly disguise himself as the charismatic world-famous Italian tenor Tito Merelli (a robust Anthony LaPaglia), who lies unconscious due to an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Even disregarding the mismatch in body types between the slender Bartha and the bulky LaPaglia, Bartha lacks the pipes and the presence to put the illusion across. Putting that caveat aside—and for some it will hardly matter—this is a comic merry-go-round well worth jumping on. (Read Full Review)

A-

Milk Like Sugar

...a riveting new play... Greenidge's message is not a new one... but this is much more than the theatrical equivalent of an "ABC Afterschool Special." Employing spiky dialogue and vivid characters, the playwright creates a heartbreakingly real snapshot of a youth culture yearning for identity through brand names, indiscriminate sex, and fast food... Angela Lewis shines as the confused Annie.... Seldom have I seen an actor so eloquently play an inarticulate character. (Read Full Review)

A-

Vieux Carre (2009)

Heartbreaking isolation is what Williams wanted to capture in this autobiographical work and director Austin Pendleton sensitively exposes it like a physician treating a charity ward full of society's outcasts... Despite these echoes of past works and some overwrought sex scenes, Williams' trademark compassion for the weary and the lost shines through. The Pearl company illuminates their struggles with intensity and restraint. (Read Full Review)

A-

Dusk Rings a Bell

Tautly directed by Sam Gold, who also brought out the deep subtext in Annie Baker's "Circle Mirror Transformation" and "The Aliens," "Dusk" casts a spell as well as rings a bell. It's a piercing, compassionate portrait of two damaged people briefly reaching out to each other. Walsh acquits herself nicely as the tightly-wound, overachieving Molly.... Though Molly opens the play and much of the story is told from her point of view, the proceedings and our hearts are slowly taken over by Paul Sparks as Ray....His halting manner and incomplete gestures are so natural he doesn't appear to be acting at all. (Read Full Review)

A-

As You Like It

Not as innovative as Michael Boyd's staging for the Royal Shakespeare Company last summer, nor as moving and passionate as Sam Mendes' Bridge Project version, it is a robust and jolly midsummer fling guaranteed to make you forget the oppressive heat wave...Rabe, quickly establishing herself as one of New York's outstanding stage actors, throws her whole body into Rosalind's passion for Orlando...The rest of the company is equally committed. (Read Full Review)

A-

The 39 Steps

* Still an irresistible crowd pleaser...Continues its winning combination of big yuks and low overhead. An additional secret to the show's longevity is its simultaneous appeal to movie-trivia fanatics and broader audiences...You don't need to be a Hitch maniac to enjoy yourself. Maria Aitken's immensely clever staging employs simple props like window frames, ladders, hats, and shadow puppets to create a mad spy thriller extending from the stage of the London Palladium to the wilds of Scotland. She even makes fun of her own bag of tricks David's review of the original production, also an A-, is here. (Read Full Review)

A-

Interviewing the Audience

My only quarrel with this gentle and amusing experience was its brevity. At only 70 minutes, there was definitely time for one or two more members of the audience to share the extraordinary beauty of their everyday lives. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Wiz

The team behind In the Heights—director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler—create imaginative variations on Geoffrey Holder's original Broadway staging, which cleverly employed dancers and props to create tornadoes, flying monkeys, and the Yellow Brick Road. Kail and Blankenbuehler have much of the spacious City Center stage to work with. Set designer David Korins has ingeniously devised an upstage environment for the orchestra that incorporates Dorothy's windblown farmhouse and the exotic land of Oz. A chorus of athletic dancers and stylish singers, costumed with flair by Paul Tazewell, romp within this set piece and on the open downstage area, creating an urban version of Baum's fantastic journey. Music director Alex Lacamoire leads the orchestra in a spirited performance of Charlie Smalls' dynamic score. This joyful express train only slows down when the top-billed Ashanti and Orlando Jones stop singing. Both performers' lack of stage experience is evident in their inability to create through-lines for their characters. (Read Full Review)

A-

GATZ

Collins has directed the actors to underplay their roles, letting the magnificent Fitzgerald tell the story. Most of the time, this ploy works effectively, particularly in the case of Scott Shepherd, who does a masterful job as the worker with the crashed computer who morphs into the narrator Nick Carraway. It's his job to read the vast majority of the text, and he maintains a firm handle on the material, simultaneously imparting Carraway's sorrowful regret over Gatsby's fate and Fitzgerald's sharp observations of the excesses of 1920s America, all without stooping to melodrama. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Whipping Man

At first...seems like a horror movie. We're in a spooky deserted mansion in Richmond, Va., at the end of the Civil War. The air is thick with tension as floorboards creak, figures crouch in the darkness, and, at the end of the first scene, a grisly amputation gets under way...But once the Stephen King theatrics are out of the way, the play settles down for a serious and powerful examination of race, faith, and history...Lopez occasionally indulges in melodrama while setting up and springing these plot contrivances...But these minor complaints are more than offset by Lopez's insightful character development and grasp of social and political influences...Director Doug Hughes delivers his usual rock-solid staging, successfully commanding his troops to defeat the forces of cliché and achieve a victory for veracity. (Read Full Review)

A-

Maple and Vine

Harrison employs a somewhat high-concept premise, but he uses it to deliver a wickedly satiric and sympathetic portrait of 21st-century angst and the desire to escape into the past. (Read Full Review)

A-

Creditors

Almost like a really intense class in the use of emotion-controlling spells, conducted by Professor Snape, Rickman's coolly snide wizard from the Harry Potter movies...There is much chatter about free will, destiny, the battle between men and women, art, and sex—"We've been talking for six hours," Adolph cries at one point—but the real impact comes from the primal passions elicited in this laboratory of raw emotions. Rickman recognizes that Strindberg was not only a scientist tinkering with incompatible personalities; the playwright was also something like a small boy dropping three scorpions into a jar to watch them fight. That three-person battle is precisely and expertly staged. In 90 intense minutes, the intellectual arguments give way to gutter brawling...Though the chauvinistic views may be antiquated and some of the plot devices are melodramatically creaky, this is a fiery revival of a seldom-produced work. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Caretaker

Pryce, who delivers an expert performance as the disheveled Davies, is receiving the most publicity, but Alex Hassell (Mick) and Alan Cox (Aston) are equally deserving of attention. Pryce remembers that Davies' imperative goal is to keep his bed after what has probably been years of homelessness. You can read this muddled man's rapid and confused thoughts on the actor's expressive features as the situation keeps changing and it's never clear who can be trusted. Watch his astonished eyes as Hassell's quicksilver and scary Mick utters a series of non sequiturs. It's obvious that Davies is dancing mentally as fast as he can to keep up with these screwy siblings. (Read Full Review)

A-

Wishful Drinking

This is more than a juicy tell-all. Fisher dryly delivers her observations on aging ("I haven't been naked in 15 years and I haven't been sleeveless in 20"), finding love ("I knew as I got older my chances for romance would get slimmer, but the people haven't") and the strange coincidence that her image has been used as both a Pez dispenser and in a text book on abnormal psychology. She frankly discusses her bouts with manic depression and substance abuse, observing that time has permitted her to see these trials with a comic eye. The only segments that fall flat involve audience participation. Unfortunately, Fisher is no Dame Edna. You can practically feel the discomfort in the air as an unlucky theatergoer reluctantly climbs on stage to try on a Priness Leia wig with the bagel-size hair coils. Apart from these awkward interludes, Tony Taccone's staging never flags and Fisher never fails to keep us from chuckling at the insanity of her life and admiring her resolve to survive. (Read Full Review)

A-

John Gabriel Borkman

Loaded with family melodrama and short on the blistering social criticism of earlier works such as "Ghosts" and "A Doll's House," the piece can feel like a 19th-century Norwegian version of "Dynasty" or "Desperate Housewives." Even in a production as exemplary as the Abbey Theatre's taut rendition, which features a muscular new English version of the script by Frank McGuinness and high-wattage performances from the stellar likes of Alan Rickman, Lindsay Duncan, and Fiona Shaw, there were audience giggles at Ibsen's plot excesses. Plus the play concludes with a dragged-out denouement in a blinding snowstorm. But director James Macdonald and his more-than-capable cast keep the soap operatics to a minimum, emphasizing the white-hot passions amid the frozen landscape. (Read Full Review)

A-

One Man, Two Guvnors

Impossibly funny...A roller-coaster ride of silly hilarity...The story is not really the main thing here. That would be Nicholas Hytner’s dazzling and delirious staging, which establishes the ingeniously absurd setups and then accelerates them, shifting into higher and higher comic gear...At the center of this inspired insanity is James Corden as Francis...The rest of the company, also imported from the original production, is just as guffaw-inspiring...My only quibble: There are a few British cultural references and slang terms that get lost in the transatlantic translation. (Read Full Review)

A-

Love, Loss, and What I Wore

Straight men will probably have a tough time at Nora and Delia Ephron's "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" ... Skillfully orchestrated by director Karen Carpenter, [the cast plays] all ages, classes, and sexualities ... Daly imbues the reading with wisdom and fondness. O'Donnell is particularly moving in a monologue she wrote about her stepmother wearing the same style of bathrobe as her mother did, only in a different color. She brings a standup comic's expert timing to a rant on the shortcomings of purses and creates a surprisingly endearing characterization as a shady woman visiting her husband in prison. Bee and Finneran find a rainbow of shadings as lesbian partners planning their wedding attire. Lyonne combines toughness and vulnerability in a piece on sweaters worn by girl gang members. (Read Full Review)

A-

Rx

Love and pharmaceuticals make for a strange cocktail in Kate Fodor's piercing new comedy "Rx," which contains equally strong dosages of satire and insight. Edging close to parody but staying within the bounds of credibility, Fodor strikingly portrays our overmedicated society, which has a pill to alleviate every uncomfortable emotion. (Read Full Review)

A-

Collected Stories

Lavin is the raison d'être for the play's Broadway debut, an offering from Manhattan Theatre Club, which also presented the first New York outing. While director Lynne Meadow has not found anything new in the play—her production is quite close to the previous two—set designer Santo Loquasto's Greenwich Village apartment set is more spacious. But as the tough-minded Steiner, Lavin gives a master class in acting you miss at your peril ... As Lisa, Sarah Paulson is not on the same high level as Lavin, but she skillfully conveys the transition from eager acolyte to formidable opponent. Meadow's direction, though not flashy, proficiently puts across the shifting relationship between the two women and illuminates Margulies' solid script, which gives equal weight to both ladies' arguments on the rights of the writer. (Read Full Review)

A-

Edgewise

A scary and thrilling 90 minutes. It's all the more frightening because of the ordinariness of the environment. Explosions and scenes of torture are interspersed with complaints about curfew and comparisons of cars...Clark, who writes for the AMC conspiracy-theory series Rubicon, has constructed a taut document on how easy it is to lose your humanity when your safety is threatened. There are logical holes here and there—the ending is too over-the-top—but overall this is a powerful forecast of where we could be headed if we're not careful. Director Trip Cullman slowly builds the tension while maintaining an atmosphere of normalcy. Likewise, the cast remembers to keep it real without veering into an episode of "24." (Read Full Review)

A-

Painting Churches

This is still a moving version of a complex work that elicits tears and guffaws within minutes of each other. It portrays the indignities of aging with compassion and humor, and students of great acting must take it in for Chalfant's shimmering and sublime work. (Read Full Review)

A-

After Luke and When I Was God

The screaming arguments of fathers and sons attempting to love each other are familiar sounds in American drama, from O'Neill and Miller to August Wilson. Cónal Creedon puts a Gaelic spin on this age-old conflict in two one-acts, "After Luke" and "When I Was God," now at Irish Repertory Theatre. Though the premises for both plays are basically the same as dozens of other works, from "Death of a Salesman" to "Fences," director Tim Ruddy's production is full of fresh humor and intense conflict. Played on Lex Liang's nearly bare set, actors Michael Mellamphy, Gary Gregg, and Colin Lane colorfully enact a variety of roles in this pair of earthy, rough-hewn, poetic scripts. Brian Nason's imaginative lighting design provides the necessary changes of scenery. (Read Full Review)

