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David Rooney



Reviews

A+

Matilda the Musical

Tthe capacity for constant surprise, and an almost overwhelming sense of wonder at the magic of storytelling – and by extension, stagecraft – is central to the experience of this dazzlingly inventive musical. Capturing the unique flavor of Roald Dahl’s classic 1988 children’s novel, this funhouse fairy tale is by turns riotous and poignant, grotesque and menacing, its campy comic exaggeration equaled only by its transporting emotional power. I can’t wait to see it again.

(Read Full Review)

A+

Once

There’s some special theater magic happening in Once. From writers and director through design team and an extraordinary ensemble of actor-musicians, it’s hard to think of another company in town working as such a seamless unit to serve the material...This bewitching stage adaptation arguably improves on the movie, expanding its emotional breadth and elevating it stylistically while remaining true to the original’s raw fragility. (Read Full Review)

A+

South Pacific

From the seductive swell of a full orchestra playing the glorious five-minute overture through the poignant final tableau of love and reconciliation, this is ravishing theater...The keynote to Sher's approach is restraint. Nothing is pushed too hard in this naturalistic presentation, stripped of Broadway bravado, whether it's dramatic scenes, comedy or even the seemingly effortless vocals...All that quiet restraint serves to make the stealth-like, cumulative emotional power more overwhelming. (Read Full Review)

A+

Death of a Salesman

This emotionally wrenching production evokes the unmistakable atmosphere and attitudes of mid-century America while also putting down trenchant roots in today’s world...[Hoffman] makes Willy a lost, fearful man but also a volatile one, brutally shouting down anyone who gets in the way of his delusions. It’s a titanic role that will be a career milestone for Hoffman...Every choice feels right, and every note of Miller’s play sounds clear as a bell, to the point where every audience member, irrespective of their background, will likely see something of themselves, their fathers, their families and their world. (Read Full Review)

A+

Twelfth Night

An enchanting endorsement of love in defiance of convention. It's hard to imagine a more satisfying staging of the crowd-pleasing romantic comedy than this one orchestrated by director Daniel Sullivan, a superb design team and an impeccable cast assembled around Anne Hathaway, who makes a thoroughly winning and accomplished professional Shakespeare debut. Add in the soul-stirring music of neo-folk ensemble Hem and you have one magical night in Illyria...There's a bewitching confidence in the creation of mood and atmosphere here that makes Shakespeare's melancholy comic exploration of the twisty paths and regenerative power of love, in all its mysteriousness and recklessness, truly soar. (Read Full Review)

A+

Twelfth Night

The revelation...of watching Twelfth Night and Richard III, the extraordinary repertory double-bill…is not the historical authenticity of their presentation. It’s that...the plays are rip-roaring, user-friendly entertainment for the people…it’s hard to imagine six more exciting hours of vital, emotionally and intellectually engaging theater…The chief draw for stage enthusiasts is Mark Rylance, the crazed genius…As the lovestruck noblewoman Olivia in Twelfth Night and the titular monster of ambition in Richard III, Rylance is simply astonishing. But what’s more surprising is that every single member of this magnificent company more than holds his own, showing comparable versatility in contrasting roles…The range shown by the [ensemble] over both plays is remarkable. The popular hit of the two will no doubt be Twelfth Night…The comedy of mistaken identities and misconstrued affections in my experience has never been funnier or more enchanting. Even solely on a physical level Rylance is hilarious…This is comic acting of the highest order…As Viola/Cesario…is the sublime essence of sweetness and grace. Given the dizzying heights of the comedy, the moments of poignancy are unexpectedly lovely. See one [production], see both, just don’t miss this rare chance to experience original-practices Shakespeare done so right. (Read Full Review)

A+

Richard III

The revelation…of watching Twelfth Night and Richard III, the extraordinary repertory double-bill…is not the historical authenticity of their presentation. It’s that, rather than being reverential or scholarly, the plays are rip-roaring, user-friendly entertainment for the people…it’s hard to imagine six more exciting hours of vital, emotionally and intellectually engaging theater…The chief draw for stage enthusiasts is Mark Rylance, the crazed genius…As the lovestruck noblewoman Olivia in Twelfth Night and the titular monster of ambition in Richard III, Rylance is simply astonishing. But what’s more surprising is that every single member of this magnificent company more than holds his own, showing comparable versatility in contrasting roles…The range shown by the [ensemble] over both plays is remarkable...Rylance and company gouge black comedy out of the history play without betraying its inherent nastiness.…Rylance’s Richard deliberately flirts with caricature. Playing shamelessly to the crowd with his halting speech and false air of self-pity, he makes the audience complicit in every vile deed that Richard executes or orchestrates. What makes Rylance such a dynamic performer to watch is that no matter how eccentric his choices...they are never made selfishly or without logic. He is in full command of his character at all times, but what’s equally important is that he never performs in a star vacuum. His connection to the entire ensemble is unquestionable. See one [production], see both, just don’t miss this rare chance to experience original-practices Shakespeare done so right. (Read Full Review)

A+

Ragtime

But despite its gifted cast and elaborate visual trappings, Frank Galati's original staging -- overseen with the bombast of a Barnum-esque showman by producer Garth Drabinsky -- somewhat smothered the characters' emotional journeys in spectacle. By stripping back the production frills yet retaining a grandeur appropriate to the sprawling story in Derek McLane's three-tiered, wrought-iron scaffold set, Dodge has made the focus more intimate, the sorrows more piercing and the joys more uplifting. But as much as the characters, it's the growing pains of a multicultural nation that become the production's pulsating center, swiftly communicated in a stunning opening tableau and in the exhilarating title number that follows... Some may quibble that Flaherty's score overplays its hand with its succession of emphatic anthems, but shuffled among those numbers are more delicate songs of introspection and yearning that bring the show gently back to earth from its many soaring peaks. Under Dodge's assured direction, the impeccable cast plays that balance like perfectly tuned instruments. (Read Full Review)

A+

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

A blazing reaffirmation that this towering 1962 work is the mother of all great modern marital battlefield dramas...Flawlessly cast and directed with unerring precision by Pam MacKinnon...Its major revelation is a thrilling performance from Tracy Letts that casts browbeaten academic mediocrity George in a scorching new light, making him at all times the most dangerous person in the room...But the praise that will inevitably be showered on Letts should not overshadow the accomplishments of the entire four-person cast, or the undiminished power of Albee’s masterwork. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Brother/Sister Plays

The buckets, tubs and oil drums that serve as props and percussion instruments in part one of "The Brother/Sister Plays" conjure thoughts of bailing out a drowning world. And even before Hurricane Katrina is evoked, it's impossible to watch the Louisiana bayou characters of Tarell Alvin McCraney's hypnotic trilogy without picturing those people whose invisibility was shockingly exposed in the wake of that disaster. Images of water run in a lyrical vein through the interconnected plays, which draw on West African myth to tell down-home stories rich in cultural specificity, salty humor and portentous dreams. Let's be clear upfront that those forebodings of Katrina, which is never directly named, do not mean this is some breast-beating dirge for a wounded people. The plays depict life in the projects in the fictitious community of San Pere, where narrow prospects, poverty and crime are the norm, and where folks are always braced for tragedy. But these are spiritual works that thrum with vitality, whether it's joyous or melancholy, told in vigorous language that artfully folds together slangy vernacular with bursts of haunting poetry. If there's an heir to the legacy of August Wilson, the gifted 29-year-old McCraney may be on his way to claiming that title. (Read Full Review)

A

Newsies

Rousing songs by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, high-energy dance numbers, an appealing cast and an uplifting story make this reconceived version of the Christian Bale movie one of Disney Theatrical's most entertaining new properties in years... You can call the show brashly formulaic, sentimental or simplistic, but Newsies adheres to a time-honored Disney tradition of inspirational storytelling in the best possible sense. It woiks. (Read Full Review)

A

The Book of Mormon

The entire cast is terrific... The designers merit loud applause. Framed by an enhanced proscenium that conjures the Mormon Tabernacle, Scott Pask’s sets make droll use of old-fashioned backcloths and painted flats, particularly in the hilariously vivid Ugandan village. Ann Roth’s costumes are full of witty touches. And Brian MacDevitt’s lighting is equally descriptive in hellfire and celestial modes. In choosing Lopez and Nicholaw as key collaborators, Broadway neophytes Parker and Stone have shown enormous savvy. The result is a show that’s slick where it needs to be, while retaining the rough-and-ready quality that put the South Park duo on the pop-cultural map. What makes the musical irresistible, however, is its panache in making naughty mockery of a whole string of untouchable subjects, without an ounce of spite. (Read Full Review)

A

As You Like It

Headlined by Lily Rabe, the expertly calibrated production serves as an exaltation of love and community that erases the divisions of the world for a magical three hours...Sullivan’s is arguably the most beguiling interpretation New York has seen of this play in some time...As You Like It generally sinks or soars on the charm and intelligence of its Rosalind. But the uniform strength of the entire ensemble here, and their invigorating ease with the language, is what distinguishes Sullivan’s luminous production. (Read Full Review)

A

Finian's Rainbow

It's not so much the uncanny appropriateness of its pixified fairy tale as the enveloping warmth of Burton Lane's melodies and the spry wit of Yip Harburg's lyrics that make "Finian's Rainbow" such an infectious charmer. Rather than try to get around the 1947 musical's daffy story by hammering the social satire, director-choreographer Warren Carlyle and his winning cast simply embrace its quaint idiosyncrasies...From the moment music director Rob Berman raises his lighter-than-air baton on the show's soaring overture, blissful surrender is the only option...Much of the credit for the revival's appeal goes to astute casting. Norton made a memorably sly and sozzled Dubliner in "The Seafarer" two seasons back, and he delivers a more benign version of that twinkly stereotype here, dignifying it with soulfulness, nimble physicality and a gentle comic touch. Jackson's supple voice and relaxed leading-man confidence are a smooth fit for Woody, while Baldwin, mostly seen on Broadway up to now in secondary roles or replacement casts, is a revelation...Fitzgerald's vaudevillian musical comedy skills are put to excellent use as the Cole Porter-quoting Og...With a nod to the exhilarating moves of original choreographer Michael Kidd, Carlyle blends classical with Celtic with hoedown to buoyant effect. (Read Full Review)

A

Brighton Beach Memoirs

It's easy to imagine Brighton Beach becoming either mawkish or sitcommy in the wrong hands. But Cromer has wisely opted not to direct it as comedy shaded by poignant moments, instead taking the more sober reverse approach of treating the play as a family drama leavened by humor. That choice pays off beautifully. The cast is on the exact same wavelength; they play the characters, not the jokes, so while there's plenty of Simon's trademark wisecracks and one-liners, they are not the engine. What drives the play is the humanity and compassion, virtues and failings of the very real people onstage, and the constant collision of love, anxiety and frustration that shapes their relationships. (Read Full Review)

A

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

The virtuosic comic turn here belongs to Jefferson Mays, taking on dizzyingly quick changes of costume and characterization with hilarious aplomb. But that’s by no means the sole enticement of this toothsome new musical… propelled by a rollicking story, humor of the most delectable amorality and the cleverest lyrics assembled in quite some time… With its sumptuous design elements and versatile ensemble taking on multiple roles, this is a small-scale show that feels both intimate and lavish… Inevitably, some of the helium escapes the balloon after intermission… But not enough to seriously crimp the enjoyment… From the leads down through the multitasking chorus, this is a superb ensemble, vocally and in their facility for verbal and physical comedy… this bright little jewel is a legitimate treat. (Read Full Review)

A

Avenue Q

The closing of a long-running Broadway show invariably sends a sentimental pang through the New York theater community. But even if Avenue Q no longer lives on the Main Stem, what matters is that it lives on. Of all the musicals hatched in the post-2000 age of irony, this cheeky satire of children's television shows like "Sesame Street" has arguably remained the freshest and funniest. Returning to its Off Broadway origins, the 2004 Tony winner shows no discernible signs of downsizing and no loss of heart. If anything, its message of endurance with a smile seems even more appropriate for these challenging times. (Read Full Review)

A

The Lyons

The tart yet unexpectedly compassionate slice of familial dysfunction has now moved uptown with its impeccable six-member ensemble intact...Thanks to the complexities of Lavin’s characterization, the penetrating insights of Silver’s writing, and the imperceptible calibrations of Mark Brokaw’s crisp production, Rita is no mere monster of insensitivity...The first act is black-comedy perfection...The second act takes a darker turn and has been tightened since the play’s Off Broadway premiere. (Read Full Review)

A

The Importance of Being Earnest

In bejeweled battleship gray for her first scene and imperious red for her second, Lady Bracknell’s elaborate hats look as if they might take flight at any moment. But there’s nothing campy about Bedford’s regally anchored performance. He requires merely an arching of the eyebrows or a tilt of the head to convince us he’s a woman who came to marriage with neither fortune nor rank but encountered no obstacle in elevating herself to the pinnacle of society – at least in her own estimation.
Bedford unleashes a limitless arsenal of variations on dry disapproval and can do wonders with a pause or vocal fluctuation of a half-octave or so. Mulling whether Jack is worth adding to her list of eligible bachelors, Lady Bracknell’s grilling of him is comedy at its most sublime. But then, Bedford’s every line in this entertaining revival is a jewel. (Read Full Review)

A

Circle Mirror Transformation

On the page, this might be amorphous, living and breathing only with the gentle massaging of a magic-fingered director and an intuitive cast. It gets both in Sam Gold's no-frills production for Playwrights Horizons ... The characterizations display a miniaturist attention to detail that goes down to the bone, and the actors convey as much in a look, a gesture or an awkward silence as they do in words. Baker is never blind to their weaknesses and faults, yet regards them all with a warm, empathetic eye. Arbitrary as it is to single out anyone in such a seamless ensemble, Birney ("Blasted") continues to impress as a gifted stage actor, his affectless delivery smartly contrasting his deep well of feelings. And Chimo is a real discovery; Lauren's puzzled sneer and deadpan judgments are responsible for many of the play's generous ripples of humor, but the actress never pushes for laughs. Real or imagined, her personal evolution in the final week-six exercise is extremely touching. (Read Full Review)

A

Anything Goes

There’s no attempt to layer on winking contemporary attitudes or to make concessions for the material’s corniness. As with her work on The Pajama Game and Wonderful Town, Marshall is at her best when presenting period pieces at face value. Every principal cast member nails a sharp comic caricature... At first, Marshall seems to hold back on the choreographic elements, but the steady build just makes the seismic tap-dancing explosion of “Anything Goes” at the close of act one even more exhilarating. While the audience is still recovering after intermission, Marshall wallops them again with the wild evangelical orgy of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” Leading that one-two punch must be like running the New York Marathon for Foster, but she makes it look easy. (Read Full Review)

A

American Idiot

* That Armstrong is so physically wired into the music is no surprise. What's more notable about his performance is the keen balance required to deliver a star turn that also folds seamlessly into the ensemble.... Whether the cast is engaged in anthems of celebration or scorn, in ballads of love or pain or songs of bitter reckoning, the material connects in such a way as to reawaken the rebellious spirit and freshen the ache of lost innocence in all of us. Seeing American Idiot again, the conviction deepens that this thrilling musical was robbed at the Tonys. (Read Full Review)

A

One Man, Two Guvnors

Few theatergoing experiences are as joyously liberating as being part of a packed house roaring with laughter at low comedy. That shouldn’t imply any lack of genuine wit in the broad farce and bawdy humor of One Man, Two Guvnors...It’s as much Goldoni’s fault as Bean’s that Act II never quite scales those same heights, but that impossibility is wryly acknowledged when Francis discusses his motivation with the audience...If you’re not having a good time at this show, you may be on the wrong medication. (Read Full Review)

A

Betrayal

Mike Nichols and a sizzling cast illuminate Harold Pinter’s masterfully oblique exploration of the byroads of infidelity…The Internet age of sexting scandals and tabloid humiliation, infidelity without public shaming seems almost quaint. So why is Harold Pinter’s 1978 play, Betrayal, still such a bristling drama? Its structural brilliance, for one thing, tracking an adulterous triangle in reverse chronology that stretches back nine years and uncovers as many mysteries as it solves. It also doesn’t hurt to have actors like Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall at the absolute top of their game. (Read Full Review)

A

War Horse

Emotionally stirring, visually arresting and compellingly told...Comparisons to The Lion King are inevitable but also facile. While the puppetry designs of South African company Handspring and its founders Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones are the undisputed stars here, this is an entirely different, far more emotionally immersive experience than the Disney show...Despite its penetrating sorrows, the overriding tenderness of this story of how a boy and his horse endure the brutality of war will leave few in the audience unmoved...In its blending of modern and traditional storytelling, its poetic imagery and primal emotion, this is the kind of magical theater event that comes along only rarely. (Read Full Review)

A

A Steady Rain

The Broadway staging is inevitably inflated by star power, but Crowley has maintained the arresting spareness the work seems to dictate. There are monolithic setpieces as Chicago tenements and seedy alleys loom in the background, conjured in rich detail by designer Scott Pask out of the blackness and lit with surgical precision by Hugh Vanstone. And there's abstemious use of Mark Bennett's moody soundtrack, feeding the hardboiled film-noir atmosphere. But the expert balance of visual austerity with occasional descriptive embellishment -- echoing the director's work on "The Pillowman" -- never intrudes on the play's emotional intimacy. Likewise the performances are not star turns but complex characterizations that peel back layer upon layer of reticent self-protection to reveal increasingly uncomfortable truths... Crowley places the two actors on chairs in the stark space under interrogation-room lights, as if debriefing the audience. Via passages of dialogue that are both gruff and poetic, Huff builds on that exposure to dig into the murky bonds of male friendship and brotherhood -- the shifting lines separating loyalty from betrayal, love from resentment, honor from shame. Craig and Jackman are onstage for the entire intermissionless 85 minutes, and Crowley is judicious in knowing when to keep them pinned to their seats and when to have them move restlessly about the stage or physicalize the events they're recounting. When one man is talking, the other is always watching, intent on his partner's every word, waiting to jump in with a conflicting perspective. (Read Full Review)

A

Here Lies Love

Relax, there are no cheap shoe-hoarder jokes in Here Lies Love. And despite the obvious parallels between Imelda Marcos and Eva Peron -- both were power-wielding consorts to elected politicians-turned-autocrats and both lived the glamorous life while their people struggled -- this is no imitation Evita, either. Something completely wild, original and irresistible is what it is. Performed without spoken dialogue, this sensory dance club experience actually functions as a compelling biographical deconstruction, surging along to a madly infectious score. (Read Full Review)

A

The Testament of Mary

A dense, boldly unorthodox piece for risk-averse Broadway, it has been directed with transfixing focus by Deborah Warner, whose frequent collaborations with Shaw go back 25 years. And like their last partnership on Broadway a decade ago with Medea, this play takes a figure from the ancient world, enshrouded in myth, and catapults her into modern times ... even by the elevated standards of this uncommonly gifted Irish writer, it's a work of stunning directness, the austerity of its prose matched by its soul-piercing empathy. (Read Full Review)

A

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Dark and disturbing but also corrosively funny, Rajiv Joseph’s play set during the early days of the Iraq War is an exotic original. (Read Full Review)

A

A Christmas Story

Leaving aside It’s a Wonderful Life, I confess my tolerance for holiday movies is pretty low. Likewise for holiday musicals. But A Christmas Story wore down my defenses. A cut above the pack, it’s cute, corny, wholesome and sentimental – all basic requirements for family-friendly seasonal stage entertainment. (Read Full Review)

