That these characters feel so genuine is all the more surprising -- and canny of Diaz -- because wrestlers are fakers, and their industry is about building myths that both anticipate and defy their fans' expectations. Wrestling is a metaphor for America, Diaz implies. It's all about creating heroes and enemies by manipulating stereotypes, and turning the whole mess into pop-culture fodder.
I have zero nostalgia for the 1960s, but I love this Hair...Director Paulus, scenic designer Scott Pask and choreographer Karole Armitage have completely appropriated their new surroundings. The set has gained in depth and height, and the actors regularly bound into the orchestra and boxes...It's a tall order for any troupe, especially since more than a dozen actors get distinctive solos. This "Hair" bench has great depth. Some stick out, of course -- Swenson, Gavin Creel as Claude, Andrew Kober as Margaret Mead, Allison Case as Crissy -- but the musical's singular glory lies in the generosity with which it allows so many to shine..."Hair" is a musical for the ages because it's a musical for the now. (Read Full Review)
If you see one show this season, make it "The Scottsboro Boys." It's as simple as that...A masterwork, both daring and highly entertaining, and director/choreographer Susan Stroman ("The Producers") has given it the best production possible at the intimate Vineyard Theatre. The book (by David Thompson), score and staging are so organically linked, you can't imagine one without the others...It'll leave you shaking -- and exhilarated. (Read Full Review)
…Mark Rylance…an actor’s actor…pulls off a total stage-freak feat: Depending on the day, Rylance either plays the titular crippled schemer in “Richard III” or the noble lady Olivia in “Twelfth Night.” The result, directed by Tim Carroll, is a feast for the senses. Men playing women also adds a fascinating layer…though the hall-of-mirror effect is particularly troubling in the gender-bending “Twelfth Night.” [which] creates an enchanting atmosphere — and a very funny one. Rylance looks fantastic in his huge black dress and corpse-white makeup. Gliding around as if on a hidden moving platform, he milks all the humor and pathos out of his character’s sudden passion for Cesario — who’s really Viola, a young woman disguised as a boy. “Twelfth Night” is the better show, but seeing both productions lets you watch the actors slip into completely different roles. You’re not just going to the theater — you’re experiencing what makes it magic.
(Read Full Review)
Once in a blue moon, a show comes out blazing and restores your faith in Broadway. “Matilda The Musical” is that show... For once, you can believe the hype. A treat for ears and eyes, brain and heart, the glorious “Matilda” has it all — plus lasers!... Tim Minchin’s witty, inventive score marries catchy melodies with rollicking multisyllable rhymes... Each scene is gorgeously composed... It’s only fitting that a show about a little girl in love with storytelling should do such a memorable job of it.
(Read Full Review)
Indeed, the director pulls every trick out of the theater playbook: The cast syncs up with projections (shot specifically for the show), supporting characters turn into a singing Greek chorus, actors occasionally sit down in the first row -- as if they were watching their own life unfurl. It's a rare case of a show in which form and content mesh seamlessly. (Read Full Review)
Big, glitzy numbers are the toast of Broadway musicals. The only thing better? Big, glitzy numbers...with nuns! Sister Act has plenty of both â€” and itâ€™s one of the seasonâ€™s happiest surprises...Menken evokes the lush, funky sound of Philly soul without falling into mere pastiche...Aside from a lull in the second act, the show moves at a good clip, and pushes every imaginable button: Old lady rapping? Reliable. Old nun rapping? Off the charts! Every part is impeccably cast...Sister Act would go on for five hours, and itâ€™s already packed with goodies. To which we say: Amen! (Read Full Review)
Completed by Kander after Ebb's death in 2004, it's an archetype of the pair's MO: a boldly stylized, defiantly razzle-dazzle look at true events that underscore the bankruptcy of institutions and the nasty things people do to each other. And it's staged as a minstrel show. Great...The story has a resounding emotional charge, but we also clearly see the cruel, almost cartoonish absurdity of it all...As grim as its subject is, the show is vibrantly alive...On the surface, The Scottsboro Boys is a hard sell in a Times Square dominated by escapist fluff...Yet this is also a thrillingly inventive and entertaining night at the theater. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be moved. What could be more Broadway than that? (Read Full Review)
Instead of flashy ads and overhyped stars, this thrilling new show relies on ambition, ingenuity, craft and heart. Are you paying attention, Broadway?...Itâ€™s hard to pick stand-outs, though Soo, a recent Juilliard grad in her first major role, displays rare poise and a clean, pure voice free from self-indulgent gimmicks...But the showâ€™s trump card is the way music and staging are intertwined. (Read Full Review)
A chamber piece compared to "August" and its operatic scale. But smaller is by no means lesser...There's a thin line between sentiment and sentimentality, but Letts always stays on the right side. He also gets a deluxe production from director Tina Landau (whose work keeps getting better and better) and a cast in a state of grace...If all this makes "Superior Donuts" old-fashioned, so be it. The show is a timely reminder of the heady pleasure ace actors and ace storytelling can bring. (Read Full Review)
If...you feel as if you’re in a prison, that’s the point — it’s where this high-octane, all-female production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” takes place. The show, brilliantly directed by Phyllida Lloyd, of “Mamma Mia!” fame, is gripping all the way through, from brutal beginning to bloody end…the show, imported from London’s Donmar Warehouse, is more than trendy shtick: It’s respectful of the text and gives us Shakespeare at his most accessible and clear-eyed. Broadway’s upcoming starry, all-male versions of “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III” may be getting a lot of attention, but they’re going to have a tough time besting this show in Brooklyn’s Dumbo. The moral center here is the awe-inspiring Harriet Walter…[who] is surrounded by a terrific cast, down to the smallest bit parts…everything builds to a coherent theme: It’s easy to get carried away and hard to pull back once violence has been unleashed.
(Read Full Review)
"Here Lies Love" is a terrific time -- that leaves a slightly sour aftertaste. After all, this feel-good musical is about former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos. But this hits you later, because it's impossible not to be swept away by the momentum. This is the rare production in which every piece of the puzzle slides smoothly in its place, from Annie-B Parson's choreography to the fiery performances to the high-energy songs -- live but backed by recorded tapes, which is fitting since Filipinos are famously fond of karaoke. (Read Full Review)
Ruhl presents something a lot more intimate and a lot more daring: women's discovery of their own bodies and their own pleasure. It may be the first time we've seen characters repeatedly reach orgasm on a mainstream stage -- in a Lincoln Center Theater production, no less -- and it happens in a play that's smart, delicate and very, very funny...As well written as the play is, it could easily have gone astray in the wrong hands. But director Les Waters and his cast proceed with great sensitivity. Cerveris' earnest, slightly stiff physicality is put to good use here, while Benanti and Dizzia brim with a contagious glee in their shared scenes. Excited and curious, they giggle, whisper and intrigue. After all, their characters are on the cusp of a marvelous discovery: They were already adults. Now they can become women. (Read Full Review)
Hugh Jackman, the Wolverine of the X-Men franchise, turns out to have real-life superpowers: In Back on Broadway...he turns his entire audience into a bunch of 12-year-olds at a Justin Bieber concert. No matter your age, gender or sexual orientation, the Australian star will melt you into a puddle of blissed-out goo. Itâ€™s called mega-wattage charisma, and they donâ€™t teach it in school...Thereâ€™s a new king on Broadway. Long live His Royal Hughness! (Read Full Review)
Totally nails the great, deep malaise of middle-class suburbia, with a sustained energy and a wicked eye for telling details. Being laid off, hiding in online communities or in drugs and booze, failing to improve your station in life: Itâ€™s all here, and itâ€™s funny as hell. Detroit is so expertly written, directed and acted that you forget that two of its average citizens are played by Amy Ryan and David Schwimmer â€” after only a few minutes, theyâ€™re just Mary and Ben from the block. (Read Full Review)
Deevy, who lost her hearing by the time she was 20, shows a true gift for dialog. At first, it flows like a rural, slowed-down take on screwball comedy, particularly in the early quick-witted banter among Nan and James. But then you realize the weight of the unspoken. Deevy is a master of ellipses -- the characters' sentences sometimes trail off, glances are exchanged. Under Bank's direction, the cast exudes an unassuming charm, so much so that it takes a moment to register how quietly devastating the show really really is. (Read Full Review)
[The production choices are] exactly what you'd expect from Flemish director Ivo van Hove, whose radical takes on A Streetcar Named Desire and Hedda Gabler sharply divided New York audiences. Deservedly or not, van Hove has the reputation of a one-man wrecking ball. But he doesn't smash The Little Foxes -- he strips it bare. As fun as busy period productions can be, this one throws out the usual flourishes to reveal the full scope of the play's cruelty.
(Read Full Review)
[A] wonderful new play...Under Davis McCallumâ€™s sensitive direction, the cast brings these walking wounded to life with empathy. After nearly two intermissionless hours, you feel as if youâ€™ve met real people, made of flesh â€” in one case, lots of flesh â€” and blood. (Read Full Review)
The brilliant production of "Brief Encoun ter" that opened on Broadway last night should make all but the sourest puss believe in romance again. It's a spirited charm offensive that's just impossible to resist... But while the central concern of "Brief Encounter" remains love, adapter/director Emma Rice also blows kisses to the theater itself. She brings up songs, puppets, projections and moving sets, but it never feels gimmicky: Everything serves the story. (Read Full Review)
The lovely indie movie has become a lovely off-Broadway musical...Magically, the show manages to be faithful to its source while weaving a spell of its own. This is the rare stage adaptation that makes total sense...Fine, so Kazee is a little too wholesome for the scruffy Guy, and his Irish accent goes in and out. But he has a warm rapport with Milioti...who turns longing into an art form. The other key part of the equation is the creative teamâ€™s sensitive, inventive work...Hereâ€™s to Once, then, a musical thatâ€™s as unabashedly romantic, funny, passionate and sad as you dreamed it would be. (Read Full Review)
A zippy, exuberant musical--one that relies exclusively on steadfastly "classic" values: catchy songs, heaping spoonfuls of inspirational moments and tear-jerking schmaltz, and committed performers at the top of their game...The show is more about an era than a person, and so it generously spreads the goods among its cast. Iglehart, J. Bernard Calloway (as Felicia's brother, Delray), Derrick Baskin (Gator) and Cass Morgan (Huey's mom) all get notable solos, while Glover is terrific throughout, embodying rhythm and blues as she effortlessly switches from sexy to funny to emotional. And the songs these gifted performers are given aren't too shabby, either. If Bon Jovi's Bryan picked up one thing in his decades of playing arenas, it's how to write hooks and anthemic choruses. He just ladles them out here, all the while paying homage to the variety of sounds coming out of black Memphis clubs at that time. Purists may snicker, but this score works perfectly on Broadway. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo -- easily topping his overrated, Tony-winning work from "Jersey Boys" -- and director Christopher Ashley wrap it all together with smart, brisk efficiency. (Read Full Review)
While many downtown shows lose their edge when they move to Broadway, the new musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" has actually gained both scope and focus in the transfer. At the Public Theater, where it ran last spring, it often felt as if this irreverent, rock 'n' roll look at the seventh president was preaching to the converted. Playing to Broadway audiences, it feels more subversive. Especially since underneath its brashness and "Looney Tunes" antics, "Bloody Bloody" offers a smart, informed look at America's bottomless appetite for pandering leaders. (Read Full Review)
We’re so conditioned to be cynical nowadays that dark is considered edgy and romance dopey. But the Roundabout revival of “Talley’s Folly” that opened last night is proud to believe in love. It’s shocking precisely because it’s not shocking. Maybe because it was written at the tail end of the less misanthropic 1970s — it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 — but Lanford Wilson’s play brims with a sense of possibility. (Read Full Review)
Talk about going out with a bang! Broadway’s ending its season with a sensational revival of “Pippin”—a thrilling piece of eye-popping razzle dazzle filled with daredevil acrobatics. Diane Paulus,...has preserved a lot of Bob Fosse’s original suggestive burlesque moves — the choreography here is credited to Chet Walker, working “in the style of Bob Fosse.” The...Music Box has been decked out to evoke a psychedelic big top, and the cast smoothly segues from singing to dancing to circus acts. In a gender-bending twist, Patina Miller…takes on the role of the Leading Player, the M.C.-like character…Despite the constant whirlwind of activity, we never lose track of the human element, embodied by the vivid contrast between Pippin and the Leading Player. In this more-is-more atmosphere, you’d expect Paulus to pull all the stops for the finale, but instead she surprises us yet again. And it works: Turns out that life without flashy tricks, away from the spotlight, can be pretty great.
(Read Full Review)
Under the gentle direction of Michael Wilson (“The Orphans’ Home Cycle”), the cast is generally in sync with Foote’s subtle rhythm.
Tyson gives Mrs. Watts an endearing dogged persistence, but misses out a bit on her vulnerability, and even delivers a few slices of adorable-old-lady ham. Yet her hold on theatergoers is obvious: At a recent performance, half the audience spontaneously joined her in a hymn (Read Full Review)
Headland can a unleash rapid-fire comic blitzkrieg with a spot-on ear for the way 20-somethings relate to each other. And this Playwrights Horizons production plays to her strengths. Under the speedy direction of Trip Cullman, who also helmed â€œBachelorette,â€ the top-notch cast masters these hyperverbal charactersâ€™ aggressive irony and mock levity, as well as their fear of betraying any weaknesses. (Read Full Review)
This Jackson is an eyeliner-sporting hunk who ricochets between boundless energy and mopey self-pity...The creative team and the cast hit the right balance of irony and earnestness...Beneath the Looney Tunes antics, there's a genuine passion for what Jackson's life tells us about America's attraction to charismatic populists. This mix is reflected in the high-energy, inventive score by Michael Friedman, whose body of work is growing in leaps and bounds...Friedman drops references to Susan Sontag and Michel Foucault in his lyrics, but he also has a remarkable melodic immediacy. His ballads are genuinely graceful and poignant, but he also has a gift for anthemic choruses. And, what's more populist than a great, big singalong? (Read Full Review)
It's Justin Bartha -- the missing groom from the hit movie "The Hangover" -- who takes the final bow. And Bartha deserves it: He's the engine that powers this show. He doesn't just make his Broadway debut, he dynamites the doors open.mHappily, the rest of the cast rises to the challenge, and "Lend Me a Tenor" is exactly what it needs to be: hilarious. (Read Full Review)
There are two things you should know about Rapture, Blister, Burn. Itâ€™s about feminism, and itâ€™s fun...Gionfriddo has called her play an â€œinadvertent homageâ€ to Wendy Wassersteinâ€™s 1988 hit The Heidi Chronicles, but Rapture, Blister, Burn cuts with a sharper blade...Fluidly staged by Peter DuBois, the play directs most of its barbs at the hapless 40-something love triangle...But Gionfriddo never mocks them. She and the expert, sympathetic cast make clear that there are no right answers or paths. (Read Full Review)
The egomaniacal, manipulative Lily is a larger-than-life diva -- a perfect fit for the towering Johnston ("3rd Rock From the Sun," "The Skin of Our Teeth"), who takes up a lot of space. Sheathed in Clint Ramos' stylish period gowns, her alabaster skin emitting an almost radioactive glow, the actress goes whole hog and gives Lily a wonderfully demented dimension. She does amazing things with her eyes, for instance, narrowing them in fury or looking heavenward as if desperately searching for divine inspiration. (Read Full Review)
If War Horse is theater as epic spectacle, it's also theater as shared, intimate emotion...What makes the show so powerful is the way the storytelling and the stagecraft are intricately melded...War Horse never talks down to its viewers, no matter how young they may be. Some have branded the show as sentimental. Have we become so jaded that people are called suckers for crying during a good, old-fashioned tale? War Horse isn't sentimental: It's just not afraid to be emotional. Ultimately, the show succeeds because it tells children and reminds adults that some of life's joys are made great by terrible hardships. (Read Full Review)
By the time I got to Under St. Marks last night, the waiting list to get into "MilkMilkLemonade" was up to 25 people. Quite a feat considering the theater has a capacity of about 50. Clearly the show is on to something. And that something is old-fashioned stuff like, you know, a funny and poignant play, inventive direction and ace acting. In the end theater isn't much more than this, and it shouldn't be any less. Joshua Conkel's play includes a pair of characters who are in fifth grade but behind the colorful, stylized cardboard set lurks a show about honesty, friendship and heartache. Conkel and his director, Isaac Butler (who also runs the Parabasis blog and -- full disclosure -- has nicely plugged my own blogging on it), have created a world that feels self-contained and of a piece -- even as it touches on various styles of humor, from camp to slapstick -- but also is incredibly open-hearted and generous. (Read Full Review)
* Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch are doing more than merely replacing Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury, respectively. They--especially Peters--have transformed the entire show. Trevor Nunn's production felt murky and undernourished when it opened back in December. Now, a coherent whole has emerged...Stritch is a hoot to watch, as always...Like a rising tide lifting all boats, the newcomers have inspired the original cast to raise its game. Hanson, in particular, looks a lot more relaxed and isn't afraid to sound menacingly wolfish in "Now," while Erin Davie nails Charlotte's sarcastic disenchantment. With everybody firing on all cylinders, Nunn's spare, twilit staging finally makes sense, and even the smallness of the orchestra feels appropriate. Elisabeth's original review, a B-, can be read here. (Read Full Review)
We've endured a fairly large number of plays and movies about the plight of Iraq veterans and their families, most of them lousy: too much tortured corn, too much heavy-handed docu-drama. In the middle of that muddle, Bekah Brunstetter's intimate "Oohrah!" is a happy surprise...Considering its Southern setting, "Oohrah!" could have been a hee-haw mess, but the 27-year-old playwright never looks down on her characters...Brunstetter's writing is quick, economical and often very funny. But she also lucked out with director Evan Cabnet, who has a sensitive touch, and a uniformly ace cast. (Read Full Review)
The thrilling, mind-bending new show Sleep No More is loosely based on Macbeth -- but it's unlike any Macbeth you've ever seen. Or, for that matter, any play you've ever seen...Each of the roughly 100 rooms has been turned into a painstakingly detailed environment. The overall style can be described as Demented High Creepy -- just one reason the show's for audiences 16 and older...Don't look for a linear storyline: The show is more like a fragmented hallucination...There's blood. Lots of it. And nudity, manic choreography, loud drum-and-bass music, piped-in movie dialogue, strobe lights, fog machines -- Punchdrunk uses every trick in the book to make you forget who and where you are. Just give in to their imagination. (Read Full Review)
Thereâ€™s so much going on in the new off-Broadway show Tribes that itâ€™s almost overwhelming: intellect and sentiment, love and cruelty, witty zingers and biting put-downs. But in Nina Raineâ€™s dazzling play, too much is a good thing...Tribes is a family drama that constantly sidesteps that genreâ€™s clichÃ©s. But Raine and Cromer donâ€™t hit us over the head with how clever they are. Instead, they and their brilliant cast target both brain and heart. The troubled characters raise provocative issues, but we always empathize with them. (Read Full Review)
That this all fits into one compact 90-minute package, performed in one set by a cast of three, is impressive enough.
Even more startling is that the play â€” inspired by a real 1930s case â€” was written in 1947. â€œThe Maidsâ€ hasnâ€™t aged one bit, and remains as engrossing and shocking as when it first opened. (Read Full Review)
…Mark Rylance…an actor’s actor…pulls off a total stage-freak feat: Depending on the day, Rylance either plays the titular crippled schemer in “Richard III” or the noble lady Olivia in “Twelfth Night.” The result, directed by Tim Carroll, is a feast for the senses… “Richard III,”…belongs to Rylance. His Richard uses his deformity to look pathetic and better manipulate his victim — watch him make people uncomfortable with his atrophied hand, which hangs from his cape like a mummified monkey paw. Acting like a sad, bumbling clown, Richard gets laughs. It’s a fascinating choice, even if we lose a lot of Richard’s evil edge. “Twelfth Night” is the better show, but seeing both productions lets you watch the actors slip into completely different roles. You’re not just going to the theater — you’re experiencing what makes it magic.
(Read Full Review)
The new Broadway musical â€œOnceâ€ doesnâ€™t have a swinging chandelier, tap-dancing showgirls or brand-name stars. Thereâ€™s only one set â€” and it doesnâ€™t levitate. The show wins its standing ovations the old-fashioned way: with a love story, great songs, compelling characters and inventive stagecraft.... Guyâ€™s songs have â€œheart and soul,â€ Girl tells him. She might as well be describing this gem of a show. (Read Full Review)
Television dating shows are an easy target for satire — almost too easy. After all, it’s hard to outdo bird-brained youths looking for true love in hot tubs. But the wonderful new pop musical “Nobody Loves You” takes on that most ridiculous of genres in a way that’s both silly and smart — it even includes a babe in underwear slipping into a Jacuzzi. Talk about having your cheesecake and eating it, too. (Read Full Review)
Subtle directorial touches only reinforce the sad inevitability of it all. Barely lit, the key scene in which Laura opens up to Jim shows a young woman with untapped humor and warmth. But all the while, the menagerie glows almost malevolently on its table, a constant reminder of the depth of Laura's problems. If only she realized that strength can grow from sensibility. Edelstein and his crew, at least, understand that perfectly. (Read Full Review)
Done badly, a Brecht play is a preachy, cartoonish embarrassment. Done right, as in this new revival of “The Good Person of Szechwan,” it entertains even as it makes you think… [this] show is a marvel of joyful heart and lo-fi ingenuity. This Foundry company production has a lot going for it, including a terrific live bluegrass/country score by César Alvarez and the Lisps, as well Matt Saunders’ clever, perspective-defying set, with its cardboard houses. But director Lear DeBessonet’s single best idea was to cast Taylor Mac in the title role.
(Read Full Review)
This tremendous, magical new show is doing the talking for [Julie Taymor]. And what it basically says is: “Screw you, haters!” Just, you know, a lot more gently. Pulling out every last theatrical trick—puppets, projections, shadows, acrobatics, dance and, yes, flying—Taymor reminds us why she’s been hailed as a stage innovator for the past 25 years, Bono be damned. With its fairies, love potions and fantastical shenanigans, “Midsummer” is almost too obvious a fit for her. Yet there’s nothing boilerplate in this Theatre for a New Audience presentation…Every minute brings new surprising ravishments…By the end of the show, we feel as if we’ve been enchanted along with the characters. The show’s only misstep is the forced antics of the charmless, clumsily acted love quartet. Their pillow fight is the only part of the nearly three-hour show that feels interminable. It’s a forgivable glitch in this fabulous evening.
(Read Full Review)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have a long track record of mixing musical numbers and howitzer takedowns of all things red, white and blue. Make it very blue. Itâ€™s mission accomplished for South Park creators Trey Parker (left) and Matt Stone, whose first Broadway musical tells the satirical story of two Mormonsâ€™ religious journey in Uganda. With collaborator Robert Lopez... theyâ€™ve delivered a full-blooded tuner that rejuvenates musicals while displaying a genuine love for the form. (Read Full Review)
A legal drama drives the story but Rattigan also throws in a subplot about a love that dare not express itself between feisty suffragette Catherine Winslow and arrogant barrister Sir Robert Morton. Sounds familiar? Between that and the pre-WWI setting, “The Winslow Boy” should appeal to those going through “Downton Abbey” withdrawal. (Read Full Review)
What could have been a grim show peopled with bitter sad sacks turns out to be very funny -- and surprisingly affecting. Silver fires an arsenal of quips, but he also steers the plot in an unexpectedly hopeful direction. Director Mark Brokaw and the crackerjack cast smoothly hug every twist and turn of the winding emotional road. (Read Full Review)
Razor-sharp and funny as hell...Under Pam McKinnonâ€™s sharp direction, the ensemble, which created the show at Playwrights Horizons two years ago, vividly renders different yet oddly similar characters over a 50-year gap...Norris has an especially keen ear for PC talk on both sides of the racial divide, and how everybodyâ€™s just out to protect their turf...Without making a big deal of it â€” this isnâ€™t a show that rams a message down your throat â€” Norris suggests that no one, whether neighbors, family or friends, actually listens to each other. (Read Full Review)
So broad, you could drive an 18-wheeler through it â€” which the actors gleefully do, at 100 mph and without seat belts. Pratfalls, spit takes, puns, improvisation, winking asides, slamming doors, clowning, audience participation, double entendres and triple takes: One Man, Two Guvnors leaves no comic stone unturned...These guys just want one thing, and itâ€™s to make us laugh. They succeed brilliantly. (Read Full Review)
While the production doesn't shy from the more emotional moments, it's also fully committed to the fun of the script. The great ensemble -- it's hard to single out anybody -- does justice to Crowley's avalanche of wicked one-liners. Everybody who's ever been at the bottom of the heap knows that laughter is the best revenge. (Read Full Review)
Just right...Director Joe Mantello makes the potentially confusing action easy to follow, without resorting to oversimplification. The committed British ensemble does the rest, pulling off a thrilling high-wire act in some of the season's best acting. Riseborough is simply astonishing as a woman who's as much a victim of repressive times as her husband and his male lover...Disappearing within his two Philips, Dancy forgoes ego, suggesting the 1958 character's torment in a particularly economical, chilling way. Whishaw, meanwhile, goes from wounded but proud in the '50s to vulnerable but manipulative in the '00s in some of the play's trickiest transitions between time periods. (Read Full Review)
Better yet, â€œ4000 Milesâ€ â€” which reopened off-Broadway this week after a short run last year at the Duke â€” is a family drama without flamboyant hysterics, outsize emoting or last-minute revelations. Through an accumulation of short scenes and small details, the show, well-directed by Daniel Aukin, creates a genuine sense of intimacy between the characters. Instead of being made voyeurs at a car crash, we just happen to be listening in. (Read Full Review)
Newsies has finally made it to the big leagues... You can see why [Jeremy Jordan]â€™s being hailed as Broadwayâ€™s new star hunk... director Jeff Calhoun and choreographer Christopher Gattelli keep the boys on the move in often impressive ways. Itâ€™s a rare thrill to watch so many of them dance and jump en masse, and to hear them sing anthemic chants in unison. Weâ€™re far from the grit of Billy Elliot â€” the toothless Newsies book by Harvey Fierstein leaves no good sentiment unturned â€” but this family-friendly production makes it clear that fighting for your rights is a worthy cause. (Read Full Review)
There are star vehicles, and then there's "The Diary of a Madman," which is like a gold-plated, diamond-encrusted Ferrari for Geoffrey Rush ... Unsurprisingly, this was a career-making show for Rush and director Neil Armfield back in 1989. We should consider ourselves lucky they've brought their revival from Sydney to BAM ...