B+

Kin

This intricate, multilayered comedy-drama follows the untidy fallout that occurs when two disparate people hook up. By painstakingly examining the impact of the romance on the couple's families and friends in all its confusing and ambiguous detail, Doran shows us the intricate web of connection that makes up a modern community. Along the way, the playwright also takes a look at how parents' tragedies can affect their children's lives, the demands and limits of friendship, the dangers of dating, and a dozen other themes. The result is a prismatic view of contemporary relationships, simultaneously funny and moving. (Read Full Review)

B+

Lysistrata Jones

It sounds like a simplistic concept barely able to sustain a 10-minute comedy sketch, but Beane and Flinn inject it with such imagination and innovation that the show goes beyond the initial gimmick to address issues of conviction, intimacy, and cultural stereotyping. (Read Full Review)

B+

Colin Quinn Long Story Short

The potential for overblown shtick was definitely present. But Quinn, perhaps thanks to the influence of his director, notoriously low-key funnyman Jerry Seinfeld, wisely underplays his comic concepts, allowing the audience to find the humor without underlining it. He doesn't break into a broad Italian accent as Caesar or an exaggerated "Jersey Shore" persona when invoking the cast of that reality TV show; he just slyly suggests his impersonations. Unlike a lot of contemporary comedians, Quinn doesn't hit a joke over the head ... I found myself laughing through 80 percent of the show. It's also one of the most erudite acts I've ever encountered. How many comics would include references to the Holy Roman Empire, the Silk Road, and the difference in speech habits of East and West Africans? (Read Full Review)

B+

Summer Shorts 3: Series B

If there's a theme running through the four one-acts comprising "Summer Shorts 3: Series B," it's miscommunication—between lovers, families, friends, and strangers. Each playlet approaches the problem in a different format: comedy sketch, Greek tragedy, arch character study, and kitchen-sink realism. The result is a mixed bag, but the conflicts mostly come through loud and clear thanks to clean, spare direction and acting..."The Killing" is chiefly valuable as a new addition to the canon of one of America's underappreciated playwrights, but the performances make it worth seeing. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World

An edgy examination of the American obsession with fame and our endless capacity for self-delusion...The score, featuring fascinatingly sweet-and-sour rock music by Gunnar Madsen and raggedly poetic lyrics by Madsen and book writer Joy Gregory, mostly comprises interior monologue songs expressing the characters' frustrated ambitions...Director John Langs, who conceived the story with Madsen and Gregory, stages the show with just the right balance of ironic humor and insightful compassion...This is not a perfect musical. The book and the score could use some trimming...But it possesses a raw, authentic energy and powerfully depicts real lives. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Philanderer

An entertaining and ribald report from the battle of the sexes with plenty of sparkling Shavian wit...Gus Kaikkonen directs the Pearl Theatre Company's revival with a sure and steady hand...He also skillfully balances the script's outlandishly comic aspects with its piercing observations on the man-woman question, which are as relevant today as they were when written. (Read Full Review)

B+

Wit

In the first half of this unflinching intermissionless journey toward death, the actor skillfully conveys Vivian's ruthless search for knowledge by fiercely pursuing the objective of understanding the disease. Then, when Vivian realizes she has "run out of options," Nixon lets the scholar's armor fall away, leaving the uncertain inner child exposed and scared...Be sure to bring your handkerchiefs. (Read Full Review)

B+

Lysistrata Jones

Apart from a few new jokes and some heightened production values, Lysistrata Jones remains unchanged and is as sharp and sassy as ever. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Aliens

A weird, almost elliptical comedy-drama on dropping out and growing up...This piece is like a kinder, gentler American Buffalo. Both works feature illegal acts, much profanity, and a triangular relationship among inarticulate males who haven't reached maturity. But instead of Mamet's petty thieves contemplating a rare-coin heist, Baker's boys are two slackers loitering behind a Vermont coffee shop and the teenaged counterman sent to shoo them off...Director Sam Gold, who also staged Circle Mirror Transformation, elicits performances that mine the depths of Baker's spare dialogue. (Read Full Review)

B+

Women of Will

The cuttings from these great works are all economically and powerfully staged by Eric Tucker, particularly the miniature “Macbeth,” which manages to convey the complex mixture of ambition and madness infecting the desperate Thane and his fiendish wife. Packer weaves a rich and varied tapestry of roles, ranging from a nubile Juliet to a plucky Rosalind to a desperate Lady M. Gore is her equal, displaying a frighteningly intense Othello and Macbeth, a besotted Orlando, and a broken, pathetic Pericles.

My only problem is that Packer’s setup narrations tend to go on too long and involve too many plot details. At one point she even jokes, “You’ll all get your tests tomorrow.” I could have done with more of the stage and less of the classroom. (Read Full Review)

B+

Knickerbocker

You'd think a play consisting almost entirely of two-person conversations in the same restaurant booth would quickly become tedious. Yet in Knickerbocker," playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman, director Pippin Parker, and an imaginative cast manage to make this potentially static setup alive with biting humor and keen observation. (Read Full Review)

B+

Candida

It's a shame we haven't seen this scintillating comedy in New York in over 15 years. It displays a gentler side of Shaw's razor-sharp mind...Tony Walton has staged a smart and winning revival...Though Melissa Errico is radiant as Candida, this is much more than a star vehicle. Walton has made sure each of the six characters is given equal weight and a full voice in the debate...They add up to an admirable ensemble for this rarely seen gem.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Restoration

Just as she examined the relationship between the devoted fan and the object of obsession in "Dirty Blonde," Shear takes a long and complex look at how an incomparably beautiful object can affect the aficionado who has fallen under its spell. She occasionally allows inconsistency to creep into her script. Max's hiding his appreciation for the masterpiece behind macho bluster doesn't make sense and seems to be placed in the early part of the play only in order for him to be in conflict with Giulia. But Shear is such an entertaining dialogue writer, we scarcely notice the flaw ... Christopher Ashley—who staged Shear's solo show "Blown Sideways Through Life," also at NYTW—does a masterful job of balancing the funny bits with the more serious musings on the nature of art. As both actor and author, Shear slowly and movingly reveals Giulia's aching loneliness beneath her hard exterior. Jonathan Cake gives Max seductive charm and compassionate warmth. Tina Benko exposes the soft center of the seemingly bitchy Daphne. Natalija Nogulich adds sturdy supports in three diverse roles, and Alan Mandell lends bite to Giulia's fatherly former professor. (Read Full Review)

B+

American Idiot

The book fails to develop these characters beyond their initial conflicts, and it wouldn't hurt to have more than a few diary entries from Johnny to guide us. Nevertheless, the dynamic score—the jagged lyrics are by Armstrong, who also composed the driving music, with Mike Dirnt and Trè Cool—leads us into the frazzled psyches of an aimless portion of America's Generation Y. Tom Kitt, credited with musical supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations, builds a bridge between the worlds of rock and Broadway by making the songs accessible to general audiences without losing the chest-slamming intensity. (Read Full Review)

B+

Beyond the Horizon

The story can be viewed as pure melodrama, and O'Neill's ham-fisted dialogue and clunky stage devices, such as last-minute plot-advancing telegrams, show their age. Director Ciarán O'Reilly and the admirable cast don't condescend to the material but focus on the burning passions underneath the soapsuds, and the main theme of poetic illusions crushed by poor choices and unlucky circumstances is brought to achingly specific life. (Read Full Review)

B+

Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays

Puts a human face on a hot-button issue and delivers laughter and tears rather than propaganda...The evening is cleanly staged by Stuart Ross on Sarah Zeitler's elegantly simple set, which resembles a church or public hall with a huge wedding veil stretching over the stage from the balcony and threading through an enormous pair of rings...Moving and funny.
(Read Full Review)

B+

The Shaughraun

Patrick Fitzgerald brings out the lovable rogue in Conn O'Kelly, the shaughraun, and even manages to hold his own against that attention-grabbing canine. Sean Gormley and Tim Ruddy are eminently hissable villains, while Terry Donnelly and Emma O'Donnell earn laughs as Conn's lively mother and his equally feisty girlfriend. Kevin O'Donnell avoids heroic clichés as the wronged but noble convict, and Katie Fabel is appropriately fiery as his betrothed. Especially amusing are Mark Shanahan, as a stuffy but decent British officer, and Allison Jean White, as an Irish lass who finds herself attracted to the officer despite her Anglophobia. The playful push-pull of their romantic scenes is the highlight of this rambunctious revival. (Read Full Review)

B+

Next Fall

In its move to Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre—even though this is one of the Main Stem's smallest houses—director Sheryl Kaller's tender staging has lost most of its intimacy. Fortunately, "Next Fall" retains its power to move. Nauffts, artistic director of Naked Angels, the company that produced the Off-Broadway run, is an actor himself, and he knows how to create roles of depth and complexity. No one is a villain or a hero here, as each brings his or her own backstory and set of values to the conflict ... The original company repeats its sterling ensemble work. Patrick Breen's Adam is sharply funny and deeply moving. Breen can time a wisecrack perfectly, as well as hold a tearful pause to reveal Adam's breaking heart. Patrick Heusinger carefully delineates Luke's struggle to reconcile his faith with his worldly desires. (Read Full Review)

B+

When I Come To Die

As Damon, Chris Chalk builds on the promise shown in his bright performance in the recent Broadway revival of Fences. He masterfully limns this near-tragic character's conflict between macho posturing and keen intelligence. David Patrick Kelly is equally moving as the soft-spoken Roach. Neal Huff finds humor and compassion in the chaplain and mines the character's quirky obsession with sports for delicate shadings. Amanda Mason Warren takes the small role of Damon's visiting sister Chantel and endows it with large emotions. In one brief scene, she conveys Chantel's love for her wayward brother as well as her desire to exploit his sudden fame in order to provide medical care for her sick daughter. Warren also strongly gets across Chantel's refusal to feel guilty for her need for the money. Michael Balderrama completes this estimable ensemble as a belligerent prison guard who is also capable of dignity when walking his charges on their last mile. (Read Full Review)

B+

Storefront Church

Shanley lays on the symbolism a bit too thickly. When the CEO of a powerful bank is shown devouring a gingerbread house as greedily as his company gobbles up a Bronx neighborhood, and when painfully obvious parallels are drawn between a disfigured loan officer and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Shanley is hitting us over the head with his points. But despite these excesses, the play, directed with a sure hand by the author, has much to recommend it...Yes, the arguments are a bit pat, but they are put forth with energy and wit and are staged and played with pace and punch. (Read Full Review)

B+

God of Carnage

A well-crafted playwriting exercise rather than a believable character study. Early on, Reza plants seemingly insignificant details like time bombs, and they explode later with devastating impact. She also knows exactly how to time a joke for maximum reaction, and she cleverly groups and regroups the combatants in different alliances so you don't always know who is on whose side. Kudos also to Christopher Hampton's adaptation from the original French, which transplants the action to tony Park Slope without any noticeable losses in transit. You can see the wiring in this precision machine, but thanks to a stellar cast and impeccable direction by Matthew Warchus, Carnage is a feast for both actors and audience. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Divine Sister

Though enclosed by a wimple, Busch manages to manipulate his pliable features to create the Reverend Mother's hilarious reactions to the social upheavals of the 1960s...Busch's script is his usual combination of high satire and low humor. Gags involving flatulence, urine stains, and fake vomiting are integrated with sharp barbs aimed at the Catholic Church and Hollywood's depiction of it. As headliner and author, Busch scores with a solid hit at the funny bone...Though the author is the unquestioned star of the show, the remainder of the company—all veterans of previous Busch efforts—are each given ample opportunity to grab the comedy spotlight...Director Carl Andress gives the proceedings the necessary crazed edge. (Read Full Review)

B+

Timon of Athens

Some of Edelstein's staging choices have an eerie immediacy. When the bankrupt Timon flees to the woods and his mansion is closed up, workmen roll up the set's plush carpet, the lights come up on the audience, and you definitely have the feeling that the lavish party is over. We then find Timon smeared with dirt and dressed like a homeless person, digging for roots underneath the theater's floor. Neil Patel's unit set employs simple means—a single chandelier here, a plastic tarp there—to convey the opulence and then degradation of Timon's station, as do Katherine Roth's costumes and Russell H. Champa's lighting. The program note explains that the Public's LAB productions feature minimal design and short rehearsal periods. You'd never know it from the polished presentation and intense performances. Richard Thomas has come a long way since his days as John-Boy Walton. He finds shades of gray in the black-and-white Timon and actually makes the too-quick transformation from genial host to growling Scrooge believable ... Edelstein doesn't quite overcome the script's limitations—Timon's crabby rants still tend to drag—but he goes a long way toward making this obscure work relevant for today's audiences. (Read Full Review)

B+

We the People: America Rocks!