A

After Midnight

“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” And After Midnight has it in abundance, courtesy of a superlative jazz orchestra handpicked by producer Wynton Marsalis from among the best in the business. Ninety minutes of exuberantly entertaining song and dance, this is a show that renders it impossible to keep your toes from tapping… The indisputable scene-stealer of After Midnight, however, is the marvelous Adriane Lenox… Sly, sexy humor ripples through this entire show, but nowhere more so than in Lenox’s two numbers… Lenox alone makes this a party you don’t want to miss. It’s jazz heaven. (Read Full Review)

A

Orphans

The role reversals and shifting control dynamics are skillfully navigated by the three cast members in a production that makes vigorous use of the cavernous physical space of John Lee Beatty’s imposing set. The rundown house screams neglect in the first act – frayed furniture; grubby, torn wallpaper; mottled ceiling; broken banisters leading to upstairs bedrooms partially visible behind a scrim. The quick cosmetic makeover on the premises, signaling that Harold has taken charge, gets a huge laugh when the Act II curtain goes up. Riffing off his own personality while inhabiting a distinctive character, Baldwin’s performance shows exactly why he is a comedy genius. He makes a simple drunken reverie about an Irish mother cooking corn beef and cabbage into oddball poetry. But beneath the sly humor he also taps directly into Kessler’s theme of three very different men who have been deprived of parental love and nurturing, each of them looking to compensate in his own way. (Read Full Review)

A

Golden Boy

Nothing hammers home the anemia of many new plays being presented on Broadway today quite like the comparison of watching a robust nugget from the national theatrical canon such as Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy. That’s especially true in a production as thoughtfully conceived and vividly inhabited as Bartlett Sher’s riveting 75th anniversary revival for Lincoln Center Theater. Performed on the same stage where it premiered in 1937, this grave assessment of the cost of the American Dream still thrums with a heartfelt humanism both soaring and tragic. (Read Full Review)

A

Hair (2009)

With its alfresco setting and the penetrating echoes of its countercultural themes during an election year in which political disenchantment became endemic, the Public Theater's revival of "Hair" last summer in Central Park was a unique experience. So shifting it indoors could only dim the thrill, right? Wrong. The enhanced production now at the Al Hirschfeld is sharper, fuller and even more emotionally charged. Director Diane Paulus and her prodigiously talented cast connect with the material in ways that cut right to the 1967 rock musical's heart, generating tremendous energy that radiates to the rafters. (Read Full Review)

A

Jerusalem

To borrow a phrase from Rooster, it might be described as an “alcoholic, bucolic frolic,” except that it’s so much more. Ian Rickson’s expertly calibrated production premiered at London’s Royal Court in 2009 before transferring to the West End and now Broadway, with much of its original cast intact. The masterful shifts in tone make the three-act play a rollercoaster ride from rollicking, irreverent comedy through melancholy sobriety to stunning violence, laced with haunting whispers of mythology. (Read Full Review)

A

West Side Story

Following his emotionally charged "Gypsy" revival last season, book writer Laurents has again dusted off one of his classic shows for a new generation, remaining faithful to the original conception while adding new textures to the drama. Most notable innovation is the choice to translate (via "In the Heights" composer Lin-Manuel Miranda) much of the Puerto Rican characters' dialogue and songs into Spanish. This heightens the division in the turf war between rival gangs the Sharks and the Jets, and is far less artificial than forcing people to convey extreme passion or grief in their second language. Audiences with no knowledge of Spanish will hardly feel adrift, however, in that the stakes in this urban "Romeo and Juliet" update are rendered more lucid by the dramatic integrity of the staging. And the feelings of lovestruck joy conveyed in "I Feel Pretty," or of bitter sorrow dueling with the conviction of the heart in "A Boy Like That," all but transcend words. (Read Full Review)

A

The Normal Heart

Shattering...Both stripped-down and dramatically full-bodied; it has a scorching eloquence that admirably serves the rage and anguish of Kramer’s text...This is a spectacularly well-cast production in which every role has found its ideal interpreter...Somehow, its trenchancy and impassioned urgency reach out and grab you by the throat with the force of an explosive new work...Kramer’s writing has a fiery indignation that’s entirely persuasive, compensating for the play’s occasional tendency to treat its characters as mouthpieces and to overload on factoids and statistics...It’s hard to imagine even audiences not directly touched by those awful plague years being unmoved. (Read Full Review)

A

Good People

As tough as it is tender, and shot through with aching authenticity, Good People is that rare play that is both timeless and completely keyed into a specific moment in American life -- without the need to grasp for topicality. Bringing the same clear-eyed emotional observation that distinguished his Pulitzer winner, Rabbit Hole, David Lindsay-Abaire has crafted another penetrating drama about deeply relatable issues, albeit this time with more warming doses of humor. As much as Cynthia Nixon's riveting performance anchored the earlier play in its Broadway premiere, Frances McDormand's raw characterization drives this one. She blends with unstarry humility into a superb ensemble in Daniel Sullivan's jewel of a production for Manhattan Theatre Club. (Read Full Review)

A

In The Heights

The sense of people bound together yet each with a distinctive voice, honoring their cultural roots while determinedly carving their own identity, gives "In the Heights" real humanity that transcends its flirtation with cliche. That depth of feeling, together with the wit of Miranda's lyrics, the playful dexterity of his rhymes, his dynamic score and a bunch of truly winning performances, make the show an uncalculated charmer. (Read Full Review)

A

The Merchant of Venice

In a bracing directorial flourish, Sullivan shows us Shylock's court-ordered conversion to Christianity as a shocking act of violation. This realigns the balance of the play and continues to reverberate through the romantic reconciliations that follow. Its dramatic effect heightened by Dan Moses Schreier's rich underscoring and Kenneth Posner's exquisite lighting, the wordless scene resonates in a world still torn by interfaith intolerance. Directors who explore the darker corners of Shakespeare's comedies often venture too far into gloom, but Sullivan's calibration of tone here is impeccable. (Read Full Review)

A

Wit

A deserving winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Margaret Edson’s Wit is a work of delicately calibrated opposites. It pits detached clinical observation on one side against raw human emotion on the other, while somehow making dry humor and wrenching pathos travel hand in hand. In Lynne Meadow’s unerringly focused staging for Manhattan Theatre Club, and above all in Cynthia Nixon’s shattering performance, that balancing act is rendered with piercing accuracy. (Read Full Review)

A

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

In the hands of a uniformly accomplished ensemble, there’s integrity, robustness and humanity in these vibrant characters that largely mutes the longstanding objections to the opera’s stereotypical presentation of a poor black fishing community. During the production’s gestation at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., heretical-sounding plans were tested to rework the melancholy yet stirring original ending into something more unambiguously hopeful. But while it’s unclear whether the very public rebuke of Stephen Sondheim -- in an indignant letter to the New York Times responding to coverage of the tryout run -- was influential, that idea thankfully was scrapped. (Read Full Review)

A

A Lie of the Mind

Hawke has given his cast the freedom and trust perhaps only another actor would be willing to give. Their characterizations feel like the result of intense exploration and analysis, biting into the marrow of meaning in Shepard's bracing language, but contemplating every word of gnarled lyricism and sardonic realism with a focus that serves the text, not the actor...This is a stellar ensemble down the line. However, it's Ireland's work that leaves the most penetrating impression. (Read Full Review)

A

The Pride

Moves gracefully from humor to melancholy intensity, from tart insight to tender observation. Joe Mantello's pellucid production makes fluid poetry of those mercurial transitions and the frequent temporal shifts, while his gifted cast suggests every painful undercurrent of denial and self-deception with equal clarity...Introduces former actor Campbell as a playwright of considerable maturity and structural elegance. He enfolds his flawed characters and their many ambiguities in an empathetic embrace, without in the least sentimentalizing them. (Read Full Review)

A

The Other Place

Laurie Metcalf is no fool. The actress opted out of co-starring in a new play by a leading American dramatist, choosing instead to stick with the uptown transfer of The Other Place, by the comparatively unheralded Sharr White. In the role of a brittle biophysicist, terrified, angered and ultimately humbled by her own illness, Metcalf has found a vehicle that allows her tremendous gifts to blaze fiercely. There’s a precision to the staging that enhances the puzzle-like intrigue of White’s play and safeguards it from slipping into disease-of-the-week telefilm territory. (Read Full Review)

A

The Glass Menagerie

...John Tiffany’s transfixing production... accesses the extraordinary intimacy of this landmark 1944 play in ways that give the impression you’re seeing it for the first time. A performance of towering complexity from Cherry Jones is flanked by equally illuminating work from her three co-stars, making this essential theater... No less impressive is Zachary Quinto’s knockout Broadway debut as Williams’ most nakedly autobiographical character... Rarely is that central concept of memory so woven into every fiber of the narrative... few actors expose the conflict roiling away beneath Tom’s languid Southern drawl with anything close to Quinto’s raw feeling... Keenan-Bolger [gives a] finely nuanced performance... Smith is superb in this small but pivotal role... No matter how archetypal these characters and familiar their experiences, when played with such subtlety and emotional veracity, they yield lingering rewards in the sad music of memory. (Read Full Review)

A

The Tempest (BAM)

The "rough magic" of which Prospero speaks in The Tempest is eloquently conjured by Sam Mendes and his design team in the second production of the Bridge Project's sophomore year. Paul Pyant's elemental lighting evokes water, fire, air and earth in descending order, alternately scorching and caressing the stone and sand of Tom Piper's set. But such visual sorcery would be nothing without a commanding presence in the key role of Prospero. Stephen Dillane delivers a measured yet haunting assessment of the banished duke of Milan, whose vengefulness is eclipsed by the unsuspected depths of his compassion. (Read Full Review)

A

Lucky Guy

Even to those outside the profession, the writer’s obvious love for her subject should prove infectious in this posthumously produced premiere. Directed with warmth and vitality by George C. Wolfe, it’s performed with relish by a dynamic cast of pros, piloted by an uncharacteristically rough-edged Tom Hanks. (Read Full Review)

A

The Rap Guide to Evolution

Mr. Brinkman is not intimidated by challenging material. Nor is this simply a smarty-pants vehicle in which an erudite hipster flaunts his mad skills by molding his scholarly insights into “The Origin of the Species” to unorthodox beats (provided onstage by Jamie Simmonds, the DJ and music producer). Unlike more sophomoric hybridists of highbrow content and popular form, Mr. Brinkman brings genuine passion, curiosity and analytical skills to his subject. (Read Full Review)

A

Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway

Jackman stops (just) short of giving lap dances, but in every other way, he’s a full-service entertainer...What makes Jackman such a throwback to another age in entertainment is his knack for injecting even the glitziest package with spontaneity and heart....Basically, he sells it, which in the age of the techno-spectacle, is something rare and magnetic. It’s obvious that he’s having a blast up there, and his enjoyment is contagious. (Read Full Review)

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The Scottsboro Boys (Off-Broadway)

Dares you to be entertained -- and you will be -- while it makes you squirm. Of the handful of Kander & Ebb collaborations at various stages of completion when lyricist Fred Ebb died in 2004, this provocative piece appears the likeliest to earn a place among the veteran songwriting team's signature shows...In addition to riveting material and toe-tapping songs shot through with wry humor, the Vineyard Theater premiere also benefits from a tremendously talented cast of song-and-dance men...Like the songs and staging, David Thompson's book is a model of purposefulness. It was a stroke of genius to have an all-black cast not only lampooning condescending views of African-Americans, but also hoary stereotypes of white folks. (Read Full Review)

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Dancing at Lughnasa

This revival is unlikely to supplant memories of the Tony Award-winning 1991 production, which had its premiere at the Abbey Theater in Dublin the year before. But to audiences who know the play only from the flat 1998 movie with Meryl Streep or not at all, its theatrical spell will be revealed. (Read Full Review)

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Other Desert Cities

With discreet adjustments to the text and more penetrating characterizations all around from the sterling cast, the balance between comedy and intense family drama has been fine-tuned in richly satisfying ways...In the non-political sense, this is an uncommonly democratic play. All five characters have surprising layers; their behavior is never straight-up black or white. And the entire ensemble, irrespective of their characters’ centrality, is given the scope to shine in Joe Mantello’s expertly honed production. (Read Full Review)

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The 39 Steps

The central joke in this frenetic spoof is the utter unsuitability of the material—with its high-speed chases across moors, rivers, an elevated bridge and the roof of a moving train—for stage presentation. The dated conventions of '30s filmmaking, the outmoded acting styles, preposterous accents and the loopy dialogue played straight all combine with a tongue-in-cheek performance mode that blends mime, slapstick and Monty Python-esque drollery...The real key to its success, however, is that the thriller element is entirely secondary to the laughs milked from shoestring stagecraft that redefines the term low-tech. (Read Full Review)

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Buyer & Cellar

“Buyer & Cellar,” [is] a featherweight but irresistible play about celebrity false bonding, the solitude of über-fame and the seductive allure of expensive chintz. A wonderful solo vehicle for Michael Urie to purvey his wicked winsomeness, the show, which opened on Wednesday at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, is a work of extravagant fiction, albeit one rooted in bizarre fact. But the wit and invention of Mr. Tolins’s writing and the immersive storytelling skills of Mr. Urie are such that not only do they spin a sturdy narrative out of this preposterous situation, they actually persuade you to buy into it. What makes the show so enjoyable, however, is that it stops short of outright mockery. Even at its most irreverent the satire is tempered by affection and a hint of reluctant admiration…
(Read Full Review)

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A View From the Bridge

Sometimes it's high praise to call a stage director's work invisible. The compliment applies to Gregory Mosher's searing revival of "A View From the Bridge," though it by no means indicates any lack of craftsmanship or insight. Returning to Broadway after a considerable absence, Mosher has instilled in his outstanding cast an unconditional trust in Arthur Miller's text, evoking a time, a place and a 1950s blue-collar community with penetrating integrity. Each scene flows seamlessly from the one before in a production that expertly plants the seeds of inexorable tragedy yet grips with a tension and volatility that make every moment seem unpredictable. (Read Full Review)

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Evita

Arguably the best of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals and the least dated of his collaborations with lyricist Tim Rice, Evita gets its first-ever Broadway revival almost 30 years after ending its original smash run. In the assured hands of director Michael Grandage and choreographer Rob Ashford, fresh electricity charges through the poperatic 1978 saga of the immortalization of Argentine First Lady Eva Perón, a juicy anti-heroine captured with teeth and claws in a sensational performance by Elena Roger. (Read Full Review)

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The Mountaintop

Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop literally explodes into metaphysical magic realism, ruminating on race and politics, life and death in ways that connect King’s legacy to every person in the audience. Such bold writing requires actors with inarguable authority, and Kenny Leon’s supple production has them in Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett... The performance people will be talking about is Bassett’s. She’s brash and funny, cozying up to a familiar sassy stereotype as she demonstrates how to take a drag on a cigarette “like it’s going out of style.” (Read Full Review)

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Follies

As reality warps into fantasy Derek McLane’s set becomes a riot of tulle roses, drenched in waves of shifting color by Natasha Katz’s lighting. That gloriously kitschy backdrop sets the stage for each of the four principals to have a show-stopping meltdown as Weissman-style production number. Burstein becomes a manic vaudevillian, angrily clowning his way through “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me-Blues.” Peters turns the torchy “Losing My Mind” into a shattering account of romantic yearning, uncovering all the vulnerability she kept hidden earlier. Maxwell smolders and vamps through “The Story of Lucy and Jessie,” attempting to reconcile the contradictions of a bored trophy wife who craves girlish passion. And in “Live, Laugh, Love,” Raines (a longtime Guiding Light regular with a rich baritone) reveals the hollowness beneath Ben’s smug exterior opening up like a yawning abyss. (Read Full Review)

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The Winslow Boy

It’s a slow starter, and indeed its unhurried four acts might seem to lack economy for contemporary audiences. But in a production as expertly judged and performed as this one, there’s real pleasure in settling into the plush upholstery to savor the nuances of character, the subtle humor and fine shadings of the drama’s consideration of justice and honor. (Read Full Review)

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

The rejuvenating air of a purification ritual runs through Julie Taymor’s beguiling production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream…From the opening coup de theatre, there’s a distinct impression that the visionary director is exorcizing the demons of her acrimonious experience on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark by revisiting her roots, often with a self-referential wink. That makes for handcrafted theater that is by turns eerie, ethereal, carnivalesque, scary and funny–all of it a cozy fit for this timeless comedy about love’s twisty paths. The director’s rapport with actors has never been at the forefront of her work. Text and performance take a backseat to visuals, becoming less central to the experience than in the average Shakespeare production. But what stunningly descriptive visuals they are, weaving the story in bold, vivid strokes set to a sinuous score by Taymor’s partner and longtime collaborator Elliot Goldenthal. The effect is both magical and menacing, establishing the tone of a production in which dark enchantment, danger and playful comedy go hand in hand. (Read Full Review)

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Master Class

Tyne Daly is doing something extraordinary in Master Class. The fireworks and the scalding sarcasm are present and accounted for, which is as it should be in a role that calls for large doses of hauteur and humor. But it's the humbling isolation and accumulated disappointment beneath all the self-dramatizing grandiosity and the put-downs that make Daly's finely layered performance so riveting ... What really distinguishes Daly's Callas is the depth and shadings of her interaction with her students. Her methods are uncompromising, even pitiless. But there's a strong sense here of an exacting teacher who gives the students something they can take away and use. She's not unthreatened by the promise of their talent, particularly the girls. But she's also fiercely driven in coaxing them to deliver their best. And there are subtle notes of warmth beneath the grande dame airs that might not register with a lesser actor in the role. (Read Full Review)

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Seminar

The play is more driven by character than narrative. It doesn’t go deep on the armor required for artistic self-exposure or in subverting the mentor-acolyte dynamic. There are also drawbacks in the stage shorthand required to believe that fully formed opinions can be based on cursory glances at anything as complex as fiction writing. But Seminar is tight, witty and consistently entertaining, acquiring more muscle as the layers are peeled back to reveal both the scarred humanity and the numbness beneath Leonard’s soured exterior...This is a virtuoso role for Rickman; it’s to his credit and Gold’s that he makes it an integral part of the ensemble, not a star turn. (Read Full Review)

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Domesticated

What Bruce Norris did for prickly attitudes surrounding race in his Pulitzer- and Tony-winning Clybourne Park, the playwright does for similarly irreconcilable issues of gender politics in Domesticated. While not as incisive or ingeniously structured as the earlier work, this is a tart, provocative comedy of the most corrosive kind, driven by scathingly funny dialogue. Anna D. Shapiro’s super-streamlined production for Lincoln Center Theater boasts a terrific cast, with a superbly matched Jeff Goldblum and Laurie Metcalf facing off as the warring husband and wife under a sticky spotlight. Though the setup is terrific, the play doesn’t quite deliver the punch it promises and feels perhaps a draft or two away from its ideal form. But Norris is such a sharp observer of contemporary mores and moral ambiguities that Domesticated remains ripely entertaining throughout, with not a weak performance in the bunch.
(Read Full Review)

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A Little Journey

Unseen in a professional production in New York since its Broadway premiere, this 1918 play is a beguiling rarity and a bracing plunge into the three-act theatrical pleasures of another age, replete with sparkling dialogue and soaring sentiments. (Read Full Review)