Armfield opted for a stylized, deliberately unrealistic approach. Catherine Martin's attic apartment set is a bold clash of deep reds and greens. Mark Shelton's lighting creates expressionist shadows that dramatically visualize Poprishchin's craziness. In the middle of it all is Rush, imperial and completely in control. Standing ovations feel knee-jerk nowadays, but the one he got the other night was an enthusiastic uprising -- and it was richly deserved. (Read Full Review)
The first half of "Clybourne Park" is absolutely sensational...Norris is never less than smart about things like what defines a community, and his characters are wonderfully complex...The play, while always dazzlingly written, gets more formulaic [in the second act]...But it's easy to forgive Norris, who sneaks in thoughtful insights about political correctness, community as both liberating and constrictive, and the ever-evolving American conversation about race...You laugh a lot at "Clybourne Park," but it's almost always uncomfortable. And that's a very good thing. (Read Full Review)
What makes Magic/Bird work isnâ€™t the mystique still attached to its subjects, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, legends though they are. Rather, the joint tale that opened on Broadway last night successfully trades on a tried-and-true setup: Magic/Bird is basically The Odd Couple with hoops...As far as bioplays go, this oneâ€™s got bounce. (Read Full Review)
After making you laugh, though, Yasmina Reza's "God of Carnage" leaves a bitter aftertaste. This Howitzer blast against bourgeois-bohemian hypocrisy could easily be staged as a drama. But it certainly isn't done that way here, and that's just fine it's been a while since Broadway's seen such gleefully nasty fun...As she did in "Art," Reza dissects upper-middle-class foils with precision and a welcome mean streak, but her plays don't amount to all that much once the smoke has cleared...Her dramatic devices aren't all that innovative, either--puking is a cheap way to get a laugh. It's also a diabolically efficient one, especially in the hands of director Matthew Warchus and his expert cast. After "Boeing-Boeing," Britain's Warchus confirms his uncanny command of spatial relations and sleek aesthetics, undoubtedly the most underused weapons in comedy...As for the actors, what glorious pleasure they are. (Read Full Review)
But plot is almost beside the point in "Beautiful Burnout." Boxing doesn't generate new stories: It forces directors to innovate with the old ones. "Let's set you in perpetual motion," the coach tells his charges, and at its best, the show is just that. Using a techno soundtrack was inspired -- the music's hypnotic momentum suggests both intense physicality and ecstatic release. When it all comes together, "Beautiful Burnout" is a knockout that actually lifts you up. (Read Full Review)
At last comes “After Midnight,” a sleek, elegant tribute to Duke Ellington and the glory days of the Cotton Club that brings class back to Broadway... the show’s true star is the 17-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars orchestra… Happily, nobody tried to add a plot for the Broadway transfer, so the show is still a string of pearls — much like the 1981 Ellington musical “Sophisticated Ladies"… While Carlyle isn’t the most imaginative choreographer, you can’t help but thrill as his dancers triumph in wildly different styles. (Read Full Review)
Comedy nirvana. Lavin is particularly fabulous in a juicy role from which she squeezes every drop. Itâ€™s never less than a treat to watch this expert in action, starting with the way Rita fires off put-downs while idly flipping through a magazine...Silver (Pterodactyls, Raised in Captivity) doesnâ€™t break new ground, but his vehicle is satisfyingly mean and funny, and director Mark Brokaw steers it adroitly. The playwrightâ€™s also smart enough to know that a bitchfest only goes so far. (Read Full Review)
J.R. Sullivanâ€™s staging expertly realizes the playâ€™s humor, and many of the charactersâ€™ exchanges play like the work of seasoned vaudevillians. But the evening is deeply moving nevertheless. When Tyrone rests his head on Josieâ€™s ample chest and sighs deeply, he seems like a weary traveler whoâ€™s finally found his way home. (Read Full Review)
Last fall's most exciting sensation wasn't a big Broadway musical but a scrappy outsider sneaking in under the radar. It played fewer than 40 performances at tiny Ars Nova. Yet Dave Malloy's inventive, ravishing, full-on romantic "Comet" gained a cult following that just wouldn't let it die. Happily, the show has reopened with essentially the same cast at Kazino, a new venue that has been customized to accommodate director Rachel Chavkin's immersive vision. Once again we find ourselves transported into a self-contained world where ardent Russian aristocrats and head-over-heels passion still thrive. (Read Full Review)
It's hard to believe that a ticket to this wonderful show costs only $20...The tonal shifts between tension and comedy are perfectly mastered, as are the incremental changes in power among the characters. Adjmi falters only briefly, lapsing into "Law & Order: SVU" territory toward the end. It's a minor problem, however, and he has the sense not to conclude on that note. Ace downtown director Anne Kauffman pulls everything together in her most assured and visually impressive production to date. (Read Full Review)
The characters arenâ€™t necessarily sympathetic. M is a terrible snob, Wâ€™s quiet confidence can be irritating and Johnâ€™s inability to fully commit to anyone is manipulative.
Yet we care for them all, thanks to Bartlettâ€™s insightful writing, James Macdonaldâ€™s sharp staging and a cast in a state of near-telepathic grace. (Read Full Review)
You can hear quite a few guffaws during the show, and they're not unwelcome. Borkman and Gunhild may have cold hearts, but the melodrama is red-hot nutty. Ibsen even has key characters elope by sleigh during a blizzard -- which Macdonald renders onstage. Aside from a couple of dips, the director keeps the pace fast and steady, helped in no small part by playwright Frank McGuiness' zippy adaptation. The rest is up to the inspired actors, who deliver the kind of powerhouse performances worthy of braving real snowstorms. (Read Full Review)
It helps considerably that this Lincoln Center production, directed by Joe Mantello, boasts a dream cast firing on all cylinders. It's a thrill to watch the likes of Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin and Stacy Keach transcend the story's more conventional aspects while filing its genuine insights into sharp edges ... While the show follows a predictable arc from acidic comedy to teary melodrama, Baitz also defies conventional wisdom. He's especially good at showing how people's private behavior and political opinions can defy expectations. (Read Full Review)
What really makes "Les Ã‰phÃ©mÃ©res" memorable is Mnouchkine's main staging device. Each of the various sets is neatly positioned on a small mobile platform that's fluidly maneuvered by crouching handlers. These moving Lazy Susans allow the director to constantly alter our perspective. In one vignette, for instance, a solicitous man brings tea to a woman. But as the set slowly rotates, we see bruises on her face, and realize the man likely beat her. Mnouchkine uses these "chariots," as she calls them, brilliantly, introducing flashbacks by going from one to another, and creating a smooth sense of dynamics. Other elements struggle to reach that level of invention, especially in the second half. Jean-Jacques Lemetre's nonstop score can be intrusive and, at times, cheesy. Worse, a few of the multitasking cast members -- notably Delphine Cottu and Juliana Carneiro da Cunha -- are much better in some parts than others. (Read Full Review)
So devastating is Laurie Metcalf in The Other Place -- so vivid her anguish, confusion and despair -- that at times she's hard to watch. But it's even harder not to. She's giving such a fierce performance that you can't avert your eyes from the slowly unfolding drama...Sharr White's new off-Broadway play hangs on the actress playing Juliana, a tough, prickly neurologist undergoing a major change in her life -- or, more accurately, in her head...White's writing can be heavy-handed -- did Juliana really need to be a brain scientist? -- but Joe Mantello's first-rate, sensitive production underplays the melodrama, and the cast transcends the material. (Read Full Review)
The autobiographical solo show has been done to death. But you have to hand it to Billy Crystal: He has a good story to tell, and he tells it a lot better than most. Crystal had a huge Tony-winning hit in 2004 with “700 Sundays.” Now Crystal’s bringing it back for what he says is the last time, directed now, as then, by Des McAnuff (“Jesus Christ Superstar”). You may not want to miss this chance to see a master entertainer ply his trade — not to mention the rare opportunity to relish real, live Catskills humor on Broadway…the second act…mostly deals with the deaths of his parents — mom Helen passed away after a stroke in 2001. It’s all heartfelt but a little maudlin. This is frustrating since the show’s first half is a master class in pacing and storytelling. There, Crystal perfectly segues from laughs to sentiment and back again. We’re putty in his expert hands — and that’s the memory we’ll take with us.
(Read Full Review)
Under the light hand of Leigh Silverman (“Chinglish”), Martha is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The part isn’t an obvious stage vehicle, especially for an established name like Falco.
Yet as cryptic and undemonstrative as Martha is, you can also see what drew the actress to this appealing new play by Liz Flahive, a producer on Falco’s “Nurse Jackie.” (Read Full Review)
But there’s a simple explanation for Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” and Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” thriving amid a sea of light musical fare: They both star Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart…[both] directed by Sean Mathias. If you have to pick one, “No Man’s Land” is the way to go. It’s all very inscrutable and cool, but the show’s mysteriously compelling. This has a lot to do with the easy rapport of the leads, who are besties in real life — McKellen even became a Universal Life Church minister to officiate at Stewart’s wedding. Still, this doesn’t prevent McKellen from wiping the floor with him. At 74, he’s lighter on his feet than men a third his age, with a highly entertaining mix of looseness and precision, and a stunningly mobile face.
(Read Full Review)
When shows are inspired by stars, they tend to be either fawning tributes or studies in self-destruction. The great thing about Jonathan Tolins’ fantastically funny “Buyer & Cellar” is that it’s neither. This being a solo show, zippily directed by Stephen Brackett, Urie plays all the characters, including Streisand hubby James Brolin and the diva herself. Urie wisely doesn’t try to impersonate her, but tweaks his voice and body language just enough to indicate who’s saying what. In lesser hands, “Buyer & Cellar” could skid into Internet-type irony. But Urie’s innate likability defuses any danger of bitchiness, and Tolins avoids callow jabs.
(Read Full Review)
Something special is happening here: The parts may not all be great, but the sum is simply wonderful. Best of all, itâ€™s a perfect fit for the Delacorte Theater, to the point that you canâ€™t tell where the stage ends and Central Park begins...Music and scenery aside, director Daniel Sullivanâ€™s main asset is Rabe...Her Rosalind is a feisty, lovable mix of smarts and spontaneity. (Read Full Review)
It's been a long, action- packed theater season, but make time for The School for Lies. A delectable offer ing from David Ives, this is a bright, refreshing sorbet of a show, brought to irrepressible life by actors -- led by Hamish Linklater and Mamie Gummer -- in perfect sync. (Read Full Review)
The good news is that while the production isn’t a lightning bolt of brilliance, it’s also sturdy and absorbing. But then, the play’s construction forces you to pay attention…Pinter, inspired by a seven-year affair of his own, writes with manipulative precision. At times, you feel as if he’s less interested in feelings than in the clever perspective-altering plot mechanics. This impression is reinforced in this production, which looks great but is emotionally distant and a tad too tasteful. (Read Full Review)
* Harvey Fierstein and Christopher Sieber have just revived this revival...Sieber and Fierstein's easy complicity also makes the show more sweetly subversive: It's now impossible to overlook the fact that we're watching two men in love, and they're so endearing that it's equally impossible not to root for them. A joke has even been added to soften the obvious age difference between the two actors: Sieber is 42, Fierstein 58. (Read Full Review)
Lilla Crawford is assured and likable as the titleâ€™s pint-size belter, without overdoing the cutesy aw-shucks pluck. Sheâ€™s matched with the ideal Daddy Warbucks of Anthony Warlow, a formidable Australian making his Broadway debut: manly gruff with a melty core and a smooth bourbon voice. Director James Lapine gives us a kitsch-free and elegant take on this tale, bolstered by Susan Hilfertyâ€™s superb costumes, David Korinsâ€™ storybook sets and Donald Holderâ€™s evocative lighting. Then again, itâ€™s no surprise that Lapine, who wrote the book for â€œInto the Woods,â€ would take this material seriously. When Annie sings â€œTomorrow,â€ hugging Sandy (played by Sunny, a rescue dog) against a stylized, dramatically lit Brooklyn Bridge, the scene is both deeply felt and beautiful to look at. (Read Full Review)
A dazzling comedy about racial identity in Hollywood...In [the] first act, Nottage, director Jo Bonney and the fired-up cast summon the velocity and snap of a classic 1930s screwball comedy...Lathan proves to be an unexpectedly inspired comedienne in the second act, when the 60-something Vera makes a tottering entrance, singing "Fly Me to the Moon" like a drunk Nina Simone. That half of the play is slightly less effective than the first because it's about people reflecting on Vera's life, as opposed to us watching it happen...That this show is so informed and incisive while being wildly entertaining may be Nottage's biggest achievement here: In a way, she's beaten Hollywood at its own game. (Read Full Review)
Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy is a eulogy. A really fun, really entertaining eulogy.
You may have heard that Tom Hanks, making his Broadway debut, is the star of the show — and he is, his Everyman-relatable charm coming through as strongly onstage as it does on- screen. But Ephron’s real focus isn’t a man but the end of hardboiled New York journalism.
(Read Full Review)
The inept New Hampshire trio was an unlikely subject for a musical: Their songs--about their parents, their cat Foot Foot--have a unique, sincere innocence, but a little goes a long way. So Gregory and composer Gunnar Madsen wrote an original '60s-inflected score to illustrate the characters' thoughts and dreams. The device works beautifully...The show, sensitively directed by John Langs, lags at times -- the subplot about Helen's secret wedding could easily have been cut. But at its best, it's a melancholy look at a delusional tyrant, and girls searching for their own voice. (Read Full Review)
Yes, this is a road company, and you have to wonder what it means for Broadway to become just another pit stop -- yet another step toward Vegas-ization? In this case, the production is looking and sounding good, because it's impossible to keep this Hair down...Paulus' dynamic staging is nearly foolproof, and in total sync with Karole Armitage's perpetual-motion choreography. Some nitpicking: A few actors, including Steel Burkhardt as charismatic Tribe ringleader Berger, think that running their hands through their manes is an acceptable substitute for acting...Yet the main issue isn't so much with individual performances as with the group synergy...This cast doesn't quite gel into a whole: There are good parts, but they don't always add up. Yet caveats aside, this "Hair" remains one of the most spirited, kinetic musicals on Broadway. (Read Full Review)
It's as if Shakespeare had been reincarnated as a hippie and written a picaresque musical...But the evening is surprisingly easy to digest, particularly since the three intermissions are abnormally long to reconfigure the main performance space for every part...The show takes over the entirety of the HERE theater complex -- including the dressing room, hallways, stairs and bathrooms -- to immerse the audience in a fantastical alternate reality. Some sequences do dilly-dally, and even the wacky internal logic falters by the end, but for the most part this experience is sweet, ramshackle and generous -- and unique. (Read Full Review)
For some people, clowns are one rung below mimes and air-guitar zeroes on the ladder of entertainment hell. Well, let the cranks stay home and let the rest of us laugh our heads off at “Old Hats,” one of the funniest shows of the past few years. Of course it helps that the hats in question are none other than clown royals Bill Irwin and David Shiner, who have finally delivered a follow-up to their 1993 Broadway hit “Fool Moon.” Bill Irwin (left) and David Shiner goof around in the delightful “Old Hats.” If you caught “Fool Moon,” you know the drill: a series of brilliant physical-comedy vignettes, backed by the musical stylings of an onstage combo. This time around, the idiosyncratic singer-songwriter Nellie McKay and a small band underscore the skits, and perform a selection of her material between.
(Read Full Review)
An ambitious, sprawling historical drama that provides a potent depiction of the pitfalls of good intentions...The play is a combination espionage thriller and dark comedy thatâ€™s surprisingly easy to follow despite its labyrinthine plotting...Although the play never quite reaches the emotional depths that would make it truly great, itâ€™s nonetheless consistently gripping theater...Should be compulsory viewing for any serious theatergoer. (Read Full Review)
Few Chekhov-inspired shows make you laugh out loud, and repeatedly at that. Luckily for us it just opened on Broadway, after a recent run Off -- and it's the rare transfer where the show improved. What's changed? At first glance, nothing: Cast, director and set are repeats from the Lincoln Center stint last fall. And yet Nicholas Martin's production has gotten noticeably better: It’s simultaneously sharper and smoother, and the one weak performance -- that of Sigourney Weaver -- has grown more nuanced and funnier. (Read Full Review)
A lot more uplifting, campy and fun than youâ€™d expect from something that starts in a funeral home...Washington is a whirlwind of manic energy as Glo, an irrepressible life force in Juicy Couture tracksuits and a fanny pack...The show may have a heavy emotional component, but director Robert Oâ€™Hara and costume/scenic designer Clint Ramos pulled out all the stops â€” this is a play staged with the colorful verve of a musical. Wild With Happy does get a little sentimental in places. But as a writer, Domingo has such a huge heart that you just want to indulge him, just as Adelaide indulged her son. (Read Full Review)
There's enough energy in the first act of "Fela!" to short-circuit Con Ed. It spills over from the stage and into the orchestra seats, boundless and joyous: This is as close as Broadway gets to fully immersive theater...Directed and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, the biography is at its most thrilling when it blurs the line between life and art, performers and viewers. A pedagogical deconstruction of Afrobeat's musical components turns into a party, and the show is so cocky that it doesn't even save a big audience-participation number for the finale: It comes half an hour in. It's a tough act to keep up, and "Fela!" does struggle after intermission. In the second act, the pretense of being at a concert falls by the wayside, and a dream sequence involving Fela's mother, Funmilayo (Lillias White), drags on forever...For such a boundary-busting project, it's oddly conventional in the way it glosses over the cause of Fela's death (of AIDS) and smoothes out his misogyny -- his embrace of polygamy wasn't nearly as endearing as it's portrayed. But then, the intensely charismatic Ngaujah played the lead when I saw the show. Whipping his band and followers into a frenzy, he's fully aware of his power -- and you finally understand how an entertainer can be a human weapon. (Read Full Review)
The Explorers Club” is the rare comedy that fulfills its mandate: It wants to do nothing more than make you laugh — and that it does. Nell Benjamin’s gleefully goofy new concoction, which opened last night at Manhattan Theatre Club II, doesn’t take a late-minute turn into pseudo-seriousness or deliver some kind of message. It’s simply funny. Benjamin, who wrote the book for “Legally Blonde — The Musical,” is particularly good at satirizing idiocy and self-importance. And there’s more than good quips here. Under Marc Bruni’s swift direction, the fast-paced production boasts superior feats of slapstick, executed with clockwork precision.
(Read Full Review)
But â€œGraceâ€ veers off in interesting directions by moving all the characters â€” not just Steve â€” outside of their comfort zone. Granted, Wright and director Dexter Bullard overreach at times. Not only does the show proceed in flashback, but both apartments share the set â€” the characters are in the same space without being in the same room â€” which is more confusing than anything else. And keep an eye on the overhead fan, which changes speed and direction at key moments.
But those are only embellishments. Ultimately â€œGraceâ€ turns out to have a simple, affecting point: Itâ€™s about the stories we tell ourselves to make it through life. (Read Full Review)
A large part of the play's appeal is that you're never quite sure what it's about or where it's going. The prospective romance between Jane (Julianne Nicholson) and Jean-Pierre (Louis Cancelmi) is quickly dropped. The attraction between married Tom (Darren Pettie) and Jane is revealed, then put on the back burner, though it may or may not have lasting consequences. Alan (Glenn Fitzgerald), craving love, steps to the forefront -- until we go back to Jane, who realized she never properly mourned her husband. (Read Full Review)
While it may sound odd to say so of something featuring betrayals and brutal death, the show that opened at the Cort last night is wickedly entertaining: Those two hours fly by. There are flaws (John Lee Beatty's set is literally creaky, for one), but the toned-down approach of director Gregory Mosher and his cast pays off. Largely it's because the performances successfully look inward, avoiding cheap, crowd-baiting histrionics -- and "A View From the Bridge" certainly has potential for those. (Read Full Review)
In the expert hands of Halley Feiffer and Natasha Lyonne, respectively, they're the funniest tornadoes to land in New York in a while. As directed by the inspired Sam Gold ("Circle Mirror Transformation"), the actresses have an odd-couple comic chemistry that kills.
And yet the show could have taken a very different turn since Rosenstock's subject matter isn't a barrel of laughs -- think depression, grief, breakups ... Granted, the play has a ways to go. The tiger metaphor is heavy-handed, and Rosenstock sometimes mines for easy laughs, like when the sisters mouth dialogue from "Top Gun." (It works.) But she also shows great promise in the way she handles a potentially volatile mix of sensitivity and humor. With a production as wondrous as this -- and tickets just $20 -- there's no reason to miss "Tigers Be Still." (Read Full Review)
Shares the same off-kilter sensibility and dark humor as [Rapp's] previous pieces, but itâ€™s also the most brazenly bizarre thing heâ€™s ever done -- like Luis Bunuelâ€™s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie transposed to the land of Brooks Brothers and Rolex watches...Rapp and director Neil Pepe expertly weave comedy and coiled nastinesa...Eventually it feels as if Rapp is trying a little too hard, and after 90 minutes, the finale lands in a rush. But if you want to watch end times in New England, this show gives you front-row seats. (Read Full Review)
While the story bursts with potentially explosive elements, "Year Zero" surprisingly lacks dramatic punch. Partly this has to do with Golamco's honorable wish to defy expectations by avoiding cathartic, clichÃ©d violence. Instead, he opts for a gentle tone, as the characters negotiate their entry into adulthood, but also what responsibility and expectations mean to them -- including a funny exchange in which Glenn explains the Asian pecking order to Ra: "Chinese, Vietnamese, orangutans, Cambodians, pandas."
"Year Zero" may be obvious at times, but it has a big heart. And that counts for a lot. (Read Full Review)
Considering its agitated gestation, it’s amazing how smooth “Orphans” is. During rehearsals, actor Shia LaBeouf had well-publicized — by himself — arguments with co-star Alec Baldwin and director Daniel Sullivan. In short order, LaBeouf was out and Ben Foster was in. But the real surprise is the laughter. “Orphans” is meant to be one of the most hard-hitting dramas of the ’80s, but the audience at the Schoenfeld, where Lyle Kessler’s play is having a belated Broadway premiere, cracks up often. And it’s laughing with the show, not at it. It seems that in the 28 years since “Orphans” bowed off-Broadway, its darkly comic side has taken over. Whether that was the new team’s intention or not, this production works on its own terms. (Read Full Review)
Amerissiah displays the Amoralists' trademarks: characters eking out a living on America's fringes, outrÃ© dysfunctions, extreme physicality, foul-mouthed humor. On Theatre 80's very wide stage, it all looks like an indie-style domestic-warfare movie shot in lush Cinemascope. But Ahonen's work is more than low-brow provocation wrapped in white-trash aesthetics. He has affection for all his characters, including the Ricewater family of Amerissiah...Not much actually happens, but Ahonen's high-velocity writing covers up the void. He has a gift for eyebrow-rising non sequiturs -- "This will be as easy as making soup," "You're bookending a life with not enough books" -- that his cast delivers as if they were pearls of wisdom. (Read Full Review)
Has lost none of its power to keep an audience on edge...Partly this has to do with the performances, whose balance of thoughtfulness and instinct give them a sense of relatable immediacy...But while the show is extremely accomplished, this is yet another naturalistic production of a play thatâ€™s not. (Read Full Review)
Despite a show-offy, nonlinear narrative, Washer King...is often quietly affecting...Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, the show starts off like a run-of-the-mill dramedy, until it becomes apparent that something more is going on...The cast does very well navigating these murky waters. (Read Full Review)
Closure at last! With a total running time now up to nine hours, Horton Foote's "The Orphans' Home Cycle" finally draws to an end with the opening of its third and last three-act installment, "The Story of a Family." It's been a long, steady ride since the first one opened in November, and reaching the destination brings a fulfilling sense of completion. (Read Full Review)
"Restoration" mostly sidesteps overt sentimentality, thanks to the sure hand of director Christopher Ashley ("Xanadu"). A dose of caustic humor helps, too. Shear-the-author has not spared Shear-the-actress: The frumpy-grumpy Giulia is a self-righteous New Yorker who addresses the slinky local cultural bureaucrats (Tina Benko, Natalija Nogulich) with a mixture of sarcastic disdain and bristly impatience. As annoying as she can occasionally be, Giulia gets the job done, just like the show itself. Despite spinning its wheels in the second half, "Restoration" is a comfortable blend of warmth, humor and art history. (Read Full Review)
"The Metal Children," which Rapp also directed, is his most ambitious work yet and retains the author's trademark zingers (he can be as sharply funny as Tracy Letts). But the play's impact is undermined by its very richness ... Crudup bravely plays a complicated man whose mixture of self-regard and self-pity makes him lose perspective when dealing with 16-year-old Vera (Phoebe Strole). Each time a new subplot appears, Rapp loses some of his hold on the narrative. And yet you can't be indifferent to this brave, messy show, which refuses easy answers and wholly likable protagonists. That Rapp makes us confront these gray areas may be his biggest provocation. (Read Full Review)
Hinds…underplays beautifully — like the rest of the excellent cast, all brought in from the London production. McPherson, who also directed, keeps things moving fleetly. This is a great improvement over his sluggish earlier shows, especially since not all that much happens…For a few tense minutes… it feels as if we’re in a Martin McDonagh play — maybe an outtake from “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.” McPherson is more compassionate, though, and “The Night Alive” ends on a gentle note. The conclusion seems a bit tacked on, and maybe not entirely credible. But by then, we’ve grown so attached to Tommy that, like him, we want to believe.