Only an hour in length and sporting nine snappy tunes by a small army of songwriters, this lively show explains the democratic process, how laws are passed, and how the three branches of American government work. That's a tall order for an audience with a short attention span—even I still don't get that Electoral College thing—but book writer Joe Iconis (“Bloodsong of Love”) finds plenty of clever ways to make this potentially difficult subject palatable for the small-fry set...Director Gordon Greenberg and choreographer Michele Lynch keep the action moving and wisely prevent the proceedings from getting too broad. The five-member cast is full of energy and never condescends to the underage crowd. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Judy Show

Such intimate, heartfelt vignettes are placed cheek by jowl with cracks about her mother stealing shampoo from hotels. Gold manages to balance the pathos with the punch lines, never leaning too heavily on either. When she begins to get into anything too deeply, a joke quickly follows. Director Amanda Charlton probably had a hand in striking that balance and gives the proceedings a smart, fast pace. The show is a bit like spending an hour catching up with an old acquaintance in a coffee shop. Gold does tend to push a bit too much with the Jewish stereotypes: Her voice rises several decibels every time she imitates her mother, which becomes repetitive. That's my only serious complaint about this light, fun show.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Sorry

Even in this stunning ensemble, Maryann Plunkett shines as the distraught Barbara. This emotionally eloquent actor displays Barbara’s fervent need to keep her world intact as it crumbles around her. It’s a shattering performance that, along with this production’s other strengths, makes me want to see the project’s fourth Apple play. (Read Full Review)

B+

Romeo and Juliet

Dressed in a hoodie jacket and sneakers, Gale's Juliet transforms from bored child to decisive wife but retains the spark of girlhood as the character dives headlong toward maturity. In one of the most memorable scenes, Juliet discovers a candy bar in a jacket left by Romeo. The expression of pure joy on Gale's face as she munches on the treat is worth the price of admission. Although I only saw half of his performance, Troughton gave full vent to Romeo's exuberance at the discovery of first love, while Dwyfor forcefully conveyed the hero's anguish as the unforgiving world intrudes on that passion. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Pee-wee Herman Show

Along with many other adults, I loved the show's unique mix of childhood nostalgia and freaky, double-entendre humor...Will the delicate mix of silliness and satire prove too special a brew for Main Stem audiences? Judging by the number of screams when the secret word was uttered—one of the choice gimmicks of the TV show—there is enough adult-oriented whimsy for fans of the series, along with the right amount of colorful juvenile mayhem to keep the kids happy. But if you don't "get" the Pee-Wee mindset, this show is probably not for you...Seemingly unchanged in 30 years, Reubens' Pee-Wee is as dangerously uncontrollable as ever, representing the fun-loving yet wild little kid in all of us. The performer skillfully combines a child's enthusiasm with an adult edginess...Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) provides the right slick and silly staging. (Read Full Review)

B+

Roadkill Confidential

If you think theater should be scary, exciting, and insightful, truck downtown to the 3LD Art & Technology Center in the financial district for Sheila Callaghan's hip and freaky Roadkill Confidential. Presented by the Obie-winning theater company Clubbed Thumb, this "noirish meditation on brutality" takes an unforgiving look at several disturbing trends in modern America: lust for fame, paranoia fueled by terrorism, and indifference to violence, to name a few. Directed with music-video intensity by Kip Fagan, the production incorporates multimedia effects and an imaginative art-installation set by Peter Ksander. (Read Full Review)

B+

Romeo and Juliet

Dressed in a hoodie jacket and sneakers, Gale's Juliet transforms from bored child to decisive wife but retains the spark of girlhood as the character dives headlong toward maturity. In one of the most memorable scenes, Juliet discovers a candy bar in a jacket left by Romeo. The expression of pure joy on Gale's face as she munches on the treat is worth the price of admission. Although I only saw half of his performance, Troughton gave full vent to Romeo's exuberance at the discovery of first love, while Dwyfor forcefully conveyed the hero's anguish as the unforgiving world intrudes on that passion. (Read Full Review)

B+

Ages of the Moon

The dialogue starts out as mundane, almost boring, but Shepard skillfully draws us into Byron and Ames' stark universe of unclear recollections and blighted horizons, where even the moon is in shadow. By the final fadeout, we've crossed over from drab day to poetic night. Director Jimmy Fay and his two-man cast slowly build the tension so that the shift from naturalistic bickering to surrealistic dreaming is barely noticeable. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Twenty-Seventh Man

Englander could have edited a few of the longer speeches, but his flavorful dialogue captures the give-and-take of brisk intellectual banter as well as the desperation of brilliant men trapped by the forces of crushing totalitarianism. Director Barry Edelstein perfectly balances a growing sense of menace with leavening lightness. The atmosphere he creates is indeed horrifying, but there’s just enough humor to make it bearable. (Read Full Review)

B+

Completeness

There's a lot of complicated "science stuff" in Completeness ... but you don't need an advanced degree to fully enjoy this witty, endearing love story involving two grad students... The playwright's only slip is a fairly obvious theatrical ploy involving a supposed technical problem with the elaborate lighting and video, created by Russell H. Champa and Rocco DiSanti, respectively, which parallels the dysfunction in Molly and Elliot's relationship. It's a cheap trick forced into an otherwise well-structured script. A smart, funny cast and insightful director Pam MacKinnon vivify these high-I.Q. individuals who live too much in their heads. Karl Miller is endearing and adorable as the socially inept Elliot... Aubrey Dollar is like a brainy Audrey Hepburn as the quixotic Molly—charming, flirty, appealing, and just a bit neurotic all at once.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Asuncion

Has a lot more to offer than a retread of a popular premise...Despite the weak engine that sets the plot in motion, Eisenberg has written a funny and insightful character study of three disparate people seeking to connect with each other, staged with just the right amount of zip and zing by director Kip Fagan...A telling portrait of three young people thrust into a new situation and attempting to find their way. (Read Full Review)

B

The Cocktail Party

T.S. Eliot's poetic drama The Cocktail Party, suffers somewhat from the datedness of the script, but director Scott Alan Evans and a strong cast inject vitality into the patient...Simon Jones endows Sir Henry with an impish sense of mischief as well as fatherly compassion. Jack Koenig and Erika Rolfsrud believably go from narcissistic bickerers to understanding lovers as the conflicted Chamberlaynes. Lauren English heartbreakingly details Celia's quest for a deeper meaning in her life. Cynthia Harris slyly plays with eccentric-elderly-lady stereotypes as the enigmatic Julia, who has an unclear connection with Sir Henry. Jeremy Beck and Mark Alhadeff deliver complex work as the remaining party attendees. (Read Full Review)

B

Memphis

Though its brain may be a bit simple, "Memphis" has its heart and soul in the right place. The new musical features a rock-solid score by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan, dynamic singing, and athletic dancing. On the debit side, Joe DiPietro's book reduces a traumatic period in American cultural and musical history to a bland "Behind the Music" special, and director Christopher Ashley encourages his cast to limn broadly, blunting the impact of several potentially heart-wrenching moments...Unfortunately, with the exception of Kimball's Huey, the characters come across as two-dimensional clichés—clichés who can sing but clichés nonetheless...Bryan successfully captures the flavor of the R&B and gospel tunes of the period without imitating them. (Read Full Review)

B

Relatively Speaking

First the good news: Woody Allen is as funny as ever. His one-act play "Honeymoon Motel," the capper on an evening of three short works collectively titled Relatively Speaking, has so many laughs packed into its 60 minutes that audiences had better make sure their health insurance is paid up. They'll need treatment for aching jaws and smarting bellies from laughing so hard. However, the preceding two pieces, Ethan Coen's "Talking Cure" and Elaine May's "George Is Dead," provide mixed results...Director John Turturro gives the staging a flowing, rapid pace and allows his large cast ample room to display their comedic chops...In spite of the show's shortcomings, you'll probably be seeing it on many regional theater rosters. (Read Full Review)

B

Fela!

irst produced Off-Broadway in 2008 and then reworked and tightened for a Broadway transfer in 2009, this innovative tuner told its protagonist's story in unflinchingly unconventional style. Now the touring version is making a brief Broadway summer stopover, but it feels more like a party than a challenging piece of political theater. (Read Full Review)

B

Triassic Parq The Musical

If you want the theatrical equivalent of a quick bite, "Triassic Parq" is as nutritious and forgettable as a bag of chips. (Read Full Review)

B

Measure for Measure

This subtextual concept is backed up by Elizabeth Hope Clancy's costumes—black, austere garments for the gentry, S&M fetish wear for the lowlife—and John Gromada's ominous original music. Scott Pask's unit set, which is also employed for "All's Well That Ends Well," with which "Measure" is running in repertory, transforms into several gloomy settings, from a forbidding convent house to a frightening prison to a bleak yet oddly beautiful garden. (Peter Kaczorowski's painterly lighting helps out quite a bit here.) But as the evening gets darker at the outdoor theater, the mood turns brighter, and we get a light comedy rather than a complex examination of sexual politics. Either approach can work, but Esbjornson has split the difference, leaving us with half of each. (Read Full Review)

B

All's Well That Ends Well

Anchoring this fantastic adventure in a realistic milieu can work if the leading lady and man can accomplish the difficult assignment of making their characters' questionable actions believable. While Annie Parisse and André Holland are both solid performers, they fail to completely click...Unfortunately, there is no sexual spark between the two leads, a necessary element to put across the impossible plot. Fortunately, the supporting stories more than make up for the deficiencies of the main thread. (Read Full Review)

B

Love's Labor's Lost

Karin Coonrod's frothy production of this lesser-known work for the Public Theater's Public Lab series is an entertaining romp through Cupid's grove led by some of Off-Broadway's most talented performers...The error Coonrod makes is allowing some of the clowns to play too broadly...Fortunately, the minority's mugging does not overshadow the more restrained work of the majority, and Coonrod's labors are not lost. (Read Full Review)

B

My Children! My Africa!

Fugard weaves a compelling tale, but he indulges in too many long, extraneous scenes and monologues. The play could lose a good half hour without suffering. Also, the motivations seem to be imposed by the author rather than growing organically...Luckily the actors playing them endow these figures with passion and dimension beyond their social classifications, while Santiago-Hudson stresses the conflict between people rather than politics. (Read Full Review)

B

Broke-ology

Despite the weighty metaphors, this young playwright has created a striking portrait of four people yearning to escape their blighted neighborhood yet caught by necessities and obligations. Director Thomas Kail saves the production from sentimentality by focusing on the gritty reality of the action. Donyale Werle's detailed set is especially helpful here. Strewn with junk food, medicines, and a lifetime's bric-a-brac, this house feels lived in down to the scrubby patch of lawn on the stage's apron. The actors inhabit their roles with as much attention to specifics as the director and the designer display. (Read Full Review)

B

Horsedreams

Too many of the dramatic devices strain credibility. It's hard to believe that a 10-year-old kid like Luka, no matter how mature, would make a drug deal by himself and confront his dad with the results, or that the realistic Mira, no matter how much she loves Luka, would offer to take him in if Loman doesn't get clean.