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The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures

Referred to in the writer's shorthand as iHo, it deals with economic injustice, self-sabotaging liberals, working-class disenfranchisement and the violation of American myths. It takes stock of the failure of the radical-progressive revolutionary agenda and of the imperviousness to change of a capitalist society, an intransigence that has wrought both frustration and complacency. That's undeniably a lot of 21st century disillusionment to cram into a play -- even one running 3 hours, 40 minutes -- and the rippling perspectives are at times overwhelming. But Kushner's social engagement and his intellectualism are balanced, as always, by his penetrating humanism. The play's ideological reflections are all firmly rooted in its characters. (Read Full Review)

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The Scottsboro Boys

From the first ominous pounding of a bass drum and rattle of a tambourine, the score is vintage Kander & Ebb, marrying buoyant entertainment with a sinister double edge...The scarcity of songs without some kind of sardonic bite enhances the resonance of the rare sentimental numbers, notably "Go Back Home," a tender ballad in which the boys yearn for family and freedom...Despite playing to a larger house, the boys' vulnerability now cuts deeper, their vigorous commitment matched by their seamlessness as a unit. Among the newcomers, Joshua Henry is a terrific addition in the central role of Haywood, a powerfully masculine presence full of smoldering rage and righteous indignation...An occasional slackness creeps into the book scenes, and perhaps inevitably, the production loses some of its compactness on a Broadway stage. But Stroman's work has economy, precision and subversive showmanship...This bold musical keeps you tapping your feet while it socks you with an emotional punch to the gut. That's a tough combo for mainstream commercial acceptance, but it makes for arresting theater. (Read Full Review)

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Be A Good Little Widow

Written when Ms. Brunstetter was a 2009 playwright in residence at Ars Nova, this modest but delicately satisfying serio-comedy keeps threatening to get cute, yet always chooses a more unexpected direction. The play is less about how Melody copes with sudden loss or contemplates her future than about her acquiring an understanding of her marriage and what it might have become. That knowledge provides poignant comfort. (Read Full Review)

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Mary Poppins

There seems to be an unspoken rule that shows have to skirt three hours or London audiences will feel swindled. On Broadway, greater economy is welcomed and the producers' refusal to trim more than 10 minutes from "Mary Poppins" will challenge the attention span of children, especially in the protracted 90-minute first act. But reprise-laden excesses aside, there's much to savor here...Bourne and co-choreographer Stephen Mear's athletic dance routines are at their liveliest in "Jolly Holiday" and the rambunctious rooftop tap number, "Step in Time," while "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is animated by fun semaphore spelling moves. "Spoonful of Sugar" is played for comedy, with the Banks' kitchen collapsing in chaos only to be reassembled with a flick of Mary's wrist. But it's the simpler staging that often captivates most, in the melancholy "Feed the Birds" or the joyous "Let's Go Fly a Kite." (Read Full Review)

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The Assembled Parties

This is an idiosyncratic play that reveals itself slowly and perhaps never quite fully, but Lynne Meadow’s expertly gauged production has just the right feel for its shifting rhythms. So too does Santo Loquasto’s sleek set nail the significance of the environment. The revolving maze of rooms appears both pristinely perfect and yet fully inhabited; during spinning scene changes we see a connective thread of life filling the sprawling apartment’s various nooks. We also glimpse evidence of secrets, discords. More than the physical production, however, what separates this from a mannered New Yorker cartoon world is the wonderful anchoring performances of Jessica Hecht and Judith Light, both of them rich in complex humanity. (Read Full Review)

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Billy Elliot

High among the strengths of this big-hearted show is the success of director Stephen Daldry and writer-lyricist Lee Hall in infusing the story with gritty cultural specificity and an angry liberal political agenda while at the same time rendering it emotionally accessible to audiences regardless of their background or politics. Who would have guessed that a musical in which conservative economic policies deal a death blow to the working class could be such an uplifting experience?... Elton John's songs are more often serviceable than memorable, and the ballads are treacle, but there's a nice, brass-heavy Brit sound to the orchestrations that adds to the show's strong sense of place. Regardless of their quality as showtunes, almost all the significant numbers are elevated by Daldry's propulsive staging into buoyant setpieces. (Read Full Review)

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Colin Quinn Long Story Short

[T]his expertly honed monologue is not the usual comic indictment of America's cultural cringe moments. Instead, it's a savvy socio-historical tour that zeroes in on the Achilles' heel of every once-mighty civilization, from cavemen onward. Playing an 11-week Broadway engagement following its downtown run this summer, the show has been slickly packaged with an amphitheater set and lively projections mixing art, digital graphics and ancient cartography to help keep pace with Quinn's globetrotting. It also has a marquee-name director in Jerry Seinfeld, whose skill at pinpointing the universally relatable truths hidden in everyday arcana dovetails neatly with Quinn's observational comedy on a more expansive canvas. (Read Full Review)

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Born Yesterday

The marquee names...are Jim Belushi and Robert Sean Leonard, and their television profiles are likely to draw the tourist traffic. But it’s breakout star Nina Arianda tackling an iconic role in a beloved chestnut that hardcore theatergoers won’t want to miss...Taking your first Broadway bow in a role inextricably linked to the great Judy Holliday requires moxie as well as talent. The relative newcomer proves she has both to spare in an enchanting turn that’s gutsy, hilarious and fully inhabited...Director Doug Hughes (Doubt) doesn’t try to goose the 1946 comedy with contemporary perspective...Instead, he lets the play stand on its own idealistic, mid-century terms in its certainty that honesty and Constitutional integrity will always win out over big-money muscle and corporate and political self-interest...Hughes also respects the shop-worn mechanics of the three-act play, with its conveniently timed entrances and exits through multiple doors on a single set. And what a set. (Read Full Review)

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The Comedy of Errors

Without exception, this is a beautifully spoken production, with the lucidity and accessibility that Shakespeare in the Park demands. In addition to the principals, Hadary and Sudduth score in tasty secondary roles, the latter hilariously doubling as Dromius of Ephesus’ zaftig kitchen maid fiancée. De’Adre Aziza smolders as a courtesan who delivers the bluesiest, sexiest “Hey nonny nonny” number ever heard; Robert Creighton is amusing as a diminutive jeweler whose gold gets delivered to the wrong Antipholous; and Becky Ann Baker infuses fresh spark into the late action as a tough-talking Abbess flanked by pistol-packing nuns. The Comedy of Errors is never going to yield the beguiling romantic rewards of Twelfth Night or the dark complexities of The Merchant of Venice, to name two recent Sullivan successes on the Delacorte stage. But with this cast of pros unleashed on John Lee Beatty’s charmingly old-fashioned theatrical set in Toni-Leslie James’ snazzy costumes, it’s a fine way to spend an evening in Central Park. (Read Full Review)

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God of Carnage

The fanged comedy picks an easy target in the complacent bourgeoisie. But the savagery of its dissection of interpersonal politics--marital, sexual and civic--is played to perfection by a scorching cast in Matthew Warchus' pungent production...Aided by regular translator Christopher Hampton, Reza has crafted tantalizing blueprints for four distinct characters to be fleshed out by a quartet of resourceful actors...All four characters could easily have tipped over into grotesque loathsomeness, but Warchus and his impeccable ensemble make them just pretentious, unfeeling and self-absorbed enough to get under the skin while still sharing traits with most moderately well-heeled New Yorkers...From verbal zingers to sly physical humor, the timing is superb...Like its title, "God of Carnage" is not always the subtlest play; it doesn't go deep and it's not without its repetitive passages. But it's elegant, acerbic and entertainingly fueled on pure bile. It's Reza's sharpest work since "Art." (Read Full Review)

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Once

Given that the earlier incarnation was covered in detail in The Hollywood Reporter and has moved uptown virtually intact, this is not a review so much as a reiteration of the musical’s rewards..... Perhaps inevitably, the show sacrifices a little of its intimacy in the move from a 200-seat theater to a Broadway house with a capacity nudging 1100. And Milioti pushes the quirks of her bluntly frank character (“I am always serious. I am Czech.”), adding to the occasional tendency of Walsh’s book to veer toward the twee.
But those minor quibbles hardly matter when there’s such tenderness in the performances and such skill in the musicianship. (Read Full Review)

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Far From Heaven

Composer Scott Frankel and lyricist Michael Korie demonstrated their refined talent for shaping challenging material into emotionally resonant musical theater with Grey Gardens in 2006. With help from playwright Richard Greenberg, the same team delivers a flawed but compelling work of delicate nuances and lingering rewards in Far From Heaven. While the Playwrights Horizons stage seems too confining for the show’s lush flights of feeling and cinematic flourishes, this is an intelligent, ambitious piece that deserves a future life. (Read Full Review)

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Gore Vidal's The Best Man

Still has plenty of bite even in our more jaded age, when chronic moral affront has so polluted the national political landscape that it’s seemingly beyond clean-up. An ideally timed antidote to a mercurial presidential primary race running low on levity, Michael Wilson’s Broadway revival is shrewdly cast, with a starry ensemble that lands every laugh while bringing sly shadings to their characters...The familiar names will be the draw, but Vidal’s epigram-loaded dialogue is the payoff. (Read Full Review)

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Baby Universe: A Puppet Odyssey

Like all good puppet shows, this one inspires a childlike sense of wonder as these unlikely characters become real and expressive. Narrative clarity wavers here and there, but the show’s exploration of classic mother-and-child themes is particularly touching as 7,001 gets kidnapped by the Moon and has to be lured back to the lab by his mother’s broadcast lullabies. (Read Full Review)

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The Motherf**ker With the Hat

Playing a big-hearted lug, Cannavale’s performance is what holds the play together as Jackie struggles to stay off booze and keep hold of his moral compass. As its title suggests, Motherf**ker comes on with a lot of tough-talking bravado and wild profanity. Underneath that, however, it’s a wistful story of a couple who have loved each other almost all their lives, but can’t keep it together. Cannavale’s Jackie bounces from goofy exhibitions of romantic ardor to volatile explosions to wounded-puppy vulnerability to genuine pain, always putting his own unique spin on Guirgis’ virtuoso dialogue. (Read Full Review)

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Clybourne Park

[A] meaty satirical swipe at ingrained prejudices and the way we address them...In Pam MacKinnon’s expert staging, this is provocative entertainment that generates as much uneasiness as laughter...The play is a slow-starter, and the caricatured 1950s sitcom stiffness of Christina Kirk as painfully well-meaning housewife Bev, in particular, takes some getting used to. But MacKinnon, who has honed her directing chops on the heightened realism and scathing social observation of Edward Albee, is in her element here. She and Norris light a time-bomb fuse...Where he falters mildly is in a conclusion that retreats into the history of the house...Still, this is a needling, insightful work, as excruciating as it is funny. (Read Full Review)

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A Streetcar Named Desire

It tends to under-serve the pathos while more assiduously exploring the humor and sensuality. But while it’s uneven, this is a muscular staging driven by four compelling, sexy lead performances and a sturdy ensemble...Spiced by the jazzy strains of Terence Blanchard’s original score, this Streetcar smolders...If Blanche appears to lack vulnerability for much of the sluggish first act, Parker plays her subsequent unraveling commandingly. (Read Full Review)

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700 Sundays

Crystal again shows his gift for taking an Eisenhower-era childhood that was both ordinary and exceptional, and rendering it universal for a nostalgic public. Whether or not our experience overlaps with that of the hardworking performer, his family reminiscences strike chords…700 Sundays is both a deeply personal rite and a precision-tooled machine. The show is mostly unchanged aside from minor updates, such as the obligatory Obamacare joke. Much of the appeal of 700 Sundays lies in the savvy balance Crystal brings to his scrapbook of memories…In ways both funny and poignant, Crystal evokes all of our lives. What makes 700 Sundays such a comfort-food meal, however, is its artful blend of humor and emotional heft. Overwritten as Crystal’s words often are, their sincerity comes through, even in a show that’s too tightly constructed to allow for much spontaneity. More than the ample laughs, Crystal’s achievement here is in forging a tender connection to everyone who has experienced or even contemplated the loss of a parent. (Read Full Review)

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Grace

Grace is a peculiar play that won’t be for everyone, and its payoff is definitely muted. But in a Broadway fall lineup stacked with revivals of familiar material, its unsettling mood is compelling.
(Read Full Review)

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Fela!

Breaks bold new ground in musical theater...Rather than a straight-up chronicle of the life of late Nigerian musician-activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the show is about vividly conjuring a specific atmosphere. It provides a full-immersion experiential ride through the artist's heady, hermetic world, from his formation as a musician to his spiritual and political awakening. Crafting a show that's more impressionistic than informational has its limitations as well as rewards. Despite minor tightening since it premiered Off Broadway last fall, "Fela!" remains undershaped; at times, it's repetitive and self-indulgent. It leans more toward celebratory tribute than warts-and-all portrait. However, Fela's egomania and retrograde attitude toward women, which ran contrary to the example of his feminist mother, are by no means glossed over...Such reservations are secondary to the tremendous raw authenticity and electric energy of this dance-heavy bio-musical, and the dangerous sensuality of Sahr Ngaujah (alternating performances with Kevin Mambo), who inhabits the title role with a cool command that never loses intensity...As much as the hit Broadway revival of "Hair," this is a show that defies an audience to remain outside the experience, particularly as the dancers and musicians shimmy and weave through the aisles. (Read Full Review)

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Gruesome Playground Injuries

In Second Stage’s sleek production, the play is directed with a savvy balance of mordant humor and romantic longing by Scott Ellis. A dab hand at comedy, lately much in demand in television, his recent credits include Modern Family, Hung, 30 Rock, The Good Wife and Weeds... Joseph’s writing is a little too enigmatic to give it much emotional charge, but the play is weird and authentically painful enough to keep it enthralling. It’s helped by the poignant interplay between Carpenter and Schreiber, who make their most extreme behavior endearing. (Read Full Review)

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Three Sisters

Affecting...There’s bracing clarity to [this production's] transitions from hope to rankling disillusionment to pained resignation...While Paul Schmidt’s translation has a spare, modern flavor, the cast mixes contemporary and classical delivery to audacious effect. Their conversational ease lends urgency to a play essentially about stasis and isolation. And Pendleton’s cinematic embrace of overlapping dialogue and action – it’s almost like an Altman movie at times – imparts a real feeling of people alone in a crowd...Stomping around the dacha, masking her insecurities with entitlement, Ireland’s performance risks the boldest detours out of period, but she makes it work...Design contributions...tame the challenging CSC space better than any production there in recent memory, making it both more open and more intimate. This lucid interpretation rewards with its deep understanding of a complex play. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Freedom of the City

Given that the outcome is revealed from the start, and that there are somewhat didactic detours along the way, the play’s emotional impact is especially noteworthy....Charlie Corcoran’s set and Michael Gottlieb’s mercurial lighting help create an immersive atmosphere in this taut production. But the play is distinguished most of all by the incisive characterizations of the Guildhall three, their contrasting outlooks elucidated in the piercing monologues that herald their deaths. (Read Full Review)

A-

Diary of a Madman

While Gogol's short story is counted among the finest examples of the compressed-narrative form, there's a hint of bloat in this version stretched to just over two hours. But a little self-indulgence seems permissible when the clowning is so endlessly inventive, reaching dizzying absurdist heights in Poprishchin's accounts of canine espionage. Purely as a display of an actor's vocal and physical technique, this is a staggering performance. But it's when the buffoonery, arrogance and pretentious airs are erased by the cruel reality of Poprishchin's schizophrenia that Rush's powers are fully unleashed. (Read Full Review)

A-

Annie

Hardcore fans may find it lacking in the property’s traditional brash vibrancy, but what makes this revival disarming is that it’s cute without being cutesy and sweet without being saccharine. It’s also an unexpected surprise to rediscover how indelibly one song after another is embedded into our – OK, my – mental showtune playlist. In much the same way the talented Lilla Crawford, as the feisty foundling kid with the mop of red curls, muscles her way into the heart of gruff billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Anthony Warlow), this is a tough show to resist. (Read Full Review)

A-

Thinner Than Water

[T]his engaging play by Melissa Ross is an intelligently wrought entry into that crowded field [of family dramas], fortified in a LAByrinth Theater Company production by an able cast and Mimi O’Donnell’s crisp direction.... [M]ostly the writing is pithy yet sensitive, its verbalized emotions a smooth fit for LAByrinth’s trademark aggressive naturalism. (Read Full Review)

A-

Macbeth

Cumming’s fluid handle on the entire dramatis personae is not just a virtuoso actor’s showcase.... [The] concept is both limiting and liberating, underserving some of the play’s fundamental themes while illuminating others... Max Richter’s mix of ambient and mournful melodic music, Fergus O’Hare staticky sound, and Natasha Chiver’s chilly lighting feed the brooding atmosphere... The mercurial, mischievously humorous qualities of Cumming’s best work are on display as he bounces from one role to another, nimbly switching vocal intonations or physical behavior as required. The dialogue exchanges and the soliloquies are equally riveting. There are many moments also of unexpected poignancy... For anyone encountering Macbeth for the first time, this interpretation may be baffling. Despite the versatility and stamina of Cumming’s performance, prior familiarity with the drama seems essential to keep track of the various characters and follow the violent action. But for theatergoers weary of too many routine retreads, this radical staging -- skewed as it is -- offers fresh stimulation.
(Read Full Review)

A-

Water by the Spoonful

It's not likely to go down among the great Pulitzer winning plays, but Water by the Spoonful showcases a distinctive voice from a young dramatist best known for her book for the Tony winning musical In the Heights. If the writing occasionally lacks muscle, it compensates with large amounts of compassion, becoming unexpectedly moving in the final stretch ... Director Davis McCallum draws sensitive work from the entire cast, all of them fully tapped into the idiosyncrasies and melancholy humor of the playwright's characters. (Read Full Review)

B+

My Trip Down the Pink Carpet

While gaydom now embraces a full gamut of subsets, in Mr. Jordan’s pithy assessment the heady disco days of the 1970s had “queens and butch queens,” distinguishable by their dance-floor moves. Watching the silver-topped, 4-foot-11-inch star execute both styles with pitiless accuracy is among the more hilarious moments of his show, heightened by tart commentary in his flowery Southern drawl...He combines a writer’s eye for detail with an actor’s facility for mimicry and a stand-up comedian’s knack for injecting spontaneity into oft-told stories...Directed by David Galligan and minimally designed with a revolving door and pink velvet rope, the show could be structurally tighter, but Mr. Jordan’s excitable discursiveness is part of his charm. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Trip To Bountiful

One of the most moving roles in 20th century American drama for an actress in her senior years, Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful has been an acclaimed late-career vehicle – television, movies and stage – for Lillian Gish, Geraldine Page and Lois Smith. Horton Foote’s exquisite 1953 play also serves the estimable Cicely Tyson admirably, and vice versa, even if Michael Wilson’s comfort-food Broadway revival seldom matches her level. (Read Full Review)

B+

Peter and the Starcatcher

Design work is delightful, especially Jeff Croiter's vivid lighting and Donyale Werle's tangle of rigging for the shipboard scenes, framed by a kitschy gilded fake proscenium and dusty velvet show curtain. But it's in the simple flourishes – conjuring a wild storm at sea with little more than a length of rope, or a giant crocodile with a pair of red headlights and strings of white flags for teeth – that the show taps into a magical tradition of children's theater. In an era of mainstream family entertainment in which audience imagination is too rarely a requirement, it's a breath of salty sea air. (Read Full Review)