(Read Full Review)
The woman snaps photos of herself on her phone and checks her updates. Less cyber-savvy but just as effective is Molinaâ€™s skill on the cello â€” she also played it as Johanna in â€œSweeney Toddâ€ â€” which is smartly integrated into the plot. Throughout the trim 70-minute production, itâ€™s clear that these two are meant for each other. Molina overpowers Tam in the vocal department, but they both have a relaxed charm and look terrific in their underwear. Successful relationships have been built on less. (Read Full Review)
It’s hard to pin down “A Picture of Autumn”: You can see it as either a funny drama or the most depressing comedy of the season. Above all, the show…is an intriguing nugget. Playwright N.C. Hunter used to be a hot ticket in the West End in the 1950s and early ’60s, but he was eclipsed by more radical writers, and fell into oblivion. This qualifies as an asset to the Mint company, which specializes in little-known works and is now giving the 1951 “Autumn” its American premiere. Efficiently directed by Gus Kaikkonen, the show makes us laugh at the Denhams’ eccentricities, while refusing to sugarcoat how frustrating they are. “Here we are, three old, upper-class anachronisms, scratching about in a house that’s 15 sizes too big for us,” Harry says. “That’s not tragedy, it’s farce!” The show’s achievement is that it plays off both.
(Read Full Review)
Here, [Karam] does get carried away with too many subplots, and the scenes involving the football star who caused the accident are awkwardly grafted on. But this Roundabout production, excellently directed by Peter DuBois, overcomes these minor faults, mostly because Karam gives us people we can care about. He has a knack for grounding them with telling details, like Gloria taking pretend phone calls to avoid uncomfortable conversations. (Read Full Review)
[Y]ou settle into your seat, ready for an innocuous, snoozy night out. But itâ€™s another story after the break. With the exposition out of the way, it feels as if somebody had applied defibrillator paddles to the show and shocked it into life. Henrik Ibsenâ€™s drama may have been written in 1882, but its portrayal of life-threatening pollution, public health versus personal gain, and soul-destroying compromises could have been pulled from todayâ€™s headlines. (Read Full Review)
Rarely has something so epic been so unassuming. A lot happens in Horton Foote's three-hour-long "The Story of a Childhood," set in the rough and tumble world of early 20th-century Texas. The tone never wavers from a certain humble plainness, even when scenes deal with jealousy and alcoholism or allude to tragic deaths...Few authors write pettiness as well as Foote does, and few actors play it as well as his own daughter Hallie, brilliant as always in relatively short parts. Granted, there are times when you wish the plays could be pricklier, messier. Doesn't anyone ever scream in this world? But then you realize that by not raising his voice, Foote gives his melancholy a subversive edge. (Read Full Review)
The second act spins in so many directions that it threatens to escape from the playwrightâ€™s control -- there are so many balls in the air that some get dropped. Did I mention songs? Yes, there are songs, too. Some suggest Jonâ€™s play needs trimming, and the same can be said for this. But thereâ€™s also enough withering insights into the neediness and narcissistic selfishness of artists to make this â€œMemoryâ€ lane one worth strolling down. (Read Full Review)
Tolins doesn't gloss over the murkier aspects of the power imbalance between the men, while acknowledging the relationship's exciting, wondrous side: Andy compares himself to Charlie Bucket and Martin to Willy Wonka. While Andy is nerdy-funny and endearing, he isn't idealized, either. He's needy, pushy and rather pleased with himself. All his life he's been encouraged by his adoring folks (Amy Aquino, Mark Nelson); his father practically tears up in pride and affection every time he speaks to or about his beloved son. And here's where Tolins really proves his mettle: The parents have real parts with real back stories, and it's clear they contribute as much to Andy's growth as Martin does.
(Read Full Review)
There are a few plays within Jon Robin Baitzâ€™s drama...The show starts off as a corrosive dark comedy about a tumultuous Christmas reunion pitting conservative parents against their liberal offspring. But then Baitz reveals a series of game-changers...Predictably, a sunny character reveals a hidden malaise; a lot more interesting is that others reveal selfless generosity. This is rich territory...but Baitz doesnâ€™t clobber us with messages or psychobabble. He just makes spending time with these messed-up, complicated people a genuine pleasure. (Read Full Review)
Though she loses steam in the show's final hour, Bailey creates a spectacle of the highest order in the first two. She projects digital duplicates of the cast to create the illusion of crowds, and summons Django Bates' horn-heavy, dissonant music to further the general sense of impending doom. Like the play's characters, this director goes for the jugular. (Read Full Review)
Tracks the ups and downs of a couple on its path to adoption. The administrative roller coaster provides a gold mine of amusing material, but this tender, funny show is more about the emotional journey of becoming a parent for the first time...We watch the two men go through every single possible emotion in a series of vignettes finely staged by director Scott Elliott, and set to good pop-tinged songs by newcomers Jack Lechner (lyrics) and Andy Monroe (music)...Always keeping a light touch, The Kid deals with the issue of what makes a good parent, and does it without looking down on any of the involved parties. (Read Full Review)
Ireland is virtuosic... If only the writing were as sophisticated as her performance... Here the M.O. is less subversive because [Adjmi's] not telling us anything we don’t already know. The switch in tone halfway through doesn’t quite work, either, even if a scene involving a philosophical sheep (David Greenspan) is winningly surreal. And yet the show as a whole is invigorating, thanks to the remarkable cast and director Rebecca Taichman’s stylish production.
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The playwright shows great sensitivity for these working-class womenâ€™s dreams and difficulties. She flirts with the unrealistic, down to an improbable final plot twist, but we always feel for Francis and Loretta because they have very real financial concerns. When American fiction looks at heists or embezzlement, the sums at stake are huge. Just look at Hollywood: It takes millions of dollars just to set up a bank job these days. Here, our heroines get involved in a harebrained scheme for Â£60 here, Â£120 there. It seems like paltry amounts, yet for these gals, a little means a lot. (Read Full Review)
Few actors could have fun with Leonard like the butterscotch-voiced Alan Rickman, a master of the withering put-down and the contemptuous side glance...This could easily have led to a one-man show of sorts, but luckily rising director Sam Gold (Circle Mirror Transformation, Kin) has matched Rickman with a champion ensemble...You can overlook the formulaic plotting because the witty Rebeck hits plenty of bullâ€™s-eyes, most notably when poking fun at literary Manhattanâ€™s cutthroat world. And with actors of this caliber delivering the goods, itâ€™s easy to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. (Read Full Review)
You need a great cast to make you interested in these people, and Daniel Aukin’s taut production certainly has it. Chimo is just as terrific as she was in “Bachelorette,” where she played a mean alpha girl. With her unruly mane and judgmental gaze, her Daphna is a modern Medusa, the snake-haired monster of Greek mythology whose stare turned men to stone... All four actors are in great sync, moving with choreographed precision on Lauren Helpern’s realistic reconstitution of a cramped studio apartment. It feels as if we’re right there with them, horrified by this explosion of bad behavior — and laughing our heads off. (Read Full Review)
The pair certainly isnâ€™t going for razzmatazz...And yet weâ€™re not being short-changed, as the song balances obscure nuggets (Kander and Ebbâ€™s â€œCoffee in a Cardboard Cupâ€) and classics (â€œSome Enchanted Evening,â€ â€œBaby, Itâ€™s Cold Outsideâ€)...Rather than merely stringing ditties along, the show follows a gracefully theatrical arc about the highs and lows of love...Throughout, LuPone and Patinkin have such an easy, comfortable rapport that itâ€™s hard to believe they havenâ€™t shared a show since Evita. (Read Full Review)
By now, Busch himself is as much of a beloved classic as the movie heroines he impersonates in performances that are half loving tribute, half wicked spoof. When he first appears in full mother superior regalia in The Divine Sister--the outfits were donated by Nunsense creator Dan Goggin--you see both the original screen archetypes and 25 years worth of Busch's own stage creations...Busch wrote himself a plum role, of course, but he also handed out prime slices of cheese to his cast. Chief among them is longtime accomplice Julie Halston, who speaks the author's trademark overheated, hammy dialogue like a true native...The show won't win prizes for sophistication, but it sure could be habit-forming. (Read Full Review)
Composer Jeanine Tesori (“Caroline, or Change”) and book writer/lyricist Lisa Kron (“Well”) tackle the material with great sensitivity and warmth. Directed by Sam Gold, their adaptation boasts a solid chamber-pop score, a handful of wonderful scenes and a winning cast.
The action moves fluidly back and forth in time, but the show’s focus can be erratic. “Fun Home” has a lot going for it, thanks to the great affection and humor it accords its flawed, searching characters. Still, it’s ironic that a show about frustrated longings may leave you feeling the same.
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It doesn't matter that the relationship between Ruth Steiner and Lisa Morrison follows a course so calculated, it could have been set by NASA. That's because they're played by the expert Linda Lavin and Sarah Paulson, respectively, who find a world of ambiguities in a fairly standard story ... Outside of his hijacking of Schwartz (who's safely dead), Margulies doesn't add much bite or insight to this familiar tale of artistic vampirism. Fortunately, the stars of Lynne Meadow's production do it for him. That Lavin has unparalleled comic timing isn't new. Here, she deftly drawls some words into grunts of disapproval, and could teach a seminar on eye-rolling ... Paulson is a worthy match, her posture straightening as Lisa gains confidence, her glare acquiring a steely glint. (Read Full Review)
The first act is a flawless demonstration of his approach. In a series of fast-paced, thought-provoking scenes, the new students and their instructor, Robert Lyon (Ian Kelly), discuss the paintings they've undertaken themselves. The exchanges are as eye-opening as they're lively, and you get swept up by the men's excitement... Unfortunately, Hall trips in the second act, when he largely abandons the collective to focus on the individual -- more specifically, Oliver Kilbourn (Christopher Connel), the miner who comes closest to becoming a full-time artist. (Read Full Review)
Even silent and still, Shaw is a forceful presence. This is her show, her moment. She and Warner are longtime accomplices, having delivered such memorable evenings as "Happy Days" and "Medea." Here the script they're working with isn't nearly as remarkable — but Shaw's charismatic, almost possessed performance is. Few, if any, others could match her ferocious intensity, keen intelligence and dark humor. (Read Full Review)
[It] may not be Wilson's most sophisticated effort -- brace yourself for multiple baseball analogies -- but it's one of his most emotionally effective. And it feels good to be taken for a ride by such a storyteller, especially when the ride is as delicately staged, as gorgeously acted as it is here...The contrast between the somewhat hackneyed developments and the subtlety with which they're handled makes for deeply affecting theater. (Read Full Review)
Indeed, the "Will & Grace" star is a revelation. Chuck is a paradox -- a self-effacing lead -- but the actor handles the transitions between the character's passive bearing and his active imagination with dexterity. Hayes, Chenoweth and the excellent supporting cast -- including Dick Latessa -- benefit from Ashford's direction: The staging of pop songs has rarely been as sharp as it is in this show.
On the other hand, Ashford underwhelms as choreographer, which is odd considering the bang-up dances he created for "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Cry-Baby." The biggest letdown is "Turkey Lurkey Time," an ensemble number with a single purpose: to kill. Here, it delivers only a flesh wound. But this isn't enough to spoil the fun. "Promises, Promises" is a candy-flavored ride that more than delivers on its title. (Read Full Review)
[T]show overcomes some weak spots to effectively summon a claustrophobic, paranoid tragedy ... Hicks' Lear indulges in cruelty with abandon, and it's a testament to the actor's skill that we feel for the monarch when he turns into a doddering madman. When he does, he seems to physically shrink, and looks downright decrepit in filthy underwear. (Read Full Review)
It's a trifle, but one that's dished out by Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight (the puppyish George on "Grey's Anatomy"), two skilled, likable stars with a mellow chemistry and spot-on timing.... Stewart and Knight clearly enjoy themselves, and make a very efficient tag team. It's a hoot to watch Robert try to hold onto the last shreds of his dignity in the face of theatrical adversity -- a task made harder by a slew of preposterous wigs and hats he's saddled with.
Meanwhile, the Buster Keaton-like Knight portrays John as eager to learn and ever-stoic in the face of Robert's antics, with mournful, hangdog eyes that only occasionally betray a hint of irritation. (Read Full Review)
Thankfully, the show overflows with terrific songs, propelled by Harburg's wit ("Why should I vanquish, relinquish, resish/When I simply relish this hellish condish") and Burton Lane's timeless sense of melody...Though this version was slightly tweaked, the plot still lurches from one preposterous development to another...When a typical twist involves a white senator turning black, you know a show is delirious even by the loose standards of golden-age musical theater...But "Finian's Rainbow" boasts another hallmark of many vintage musicals: The numbers are all sorts of great. Sometimes they advance the story, as when Sharon and Woody fall in love over the gorgeous "Old Devil Moon." Sometimes they're just an excuse for performers to strut their stuff, as they do in "Necessity" (which Terri White hits out of the ballpark) and "Dance of the Golden Crock," possibly the only duet for a ballerina (Alina Faye) and harmonica player (Guy Davis) in the history of Broadway...Whether you think this particularly whimsical crock is half-empty or half-full, the songs are pure heaven. (Read Full Review)
â€˜Bullet for Adolfâ€ has all the markings of a cult show â€” it could be theaterâ€™s answer to a midnight movie.
Directed and co-written by Woody Harrelson, this new off-Broadway play is often inept and always profane, with cartoonish characters and an eye-rollingly ridiculous story.
Itâ€™s also oddly compelling.
(Read Full Review)
Greg and Alex are a happily married Manhattan couple with a 4-year-old son. Jake is smart, creative -- and he loves pretending to be a princess. The subject is sensitively handled -- maybe too sensitively. Still, the show, smoothly directed by Evan Cabnet, is full of perceptive details about the intense world of affluent parenting, where every child is gifted and the struggle for dominance begins at home. (Read Full Review)
Walsh â€” whose â€œPenelopeâ€ and â€œThe New Electric Ballroomâ€ also played St. Annâ€™s â€” doesnâ€™t make things easy for us. He writes in a disjointed manner, giving away just enough of a thread to keep us hooked. There are brief moments of slightly surreal humor, as when Thomas evokes Mrs. Clearyâ€™s famous cheesecake â€” â€œHow anyone could think that a whisked bit of cheese with a broken biscuit base could set the baking world on fire,â€ he marvels. (Read Full Review)
There are few things theatergoers love more than musicals about persistence and self-acceptance... since Lauper teamed up with book writer Harvey Fierstein, the man behind “La Cage aux Folles,” rahrah empowerment gushes out of the likable but heavy-handed show as if from a broken pipe... More biting, and fun, is “The History of Wrong Guys,” sung by an electric Annaleigh Ashford (who was the best thing in the recent “Rent” revival). As one of Charlie’s factory workers, who’s long had a crush on her boss, she commits a Grand Theft Solo with a sidesplitting review of bad choices at bad times. This character-driven song indicates Lauper’s natural knack for musicals, and the more high-energy numbers suggest that someone on Broadway—a place where rock is still vaguely suspicious— has heard that crazy dance music the kids seem to love. If the show’s about people coming into their own, Lauper’s leading the pack.
Death and mortality loom large in “Somewhere Fun,” but Schwartz goes at them from unexpected angles. This is the kind of show where, when a character melts down, the only thing she leaves behind is a puddle of black goo and a skull. Then, stagehands in biohazard clean it up. This is all surprisingly entertaining, and oddly touching as well. The show may look like an exercise in sterile brain twisters, but in its own warped way, it creates genuine emotion. (Read Full Review)
For her first Broadway appearance since “Clams on the Half Shell” 38 years ago, Bette Midler split the difference between playing it safe and taking a risk. This isn’t much of a departure from the outsize stage persona Midler created for herself over the decades, but so what? “I’ll Eat You Last” is wickedly entertaining precisely because performer and material are so perfectly matched. As Mengers, she spends the entire play plopped down on a couch, rearranging the throw pillows and lighting up joints. That she manages to hold our attention while doing it says a lot about the actress’ charisma, as well as Joe Mantello’s smooth direction. Midler’s said to be insecure about her acting, but she has nothing to be anxious about. Let’s hope this show is just the first step in her reconquest of the New York stage.
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As to Dianaâ€™s self-flagellation, itâ€™s classic Jewish-mother humor. â€œI donâ€™t suffer because of my husband,â€ this world-class kvetcher says. â€œI suffer because Iâ€™m breathing.â€ Moving from stand-up to theater with greater ease than Chris Rock, Garofalo milks these lines with poker-face restraint. (Read Full Review)
The Normal Heart hasn't lost any of its anger or biting humor, but it feels more like a fascinating time capsule. There still isn't a cure for AIDS, so the stakes remain high. But along with its militant content, the show's also a portrait -- sometimes self-serving -- of a specific man in a specific time and place. It's a snapshot of a city and era that feel long gone, and this production, co-directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, gives it a worthy frame...Kramer certainly loads the dice...But the show does have a formidable momentum because Ned himself is relentless. And he's far from being a knight in shining armor: He's often a judgmental jerk whose callowness is explained but not excused by his insecurities...Most impressive is John Benjamin Hickey as Ned's lover. As he changes from handsome, assured newspaper reporter into a shell of a man ravaged by disease, he embodies the painful intersection of the political and the personal where "The Normal Heart" beats. (Read Full Review)
Nina Arianda emerges as a technically dazzling comedienne. She lands all her quips, with inspired touches of physical humor for good measure. But her uncommon warmth and charm also make Billie touchingly vibrant. It's a downright tour de force...Director Doug Hughes keeps the action moving somewhat fleetly, even if John Lee Beatty's overstuffed hotel-room set is as feathery as a wedding cake made of plaster...Leonard portrays Paul's earnestness with deadpan stiffness. You don't buy his love for Billie; on a recent night, he even blew one of the show's best lines, which needed sensuality and comic timing to work...[Arianda] has a surprisingly good foil in Belushi, who doesn't soft-pedal Harry's brutal bullying while suggesting it's prompted by insecurity. Watching these two lock horns is so pleasurable, you want to see them again as soon as the curtain comes down. (Read Full Review)
The pitch-perfect production aims a bright light into those dark corners. Oana Botezâ€™s vintage costumes â€” tight and heavy on the polyester â€” scream 1970s, and John McDermottâ€™s beige set is an impressive duplicate of a sitcom living room. Songs by Giorgio Moroder and Musique underscore the disco-dancing sequences, choreographed by Deney Terrio, who trained John Travolta for Saturday Night Fever. (Read Full Review)
As soon as you catch your first glance of Pee-wee in his trademark red bow tie and too-short, too-tight gray suit, regular time and space stop having any meaning. You're teleported to the '80s, when Paul Reubens turned his now-iconic character into a Saturday-morning TV star...To watch all this live feels supremely familiar and comforting, like eating a huge ice-cream sundae topped by a mountain of whipped cream and exploding sparklers...Still, this is essentially a nostalgic trip, and you wish Reubens and co-writer Bill Steinkellner had created more new material for the occasion. Pee-wee may be timeless, but that doesn't mean he should be stuck in the past. (Read Full Review)
But there’s a simple explanation for Pinter’s “No Man’s Land” and Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” thriving amid a sea of light musical fare: They both star Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart…[both] directed by Sean Mathias. Though the two main roles in 1953’s “Godot” are equal, McKellen comes out on top again as Estragon to Stewart’s Vladimir. The pair are bedraggled vaudevillian tramps in bowler hats, endlessly hankering for a visit from the mysterious visitor of the title. But the real reason the show’s less efficient than the other one is the imbalance between the leads...McKellen’s dominance turns Stewart into a straight man. The supporting cast is just as lopsided: Hensley’s bellowing Pozzo is one note, but Crudup is touching as Pozzo’s slave, Lucky. Yet every time you start thinking you’re watching two homeless men argue, the ever-expressive McKellen pulls out another trick: Just look at the way he gnaws on a carrot, or his desperate soft-shoe shuffle. Who wouldn’t want the privilege of watching him in action? (Read Full Review)
Pacino has gone bigger, unnecessarily turning up the volume since the summer, and losing subtlety in the process. Looking bedraggled, his shirt half hanging from his shapeless pants, Shylock makes a pitiful figure next to the Christian establishment, haughty tormentors in crisply pressed suits and spotless spats. That Shylock would channel his humiliation and disappointment into vengeful rage is understandable, if not excusable. But does it need to be so obvious?... What remains intact -- perhaps even stronger -- is Portia's vibrant intelligence and grace.
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This whimsy could be hopelessly corny, but the production handles it lightly. Director Scott Ellis does a good job of contrasting Elwoodâ€™s unflappable calm and kindness with the agitation and stressed-out selfishness of those around him. The excellent supporting cast shines here, especially the comically uptight Hecht and the increasingly unsettled Kimbrough. Carol Kane has an offbeat turn as Dr. Chumleyâ€™s wife, playing her like a child in a Tim Burton film. (Read Full Review)
The new comic thriller “Small Engine Repair” isn’t subtle, but it more than makes up for it by being tawdry, nasty and fun. It’s proud pulp fiction, something we don’t get enough of at the theater. Playwright John Pollono pulls double duty as Frank, the owner of the title’s shop. The entire action takes place in that grungy little garage, where you can get your weedwacker or snowblower fixed — we’re in Manchester, NH, where such things come in handy. Director Jo Bonney keeps the scenes moving, but after about 45 minutes of that nonsense, you’re still looking for a point…Pollono switches to a higher gear in the final stretch, and all hell breaks loose. The conclusion is too good to spoil, so let’s just say it involves a visual that will remain branded on your eyeballs for a while. The show does feel like a long, wordy wind-up for the sake of one brief punch — but at least it’s an outrageous knockout.
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Fodor gets many bittersweet laughs out of Meena and Philâ€™s fumbling attempts to deal with their messy emotions â€” the doctor starts looking for a heartbreak pill.
Too bad â€œRxâ€ loses its focus in its second half, especially when it comes to Frances, an elderly widow shopping for XXL panties. (Read Full Review)
This is thorny stuff, and Thurber tries to juggle too many themes. But there's also a sharp, ambitious intelligence at play here, and under the direction of Caitriona McLaughlin, the young cast handles it with aplomb. Cash and Soule, in particular, fearlessly throw themselves into the show's daunting physicality. As the actors take their bows, flushed and disheveled, you're left feeling emotionally battered yet intensely alive. (Read Full Review)
Under Gaye Taylor Upchurch’s efficient direction for Women’s Project, Ferrera gives a vivid performance as a scrappy optimist determined to survive. Marks is particularly good at depicting people in various states of delusion, and she does so with a healthy splash of black humor. Theater likes to pat itself on the back for its social relevance and high-minded ideals, but it’s actually paid little attention to the recession and its impact on the poor. While not as psychologically complex as David Lindsay-Abaire’s Broadway hit “Good People,” “Bethany” captures many key aspects of the crisis, like the fact that Crystal has a job and still struggles to survive. Whether it’s dreams or cars, it’s tough to sell when nobody’s buying. (Read Full Review)
While her performance often lacks nuance and starts off too shouty, the star eventually gains in confidence... Johansson successfully brings to the fore Maggie’s rough edges... Hinds and Walker dominate Act 2, beautifully bringing out the men’s fraught but strangely caring bond. Then it’s Monk’s turn to surge, as Big Mama confronts her cancer-stricken husband’s mortality and the impending shift of power within the family.
“Cat” is like an opera in its overheated treatment of guilt, frustration and “mendacity,” and director Rob Ashford treats it as such. Despite occasional staging touches — the sounds of fireworks and playing children always seem to surge at momentous times — the show has a certain tragic inevitability. It’s a flawed but compelling picture of Southern discomfort.
A melancholy fable, or maybe a twisted fairy tale...The premise has the makings of a hard-edged takedown of predatory lending or city politics, but Shanley isnâ€™t interested in being Michael Moore. Heâ€™d rather be Hans Christian Andersen...Shanley, who also directed, sets a relaxed pace. Too relaxed, maybe: Though itâ€™s only 90 minutes, Storefront Church sometimes lacks momentum. Still, itâ€™s nice to see a show that makes room for a couple of wordless, reflective scenes...Like the rest of the play, those moments are a little clunky, a little obvious, but also earnest and generous. And that alone is praise-worthy. (Read Full Review)
Irish novelist Edna O'Brien wrote a plum part for Brenda Blethyn in "Haunted," an oblique, wordy play about a waning marriage. The actress returned the favor by grounding the piece with real bite and unsentimental pathos ... O'Brien is better known for her books -- starting with 1960's "The Country Girls" -- than her plays, and you can see why. The writing here can be precious, and is jam-packed with quotes and references, from Corinthians to O'Neill, from Shakespeare to Albee. This usually reflects Jack's flight from reality, but can be frustrating, as if O'Brien didn't trust her own characters ...
Under Braham Murray's direction, the cast delivers finely tuned performances. Blethyn is the prize, though, and when she busts Jack, she cuts through like a flaming sword. A wounded tragedienne in floral print, Gladys is one of the season's most memorable creations. (Read Full Review)
Despite â€œMasterpiece Theaterâ€-like trappings, Sowerby hits hard â€” this is a family where siblings rat on one another. If only director Richard Corley had staged the play with less politeness and more fire. Rutherford Sr. may not be an ogre, but Hogan plays him with too much reserve, as if he were an accountant, not a captain of industry. (Read Full Review)
Daniel Radcliffe is so adorable in his Broadway musical debut, you just want to pinch his cheeks. It's not just his youth -- the Harry Potter star is 21 -- but the endearing amount of dedication and enthusiasm he pours into steering the new revival of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying...The effort put into the performance is noticeable -- you feel the hours of rehearsal, especially during the dance numbers -- and it'll be interesting to revisit the show in a few weeks, when he's relaxed into the role. Rob Ashford has surrounded his novice lead with a zesty production...The dancing is both lively and ingenious...Welcome to the wonderful world of musicals, Daniel. We hope you'll stick with it. (Read Full Review)
Yes, making fun of Steven Seagal, Don Johnson and Kurt Russell is like shooting has-beens in a barrel, but that doesn't mean it's not satisfying -- especially when Leguizamo drives the point home by showing clips of the incriminating evidence. And he's such a nimble mimic that when he renders a multiperson conversation, it's like watching basketball players engage in lightning-quick passing.