Gordon Edelstein's sure-handed direction and the intense performances make up for these flaws. Most of the text is spoken directly to the audience, with occasional interaction among the characters. Though the script tells rather than shows, Edelstein manages to make the action vital and conflict-filled, aided by Marcus Doshi's lighting and Ryan Rumery's sound, which transport us from loud, shadowy discos to neighborhoods both pristine and poverty-stricken.
(Read Full Review)

B

The Metal Children

There is a lot to admire in Adam Rapp's "The Metal Children" now at the Vineyard Theatre: a powerful culture-war issue, meaty performances from a cast full of Off-Broadway veterans, and strong direction from the author. But Rapp weighs down his script with too much matter, and the foundation cracks ... Despite the excesses, "Metal Children" offers many moving moments and details. When Vera describes Tobin's crying in his sleep as sounding like "a toy train whistling in a basement," it captures his pain with stunning clarity. As Tobin, Billy Crudup takes what could have been a self-pitying bore and makes him a wounded little boy trying to grow up. The supporting cast is especially impressive, David Greenspan, Betsy Aidem, Guy Boyd, Susan Blommaert, Connor Barrett, Halley Wegryn Gross, Jessy Hodges, and Phoebe Strole creating fully realized cultural warriors on both sides of the divide. (Read Full Review)

B

Man and Superman

The Irish Repertory Theatre has joined with Gingold Theatrical Group, which mounts staged readings of Shaw's voluminous canon, to present a streamlined version of "Man" that retains much of the playwright's legendary wit. However, director David Staller plays up the comic aspects without delving into the deeper implications of Shaw's complex theories. Ann's pursuit of Jack ends with laughter and happiness rather than Jack reluctantly succumbing to his fate and acknowledging that he is in the grip of a power greater than himself: the "life force," which Shaw calls the engine that drives the universe and the human race to create a superman. It's a matter of taste and interpretation, but the subtext could have been richer. Still, Staller delivers a jolly good time. (Read Full Review)

B

Graceland

Fairey displays an appealingly dark sense of humor...as well as a keen eye for character development and relationships, but she settles for sitcom laughs a tad too often.... Fairey does much to alleviate that feeling, by giving her dazed and confused characters strong, specific details and characteristics. But there are still too many comic coincidences which appear to have come obviously from the author rather developing naturally from the situation. Fortunately, director Henry Wishcamper and his tight ensemble resist the temptation to broadly play the sitcom elements of the script.... For a work dealing with death, loss, and breakups, "Graceland" has a lot going for it. It would be a lot more satisfying if the author hadn't pushed for laughs quite so much. (Read Full Review)

B

A Moon for the Misbegotten

Andrew May offers a searing portrayal of a scarred Jamie. Resembling a rumpled Alec Baldwin after pulling one all-nighter too many, May is the perfect picture of a goodtime Charlie whose corny jokes and boyish bonhomie can no longer mask his desolation. Dressed in a natty 1920s suit by costume designer Rachel Laritz, May skillfully dismantles Jim's crumbling facade of jollity to expose the frightened man behind it. Kim Martin-Cotten is equally dexterous at taking apart Josie's pose as a wanton trollop, revealing the romantic virgin underneath. When the two are together, you can see the conflict between the characters' public selves and their private fears on these actors' eloquent faces. But the most effective and telling scenes are the ones when they are alone and about to confront each other. There is a solo moment for each when we can see Jamie and Josie composing themselves and putting on a false front of heartiness. (Read Full Review)

B

The Great Recession

In terms of volume, "The Great Recession" is certainly a bargain. Sporting six one-act plays and a cast of more than 50, this program presented by the Flea Theater offers plenty to chew on, though some of the fare is definitely fast food. Played with great energy and specificity by the Bats, the Flea's resident company of young actors, the six plays are fast and furious snapshots of the effects of the world economic downturn. Some are funny and touching; a few are screeds of horror with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. (Read Full Review)

B-

Evita

Despite the basic proficiency of the staging, it all feels too safe. There’s no threat when the cast sings of repression by Perón’s machine, because we never see it. (Read Full Review)

B-

Outside People

"Outside People" has some intriguing elements, but in the end it's basically a soap opera. It's too bad David Henry Hwang's "Chinglish," which covers similar themes with more wit and imagination, opened so recently. Dohrn's work suffers by comparison. (Read Full Review)

B-

Looped

If wisecracks are the highlight, you might as well put on a one-woman musical—as Tovah Feldshuh and Helen Gallagher have done—instead of a play, which requires sound structure and character development. Fortunately, Valerie Harper gives a tour de force performance as the battered but unbowed Bankhead. From the familiar whiskey-and-tobacco voice to the unsteady stagger, Harper captures the voracious and volatile diva. Her timing on the laugh lines is impeccable, and her follow-up reactions wring every last guffaw from them. But she's not just doing a funny impersonation. Though Lombardo's script gives the actor ridiculously obvious cues for serious passion—when Bankhead mentions she never had children or when she's asked to perform a monologue from "Streetcar"—Harper delivers the goods. She invests the heavier moments with the same honesty and concentration as the big-yuck payoffs. (Read Full Review)

B-

Galileo

Brian Kulick's simple and imaginative production elegantly employs Brecht's presentational style and lays out both sides of the debate with equal complexity.... [W]ith more rehearsal for Abraham, this "Galileo" could sound like the heavenly music of the spheres. (Read Full Review)

B-

Baby It's You!

If your show is in trouble, be sure to get Beth Leavel in your cast ... the best reason to see "Baby It's You!," the latest in a long line of jukebox musicals besetting Broadway. The direction by Mutrux and Sheldon Epps is as unfocused as the book, but fortunately the rock-solid Leavel, as Greenberg, and a strong-voiced cast put across the numerous songs—I counted 33—with verve and punch. (Read Full Review)

B-

Vanities

This new tuner was originally slated to open on Broadway, but the recession put the kibosh on those plans. The economic downturn was probably the best thing that could have happened to Vanities. A Main Stem run for this just-okay, small-scale tuner would have most likely resulted in a short run. It's right where it belongs in a limited Off-Broadway noncommercial engagement. The show has its share of mild laughs and pleasant tunes, but it's not worth a ticket price of over $100. The staging by Tony-winning actor Judith Ivey is smooth and flexible, employing Anna Louizos' carefully detailed sets to create the different time periods. Being a performer herself, Ivey knows when to get out of the way and give her cast center stage. Each of the three has at least one number in which to shine. (Read Full Review)

B-

Now. Here. This

Bowen compares his antics as the class clown covering up his gay sexuality to a chameleon’s camouflage. Blickenstaff sees the gaudy plumage of rare birds and recalls her desperate need for attention. Bell likens his habit of indulging in fantasy to a turtle retreating into its shell. Blackwell identifies with worker bees; she was always busy in high school to distract from her shame over her messy, low-income household. These individual pieces are fun and sometimes even moving—a sequence about the death of grandmothers was touching without being treacly—but they fail to coalesce into a satisfying whole. Despite this central flaw, there is much to enjoy. The performers endow their stage personae with a delightful combination of childlike giddiness and adult self-deprecation. Bowen’s score has zip and punch, and Bell and Blackwell’s book has plenty of wit and feeling. (Read Full Review)

B-

Time Stands Still

Margulies' script is smart and brave, tackling the difficult topic of how the media covers war while it also examines the complex relationship between photographer Sarah and writer James. But, as my colleague Erik Haagensen pointed out in his review of the Friedman engagement, the playwright doesn't go deep enough beneath the surface of the characters...In addition, there are too many easy laughs at the expense of Mandy, the somewhat ditsy young girlfriend of Richard, Sarah and James' editor. Margulies also pokes glib fun at guilty liberals who alleviate their concern over problems abroad by attending plays about them. Will enough Broadway theatergoers pay more than $100 to laugh at themselves? Despite these flaws, there is much to recommend this production, principally the strong cast. (Read Full Review)

B-

Being Harold Pinter

One has to admire the actors for their dedication and courage. Unfortunately, the offstage story is more gripping than the onstage one. The torture scenes lose their impact due to repetition and lack of dramatic context. The most effective moments are surprising departures from the torture pattern, as when the actors casually drop four apples onto the floor and then suddenly smash them, or when a government official amuses a little boy (played by an adult actor) with a paper airplane, only to drive it into the top of his head. Most intense of all is the reading of the letters. The company members face front, hold flashlights under their chins, and calmly read the descriptions of protests, arrests, and appalling treatment in prison. This simple, objective re-creation of a terrifying reality makes for powerful political theater. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Hallway Trilogy

It's an interesting premise, but the result seems closer to a playwriting exercise than an organic distillation of life. Too many topics, themes, and events are squeezed in. On the plus side, three directors—Rapp, Daniel Aukin, and Trip Cullman—and a powerhouse cast of 14, most of whom take on two roles each, deliver three solid productions. The first two plays rely too heavily on creaky devices such as total strangers pouring their hearts out to each other and tenants forced out of their apartments for contrived reasons...But the third work is an imaginatively dark vision of a future filled with scientific advancement and spiritual despair...Nursing boldly examines trends in today's society and takes them to their logical, scary conclusions. All three plays benefit from strong performances. (Read Full Review)

B-

See Rock City & Other Destinations

Watching Transport Group's new musical "See Rock City & Other Destinations" is like flipping through a friend's vacation snapshots. Some are eye-catching, some are moving, and some leave you with that "I guess you had to be there" feeling. This patchwork tuner is composed of short vignettes revolving around tourist attractions and the emotional sustenance a handful of sightseers hopes to gain from visiting them. Director Jack Cummings III delivers an innovative environmental production, and the seven-member cast limns its multiple roles with urgency and wit, but Adam Mathias' book is uneven. About half of the sketches land with precision, but the rest miss the bull's-eye, either by a few degrees or several target rings. (Read Full Review)

B-

My Name Is Asher Lev

"...too much of the action consists of Ari Brand as Asher delivering large chunks of the novel. Fortunately, Brand lends variety and punch to these soliloquies, imparting the young hero’s passion for art and bringing his vision to life...Nelson and Bacon make especially valuable contributions...throughout the 90-minute piece. The skilled performers wisely avoid domineering-Jewish-parent stereotypes and concentrate on the emotions that motivate their characters’ possessiveness." (Read Full Review)

B-

The Tenant

The various plotlines are played out simultaneously, so unless you return for subsequent performances, the fragmentary nature of the enterprise makes comprehension nearly impossible. Fortunately, admission is free.

Based on the single performance attended, I was slightly intrigued by the multiple storylines, but there are so many of them and they are so splintered that any single one lacks impact. (Read Full Review)

B-

Man and Boy

However, the second act introduces a completely different dramatic conflict: Antonescu's entire empire is suddenly on the verge of collapse and, rather than flee the country or face imprisonment, he contemplates suicide. This leads to a settling of accounts with his trophy wife (the tart and tangy Francesca Faridany), his loyal right-hand man (the stalwart Michael Siberry), and Vassily, who still worships his dad despite the many economic and emotional crimes Antonescu has committed. The core of the play is the father-son dynamic, but Rattigan stuffs in so many other plotlines, this theme is weakly developed. We hear that Vassily tried to shoot his father and that the boy drinks too much, but the reasons are never fully fleshed out, so their final big emotional confrontation feels forced. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Motherf**ker With the Hat

Comedian-actor Chris Rock is a naturally funny guy and probably the main reason this show is on the Main Stem rather than Off-Broadway, but he's totally wrong for Ralph D., a health-food enthusiast and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor who has a habit of cheating on his wife, Victoria. In order for the play to work, we have to believe that Ralph is such a charismatic, charming guy that Victoria would stay with him despite his willingness to seduce any woman he can because he knows he can get away with it. Rock's Ralph is a variation on the comic's standup persona—a boyish smart aleck—not a commanding womanizer. The miscasting throws the whole play off balance, dangerously tipping it toward an HBO comedy special and away from an insightful character study. (Read Full Review)

B-

All About Me

Edna's gigantic presence overwhelms Feinstein, whose specialty is tender ballads of the Great American Songbook. He's at his best when gently caressing a lyric like Lorenz Hart's for "My Romance" to his own solo piano accompaniment of Richard Rodgers' sublime melody. When he plays the big-band singer with sustained money notes and hyped-up arrangements from the onstage orchestra, it comes across as somewhat forced ... "All About Me" is a pleasant enough way to pass an evening, but it's so short, lightweight, and familiar that it evaporates from memory the minute you hit the pavement outside Henry Miller's Theatre. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Lie of the Mind

The current revival by the New Group puts the story on a more human scale. It makes these almost mythic characters more natural but loses some of the size and power of Shepard's iconic family combatants. Ethan Hawke...has directed the high-wattage ensemble in the style of kitchen-sink realism. Sometimes they speak so naturally that you have to strain to hear them...Nevertheless, Hawke and his company powerfully execute this war between the families and the sexes. (Read Full Review)

B-

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

In the right hands, this sort of convoluted meshugaas can work, but Joseph tells rather than shows. All the dramatic conflicts—the killing of the tiger, Kev's psychological unraveling, the surprisingly humorous negotiations between Tom, Musa, and the hooker—are over too fast, and then the slain characters rise to debate the implications of their actions endlessly. Like "Spider-Man" before Julie Taymor got the boot, "Bengal Tiger" could do with some trimming. (Read Full Review)

B-

Russian Transport

Sheffer, who is making her Off-Broadway playwriting debut, displays a sharp facility for dialogue; the rapid-fire exchanges, which include Russian and fractured English for the older generation and street slang for the kids, are often funny and pointed. But there are too many confusing plot strands, most of which are abandoned to focus on the girl-trafficking angle. It doesn't help that Sarah Steele, who plays Mira, also enacts about a half-dozen of Alex's young passengers with little differentiation. Many of the dynamics among the characters also provoke head scratching. The cordial relationship between Misha and Boris at the top of the play doesn't jibe with a big secret about their past associations in the old country that's unveiled toward the end. (Read Full Review)

C+

Happy Now?