B+

Cinderella

Cinderella gets off to a halting start and takes some questionable detours. But this pleasurable confection overcomes its conceptual missteps with old-fashioned stagecraft, enchanting design elements, smooth direction and choreography, and most of all, winning contributions from an ideally cast ensemble... Douglas Carter Beane's book is paradoxically its shakiest element... Thankfully, the classic Charles Perrault tale proves indestructible enough to withstand the meddling. The quintessential element that the production gets resoundingly right is the chemistry between downtrodden Cinderella (Laura Osnes) and her lovestruck Prince (Santino Fontana)... Osnes is loveliness personified – the epitome of goodness without being a drip, and Fontana appealingly straddles the divide between gallantry and cluelessness... Clark, who spends half her stagetime in rags as a crazy villager, is a delight as the Fairy Godmother... the material is an imperfect fit for Beane’s snappy irreverence. But under the gently guiding hand of director Brokaw, this Cinderella makeover nonetheless has enough magic on tap to deliver crowd-pleasing family entertainment.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

That anything-goes sensibility runs riot in Priscilla, which stands guilty on charges of crassness, clunky storytelling and undue slavishness to its source material. Subtlety has no home here. What the show does deliver, however, is joyous crowd-pleasing entertainment, raunchy humor, eye-popping visuals and unexpected heart. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Judy Show

If The Judy Show, running at the DR2 Theater, is not quite the realization of Ms. Gold’s lifelong dream, it’s a highly entertaining consolation prize for the rest of us. (Read Full Review)

B+

Figaro

Performed by a company of accomplished farceurs and directed by Hal Brooks with a playful command of both verbal and physical comedy, the production makes a persuasive case for this frolic, which has long been overshadowed by the Mozart opera it inspired. Mr. Morey and Mr. Brooks strike a deft balance between the popular theater in the age of this work’s setting and a more modern sensibility, flavoring the witty dialogue with just the right infusion of contemporary idioms and mannerisms. (Read Full Review)

B+

Bring It On: The Musical

Is the show destined for a place in the musical-theater pantheon? Unlikely. But it scores points by reinventing rather than replicating the source material, sampling from a tasty selection of pop-cultural favorites. And the sheer athleticism of the event numbers – with whirling cheerleaders catapulted into the air and then caught in gasp-inducing basket tosses – provides enough genuine thrills to compensate for the stop-start storytelling. When the girls are airborne, the show soars...
It’s a credit to Whitty and his musical collaborators that they resist the obvious formulaic conclusion and instead turn this into a message musical... David Korins’ set design – with rotating panels to accommodate Jeff Sugg’s projections – is cold and mechanical, suggesting the economies of a touring production more than anything visually evocative... But director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (a Tony winner for his hip-hop moves on In the Heights) packages the material into an affectionate salute to the joys and pains of high school and amps up the electricity where it matters most – in the dance numbers. (Read Full Review)

B+

I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers

[This] single-character piece is exactly what it advertises – 80 irresistible minutes of primo tinseltown dish from a certified master chef. On the surface, it might seem a modest doodle from Logan…[b]ut the art required in shaping a theatrical monologue can be just as challenging if not more so than many multi-character works. Not only do Logan, ace director Joe Mantello and the incomparable Midler inject tender notes of ruefulness into this breezily finessed gab-a-thon, the play also provides an elegiac commentary on the shift from artist-driven to corporatized Hollywood. Midler’s consummate ability to deliver brassy chutzpah, fierceness and silky comic seduction at the same time is harnessed to perfection, allowing just a judicious whisper of vulnerability. Infusing her performance with equal parts Sue and Bette, plus a dash of her old Sophie Tucker routines, she makes this role her bitch.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Harvey

Mary Chase’s Pulitzer-winning 1944 comedy is a delectable mid-century chestnut with an idiosyncratic personality that still sparkles. And in Scott Ellis’ superbly cast revival for Roundabout Theatre Company, the gentle farce provides an ideal vehicle for the gifted Jim Parsons...Particularly when Parsons or Hecht is onstage, Harvey is a sweet treat. (Read Full Review)

B+

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Diverting...Broderick is winningly paired with the luminous Kelli O’Hara (South Pacific), and the leads are backed by a string of top-notch character turns. Throw in 21 tunes from two of the preeminent practitioners of the American musical and you have a cocktail that should go down easily with Broadway nostalgists...As much as the leads, the show’s pleasures are boosted by its busy cavalcade of eccentric supporting characters...In Bill Elliott’s old-fangled orchestrations under music supervisor David Chase, the songs sound glorious. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Royal Family

The rhythms of Doug Hughes' production are too uneven to make all its rewards equal, but George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's 1927 comedy about a New York stage dynasty retains plenty of charm for theater lovers. And while the ensemble work could be tighter, its lead performers rise to the occasion in sparkling turns...Comedy has not been the director's chosen form in his major New York credits, and a vehicle like this one -- whose acerbic witticisms have to contend with a certain creakiness and more whimsical atmosphere than narrative substance -- may not have been the best place to make the switch. Too often, the play falls back on that dated device of having scenes dissolve into chaos and squabbling, with everyone shouting over one another...But plot is secondary to characterizations here, and as the actors steadily bring definition to their roles, the production does find a workable comic footing, somewhere between the first and second of its three acts...Kaufman and Ferber's play is both dusty and thin, but what keeps it entertaining is its unambiguous love for the theater. (Read Full Review)

B+

Lost In Yonkers

After experiencing the warmly satisfying revival of Lost in Yonkers at the Beckett Theater it seems inconceivable that it has taken two decades for this Pulitzer- and Tony-winning 1991 Neil Simon play to return to a New York stage. (Read Full Review)

B+

Next to Normal

Onstage almost throughout, Ripley never loses sight of Diana's warmth and self-deprecating humor, on the one hand, or of her despair and scared confusion, on the other, no matter where her wild mood swings land. There's tremendous poignancy in her lost state, and in the complicated layers of feeling that bind her to Dan. Spencer is equally strong. Something of a Dean Jones look-alike, his Everyman-nice-guy appearance and solicitous behavior toward his wife play beautifully against his suggestions of impatience and defeat or his outbursts of righteous anger, making his journey no less moving than Diana's. Similarly, Damiano's hostile vulnerability is well paired with Chandler-Berat's sweet stoner vibe. Tveit's character has gained in texture since Second Stage, adding shades of ambiguity that rescue Gabe from angelic blandness or cookie-cutter youthful recklessness. Often lurking in the shadows, he's a bewitching, almost destructive force, a benevolent pusher who keeps Diana hooked on dangerous memories while conspiring in her most questionable decisions. (Read Full Review)

B+

Jomama Jones: Radiate

Anyone nostalgic for the mellow funk purveyed by early-’80s urban-contemporary songbirds like Stephanie Mills, Melba Moore and Angela Bofill will thrill to the return of Jomama Jones, a “soul sonic superstar” back after years of self-imposed exile abroad. A fully inhabited fictional creation of the performance artist Daniel Alexander Jones, this sultry Amazon is the headliner of Radiate...Jomama is a vividly immersive characterization that deserves a stronger narrative arc...Musically, however, Radiate glows, making it hard not to surrender to this sequin-encrusted earth mother’s soulful embrace. (Read Full Review)

B+

Pippin

…Pippin shouldn’t work, but it does. Up to a point. Diane Paulus’ Broadway revival...is massively, almost overwhelmingly entertaining, even if its audacious razzle-dazzle doesn’t mask the limitations of its book. Still, fans of this much-loved show couldn’t ask for a more energized production. In an age when every obnoxious self-promoter with an angle has his or her own reality show, that anti-aspirational moral of rejecting power and grandiosity in favor of ordinary comforts should be refreshing. Sadly, it’s just wishy-washy, despite the artful attempts of Paulus…to disguise it as something more complex. But, hey, who cares? At least that will be the response of most audiences wowed by this revival. Its stunning theatrical impact is evident from the first notes of [the]…knockout opening number. But the most noteworthy quality of this entire company is the skill with which musical-theater performers take to the territory of circus artists and vice versa. If all this creativity is in the service of a problematic musical, it’s still a wonder to behold. (Read Full Review)

B+

Reasons to be Happy

First seen in 2008...Neil LaBute’s four-character dissection of thorny relationship dynamics, Reasons to Be Pretty, is among the playwright’s most mature and satisfying works, distinguished by its uncharacteristic emotional rawness. Picking up the same fractious quartet a few years down the track, Reasons to Be Happy is an engrossing if less impactful companion piece that again tempers LaBute’s sardonic side by allowing a glimmer of compassion for people who seem incapable of sustaining lasting connections. Directed by LaBute, this is a pithy production of a play that maintains involvement and generates some squirmy humor. But unlike the bristling first chapter that introduced these characters, it never yields a lot in the way of emotional rewards. To be honest, it’s harder to care this time around about any of them, either as individuals or couples.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Richard III

Sam Mendes’ vigorously nasty staging of Richard III doesn’t stint on theatricality. Subtlety is in shorter supply. But that shouldn’t hinder the enjoyment of audiences salivating over the prospect of Kevin Spacey pulling out all the stops as Shakespeare’s most villainous bully...Human insight is missing from Spacey’s Richard, who oozes nothing but evil calculation and patronizing insincerity from every pore...As chewy as his flamboyant performance is, however, it’s a virtuoso turn that commands admiration on technique alone. (Read Full Review)

B+

Sister Act

Despite some strong numbers, it takes [Patina] Miller most of the patchy first act to seize ownership of the role, which she eventually does. In the more assured second act, the musical catches fire, establishing a fresh identity distinct from that of the movie...Composer Alan Menken teams again with lyricist Glenn Slater...to cook up a tuneful original score of lush funk grooves, entrusted to a cast of strong singers...Despite some missteps, Sister Act comes together to provide payoff in laughs, emotional uplift and spectacle. (Read Full Review)

B+

Time Stands Still (early 2010)

A thoughtful, absorbing work, its strengths maximized in the crystalline naturalism of Daniel Sullivan's production and the incisive interpretations of four astute actors...Tends to tack on ethical debate points that reveal as much of the playwright's voice as those of his characters. This makes the drama somewhat amorphous and less satisfying than it could be. But there's a ring of truth to the emotional experience being thrashed out onstage that keeps it compelling...Unapologetic Mandy has an integrity that grows as the play and Silverstone's enormously likable performance evolve, which puts the others to shame...As strong as the ensemble work is, it's Sarah's play, and the meticulous Linney reinforces that ownership without ever sacrificing her give-and-take with the other actors. (Read Full Review)

B+

Lysistrata Jones

Flinn's songs are catchy, dipping into a broad spectrum that covers pop, disco, hip-hop, rap, sports cheers and reggae. They tend toward the generic, with the ballads generally less effective than the upbeat numbers, but they do the job. The show might benefit from some streamlining, perhaps dropping a song or two and losing the intermission. However, the performers are so winning it hardly matters. Knechtges' high-energy staging seems to be running on raging hormones and off-the-charts adrenaline. His choreography of the basketball games is especially vigorous, with Aguilar busting some wild old-school '80s breakdance moves at one point. (Read Full Review)

B+

The House of Blue Leaves

It’s impossible to ignore the nagging evidence that this is not a great match of director and material. The sober intensity of Cromer’s approach makes Guare’s cruel destination seem a logical place to arrive, rather than a stinging slap as you exit the fun house. (Read Full Review)

B+

Private Lives

[Cattrall] looks sensational, a leggy blond panther right out of a 1930s screen comedy in her Marcel Wave and soigné glamour-wear. But what’s even more gratifying is how gracefully she shakes off the Samantha persona...Shaping his clipped tones, deadpan drollery and chiseled, matinee-idol looks into the Cary Grant mold, Canadian actor Gross is every bit Cattrall’s equal...A slackening of the pace as the action progresses might have less to do with Eyre’s direction than with the encumbrance of Rob Howell’s design...Still, the occupants are a good match, and that’s what matters. (Read Full Review)

B+

When the Rain Stops Falling

While the play's swift path to production on prominent stages in Sydney, London and now New York is testament to its power, this is likely to be a divisive work. It's easy to imagine some dismissing it as ponderous or confusing, overwritten or too literary. But others -- and count this reviewer among them -- will be struck by its melancholy, ruminative nature, its suspenseful structure and peculiar language, which is earthy and naturalistic but also intensely lyrical ... At other times Bovell's lofty intellectual airs get in his way; he leans too heavily, for instance, on the sinister metaphor of the planet Saturn and its mythological namesake, who devoured his children. (Read Full Review)

B+

Venus In Fur

Even if the cat-and-mouse games of Ives’ comedy with teeth become too attenuated, the players remain transfixing in Walter Bobbie’s mostly vigorous production...The push-pull dynamic of the power play between director and actress, as well as between the two characters in the play-within-the-play, gets a little repetitious in the one-act’s saggy mid-section...The views here on sexual liberation remain muddy, and the writing is sharper on comedy than psychological insight. But as a neatly balanced pas de deux, Venus in Fur makes a tasty showcase for the right actors. (Read Full Review)

B+

Next Fall

There must have been a discussion during transfer negotiations of whether to cast bigger names. However, director Sheryl Kaller has stuck with the original six-member ensemble, and the play gains considerably from the ease and refreshing modesty of this tight unit. Especially early on, Arlene's colorful eccentricities tend to point up Nauffts' over-eagerness to get a laugh, and some of the character's dialogue has a self-conscious sitcom ring to it. But Ray and the rest of the cast bring an integrity to their roles that keeps the drama grounded in a persuasively real world ... Aside from an overwritten monologue in which Arlene recalls her wild past during a reflective moment in the hospital temple, Nauffts skillfully interweaves tart observation with emotional insight. The playwright also shows a winning tenderness toward his characters, whether they're being open-minded or unyielding, flip or earnest ... This delicate balance is especially evident in the dynamic of the central couple, enhanced by the actors' flirty-fractious chemistry. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

Updated but not softened since the recent death of the “techno-libertarian hippie,” this provocative monologue pulls no punches in confronting us with the dark side of Jobs’ legacy and of our own mass addiction to gadgets...[Daisey's] voice is definitely a counterpoint to all the warm-and-fuzzy nostalgists getting misty-eyed over photos of candy-colored clamshell iBooks, as if they were childhood pets...Daisey’s work can veer toward sermonizing. His structure of loose chapters capped by resounding pronouncements becomes self-righteous at times, and at two solid hours, his storytelling here is not without fat...But Daisey is a compelling polemicist. (Read Full Review)

B+

Year Zero

These characters are cut from familiar molds, but Mr. Golamco and his appealing cast bring fresh nuances, tempering the earnestness with unassuming charm. Will Frears’s brisk production balances minor-key comedy and affecting drama. There are contrived touches, like Vuthy’s speeches to a skull he keeps in a cookie jar. But the play draws a delicate line connecting painful memories of a country left behind to the conflicted feelings of assimilated first-generation immigrants whose knowledge of that world is mostly secondhand. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Revisionist

Watching a magnificent stage animal like Vanessa Redgrave burrow deep into a complex new role in an intimate Off Broadway space seating fewer than 200 is a rare luxury for theater lovers. So a debt of gratitude is due Jesse Eisenberg, her co-star and also the burgeoning playwright behind The Revisionist, for bestowing that gift. Their two characters are imperfectly balanced, making the play’s chamber music less harmonious than it perhaps might have been. But this is nonetheless a rewarding account of cultural collision that yields unexpected reflections on the centrality of family in our lives – whether we idealize them or take them for granted. (Read Full Review)

B

Through a Glass Darkly

Dour and short on insight, but it provides a powerful role for the tremendously talented Carey Mulligan to harness her dueling forces of strength and fragility...Director David Leveaux has done a fine job summoning the stark emotional terrain of the film...There are four compelling performances here...If the bleak play is more affecting in individual scenes than as a whole it's no fault of the production. But even when the writing lets her down, Mulligan's haunting performance is riveting. (Read Full Review)

B

Hands on a Hardbody

Given the static nature of the premise, director Neil Pepe and choreographer Sergio Trujillo do a remarkable job of injecting motion into the production as the contestants drop out one by one due to physical or mental exhaustion. The unpretentious integrity of the material, the straight-up presentation of the characters and the likable cast encourage you to root for them, yielding many affecting moments. However, the show seems stretched at two hours twenty; tightening it into a one-act might heighten its impact. But even if Broadway ends up being only a branding stop, this tender collection of hard-luck heartland stories should go on to become a popular regional entry. (Read Full Review)

B

Blood From a Stone

Nohilly stumbles in the overworked mechanics of his wrap-up. As minor and major catastrophes stack up and behavior turns nastier, the writer's hand reveals itself clumsily compared to the more persuasive naturalism of what's come before. But these are vividly etched characters whose conflicts nonetheless ring true. Hawke has the most introspective and least showy role, but Travis accrues layers according to the distinct ways in which he interacts with the other characters. (Read Full Review)

B

Jesus Christ Superstar

But cheesy lyrics aside, these remain some of Lloyd Webber’s catchiest tunes, spanning rock to pop to operatic bombast. McAnuff and choreographer Lisa Shriver stage the numbers with an urgency that won’t quit, aided by an athletic cast. Starting with the overture and early ensemble number “What’s the Buzz,” the energy level never flags. Among the highlights, Bruce Dow milks sneering humor and escalating bitterness out of the campy vaudevillian “Herod’s Song,” while Young socks across a hard-charging “Superstar,” outfitted in royal blue satin and sequins, backed by foxy go-go girls. (Read Full Review)

B

Picnic

With their midcentury mores and soft-edged melodrama woven out of lives colored by despondency, emptiness and sexual repression, William Inge’s plays remain very much rooted in their period. Yet there’s something undeniably pleasurable about sinking into the vivid evocation of small-town Middle America in his 1953 Pulitzer winner, Picnic. While the heat between the central couple in director Sam Gold’s Broadway revival could have been turned up a notch, the veil of melancholy hanging over the play’s characters generates a quiet poignancy. While the production keeps the sensuality on a medium flame, the delicate textures brought to some of the secondary characters work well…As a snapshot of a time and place that shows the solitude of small-town life for so many people, women especially, Picnic yields gentle rewards. And if Gold’s staging muffles some of them, it nonetheless finds resonance in the play’s bruised cynicism about love. (Read Full Review)

B

Don't Dress for Dinner

Don’t Dress is too old-fashioned to achieve the same heightened lunacy [as Boeing-Boeing]. It’s affable entertainment with many funny moments, but not enough to disguise the mechanical structure and whiff of moldiness of its infidelity-interruptus plot.... Making the most of her rich opportunities, the gifted Kayden is a sober Plain Jane one minute and a rubber-limbed, Cointreau-soaked vamp the next, joining Robert in a killer tango. With help from costumer William Ivey Long, her instant transformation from uniformed maid to mistress in a slinky LBD is easily the production’s most hilarious sight gag. (Read Full Review)

B

Silence! The Musical

The central joke of Silence! The Musical is the glaring unsuitability of The Silence of the Lambs as fodder for musicalization...But the producers and creative team have missed an opportunity to transform the silly, scrappy show into more than an extended Mad TV sketch with hit-and-miss gags...Luckily, director-choreographer Christopher Gattelli’s proudly low-rent production has assets. There’s Jenn Harris, who skewers Jodie Foster in ways both mocking and affectionate...Brent Barrett brings serious vocal chops to Dr. Hannibal Lecter...Among the show’s more winning aspects is the Kaplan brothers’ perverse literal-mindedness in their choice of moments from the movie – and key dialogue – to transform into song. Thus, we get numbers spun out of lines from serial killer Buffalo Bill (Stephen Bienskie) like “Are you about a size 14?” and “It rubs the lotion on its skin”...As pastiche songs go, these are serviceable enough, and Gattelli has fun dropping in dance references, from tango to toreador to hoedown, from Grease and Saturday Night Fever to Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett...The show has way more brashness than authentic wit and is too content to go for easy laughs... But the cast is fully on board with the irreverent agenda and audiences with solid recall of the eccentric quirks of Demme’s movie will get a kick out of its winking acknowledgements. (Read Full Review)

B

Rock of Ages

Director Kristin Hanggi knows better than to loiter long between songs, and while it's overstretched for a show that waves its lack of substance like a banner, Rock of Ages keeps moving. Choreographer Kelly Devine gleefully apes the worst excesses of the era's pole-dancing, crotch-grinding, big-hair-tossing moves; costumer Gregory Gale re-creates the wardrobe crimes with flair; hair guru Tom Watson has worked overtime with the curling wand; and Jason Lyons' aggressive lighting cranks up the heat. While The Wedding Singer failed to sustain a Broadway audience with its '80s campfest, that show didn't have around 30 of the decade's quintessential hits sampled by a cast that screeches, roars and purrs as if to the power chord born. It's safe to say nostalgists won't feel cheated by Rock of Ages, and that it won't be stealing audiences from South Pacific. But by the time the ensemble unites on Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," even nonbelievers may start inhaling the Aqua Net and embracing their inner rocker. (Read Full Review)

B

Other Desert Cities

Aided by a first-rate cast and director Joe Mantello’s customary polish, Baitz has lost none of his talent for incisive characterization and whip-smart dialogue. If his hyper-articulate characters often sound like high-end sitcom refugees, that doesn’t detract from their credibility as a family unit, with all the frazzled affections and frictions that entails. The comedy also serves to elevate the mood before the bomb goes off ... The hurried second act veers toward overplotted soap. But if the play doesn’t fully satisfy, the superb actors keep it compelling. (Read Full Review)

B

Jersey Boys

Call it what you will--bio tuner, jukebox musical, songbook show--"Jersey Boys" is unlikely to erase the critical and industry skepticism toward the compilation genre...But this agreeably modest show has a number of appealing factors on its side. The underdog story of four blue-collar Italian boys from Jersey who become a chart-topping hit factory advocates all the right embraceable values for mainstream acceptance: family, friendship, loyalty and a grounded awareness of one's roots. It celebrates the rise to stardom while providing down-to-earth, bittersweet acknowledgement of its casualties. But most of all, it showcases an energizing concert of toe-tapping pop classics, with a quartet of vocally accomplished charmers faithfully reproducing the original Four Seasons sound.