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One reason why Foote’s proved so popular is that he wrote deceptively simple characters who turn out to be gifts to actors — and, by extension, audiences. Such is the case again with “The Old Friends,” in which a virtuoso ensemble led by Betty Buckley and Lois Smith delivers a master class in precision acting. (Read Full Review)
There's a reason this subject hasn't been explored much before, but Casella has written a funny, charming play about what it takes to make a man. Think of it as "The Vagina Monologues" for guys ... he cast also steers clear of cheap sentimentality as the characters reveal tales of shame and inadequacy.The broad-chested, chiseled-cheeked Peck is particularly funny as a promiscuous, cocky (sorry) cop who's afraid of falling in love. Director Matt Lenz maintains a nimble pace. (Read Full Review)
Bedford's straightforward approach as an actor is slightly less effective when he directs. This Being Earnest is like a big, comfortable Cadillac: You may not get brisk accelerations or unexpected flair, but the show has old-fashioned good looks and rides smoothly. (Read Full Review)
With his hunger to entertain and his precision timing, Lane reminds us why he’s a vaudevillian master in those scenes. He could ham it up even more, though, as he did so flamboyantly in the film “The Birdcage.” There’s also little sense of titillating sleaze in Jack O’Brien’s staging, which is saying something considering the comic routines are interspersed with hootchy-kootchy bump and grind, backed by a five-piece band.
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Pine makes a mesmerizing Walt, puffing on cigarettes and coughing up blood in handkerchiefs ... By the end, he sounds like a cross between Yoda and Gertrude Stein, railing against a Florida man who dared to get "in the way, of my liberty, what I want, not free to do, not like America, not right to change the plan, plans and change in plans." This aggressively stylized approach can make "Public Reading" too self-consciously arty. But in its roundabout way, the show's a devastating portrait of a man for whom make-believe was more real than reality itself. (Read Full Review)
The new Room 17B is like an anthology of clown haikus -- a se ries of self-contained routines, each one brief, elegant and perfectly balanced. Presented by the physical-comedy company Parallel Exit, the mostly wordless show is a delightful illustration of the power of well-oiled simplicity. Parents, take note: It's also that rare, kid-friendly work that doesn't dumb down its act. (Read Full Review)
A fine production, considering how tricky the piece is...Casting is key to this show: Holmesâ€™ songs are serviceable at best, requiring hams willing to go over the top and beyond...Director Scott Ellis could easily have pushed the pace into a gallop rather than a trot, and cranked up the zany-meter a notch or two. Still, for a show doing triple duty as musical, choose-your-own-ending mystery and time-travel device, Drood is jolly good fun. (Read Full Review)
The only surprise in this predictable, mushy new Broadway musical is how ridiculously fun it is...Snappily directed by Christopher Ashley and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. Esparza is a charismatic bandleader, and he tirelessly sells the peppy pop-gospel songs by Disney stalwart Alan Menken and Glenn Slater...If thereâ€™s a lesson in Leap of Faith, itâ€™s that high-energy entertainment is the perfect sweetener: It makes everything go down, whether itâ€™s a rascally preacher or a Broadway musical with a clunky book. (Read Full Review)
A compelling, well-acted production...As the action slowly unspools, it seems as if we're in for tasteful-but-sleepy "Masterpiece Theater"--or rather "Semi-Obscure Theater." But then the play, ably directed by Matthew Arbour, switches gears. This coincides with the arrival of Emily Vernon (the vibrant Ellen Adair), a would-be actress who hails from the same boondocks as the Worgans. She and Charles fall in love...Bennett makes their relationship wonderfully complex and adult...Granted, Bennett isn't so strong on plot...But he has a way with zingers...And his multifaceted characters are burdened with conflicting impulses and desires. All of these people could easily be airlifted into our age of paparazzi and TMZ: The dilemmas and compromises Bennett presciently makes them confront haven't aged one bit. (Read Full Review)
Rather than turn in another technically fine, ultimately safe Garland impersonation, Bennett gives us the Garland mystique. This is all the more key since Peter Quilterâ€™s West End import isnâ€™t very good. Itâ€™s a decent vehicle for a drunk driver...Bennett doesnâ€™t give a note-for-note imitation, even if sheâ€™s particularly good with physical mannerisms. Instead, she makes us understand the combustible mix of ego and self-doubt that made Garland such a fascinating performer, simultaneously professional and unhinged. (Read Full Review)
“Murder Ballad” isn’t ground-breaking, but that’s not its mission. This is a solid, well-crafted effort that revarnishes the old love-triangle premise. And Juliana Nash’s muscular-yet-melodic score uses rock better than most musicals. At times you wonder if director Trip Cullman doesn’t try too hard. The staging feels a little gimmicky, and we spend a lot of time simply trying to figure out where the characters are while they run around the space. There’s a thin line between kinetic and busy. But the actors…work tirelessly to animate the tautly told tale. Still, the show is satisfying in the elemental way of a good yarn. And it ends with a fun twist that makes you wonder just how many sides there are to a love triangle.
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The work of Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is 75 percent of the reason this often-frustrating revival gets three stars: You can't underestimate the pleasure of hearing those songs played at full volume by a 30-piece orchestra. Add Jerome Robbins' iconic choreography (reproduced here by Joey McKneely), and you have lightning in a bottle. Yet at least one person thinks the aforementioned elements aren't the point: Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book back in 1957 and directs this production, has snipped that "the original was about dancing and singing."... What do we remember of this production, then? Laurents may not like the answer, but it's precisely what the original was about: the singing and the dancing. "West Side Story" had not been seen on Broadway in almost three decades. For a new generation to discover it live is almost good enough. (Read Full Review)
But the show really rests on Levi’s shoulders — and he carries it effortlessly. The only clue we had that he could carry a tune was from his duet with Mandy Moore in Disney’s “Tangled.” Here, he turns out to be able to do far more than just sing a song: He can sell it. His 11 o’clock number, “In Love With You,” is a tour de force of comic timing, physical clowning and effective interpretation. A loving relationship does come out of “First Date,” but it’s not between Aaron and Casey — it’s between Zachary Levi and theater. And it will last. (Read Full Review)
Holiday shows can get away with murder. They have familiar subjects, a captive audience and a limited run, so too often they donâ€™t try as hard as they should. When it first appeared a couple of years ago, â€œElf â€” The Musicalâ€ fit that pattern. The sluggish, saccharine-sweet adaptation of the 2003 Will Ferrell movie wasnâ€™t bad enough to qualify as a lump of coal, but it didnâ€™t make you wish for a return ticket in your stocking.â€¦Thereâ€™s been a Christmas miracle on Broadway, because the retooled â€œElfâ€ that reopened last night is a startling improvement. Zippier and funnier, the show is now a bona fide treat. (Read Full Review)
Few playwrights love to scratch an itch more than Bruce Norris. For his new play, “Domesticated,” Norris set another big target in his crosshairs: the war between the sexes—and here, it goes nuclear. But while the show is well-crafted and often bitterly funny, it also lacks the even-handed heart that tempered “Clybourne Park.” Anna D. Shapiro (“August: Osage County”) skillfully directs a great cast, with Goldblum and Metcalf doing superior work. His Bill is a frustrated, passive-aggressive weasel, while her Judy exudes fury and resentment from every pore. But Shapiro has her work cut out for her. For one, the show’s performed in the round, so we often watch somebody’s back during a key scene. Another problem is that the leads disappear for long stretches: Judy dominates the first act, while Bill owns the second...Though the play becomes more sympathetic to the male side of things, it’s not much of a victory. You’ve got to hand it to Norris: He hits where it hurts. (Read Full Review)
The old, provincial Afrikaner and the urban teacher from an English South African background donâ€™t seem to have much in common. But against all odds, their friendship feels very real, very grounded. Both the stars and director Gordon Edelstein â€” who helmed an excellent â€œGlass Menagerieâ€ in 2009 â€” succeed in suggesting the comfortable affection Elsa and Miss Helen share as they talk about life.
(Read Full Review)
A ballad of family dysfunction -- and a boon for actors. This New Group revival trims an hour from the original, but that still leaves three packed with yelling, wailing and random shooting and the revelation of long-suppressed secrets...The production is appropriately claustrophobic, with great help from ghostly live music (by a duo called Gaines) and Derek McLane's oppressive set...It's also nice to see Hawke refrain from Western Gothic histrionics, but the cast's uneven intensity prevents the show from cutting as deep as it could have. The wound it leaves is severe, but not critical. (Read Full Review)
Directing for Theater for a New Audience, Arin Arbus opted for a pared-down approach similar to the one in her Othello last year. She lets the text speak for itself, allowing the characters' contradictions and ambiguities to drive the action. The modern-dress production moves at a steady clip, and Arbus renders the play's issues as clear as CliffsNotes. This isn't backhanded praise: Making Shakespeare accessible to, well, "a new audience" is nothing to sniff at. But it also over-simplifies the gray areas.... Sisto's one-note Angelo doesn't suggest much inner turmoil, and in her calf-length skirt and sensible flats, Waterston's Isabella is like a Mormon missionary impervious to temptation -- there's no inkling that these characters are agonizing over their choices.
(Read Full Review)
Though the same superb ensemble cast -- including budding stars Maria Dizzia, Sarah Lemp, Louis Cancelmi and Katherine Waterston -- reappear in different roles, there's little sense of permanence. Immigrants and American transplants, strivers and junkies come and go. While they don't share much on the surface, Rose (directed by Rapp) and Paraffin (directed by Daniel Aukin) subtly show how a building can actually develop a kind of institutional memory: Someone always has problems paying the rent, someone's always in love with the wrong person, a new artist is always trying to make it...That idea is taken to its extreme in the futuristic Nursing (directed by Trip Cullman)...This is the most lurid installment -- replete with the nudity and bodily fluids that made Rapp's early work infamous -- yet it's also the flattest. While he created drama out of very little in the other two pieces, Rapp seems paralyzed by the enormity of his subject here. (Read Full Review)
Briskly and inventively directed by Alex Timbers (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Roger Rees...The play blends an old-fashioned music-hall sensibility straight from the 1885 date line with an avalanche of jokes...Thereâ€™s a lot of frantic business about two warring ships, switched trunks, an island inhabited by a tribe called the Mollusks â€” frankly, itâ€™s hard to follow...Borle chomps what little scenery there is with contagious delight. Swishing and jumping about, winking at himself and the audience, his vaudevillian pirate is a shameless masterpiece. Is it so wrong to pine for the bad guy? (Read Full Review)
Dillane's Prospero is a gentle father and scholar, both manipulating and observing the proceedings with a benevolent detachment. It's a contained, thoughtful portrayal that matches Mendes' elemental staging: a circle of sand, a shallow pool. Water and earth, reason and the supernatural, the seen and the unseen convincingly coexist on this island outside of the normal time-space continuum...Still, it would have been great if the tone didn't stick so much to the moody middle, especially since there are a few tantalizing flashes of invention. (The surprise Mendes pulls out before Miranda's wedding is just lovely.) More of that would have been welcome: Unlike the castaways, the audience is ready and willing to be enchanted. (Read Full Review)
Cromer could wring emotions out of a stone, and he keeps us interested. And despite their wobbly English and Aussie accents, the cast suggests a lot out of relatively little. Still, the show feels gratuitously cryptic ... But these faults are easy to overlook. By the end, a poetic, austere charm has taken hold, and Bovell and Cromer have created a quietly affecting pathos that transcends gimmickry. (Read Full Review)
Halley Feiffer’s wicked comedy “How To Make Friends and Then Kill Them,” falls on the dark side of the spectrum... Feiffer (the daughter of satirist Jules) is an expert comic actor with an appealingly skewed sensibility... She doesn’t perform in this play, but it’s clearly written with the same off-kilter vibe... The play doesn’t add up to all that much in the end, but the production, skillfully directed by Kip Fagan, is a tasty bonbon. For that we can thank the wonderful cast, who bring both nuance and great timing to roles that flirt with the grotesque. (Read Full Review)
Yet this Theatre for a New Audience production, directed by Arin Arbus, makes a convincing argument for the delicious shrewdness of â€œShrew.â€ And thatâ€™s because Maggie Siff and Andy Grotelueschen (late of the companyâ€™s â€œCymbelineâ€) make a convincing argument for Kate and Petruchio as a pairing of equals. (Read Full Review)
Thereâ€™s a lot of fun stuff in Nice Work If You Can Get It, a new musical made of old parts. For starters, this Gershwin jukebox is loaded with unimpeachable classics and a few brilliant obscurities. Theyâ€™re strung together by a zany, Prohibition-set book inspired by the George and Ira musical Oh, Kay!...We also get the fabulous Kelli Oâ€™Hara...Itâ€™s hard to say this delicately, so letâ€™s just rip off the Band-Aid: [Matthew Broderick's] is one of the most unappealing performances of the past few years...At least you can block out this problem for large chunks of the evening...Even at his most leaden, Broderick canâ€™t quite sink this ship. (Read Full Review)
The play has lost some of its intimacy in the transfer, and the characters sometimes look lost on Wilson Chin's cheap-looking set -- especially in the scenes set in a hospital waiting room ... Nauffts gently prompts us to wonder how we live with contradictions, and what we're willing to sacrifice for love. Too bad the show is hampered by supporting characters out of central casting: Arlene is a rowdy steel magnolia, and Butch is the strong, silent type. Holly's the loyal straight best friend always ready with a quip and a shoulder to cry on. Only Luke's pal Brandon (Sean Dugan), another gay Christian, pulls us in, maybe because he's intriguingly opaque. (Read Full Review)
The Coney Island home where the show takes place doesn't have a very sturdy structure -- kind of like Derek Ahonen's play, in fact. Mostly, the plot feels like an excuse to display characters that make the cast of "Jersey Shore" look like extras in a Pinter drama. But once you get used to the general over-the-topness and the matching volume -- every line is shouted, yelled or bellowed -- Happy in the Poorhouse is a fun ride. (Read Full Review)
You can't hide from Chekhov! Christopher Durang's zany new play ... names are lifted from Chekhov's ''Uncle Vanya'' and ''Three Sisters'' and played, respectively, by David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen and Sigourney Weaver. The play gets a bit muddled as Durang piles on the physical and verbal gags at breakneck speed. But while Durang ladles one-liners and increasingly kooky situations -- one of them involving Snow White and a couple of her dwarves -- he also adds flickers of bittersweet emotion. (Read Full Review)
Between the interlocking stories, musical interludes and Vogel's taste for extraneous diversions - did we really need an encounter between a horse and a mule? - the show can drag, especially in its first act. Thankfully, director Tina Landau ("Superior Donuts") proves to be an excellent juggler, gracefully keeping all her balls in the air. And when the resolution comes, it's as sweet as we need it to be. It is, after all, a holiday show. (Read Full Review)
Sometimes feels as if neurologist Oliver Sacks had tried his hand at drama. As in his acclaimed play The Receptionist, Bock excels at creating a subtly creepy atmosphere. He wisely leaves Emily's ailment a mystery and mostly avoids sentimentality. Trip Cullman's direction is appropriately sober, except for the needlessly distracting incidental music--snippets of Nirvana and Pixies tunes covered by a string quartet. The bigger problem is that the show, at 80 minutes, feels too short. We don't know enough about how relationships have evolved within the family, making it harder to care...Luckily, the cast skillfully helps us fill in the blanks. (Read Full Review)
Hereâ€™s one way you know â€œGolden Boyâ€ is set in the past: Its hero is torn between idealistic music-making and a lucrative sports career. Joeâ€™s curse is that heâ€™s a gifted violin player and a canny boxer. His heart is with music, but prizefighting pays the bills, and then some. Success comes quick and fairly easy, but you can tell Joe isnâ€™t 100 percent sold on his career: He tries to protect his fiddle-playing hands by banking on speed and strategy. Turns out boxing can do as much damage to your heart as your bones. (Read Full Review)
Donâ€™t expect anything groundbreaking from â€œChimichangas and Zoloft.â€ Fernanda Coppelâ€™s play may be new, but its themes are well-worn: girls coming of age, sexual identity, philandering husbands and depressed wives. But the Mexican-American writer, only 26, brings lively energy â€” and a couple of nice twists â€” to situations weâ€™ve seen a million times before. She treats all her characters, no matter their faults, with sympathy. And refreshingly, the show takes place in a milieu we rarely see on local stages: Mexican-American middle-class families in LA. (Read Full Review)
At a mere 90 minutes, it has enough ideas and potential story lines to fill five plays. This Second Stage Uptown production is too scattered, but itâ€™s also often insightful, and far from boring...The show ticks off one dude box after another: The guys smoke a joint, drink, prepare a barbecue, talk about going to a sweat lodge, play with guns and break into fisticuffs...This sounds like a lot, and it is, but perceptive comments about male loyalty and betrayal do emerge. If thereâ€™s an umbrella theme here, itâ€™s masculinity in crisis. (Read Full Review)
Director Scott Elliot smartly makes the war kinetic: He stages the dinner party on a revolving platform that underlines Marie's loneliness. He also gets spot-on work from an excellent supporting cast. In the end, though, it's all about Marie and Bruce, and their hellish stalemate. This is a marriage you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.
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Marshall struggles with the farcical tempo, and many bits of comic business fall flat. Several involve the ubiquitous, shamelessly mugging Grey -- he's like the uncle who somehow inserts himself in every wedding photo.
Fortunately, some supporting performances sparkle. Osnes, in ravishing voice, is a de-lovely ingenue, all fire and ice, and the gangly Godley is a riot as the hapless aristocrat. He can't really sing, yet his duet with Foster, "The Gypsy in Me," brings down the house. That's because, as they try to upstage each other, they look as if they're making up the routine as they go along. This is what you get when gifted performers take an innocuous song and run with it: a moment of pure, old-school magic. (Read Full Review)
Melissa James Gibson’s quirky play meanders gently from cryptic scene to seemingly extraneous aside. While her characters often fumble, the playwright and director Daniel Aukin (“4000 Miles,” “Bad Jews”) never mock them. Neither does the cast, which is uniformly excellent at projecting warmth despite the deadpan language. These characters may have a hard time connecting with each other, but they still touch us. (Read Full Review)
Juliana is in every single one of the show's 85 minutes. Luckily, this daunting role is played by the formidable Laurie Metcalf. It's clear Juliana's going through a rough patch, not only with her husband, Ian (Daniel Stern), but with their daughter, Laurel (Zoe Perry), and son-in-law, Richard (John Schiappa). Her way of dealing seems to be sardonic humor. Asked, by her doctor, if she's entertaining suicidal thoughts, Juliana retorts, "Dating them actually. But they won’t put out." (Read Full Review)
Makes complex facts accessible. If you've been wondering how we ended up there, this will bring you up to speed...The play's dozen writers went for different styles and different POVs. Some of the vignettes are impressionistic, others docu-realistic...This gives The Great Game a variety of tones and approaches, but also makes it uneven...The Great Game is often gripping, but then it'd be hard to make this subject matter boring. Still, a few visually inspired scenes -- like the swift, clever representation of the Twin Towers' fall -- make you wish for more. The show would have made the jump from very good to memorable if it had committed to theater as much as to education. (Read Full Review)
In William Inge’s bittersweet 1953 hit “Picnic,” a hunky charmer appears out of nowhere to unsettle the women of a small Kansas town — especially the local beauty, aimless and bored with her boyfriend. The actors playing The Drifter and The Ingenue need to deliver in the physical department, and in this new Roundabout revival, they certainly do. Too bad they share youth and good looks, but no sizzle — there’s more sexual chemistry among the cast of “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” Luckily, director Sam Gold (“Seminar”) also hired the experienced Ellen Burstyn, Mare Winningham, Reed Birney and Elizabeth Marvel, who expertly handle the shifts from comedy to drama, and back again. Not much happens in Inge’s tranquil Midwestern world, or at least not much happens by way of plot. We don’t even see the title’s event, which takes place offstage, and these folks aren’t prone to chatty introspection. Inge just makes us understand them in an intimate, deceptively simple way. It’s a pleasure to watch the supposedly supporting cast take ownership of these characters. (Read Full Review)
The production values are top-notch -- Gabriel Berry's candy-colored costumes are particularly jazzy -- and often conceal the writing's weaknesses. Much of the play's comic potential goes unexploited, for instance. But Jones shows great promise. He's lucky to be given the means to develop his idiosyncratic voice. (Read Full Review)
While far from perfect, the show works often enough, not in spite of its hodgepodge appearance, but because of it ...
Regrettably, the show lacks the joyful warmth of the 2001 film. And after his dismal "Mrs. Warren's Profession," director Doug Hughes confirms that he has little flair for comedy, half-wasting some of the best jokes. Still, the play's extra-dry, non-sentimental Scandinavian humor saves it from "Rain Man"-meets-"The Odd Couple" cheap quirkiness. Like its characters, "Elling" doesn't quite fit in its natural environment, but it has a modest, oddball charm. (Read Full Review)
Eventually, what you suspect is going to happen does happen. This could be Hallâ€™s way of underlining fate, as in a Greek tragedy. Or it could simply be clichÃ©s catching up with her. But Hurt Village has enough grace notes to make you stand up and pay attention: Big Mama on her knees, literally begging a housing official. Cookie, realizing that her smarts may not be enough. You want all of these people to make it someday, somehow. (Read Full Review)
The production looks very good, thanks to director Terry Kinney and inventive projection designer Darrel Maloney, but the playâ€™s quick scenes fail to build momentum.
â€œCheckersâ€ works best when focusing on the Nixonsâ€™ relationship, especially Patâ€™s take on the role politics plays in their lives. (Read Full Review)
Flanked by two docking stations â€” that is, a pair of desks and chairs â€” he reminisces with the occasional video clip. His stories unspool in rough chronological order as he highlights his various activities and passions â€” NASA! â€œBoston Legalâ€! Priceline! â€” as well as drops Jewish-mother jokes and a couple of references to his having â€œa rocket up my ass.â€ In space, no one can hear you groan. (Read Full Review)
Full-on, unapologetic science fiction with a galactic-scale backdrop...The one thing Rogers has a hard time with is exposition. Because he can't show any battles, the aliens in their insectoid form or the settlement's conflicts, he uses a trial format to deliver information and lay out ethical dilemma. This gets protracted at times, especially when everybody has to make their case. Still, the Honeycomb trilogy is a welcome experiment. Here's to a playwright who's interested in very big moral issues. (Read Full Review)
Admittedly, the film hasn't aged well, and Lane should have followed its stylish, oddball spirit rather than its letter. As it is, the biggest change is Ivan's increased presence, which is a terrible decision. This thing is called "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" for good reason. Luckily, the show also has serious assets. Chief among them is Benanti, who brings the slightly dim, skimpily dressed Candela to outrageous, hilarious life. Benanti milks the lamest lines to the max, whips up laughs out of thin air and slays with a song, "Model Behavior," that consists of a series of frantic phone messages delivered at lightning speed. (Read Full Review)
Far from Heaven — about prejudice and repressed desire in 1957 Connecticut — boasts a gorgeously lush and evocative score...[the] songs are given the deluxe treatment from Playwrights Horizons, which put together a 12-piece orchestra and a terrific cast headed by Kelli O’Hara, one of the finest interpreters in the biz. (Read Full Review)
"Katie Roche" is Deevy's best-known play: A critical hit at Dublin's famed Abbey Theatre in 1936, it's been revived semiregularly across the Atlantic. But the production that opened last night, directed at a slow pace by Jonathan Bank, struggles to make poor Katie's life interesting. Deevy often wrote of poor women trying to escape their circumstances, cornered by overbearing men and judgmental neighbors ... The show isn't always easy to take in, but Deevy's refusal to give her heroine an out certainly is uncompromising. (Read Full Review)
Jude Law doesn't embarrass himself as Hamlet. Far from it. His take on the sweet prince of Denmark leans toward the "tortured but forceful" school, as opposed to the "wishy-washy romantic" one, and he pulls it off with panache. And while Law is the only reason Michael Grandage's production is on Broadway, this isn't meant to disparage the show, which is perfectly honorable. Imported from London's Donmar company, this is the epitome of British-style quality: swift, well- acted, easy on the eyes and a breeze to follow. It's not an unforgettable "Hamlet," but it's a chic, well-executed one -- perfect gateway Shakespeare...The rest of the cast provides able support, although not so able that it would overshadow the main attraction...Along with its star, the production's other big asset is how good it looks -- something that shouldn't be underestimated when so many shows seem designed by the blind...It's to the credit of Grandage and his team that they realized a simple fact: You don't reinvent a wheel that's been rolling along nicely for centuries -- you just make sure it spins smoothly. (Read Full Review)
â€œThe Ugly Oneâ€ has had almost 100 productions worldwide since 2007, and itâ€™s easy to see why: This fashionably slick work resonates in a modern world where plastic surgery is scrambling individuality, and face value means little. For its New York premiere, the Play Company and Soho Rep have joined forces for a stylish production. Under Daniel Aukinâ€™s direction, the four actors switch characters in the blink of an eye, creating constant uncertainty as to whoâ€™s who. About halfway through, though, you do get the point, and then itâ€™s a slow crawl to the payoff. (Read Full Review)
Watching the play 17 years later is like watching something made during the Red Scare of the '50s. Oleanna speaks volumes not only about an era dominated by the shared paranoia of conservatives and lefty activists, but also about its creator's id. And what surged from Mamet's brain is the closest Broadway now has to a slasher movie...The play certainly has its problems -- the incessant calls are increasingly contrived, for instance. But at its best, Oleanna shows what happens when parallel lines are on a collision course. (Read Full Review)
Joshua Harmonâ€™s entertaining new comedy of hostility ... pits two strong candidates against each other, both bad in very different ways. Director Daniel Aukin (â€œ4000 Milesâ€) has a grand time pitting these two against each other within the tiny confines of Jonahâ€™s studio â€” and since this is in the Roundaboutâ€™s smallest theater, the audience is thrown in the middle of the battle. (Read Full Review)
Baker's tone and pace ultimately prove too gentle -- there is such a thing as killing a play with kindness. But the finely- tuned ensemble cast transcends the material. Under Sam Gold's sensitive direction, the quintet displays tremendous nuance and generosity -- in coarser hands, some of these characters could easily have been caricatures. Birney, Friedman and O'Connell are familiar local gems, but the other two are revelations. Schreck, a downtown regular, makes an assured transition to a mainstream stage. And Chimo ("Irena's Vow") turns out to be a master of the comic silent reaction. (Read Full Review)
You can’t accuse the cast of “The Comedy of Errors” of holding back. Everybody on the Delacorte stage, where this new Shakespeare in the Park production opened last night, exerts themselves mightily, trying to be zany. And since “everybody” includes top-notch comedians like Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”) and Hamish Linklater (Broadway’s “Seminar”), we’re talking frantic chases and pratfalls, mock fights and the occasional head covered with spaghetti. Here’s the thing, though: Comedy may be hard, but it shouldn’t look that way. (Read Full Review)
Nearly two decades after it opened on Broadway -- and seven years after the HBO miniseries with Al Pacino and Meryl Streep -- Tony Kushner's Angels in America is considered a modern American classic. And it is, no doubt about that. But the work's delirious genius shines through only intermittently in the uneven off-Broadway revival that opened last night. (Read Full Review)
...this “Cinderella” waffles between conflicting tones: full-on romantic fantasy for the kiddie-princess set and a campy romp... Playing fast and very loose with the traditional story, Beane also injected many of his trademark quips... The kids in the audience may not be swayed by this stuff, or by the clunky plot about the quest for democracy — a bore for older folks, too. What does work for everybody is the eye candy of Anna Louizos’ oversize sets... and William Ivey Long’s sensational costumes... And of course there’s the unimpeachable score...