If it sounds like Kitty's a bit of a whine, she is, but the author attempts to balance that self-pitying tone with wry humor and sharp observation of the pressures placed on modern women to do it all. Coxon partially succeeds, though director Liz Diamond and a few of her cast members go too far in reaching for the humor..."Happy Now?" feels as scattered and confused as its heroine. (Read Full Review)

C+

We Live Here

While there is much to admire in this funny and touching portrait of a family coming to terms with grief, there are rough edges that need to be smoothed out...The first act is a charming and satisfying snapshot of a family attempting to relate to each other despite the elephant in the room—Andromeda's death—that everyone is trying to ignore...Unfortunately, Kazan gets too heavy-handed in the second act. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Good Mother

All five characters make seriously bad judgments as they stumble through a tortured web of accusations and countercharges over a bleak Thanksgiving weekend. There are so many plot strands that it’s difficult to keep them untangled. Gretchen Mol has the difficult assignment of making the narcissistic Larissa compelling. The play only comes alive when veteran Mark Blum, as Joel, is onstage. In one long scene between Larissa and Joel, Blum creates an uncomfortably real portrait of a flawed man torn apart. (Read Full Review)

C+

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles

The band does a fairly accurate job of re-creating the Beatles sound, but the energy and joy behind it are missing. Yes, the audience does get to its feet during an anemic "Twist and Shout," but only because the actor-musicians tell them to. Joey Curatolo, who covers Paul McCartney, is the only cast member to emerge as something more than a cardboard version of the star he's impersonating. When he flashes his radiant smile and winks at a young girl in the front row, there's a connection with a real personality rather than a soundtrack. Steve Landes does sound uncannily like John Lennon, but like Joe Bithorn's George Harrison and Ralph Castelli's Ringo Starr, he tends to fade into the background. But I suspect the majority of the show's audience isn't interested in the cast's acting skills. They just want to hear the songs and have fun. (Read Full Review)

C+

Jesus Christ Superstar

While music director Rick Fox and sound designer Steve Canyon Kennedy deliver a crystal-clear rendition of Lloyd Webber’s vibrant score and Rice’s tricky lyrics, and the performances are largely solid, this “Superstar” lacks soul. The problems include Robert Brill’s industrial set, which resembles an empty airplane hangar, Paul Tazewell’s nonspecific costumes that fail to place the proceedings in a recognizable era or locale, and McAnuff’s showy staging, which feels gimmicky and slick, missing the emotional impact of Christ’s sacrifice and his love for his disciples. The crucifixion scenes are the most telling. Just before Jesus takes his final walk to Calvary, McAnuff has him and Judas mount a moving platform that extends over the first several rows of the orchestra. Then he stands before a massive cross that lights up like a dozen Broadway marquees. All very flashy, but these stagy choices don’t give us insight into Jesus’ conflicts or his message. Furthermore, the blocking and Lisa Shriver’s choreography are so busy that often I didn’t know where to look. (Read Full Review)

C+

Falling for Eve

Do we really need another musical treatment of Adam and Eve?...The authors of "Falling for Eve" try for a broader scope by including an examination of innocence and worldliness, the ruminations of God on his creation, a subplot involving a pair of amorous angels, and a variation on the old tale of who bites into that forbidden fruit and who doesn't. The result is a mildly amusing sketch but nothing to get excited over. It's pleasant enough, but at 90 minutes it feels stretched, and the show fades from memory as soon as you leave the theater...The score, with lyrics by Howard and music by Bret Simmons, offers a handful of high spots...The six-member cast pours on the charm, and all display impressive vocal chops. Larry Raben's staging makes efficient use of Beowulf Boritt's simple revolving-platform set. But it feels as if all concerned are pushing too hard for the laughs and tears. (Read Full Review)

C+

All-American Girls

Layon Gray has a potentially gripping subject in "All American Girls": the formation of an African-American women's baseball team in the segregated 1940s. He could have deeply explored issues of race, women's roles, and wartime social change. Instead, he settles for a melodramatic murder mystery that borrows a bit too much from another play ... Fortunately, Gray gives his script a tight staging, and most of the cast get as far as first base. Chantal Nchako gives Jonetta's plea for dignity a gritty intensity, and Catherine Peoples finds spunky humor in Eddie, the overly enthusiastic catcher. There are also strong contributions from Antoinette Robertson, Ashley Jeffrey, Yasha Jackson, Mari White, Daphnee Duplaix, and Setor E. Attipoe. As the rough-edged Coach Hicks, Arlene A. McGruder hits a home run. She takes the somewhat clichéd material Gray has pitched her and knocks it out of the park with a fierce attack, powerfully portraying a woman determined to overcome the obstacles of race and gender. (Read Full Review)

C+

A Midsummer Night's Dream

[Christina Ricci, Halley Wegryn Gross, Nick Gehlfuss and Jordan Dean] have spark and look great in their underwear, as Speciale has directed them to be for most of the play, but they fail to make an emotional investment in their characters. As a result, when Speciale has them stripping down, running through Mark Wendland's lovely forest set, or tussling with each other, there's no personal stake. We get slapstick tomfoolery rather than comedy based on character.... You shouldn't have to beg for an audience response or try to improve on Shakespeare. Sadly, Speciale does both.
(Read Full Review)

C+

A Behanding In Spokane

The resultant blood-soaked dish is wildly uneven, with gaping holes in its logic. I don't care how dumb you are, nobody is dim enough to miss an inches-away telephone as a means of calling for help when you're handcuffed to a pipe and about to be murdered. But that's what happens here. However, there are some wildly funny moments. In addition, because the psycho is played by Christopher Walken and the play is strongly directed by John Crowley, who staged "The Pillowman" with incisiveness and precision, "Spokane" is a bracing example of what a crackerjack star and helmer can do with a mediocre script. (Read Full Review)

C+

Godspell

Instead of allowing the concept, of a childlike Christ leading a gaggle of puppyish disciples through the parables, to stand on its own, Goldstein has added a plethora of gimmicks, including audience-participation charades and Pictionary, as well as topical references to everything from Donald Trump to Facebook to Occupy Wall Street...Goldstein would have done better to reduce the volume and let the young ensemble rather than the jazzy staging take the spotlight...Despite the overkill, the show's warm heart manages to glow through the glitz. (Read Full Review)

C+

In the Wake

Despite some intense performances, smart direction from Leigh Silverman, and eloquently expressed ideas, the overabundance of talk is what chiefly emerges...In the Wake draws a rather unsubtle parallel between the chaos in Ellen's personal life and the breakdown in national discourse...Too often this group comes across as talking heads representing points of view rather than flesh-and-blood people in conflict...The entire company valiantly strives to bring verisimilitude to their characters, but their stimulus packages aren't always enough...But there is still much to savor here. It's always refreshing to hear an American playwright tackle politics, a topic rarely broached on or off Broadway, and Kron has a good deal to say; it's just a pity she's saying it in boldface type and capital letters. (Read Full Review)

C+

Hamlet

A brilliant star surrounded by bleak nothingness. While Law gives a muscular, intelligent performance in the most challenging role in world literature, the supporting cast and the director's concept barely register. That's a shame, because Law is a Hamlet to remember, bringing exciting physical life to each line and gesture. This dynamic film star proves he's more than just a pretty face as he invests Hamlet's quest for revenge with an intellectual vigor and an athletic attack...Whether Grandage made a conscious decision to dial back the intensity of these performers in order to allow Law to shine more brightly is beyond the discernment of a critic, but, intentional or not, these are the unfortunate results.

The Globe & Mail C+
(J. Kelly Nestruck) First off: Here's to Jude Law for putting his fame to good theatrical use...Will it expose new audiences to Shakespeare's most important play? Well, my friend swears she overheard one young woman at the matinee we attended say: “I've never seen this play before. All I know from it is, ‘Out, out damn spot.'” So we can claim at least one initiate...[Law] is a capable Hamlet, a good one even. He speaks the text intelligently and has developed his own distinct interpretation of the role. Law's Hamlet seems to have heard the expression “Don't get mad, get even” and somehow got it backward. Upon learning from the ghost that his Uncle Claudius murdered his father, he gets mad as hell – and he's going to take it for a little while longer...Around Law's star turn, Grandage has crafted a lucid production, which has transferred from London's Donmar Warehouse. He is a director who never assumes the audience knows a play and his first task is to make everything understandable...But if it is clear, it is also often quite dull. (Read Full Review)

C+

Hurt Village

Hall, best known for The Mountaintop, her West End and Broadway hit about the last days of Martin Luther King Jr., has created a vibrant community struggling to overcome poverty ("Folks round here so po' we can't even afford the 'r' at the end," one character quips), drugs, crime, and the institutional racism imposed by the "second Bush dynasty." But there are myriad confusing plot threads, some remaining unresolved, and too many of the characters come across as representatives of a condition or a point of view rather than flesh-and-blood individuals. (Read Full Review)

C+

Richard III

What Spacey does best is the sly wink at the audience as Richard sarcastically comments on the stupidity of those who fall for his "honeyed words" and subtle deceptions as the deformed usurper crawls toward the English throne over a mountain of corpses...But the star relies too much on venting Richard's ire, shifting into rageaholic mode so often it becomes tedious long before the intermission...Mendes' muscular and insightful staging almost compensates for the uneven star performance...The Anglo-American company delivers much solid work, mainly from the ladies. (Read Full Review)

C+

Three Sisters

Pendleton maintains a lively pace and draws some vital, engaging performances from a cast of theater and film veterans, but he's made some odd choices as well. As the vulgar Natasha, the wife of Andrey, the sisters' brother, the usually reliable Marin Ireland seems to have dropped in from 2011...Maggie Gyllenhaal's smirking, sarcastic Masha doesn't appear to be desperately unhappy, just mildly upset...On the other hand, Paul Lazar's Kulygin is so fully realized in his empty-headed contentment that he makes a more sympathetic figure. When Kulygin is more interesting than Masha, usually the center of the play, things are definitely off. Yet there are characterizations worth savoring...Peter Sarsgaard has settled down and delivers a straightforward, compassionate rendition of Vershinin. Jessica Hecht is heartbreakingly detailed as the lonely eldest sister, Olga, and Juliet Rylance perfectly captures the unrealistic romantic yearnings and subsequent disappointment of Irina, the youngest. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Common Pursuit