The New Yorker B
(John Lahr) This is direct, pedal-to-the-metal stuff, without nuance, irony, or wit—the sound, as the show insists, of the working people. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice have written a clever book, which should become the template for this kind of musical excavation; it sets up the songs with well-judged humor and the elegant strokes of observation that the Four Seasons’ repertoire lacks...“Jersey Boys” knows exactly what it is: a money tree. The audience is tickled to death, but, given enough of these ersatz events, Broadway musical theatre may be, too. (Read Full Review)

B

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark

A comedy bubbling with delicious humor, even if it does take an unsatisfying turn...Period lampoonery can run out of steam, but Nottage and Bonney display a sharp grasp of screwball comedy, peppering the scenes with just enough anachronistic attitude to give them a subversive twist. Humor has often factored in Nottage’s plays but rarely, if ever, have they been this flat-out funny...But Nottage’s play deflates when it shifts to a 2003 panel discussion of Vera’s legacy and mysterious disappearance from public life following a boozy talk-show appearance in 1973...This material sits uncomfortably between sketch comedy and analytical discourse, causing too jarring a shift from the first act’s less effortful screwball antics...That said, this entertaining production explores a fascinating and unconventional subject for stage treatment. And Lathan...is dazzling. (Read Full Review)

B

Devil Boys From Beyond

You don’t get much closer to drag heaven on earth than Everett Quinton in diaphanous baby-doll lingerie and kitten heels, transformed from ig’nant trailer-trash hausfrau into hardboiled alien sex slave...And when Mr. Quinton is joined by the sublimely undignified Andy Halliday, a regular with Charles Busch’s Theater-in-Limbo, the anarchic spirit of those much-mourned downtown troupes lives again. The rest of Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott’s campy all-male spoof of 1950s sci-fi B-movies is entertaining, if seldom uproarious and occasionally stretched, even at a slender 80 minutes. (Read Full Review)

B

Marry Me A Little

Not every song is a perfect fit for the concept. Nor are they all ideally suited to the performers. But both actors bring emotional transparency to their roles, providing a quietly affecting counterpoint to the guarded ambivalence inherent in many of Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics. Watching the production is a reminder of how unaccustomed we are to hearing unamplified voices on New York stages. The simplicity of this presentation, accompanied only by John Bell on piano, makes it a disarming experience if taken on its own modest terms. (Read Full Review)

B

Present Laughter

The silk dressing gowns and suave airs of aging matinee idol Garry Essendine are a fine fit for Victor Garber in "Present Laughter," as are the quietly melancholy undertones of a charming but vain peacock, too self-absorbed and infantile to appreciate the pleasures life affords him. He's housed in the swankiest of London apartments in Nicholas Martin's elegant production, with its gorgeous, honey-toned deco wall treatments and cascading chandeliers, dominated by a portrait of Garry as Hamlet that leaves no doubt as to who's the center of attention. But those assets can't keep a certain windy fatigue from creeping into Noel Coward's comedy. (Read Full Review)

B

Southern Comfort

In its own small way, this affecting folk-bluegrass musical by Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins makes a heartfelt bid to shift perceptions... Backed by five musicians, four of whom frequently put down their instruments to serve as storytellers and actors, the cast draws the relationships with tenderness... The show ambles a bit at 2 hours, 20 minutes, and its gentle, rootsy score overloads on heart-tugging emotional ballads. But the entire cast responds well to Thomas Caruso’s sensitive direction, especially Ms. O’Toole and Mr. McCarthy, who make a memorable stage couple. Her diminutive frame and his towering linebacker presence are paired to amusing effect.
(Read Full Review)

B

In The Next Room or the vibrator play

Victorian repression gets a rude poke in Sarah Ruhl's typically idiosyncratic rumination on women's struggle to understand and explore their sexual selves, In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play. While the signature 19th century ailment being treated is "hysteria," the chief weakness is the bipolar disorder of the inconsistent second act, which shifts uncertainly between serious developments and the more farcical business of romantic cross-currents. But there are so many lingering moments of emotional truth, and even more of daring comedy, that the play amuses and charms even if it doesn't quite satisfy. (Read Full Review)

B

The Winter's Tale (2009)

The Winter's Tale lurches from tragedy to comedy to romance, its schizophrenia cemented from scene one, when the infant prince of Sicilia ponders his choice of bedtime story: "Merry or sad shall it be? As merry as you will. A sad tale's best for winter." The play traditionally resists categorization, but the heart of Sam Mendes' production is rooted firmly in pathos and sobriety, making Shakespeare's act-four departure into boisterous pastoral revelry a rude interruption to the dramatic flow. While it doesn't smooth out the unevenness, this elegant staging is so poignant in its sorrowful moods that the evening is both suspenseful and satisfying. (Read Full Review)

B

A Little Night Music

Director Trevor Nunn brings a blunt, heavy hand where a glissando touch is required, but the wit and sophistication of the material are sufficient to withstand even this phlegmatic staging. A handful of magnetic leads provides further insurance against the uneven production. At the center of that bright cluster is the luminous Catherine Zeta-Jones...The production's real jewel is Angela Lansbury as her worldly mother...There's also a lovely three-generational throughline completed by the charming Keaton Whittaker's preternaturally intelligent Fredricka, who figures as Puck in this Scandinavian Midsummer Night's Dream...The monochromatic staging is further encumbered by stiff, presentational blocking that amplifies the operetta aspects but imposes a stodginess on the human drama, even when Nunn leans hard on the comedy...What's remarkable, given its unsatisfying elements, is that this Night Music still seduces. (Read Full Review)

B

Asuncion

Eisenberg appears to have written himself a vulnerable dweeb -- all hyper-verbal nervous energy and amusing eagerness to please. But far less tender currents of masochism, insecurity and ignorance inform this neurotic character...The self-deluding sanctimoniousness of the P.C. crusaders has been a frequent target for comedy, and Eisenberg takes a fresh, often very funny bite out of the subject before the action takes a predictably nasty turn. The slender play lacks focus and doesn’t add up to an awful lot. But Eisenberg has a knack for presenting his characters in a certain light and then revealing other shades, both good and bad, which keeps things intriguing. (Read Full Review)

B

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Switching the gender of one point of the story’s romantic triangle, the new team has turned it into On a Queer Day. It’s an interesting twist but one that does little to alleviate the high-concept issues while also fragmenting the eccentric charms of what used to be the central character...All three leads are appealing and handle the wonderful songs with ease. But they somehow never knit together into an engaging trio. One obstacle in their way is the over-designed show’s suffocating visuals...It’s as if a gift-wrap factory exploded...What the production does have unequivocally in its favor is the melodious score. (Read Full Review)

B

The Boys in the Band

It's rudeness bordering on hostility to invite people over to your Chelsea penthouse, shove your flawless view of the Empire State Building in their faces, then spend the next two hours tossing back cocktails without offering them a drink. But what would The Boys in the Band be without shabby treatment of the guests? The Transport Group's site-specific production puts the audience in the thick of Mart Crowley's bitterest of birthday parties. It plants us right in the firing line when the quips give way to earnest self-loathing and the vitriol starts flying through the air like daggers in a knife-throwing act. The real accomplishment of the staging by Jack Cummings III, however, is that it physically minimizes the vast cultural distance separating the audience from the landmark 1968 play. Being so close to the well-paced action somehow helps pardon the mechanical methods used to steer the bitchy banter into ugly confrontation. And it serves to distract from the more uneasy anachronisms of this candid pre-Stonewall self-portrait of the gay American male. (Read Full Review)

B

Kinky Boots

The fact that [Lauper's] infectious spirit shines through every number in her first Broadway musical score is unquestionably the chief asset of Kinky Boots... Harvey Fierstein's warm-hearted book [is] aggressively uplifting...But the exuberance of its easy-to-embrace message, its catchy numbers and triumphant tranny-palooza finale make this a raucous crowdpleaser despite its obviousness... While Sands is low-key and naturalistic to the point of blandness... Porter’s mugging could stand to come down a notch.... If Mitchell the director too often favors cartoonishness, his work as a choreographer has just the right punch... (Read Full Review)

B

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Christopher Durang deftly borrows from Chekhov in this clever comedy. It's a very busy kettle of ideas bubbling around, not all of them brought to the boil. There's also a distinctly unChekhovian hopefulness that surfaces late in the action, suggesting that perhaps with age and experience come serenity and even growth. All of that makes this flawed play disproportionately pleasurable. (Read Full Review)

B

The Starry Messenger

"Nobody knows anything," says a character who has spent time staring into the abyss in The Starry Messenger. "We're all just guessing." That may be true, but playwright-director Kenneth Lonergan sure knows how to enrich the process of fumbling reflection, lacing questions large and small, about ourselves and the cosmos, with characteristic sensitivity, compassion and humor. While it's frustrating at times and too unhurried, this melancholy, resolutely non-judgmental mid-life crisis drama creeps up on you. It smartly refuses forced epiphanies in favor of quiet contemplation, with an intimacy that reverberates across the night sky blanketing the walls of Derek McLane's set. (Read Full Review)

B

The Miracle Worker

Kate Whoriskey directs William Gibson's midcentury chestnut with sensitivity, if not with any startling new insight. But the volatile battle of wills between the young Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, remains dramatically and emotionally effective, played with conviction by Abigail Breslin and Alison Pill ... The close moments between teacher and student are the production's most affecting, particularly their first encounter, in which the importance of touch is established, and the alphabet "game" that will become Helen's key to learning is introduced. (Read Full Review)

B

The Pee-wee Herman Show

Three decades have done nothing to blunt the edges of Reubens' inspired characterization of the ADHD poster boy, channeling both the joy and bratty capriciousness of childhood...Alex Timbers (also represented on Broadway with the historical mockumusical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) strikes the right overstimulated note in his direction, darting from one bit of business to the next without worrying too much about the flimsy connective thread...The core audience’s built-in affection for Pee-wee and Co. provides a useful distraction from the writing's lack of structure. (Read Full Review)

B

The Heiress

An underpowered Jessica Chastain, hampered by questionable directorial choices, dilutes the emotional impact of this nonetheless compelling melodrama... playing against type is less a problem in Chastain’s frustrating performance here than inconsistency of characterization... Kaufman seems constrained here by the conventionality of the drama, delivering a staging that’s more dutiful than incisive... That’s not to say the production fails to entertain... This is juicy, high-toned melodrama, and for the most part, stylishly executed. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Big Knife

Dialogue like that keeps The Big Knife humming, though this melange of film noir, melodrama and inside-Hollywood tale is far from Odets’ finest work. And given the transparency of the playwright’s retaliatory agenda, the jangly jazz poetry and hardboiled banter that can make his language so unique and hypnotic just as often come off as overwritten.

The play is a curiosity piece, and its late-'40s movie-industry milieu is certainly a juicy one. But for Broadway regulars who saw recent productions of Odets’ Awake and Sing! and Golden Boy, superior earlier dramas ennobled by a stirring humanism that’s missing here, the comparison will be unfavorable. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Streetcar Named Desire

Cate Blanchett begins and ends her slow-burning performance as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire pinned in a spotlight. At first, she cowers, frail and terrified upon arrival in an unwelcoming environment; later, she stretches her willowy body into the light, utterly broken yet perhaps strangely liberated. For a woman who has clung so desperately to the forgiving artifice of a paper lantern rather than face the harsh truth of a naked bulb, the radical shift in attitude underscores the cruel irony that her defeat may also be a release. However, such illumination comes only intermittently during the three intervening hours of Liv Ullmann's inconsistent production. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Performers

Read made a well-received Off Broadway debut last season with the drama The Dream of the Burning Boy, which like this play, was directed by Evan Cabnet. The playwright has concocted himself a fertile setup for comedy but fails to do anything creative with it. He tosses in hit-or-miss jokes (I laughed at Das Booty as a title for German dungeon porn), but very little actual cleverness or emotional insight into relationship issues. As the two young couples’ insecurities send them into a tailspin, Winkler’s more seasoned character provides sobering evidence that success doesn’t necessarily bring respect or fulfillment. But as plotted here, the reaffirmation of their love feels rote and inconsequential. (Read Full Review)

B-

Happy Hour

Following Almost an Evening and Offices, this is Coen’s third and most thematically cohesive program of shorts for the Atlantic Theater Company. It’s also an improvement over his wispy contribution to Relatively Speaking, the current Broadway anthology that teams him with Woody Allen and Elaine May. Observers waiting for Coen to evolve into more than just a doodling playwright probably won’t adjust their impression that the filmmaker is slumming it in the theater. But taken on their own limited terms, these playlets are not without bite. (Read Full Review)

B-

Dreamgirls

There's bad news and good about the much-anticipated revival of "Dreamgirls," kicking off, like the action of the show itself, on the storied stage of Harlem's Apollo Theater before a national tour. Cultists of the 1981 musical about an African-American girl group's rise to success might have been hoping for a Broadway-caliber production that would demand a midtown New York return. In most ways that count, this staging falls short of that wish. But as a road property, it's top-tier, packaged to travel and stuffed with vocal talent that does justice to Henry Krieger's sensational songs and helps compensate for stiff acting and a shortage of emotional clout. (Read Full Review)

B-

Radiance

Zeroing in on a curious intersection between one of the most momentous events in military history and a popular staple of midcentury American television, “Radiance” suggests a story rich in compelling conflict. But that story is resistant to being told in theatrical form. At least that’s the impression in Suzanne Agins’s self-consciously retro-styled production for Labyrinth Theater Company. The sketchy plot description supplied in promotional materials, and the distribution of fact sheets only at the end of each performance, indicate that the playwright and her collaborators see value in keeping key elements a surprise. Ms. Cram’s attempt to stitch a fictionalized back story around actual events is not without imagination. But with its hard-boiled (often anachronistic) dialogue and heightened characterizations, “Radiance” seems more like a thwarted screenplay than a work for the stage. (Read Full Review)

B-

Women or Nothing

Unfolding on an attractive boho-chic apartment set by Michele Spadaro, with rain trickling down outside, Women or Nothing can be amusing, thoughtful and even tender. But the characters are inconsistent, their dialogue just as often overworked as illuminating. The play’s conflicts don’t take shape fully enough for its conclusion to be satisfying. (Read Full Review)

B-

Arcadia


The production works best in playful moments, notably the scene that opens act two, in which Bernard rehearses his lecture on the supposed historical coup for Hannah and the Coverly heirs, Valentine (Raul Esparza), Chloe (Grace Gummer) and Gus (Noah Robbins). While pushing the character's mannered theatricality to self-satisfied extremes, Crudup never undersells Bernard's potent charms. He lays out his findings like an Oxbridge Hercule Poirot....other cast members seem stiff, never letting us forget they are Acting. A witty woman as flirtatious as she is imperious, Thomasina's mother is one of the play's most colorful roles, but Margaret Colinappears uncomfortable. More damaging, however, is Powley's screechy Thomasina, a brat who conveys little of the romantic yearning to make her feelings for Septimus, or her ultimate fate, resonate. As her present-day counterpart, nursing a similar crush on Bernard, Gummer barely registers. The production is not without rewards, but for a play of this complexity to land both intellectually and emotionally, it requires a seamless ensemble of actors who really listen to one another. That's too infrequently the case with this uneven cast. (Read Full Review)

B-

Hit the Wall

The words "I was there," intoned repeatedly by the characters in "Hit the Wall," give Ike Holter's play about the 1969 Stonewall riots the self-consecrated holiness of solemn testimony. But the crucial refrain is: "The reports of what happened next are not exactly clear." Mr. Holter's characters often seem more like representative factions than real people, and while the playwright may be knowingly trading in stereotype and anachronism, this produces mixed results. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Submission

Jeff Talbott’s mischievous dance across the minefield of affirmative action in the arts, The Submission, has plenty of darkly comic bite, even if its central conceit doesn’t hold water. What the play really has going for it is a lip-smacking role for Rutina Wesley. Playing a woman drawn into an incendiary scam that desecrates the temple of non-profit theater, she’s the main reason to see a play that’s better at pushing buttons than resolving the explosive scenario it creates.