If this revival works at all -- and mostly it does -- it's largely thanks to director David Cromer and his cast. In last year's Our Town, Cromer stripped away decades of saccharine to reveal an Americana imbued with both joy and melancholy dignity. Simon's play isn't as good as Thornton Wilder's, but the ensemble here goes for a similar tic-free vibe. Metcalf and Hecht, in particular, find gradations of doubt, pain and hope in one-note characters, while Robbins saves Eugene from being a mere wisecrack. (Read Full Review)
Muhammad Ali -- "the Greatest" -- went from athlete to global star. Stepin Fetchit forged a career playing a stereotypically lazy servant, and was considered a joke -- worse, a traitor to his race. And yet somehow, in the '60s, these men became friends. You can see what drew playwright Will Power to that historical quirk, which forms the basis for the show. The action takes place in May 1965, just before Ali's rematch against Sonny Liston. The heavyweight (Ray Fisher) and his Nation of Islam entourage are holed up in Lewiston, Maine, when Fetchit (the fantastic K. Todd Freeman) arrives. (Read Full Review)
The group certainly can't be faulted on technical grounds. Rain plays the classics with a reverence and precision that would make Talmudic scholars weep. Over the course of nearly 2Â½ hours, they revisit The Beatles' discography in chronological order, from "I Want To Hold Your Hand" all the way to "Let It Be." (The show's encore closer is the mother of all sing-alongs.) And that's it. (Read Full Review)
Treads surprisingly lightly, considering that it stars no less than Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones. These two combine so many decades of actorly gravitas, it's a miracle the floor of the John Golden Theatre doesn't collapse under the weight...Director David Esbjornson has the good sense to keep things simple. He could easily have gotten oohs and aahs by wheeling out vintage cars onstage. Instead, he suggests Miss Daisy's successive vehicles with just a steering wheel, a chair and a bench. The moody projections are similarly pared down, even when the play gets pointedly topical during the civil-rights years. The whole point here is the leads, and they bask in the spotlight without ever appearing to hog it. The result isn't so much a clash of the titans as a delicate, respectful rubbing of elbows. Granted, you often wish the show bared more teeth instead of settling into comfortable, sepia-toned banter. But for better or for worse, this is not that kind of play, and this is not that kind of production. (Read Full Review)
Itâ€™s unlikely anybody will come out claiming to have discovered an overlooked masterpiece, but Charlotte Mooreâ€™s intimate, if overly safe, production has its moments. Most of them come from the promising pair who play the showâ€™s romantic couple. Margaret Loesser Robinson (no relation to Frank Loesser) and Patrick Cummings have tangible chemistry as Anna and Matt, the lovers who must overcome her past to find happiness.
(Read Full Review)
Whatâ€™s frustrating is that you know these actors could deliver sharper blows, if given the opportunity. Ayckbourn pokes gentle fun at his earnest, misguided characters, but you wish for more bite. This is all well and good, but teeth marks would leave a deeper impression. (Read Full Review)
Itâ€™s not often you get to see this four-time Tony winner in such an intimate setting....Caldwellâ€™s hostess with the mostess is devilishly charming. When she waves us onto the second floor, her eyes twinkle with delight...But as soon as you start wondering about this elegant fiend, poof, itâ€™s over: The play lasts about 20 minutes and the whole thing, including nibbles, is well under an hour. The concept is fun, and the text itself is elegantly vicious...Still, as far as theater goes, this is just a tasty little amuse-bouche. More tea, anyone? (Read Full Review)
David Hirson's ambitious if uneven play was a resounding flop when it premiered on Broadway in 1991. The revival that opened last night is as good as can be, zippily directed by Matthew Warchus (The Norman Conquests) and powered by a dream cast led by David Hyde Pierce, Joanna Lumley and Mark Rylance. The last more than steals the show: He pulls off a one-man Ocean's 11 heist...La Bete loses steam after a first hour dominated by Rylance and Pierce...In the end, though, the message couldn't be clearer. With its mix of flatulence gags and learned references, La Bete proves that it's possible to be sophisticated and entertaining at the same time. (Read Full Review)
After well over three hours, the relentless intensity is wearying. Only Gale's luminous Juliet pierces through the ambient murk. As a teen in the throes of infatuation, this Juliet is petulant one minute, her eyes filling with tears the next as she says, "My only love sprung from my only hate." (Read Full Review)
"And Away We Go" time-travels to look at theatrical milestones performed by various repertory companies -- the hard-working foot soldiers who keep the classics alive. That is, in fact, the Pearl Theatre Company's mission, and Terrence McNally wrote the play for the Pearl as a 30th-anniversary gift. Throughout, McNally drops quips both celebrating his art and gently mocking it. The general idea is that love for the stage transcends the centuries, and rep groups fulfill a key role in keeping the flame alive. (Read Full Review)
Augustus Goetzâ€™s melodrama has it all... the story is built so sturdily that even a fitful revival like the one that opened last night still holds our attention... Catherine comes to life when the dashing Morris Townsendâ€™s around. And so does the audience, because Morris is played by Stevens, the blue-eyed British heartthrob... Under MoisÃ©s Kaufmanâ€™s direction, Chastain negotiates the first stage well. Her socially and emotionally crippled Catherine is like a bonsai tree forced to grow stunted. But thereâ€™s a definite turning point... Unfortunately, Chastain isnâ€™t authoritative enough... Luckily, the faltering star is propped up by pros. Stevens does well enough as a charming snake, but even he recedes in the background whenever the great Judith Ivey appears... As for Strathairn, he gives an interestingly counterintuitive take on Sloper, camouflaging his bullying behind a bumbling demeanor. The play itself takes care of the rest, carrying us along like the well-crafted yarn it is. They donâ€™t write â€™em like this anymore.
[It's] all over the place, but one thing itâ€™s not is dull. Occasionally head-scratching, yes. Boring, no. Dianne Wiest and John Turturro head a cast so disparate, it sometimes feels as if director Andrei Belgrader pulled names out of a hat...Yet this jumble of acting styles and personalities coheres often enough to make this Cherry Orchard an intriguing one, blessed with some lovely grace notes. (Read Full Review)
It helps that the new play “Arguendo” is based on the 1991 case of Barnes vs. Glen Theatre, Inc., in which the Supreme Court weighed in on the legality of nude dancing...Another selling point is that this is the latest project by Elevator Repair Service…At 85 minutes, “Arguendo”…is considerably shorter than “Gatz.” But the M.O. remains the same as once again director John Collins and his troupe dramatize, often with brash humor, an unlikely text. Collins keeps things moving, literally. This goes a long way toward enlivening the nitpicky legalese that the lawyers deliver in a deliberately neutral tone of voice. The single best part happens at the end. Since the case revolves the issue of defining nude dancing as a means of communication, Collins seems to extend the discussion to the idea of theater itself. Can you turn any document into a play, even a law case?
(Read Full Review)
...[a] wispy play. It’s good, sometimes very good, but it’s not even close to great... Baker renders the tedium of petty jobs and the filling of hours with deadpan accuracy, and she doesn’t shy from the painful impact of betrayal. But you also wish she’d get out of her comfort zone and test herself against greatness. A failure may be more powerful than her current success.
Admittedly, the show's not always smooth sailing. The actors are uneven, and those who play two roles tend to fare markedly better in one than the other. The first 20 minutes or so are a bit clunky, as well -- a couple of attempts at humor land with a thud. But stick with it: Once Bottom of the World gets going, it weaves a genuine spell, unassuming but evocative. By the end, you may feel tears well up. The play's real achievement is that this emotion was honestly earned. (Read Full Review)
This is all well and good, and quite entertaining. But 4Play goes on for 100 minutes, and each bout of juggling is pretty short. The Karamazovs may build up the "terror" extravaganza as soon as the curtain goes up, but the objects are in motion for only about 10 seconds. This leaves lots of time for musical interludes at the piano by Brother Mark Ettinger, a dance routine performed in tutus and extended goofy patter. In other words, padding. (Read Full Review)
Luckily, the lone playwright with two contributions is Paul Rudnick...[who] has few peers when it comes to sharp one-liners, and Harris is the perfect actress to fire them off...Director Stuart Ross keeps the 90-minute show moving swiftly, with great help from the overqualified cast...Still, by the end you wonder who else is going to exploit this format, cheap to produce and effective. Can anthologies about puberty or Occupy Wall Street be far off? (Read Full Review)
Ayckbourn's written more than 70 plays' worth of this stuff, and he knows what he's doing. But this one also feels by-the-numbers...just as we seem to be cruising toward an uneventful finish to an uneventful play, Ayckbourn introduces a new character in the final stretch. When brisk, acerbic Paula (Alexandra Mathie) enters, it's as if someone had opened a window and let a bracing wind blow in. Paula helps end the show in a delicious high note -- but also makes you wish she'd come in much, much earlier. (Read Full Review)
The production is ramshackle, with spots of amateurish acting and staging. Yet chances are you wonâ€™t forget it -- mostly thanks to the presence of camp icons Everett Quinton and Mink Stole, here delivering choice bitchy lines...Inept as it sometimes is, itâ€™s also mesmerizing. Director Jonathan Warman seems overwhelmed by the scriptâ€™s dark, almost nihilistic absurdity, not to mention its frequent lapses into interpretive dancing. (Read Full Review)
You've got to hand it to Charles Busch: He doesn't make it easy for his audience. The title character of his latest comedy, "Olive and the Bitter Herbs," has to be the sourest puss on the New York stage this year. Making someone this unlikable your lead takes guts.
And yet by the end, you almost start finding Olive . . . kind of sweet. (Read Full Review)
[I]t's a genuine pleasure to see [Edie Falco and Alison Pill] share a stage -- especially one as intimate as Playwrights Horizons' smaller venue -- under rising director Anne Kauffman. But it's hard to shake the nagging feeling that perhaps they weren't the best choices for ChloÃ« Moss' appealing "This Wide Night...." It's great to see an American team attempt the kind of unvarnished kitchen-sink realism that's a trademark of UK storytelling, both onstage and onscreen. And it's a gratifying change from the middle-class navel-gazing we so often have to wade through. But sadly, it's hard to forget you're watching a pair of gifted, immensely sympathetic actresses playing pretend. (Read Full Review)
There's a thin line between arty and confusing. The play is structured in three parts, and it gradually emerges that they're connected. Seemingly different characters, for instance, have the same nam e. But where meaning usually emerges, things only get murkier here, and Mike Klar's direction doesn't help us much.
Director Charlotte Moore and actors Terry Donnelly and Ciaran Sheehan return from the original production, and overall "The Irish" is served as well as can be by this staging. But it's hard to shake the feeling we're watching an educational presentation.... "The Irish" is really about the making of Americans as it tracks the familiar arc of immigration: from abject poverty at home to abject poverty here, and then up the social ladder they go.
(Read Full Review)
Stenham...has an instinctive grasp of the competitive, often harsh world of teens. But the rest of her overheated play proves she can also depict intensely screwed-up adults, and how they infect family dynamics...The show's far from perfect: Stenham can awkwardly apportion blame and resort to obvious plot tricks -- blame it on youth. But there's a real sensibility at work in That Face, and Stenham gets a sympathetic production from director Sarah Benson...She airs out the writer's claustrophobic world, and gets multifaceted takes on potentially irritating characters from her sympathetic cast. (Read Full Review)
A touring production hatched in South Korea, it feels spare not by design but by necessity. William Ivey Long designed hundreds of costumes, but the wigs look kinda cheap, the orchestra is too small and the basic set consists of five floor-to-ceiling rotating panels that double as LED screens...And yet, this Dreamgirls is incredibly entertaining, even when the seams are showing...Despite some missteps -- using the ensemble as fake orchestra members is cheesy, and the projections evoking a tour are somehow garish and banal -- the show plows through with gusto, grit and guts. Perfect for Dreamgirls. (Read Full Review)
The text has been slightly edited, and Portia's comment about the Prince's complexion is gone, making her free to just be cool, beautiful and smarter than all the men put together. And it's hard to hold anything against Linklater's shaggy Bassanio. The emphasis on this couple is just one of the ways director Daniel Sullivan (who helmed "Twelfth Night" at the Delacorte last year) steered this "Merchant" on a kinder, gentler path. He's sanded out the play's more unsavory edges, but they're precisely what gives this controversial work its often cruel depths. You lose some, you lose some. (Read Full Review)
...Emilia Clarke doesn’t seem affected in the least by the pressure. Not only does the young British actress look poised and confident at the Cort Theatre, but she pulls off a nifty feat: Her Holly is very different from the two other women looming over the performance... It doesn’t necessarily translate to a good play — the second act limps to the finish line — but at least it’s closer to Capote’s spirit... It’s in the intimate, bittersweet scenes between those two [Holly and Fred] that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is best. During those precious minutes, the show creates a life of its own.
(Read Full Review)
* The verbal jousting is played down now. Izzard's attorney comes across as much nicer -- with an undercurrent of passive-aggression -- while Haysbert exudes an authority that Grier sorely missed. This levels the playing field between them -- and since their young associate (Afton C. Williamson, replacing Kerry Washington) boasts increased cunning, the power plays that link the three have gained in intricacy...Race is still a clunky play, but it's become a lot more interesting to watch. Elisabeth's original review, an F+, can be read here.
(Read Full Review)
Gurney extrapolates way too much -- it's highly unlikely that Cornell would have referred to herself as "a slightly dumpy, middle-aged lesbian," especially in front of a stranger. And Burton, though very likable, doesn't quite project the charisma and supernova wattage Cornell was supposed to have ... Unobtrusively directed by Mark Lamos, "The Grand Manner" works best as a love letter to the theater, zeroing in on the moment when it ceded its myth-making power to the screen ... Of course, Gurney writes with the benefit of hindsight, and his characters' self-awareness tests credibility. Yet he still elicits sympathy, because his play isn't about Katharine Cornell -- but for her. (Read Full Review)
Suburban relationships is familiar territory for Ayckbourn, but it's interesting to see him deal with this milieu without resorting to the type of narrative stunt he's famous for ... Only one out of the eight actors is an Equity member, but overall this cast does a lot better with their English accents than many high-profile stars I've seen -- a not inconsequential detail as wobbly accents can really ruin a show. Sure, some of the performances are a little rough around the edges, but Michael J. Connolly gets sympathetic laughs for his timid vicar, while Michael Murray and Aleksandra Stattin stop right before obnoxiousness sets in as Richard and Anthea. (Read Full Review)
Satter, who also directed, uses familiar elements but what she comes up with is just completely bizarre...The characters often look dazed and speak in a monotone that makes everything sounds like advanced "Heathers"-ese; the cheerleaders are popular and snotty yet uncommonly strange; the mascot has an identity crisis...Satter manages to create an amazing amount of explosive action out of a handful of actors crammed in a tight space and a $14 budget (my estimate). And she's cast cannily: The team's and the show's stars are Jess Barbagallo as QB1 Dara and Erin Markey (recently seen in Tennessee Williams's "Green Eyes") as wide receiver Trace. (Read Full Review)
David Ives' new "Venus in Fur" stands out in several ways, and one of them is that it's packed with layers and ideas. So packed, in fact, that by the end it's bursting at the seams. It's exciting, but a challenge: Only masterful actors at the top of their game could keep it all together -- and the ones here struggle to keep up...A more experienced cast may have helped, but Arianda and Bentley aren't ready to handle the hairpin turns their multifaceted characters must negotiate. Her entrance is a triumph of comic timing, for instance, but she's unconvincing as a steely seductress, while he strains to suggest Thomas' sexual epiphany. Alas, they still have a few kinks to work out. (Read Full Review)
Unless you’re familiar with the concept, this Second Stage revival — directed by Brown himself — may leave you a little baffled as to what’s going on, at least at first. The chamber musical has acquired a large fan base over the past decade, but even skeptics will relish the luminous Wolfe’s performance as a sweet aspiring actress... Brown’s production looks handsome — nice design seems to be a Second Stage trademark... “The Last Five Years” certainly is clever — sometimes to a fault. The show essentially is a series of solos... each actor has to emote to the empty space where the other should be, robbing the show of much- needed energy.
Why are they willing to stand for up to 91 sleepless hours? Because “ev’ry Texan needs a ride/And this truck is bona fide,” as Green puts it in one of her many hapless rhymes. The lyricist (“Bring It On: The Musical”) comes up with so many inane doozies that’s it’s hard to pick the worst, but this is a strong contender: “I can almost feel the ocean breeze,” UPS employee Kelli (Allison Case) sings, “when I read a label labeled overseas.” Anastasio is better-known for his improvisational picking than for his words, but he couldn’t have done worse than this. At least he brings to the table an array of country- and folk-tinged melodies, gently chugging boogie and the genuinely elegiac finale, “Keep Your Hands on It.” (Read Full Review)
For nearly three hours, the cast climbs ladders, runs up and down stairs, goes from one elevated platform to another. Itâ€™s like a life-size game of Super Mario. Except instead of a plumber collecting power-ups, we have a baker (Denis Oâ€™Hare) on a quest. And standing in for Marioâ€™s invincibility stars, we have no less than Amy Adams â€” in a touching New York stage debut â€” and Sondheim pro Donna Murphy...Timothy Sheaderâ€™s hyperactive staging is effective for most of the first act, but after intermission it fails to bring the often divergent moods into a coherent whole. The problem is that the production...insists so much on busy cartoonishness that it lacks emotional resonance. Without it, youâ€™re left with a mere jumble...The production is literally all over the place. (Read Full Review)
Conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein, this anthology of monologues and zippy vignettes aims for a similar demographic as off-Broadwayâ€™s runaway hit â€œLove, Loss, and What I Wore.â€ Like â€œLove,â€ itâ€™s also engineered to provoke awâ€™s of familiarity and empathy. (Read Full Review)
It's great fun to see pairings go against expectations. The novel's tempestuous professional athlete, Jordan Baker, is taken over by a reserved employee with a crooked grin and a taste for Golf magazine (Susie Sokol). Gatsby himself (Jim Fletcher) is balding and looks less golden boy than beefy, impassive Midwesterner. Still, hearing a book read aloud wears really thin. "Gatz" comes with a hip reputation -- it was extended twice before opening, and has been performed around the world -- but it's as maddeningly tedious as it is brilliant. By the end, my mind was as numb as my butt. (Read Full Review)
[S]ustaining this low-key, mild kookiness over two hours is hard. Under Ken Rus Schmoll's direction, the actors, while generally appealing, tend to speak in mellow monotones. This works wonders with the humor in the first act, but becomes problematic in the more serious second, which shows how loneliness is wrecking the town, and even takes a turn toward the metaphysical. Eno's slender creation isn't equipped to bear this extra narrative weight. By the end, it has collapsed under itself, leaving behind only baffled nothingness. (Read Full Review)
As portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, in his official Broadway debut, King is naturally imposing but also accessible and down to earth... Bassett isnâ€™t the right age for Camae, whoâ€™s meant to be in her 20s, and she overdoes the â€œyoungâ€ mannerisms, to grating effect. But then Hall herself goes for cutesy tricks, getting easy laughs from Camaeâ€™s cussing and from Kingâ€™s heart-to-heart with God. Donâ€™t expect any sophisticated, stimulating banter: Hall tries so much to make him one of us that she robs him of his intellectual might. But then thereâ€™s that ending, a brilliantly staged journey in which the visuals, Branford Marsalisâ€™ original music and Bassettâ€™s incantatory speech -- she really rises to the occasion -- combine to breathtaking effect. The path to the peak may be uneven, but the view from there is worth it.
(Read Full Review)
It’s a testament to director-choreographer Martha Clarke’s pull that for her latest dance-theater experiment, “Chéri,” she persuaded [prima ballerina assoluta, Alessandra Ferri]…to play a melancholy cougar named Lea. The focus here is strictly on the relationship between Lea and the title character, played by American Ballet Theatre principal Herman Cornejo. Every once in a while, Amy Irving comes in as Charlotte—Chéri’s cynical mother and Lea’s best friend—and tells us what’s going on. The rest of the show is pure dance. Clarke has a fantastic eye, and she comes up with some striking visuals, some involving a floor-length mirror. There’s a dreamy quality here that’s enhanced by snippets of Ravel, Debussy and other piano pieces, performed live by Sarah Rothenberg. Even so, “Chéri” struggles to create drama. The burner seems stuck on simmer — not quite the right setting for a show about passion. (Read Full Review)
This Orlando is far from an embarrassment. Unfortunately, it's also too tame. Director Rebecca Taichman opted for a stylized environment -- a visually pleasing square of grass over which hangs a large mirror -- that handily turns into the frozen Thames, Constantinople or a ship. As Orlando, Francesca Faridany persuasively portrays a dashing young man, then an awkward woman who progressively adjusts to her new body.
...Yet the show never quite gels, even if things perk up slightly in the second act. The problem is that Ruhl and Taichman are overly respectful toward the material, and their admiration smothers their imagination. (Read Full Review)
Before anybody’s said a word in “Rantoul and Die,” you have a pretty good idea that the play will be a warts-and-all look at working-class life. First, it’s presented by the Amoralists, a company known for serving up explosive dysfunction with generous side helpings of violence and sex…Along with some snappy dialogue, “Rantoul and Die” is blessed with smart, naturalistic acting. But their best efforts can’t prevent the show from getting bogged down in chatty scenes that go around in circles. And holding patterns are just as frustrating onstage as they are on planes.