Though Kaufman has overstressed the comedy in this touching and intricate comedy-drama, the audience still contemplates the complex ideas raised and feels for the six lost souls stumbling through life after a bright beginning as ambitious Cambridge undergraduates...In the play’s earlier scenes, Kaufman has the company overplay the characters’ quirks, pushing for laughs rather than allowing Gray’s subtle observations to register. By the second act the actors settle down and don’t reach for guffaws, so the audience can discover the gaps between the small circle’s ambitions and on their own. (Read Full Review)

C+

Motown the Musical

If this were a revue, there would be no problem with the embarrassment of riches. But it's a book musical purporting to tell the story of Motown's founder Berry Gordy Jr... So much music and incident is stuffed into the show's two hours and 45 minutes, it's like one of those PBS fundraisers on which hot groups from the past alternate with testimonials on how wonderful the producing entity is... Thanks to a spectacularly talented cast, efficient direction by Charles Randolph-Wright, Peter Hylenski's superb sound design, and the flashy choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, even though the book falls short, Motown does not disappoint musically... An experienced professional, Dixon pulls his difficult assignment off with flair, endowing this cardboard version of a real-life showbiz icon with grit, passion, and some of the complexities Gordy left out of his book. (Read Full Review)

C+

Gruesome Playground Injuries

Joseph has a sharp way with dialogue and a compassionate eye for his hapless characters. I'm looking forward to the upcoming Broadway premiere of his "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer, but his work here is repetitious and underdeveloped. We get a few details about Kayleen's unhappy home life—mother gone, father distant—but not enough to involve us in or make us care about her neuroses. Doug's background is even sketchier. Evidently he has supportive and loving parents, but he can't stop putting himself in harm's way, emotionally or physically. (Read Full Review)

C+

That Face

Thankfully avoids veering into soap operatics. That is, until the final confrontation...Previous to this scene, Benson and her cast maintain credibility, and Stenham reins in the hysteria. But the climax drags on too long, and what should be a shocking conclusion...Stenham shows a remarkable flair for brutally honest dialogue and situations. She has sympathy for her misguided family but unstintingly displays their casual cruelty and shameless manipulation of each other. Yet there are structural problems...Fortunately, Laila Robins screws a tight lid on Martha's madness and only lets a little out at a time...Stenham is a promising author, and it's clear she had to get her "angry young woman" play out of her system. It will be interesting to see what she does next. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Big Knife

Fortunately, Doug Hughes's production is tight and honest, gorgeously realized by John Lee Beatty's elegant set and Catherine Zuber's stylish costumes, and the cast plays the hokey plot truthfully. Bobby Cannavale and Marin Ireland underplay Charlie and Marian's earnest integrity, but they cannot overcome Odets's soapy excesses and contrived dialogue. "Could you ever know I yearned for a world of people to bring out the best in me," Charlie proclaims toward the end. Who talks like that? (Read Full Review)

C

In Transit

It's kinda fun to hear those a cappella singing groups in the New York City subways, but an entire evening of it?...The large creative team may account for the inconsistent feel of the show. Basically a revue following several subway riders as they pursue romance and careers in the Big Apple, In Transit features catchy and ingratiating sounds but not particularly original storylines. Full marks to the four writers for some bouncy songs and clever lyrics and to musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell and the cast for creative arrangements and harmonious delivery. But the intersecting plots are mostly familiar...The most original moments are not related to these characters and their stories at all...A pleasant-enough outing, but not a complete joy ride. (Read Full Review)

C

The Language Archive

Cho's theme—we each speak an individual language that only our soul mate can understand—is a valid one, and she has written some funny and touching moments, but her protagonist's plight is too obvious and never really resolved. George spends too much of the play whining or curled up in a ball on the floor. The most interesting characters are the bickering Alta and Resten, who curse each other in comically mangled English and are played with gusto and bite by veteran character actors Jayne Houdyshell and John Horton. Unfortunately, the characters vanish for much of the second act. Luckily, Houdyshell and Horton reappear in other roles to enliven the overwritten proceedings...The Language Archive is pleasant but not rich or complex enough to hold us beyond the initial concept (Read Full Review)

C

Ionescopade

Good for only a nostalgic giggle or two...Brief segments rapidly follow one another—sort of like an existential "Laugh-In"—evaporating before the audience can digest them. Most have minimum impact and are pretty dated...But ta [sic] few still-out-there moments are genuinely sharp-edged and funny...The cast is game, and a few manage to put their own vibrant personal stamp on the wispy material...Director-choreographer Bill Castellino gives the proceedings a professional polish. (Read Full Review)

C

The Big Knife

Fortunately, Doug Hughes's production is tight and honest, gorgeously realized by John Lee Beatty's elegant set and Catherine Zuber's stylish costumes, and the cast plays the hokey plot truthfully. Bobby Cannavale and Marin Ireland underplay Charlie and Marian's earnest integrity, but they cannot overcome Odets's soapy excesses and contrived dialogue. (Read Full Review)

C

Lombardi

We're constantly told what a great guy Lombardi is, mostly by McCormick in monologues addressed to the audience. "He was the most perfect imperfect man I ever knew," the journalist informs us, but we're offered scant dramatic evidence. The playwright tells more than shows. Simonson does hint at his subject's incredible achievement of bringing the Packers from near last place to five league championships during his tenure. But the coach's struggle to pull this off is dramatized in only one scene, in which his famous strategy is demonstrated via video and animated chalkboard Os and Xs. It's a pity those symbols are the only objects engaging in strong battle in this largely conflict-free play ... Director Thomas Kail does little to increase the action, save for having David Korins' set revolve as a substitute for the lack of theatrical movement. With the help of makeup, Lauria bears a striking resemblance to Lombardi and really gets his teeth into the coach's famous temper tantrums. He also conveys the coach's passion for the game and love of his players. As McCormick, Keith Nobbs manfully handles the difficult chore of dispensing reams of narration, football stats, and exposition and manages to sneak in some believable emotions. But the show really belongs to Judith Light as Lombardi's equally tough wife, Marie. With highball in hand, Light dryly delivers Marie's piercing commentary on her husband's shortcomings and strengths. She also perfectly balances Marie's deep love for Lombardi and her own disappointment at leaving glamorous Manhattan for snowbound Green Bay. (Read Full Review)

C

Treasure Island

When it comes to fisticuffs, you can’t beat [award-winning fight director] B.H. Barry. But with his stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure classic “Treasure Island,” Barry achieves only a draw, not a knockout.... If this were a half-hour stunt show at a theme park, with only the fights and a modicum of story, it would be perfect. (Read Full Review)

C

Double Falsehood

The production of a lost play by Shakespeare should be cause for rejoicing, but Classic Stage Company's mounting of Double Falsehood inspires nothing stronger than a shrug of the shoulders and an indifferent "Meh."..The acting seldom rises above the passable, with Slate Holmgren going way over the top as the slimy Henriquez. Hayley Treider, as Leonora, musters some honest passion as the lady fights off her despised suitor, but these are brief sparks, not a sustained flame. Philip Goodwin and Jon DeVries are reliably solid as the interfering fathers, with Goodwin pulling extra duty in the utilitarian roles of a citizen and a shepherd. The best thing that can be said about Double Falsehood is that it's giving these veterans some work. (Read Full Review)

C

Rock of Ages


Rock of Ages
will appeal mainly to undiscriminating theatregoers who are more interested in hearing the tunes of their youth than in a credible story and characters with more than two dimensions. Not that there's anything wrong with a rollicking silly time, and the show partially delivers on that score. (Read Full Review)

C-

Three Pianos

Contains individual moments that are entertaining and informative, but overall the piece feels like a lengthy parlor trick...Too much time is spent during the modern-day sections in self-indulgent navel-gazing and forced conflict. At two hours and 20 minutes without an intermission, the format soon loses its novelty and comes across as a gimmick. Despite this, Burkhardt, Duffy, and Malloy manage to convey an infectious enthusiasm for their subject and are often quite cute and charming. (Read Full Review)

C-

Close Up Space

Director Leigh Silverman and a game cast try their level best to breathe life into this jerry-rigged script. (Read Full Review)

C-

Happy Hour

Atlantic artistic director Neil Pepe wisely keeps the staging from getting too broad, and in addition to MacDonald there are sharp portrayals from Clark Gregg, Lenny Venito, Cassie Beck, Ana Reeder, and Amanda Quaid. These inventive actors manage to fill in the subtext Coen does not provide. (Read Full Review)

C-

Bottom of the World

An uneven comedy-drama that only half succeeds...The cast does its best with the difficult material, and director Caitriona McLaughlin delivers a tight production. Crystal A. Dickinson illuminates Abigail's need for joy despite her overwhelming sorrow. Jessica Love attempts to bring vitality to the dead Kate, but the character is basically a ghost, with little or no positive action to play. Kristin Griffith—she was the middle sister in Allen's "Interiors"—enacts two mothers with wit and restraint. Aubrey Dollar gives Susan an edgy intensity and Dana a sweet strength. As Josh and Ely, Brendan Griffin and Brandon J. Dirden are defeated by Thurber's stilted dialogue. K.K. Moggie conveys Gina's confusion over Abigail's inconsistencies and gives Sally, a young woman who may have a crush on Dana, a deep inner life. (Read Full Review)

C-

Family Week

Not only is the plot familiar, but the 75-minute work fails to develop any of the characters and feels like a first draft.... [I]t just feels as if disastrous events are being piled on top of one another in hopes that one will grab our attention. Demme's direction doesn't help. He seems to be stuck in cinema mode, staging brief moments as if for the camera and not allowing the emotions to build.... Rosemarie DeWitt makes for a heartbreaking Claire,... but Henley gives her so little to work with that it's difficult to sympathize with the character. As Claire's oblivious mother, Lena, Kathleen Chalfant turns in a multilayered performance, as always. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Forest

Uneven...There are brief moments of enjoyable theatricality and insightful observation on the stultifying class system of 19th-century provincial Russia, but they are tiny islands in a sea of talk and melodrama...Tolan's script goes far to modernize the dialogue without making it seem anachronistic, but Kulick's direction pushes for laughs too hard and too often. He's also hampered by a huge set of extremely steep stairs, provided by set designer Santo Loquasto. (Read Full Review)

C-

Million Dollar Quartet

Attempts to spin a showbiz anecdote about larger-than-life figures at a recording session into a full-blown theatrical experience...Script is mostly filler and lead-ins (“Why don’t you play that song I like so much” is a typical intro). Despite Eric Schaeffer’s proficient direction, nothing really happens until the final 20 minutes, when Cash and Perkins inform Phillips they are moving on to bigger record deals and Phillips makes his choice about the future of his studio. Once those pesky plot points are dealt with, the walls of Derek McLane’s set fly away, all vestiges of story vanish, and we get that fabulous curtain call, with each of the quartet rocking the house down. (Read Full Review)

C-

Marie and Bruce

Shawn has made some alterations in his original script, slightly toning down the venomous dialogue, but by play's end we've sat through 90 minutes of unrelenting bitching. Couples jousting can produce great drama—witness Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? But this play is so one-note in its depiction of discord that it's hard to take. We don't know anything about Marie's or Bruce's occupation, family, or opinions on social or political issues. All those books indicate that one or the other is academically inclined, even though neither character shows any sign of it. If we had a bit more information about these two, perhaps we could care about them. (Read Full Review)

C-

Mr. & Mrs. Fitch

All this dazzle and elegance can't disguise the fact that Douglas Carter Beane's tidbit of a play, Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, offers all the dramatic nourishment of a tray of hors d'oeuvres...To be fair, there is some fun here. Lithgow gets to play piano and croon a Cole Porter tune, plus he's a stitch when simulating an orgasm of literary ecstasy as his spouse composes copy. Ehle is martini-dry and moving, particularly when delivering an insightful monologue concerning her character's visit to an Italian museum and what she discovers about mortality. But in the end, these are just random items in a scattered gossip column of a play. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Assembled Parties