(Read Full Review)

B-

The Road to Mecca

Watching beloved theater veteran Rosemary Harris in a major role is a reward in itself. But a compelling case is made for this wordy 1984 drama about individual and artistic freedom only deep into its second act. (Read Full Review)

B-

Dogfight

A touching small-scale musical that mirrors many of the movie’s minor-key virtues. Further workshops or perhaps a regional production might be useful to smooth some nagging flaws, particularly in the uneven second act. But the potential is there...The writers seem uncertain about how to balance the comedy with the inhumanity of the Marines’ behavior toward their frumpy dates...The show is on firmest ground when Eddie and Rose are center stage. (Read Full Review)

B-

All New People

As the hidden traumas, sorrows and dreams of the four characters gradually come to light, Charlie remarks to Myron at one point, “You’ve always got some obnoxious quip just ready to go, huh?” As a playwright, Braff could face similar charges, though his quips are more self-conscious than obnoxious. The situation feels too contrived in its quirks, and the dialogue too carefully honed to yield laughs spontaneously. When the play turns darker, the actors do find poignant notes in their characters, even if Braff’s limits as a writer become more evident. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Understudy

Funny but slight, clever but without any real depth, the one-act gains considerable fizz from Scott Ellis' punchy production and from the bristling interplay of its three fine actors, each of them exposing different shades of a profession that ricochets between glory and rejection. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Strange and Separate People

The bigger weakness in Jeff Calhoun’s efficient production is Phyllis. In his script notes the playwright describes her as having a private demeanor that conceals the pit bull underneath. In Ms. Paoluccio’s hard-to-like characterization, the dog is off the leash, and while Phyllis gradually softens, her abrasiveness compromises the play’s balance. Defensive and self-righteous, she shoves her superior knowledge — of parenting, autism, the Torah, Fauvism, you name it — down everyone’s throat. Her first scene with Stuart makes you wonder if many prospective clients of Phyllis’s Orthodox Catering ever return after the consultation. (Read Full Review)

B-

Painting Churches

Ms. Chalfant is unafraid to seem cold. Fanny’s indulgence toward her husband is broken by signs of brittle exasperation and resentment that their circumstances should be so reduced. But her blunt reality-check speech to Mags radically expands our access to this complex, difficult woman. In Mr. Forsman’s imbalanced production, however, the lucid depiction of this Brahmin couple is not quite the full family portrait the playwright intended. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Night with Janis Joplin

Mary Bridget Davies screeches up a storm as Janis Joplin. When she throws her formidable lungpower and raspy emotional rawness into “Piece of My Heart,” you could swear the tragic supernova known to her friends as “Pearl” had been reborn. But if you’re after a contextualized bio-musical to provide insight into rock’s first undisputed queen, writer-director Randy Johnson’s sanitized concert tribute, A Night With Janis Joplin, is not the place to look.... In terms of the physical production, the show has a time-capsule authenticity. What feels more artificial is the tidily retrospective mood of the protagonist... The supporting cast members are talented vocalists, but their focus-pulling appearances have started to feel like padding... and great as [she] is on the vocals, Davies is not a good enough actor to smooth out the script’s many clunky transitions.... qualities that anyone who ever skimmed a biography or watched a documentary about Joplin might associate with her... are underexplored in Johnson’s by-the-numbers script... Whatever this tame tribute lacks in scope, it has a considerable saving grace in Davies’ electric renditions of the songs... (Read Full Review)

B-

A Bright New Boise

There are false notes, particularly from the female characters, but the five-member cast is uniformly strong and sympathetic. Mr. Hunter undercuts the effectiveness of Will’s big confessional reveal by having him relate the circumstances of his disgrace to Alex in an earlier exchange, but nonetheless, there’s plenty to chew on here. And if the ending is anticlimactic, isn’t that in keeping with a doomsday scenario in which life just goes wearisomely on? (Read Full Review)

B-

Big Fish

Elevated by clever design work and accomplished leads, this show pushes the requisite buttons... The musical slaps on the sentiment with a heavy hand... Big Fish seems like a Broadway musical that might qualify for a Tea Party endorsement. It’s a hymn to America the Delusional... the show and Stroman’s often dazzling production have a lot going for them... But while there are delightful touches – like the dancing elephant butts in the circus sequence – little else in the show hits the mark as effectively as that opening... While the lyrics are more literal than imaginative, not to mention doused in Hallmark syrup, Lippa’s score is better than his last show... Butz skillfully mitigates Edward’s vast potential to irritate, and the actor tempers his trademark mischievous ebullience with genuine feeling. That sincerity goes a long way toward making the show’s sentimentality palatable, even if August pushes it with multiple endings... A lot of loving craftsmanship has gone into this musical, and it delivers satisfying entertainment for those who don’t mind being emotionally manipulated. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Nance

If [this] ambitious play ultimately doesn’t dig deep enough to find the ideal balance between its delirious low comedy and pathos, at the very least it provides a tremendous vehicle for Nathan Lane. But the play often seems to be straining for a poignancy that doesn’t come naturally. Beane might have bitten off more than he can chew here, resulting in a work that needs editing and tries to be too many things. Whatever the flaws of the play, however, O’Brien’s hand-crafted production is never less than absorbing, and the performances are terrifi…Lane is masterful, finding new depths in a well-worn sad clown persona. Few actors do droll quite so deliciously, and Beane has given Lane plenty to feast on with both a complex character and a load of flavorful dialogue. But it’s the restraint with which he etches Chauncey’s bitterness and battered dignity that distinguishes the performance.
(Read Full Review)

B-

Peter and the Starcatcher

The show is co-directed with a frantic mix of old-fashioned story-theater tricks and hipster humor by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers. But in scaling up from a theater seating less than 200 to one with a capacity of around 1,000, the show’s larkish pantomime spirit has become strained. The cast – versatile and likable though they are – now have to work harder to keep the constant volley of silly jokes and winking contemporary anachronisms airborne, and the effort shows. Charm is a fragile commodity. (Read Full Review)

B-

Memphis

A talented cast, stirring vocals, athletic dance numbers and vigorous direction supply crowd-pleasing elements in the lively new musical, "Memphis," as evidenced by the waves of appreciation coming off the audience. But there's also a nagging predictability to this story...The performances in Christopher Ashley's production are all writ large, but they are not without soul or sincerity. That makes you wish the actors had better material than writer and co-lyricist Joe DiPietro's superficial book, which connects the dots in such a perfunctory way -- especially in the weak second act -- that the outcome of pretty much every scene is evident the minute it gets going. The score by Bon Jovi founding member and keyboardist David Bryan is generic but well-crafted, with toe-tapping beats and driving horn lines, as well as a keen ear for rock, pop, blues and gospel idioms, even if they do play fast and loose with the era. Trouble is, the songs are more imitative than inspired...The actors frequently lend conviction that's absent in the writing...And while it grows repetitive, Sergio Trujillo's muscular choreography and the high-energy dance ensemble provide a big assist in maintaining some momentum even when the storytelling flags. (Read Full Review)

B-

Microcrisis

If the aim of black comedy is to get under the audience’s skin by gouging inappropriate humor out of uncomfortable situations, then the savagery of Microcrisis is impressive indeed...Ralph B. Peña...[cranks] up the manic Looney Tunes energy to a level that’s both entertaining and abrasive...Clint Ramos has designed the perfect nightmare set, with a stark cell made up entirely of safety deposit boxes. And Mr. Peña uses the space inventively, steering his talented actors around like pieces in a board game. He’s also smart not to give the audience time to be dizzied by all the financial jargon whizzing by. What he can’t do is give Mr. Lew’s fanged play a heart...Like last season’s Broadway casualty Enron this chilly comedy is dynamic theater, but it feels a bit like financial torture porn. (Read Full Review)

B-

Wishful Drinking

Nobody needs another poor-little-me solo piece about overcoming personal demons, even from a writer-performer as witty as Fisher. But from its title to its first spoken line, "Hi, I'm Carrie Fisher, and I'm an alcoholic," the show suggests a cathartic cleansing in the manner of "Elaine Stritch at Liberty." In that benchmark for solo vehicles, Stritch was disarmingly frank about her years as a messy drunk and, occasionally, a raging bitch. But it's as if Fisher got all the dark, destructive stuff out of her system in her semiautobiographical novel (and screenplay) "Postcards From the Edge," leaving this older, wiser first-person account feeling like the diet version. As far as low-calorie foods go, however, this is pretty delicious. The first act, especially, is studded with zingers as Fisher recaps her birth in Burbank to "blue-blooded white trash," Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, through the role -- and the bagel-bun hairdo -- she spent 30 years trying to shake off, Princess Leia in "Star Wars." Whether she's lecturing (with visual aids) on "Hollywood Inbreeding 101" or reflecting on being some teenage dweeb's masturbation fantasy, Fisher gives this snappy scripted material an agreeably loose, off-the-cuff feel... There are incisive observations about mental illness (on the tidal shifts of bipolar disorder: "One mood is the meal; the next mood is the check"), and Fisher milks comedy out of the standard psychology questionnaire taken by patients like herself, by quizzing the audience and establishing how few New Yorkers pass the test unblemished. But it's precisely when the material should dig deeper into self-exposure that Fisher frustrates by continuing to skate along the jokey surface, thus reducing the emotional stakes and robbing the show of a strong narrative arc. (Read Full Review)

B-

Hamlet

An accessible presentation, but rarely exciting and even less often moving...The main attraction is Law's Hamlet, and like the production as a whole, his performance is a mixed bag -- in some ways impressive, in others distancing. His is less the brooding prince than the Extremely Pissed-Off one. The majority of his lines are spat out in passionate anger or disgust, sustaining a level of intensity that becomes wearing...Law is not lacking in stage technique, and his brisk handling of the language shows unerring confidence, but he's working hard and seldom lets us forget that...The surprise, however, is that while much of Law's bold performance rides roughshod over the character's core traits of scholarly philosophizing and depressed introspection, he does arrive by the end of the play at an effective reconciliation with the role...Whether the cumulative power of Law's performance justifies the approach is open for debate, but elsewhere the production is dampened by indifferent casting...It's all very severe and stylish, as are the contemporary outfits, but a look is no substitute for an illuminating context. All the visual dourness seems to infect the characters, whose lack of emotional connection to one another saps their love and hate of true feeling. (Read Full Review)

B-

Lysistrata Jones

Hustled uptown in a rushed transfer onto a traditional Broadway stage, this contemporary musical riff on the bawdy Aristophanes sex comedy from 411 B.C. shows signs of strain. That doesn’t mean the show’s entertainment value has been erased. But its more insubstantial qualities are magnified, demonstrating that commercial transfers are rarely an automatic slam-dunk. (Read Full Review)

C+

Becoming Dr. Ruth

[St. Germain] neuters the woman whose remarkable life it depicts, reducing her to an adorable bundle of innocuous jokes, sentimental clichés and over-explained metaphors. The Dr. Ruth onstage is a cartoon, a Stehaufmaennchen doll — you push her down and she bounces right back up! (Read Full Review)

C+

John Gabriel Borkman

Once the battle for Erhart is fought and lost, the play is essentially over – the breathtaking snowstorm that follows notwithstanding. That weakness in this second-tier Ibsen is heightened in Frank McGuinness’ new version, which breathes acerbic humor into the exposition-heavy early scenes but steadily devolves into melodrama and repetitive overstatement. Macdonald’s approach may be more at fault. He shuns an emotional connection to any of the characters, emphasizing their delusional states by placing them at an icy remove from one another and the audience. That makes it hard to care about Borkman’s fate as he wanders through the blizzard, or either of the squandered lives left in his wake. (Read Full Review)

C+

Oleanna

Miscommunication more than gender politics is the central issue in this incendiary 1992 two-hander, and that gulf is exposed with bristling conviction by Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles. But Doug Hughes' meticulously calibrated production can't correct the imbalance of a manipulative play that only feigns impartiality...The dynamic is certainly unsettling, and its investigation of the susceptibility of language and behavior to perceptions that can distort truth and shift power is compelling. But while Pullman makes John's undoing a harrowing spectacle, the sheer acrimony of Mamet's stance against Carol blunts the confrontation. (Read Full Review)

C+

End of the Rainbow

In a full-throttle performance that holds nothing back, Tracie Bennett channels an off-the-rails Judy Garland near the completion of her downward spiral, giving End of the Rainbow a fiercely dynamic center. But there’s a gulf between the vehicle and the vulnerable human being that the actress rarely traverses in this bio-drama with songs, thanks to writing by Peter Quilter that hits every obvious note except the pathos, and to Terry Johnson’s unrelentingly emphatic direction...Despite [Bennett's] flashy technique and bewildering stamina, there’s something distancing about this whole macabre sideshow. (Read Full Review)

C+

Two Unrelated Plays By David Mamet

The Atlantic serves up an amuse-bouche that goes down easily enough but leaves little aftertaste in the double bill Keep Your Pantheon and School. The latter, up first, is a 10-minute verbal doodle in search of a punchline; the hourlong morsel that follows sees Mamet in ancient Rome continuing to indulge his recent taste for farce after “Romance” and “November.” The one-act yields a decent share of chuckles, many of them fueled by the droll delivery of Brian Murray. (Read Full Review)

C+

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Charming and agreeable...The Harry Potter star works way harder in his musical-theater debut than his crafty character, J. Pierrepont Finch, who shimmies up the corporate ladder with minimal effort...Finch is a conniving antihero, so he needs to keep the audience on his side. On that count, the still-boyish Radcliffe's butter-wouldn't-melt smile and ingratiating manner fit the bill nicely...Appealing as he is, however, the actor doesn't quite pop as a musical-theater performer...While the production is overdesigned,Catherine Zuber's stylish costumes and Howell Binkley's pastel lighting give the show a vibrant palette...Loesser's lyrics still amuse and the book brims with sly humor, but the show's satirical punch has become diluted over time, particularly under Ashford's fussy direction. The musical numbers too rarely catch fire, despite the hard-sell athleticism of his choreography. (Read Full Review)

C+

Motown the Musical

With its narrowly self-serving perspective and simplistic connect-the-dots plotting, Berry Gordy’s book makes Jersey Boys look like Eugene O’Neill. And Charles Randolph-Wright’s direction struggles to get a fluid handle on the music empire founder’s superficial chronicle of his legendary Detroit hit factory. But there’s no denying the power and energy of the show’s arsenal of killer tunes... the music generally will be a close enough facsimile to satisfy all but the most scholarly purists, and the period dance moves are great fun... The show’s most nagging problem is Gordy’s lack of finesse as a dramatist... While the storytelling is skewed, Gordy does a serviceable job of charting the evolution of Motown... Jukebox selection quibbles aside, the point is that these songs are embedded so deep into our musical DNA that they all bring an invigorating rush of familiarity. No matter how shaky the narrative context there’s still an enormous kick from watching them performed live that no iPod playlist can match. (Read Full Review)

C+

Catch Me If You Can

In hurtling from one snappy number to the next, O’Brien and McNally skim over the heart of the material, denying us a deeper connection to Frank. The IRS woes and money mismanagement of his father, Frank Sr. (Tom Wopat); the loss of their home; the infidelity of his French mother, Paula (Rachel de Benedet); his parents’ divorce and custody hearing; Frank Jr. running away at 16 – these formative episodes are all played for speed, not pathos. Frank is clearly a chip off the old block, but despite Wopat’s tender work, their bond doesn’t resonate until much later. What we get is Frank’s restless adventure, without sharing the unhappiness that drives his escape. Just one reflective song might have fixed this. Instead, all the glossy musical numbers make his exploits a lark in which the audience has no stake. He jumps from success to success without suspense or tension because for too long, there’s no real threat of exposure. It may also undermine Frank’s hold on our affections that the first genuine showstopper goes to Hanratty, with Butz unleashing his inner Cab Calloway on the rousing “Don’t Break the Rules.” (Read Full Review)

C+

The Outgoing Tide

This drama brings sensitive observation and minor-key humor to painful situations that many of us will recognize from our own families. But Bud Martin’s pedestrian direction nudges the material into Hallmark-movie territory. This also points up the weaknesses in Mr. Graham’s writing, which tends to sketch in the characters' history by lurching into clunky flashback mode. But even if the play sticks to the surfaces rather than digging deep, its poignant conclusion will have resonance for many in the audience. (Read Full Review)

C+

Farm Boy

The play’s elegiac view of pastoral life and vanished agricultural traditions seems ideally tailored to foster a sense of history and cultural identity in young audiences. For those less inclined toward rustic nostalgia packaged as sweetly medicinal children’s theater, Farm Boy requires a willingness to be charmed by a folksy geezer laying on a thick West Country accent and saying, “I remember that like it were yesterday an’ all.” (Read Full Review)

C+

Bare, the Musical

The show has been retooled for the “It Gets Better” era to tap into today’s raised consciousness about adolescent homophobia, stigmatization and bullying. It’s frequently touching and tender. It’s also earnest to a fault, drowning in noble intentions and mawkish clichés. It’s akin to watching a particularly sappy and extra-long episode of “Glee.” Like the “Carrie” redux before it, the new “Bare” seems a bland attempt to reboard the emotional roller coaster of adolescent ecstasy and agony that was the musical “Spring Awakening.” (Read Full Review)

C+

New Girl in Town

While the cast album has earned admirers for Merrill’s spirited score, this musical has remained virtually unseen since its first appearance. Pleasing as it would be to report that Charlotte Moore’s production for the Irish Repertory Theater restores the sparkle to a dusty jewel, this intermittently captivating show is of interest primarily as a vintage curio. Basically it’s O’Neill without teeth or intensity, diluting the play’s dramatic conflicts and stripping the grit from its sordid milieu as it lurches to an abrupt, love-conquers-all happy ending. (Read Full Review)

C+

Glengarry Glen Ross

In his toxic cauldron of testosterone and ferociously male survival instincts, Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet shows with scalding humor, savagery, and ideally with a glimmer of pathos the ugly evolution of the Willy Lomans of the world in the decades since Death of a Salesman. First seen on Broadway in 1984, Mamet’s tight-as-a-drum drama should still retain its bite, but it never quite catches fire in this latest revival. Allowing the play to be twisted from an ensemble piece into a platform for Al Pacino, an actor not averse to showboating, director Daniel Sullivan and his producers have done a disservice to the Pulitzer-winning work. (Read Full Review)

C+

Henry IV, Part 1

But aside from vigorous handling of the climactic fighting at Shrewsbury, the staging lacks spark. For a drama about the wartime reconciliation of a burdened monarch (Bradford Cover) with his wayward son (John Brummer) there’s a curious absence of tension. (Read Full Review)

C+

Mimic

Like some unhinged 21st-century beat poet in a piano bar, Raymond Scannell sits at the keyboard and lets loose in a 75-minute stream-of-consciousness rant about a life gone off the rails — and about Ireland as a country losing sight of itself.... It’s a virtuoso performance, but more technically impressive than emotionally engaging — not to mention exhausting and abstruse to audiences unfamiliar with its barrage of culturally specific references. (Read Full Review)

C

Chinglish

It may be central to the playwright’s point that fish-out-of-water Daniel is far less complex or charismatic than cool-headed pragmatist Xi Yan, who is both forthright and underhand in Lim’s biting, whip-smart performance. But it also tests the play’s balance. (Read Full Review)

C

A Time to Kill

...unlike the workings of a real jury, there’s no room for ambiguity, moral complexity or startling insight in this formulaic courtroom drama... Sturdy ensemble acting and Grisham’s compelling storytelling make this go down easily, but the production provides little persuasive evidence that the thriller needed to become a play... Pouring on the oleaginous charm, Patrick Page’s droll, lip-smacking performance in that role (played by Kevin Spacey in the movie) is this production’s juiciest pleasure... McSweeny keeps the plot wheels turning with more efficiency than invention, though he’s aided by the versatility of Noone’s elegant design and Jeff Croiter’s textured lighting, lending a cinematic fluidity to the scene transitions. The problem is the material, which is mechanically predictable at every turn... With its ostensibly provocative stance on vigilante justice, this is clearly conceived to play onstage as an edge-of-the-seat thriller, and for undiscerning theatergoers, perhaps it will work. But in execution, it’s more like a rote rehash of familiar material that demands zero thought from its audience. (Read Full Review)