(Read Full Review)
Karin Coonrod...put the turbo on and upped the pace and antics times 10 (while losing the â€œuâ€ in â€œLabourâ€). At times, the effort pays off; others, the show madly spins its wheels...At its best, the show has a giddy enthusiasm. But all these exertions, all this expense of energy can be draining, too...Being funny is hard work, but it shouldnâ€™t look like it. (Read Full Review)
While Quinn starts off with cavemen, then proceeds to the Greeks, the Romans and so on, history is merely a pretext for loosely connected observations about various ethnic, religious and cultural characteristics. At least Quinn prefers gruff bafflement and old-school Brooklyn attitude to stereotype-based hostilities ... Set in a mock Greek amphitheater, the show fairly flies by. But with premium seats at $150 for just over an hour of basic stand-up, you can't be blamed for expecting more. (Read Full Review)
On the Levee flirts with emotions and even sentimentality but doesn't fully commit to them -- none of the live action is as graphic or as powerfully engaging as Walker's little vignettes. Tellingly, the director recently said that "tears are definitely not the answer." The show is ambitious but it holds us at arm's length, and it's the audience that ends up high and dry. (Read Full Review)
The pop-rock music has a buoyant exuberance, and even the dramatic numbers find a clear line to your heart and head. Just try to stop humming hits like â€œDay by Dayâ€ or â€œPrepare Ye.â€ But the revival that opened on Broadway last night takes cheerfulness to a whole other level. Watching this â€œGodspellâ€ feels like rolling around in a vat of marshmallow fluff and sprinkles: Itâ€™s brightly colorful and sticky-sweet...Everythingâ€™s so relentlessly peppy that the show sometimes feels like a tent revival of the 1960s and â€™70s Jesus movement...The actors throw themselves into the show with pluck, but few personalities emerge. (Read Full Review)
Ives and director Walter Bobbie...take off at breakneck speed, and the stars trade zingers with ease. The pace then shifts down to a mellow trot as Vanda goads Thomas into facing his innermost fantasies...Once Vandaâ€™s agenda becomes clearer, the play starts running in circles. Ives bogs down in his own cleverness, and Venus in Fur eventually loses steam. Still, the leadsâ€™ natural chemistry makes up for a lot -- and itâ€™s fun being left to ponder whoâ€™s on top. (Read Full Review)
Clare Lizzimore directed this British import for maximum velocity and maximum impact. While you can’t deny its sickening power, “Bull” starts at a fever pitch and stays there, sacrificing nuance for blunt force, characters for archetypes. Because there’s no buildup, the show reads like the second part of a longer piece — and we didn’t see the first one. (Read Full Review)
Strindberg described his heroine as having a "weak and degenerate brain," a strain of misogyny that made his play devastating. This isn't the Julie of Marber, director Mark Brokaw or Sienna Miller. John doesn't feel brutal enough, either. (Only the brilliant Marin Ireland, in the thankless part of the cook, succeeds in playing varying emotions, which move across her face like shifting clouds.) It's this fear -- or inability -- of making the two leads as unhinged or as odious as they need to be that keeps "After Miss Julie" from taking off. (Read Full Review)
Clunky exposition ("Napoleon's not emperor yet. He's still first consul, pulling France together after the Revolution," etc.) sits next to anachronistic and ribald jokes, and the overall tone is arch high cartoon. Guare seems to have the mind of an academic savant and the attention span of a rambunctious 8-year-old... But then there's the second act -- or rather the end of the second act -- during which the play undergoes a change as swift as it is impressive. (Read Full Review)
The experience is fascinating at times, but it also wears thin.The show crawls at only 90 minutes ... The director's black-humored use of simple devices to represent violence is also striking. When the Girl asks a butcher to cut off her feet, you get only sound effects, but it's hauntingly ghoulish. No wonder the piece is appropriate for "brave children" 8 and older. Still, a little goes a long way. Even with tunes by Offenbach and the hip-hop group Jurassic 5 spicing up the show, it's not long before you become as sick of all that manic clog-dancing as the Girl herself. (Read Full Review)
Unfortunately, Chanler-Berat doesnâ€™t have enough weight to anchor Greifâ€™s busy staging and Larry Keigwinâ€™s serviceable choreography. Mark Wendlandâ€™s two-tiered set constantly brims with people moving and singing. But thereâ€™s no sense of kinetic energy, just strenuous bustle. Meanwhile the actors tackle the characters and Larsonâ€™s now-iconic score with varying success. Rodriguez stands out as a badass Angel, while Reid and Christopher are in fine, warm voices. (Read Full Review)
Visually, "Blutwurst" is often stunning, an Expression-istic fantasy somewhere between silent movie and hallucination. But some of the choices feel odd, and, like some of the choreography, haven't aged well.... Schiele's description of sexuality and the body could be brutally frank; Kelly's gaze is wrapped in gauze. We're in a dream, when we should be in a nightmare. (Read Full Review)
Kramer tightened up the action by focusing almost exclusively on the office dynamics. So she cut one of the bookâ€™s big characters, divorced mom Barbara, and has a single actor, Tom Oâ€™Keefe, play several major parts, including dissolute editor Mike Rice and lecherous boss Mr. Shalimar. Bad decision: This makes the production look amateurish, and doesnâ€™t give the women enough worthy foils to play against. Still, while Kramer misses out on the big dramatic flares, sheâ€™s much better at capturing the world of work, especially the secretariesâ€™ banter. (Read Full Review)
Under the sure hand of director Sam Gold ("Circle Mirror Transformation"), the actors transcend the material. Molly could easily have been obnoxious, but Walsh's sly wit saves the character from self-centered yuppiedom. With her liquid-caramel voice and her sexy, heavy-lidded stare, Walsh occupies the stage with a poise that belies her TV-siren reputation. She has a perfect foil in Sparks. This off-Broadway stalwart is particularly good at playing jerks, but here he reveals a genuine charm under Ray's laconic candor. Together, they're immensely sympathetic and make you root for the characters -- and the show. (Read Full Review)
Frankly, the going is often tough. Many times during the 80-minute piece, stylishly directed by Jack Cummings III, it's hard to tell who's speaking. That's when you wonder what the point of this stunt is. But Greenspan hits grace notes during the scenes between Patricia and her paramour, Tony, which he renders with beautiful tenderness and a dancer's grace. (Read Full Review)
Itâ€™s an irresistible premise, but unfortunately composer-lyricist Gabriel Kahane and book writer Seth Bockley had trouble moving beyond the sales pitch...Instead of a plot, February House lines up personalities like pearls on a string. The showâ€™s strongest when Auden â€” balancing his Christian faith and his homosexuality â€” and the gamine-like McCullers (Kristen Sieh) take center stage. Fresh from writing The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, McCullers is so compelling that the show could have been just about her...Kahaneâ€™s acoustic chamber score can be too beige, and way too polite, except where McCullers is concerned. There he achieves a kind of art-song nirvana, gorgeously rendered by Sieh. (Read Full Review)
When the show improves after the first intermission, you realize that Hughes shouldn't bear the sole blame for its unpromising start: The [first] act is one long exposition as George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber merely introduce their dozen or so characters...Gwen's declaration that she's going to marry a stockbroker "and be a regular person!" is the key to much of the play's humor. It's always clear that the authors side with the artists, who represent freedom and fun, but also passion and dedication. Unfortunately, for the most part, the zaniness never takes flight. Hughes is a sensitive director, good at unearthing hidden depths, but that's not necessarily what's needed in a Kaufman comedy. While Harris is a master of the understated aside, the most enjoyable performances tellingly are the most mannered, over-the-top ones. As arch manservant Jo, David Greenspan milks the most innocuous lines (he draws titters from just "hot dog"). Reg Rogers goes all-out in his portrayal of Julie's brother Tony, a flamboyant maverick with an indefinable accent. If the whole show had followed suit, we would have been in business. The surprisingly bittersweet ending is handled with a nice mix of melancholy and levity. But the change of tone would have been even more effective if what preceded it had been funny instead of funny-ish. (Read Full Review)
In his Broadway debut, Chris Rock plays Ralph D., the AA sponsor of Bobby Cannavale's Jackie. They share some heavy scenes -- red-blooded, profanity-laden bouts -- but Rock is a lightweight: The more experienced, more assured Cannavale knocks him out without even trying. This is a big problem because Stephen Adly Guirgis' new dark comedy, "The Motherf**ker with the Hat," pivots on the evolving relationship between the two. Rock's tentative performance creates an imbalance that throws the show out of whack. (Read Full Review)
Though she bellows one-liners at the top of her voice, Gold basically seems like a nice Jewish girl. She gets empathic laughs from her own travails instead of deriding others. With one notable exception: her feisty mother, Ruth, a bottomless font of punch lines. Ruth's motto? "I came, I saw, I criticized. (Read Full Review)
The thing youâ€™ll remember most is the snazzy wall of mirrored tiles that hangs over the stage at an angle and gives a birdâ€™s-eye view of the action. And thereâ€™s a lot of action to cover, even for a play known for its comedy, romance, mistaken identities, magical juices and supernatural high jinks. At times, you wish director Tony Speciale and his crew would take a chill pill. (Read Full Review)
The best thing about â€œStick Flyâ€ is its shameless reliance on soap-opera theatrics. Playwright Lydia R. Diamond multiplies heated arguments about race, class and gender, but the comedy that opened last night is really an old-fashioned, corny melodrama. This is the kind of show where characters yell at each other, then seethe, then make up, then make out. They repeatedly overhear conversations they shouldnâ€™t be overhearing, and are stunned when discovering Big Secrets that were screamingly obvious to the audience. (Read Full Review)
Fans of Hollywood's screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s will have recognized familiar patterns here, especially the satire of class differences and the divorced partners suddenly having second thoughts.
But in screwball, pace is everything -- and director Mark Brokaw should have sped things up. What, he might have wondered, would Howard Hawks or George Abbott do? Well, they would crack the riding crop.
(Read Full Review)
The well-acted, handsome production that opened last night under Tony Speciale's direction is informative and often touching, but it also leaves you wanting...As instructive as it is, the play is hampered by its reverence for the historical documents it's based on. A bit of creative extrapolation would have helped elevate those students from victims to individuals.
(Read Full Review)
Donna’s trying too hard, and so is playwright Chad Beguelin. The book writer/lyricist for “The Wedding Singer” and “Elf” seems to be trying to make up for the lack of music here with pseudo-hip glibness. At least at first — this is the rare show that improves after intermission. Under Mark Lamos’ direction, the actors also look stiff, as if unsure how to deliver the arch dialogue. But just as you think that the straight/gay clash is dead in the water, Beguelin changes course. Act II focuses on the more interesting divide between those who behave like adults and those who are stuck in perpetual adolescence. When “Harbor” stops trying to be Noël Coward in the Hamptons, it offers a flawed but interesting look at what it means to make tough decisions. By the end, the show has almost grown up, too.
(Read Full Review)
Though the show flopped when it opened on Broadway in April 1961, it's back at the Irish Repertory Theatre in an erratic but often charming production ... One of the reasons "Donnybrook!" didn't last long the first time around is its slight score — a rare attempt by lyricist Johnny Burke ("Pennies From Heaven," among many hits) to also write music. This may explain why director Charlotte Moore replaced a couple of songs ... Even with just a four-piece orchestra, they have a lush fullness that goes a long way toward distracting us from the book's thinness and casual misogyny. (Read Full Review)
She and Gore do a good job of setting up each scene, but those portions of the show are wildly uneven. Packer is technically accomplished, but she’s long past playing ingenue — the magic of theater only goes so far. In general, it’s also hard to really get into bite-size chunks out of context. (Read Full Review)
If "Doctor Knock, or the Triumph of Medicine" were a TV show, it would air on CBS. It's mild, pleasant and a bit innocuous. All of which isn't bad per se, except for the nagging feeling that the production is something of a missed opportunity ... Romains wrote a dark little satire of provincial mores and those who exploit them. But director Gus Kaikkonen (who also did the new translation) offers the theatrical equivalent of a tea cozy, with an amiable cast that occasionally elicits indulgent chuckles -- although Chris Mixon stands out in three different supporting roles, including the town crier. As Knock, Hammond doesn't give away much. It's hard to figure out what, if anything, is going on behind his dashing appearance, making you wonder if he and Kaikkonen have any particular take on the character. This is especially disappointing since Knock is complicated, a wily crook who may actually believe his own tricks. (Read Full Review)
The musical interludes are uniformly splendid. Backed by her two Mennonettes (Lindsay Mendez, Betsy Wolfe), Scott is a stylist in full control of her instrument. The low-key arrangements by Tom Kitt ("Next to Normal") only enhance her amalgam of precision and warmth. And yet the show sometimes feels out of joint. In a smaller setting, "Everyday Rapture" achieved a near-miraculous balance between narcissistic bravado, self-mocking and sentimentality. But the last weighs heavier here, and the inspirational tidbits take over. If there's a lesson in this, it's that corn should stay in Kansas. (Read Full Review)
Martin Moran’s one-man show starts off promisingly, but after various travels loses its way. All of them are autobiographical, as was Moran’s breakthrough hit, 2004’s “The Tricky Part” — directed, like “All the Rage,” by Seth Barrish…here Moran deals with how to negotiate catharsis, asking himself one key question: “Where is my anger?” Barrish has skillfully staged the show as if we were in an old-timey classroom — a blackboard, maps, a projector — and Moran is a charming storyteller. Still, while he looks aw-shucks off the cuff, he’s also an experienced actor with Broadway credits that include musicals like “Spamalot.” He’s in full control. So it takes a little while to register that Moran’s circuitous path to inner peace sounds a lot like the usual tale of the Westerner learning valuable lessons from long-suffering — but wise! — Africans…It’s tough to find a satisfying end to a show about a quest for closure. (Read Full Review)
Like so many shows by contemporary young playwrights, “The Vandal” is about trying to make connections. We’ve been there a lot lately, so Linklater throws a final twist that lands halfway between O. Henry and M. Night Shyamalan. It’s meant to make you reconsider everything that preceded, but the show — likable but flimsy — doesn’t bear overly close scrutiny. (Read Full Review)
The best sits right next to the worst in 3 Kinds of Exile, the new project by John Guare. The show is made up of three distinct works that share a theme — the experiences of a trio of Eastern European émigrés — but vary wildly in quality. Unfortunately there’s no intermission that would allow a discreet exit after the second playlet, which is the evening’s crown jewel and directly precedes its mediocre epilogue. (Read Full Review)
"Burn the Floor" consists of a breathless, plotless succession of ballroom routines. That's it, and it's either a lot or not very much, depending on your love for this type of dancing... Sometimes the performers swirl around in pairs; sometimes they're grouped up in ensemble numbers -- and everybody appears in the high-energy finale, set to "Proud Mary" and "Turn the Beat Around." The cumulative effect is like gorging on the sugariest cake ever. Scratch that: There's no cake here, only colorful and sprinkly frosting. And the cherry on top is the presence of Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Smirnoff, two likable pros from "Dancing With the Stars."... he Vegas/cruiseship aesthetic is surprisingly tasteful, even when costume designer Janet Hine follows the "Chicago" lead -- if you've got it, flaunt it, preferably in black underwear. Singers Rebecca Tapia and Ricky Rojas move about in the middle of the troupe, backed by a mix of prerecorded elements and live instruments (special props to spectacular drummer Henry Soriano). (Read Full Review)
The first half of the show deftly flits back and forth among seemingly unconnected scenes. Hudes is best when letting loose with the recovering druggies, as when Chutes & Ladders taunts Fountainhead: "You sound like the kind of guy who's read 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' cover to cover. Was one of those habits crack?" A link emerges, but it leads straight into sentimentality and heavy-handed symbolism. You can try to spruce things up with Internet stuff and still end with melodrama. (Read Full Review)
By the time it ends, 90 minutes later, you may feel more numbed than stirred...Mayer compensates for the lack of plot by re-creating onstage the media-saturated, sensation-overloaded environment that shaped our anti-heroes. His hyperactive production buries the audience under a blizzard of images and sounds. Christine Jones' scenic design is dominated by flashing TV screens, while Darrel Maloney's projections occasionally take up the entire back wall. (Read Full Review)
Tharp doesn't illustrate the lyrics, going instead for mood inspired by the music itself. The upside is that this avoids heavy-handed (or is that heavy-footed?) mimicry. Many of the most compelling moments occur when seduction is coated in ferocity, as in "That's Life," which feels true to Sinatra's less savory side. The downside is that, after a while, repetitiveness seeps in. (Read Full Review)
Fodor gets many bittersweet laughs out of Meena and Philâ€™s fumbling attempts to deal with their messy emotions â€” the doctor starts looking for a heartbreak pill.
Too bad â€œRxâ€ loses its focus in its second half, especially when it comes to Frances, an elderly widow shopping for XXL panties. Even as played by comic genius Marylouise Burke, Frances never amounts to more than a dispenser of aw-shucks wisdom. (Read Full Review)
So itâ€™s all about Pacino, and guess what? Heâ€™s good. Not awesomely, life-changingly good. Just good... Pacinoâ€™s slow to get started â€” a problem since heâ€™s key to the first scene, which sets the mood for the entire show. In the Chinese restaurant where the guys hang out, Levene badgers, baits, begs and finally tries to bribe office manager John Williamson (David Harbour) to feed him â€œprime leadsâ€ to potential clients. The whole playâ€™s here: the small-time deals, the do-or-die need to â€œget on the boardâ€ where sales are recorded, all told in fast-paced, profane dialogue. But Pacino looks unsure of himself, his eyes flickering about in a way that seems unconnected to Leveneâ€™s own distress. Uh-oh. (Read Full Review)
"Baby It's You!" wavers uneasily between Greenberg's life story and the Shirelles' career arc. As such, the show is neither fish nor fowl, but neither is it as foul as its authors' pedigree would suggest. Opportunistic is a better word: Many of those hits exemplify a kind of pop craftsmanship that peaked in the early '60s, and they still sound fantastic. It's easy to see why you'd want to put them onstage. They just deserved a better showcase.
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The show's pace flags somewhat in the second half, and some of the acting loses focus. Mark Nelson is one-note as Timon's faithful steward -- he always sounds just seconds away from breaking into sobs. And while Reg E. Cathey looks appropriately stern as the stalwart officer Alcibiades, his diction can be chewy. Fortunately, Thomas rises to the occasion, completing an arc from debonair, generous man to one consumed by cynicism and anger. (Read Full Review)
As the sexy, witty, modernly ambiguous Viola, laying waste to men and women's hearts, Hathaway gives a solid, committed performance. To paraphrase the immortal words of the Bard of Atlanta, T.I., all you haters can get at her, but she's serious...Despite occasional mumbling, her Viola is delightful and endearing in a puppyish way. Like the colorful, fast-paced production itself -- the three hours positively fly by -- Hathaway is light on her feet. She may not unearth any new nuances in the part, but it's also difficult not to bask in her contagious enthusiasm...Sullivan was happy just smoothing out all the kinks (pun intended) and adding broooooaaaaad crowd-pleasing sight gags whenever possible. At times it seems as if his directions to the actors consisted mainly of "Why don't you just do that voodoo that you do so well?" This hands-off approach plays to the advantage of the comic leads, who fare better than the romantic ones. It says something about the tone of a production of "Twelfth Night" when you can't wait for Orsino, Olivia and Viola to make room for Olivia's doofus suitor, Andrew Aguecheek...Yes, it's a fine and jolly evening. But there's also a little something missing--an undercurrent of wistfulness, perhaps, a certain melancholia to balance out the laughs. As a result, the show is hard to dislike--but it's also hard to love. (Read Full Review)
Lauria, bellowing with authority, holds our attention even as he constantly shuffles sideways to accommodate the Circle in the Squareâ€™s in-the-round configuration; director Thomas Kail (â€œIn the Heightsâ€) makes the best of this awkward set-up. Yet itâ€™s Light who rules the stage, her Marie the sardonic cool to Vinceâ€™s volcanic hot. A cocktail glass permanently attached to her hand, hair shellacked into submission, the actress reveals to us an isolated woman, bored to death in the small city she rules by default. Lombardi was idolized by players and fans for his tough-love approach. His reputation lives on, bolstered by his real accomplishments on the field and maybe even more by his inspirational speeches â€” heâ€™s basically Elizabeth Gilbert for guys. It would have been good to spice up the play with some plays. (Read Full Review)
As Black Stache, Christian Borle ("Spamalot") is a manic whirlwind of pratfalls and grandiose mugging: He's a Keystone Kops version of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. Borle alone is worth the price of admission, though he could be a little more menacing -- the comic antics get in the way of the piracy. But then, there's little time for anything but biff-bang-pow high jinks in "Peter and the Starcatcher." (Read Full Review)
* In the transition from solo vehicle to ensemble piece, it's as if the show had gone from The Snake Pit to John Cheever. Next to Normal still has issues -- the aimless second act remains stuck in a circling pattern -- but now it's acquired an intriguing dimension as social commentary. Elisabeth's original review, a C-, can be read here. (Read Full Review)
Just like Mickey Rourke's part in "The Wrestler," Rooster demands acting. He spits out profanities and launches into incantatory speeches. He's a boozer and a user, self-destructive yet somehow heroic. He does a headstand in a trough of water. He limps. In other words, Rooster was engineered to generate glowing reviews and award nominations. Some have pooh-poohed "War Horse" for being contrived, but in its own way, Jez Butterworth's button-pushing drama is just as shrewdly sentimental.
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Tom Stoppard's Arcadia is witty, erudite and cunningly structured. David Leveaux's revival, which opened on Broadway last night, looks handsome, and its cast, including Billy Crudup and RaÃºl Esparza, does fine, nuanced work. But boy, is the show tedious... Arcadia feels like a loop-de-loop feeding on its own cleverness. It's easy to admire, but hard to love. (Read Full Review)
There's such a thing as too close for comfort--especially when you're sitting inches away from thrusting buttocks. And there's a lot of pelvic action in Michael John LaChiusa's Hello Again. Director Jack Cummings III has staged this 1993 musical in intimate quarters--a SoHo loft in which the cast freely moves about and among the audience, often making use of a centrally positioned bed. Actors sing on top of the tables at which you sit; oral sex is simulated within arm's length of lucky (or not) theatergoers...While [LaChiusa is] often criticized for not writing catchy tunes, his score here is subtly melodic. On the other hand, the time-traveling reinforces the sense that we're watching archetypes rather than individuals, and only a few actors transcend the sketchy characterization. (Read Full Review)
If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, you may see Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties” as warmly catering to the Manhattan Theatre Club’s audience. If your glass is half-empty, you may think it’s pandering. The gifted author of such well-crafted hits as “Take Me Out” and “The Violet Hour” — and the adapter of recent flop “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — Greenberg has set his new piece in a sprawling Upper West Side apartment. There an extended Jewish family gathers for two Christmas dinners, the first in 1980, the second in 2000.
You can hear every nuance, because McAnuff is the rare director who understands the importance of good sound design. Appropriately, this â€œJesus Christ Superstarâ€ is performed at rock-concert volume, underlining how great Lloyd Webber and Riceâ€™s score remains. In one cracking song after another, we tour through the early â€™70s: sensitive ballads, bombastic anthems, progressive-pop numbers and glam rockers. Hearing excellent singers deliver these tunes through powerful, crisp amplification is a primal thrill. Next time, McAnuff may even get the story right. (Read Full Review)
David West Read's delicate new drama, "The Dream of the Burning Boy," makes its points gently. Too gently, perhaps -- the play feels slight, even if the cast hits precisely modulated grace notes. Read is tackling a loaded topic: the unexpected death of a teenager and the way his family and friends deal with their grief. You can almost visualize the playwright and the director, Evan Cabnet, treading gingerly. (Read Full Review)
While intimate in scale, the Keen Companyâ€™s revival of Howeâ€™s 1984 Pulitzer finalist does have an outsize star in Kathleen Chalfant...As Fanny, she is the greatest asset in a show that otherwise never quite finds its pulse. Perhaps director Carl Forsman was overly reverential toward the well-heeled setting, and lost track of the fact that the playwright... was writing about pent-up anger and deterioration. (Read Full Review)
The Lady From Dubuque flopped on Broadway 32 years ago, and one can understand why. It relies on forced situations and straw men, especially since itâ€™s unlikely the discerning, genteel Jo and Sam would befriend such lowbrow caricatures. But director David Esbjornson has a good touch with Albee â€” he directed the Tony-winning The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in 2002 â€” and makes a good case for this playâ€™s mix of sophistication and crassness, stylization and realism. You laugh, but youâ€™re uneasy: Life is a roomful of crazies ranging from mediocre to mean, and the only escape is death. Thatâ€™s not much of a relief.
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This is his first outing as a playwright, and there are some rookie mistakes, notably a lack of dramatic momentum...Director Barry Edelstein throws in ominous ka-chunk noises when the cellâ€™s door occasionally opens and closes, but rarely do we get a full sense of the Kafka-esque horror thatâ€™s swallowed these men. (Read Full Review)
When Helen finally understands the link between words and concepts, the resolution's inevitability adds to its emotional impact. It's tear-jerking in a deeply satisfying way, and Pill and Breslin sell the scene without cheapening it, with a mix of tenderness, relief and elation. It's the high point of a production that feels too timid ... Here, the key breakfast scene during which Annie first challenges Helen's reign over the household is overchoreographed and underwhelming. That the theater is in the round adds more burdens. The set distractingly hangs from wires above the stage, and is lowered up and down depending on the scene. Worse, sections of the audience can't see the actors' faces during key moments -- and there's only so much you can express with the back of your head. (Read Full Review)
Awkwardly, the even tone -- supportive but not devoid of irony -- tends to level out all the anecdotes, whether a character is going through breast cancer or has just stained a chair. Director Karen Carpenter puts the likable pros through their paces ... The show is akin to a warm estrogen bath, complete with an ambient soundtrack of empathetic ooohs, aaahs and awwws from the audience. Still, $75 a pop is a little steep for such basic comfort theater. (Read Full Review)
As the Magic 8-Ball would say when asked about [Hoffman's] Willy: Reply hazy, try again. Like, 10 years from now...Garfield plays Biff as a twitchy, James Dean-type brooding rebel â€” his hair does half of the acting...Despite its central miscasting, the production is quite watchable. A big reason is the power of the play itself. (Read Full Review)
The dignified, bearded Spinella looks more like the haunted bard of clichÃ©dom. But he often has an impish editorial distance toward the Poetâ€™s account of brave warriors, meddling gods and a never-ending siege. You always see the Acting, capital A, underlined by wink-wink nods to the audience. No matter whoâ€™s at the helm, the show is too formless, and is as well-meaning as it is heavy-handed, as when the Poet compares the Greeks being shipped off to war to young American recruits. (Read Full Review)
What's the English equivalent of "yadda, yadda, yadda"? Lucinda Coxon's "Happy Now?" is frustrating because it's just good enough to make you realize how much better it should be. Coxon hits a nice balance between comedy and drama, but her knives need to be a lot sharper to cut through the banality of her play's premise and its central characters. (Read Full Review)
The Submission is the kind of play usually described as Mamet-like: Unsympathetic characters argue over hot-button issues in a mix of quick-fire, profanity-laden exchanges and heated diatribes. But Talbott is Mamet at his most manipulative... To his credit, Talbott often makes up in punch what he lacks in subtlety: He delivers blows, and you feel them... But itâ€™d be pretty sweet to learn that The Submission was written by, say, an Asian woman instead of a white MFA guy from Yale.
"Basilica" is the rare new play that spares us the self-inflated problems of the white, big-city middle class. Set in gritty south Texas, the show deals with the travails of the blue-collar Garza family: Dad Joe's a mechanic, mom Lela's gunning for president of the church committee, aunt Lou runs a bar. The downside is that playwright Mando Alvarado puts everything through a soap-opera spinner and pulls the crank hard. There are heated confrontations and teary reconciliations and, of course, the classic dark secret and devastating car accident. (Read Full Review)
When it comes to recycling, Rock of Ages pales compared to Xanadu, which actually improved on its source material with plenty of winks and one-liners. But Xanadu was a huge camp fest, while "Rock of Ages" is safe for skittish straight guys. This is, in fact, one Broadway show they won't need to be dragged to. And if dude magnets like Poison and Guns N' Roses aren't enough, you can order booze from your seat! (The unstoppable combo of alcohol and nostalgia has fueled "The Awesome 80s Prom" for the past five years.) (Read Full Review)
Once again, Jeff Bowen (who also wrote the score), Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell (co-authors of the book), and Heidi Blickenstaff look inward and play versions of themselves. But despite amusing lines and some tuneful numbers, the navel-gazing â€œNow. Here. This.â€ too often grates where its predecessor charmed. Stringing together a series of autobiographical vignettes, the show is simultaneously personal and generic.