Greenberg delivers numerous dazzlingly funny bits of dialogue ("Republican Jews? What is that-It's like skinny fat people," complains Faye), but there are an equal number of stilted lines. The multiple plots, especially one involving a mysterious piece of jewelry, and the arched references come across as pretentious and contrived. The author touches on the characters' conflicted sense of identity and their attitudes toward their Jewishness but fails to develop this theme. The question of their celebrating Christmas rather than Hanukah is never quite addressed. Jeff, the emotional core of the play, is underdeveloped. Other than the one phone call to his mother, we find out very little about him. Does he really have nothing else going on in his life other than the tribulations of a school chum's family? (Read Full Review)

C-

Race

it's definitely a mixed bag: At times the dialogue feels like a debate between stick figures representing opposing points of view rather than real people in a situation reflective of our conflicted society. In addition, the setup is somewhat similar to earlier Mamet play[s]. (Read Full Review)

C-

Othello

Baffling...This four-hour production is freighted with so much extra baggage, the central power struggle between the Moor and his scheming subordinate Iago is obscured...All this extraneous nonsense could be dismissed if there were a strong lead, but John Ortiz's Othello is more a second lieutenant than a general. He lacks panache and the passion to convince us his Moor is capable of tragic obsession with his wife's imagined infidelity. His hysteria seems forced, and he reaches its height in the middle of this long show, appearing all tuckered out by the climactic strangulation scene. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Iago is the center of the production and a much more complex creation...The women deliver more-consistent work. Jessica Chastain's gentle Desdemona, Liza Colon-Zayas' brooding Emilia, and Saidah Arrika Ekulona's intense Bianca, the composite role, make this seemingly endless slog worth sitting through. Ekulona, who was brilliant in last season's "Ruined," is to be commended for making sense of her mishmash of a part. Would that the director had done the same. (Read Full Review)

C-

Cactus Flower

There can be charm and energy in antiquated models, but only if you have a director who knows how to drive them. Matthew Warchus was able to get maximum mileage out of "Boeing-Boeing" in its recent Broadway outing by revving the engine. He let his cast take the crazy characters way over the top, but they still retained credible objectives. "Cactus Flower," derived by Abe Burrows from a French boulevard comedy, is an even flimsier script than "Boeing," which also had Gallic origins, and director Michael Bush fails to instill a base of veracity upon which to build a sturdy comic edifice. (Read Full Review)

D+

I Married Wyatt Earp

It's an intriguing theme, but the book by Thomas Edward West and Sheilah Rae fails to fully exploit the story's possibilities, settling for melodrama and two-dimensional characters. In addition, there isn't a strong enough reason for the tale to be retold, as Josie and Allie were both present for the events and offer little new insight or information to each other. Occasionally, one of the two women will say "I never knew that," as if to justify the recapitulation. Michele Brourman's music has some spark and wit but is largely familiar. (Read Full Review)

D+

Food and Fadwa

You know you’re in trouble when the most interesting character onstage is the crazy chain-smoking aunt who only appears occasionally to obsessively gossip on her cell phone about a favorite television show...The remaining characters are six degrees of clichés...The main plots—Fadwa being rejected by Youssif, her father’s advancing dementia—are routine. The fact that they are happening to a group of people in a part of the world that New York theater doesn’t usually cover fails to compensate for their excessive familiarity in both content and treatment. The slick direction by Shana Gold and the majority of the performances are competent but not vital enough to lift the material above its flatness. (Read Full Review)

D+

Blind

Why tell essentially the same tale with a few variations and a cell phone thrown in? Like a dog chasing traffic, this 80-minute play takes off after multiple objectives but never catches any of them. The three-person cast and director Lucie Tiberghien try their level best to tame this unruly work but ultimately fail to bring it to heel...There's lots of screaming, blood, and sex, including a particularly gory climactic combination of all three, but the action is most effective when the shouting has died down and the principals have accepted their gruesome fate. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Break of Noon

In order for the play to work, we have to believe John's conflict between his newfound faith-based altruism and his previous narcissistic urges. David Duchovny fails to convey either compassion or venality but hits the muddling middle. His John doesn't seem to care either way. This TV star makes no strong choices, and his voice is as strained as his acting. The three remaining performers, each playing two roles, fare somewhat better. Amanda Peet is solidly convincing as Ginger, John's estranged spouse, but the actor puts on a stereotypical Nu Yawk accent and tough-broad manner as Ginger's cousin Jesse, with whom John had an affair. It's as if Peet is trying too hard to display the differences between these women, as Elizabeth Montgomery did when playing identical cousins Samantha and Serena on the old "Bewitched" TV show. (Read Full Review)

D+

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Despite a few bright spots, [it] fails to hold together as a glittering entertainment, unlike previous efforts such as My One and Only and Crazy for You...The biggest problem is Joe DiPietro’s book...The plot is weak, the jokes are lame, and the characters are cardboard...Director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall does a proficient job with the dance numbers, which are executed by an attractive and energetic ensemble...but Marshall fails to scale the imaginative terpsichorean heights she did in Anything Goes. Worse, she’s unsuccessful in seamlessly blending the show’s disparate elements. Another central flaw is the casting...There’s little chemistry between [Matthew Broderick] and the vibrant O’Hara. (Read Full Review)

D+

Don't Dress for Dinner

Unfortunately, most of the company in "Dinner" seems mainly interested in grabbing laughs rather than following objectives.... [O]nly Spencer Kayden, memorably bizarre as Little Sally in "Urinetown," invests her character with clear intentions.... If the whole company had followed Kayden's lead, or if director John Tillinger had revved up his tepid staging, this could have been a satisfying "Dinner." Instead, it's like being served a tray of meager appetizers when you were expecting a full meal. (Read Full Review)

D+

Dracula

Directed with a total lack of suspense by Paul Alexander, the production is more likely to induce sleeping sickness than the thrill of fear. The pace is molasses slow, and you could drive the proverbial truck between the pauses. That may work for a Pinter play, but not for a tense melodrama. Hoping to cash in on the whole supernatural-hunk craze, the producers have cast Altieri, who sports a Fabio-length hairdo and speaks with such a thick accent that it's difficult to understand him at times. The Continental star is easy on the eyes, particularly when he rips off his shirt in order for Lucy, his chief victim, to feast on his ample pecs, but he comes across as more of a pouty supermodel than a charismatic creature of the night. In addition, there is no chemistry between him and Lucy, wanly played by Emily Bridges, who took over the role late in rehearsals. The ineptly staged erotic dance between the two is a study in awkwardness. (Read Full Review)

D+

The People in the Picture

Too big, too ornate, just too much...Fortunately, the score—featuring flavorful music by the legendary Mike Stoller (of Leiber and Stoller fame) and Artie Butler and amusing lyrics by Dart—doesn't hit us over the head like the book. Director Leonard Foglia wisely keeps the staging from going over the top, and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler provides original and inventive movement based on traditional folk dances. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Cherry Orchard

A sort of manic Chekhovian clown show. A frankly presentational style can work as long as the central dynamic of the family's tragedy of inaction is still conveyed, but Belgrader has made so many weird choices that they totally obscure Chekhov's sad and funny portrait of a flawed but loving community...Belgrader stages the play as if it were a circus, with broad pratfalls and exaggerated emoting...This misguided concept is all the more disappointing given the multilayered limning from Wiest, Turturro, Davis, and many others. (Read Full Review)

D+

An Error of the Moon

Creatore transforms a potentially fascinating historical drama into a lurid soap opera...The focus is on Edwin's Othello-like madness, which Creatore treats as a Jekyll-Hyde condition brought on first by alcohol and later by imagined visits from Mary's ghost...At least Kim Weild's direction is competent and the exemplary physical production offers something pleasant to look at. (Read Full Review)

D+

Seminar

This could have worked as a subtle study of the difficulties and joys of the writer's life, but Rebeck is guilty of the very flaws Leonard finds in his students. In an early scene, he chastises his class for creating characters so whiny and self-pitying that no one would want to read about them...Rebeck also mixes in predictable romantic entanglements, power plays, double-crosses, and secrets...There are consolations, chief among them Rickman, who wisely understates Leonard's prickly intelligence, colossal ego, and enormous self-loathing...Ironically, in this play about writers, we can see the writer's hand too clearly. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Burnt Part Boys

Forget the incredible suspension of disbelief required to buy this kid's being able to purloin the explosives and the superhokey ending in which all involved receive a ghostly visitation and miraculously survive a disaster. There is potential for an honest examination of a boy growing up without a father and the effects of a tragedy on a town and a family. But book writer Mariana Elder overplays her hand, drowning her script in sentimentality and having the characters speak in mannered Southern-fried phrases that come across as failed imitations of Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty. Chris Miller's music has a welcome country twang, and lyricist Nathan Tysen strives to avoid the genre's clichés, but he gets trapped in them too often. (Read Full Review)

D+

Prophecy

Malpede's theme is a noble if oversimplified one: War is bad. But she weighs down her storyline with considerable excess baggage. Startling revelations follow disorienting flashbacks in rapid succession, so that we're totally confused by the end of the first act and don't care what happens after intermission. The characters are more like symbols than real people and speak in position papers rather than believable dialogue. Malpede, who is her own director—another big mistake—gives the play a leaden staging with lengthy pauses between scenes. Fortunately, Sarah is played by the luminous Kathleen Chalfant, who could make farm futures gripping. This veteran actor is so focused and concentrated that she makes us care about the ludicrous plot. (Read Full Review)

D+

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark (Original production)

The fault lies mainly with director and co–book writer Julie Taymor, who does create some fascinating stage pictures, particularly when she plays with George Tsypin's perspective-skewed sets. You can tell she had a ball staging the number in which Peter Parker—Spider-Man's true identity, for you nongeeks—discovers his new powers, and the walls and floor of his bedroom become a trampoline for him to bounce off. I also loved the rescue scene, in which Spidey saves his beloved Mary Jane from the maniacal Goblin and it seems as if the audience is looking straight down on Lexington Avenue from atop the Chrysler Building. But the story supporting these imaginative images is flimsier than a strand of filament. Taymor and her book collaborator, Glen Berger, have taken threads from the comic book and all three of the "Spider-Man" movies, spun a few of their own, and weaved them into an incomprehensible web that feels more like a sticky trap than a fun playhouse. (Read Full Review)

D+

Alphabetical Order

Frayn sets up his central premise—the chaotic state of the library reflects the disorganized personal lives of the staff—early on, and there are no surprises thereafter. In following the basic format of dozens of similar workplace-based sitcoms, movies, and plays, a newcomer brings order to the confusion and robs the office of its cheerful if crazed atmosphere. There are some slight variations to the formula, though. The organizer is not a stuffy killjoy but the seemingly shy Lesley, who apologizes incessantly for her improvements yet gets her way in the end...But these virtues, plus Carl Forsman's tight staging, do not make up for the play's basically predictable structure. The cast is a mixed bag. (Read Full Review)

D

Ideal

The intellectual firebrand's combination murder mystery and philosophical tract is repetitive, heavy with symbolism, and lacking in drama. A game cast, composed mostly of recent NYU grads, does its level best to breathe life into this ponderous work ... but the actors are finally defeated by Rand's heavy-handed style ... Jenny Beth Snyder directs her young cast too loudly and broadly—not such a hot idea in a closet-size theater—and they wind up seeming like imitations of stock players in a generic Hollywood flick of the period. There are glimmers of veracity here and there. Jessie Barr, as Gonda, is given the impossible task of playing a symbol of perfection, yet she finds the humanity in this obvious device. Kim Rosen provides much-needed levity as a slick evangelist and has the play's best moment when describing the character's flashy revival show with sly subtlety. (Read Full Review)

D

King Lear

When Sam Waterston makes his first entrance as Shakespeare's King Lear on the Newman stage at the Public Theater, all of the royal court is facing away from him, kneeling in the wrong direction. Director James Macdonald probably intended this staging to represent the dysfunction in Lear's kingdom and to indicate the monarch's wandering mind, but it also serves as a metaphor for the entire misbegotten production: Something just feels off about it. The large cast consists of top-rank actors, but they seem to be in different plays, each following his or her own path rather than working together. Macdonald's direction fails to convey the heartbreak and tragedy of the aged ruler whose pride and disconnection with his three daughters leads to the dissolution of his land and the rupture of his family. (Read Full Review)