C

Man and Boy

Despite its uncanny topicality and juiciness as a star vehicle, the dramatic heft of Man and Boy is diminished by the emotional hollowness at its core. Throwing together a Machiavellian father who views love as a disposable inconvenience with a son who both worships and detests him should make for a combustible mix. But while director Maria Aitken and her accomplished cast hit their marks, the play has no teeth... Rattigan’s mastery of structure and sophisticated dialogue is undeniable, even if he does at times veer into grandiosity. (“I will take any risk… but not the risk of being so close to the pure in heart,” says G.A. of his son. “Love is a commodity I can’t afford.”) But the play is mechanical and cold. At least in this production, it fails to access the pathos beneath Gregor’s ruthless manipulation, or to invite empathy for the conflicted desperation of misused Basil, to whom his father ascribes the unforgivable flaw of being soft. (Read Full Review)

C

Cyrano de Bergerac

While Hodge attacks the title role with formidable energy and inventiveness, his virtuosic display muffles the poetry of the play. The same goes in general for the pedal-to-the-metal approach of Jamie Lloyd’s unevenly cast production...All [the] ruckus tends to dull the pathos when Lloyd finally does take his foot off the accelerator in the more poignant scenes...Paradoxically, the production’s most affecting work comes from its villain. (Read Full Review)

C

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The show’s biggest selling point is the novelty of having the audience vote to decide the murderer’s identity at every performance. But the charms of this rollicking pastiche are otherwise intermittent...Holmes’ show scores points for ingenuity, but it often feels like being stuck for too long in front of an olde-worlde department-store window display...Director Scott Ellis, set designer Anna Louizos and costumer William Ivey Long all do fine work conjuring London’s Music Hall Royale in 1895, its gaudy painted flats encased in a gold proscenium that includes boxes for onlookers. And the cast appears to be having a ball. (Read Full Review)

C

Bonnie & Clyde

It takes a bold creative vision to put a fresh stamp on the doomed Depression-era felons. The new musical Bonnie & Clyde assembles four talented leads in a good-looking production, but its trite storytelling leaves them shooting blanks...It contains some melodious tunes, albeit often with clumsily literal lyrics by Don Black...More than the score, however, it’s the book by musical-theater newcomer Ivan Menchell that lacks texture...Despite the charms of the easy-on-the-eyes actors, who bring convincing chemistry and sterling vocals, the characters and their relationship never acquire much depth...Many individual scenes engage, but overall the show is stubbornly unexciting. (Read Full Review)

C

Elf

Flavorless candy...A pedestrian show that broadens the material to be more specifically kid-friendly, rendering it innocuous in the process...Nicholaw has a better feel for period styles than he does for contemporary cute, and the writers struggle to make the mostly second-hand jokes land. Their efforts are given little support by a mediocre score from the Wedding Singer team of composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist Chad Beguelin. With few exceptions, the sound-alike numbers blend into one, and the lethargic dance interludes provide minimal elevation. It's all pleasant, but generic...The cast does what it can with the wan material. (Read Full Review)

C

Assistance

Despite the authenticity of its workplace milieu, however, Assistance is more a situation than a fully realized play, stringing together office-life episodes to depict a particular pathology of the contemporary professional world. There’s not much of a dramatic arc beyond a romantic flirtation that never quite develops, and in place of genuine catharsis there’s a fantasy destruction finale. The playwright instead offers a high-anxiety anthropological study of the desperate survival instincts of the masochistic young and the hungry. The cannibalistic fury of their dark overlord becomes a side note. As a consideration of the price of ambition and its uncertain rewards, it’s fast-paced and diverting enough. But it doesn’t really go anywhere. (Read Full Review)

C

Magic/Bird

Playwright Eric Simonson’s bio-patchwork is a dutiful assembly, a wispy tribute that gives only sketchy insights into these exceptional athletes...Predisposed fans who bring their own affection for the two players and knowledge of that electrifying decade in NBA history may get what they came for, even if Magic/Bird tells them little they didn’t already know. However, audiences looking for conflict, probing character development or dramatic tension are likely to be underwhelmed...This is not really a play so much as a salute to two sports heroes of yesteryear. (Read Full Review)

C-

Checkers

But Checkers sits uneasily between glib sitcom and earnest character study. (Read Full Review)

C-

King Lear

From his first appearance, looking befuddled as his courtiers kneel facing the opposite direction, expecting him to enter from the other side, Waterston undersells the authority. His king seems prematurely pushed into dementia by the conniving vultures circling his domain, notably eldest daughters Goneril (Enid Graham) and Regan (Kelli O’Hara). Only when he bitterly curses them do we see glimmers in that rage of the formidable figure he once was. By denying us the full arc of a great man unraveling -- as much due to his own stupid vanity as to the forces conspiring against him – Waterston dilutes the tragedy. Kristen Connolly’s unprepossessing Cordelia contributes to the weakness of the crucial opening scene, in which Lear moves toward retirement by dividing his kingdom according to the testaments of love received from his three daughters. (Read Full Review)

C-

Romeo and Juliet

The poster shot of Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad for Romeo and Juliet, clad in purest white and lost in each other’s eyes on a bed of snowy linens, could be a perfume commercial. Let’s call it William Shakespeare’s Obsession. But the dreamy intoxication that such a heady fragrance might transmit is largely missing from David Leveaux’s snoozy modern-dress production, along with poetry and heat. The play’s language often appears to be an obstacle for Leveaux, and he responds by riding roughshod over it. There’s a sense from the outset that Leveaux’s method is to barrel through the yappy contextual scenes in order to linger over the rhapsodic romantic encounters. But that approach is undone by the shortage of sparks between the two leads. Leveaux does everything in his power to invigorate their union…But these flourishes are futile when the chemistry simply isn’t there.
(Read Full Review)

C-

Stick Fly

As over-written as it is, Diamond’s script has enough amusing lines and perceptive observations -- particularly about the behavior men learn or reject from their fathers -- to keep it engaging. But her characters don’t exactly draw you in, and neither these actors nor the staging help... Leon’s direction lacks the nimble touch to modulate smoothly from bantering through bickering to the charged confrontations of the final scenes. And in a play that runs an attenuated two hours 40 minutes, producer Alicia Keys’ transitional music is used too liberally, more often calling attention to itself than serving the dramatic tone. (Read Full Review)

C-

Forever Dusty

This self-indulgent digression is intended ... to postpone the heartache of dealing with “Forever Dusty,” the tin-eared tribute show. In this clumsy pastiche, which relies on unimaginative video projections and clanging dialogue signifiers to denote time and place ... the sole member of the four-person supporting cast to stand out is Christina Sajous (“American Idiot”), who plays Claire, a composite character representing Springfield’s lovers. (Read Full Review)

C-

Race

As one of the characters in David Mamet's teasing faux-polemic on the subject says, "Race is the most incendiary topic in our history." The slender play that takes its terse title from that declaration seems hatched more out of an urge to inflame arguments easily triggered in the age of Obama than out of the need to tell this particular story or even to explore the issue with any real conclusiveness. This being Mamet, however, the dialogue is tasty, the confrontations spiky and the observations more than occasionally biting. Slick but hollow, Race entertains as it unfolds, but grows increasingly wobbly as it twists its way to an unsatisfying wrap-up. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Addams Family

The Addams Family is uneven and oddly tentative. Despite its closing-number rallying cry to “Move Toward the Darkness,” the musical struggles to embrace that edge with conviction. It’s less creepy or kooky than cute. (Read Full Review)

C-

Personal Enemy

While “Personal Enemy” is a legitimate historical curio, it’s likely to remain a minor footnote. And Arthur Miller can rest easy — it’s not going to displace “The Crucible” as the definitive theatrical response to McCarthyism. (Read Full Review)

C-

Dead Accounts

... [a] superficial new comedy... Directed with a nimble hand by Jack O’Brien, the Broadway production assembles a terrific five-person cast. [Holmes] brings a lovely naturalness to her first starring Broadway role, along with frazzled warmth and judicious glimmers of a more brittle edge... The play, however, suffers from the same shortcomings that often cramp the theater work of Rebeck... Dead Accounts is all surface polish and minimal depth. It has lively dialogue, well-drawn characters and a smattering of smart observations about contemporary life. But it never acquires thematic coherence. The setup is capable if a little unhurried, but the payoff is negligible, too often stuffing overworked wisdom into its characters’ mouths to make points upon which the writer fails to expand. Exactly what the central point is remains hazy... Butz is a comic force of nature with a wickedly insouciant streak. He’s perfect casting here, but there’s a nagging sense of an actor working extremely hard with low-yield material. The play is funny, just not uproarious enough to hide its lack of substance or consistency. (Read Full Review)

C-

If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet

Gyllenhaal’s choice of British playwright Nick Payne’s unremarkable If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet to make his Off Broadway debut is perplexing. To be fair, the play seems more interesting on the page than onstage, and it arrives with an estimable London cachet, having premiered in a different production at the Bush Theatre in 2009 to strong critical response. But as presented here, its picture of a dysfunctional family blind to one another’s problems and unable to communicate feels like the stale fodder of countless young dramatists’ work, not to mention the familiar ground of too many funny-sad indie movies.
More than thematic fatigue, however, the trouble with Michael Longhurst’s production for Roundabout Theatre Company is that it’s been directed to death. (Read Full Review)

C-

Ghetto Klown

It’s part vanity exercise and part therapy. Leguizamo continues to reflect on his issues with his father, his missteps with women, his struggle to play well with others, even if a threat of serenity has crept into the material now that he is happily married and has a family. But the impression this time around is of a writer-performer going through the motions, falling back somewhat lazily on a format that has worked for him in the past, rather than stretching in new directions. No mention is made of Leguizamo’s last Broadway appearance, in a mishandled 2008 revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo that closed in a week after withering reviews. Omitting that stinging episode seems like cheating. (Read Full Review)

C-

High

Turner’s trenchant performance, and that of gifted newcomer Evan Jonigkeit, elevate Matthew Lombardo’s three-character drama, High, above the level of its tritely sensational movie-of-the-week plotting and boilerplate construction. It’s more convincing as an actor’s vehicle than as a play, an imbalance that Rob Ruggiero’s pedestrian, minimally designed production fails to correct...The dynamic between these two main characters remains tense and compelling, despite the play’s contrivances...Beneath all the tough talk and dented armor, Turner exposes the character’s deep well of compassion and the festering wounds of her self-reproach. Too bad the writing isn’t sufficiently nuanced to make her calvary more affecting. (Read Full Review)

C-

Carrie

In a half-baked attempt to tap into the current conversation on bullying, token references have been imposed to contemporize the story. But the inescapable impression remains that Carrie was never meant to be a musical – certainly not one with this unmemorable score and literal-minded, on-the-nose lyrics. The Goth-chic black prom corsage bangles available at the merchandise stand suggest some element of subversiveness, but what’s onstage is merely innocuous. In an effort to make the show connect with awkward-age teens, it’s been watered down and robbed of all the distinctive qualities that made it “terrifyingly lyrical” onscreen (in the words of Pauline Kael) and ludicrously lurid on Broadway. It’s prime exploitation material treated as intense psychodrama. (Read Full Review)

C-

Ann

Taylor nails her subject – from the folksy delivery and sly humor right down to the twinkle in her eye and the frequent habit of standing with her hands planted on the small of her back. However, this solo party piece, which Taylor wrote as well as performs, cries out for an editor and a more hands-on director. (Read Full Review)

C-

Spy Garbo

This historical rumination by the playwright Sheila Schwartz has been given an innovative staging by the experimental outfits Affinity Company Theater and 3-Legged Dog...The dense visual textures are impressive, but the digital technology is more arresting than the playwriting. History scholars might get a kick out of it, but Ms. Schwartz bombards the audience with so much convoluted and conflicting information that it’s like being lectured to by a professor with untreated A.D.H.D. (Read Full Review)

C-

Leap of Faith

Despite Raul Esparza’s hard-working lead performance and some rousing gospel numbers from Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, the story remains stubbornly unappealing...This show makes almost all of its main characters unsympathetic...The actors give it their best shot. Chief among them is Esparza, a devilishly sexy showman who hard-sells emotional intensity like few others...While Trujillo’s choreography often seems on the verge of taking flight and rarely does, his formation movement for the choir works well. The songs are more than serviceable, and Menken knows how to write melodies. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Columnist

While this is a potentially fascinating character study with no shortage of meaty material, playwright David Auburn hasn’t managed to shape it into a drama with a discernible through-line. (Read Full Review)

C-

A Behanding In Spokane

While McDonagh's previous stage works reportedly were written in a sustained burst of early-career productivity, "Spokane" was penned following completion of his 2008 feature debut as writer-director, "In Bruges." It feels here as if the playwright is catering to his fans' expectations -- the gruesome flourishes and blithe violence, the lacerating dialogue and savage humor, the maniacal characters and explosive confrontations -- but in sketch form rather than a full-bodied play. All the same, many will be delighted with what he serves up. (Read Full Review)

D+

As You Like It (BAM)

Imbalance of another kind also hobbles the production, calling into question the success of the Bridge Project's trans-Atlantic formation. Almost across the board, the British cast members are superior to their American colleagues; their characters are more robustly inhabited and their command of the language more easeful... Shortcomings among the minor players are more damaging, however, particularly Ashlie Atkinson's squawking country shrew, Phoebe, fishing for easy laughs with her contemporary finger-snapping attitude; Michelle Beck's dreary Celia; and Jenni Barber's shrill caricature as lusty wench Audrey, played like Britney Spears off her meds. Even the ever-reliable Alvin Epstein strays from the poignancy of his loyal old servant into cartoonland in his second role as the vicar Martext. The comic mugging, crass pantomime shtick and reveling rustics of act two almost make you long for a return of the earlier lugubriousness. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Break of Noon

Duchovny plays John Smith, who is less the everyman his name suggests than he is Every Neil LaBute Man. That means he's a mean-spirited jerk who bullies his colleagues, cheats on his wife and strings along his mistress with empty promises...Ultimately, the playwright seems less interested in either John's culpability or the genuineness of his faith than he is in whether a morally empty man can change. Which would be fine if there were some complexity and conviction brought to that familiar question. (Read Full Review)

D+

Elling

All three lead actors have amusing moments, especially O'Hare with his acerbic deadpan. But overall, the comedy feels strained. Everything is pitched so loud that nuances of character and emotional underpinnings get lost, which draws attention to the play's fragile dramatic trajectory. Like David Mamet's "A Life in the Theater" this season, which is closing early due to underwhelming business, there's a sense here of a small play swimming on a Broadway stage and struggling to project to a large house. (Read Full Review)

D+

A Perfect Future

Even within the intended realm of limousine liberals and lapsed idealism, these characters ring false. The hosts and their two dinner-party guests all exist primarily to stake out different positions on the political spectrum...Given that Mark’s offensive comment is an artificial fire-starter, the subsequent acceleration of conflict and ugly revelation that fuels the untidy second act becomes increasingly forced. The director, Wilson Milam, crafts a slick package, and his cast plays a buoyant game of badminton with the occasionally witty dialogue. But this half-baked rehash of a dynamic familiar from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? through God of Carnage is too contrived to score many compelling points. (Read Full Review)

D+

Relatively Speaking

Three one-act comedies by Ethan Coen, Elaine May and Woody Allen yield some chuckles, even if John Turturro’s flat-footed direction often works against them. But the featherweight package makes a flimsy case for the star power of writers. Strongest entry is May’s "George is Dead"...Allen’s "Honeymoon Motel" is a shticky Borscht Belt farce...There are moments to savor from the actors, and nobody will dispute Allen’s facility with a one-liner, even if many of them here are shamelessly hoary...But Turturro is particularly out of his depth in this entry...[Coen's] "Talking Cure" is the least satisfying item on a stale menu. (Read Full Review)

D+

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The star and her similarly marooned fellow castmembers are all at the mercy of Rob Ashford, a director out of his depth and reaching for any floatation device he can grab in this sinking Broadway revival, which manages to be both thunderously emphatic and curiously flat.... There’s little evidence here that he knows what he’s doing... Ashford displays a tin ear for the vigorous musicality of Williams’ flavorful dialogue. The actors are directed to shout or mumble, with the production’s cluttered audio wallpaper forcing them to compete against busy sound and music cues. As a result, the humor often doesn’t land and the dramatic peaks tend to fly by unnoticed. Even the set by gifted designer Christopher Oram is heavy-handed, if quite strikingly so... Johansson has made some bold choices... But keeping Maggie’s vulnerability hidden until the final act seems a mistake. Without the underlying wounds she’s just a shrew... There are real sparks in the father-son faceoff because Hinds gets the determination and frustration of Big Daddy... Ashford and his actors do right by this sometimes-neglected aspect of the play, forging a kinship that exists between the two characters contrary to all logic.... in a role that can be shattering, Monk’s performance gets lost. (Read Full Review)

D+

An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

You gotta love Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. No, really, you gotta absolutely love them to be anything but underwhelmed by this lazily conceived valentine. As generic as its title suggests, An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin coasts along on the two performers’ relaxed humor and genuine fondness for each other. But it rarely goes anyplace personal or revelatory...Inevitably, great theater songs lose some of their impact out of context, but this just has a dispiriting business-as-usual feel...Often, the performers are showcasing their own vocal mannerisms rather than mining the songs for meaning. (Read Full Review)

D+

Vanities

Whether expressed in dialogue -- much of it lifted intact from Heifner's play -- or in David Kirshenbaum's pleasant but samey showtunes inflected with period pop sounds, the girls' concerns are standard issue. The early talk focuses on boyfriends, sex, parties and popularity, dreams of marriage, home and family or, in Mary's case, of beguiling new horizons. But the show's own outlook is decidedly narrow... Social context is mostly glossed over, and while the play conveyed a sense of women coming of age during the burgeoning feminist movement, albeit in their own hermetic bubble, the musical fabricates a dated, thoroughly anonymous sitcom world. It's a banal version of every femme-centric character piece that's ever played on screens big or small, from "Steel Magnolias" and "The First Wives Club" to "The Golden Girls" and "Designing Women." But its humor has none of the bite or freshness of any of those sisterhood models. The lack of texture is especially a problem in the Manhattan interlude; up to that point, the girls have been cardboard cutouts, so the sudden grit of their animosities doesn't wash. And the show doesn't always ring true. Would a Joni Mitchell-loving libertarian like Mary really have been accepted in the rigidly conservative confines of a 1968 Dallas Kappa sorority house? While Anna Louizos' versatile sets have fun touches and Joseph G. Aulisi's costumes add character definition, Dan Knechtges' choreography is perky but unexciting, and Judith Ivey's listless direction is too by-the-numbers to foster emotional investment. Kennedy, Stiles and van der Pol all bring big, confident voices and likable personalities, but the writing denies them any edge at all. (Read Full Review)

D+

Mr. & Mrs. Fitch

While there's a kernel of a good comedy idea in Douglas Carter Beane's Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, there's not a lot of charm or conviction to back it up. Director Scott Ellis has recruited an accomplished duo in John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle to play husband-and-wife gossip columnists, but the playwright doesn't allow them the breathing room to create characters. Instead, they're just vessels for verbiage in a show-offy play that, though not short on wit, rams its erudition down your throat with a wearing rat-tat-tat of pop-cultural and literary references. (Read Full Review)