Gore Vidalâ€™s 1960 chestnut may center on three powerful male politicians, but itâ€™s the ladies hovering on the periphery who steal this new Broadway revival...Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen and Kerry Butler shine brightest. The one scene this trio shares is a rare moment when Michael Wilsonâ€™s overly decorous production chomps with the right satirical bite...As fine as Larroquette and McCormack are, there doesnâ€™t seem to be any heartfelt anger in their battle â€” and this sucks out a lot of the playâ€™s energy. (Read Full Review)
The good news is that Early Plays, which boasts compelling moments of mood-soaked ambience, shouldnâ€™t drive anybody to a premature exit â€” especially since itâ€™s only 90 minutes...Problem is, the show doesnâ€™t quite gel. Partly this is because the text isnâ€™t strong enough to warrant such unadorned attention. But itâ€™s also because Maxwell acolytes like Jim Fletcher and Brian Mendes have more experience playing this game than do Woosterites such as Ari Fliakos and Kate Valk...Some of Maxwellâ€™s gambles pay off. (Read Full Review)
Wheeler (now the equally inspired music director on "Dancing With the Stars") beams us back to a '70s wonderland of wacka-wacka guitars, explosive horns and Stevie Wonder-inspired keyboards. Energetically rendered by conductor Alex Lacamoire and a large orchestra, the score constantly lifts up the show... As Dorothy, Ashanti has a sweet voice that can turn powerful when required, but she sticks to the same expression -- blank befuddlement -- the entire time. Which is a problem since she's always onstage. Unable to work around this handicap, director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (reuniting after "In the Heights") have patched together a series of barely connected scenes, busy rather than kinetic. Blankenbuehler's moves, in particular, look like sloppy "Solid Gold" with an occasional limp hip-hop twist. But every time you start thinking there's too much Cheez in this "Wiz," someone in the supporting cast fires off a triple-cream turn. (Read Full Review)
But while it boasts some bright lights, â€œGiantâ€ feels almost . . . small. Thereâ€™s little organic flow, little sense of scope in either Sybille Pearsonâ€™s book or Michael Greifâ€™s staging (â€œNext to Normal,â€ â€œGrey Gardensâ€). They haltingly take us from one scene to another, as if telling the story in shorthand. (Read Full Review)
Taking place mostly in 1935, the show often feels as if it had been written then rather than in 2007. Its sincere earnestness, its straightforward storytelling could be lifted from a golden-age Hollywood biopic, complete with uncritical approach. Under Seth Gordon’s direction, the actors are restrained, while occasionally indulging in some deliciously garish touches…The show sticks to a simple narrative as it retraces Bill and Bob’s excellent adventure. This doesn’t leave much room for dramatic tension or insights into, say, the connection between faith and self-help.
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After about an hour, Vieux Carre peters out, as if the Woosters couldnâ€™t keep up with the play anymore. The multimedia elements become tiresomely repetitive, and the acting reveals glaring weaknesses â€” Valk is her usual charismatic self, but Fliakos barely registers and Shepherd flounders when required to play Tyeâ€™s violence. (Read Full Review)
Full disclosure: I find him inexplicably overrated, so if you’re more receptive to McPherson’s style, add another star to the rating. To work whatever magic it may have, “The Weir” needs a tightly knit ensemble that can mine its subtleties and bring unspoken sorrows and regrets to the fore. But the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival doesn’t gel ... The exception is Klein, who does aching justice to Valerie’s own story, an account of a tragedy so poignant that it makes the men shut up. (Read Full Review)
In case you were wondering: No, an avalanche of lewd double-entendres and sex jokes isnâ€™t enough to carry a comedy â€” you still need trivial things like, oh, a plot and characters. David West Read seems to think that setting his Broadway debut, â€œThe Performers,â€ in the world of porn is hilarious in and of itself. So the show never bothers with anything besides raunchy wisecracks that get less and less funny as the evening wears on. Thank God the production features a spot-on cast that includes Henry Winkler, Cheyenne Jackson and Alicia Silverstone. (Read Full Review)
It’s surprising we don’t see this witty piece more often, with its caustic view of greed as both amoral and foolish. It was written in 1606, and yet the plot is so timeless that Larry Gelbart transferred it to post-Gold Rush San Francisco for his hit Broadway adaptation “Sly Fox.” Unfortunately, Jesse Berger’s tepid production for the Red Bull company isn’t going to do much for the original. Only Tovah Feldshuh shows she gets the material. Like all Red Bull shows, this one looks terrific…[but there’s] the inexplicable decision to defang Volpone. This guy’s a schemer and a seducer, yet here he has neither edge nor heat. The intricate power relationship between Volpone and Folmar’s charmless Mosca never comes into focus. (Read Full Review)
[Jacobi] is fine, of course, but we expect more than "fine" from Shakespeare's tragic, doomed ruler. Our admiration shouldn't be automatic every time a Sir or a Dame crosses the Atlantic to show us how the Bard is done. This goes for Michael Grandage's production as a whole: While slickly accomplished, this "King Lear" isn't transformative. (Read Full Review)
Arachne gets the single best number, "Behold and Wonder," only a few minutes into the show. As a way to recount her origins, five performers swirl in the air, suspended by saffron-colored sashes as strips of fabric are woven up behind them. The effect is both deceptively simple and visually enchanting.
But then it ends, and we're suddenly thrown into Peter's high school, with what looks like the cast of a road show of â€œGreaseâ€ executing banal hip-hop choreography. So this erratic musical goes, constantly seesawing between the galvanizing and the lame. (Read Full Review)
Wildly uneven. Even with a brass-heavy band and pros like Lillias White, Sally Mayes, Howard McGillin and music director/singer Billy Stritch, there isn't enough snap, crackle and pop...At their best, Coleman's songs come out swinging. They suggest not so much seduction as playful bravado. But too often this cast strolls where it should strut...The big exception is [Lillias] White. (Read Full Review)
At times, the cruel portrayal of this empathy-free American novelist is pleasanty uncompromising. But, as a playwright, Eisenberg is unsure of what to do with David — or with Maria, for that matter. The most consistent person on stage is her taxi-driving friend Zenon (Daniel Oreskes, performing almost exclusively in Polish). And yet this Rattlestick production, directed by Kip Fagan, has its strengths. In a few precious scenes, Eisenberg and Redgrave build an easy rapport despite their starkly different personalities and styles — and the contrast is fascinating. Watching David and Maria amicably munch on pickles, you find yourself dreaming about the show that could have been. (Read Full Review)
Itâ€™s a terrific idea, yet Harrison doesnâ€™t exploit it to its fullest, and too often Maple and Vine is dramatically inert...As a result, the playwright has a hard time focusing on the people in the foreground. Handily dominating the cast, Ireland and Serralles color in Katha and Ellenâ€™s outlines. The other characters arenâ€™t as well served, and remain unaffecting...Yet Maple and Vine is hard to dismiss because it also offers some sharp insights. (Read Full Review)
Life and showbiz got uncomfortably close in “Bunty Berman Presents . . .,” a likable but overlong new musical set in the demented world of Bollywood movies. “Bunty Berman” revolves around Bunty’s desperate efforts to save his studio from bankruptcy. This being a spoof of Indian song-and-dance spectacles, there are as many musical numbers as delirious subplots. But Din just throws too much stuff at the wall, and not enough of it sticks. It would have helped if director Scott Elliott had set a faster pace, but he doesn’t seem entirely at ease with the material. At 2 1/2 hours, the show feels padded. Still, we should count our blessings — Bollywood movies often go on for three hours or more.
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If you think this is a curious casting choice, you're right. And the gamble doesn't quite pay off ... Daly achieves a decent approximation of Callas' look thanks to spot-on makeup and a wig. But while she's a terrific actress, her basic earthiness is at odds with the role of the refined woman nicknamed "La Divina." Daly nails the catty asides about Callas' peers and can switch from imperious to coyly flirtatious in the blink of an eye. But there are also times when you wonder if Callas is coaching aspiring opera singers or a softball team. And when she drops the soprano's signature "eh" at the end of sentences, Daly's lands in the Atlantic somewhere between Italy and Canada. (Read Full Review)
It isnâ€™t the stinker that Wildhorn haters, rubbing their paws in gleeful anticipation, were expecting. First, the music is a pleasant, if unmemorable, mix of 1970s soft rock and country-fried roots â€” imagine Billy Joel by way of Nashville...[Laura] Osnes and Jeremy Jordan...are the biggest assets here: young and easy on the eye, good actors and even better singers...Things unravel in the overlong second act, which wastes too much time on uninteresting secondary plot lines and characters...A musical about living on the edge ends up being safe. (Read Full Review)
The characters are saddled with pasts heavy enough to exceed anybody's baggage allowance. But the plot is thrown together haphazardly -- the back story of the British-born Emma is as wobbly as Ritter's accent -- and Braff doesn't even try to tie up loose ends. Once the Goldbergs cease to be a convenient plot device, nobody mentions them again. Most frustrating of all is that an overqualified cast is given undercooked roles. (Read Full Review)
Director Trip Cullman and his cast do likable work here. Itâ€™s fun to watch Alice Ripley play a no-nonsense, sexy suburban mom after winning a Tony for her portrayal of a bipolar one in â€œNext to Normal.â€ She doesnâ€™t get nearly enough stage time, but she and Breen make an appealingly unlikely couple. Ultimately, though, Higgins undercooks his play. (Read Full Review)
With critically acclaimed shows like “4000 Miles” and “The Great God Pan” under her belt, Herzog has become the go-to playwright for psychological nuance. But while “Belleville” explores domestic strife, this time around there’s also an actual plot that flirts with suspense — a surprise since writers like Herzog are usually precious about anything smacking of genre. The course of events is stretched like taffy, diluting their impact, and disbelief needs to be put on hold about halfway through. Whether on purpose or not, it’s also hard to care for the main characters, embroiled in lies, passivity or both. Too bad, because they’re in expert hands. …They almost make us care. (Read Full Review)
Anglophiles with a fetish for bookish Cambridge students politely arguing about literature and life may get a kick out of The Common Pursuit. Others may find themselves looking at their watches, wishing for some good olâ€™ American theatrics...Throughout, itâ€™s not always clear where Grayâ€™s sympathies lie, which actually makes the play more interesting. Are we meant, perhaps, to admire Stuartâ€™s inflexibility? This ambivalence seems to stump director MoisÃ©s Kaufman...He certainly seems more comfortable with the showâ€™s somber side than with its comedic one. (Read Full Review)
While Jamie Lloydâ€™s production excels at the comedy, it misses the target when it comes to the playâ€™s somber side. Lackluster supporting turns further undermine the show...Hodge proves to be brilliant at slapstick, but for too much of the show he favors Cyranoâ€™s clownish facade over his fragile soul...When Hodge finally dials it down at the very end, the emotion lacking in the rest of the show comes flooding in. If only there had been more foreshadowing. By then itâ€™s a lot, too late. (Read Full Review)
Creators/performers Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy and Dave Malloy balance their irreverence with an obvious, deeply felt love for the music. Still, two intermissionless hours of that stuff is tiresome. There are isolated flashes of brilliance, but overall the jokes aren't quite witty enough, the performances not quite focused enough...While they don't have classically trained voices, they sing with heart -- and not an ounce of irony...In the end, Three Pianos is most effective when delivering insight--along the lines of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts--and when the cast and director Rachel Chavkin stage a song as a self-contained vignette. (Read Full Review)
It’s not fun being the newbie at a party where the other guests already know each other. Attending Richard Nelson’s new play, “Nikolai and the Others,” is just like that — with the party a 1948 weekend when a bunch of Russian emigrés gather at a Connecticut farm to work, play and eat pirogis. Even its gifted director, David Cromer…struggles to find focus in the sprawling script. Marsha Ginsberg’s rustic-chic set and Jane Greenwood’s period-perfect costumes are right on the money. And you can’t accuse Nelson of lacking ambition. Balanchine embodies art’s contradictions: His quest for beauty allows for manipulations and philandering. This mercurial character could easily have carried the show alone. Too bad we have to play so many games of six degrees of separation to get to his good stuff.
(Read Full Review)
You’ve got to admire the ambition to tackle such a difficult subject, but seriousness of intent doesn’t automatically translate into worth, and this is a lackluster evening. Director Joe Calarco’s biggest assets are his cast. The everreliable Leslie Kritzer (“Sondheim on Sondheim,” “A Catered Affair”) gives Daughter — the characters aren’t named — a sense of grounded, grudging affection. At 31, this young woman has had her share of failed relationships and unfulfilling jobs. Moving back home to look after her ailing mom, she finds renewed purpose. (Read Full Review)
Cattrall [is] the single best thing in the humdrum new revival of NoÃ«l Cowardâ€™s Private Lives...Cattrall is a vibrant presence as Amanda, one-half of a couple thatâ€™s destined to be together...Private Lives is usually described as a comedy of manners, but its take on love and married life is pretty depressing: People love, then they fight, then they love again, then they fight again. Itâ€™s like Beckett with tuxes and evening gowns...Unfortunately, Richard Eyreâ€™s production stacks the deck, making it overly clear the new couples donâ€™t stand a snowballâ€™s chance in hell. (Read Full Review)
Novelty alone doesnâ€™t have much impact on these forced efforts. Their saving grace is the ensemble, filled as it is with dynamic pros like Estelle Parsons, Craig Bierko and Larry Pine...The evening is best appreciated as a vehicle for its strong cast, especially Parsons, the one-time Roseanne star who, at age 84, shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. After this short engagement, her program bio informs us, sheâ€™ll return to Broadwayâ€™s Nice Work If You Can Get It. Theyâ€™re lucky to have her. (Read Full Review)
When a family gathering gets boring, you can either turn on the TV or split. Not so at the intermissionless “Regular Singing,” which unfolds as members of the Apple clan share a dinner of leftovers. They are smart, sensitive, thoughtful, polite—which is good in real life but not at the theater. So the show just hovers around with well-mannered dullness. Compared to it, “Waiting for Godot” seems like a Tom Clancy thriller. “Regular Singing” is the fourth and last entry in Richard Nelson’s Apple family cycle…with the same exquisitely tuned ensemble cast—the main reason to catch this show. And while each installment of the saga stands on its own, those who have seen them all will get more through aggregation, especially since the cast, for the most part, has remained the same…This is heavy-duty enough, yet Nelson links his family drama to a national milestone, as if angling for extra gravitas points. He doesn’t earn them: What the Apples go through is far from inconsequential, but the show fails to transcend its intimate scope. (Read Full Review)
It's one thing to watch people pretend to have sex onstage; it's quite another to watch them from 2 feet away. Still, we're talking about two full-length pieces clocking in at a total of nearly four hours, and the novelty eventually wears out... At its best, Ahonen's work recalls Hollywood when it wasn't afraid of dealing with adult issues. But despite a welcome earnestness, this story takes too many credulity-stretching shortcuts... [For Animals and Plants] things start off in a Quentin Tarantino vein, then halfway through...marks the point when the play gets mired in darkly surreal dead ends. By then, you really wish early checkout was an option. (Read Full Review)
An experienced stage actor, Waterston succeeds in making us forget about his run as Jack McCoy on â€œLaw & Order,â€ even if he falls back on bellowing to communicate pain and distress. And while itâ€™s exciting to see Oâ€™Hara -- the Tony-winning star of â€œSouth Pacificâ€ -- venture into Shakespeare, she looks a bit cowed. So does Seth Gilliam, ineffectual as the traitor Edmund. At least we can understand what he says, unlike Frank Wood, whoâ€™s mostly unintelligible as Reganâ€™s husband. Give the Public credit for getting Waterston, Irwin and Oâ€™Hara on one stage -- and in â€œKing Lear,â€ no less. Itâ€™s nice to see there are still gamblers around, even if the move doesnâ€™t quite pay off here. (Read Full Review)
The pleasant but inconsequential The Talls covers well-trodden ground... Kerrigan and director Carolyn Cantor mine a few laughs... but the point is unclear... It's difficult to care, because nobody is particularly distinctive. Except, that is, for Christa Scott-Reed, the show's biggest asset as an achingly sad mother... Only late, during a quietly emotional scene between mother and daughter, do we get a hint of the play that could have been.
(Read Full Review)
The conventional situations aren't enhanced by the undistinguishable tunes. It's as if Gwon wrote one 75-minute piece, then cut it in 18 slices. And because the show is sung through, the numbers must carry the narrative and often are overly verbose. Fortunately, the likable cast, well directed by Marc Bruni and backed by pianist Vadim Feichtner, injects personality into archetypes. Wetherhead and Gertner, in particular, overcome clichÃ©s, and Brescia shines in the next-to-last song, "I'll Be Here," a highly emotional number that obliterates everything that precedes it. At long last, the show has transcended its title. (Read Full Review)
Book writer Stephen Stahl also directed the show, meaning there was nobody to tell him the part of the hunky assistant stage manager (Rafael Poueriet) is unnecessary. Or that Holiday’s supportive manager, Robert (David Ayers), is dull as dishwater. Worse are the factual mistakes and clunky flashbacks in which Holiday puts on a little girl’s voice to recall being raped as a child and growing up in a brothel, with blues songs wafting in. “I don’t want no money,” Lil’ Billie cries, “just let me listen to that beautiful, sweet whorehouse music, please!” (Read Full Review)
There are smart ideas spread throughout the show, like having the actresses double up as characters representing the pull of family and order on the one hand, and the ultimate destructive ideology on the other. Director Adam Greenfield deftly crams various settings on one small stage, and keeps the action moving smoothly. And yet "The Zero Hour" (which is presented by the 13P collective) doesn't quite stick. At times the lead characters feel like boilerplates spouting too-clever repartees. And Rebecca is rather unappealing, the kind of churlish person who says "That's funny" instead of actually laughing. (Read Full Review)
Unfortunately, Temporal Powers lacks the forceful narrative momentum of Wife, and Jonathan Bank's overly subdued production doesn't pick up the slack...The actors are all fine, but tend to play things a little too close to the vest. Benton -- superb as a plucky but ultimately frustrated friend in Wife -- spends most of the show looking somber, as if a big dark cloud was permanently parked over her head. Like Redmond, she gives a bravely unsplashy performance. Sometimes, though, you just want to feel a bit more of the fire in those bellies. (Read Full Review)
Director Peter DuBois handled the caustic Becky Shaw a couple of years ago, and here he does a great job sharpening some of Weitz's more facile moments. In particular, he adds a couple of nifty sight gags to what's already the play's funniest scene (this is a great season for oral-sex humor)... Add an indie-rock soundtrack (Metric, Bjork, Fiona Apple) and a nicely ominous set by Alexander Dodge to the gifted director and likable cast, and you've got yourself a first-rate production of a second-rate play. (Read Full Review)
The Atlantic Theater describes this production as a “comic thriller,” but it’s a far cry from either. Only those who considered “Murder, She Wrote” white-knuckle suspense would find the show remotely gripping. Pam MacKinnon’s glacially paced staging and the lopsided casting don’t help. (Read Full Review)
If it seems Iâ€™m too focused on the showâ€™s star, itâ€™s because thereâ€™s not all that much to talk about outside of her performance. McLeavy is a pragmatic Stella, and her scenes with Edgertonâ€™s Stanley are finely realized. Heâ€™s a hunk with a chiseled upper body, and you buy their sexual attraction. But when heâ€™s up against Blanchett, Edgerton fares only ably â€” and â€œablyâ€ just isnâ€™t enough in this play. What should be a heated clash coursing with hate, resentment and a dash of lust ends up being too one-sided. (Read Full Review)
No wonder Frank Langella makes off with the Roundaboutâ€™s new revival of â€œMan and Boyâ€: Heâ€™s playing a crook, after all. As Gregor Antonescu -- a silver-haired, silver-tongued speculator who cons men and cooks books -- Langella turns the creaky 1963 drama by Terence Rattigan (â€œThe Deep Blue Seaâ€) into a master class in suave villainy. At least the â€œManâ€ part of the title is in great hands -- because the â€œBoyâ€ bit is a problem. In the role of Antonescuâ€™s son, poor Adam Driver looks like a deer in headlights. This disparity between the leads throws the whole show, directed by Maria Aitken (â€œThe 39 Stepsâ€), off balance. (Read Full Review)
The Submission is the kind of play usually described as Mamet-like: Unsympathetic characters argue over hot-button issues in a mix of quick-fire, profanity-laden exchanges and heated diatribes. But Talbott is Mamet at his most manipulative... To his credit, Talbott often makes up in punch what he lacks in subtlety: He delivers blows, and you feel them... But itâ€™d be pretty sweet to learn that The Submission was written by, say, an Asian woman instead of a white MFA guy from Yale.
The cast is stuffed with actual cheerleaders, and the tumbles, tosses and high-flying routines are breathtaking... Getting from one number to the next, on the other hand, is a grind. Too many characters get a piece of action, and the score by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt and Amanda Green is an uneasy juxtaposition of sentimental pop-rock and light-hearted hip-hop... Bring It On originated in Atlanta and spent the past year on tour. It shows. Instead of actual sets, we get cheap-looking projections on four giant LCD screens. The small, synth-heavy band often sounds like a 10-year-old ringtone. On the other hand, life on the road has gelled the cast, which is likable and very tight. The actors even make most of the time-wasting ponderous songs â€” and thereâ€™s a lot of those in the slow second act â€” feel semi-bearable.
Between them and those gymnastics, Bring It On pulls off a decent landing â€” even if itâ€™s not a Hollywood ending.
(Read Full Review)
Now “Let It Be” has landed on the Great White Way with pretty much the same product [as predecessor "Rain"]. So similar are these shows…that the producers of “Rain” are suing the upstart for “copyright infringement.” Never mind the irony of imitators suing for imitation. The bigger issue is: Why can’t anybody write a decent Beatles musical? Both ["Rain" and "Let it Be"] are essentially concerts in which the audience is constantly reminded that it’s watching a cover band. The rotating cast of musicians acquit themselves well…[and] the songs…are performed with note-for-note faithfulness, right down to the solos. If you want originality, or even some of the album cuts many fans prefer to the singles, tough luck — that isn’t the point of the show. Before forking out for a ticket, though, consider that the weekly Beatles brunch at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill offers a good band and an all-you-can-eat buffet for just $40. Might as well get comfort food for the soul and the gullet at the same time.
(Read Full Review)
The big problem here is that the director follows the material to the letter in a production that feels like a studious school project. His veddy British 1950s period setting and plodding pace only emphasize the creakiest aspects of a play that, in the right hands, can be genuinely disturbing. That's because these characters feel like ticking bombs, pushed to explosion by nonstop contradictions, faulty reasoning and crazy coincidences. This is an alternate reality of dream logic and double-talk, where things only appear to make sense. (Read Full Review)
Director Jenn Thompson deals with this fever-pitch material earnestly, but the casting prevents the show from taking off. Erbe, saddled with a terrible wig, doesn’t quite nail Sue’s life force or her guilt over abandoning her child, while Bert is oddly diffident as the unstable Donnie. (Read Full Review)
Yet this tension is underexploited — and feebly acted by the overly mannered Rogers — leaving room for endless semi-philosophical conversations. Some of them can be poetic, as when Dan extrapolates an ode about an extinct civilization from a simple bone awl. But the total is less than the sum of the parts.
After plodding along for much of the evening, the plot suddenly jerks awake in the last 15 minutes, and tears off into a frantic finale — it’s as if we’re at a different play altogether. But by then the show, like the archaeologists, has dug itself into such a deep hole, it can’t get out. (Read Full Review)
After her intimate shows Well and 2.5 Minute Ride, Kron has put on the turbo. The result feels like someone standing up too fast and getting dizzy. The good news is that the lead character, Ellen, is played by the wonderful Marin Ireland...She gives Ellen a charmingly frantic humanity but doesn't shy from her failings: self-absorption, lack of focus and endless prattling. The bad news is that "In the Wake" shares Ellen's good and not-so-good traits, including the rambling--the show lasts nearly three hours. Director Leigh Silverman and the primo cast (especially Deirdre O'Connell as a wry misanthropic aid worker) help make the evening a pain-free one, but Kron just tries to cover too many bases. (Read Full Review)
Unfortunately, the proceedings never switch to the necessary higher comic gear. As the increasingly frenzied Haggett patriarch, James Murtaugh -- looking like Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons" -- comes closest to the right sense of exaggeration. Overall, the production sticks to an amiable canter when a full gallop's required. (Read Full Review)
Far from a full-throated attack. A nuanced POV is good, but Daisey doesnâ€™t fully explore the repercussions of Appleâ€™s unique hold on our imagination and our daily lives. By the end of the overlong work, directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, weâ€™re left with some piercing observations, as well as a big â€œAnd ... ?â€...Unquestionably, Daisey is an expert storyteller...But Daiseyâ€™s analysis is too narrow. News of workers exploitation barely slowed down Nike, and Foxconn also makes electronics for the likes of Dell, Intel and Motorola. Yet these companies donâ€™t have Appleâ€™s peculiar mystique -- which Daisey doesnâ€™t explore enough. â€œYou will see the blood seep between the keys,â€ he warns. But itâ€™ll take more than some Chinese gore to stop people from lining up at the Genius Bar. (Read Full Review)
In the right hands, "Fol lies" is a punch in the gut -- set to a fantastic score. Stephen Sond heim and James Gold man's 1971 musical juxtaposes past and present, reality and fantasy. It can go from a soul-baring solo to an over-the-top number in a flash. And instead of feel-good catharsis, it delivers regret and disillusion. But the revival that opened last night is in the shaky mitts of journeyman director Eric Schaeffer and a tentative cast led by Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell and soap-opera star Ron Raines. Rather than a seamless whole, the show feels like barely connected musical numbers of varying quality. (Read Full Review)
Not as funny as it should be...As an actor, Eisenberg has a narrow range -- geeky, fidgety, self-conscious -- but heâ€™s baked it to golden perfection. Edgarâ€™s defensive posture, hands tucked in his armpits, perfectly sums him up. Which is good, because not much happens to him. Similarly, Bartha and Mana are funny, but have little to do. Asuncion shows enough promise to make us look forward to Eisenbergâ€™s follow-up, but next time he may want to think about, you know, a plot. (Read Full Review)
The chance to see Beale in such cozy confines as the Atlantic Theatre's 90-seat venue doesn't happen often. But casting this prestigious actor in a play as slight as Simon Stephens' Bluebird is like using a rocket launcher to kill a mouse...Director Gaye Taylor Upchurch keeps things simple...The show sometimes feels like a higher-brow, melancholy version of Taxicab Confessions. (Read Full Review)
The Blue Flower takes place in the first third of the 20th century, mostly in Germany, against a backdrop of WWI, Weimar and the rise of Nazism. Three of the main characters are visual artists involved in the avant-garde. And the score is...gentle country music...Clearly, creators Jim and Ruth Bauer -- he focused on the music, she on the visuals -- werenâ€™t interested in an obvious, traditional show-tune formula. But...the novelty quickly wears thin. And considering how ambitious The Blue Flower is, how much historical, artistic and personal ground it covers, the show is strangely flat and uninvolving. (Read Full Review)
Throughout, past and present intersect. Something that borders on the paranormal alternates with overly familiar rites of passages, like the tasting of potential wedding cakes. It's accomplished, but a bit bloodless. The tone has the slight detachment that's de rigueur among the MFA set these days (Mitnick's got his playwriting degree from Yale), allowing for bittersweet levity. (Read Full Review)
14 years after her death, Gellhorn is enjoying a mini-revival. Alas, itâ€™s not anywhere near as exciting as her life... Gellhorn herself described Love Goes to Press as â€œa very minor piece of work.â€ She was too harsh: The play has quite a few zingers and very real comic potential in its pre-Pat Benatar description of love as a battlefield.