D

Reading Under the Influence

Nobody enjoys a silly sitcom or a guilty-pleasure reality TV show more than I, but Tony Glazer's Reading Under the Influence is way below even my generous standards for fun pop-culture trash. This slim comedy clocks in at a painfully unfunny 90 minutes, including intermission. The jokes are stale, the characters are flat, and the observations are shallow and obvious. The hackneyed proceedings on stage made me wish I had some of the wine the characters were copiously consuming, but a critic must keep a clear head...Glazer hits obvious targets, such as vajazzlers, political correctness, and iPhone apps, never digging deeper into what these toys and trends say about the ladies or our superficial culture. Wendy C. Goldberg's direction is as shtick-laden as the script, which a cast with major credits performs with equally broad strokes. (Read Full Review)

D

The House of Blue Leaves

Jerry Zaks' lauded 1986 production for Lincoln Center Theater struck the right balance between outlandish farce and piercing pathos. Cromer leans too far toward the latter and misses the laughs. When the proceedings get really zany in the second act, Guare's inspired script takes over and the laughs combine with the tragedy for a riotous double vision of Marx Brothers madness and Edward Hopper realism. But the necessary craziness soon fades. (Read Full Review)

D

Elf

Too sweet and a big mess...The movie pitted Buddy's relentlessly cheerful cluelessness against the nastiness of Gotham. The musical fails to provide a sufficiently dark environment for the hero to react against. Everybody drops the Scrooge attitude way too quickly. In addition, too much of the show is overly familiar...Casey Nicholaw's direction and choreography aren't particularly fresh...Even the design elements are halfhearted. The usually imaginative David Rockwell has provided cheap-looking sets for this flimsy Christmas card. Likewise, the score, by composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin—the team from the underrated The Wedding Singer—is largely a letdown. Most of the songs sound like every Christmas tune you've ever heard. It's only when they are called upon to depict an emotion other than holiday cheer that they really cook. (Read Full Review)

D

Wonderland

If you put the script of The Wiz, a self-help book, every pop tune of the past 10 years, and some lame jokes about easy targets like the Tea Party and Disney into a blender, the result might resemble the gloppy mess on stage at the Marquis Theatre. Wonderland is an attempt to update Lewis Carroll's classic children's books in contemporary musical theater terms and to cash in on the family market captured by Wicked, Shrek: The Musical, and The Lion King. Frank Wildhorn's generic score, Jack Murphy's undistinguished lyrics, and the cartoon-level book by Murphy and director Gregory Boyd may amuse the under-12 set, but they fail to offer anything of interest for adults...Only Karen Mason's Queen of Hearts captures the gleeful insanity of Carroll's original. (Read Full Review)

D

On the Levee

Unfortunately, Marcus Gardley's play introduces too many tributaries to his central theme, and most of them are choked with clichés. The powerful ex-senator's son, a poetically inclined closeted gay man, strives to achieve his father's approval. The family bootblack is seen as an Uncle Tom by his rebellious offspring for bowing and scraping too much. The pious preacher turns out to be a petty chiseler. If Gardley would just cut two or three of these storylines, things would flow more smoothly. Todd Almond's score features moving gospel and gritty blues, but the songs aren't integrated into the script, so they feel like distractions rather than comments on or development of character. To be fair, the work is subtitled "a play with music" rather than "a musical," but that doesn't excuse the choppy blending of the spoken and sung elements. (Read Full Review)

D

Clive

Jonathan Marc Sherman’s “Clive,” directed by and starring Ethan Hawke, has Derek McLane’s perfect sleazy setting, Jeff Croiter’s evocative lighting, and Gaines’ dark music to tell a somber tale of decadence and self-destruction. Unfortunately, the jumbled script and sloppy staging provide only unrelenting chaos and shallow characterization. (Read Full Review)

D

The Mountaintop

This won the Olivier Award for best new play? The question kept flashing through my mind while sitting through The Mountaintop... I did not see the London production, which garnered the aforementioned honor, but this American incarnation is so broadly acted by Angela Bassett and directed by Tony nominee Kenny Leon that it reduces its complex subject to simplistic sitcom material. Hall's script is equally reductive, treating the civil rights era and its impact as if they were Hallmark TV-movie fodder.

(Read Full Review)

D

Idiot Savant

You either get Richard Foreman or you don't—and I'm in the latter camp. For more than 40 years, the founder and director of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater has been unleashing his unique brand of theatrical mayhem, collecting Obie Awards by the bushel and enrapturing or confounding audiences. His latest effort, "Idiot Savant," is just as bizarre and perplexing as any of his 50-odd other plays. The one element that may draw non–Foreman cultists is the presence of Willem Dafoe, an Oscar nominee with roots in the avant-garde theater. Dafoe, a founding member of the Wooster Group, has collaborated with Foreman before and brings a gritty reality to the obscure goings-on. He really appears to be going through a crisis, but what it is or why it's important is never addressed ... Kraigher and Löwensohn are attractive performers and, like Dafoe, they manage to convey a sense of character and purpose, but obviously Foreman is not interested in conventional narrative or motivation. He has his own unique style and aesthetic, which has resulted in previous works of intriguing beauty. There are brief moments of bizarre whimsy here, but this piece is so deliberately obscure and abstract, I was totally lost and didn't care about anyone or anything on stage. An offstage voice, probably representing Foreman, intones at the top of the play: "Message to the performers: Do not try to carry this play forward. Let it slowly creep over the stage with no help, with no end in view." Unfortunately, the cast carries out the writer-director's intentions, and "Idiot Savant" drags itself pointlessly along to an unsatisfying conclusion. (Read Full Review)

D-

Middletown

It doesn't help that director Ken Rus Schmoll stages the proceedings at a glacial pace and has the cast deliver the boring dialogue at such an even, monotonous level that I could barely keep my eyes open. It's telling that the only two members of the relatively large (for Off-Broadway) cast to hold our attention are sitcom and musical veterans Garrison ("Married with Children") and Georgia Engel ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show"). Through expert timing and delivery, these two performers can make a seemingly ordinary line resonate with meaning or elicit a laugh of recognition. Playing multiple roles with admirable ease amid the heavy-handed surroundings, Garrison is particularly moving as a lighthearted doctor offering advice on parenting to the anxious Mary. Engel employs the ditsy-but-adorable persona that made Georgette Baxter such a beloved TV favorite to humanize the eternally optimistic librarian. The rest of the ensemble is unable to make relatable people out of the one-dimensional abstractions Eno has given them. (Read Full Review)

D-

The Road To Qatar!

Using the Bob Hope–Bing Crosby "Road" movies as a rough template for parody, Cole's book is basically a comedy sketch stretched to 90 minutes, and the characters are little more than caricatures. We don't find out much about the writers' stand-ins, Michael and Jeffrey, beyond their description as "two short Jews" in the introductory song. Michael does mention that he's gay, and Jeffrey has a collection of Woody Allen–ish eccentricities, including a fear of leaving New York and an overbearing mother, but that's about it as far as development goes. The supporting clowns are walking Arab stereotypes. These shortcomings could be forgiven if the material were at least funny or offered some witty satire on cultural clashes or the art of putting on a musical, but Cole has settled for tired disastrous-show gags that were done much better in "The Producers." (Read Full Review)

D-

Blood From a Stone

Nohilly piles one calamity on top of another without explaining why the warring parents are still in the same house or what attracted them in the first place. He hints that their union was founded in deception and their conservative views forbid the possibility of divorce, but these are only scraps...Despite admirable efforts by the ensemble and creative team to perform CPR on this critical case, the patient does not pull through. (Read Full Review)

D-

House For Sale

Can a well-written autobiographical essay be translated into a vital theater piece? In the case of “House for Sale,” Daniel Fish’s adaption of Jonathan Franzen’s insightful examination of selling his childhood Missouri home after his mother’s death, the answer is unfortunately no. (Read Full Review)

F+

The Atmosphere of Memory

It's as if Katz wanted to show off his influences and couldn't make up his mind between Woody Allen, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and comic-book creator Stan Lee (the protagonist playwright, presumably a stand-in for Katz, has a serious love for action figures and superheroes.) So he threw them all into the blender and produced a gloppy mess.... The humor is forced and heavy-handed, often relying on sexual shock value, while the drama is clichéd and derivative. (Read Full Review)

F+

The Shoemaker

A ramshackle little play about as sturdy as a pair of broken-heeled pumps...It's an opportunity to act up a storm, and Aiello takes full advantage of it, delivering a showy and obvious performance that blatantly calls attention to itself. Charlotte's script is equally transparent in its attempts to jerk tears from an undiscerning audience...The whole piece is about 90 minutes with an intermission but feels like several hours, thanks to director Antony Marsellis' uncertain and uneven pacing. (Read Full Review)

F+

Equivocation

A rambling, mixed bag of a play. It's an ambitious piece, and the author deserves credit for tackling some deep themes, but there's too much going on and it's told in such a confusing manner, I don't have to equivocate: The verdict is thumbs down...Director Garry Hynes does her level best to steer this heavy vessel through choppy waters, but she is required to change course so many times, she can't avoid hitting the breakers. One of the main problems is John Pankow in the role of Shag. (Read Full Review)

F+

It Must Be Him

The premise is tired, the jokes are stale, the characters are one-dimensional, and the direction (by Daniel Kutner) is gimmicky. I felt as if I had randomly found the play while switching channels and my remote got stuck on it...Solms attempts to jazz up the limited plot with a musical-comedy interlude and a parody of the reality show "The Bachelor." The former, which features music by Larry Grossman and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, has a promising beginning but spirals into an unfunny S&M ending. The TV spoof just falls flat. (Read Full Review)

F+

Spirit Control

This predictable melodrama, revolving around a haunted air-traffic controller, is like a cross between an old "Twilight Zone" episode and a Hallmark Channel TV movie.... Willimon may have wanted to write a tragedy about how random events can irreparably damage us, but he fails to develop his characters beyond basic outlines, so we aren't moved to care what happens to them. He also fails to examine Adam's obsession with any depth, so the final resolution—which you can see coming a mile away—has no impact. What psychological void does Maxine fill for Adam? Willimon offers no answers or even possibilities. (Read Full Review)

F+

Jekyll & Hyde

The music by Frank Wildhorn is generic, and the usually witty Leslie Bricusse's book and lyrics are simplistic... The new production does nothing to enhance the musical's reputation. The raison d'etre seems to be showing off the stars' singing. It's an example of the American Idolization of Broadway. Depth of story or characterization doesn't mean a thing as long as the leads hit their money notes and hold them for at least 20 seconds... Maroulis screams his way through both characterizations... if you thought the British accents in Kinky Boots were weak, they're all over the map here... Teal Wicks makes a convincingly devoted Emma... Director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun... does a competent job, but no more. He tries too hard to inject scary thrills with Jeff Croiter's nightmarish lighting and Daniel Brodie's horror-film projections instead of trusting the story. (Read Full Review)

F

The Starry Messenger

This script meanders, and the crises faced by its characters come across as either mundane or forced. In addition, Lonergan should have turned the staging reins over to another director. The pacing is glacial, and there are several blocking problems on Derek McLane's cluttered set. Broderick repeats his hangdog, lifeless limning from The Philanthropist, only this time his character's subject is astronomy rather than the history of words. (Read Full Review)

F-

Viagara Falls

Director Don Crichton, a dancer on Carol Burnett's classic TV variety series, has apparently learned little from his former employer. Burnett could take the most exaggerated comic creation and give it just the right tinge of verisimilitude. The staging here is as broad as the wisecracks, and none of the characters comes across as a real person, even in a sketch-comedy context. Co-author Cutell reaches painfully for laughs as the randy Charley. TV veteran Bernie Kopell ("The Love Boat," "That Girl") is a whiny bore as Moe. As the voluptuous call girl, Teresa Ganzel, best known for her work on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," resurrects stale bump-and-grind routines that went out with Gypsy Rose Lee. (Read Full Review)