D

Close Up Space

With an annoying agitator unconnected to any kind of credible reality and a playwright eager to let her take control, Close Up Space becomes awfully wearing for a one-act running a mere 80 minutes. Pierce, in particular, deserves better, but it would take more than Paul’s red pencil to fix this. (Read Full Review)

D

Zarkana

Despite Girard’s strenuous efforts to create a bewitching atmosphere of mystery, enchantment and mischief, there just seems to be a whole lot going on to no clear purpose. From the elaborate frames that wrap the stage to the constant wash of imagery over the rear LED wall (floating eyeballs, writhing snakes, you name it) to the carnival-esque jumble of costumes and the bombardment of overbearing, high-decibel music, Zarkana is burdened by inorganic clutter and sensory overload. All of which just pulls focus from the undisputable skill of the circus acts. (Read Full Review)

D

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark

Since the ousting of original director and co-writer Julie Taymor in March, her replacement, Philip William McKinley (billed as "creative consultant"), and additional book writer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, have streamlined the story from an incoherent, overreaching mess into a dumbed-down but more straightforward account of the Marvel superhero's origins and key conflicts. In terms of narrative clarity and character definition, the show is sharper. But while the emergency surgical team has injected fanboy humor and self-conscious acknowledgments of the production's rocky gestation, they have not located a heart in this bloated monster. (Read Full Review)

D

The People in the Picture

Book and lyrics are by novelist Iris Rainer Dart, best known for Beaches, which also is being developed as a musical. Like the 1988 Bette Midler film adapted from that novel, her work here combines syrupy sentimentality with knowing insights into rocky female relationships. The writer also brings a shticky vaudevillian sensibility. (She apparently never met a tuchas joke she didn’t like; not for nothing have politically incorrect Broadway insiders quietly rechristened the show Jewsical!) The comedy to some degree tempers the material’s cloying sincerity yet stops it being as emotional as it perhaps might have been. (Read Full Review)

D

The Retributionists

Derek McLane's stylish, minimal sets, Peter Kaczorowski's noir-tinged lighting and Tom Kitt's fretful interstitial music combine to evoke a 1940s movie-ish atmosphere, but Silverman's direction is entirely without tension. However, the writing is mostly at fault, with dialogue that's often too contemporary ("He kills me!") and sometimes risibly melodramatic ("I want to get you pregnant on this train. This train heading into Germany. This train whose final destination is an enormous gas chamber.") All credibility is shot by the time we get to the bakery scene, in which the tone lurches into comedy with Lusia Strus and Rebecca Henderson as German workers who appear to have wandered in from a "Laverne and Shirley" rerun. But even without such head-scratching moments, this unconvincing play makes it hard to buy any of these phony characters as the impassioned would-be avengers of an attempted genocide. (Read Full Review)

D

Letters to the End of the World

Africa and AIDS are infrequent enough theatrical subjects to merit points for worthiness. But like its earnest young American protagonist, Todd (Charles Socarides), in his crisp Oxford button-down and pressed chinos, the play, set in 1998, is well meaning, verbose and more than a little dull, its prosaic emotionality at war with its numbing didacticism. (Read Full Review)

D

Clifford Chase's Winkie

On the page the story was greeted as a sly absurdist parable for these fear-mongering times. Onstage at 59E59 Theaters in Joe Tantalo’s hyperactive production, it’s a simplistic comedy sketch: wafer-thin, one-note and stretched to a bludgeoning 90 minutes....Mr. Tantalo and his busy cast keep the action dynamic, but the lampooning of a society turned rabid by fear and displaced anger is so obvious it hurts to watch. Is there an easier comic mark for conservative hysteria than Michele Bachmann? Only when the play calms down enough to focus on the forlorn-looking bear sitting on the stool center stage, and not the deafening roar around him, does it transcend the joke. (Read Full Review)

D

That Championship Season

Material that should be raw and explosive instead plays mechanically. As the men literally take turns articulating their fears and failures, or venting their hatred in angry rants amid the emotional debris of act two, their despair seems manufactured. Their unashamed racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny no doubt made all this unflinching and provocative four decades ago. But David Mamet and many others have since explored this particular crisis zone – of masculinity, morality and mediocrity in a success-obsessed culture -- with more style and sharper teeth. (Read Full Review)

D

Bye Bye Birdie

Robert Longbottom's miscast, over-designed production rarely musters the energy or effervescence its riot of candy color and teenage hormones might suggest. The show retains its corny charms and a bunch of tuneful songs, which might be enough for undiscerning family audiences; others will struggle to identify much authentic flavor in its aggressive blandness. (Read Full Review)

D

Lascivious Something

Sheila Callaghan’s frustrating play...is too intoxicated by its own mysteries. Like a host with a limited booze supply, it withholds when it should pour freely...While Christopher Akerlind’s lighting splashes the rocky set with searing sunshine and moon glow, Daniella Topol’s production lacks emotional illumination. For too much of this distancing play’s running time, the audience is left to wonder what it’s actually about. (Read Full Review)

D

Nance O'Neil

Stodgy nondrama...being given a thoroughly routine walk-through in Gary Shrader’s production...The playwright folds facts and conjecture into a plodding account of their quasi romance...The leads...look lost. Ms. McElrath seems a more natural fit for comedy, and she labors to find pathos beneath Lizzie’s girlish candor. Ms. Brown, who doubles as a burlesque performer under the name Sapphire Jones, is a statuesque beauty with a Modigliani-esque profile. But let’s just say she undersells Nance’s reportedly formidable thespian gifts. (Read Full Review)

D

Haunted

All three characters drift often into reveries about the past, like a trio of Amanda Wingfields, which gives the play an eccentric charm but also a nagging evasiveness. The drama is too airy-fairy to support much emotional weight. When suspicious Gladys tricks Jack into revealing his daytime trysts, the devastating clash that should ensue (Eugene O’Neill is another significant reference around this point) instead gets smothered in fussy verbiage. And despite the play’s eerie set-up, its conclusion is disappointingly ordinary. Part of the problem is also Blethyn’s large performance ... But all three actors are to some degree stymied by labored writing that layers on detail while withholding intimate character knowledge. (Read Full Review)

D

Banished Children of Eve

Despite its song-and-dance interludes, many of them courtesy of one of the characters...this adaptation of Peter Quinn’s 1994 novel of Civil War New York is a play, and not a very good one...Historical fiction tends to be a challenge for naturalistic stage dramatization, and this earnest work, commissioned by the Irish Rep, has the overstuffed, page-bound feel of a by-the-numbers mini-series. One problem is Mr. Younger’s failure to locate the story’s emotional center amid the surrounding noise of the 1863 Draft Riots...Mr. O’Reilly, who did such a vigorous job last season with the Irish Rep’s “Emperor Jones,” keeps the traffic flowing. But the playwright’s ambitions are unmatched by his storytelling skills in this workmanlike melodrama.
(Read Full Review)

D

After Miss Julie

That's some handsome country kitchen Allen Moyer has designed for After Miss Julie, with its chunky farm table, its sideboard stacked with Wedgewood and its oven range fringed by hanging copper pots and hissing steam. Pity there's so little cooking in Mark Brokaw's enervated production. Like Strindberg's play, Patrick Marber's blunt postwar-English update of the 1888 drama about class and sex requires an actress capable of negotiating wild swings and reversals. But Sienna Miller is out of her depth in the title role, making her dance of power and death an unaffecting tragedy. (Read Full Review)

D

A Free Man of Color

The play might have been compelling if Guare, Wright and director George C. Wolfe had provided us with a way in. Jacques needs to charm the pants off the audience as well as every woman in New Orleans, but Wright's self-satisfied performance is all arch, unfunny affectation. The show begins to breathe as something beyond freewheeling spectacle only when the central character and his half-cocked play-within-a-play conceit are sidelined following an unsettling epiphany on a slave ship... While some of these interludes are more absorbing than others, Dano's haunted embodiment of a figure from the pages of American history lends texture to the later action. (Read Full Review)

D

The Sneeze

Mr. Frayn knows his Chekhov. He offers glimpses of the more mature writer still to evolve in these light comedies, which were composed while Chekhov was in his 20s and doubling as a physician. And there are enjoyable digs at pedestrian playwriting in the opening sketch, “Drama.” But these gabby musings on class, nationalism, matrimony, money, malady, authority and, yes, bedbugs, too often outstay their welcome in a show pushing three hours. The monologue-driven interludes especially are wearying, among them a vodka-soused old actor contemplating his mortality. The scenic designer, Jo Winiarski, has rigged a dilapidated proscenium in red and gold, meant to evoke a theater in the Russian provinces. A Siberian sister city to Branson, Mo., perhaps? Sadly, this wheezing dinner theater made me long for that grand invention of the vaudeville age, the hook. (Read Full Review)

D

Little Miss Sunshine

...this limp musical retread… refuses to take us on any kind of journey... this stubbornly charmless show is a sad letdown… The songs are dreary, the staging inert and the characters never come alive… from the clunky opening number, “The Way of the World,” in which the Hoovers outline their dead dreams and thwarted desires, it’s hard to warm to this bunch of shrill depressives… Lapine pads the action with useless backstory… the show is unpersuasive when it attempts to probe the emotional inner lives of its characters; their talky songs mostly striking rote notes. The melodic exception is Sheryl’s “Something Better Better Happen,” which exposes a genuine yearning to which the material elsewhere only pays lip service.
(Read Full Review)

D-

The Anarchist

The Anarchist might have built some intensity in a more intimate Off Broadway space. But in this world-premiere production, it's just a stream of static talk with a small crescendo of confrontational sparks ... a logorrheic, resolutely untheatrical play that's almost stubbornly perverse in its refusal to provide any emotional payoff. It's also a sad waste of the talents of two gifted actors who should have generated fireworks together. (Read Full Review)

D-

The Wiz

The choreography itself is a major glitch. It might have worked either to take a time-warp route, with cheesy '70s disco moves, or to go in a more interpretive, less literal direction. Blankenbuehler instead hovers somewhere in between, injecting touches of breakdance and hip-hop into sloppily executed ballets that struggle with the storytelling demands of a tornado, the capture of Dorothy and her companions by winged monkeys or even the simple notion of easing on down the road. There's invariably too much happening onstage, and most of it feels random and unpolished. As with Blankenbuehler, Kail's principal qualification is his experience on another ethnically specific musical, "In the Heights." But the director grew with that show from its college presentation through an Off Broadway run to its final incarnation, working with the musical's principal creator. Even on Broadway, however, "Heights" is a single-setting show about a finite group of characters who are presented in the opening number and evolve over the course of the action. "The Wiz" is a crazy-quilt fairy tale, with multiple locations and fantastical new characters popping up at every turn. All that spins quickly out of Kail's grasp, and the best he can do is string together William F. Brown's episodic book, without building momentum or heart. (Read Full Review)

D-

Wonderland

Despite the critical cold-shoulder, Wildhorn’s shows have occasionally demonstrated staying power on Broadway, notably Jekyll & Hyde, which has also had a robust regional-theater life. Being a branding opportunity for subsequent licensing might explain why backers (many of them from Florida) ponied up a reported $16 million to bring Wonderland to New York. In every other respect, the show’s arrival is baffling...It’s sad to revisit a low point in the career of a great filmmaker a week after his death, but more explicitly than The Wiz on stage, Wonderland recalls Sidney Lumet’s misconceived 1978 screen iteration. It’s gaudy and frenetic, yet unfocused; it has a drippy lead character we don’t care about; and it relies to a tiresome extent for laughs on contemporary language and references in a fantasy context. The tea party joke is inevitable. (Read Full Review)

D-

Burn The Floor

Let's call it "So You Think You Can Step It Up and Dance Your Ass Off With the Stars of America's Best Dance Crew." While ballroom blitz "Burn the Floor" has been touring internationally for 10 years, its arrival on Broadway clearly aims to cash in on the resurgent popularity of dance on television reality shows. But if you're going to invade the turf of Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins and Michael Bennett, you need to bring something beyond adrenaline and aggressive sizzle. Something like grace, style or wit. While there's only about 15 ounces of collective body fat onstage, there's also about 15 ounces of imagination... Directed and choreographed by former "Burn" ensemble member Jason Gilkison, the show whirls through the 10 standard disciplines of ballroom, initially in a dance-through-the-ages sequence that segues from "Let's Face the Music and Dance" into Shirley Bassey/Propellerheads number "History Repeating." But those 10 basics -- waltz, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, tango, quickstep, cha cha, samba, paso doble, rumba and jive -- all tend to blur into one when performed with the same hyper-accelerated flamenco intensity. There's so much random cross-pollination among styles, and so many garish theatricalized flourishes, that technique and subtlety disappear along with modulation. Among the more unfortunate routines is a number featuring a single blindfolded female dancer being tossed around by a group of shirtless guys, a cheesy sex fantasy that plays like camp without irony. Many of the visual correlations are beyond elementary: The paso doble as a bullfight? (Read Full Review)

F+

Godspell

Despite all the fresh talent and strong voices of the hard-working company (Celisse Henderson, Telly Leung, Lindsay Mendez and Nick Blaemire are especially appealing), there’s little evidence of them probing the material for meaning...Goldstein approaches it all like a Children’s Television Workshop special. Maybe it’s appropriate for a show so widely performed in schools, but this feels indeed like a high school production staged by the wacky new drama teacher...The most criminal contribution, though, is arguably not the excruciating book scenes but the mangling of song after song...What orchestrator Michael Holland does with those songs makes you question whether the creative team actually liked anything about Godspell when they took it on. (Read Full Review)

F+

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

As the dominant parent of the problem child “Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark,” Julie Taymor does herself no favors by including a program note about a mythological creature brought down by hubris. In an ungainly mess of a show that smacks of out-of-control auteurial arrogance, the parallel speaks for itself... There’s one thrillingly beautiful image about ten minutes in -- during a song appropriately titled “Behold and Wonder” -- as aerialists suspended from saffron-colored sashes weave an undulating fabric wall that fills the stage. And the impressive speed and agility of the flying sequences is a major leap forward in action terms from the slow glide of Mary Poppins. But mostly, Spider-Man is chaotic, dull and a little silly. And there’s nothing here half as catchy as the 1967 ABC cartoon theme tune. (Read Full Review)

F+

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

As a musical, it has no buoyancy, with comedic plot lines deflating in translation and underdeveloped characters scurrying about -- often on conveyer belts -- without engendering much affection. If the intent was to explore the characters' inner lives through song, then Yazbek (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), whose work is stronger on pop than poignancy, might be the wrong composer-lyricist. Strains of tango, mambo and bossa nova weave sinuously through the tuneful score. But the intimate songs rarely deepen our knowledge of the characters, and the ensemble numbers are chaotic. They neither drive the action nor flow organically from it. (Read Full Review)

F+

Breakfast at Tiffany's

It might be time to call for a moratorium on stage adaptations of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s... Sean Mathias, has taken a blundering stab at turning it into a Broadway play, this time with a page-bound script by Richard Greenberg and a strained Emilia Clarke in the central role. It’s a daunting and thankless task to list all the things that went wrong in this lethargic retelling, so let’s start with the good. The ginger tom playing protagonist Holly Golightly’s cat, the “poor slob without a name,” is a scene-stealing treasure in his few minutes of stage time. Pretty much everything else is harder to love.

(Read Full Review)

F+

Ghost: The Musical

Rather than adapting his screenplay, Rubin has lobbed it wholesale onto the stage, often with huge chunks of dialogue intact. There are cosmetic updates. Artist Molly (Caissie Levy) and investment banker Sam (Richard Fleeshman) now move into a Brooklyn loft instead of Tribeca, and the funds being illegally maneuvered by their treacherous friend Carl (Bryce Pinkham) are now $10 million (up from four for inflation). But there’s no sense of the material being reconceived for another medium, let alone another time. That failure proves irksome from the opening moments. Did nobody stop to think that investment bankers now rank close to Satan on the popularity scale? As Sam and Molly sing “Here Right Now,” the first of many unmemorable songs about nothing, there’s no incentive to share in their self-fulfillment celebration. (Read Full Review)

F

My Scandalous Life

It seems a worthy enough pursuit for a playwright to shift Lord Alfred Douglas, a k a Bosie, into the spotlight, rescuing Oscar Wilde’s troublesome bit of crumpet from the sidelines. But instead, Thomas Kilroy’s My Scandalous Life buries Bosie in the indignity of dramaturgical stodginess. Having its world premiere at the Irish Repertory Theater’s downstairs studio, this is less a play than a gurgling monologue with occasional interruptions. (Read Full Review)

F

Little Doc

In the absence of satisfyingly drawn conflict or authenticity, Mr. Klores orchestrates a lot of overwritten dialogue that ambles around in circles, laced with sometimes blunt, sometimes self-consciously oblique references to the disappointments and betrayals among fathers and sons, friends and lovers. The director, John Gould Rubin, has a long association with LAByrinth Theater Company, whose trademark performance style is seen at its most emphatic here, in 90 minutes of uninterrupted shouting, tics and wild gesticulating. (Read Full Review)

F

Lonely, I'm Not

An indie film manqué, larded with cutesy screen tropes in place of anything emotionally substantive, this trite play about damaged people might qualify as a melancholy rom-com if it had an ounce of genuine wit or charm. (Read Full Review)

F-

Baby It's You!

Leavel is done no favors in the looks department either. In her lacquered wigs and costumer Lizz Wolf’s fussy outfits, Flo looks like a runner-up on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Anna Louizos has built a deluxe multi-tiered bandstand with moving platforms for the musicians, but mostly the set serves to frame the exceedingly literal projections. Biggest disappointment is the music. Songs are dropped in with the randomness of a late-‘50s/early-‘60s playlist set to shuffle mode. The show takes some of the great American pop tunes of the 20th century and homogenizes their transcendent joys and heartaches into bland karaoke. (Read Full Review)

F-

White's Lies

Mr. Andron, whose background is in movie marketing, lists in his program biography that his work as a DVD content producer can be seen on “Point Break: Pure Adrenaline Edition.” Cool. “White’s Lies” is his first theatrical venture. Not cool. Spouting lines like, “You say manipulative, gold-digging slut like it’s a bad thing,” the male characters are stock figures, and the women are mostly shrews, ditzes or drunks. What the Tony-winning Ms. Buckley did to deserve this, only she knows. (Read Full Review)

F-

The Deep Throat Sex Scandal

The play brings no discernible point of view, no contemporary perspective beyond a winking Viagra allusion and a self-congratulatory coda, and no social context that couldn’t be gleaned in a quick Wiki hit. Its occasional mumbling about First Amendment rights seems more afterthought than agenda in this clumsy re-enactment of the film’s production, release and subsequent obscenity trials, which unfolds like a witless “Laugh-In” sketch...Jerry Douglas’s slapdash production does nothing to minimize the ineptitude. I kept wondering whether there was some beyond-bad, trash-theater experimental aesthetic I was missing as the tone lurched from realism to campiness and back. It started to seem plausible that theatergoers were being punked. After the movie’s release the action shifts to a Memphis courtroom, so we get amateurish acting, plus ropey Tennessee accents, plus some of the deadliest wigs ever placed on human heads. (Read Full Review)