Sadly, the show isnâ€™t as funny as it could be. The staging is workmanlike at best â€” itâ€™s as if director Jerry Ruiz had never seen a classic screwball comedy in his life â€” and the actors lack zest. As is, Love Goes to War is a fascinating curio, but more firepower would have helped.
By the time the body count nears double digits, youâ€™ve stopped trying to make sense of the implausible twists and crazy revelations.
Which brings up something else you can say about Amoralistsâ€™ shows: They often struggle to gel. The plots can be incoherent, and the acting ranges from fearlessly intense to amateurish. (Read Full Review)
â€œSpider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,â€ the busy musical spectacle that opened tonight, tries very hard to be fun and accessible. After many upheavals and accidents, firings and rewrites, the show is closer than ever to the bullâ€™s eye, but thatâ€™s not saying much: The target has been both broadened and lowered. The point of reference is Joel Schumacherâ€™s family-ready â€œBatman,â€ not Christopher Nolanâ€™s dark, arty one.
(Read Full Review)
Robert Cuccioli ("Jekyll & Hyde") and Jodi Stevens face the daunting task of rendering two of the most famous accents to hit Tinseltown -- Chevalier's exaggerated Gallic croon, Dietrich's low-pitched Teutonic purr. They do well by them, avoiding Colonel Klink/Pepe Le Pew pitfalls. Backed by Ken Lundie on the piano, they also give us honorable, if humdrum renditions of the songs, which include nuggets such as "Lili Marlene" and "Isn't It Romantic." The actors guide us through Mayer's clunky book...There isn't much the actors can do about a bigger problem, which is that it's often hard to tell when something is taking place. (Read Full Review)
You can see how this would be a nightmare to stage… And it works.
What’s less convincing is the show itself. Whereas the 2006 movie spiked its sentimentality with healthy doses of vulgarity and dark humor, the musical’s sunnier approach confuses sweetness with sucrose… The actors are fine, even if they don’t quite overcome the long shadow cast by their film predecessors. The ones who do are young Hannah and the criminally underrated Stephanie J. Block (late of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”) as Olive’s harried mom, Sheryl.
While the score isn’t up to Finn’s usual high standard, it boasts a couple of nuggets… The show features some updates — a GPS “map bitch” provides a running commentary — and the welcome addition of Olive’s hellion rivals as a Greek chorus. But mostly this “Little Miss Sunshine” cruises mildly until a climax that could have been wilder, funnier. For cars and musicals alike, the middle of the road isn’t the best place to be. (Read Full Review)
Lewis has a warm voice but lacks personality, and plays Porgy â€” lurching around with a cane instead of rolling on a goat cart â€” like the clichÃ©d saintly cripple. Thereâ€™s no complexity to the man the original story described as an â€œinveterate gambler.â€ As Bess, McDonald sings brilliantly â€” her soprano is a thing of crystalline beauty. But aside from a few flashes of energy, her natural elegance runs counter to Bessâ€™ grit, limiting the character to victimhood. A â€œPorgy and Bessâ€ thatâ€™s merely dramatic instead of tragic? Thatâ€™s the real scandal. (Read Full Review)
Effortlessly likable, [Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller] single-handedly help the show go down easy. Playwright Daniel Goldfarb should thank them for inserting life and quirky individuality into his wan look at parenthood. Sure, a lot of the dialogue rings true, but you could get the same thing eavesdropping on yuppies at a coffee joint. Agreeably directed by Sam Buntrock -- who staged the projection-heavy Broadway revival of "Sunday in the Park with George" -- "Cradle" is better than Goldfarb's last effort, the Holocaust-themed "The Retributionists." Still, while a few lines poke mild fun at the characters' cozy sense of entitlement, there's not enough of them to counteract the many platitudes about parenting. (Read Full Review)
...bargain-basement sets, basic choreography performed merely adequately, and laughable dialogue... But then there are the songs: thrilling, unimpeachable, familiar yet still completely fresh... The songs soar and the sound is superb, so perhaps audiences won’t notice the lack of plot in “Motown”... Charles Randolph Wright’s production is rough around the edges. Daniel Brodie’s projections often look fuzzy and out of focus. Choreographers Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams’ ensemble numbers are lax... All are bolstered by Peter Hylenski’s excellent sound design, a rarity on Broadway. Loud but crisp, it’s a perfect match for the large orchestra’s explosive brass and driving rhythms.
Okrent reportedly praised director Marc Bruni for making him and Gethers cut the editorializing about Jewish humor and what makes a joke land or not. That may not have been such a good idea. Now the closest we get to a respite are short, often sentimental monologues. As a character named Morty, Wolpe remarks that â€œthe Yiddish of even 40 years ago has largely disappeared from our society, except in wisecracks and insults and jokes. Itâ€™s these jokes that have made my connection to the past a lot easier.â€ Nice touch, but you wish for more context, especially since New York City and the Catskills are ground zero for American Jewish humor.
Overlong and overstuffed...An old-fashioned, campy lark, mining naughty double-entendres and eye-popping costumes (by William Ivey Long). As such, it recalls the frothy 1990s revues Whoop-Dee-Doo!" and When Pigs Fly. But those were collaborative efforts, and here we have one busy guy who tried to do it all instead of focusing on his strength -- catchy melodies. Beckham should have emulated Nashville in more than its sound. There, each music-industry job is parceled out to the person best-equipped to handle it. (Read Full Review)
The better playlets aren't so great that they embarrass the lesser ones -- which aren't horrendous. Anthologies of monologues are often repetitive, too, as one character after another mulls over past significant events. Which is why Rosalind Haslett's "Gin in a Teacup" stands out: It does step onto memory lane, but to underscore the plight of someone who cannot remember anymore ... Perched on a high chair, Celik strikes affected poses that strive for nonchalance. You can't take your eyes off her, and in a few minutes she creates a rich character with untold potential. Geraldine Aron's "Miracle Conway" is more of a self-contained joke. Still, it's an effective one, as Aron progressively reveals the full battiness of the title character (Rosemary Fine), whose hobby is "improving lyrics." ... Lucy Caldwell spins a good yarn -- and Hova nicely underplays both the laughs and the pathos -- but the parallel between fixing violins and fixing bodies is ultimately facile ... The echo between the situations in Ireland and the Middle East also pops up in Rosemary Jenkinson's "The Lemon Tree," but once it's out in the open, the playwright has nowhere to go -- just like David (Mark Byrne) in Belinda McKeon's "Fugue." (Read Full Review)
...when that speech finally comes in Broadway’s “A Time to Kill,” it’s not the standout it needs to be. Sebastian Arcelus is a handsome actor and a seemingly perfectly nice guy... but he lacks the charisma to slay that scene... This is typical of the show, which is adequately done but bland... the terrific Patrick Page — the former Green Goblin in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” — gives a highly satisfying performance, Southern accent oozing out of his mouth like Delta molasses... Director Ethan McSweeny tries to suggest the pressure-cooker atmosphere with projections and a second-act shocker. But the production remains flat, lacking the minimum of suspense required for a white-knuckle thriller.
Enlivening the proceeds are some strong turns from the supporting cast, including former Republican US Sen. Fred Dalton Thompson as the formidable Judge Noose.
(Read Full Review)
Euripides' The Bacchae is one of the wildest, most violent plays in the Greek canon. But until the very last minutes, you'd be hard-pressed to find much ferocity in JoAnne Akalaitis' production... the show's uneven, indecisive tone is best summed up by the performance of the usually wonderful Joan MacIntosh. As Pentheus' mother, Agave, she enters in the final minutes to deliver a brutal monologue. Cradling a bloody severed head, then washing a mangled corpse, MacIntosh is magnetic one second, bizarrely off the next, as if unsure of what to do. Still, you can't help hanging on her every word: This text just can't be domesticated. (Read Full Review)
Ivo van Hove's 2007 modern-dress production was kinetic and mesmerizing, but willfully nihilistic. This new one at the Pearl company is straightforward, a kind of "Misanthrope 101." Director Joseph Hanreddy opted for period dress -- though which period is unclear. He alludes to moving the action to the 18th century in his program note, but makes nothing of it in the staging. Meanwhile, at least one of Sam Fleming's colorful costumes looks as if it's from the 19th century.
Some historical fuzziness is fine. More problematic is that Hanreddy softens a lot of the play's sharpness and remains skin-deep. (Read Full Review)
Ever wondered what a pothead version of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion" would be like? Wonder no more: Radio Play is here...Directed by Kip Fagan, Radio Play is an amicable, loosely -- very loosely -- structured variety hour that jumps from snippets of game shows and fake commercials to songs and skits...What Radio Play rewards is short attention spans -- nothing lasts long enough to develop into a complete thought. The closest we get to a thread is the game element. The categories are typically wacky, such as "Restaurants You Go to When You're Tired"...It may be more fun to perform than to sit through. (Read Full Review)
One of the main dichotomies running through the play is illustrated by Gus and his favorite child, nicknamed Empty (Emond). He's an idealistic revolutionary; she's a realistic-minded labor lawyer -- a reformist. But nothing's clear-cut, and Kushner excels at suggesting gray areas: Gus sold out his union comrades and looks down on his contractor son (Pasquale). Empty's small steps may never amount to actual social change. What is to be done? More problematic is the deep imbalance at the heart of the play. Like Gus, Kushner seems to prefer ideas to humans, especially those who aren't neurotically intellectual. It's an odd, neglectful lack of empathy that "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide" can't overcome. (Read Full Review)
It's hard to think anybody could inject any life into "Family Week," or even make heads or tails of it. The "Crimes of the Heart" playwright has channeled some of her trademark issues -- notably the way generations of related women cope with dysfunction -- into a series of head-scratching scenes that don't coalesce into anything of interest. Demme's greatest asset is his adroit cast, led by Kathleen Chalfant, regal as always, and Rosemarie DeWitt.... To her credit, Henley avoids splashy 11th-hour reveals, but she still needs to give us something about what makes these people tick. Instead, she relies on self-help mumbo-jumbo, cutesy tricks (the actresses take turns playing a group-therapy leader called Sandra) and a vagueness that's more frustrating than tantalizing. (Read Full Review)
The whole plot of "Unlock'd" revolves around a sheltered young woman who’s so obsessed with her hair that she refuses to cut even a small piece of it to give her suitor. Surrounding them are three sylphs and three gnomes who keep meddling in the romances and have some of their own -- we end up with a whopping eight couples. The dreadlocked gnomes look like hobo Phish fans and speak as if not quite all there mentally. The sylphs are perky and want to recruit Belinda, though you wonder what they see in her. Let's hear it for curl power. (Read Full Review)
Unfortunately, Gabe McKinleyâ€™s new off-Broadway play about the controversy, â€œCQ/CXâ€ â€” copy-editing terms â€” is a cheesy, ham-fisted affair. If youâ€™re in the mood for inspirational, grandstanding tirades about the Gray Lady, check right in. Otherwise, just rent the newsroom-centered fifth season of â€œThe Wire.â€ (Read Full Review)
You can see why theater companies are drawn to “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”: Writing at the end of WWII, Bertolt Brecht brought together elements from an old Chinese tale and the Judgment of Solomon, mixing humor and pathos, political allegory and vaudevillian bits. In the excitement everybody overlooked a pesky fact: With its many characters and almost as many settings and moods, “The Caucasian Chalk Circle” is devilishly hard to pull off. It’s the Venus’ flytrap of plays, luring in ambitious troupes only to eat them alive. Director Brian Kulick and his muddled revival are just the latest victims.
(Read Full Review)
Brian Kulickâ€™s overly earnest production could use some Red Bull: Itâ€™s packed with challenging ideas but punches like a kitten wearing boxing gloves. F. Murray Abraham is perfectly fine as Galileo, of course, but the actor known for intense, outsize performances â€” Salieri in the â€œAmadeusâ€ movie, and an excellent Shylock in a recent â€œMerchant of Veniceâ€ â€” keeps things in dignified check here. This approach saps the energy out of the play, which tracks the struggle between the famed Italian scientist and the Catholic Church in the early 17th century. (Read Full Review)
Sadly, bulging biceps and taut pecs arenâ€™t enough to fill a role â€” something confirmed by Blair Underwoodâ€™s underwhelming performance...Underwood sticks to one note, and thatâ€™s brutish. Even then, it often feels as if weâ€™re watching a fundamentally nice actor baring his teeth â€” and his chest â€” to look mean...This weakness throws Emily Mannâ€™s otherwise decent production out of whack. Parker, in particular, deserves a better foil, because her take on Blanche feels fresh, especially in the first act...By the end, youâ€™re left thinking, â€œWell, that was a fine show.â€ But A Streetcar Named Desire should be a lot more than just fine. (Read Full Review)
To be remotely bearable, the ham-fisted melodrama High requires a larger-than-life icon who can sink her teeth into its ripe dialogue, then chomp. Thankfully, it has Kathleen Turner...High has twists and revelations, but no suspense. Nobody will bat an eye upon learning about Sister Jamie's stormy past, or the reasons Father Michael is so invested in Cody's well-being. And when someone eventually makes a direct appeal to God, you think, "What took so long?" (Read Full Review)
"North Atlantic" may be intended as a satire of the military-entertainment complex, but it's a wan one, drenched in dated, clunky humor ("You're as pure as a vegetarian in Vermont"). And we notice it all the more because LeCompte has dispensed with the company's usual visual razzmatazz, placing more burden on the text and the cast. The actors, as always in Wooster shows, are impressive. (Read Full Review)
Like all good interviewers, Helm looks genuinely interested in what people have to tell him. But he also has a certain off-putting slickness. At times, he lets out an overly enthusiastic laugh with all the spontaneity of a talk-show pro.
On a recent evening, he didn't prod all that deeply, and the exchanges were neither particularly insightful nor revealing. There's a thin line between sensitive and bland. (Read Full Review)
It's clear Edna's the real draw here. When she barges in after 15 minutes of Feinstein's undistinguished delivery of chestnuts like "My Romance" and "Strike Up the Band," you can hear the audience sigh with relief ... The creation of Barry Humphries (who co-wrote the show with Christopher Durang), Edna is her usual giddy, flighty self. By now, Humphries so thoroughly inhabits her that when Edna said she was lactating, my first thought was, "She can't be -- she's too old!" Faced with this force of nature, Feinstein flounders. Blissfully free from the shackles of charisma, he stares and grins blankly while Edna hams it up as only she can. (Read Full Review)
A bigger problem is that Shawn Sides' timid staging lacks the gonzo physicality of the wild '60s and '70s. The cast of five (including Sides herself) doesn't fully commit to the required blood, sweat and tears. During the kissing drill, they look downright dainty: Experimental actors of the early '70s didn't exchange pecks -- they would have been halfway through an orgy in three seconds flat. (Read Full Review)
â€œA Prayer for Ellieâ€ is a lovely ballad, but thereâ€™s something disquieting about hearing yet another selfless mother sing of her daughter, â€œSheâ€™s my world and my life.â€ Meanwhile, each dad is an amiable doofus who looks overwhelmed â€” but also enchanted â€” by his brood. (Read Full Review)
‘The Designated Mourner” is now acknowledged not just as Wallace Shawn’s masterpiece, but as a major achievement of political American theater. But the most remarkable thing about the revival that opened at the Public Theater last night is just how overrated the play is — it’s just rage against the windmill. And at three meandering hours, “The Designated Mourner” needs sharpening. At times the text achieves a hypnotic flow, and there are moments of bleak humor…Gregory’s direction, greatly enhanced by Bruce Odland’s music and sound design, keeps a tight focus on the trio, and occasionally suggests an apocalyptic death of culture. But mostly the evening is an indulgent grind that gives off vibes of intellectual sophistication — but just that, vibes.
(Read Full Review)
Despite a handsome production by Leigh Silverman and a wonderful cast that includes Lisa Banes ("Present Laughter"), Stephen Bogardus ("Fal-
settos") and Mariann Mayberry (the daughter with the creepy fiancÃ© in "August: Osage County"), the show's tone is jarringly uneven. The writing zigzags between distant and nakedly emotional, and Greenspan's acting is at odds with his co-stars' more naturalistic approach. (Read Full Review)
At first, the Queen seems faithful to Carroll's creation, albeit with nods to Evita and Momma Rose. Then she turns out to be downright grandmotherly. What a cop-out: It's hard to care for Alice's safety if there's no real danger. This is also typical of the work's misguided approach. Who is a musical about a grown-up Alice for? This show clearly casts a wide net, but it also takes family-friendliness as a license to be simplistic. Come on, Wonderland, test us -- we're smarter than you think.
(Read Full Review)
With this kind of demented play, you need to go full throttle. A couple of shockers are effective, yet overall the production shies like a horse refusing to jump a fence. Itâ€™s preposterous to see characters keep their underwear on when showering or washing. Both the fights and sex scenes reek of pretend. (Read Full Review)
It's definitely a feat of some kind: Broadway's "The Addams Family" has watered down one of the quirkiest pop- culture creations ever. And to think it had so much going for it...The one thing we don't need from them is sappy numbers. We know this family's bound by a tight affection; they just don't express it like the rest of us. They live in a Bizarro world where keeping a giant squid in the basement is normal. (Read Full Review)
In the final piece, which gives “The Landing” its title, Stewart and Hyde Pierce are a gay couple who adopt a 12-year-old (Seratch). Collin is almost too good to be true — unlike any tween boy, he makes his own bed. And indeed, there’s a catch. Not that we care all that much about anybody involved. “The Landing” isn’t a terrible show — the people in charge are too experienced for that. Kander fans may see it out of curiosity, but everybody else will wonder why it exists at all. (Read Full Review)
[T]he production that opened last night at BAM has a crisis dealing with that crisis — John Turturro’s a fine actor, but here he doesn’t show much affinity with Scandi angst. He just doesn’t convey the sense that his character, Halvard Solness, is a tortured soul. (Read Full Review)
The orchestra is too small and David Loud's horrid arrangements sap the life out of most of the songs. Doing "Something's Coming" from "West Side Story" and "The Gun Song" from "Assassins" in a lite jazz, Manhattan Transfer style is wrong, wrong, wrong. Unbelievably, a medley of "Company" and "Old Friends" is borderline barbershop. Out of the cast of eight, Cook and Williams get by on chops, while Tom Wopat and Norm Lewis disappoint. Leslie Kritzer and Euan Morton, representing the younger generation, are the only ones who look as if they're having fun. Unlike the others, they lend the material a loose, playful energy, seemingly uncowed by The Genius looming behind them. And that dash of irreverence is the best tribute Sondheim could get. (Read Full Review)
There isn't a shred of suspense in Jack Heifner's book, based on his own 1976 play. The only surprise is that Kathy, the unlucky-in-love PE major, doesn't turn out to be gay. In this show, it rates as a daring buckling of expectations. That said, the 95 minutes zip along smoothly in the hands of actress-turned-director Judith Ivey (with help from Dan Knechtges for the musical stagings). The trickiest parts occur between scenes, when Kennedy, Stiles and van der Pol, fishing accessories from the vanities that give the piece its name, change costumes in full view while singing. At least David Kirshenbaum's light score doesn't complicate matters by throwing vocal challenges their way. (Read Full Review)
It's the play's flat patches that stump them, particularly when it comes to the supposedly irrepressible bond between Doug and Kayleen.
"You've always been able to mend my wounds," he tells her. This cuts to the core of their unlikely relationship, because the prickly Kayleen doesn't look like the nursing type... Kayleen is as self-destructive, as banged-up as Doug, though her wounds are less obvious to the naked eye. Despite this obvious parallel, the characters' affection for each other often feels forced: We're told it exists, but don't get any evidence. How can these soul mates lose contact for years at a time in our age of constant communication, for example? (Read Full Review)
Rookie playwright Matthew Lopez, 33, certainly knows how to start a show with a bang. But then The Whipping Man settles into an earnest, surprisingly tepid evening. Granted, Civil War dramas aren't common, so the setting alone makes this show stand out. Lopez then upped the ante: Simon and John have adopted the faith of their Jewish owners. This is a fascinating angle, but Lopez didn't wring either original characters or actual drama out of it...The shorter second act does spring to life, as the men celebrate Passover, and their improvised Seder -- the day after Lincoln's assassination -- underlines the parallel between the Israelites and the black slaves. When Simon sings the spiritual "Go Down Moses," the scene has a passionate poignancy the show could have used more of. (Read Full Review)
Itâ€™s not spoiling anything to say that when they all meet up at Amir and Emilyâ€™s for dinner, things donâ€™t go well â€” for the guests or the show.
We end up in a game of Whack-a-Mole, with the playwright hitting issues instead of critters: Thereâ€™s racism! Islamophobia on the right! Sexism on the left!
Making matters worse, the playwright and director Kimberly Senior confine the battle to a small table in a corner of the stage â€” couldnâ€™t they make better use of the space by having the argument over the canapÃ©s? (Read Full Review)
ELI is a loner with ace cheekbones and a brooding stare. He takes arty photographs, develops unrequited crushes and listens to the Smiths: "Call me morbid, call me pale/I've spent too long on your trail . . . " Incredibly, Eli isn't a vampire. He's the second best thing, though: He's a gay teen. As played by handsome Seth Numrich -- who looks a lot like Robert Pattinson -- in Daniel Talbott's "Slipping," Eli is both at ease with his sexual orientation and at war with the messiness of emotions. Romantically pulling on cigarettes and listening to indie rock, he craves and fears love. (Read Full Review)
Buffini totters between naturalism and a ripe symbolism free of irony, the last bolstered by Riccardo Hernandez's austere set, dominated by a giant, bunker-like slab of concrete. Even so, director David Esbjornson has a hard time pulling the two strands into a coherent whole. The cast does its best with the poetic language, but struggles to make us overlook the fact that some big plot developments hang on people behaving stupidly -- loose lips do sink ships on the Channel. (Read Full Review)
Unfortunately, this ambitious undertaking doesn’t make a case for Thurber as an undiscovered talent. Worse, it backfires. Taken separately, some of the shows have merit. Seeing them all, though, exposes monotonous themes, language and storytelling — the number of surprise visits with awful consequences is just numbing.
To her credit, Thurber is one of the rare contemporary American writers to tackle working-class identity. But as a whole, the “Hill Town” shows are repetitive and limited — surely there are other, more subtle ways to signal poverty than yelling, chain-smoking and swilling Rolling Rocks...
But do catch the compellingly written and staged “Killers” and “Where We’re Born.” You’ll save time and money, and won’t realize that the second recycles a sex scene from “Ashville” almost verbatim. Those two standouts also boast the best acting.
(Read Full Review)
"Voices" could have been rousing, but the multimedia production by Ralph Lewis and Barry Rowell misses the mark. Granted, the actors don't have much room to maneuver in their little storefront, and the clutter on the walls dilutes the impact of the projections. Amateurish acting and ill-advised staging decisions don't help. Color- and gender-blind casting only creates confusion -- and since when do debutantes sport tattoos? Worst of all is that it's hard to care. (Read Full Review)
You either love this stuff or hate it. A few theatergoers at a recent preview of his latest chuckled at the insanity. The woman sitting next to me was in the second camp: For most of the hourlong evening she was like a little furnace burning with red-hot loathing.
(Read Full Review)
Enough of these babyboomer-baiting tribute concerts trying to pass for Broadway musicals!... The result is a power-piped but sanitized Joplin (Davies) who’d be perfectly at home on a cruise ship... She’s good at what she does. But Broadway can never reciprocate the intensity and immediacy of a rock show... Sadly, we don’t learn much about what made Joplin who she was... Randy Johnson has her ramble on about the blues, but in the most banal way...
(Read Full Review)
At times, we catch glimpses of the show that could have been, an intimate look at down-on-their-luck people dealing with adversity and loneliness â€” Hopperâ€™s Henry neatly captures a small-town gay manâ€™s life, wishful-thinking crushes. But Him also accumulates potboiler developments...You find yourself thinking forlornly about the elder Footeâ€™s delicate touch, contrasting his ability to exploit the unsaid with Daisyâ€™s overwriting. (Read Full Review)
"What is it?" a horny elf (Christian Adam Jacobs) asks Mrs. Claus (Betsy Lippitt) after she turns him down. "The pointy ears? The curly shoes? The rosacea?" There's more bile in 60 seconds of "Bad Santa." Perhaps Banks and director Jim Simpson should have cast Billy the Mime in some of these roles, instead of members of the Bats -- the Flea Theater's young resident troupe. Here, these actors are game, but not much more than that. (Read Full Review)
Now comes a new production of “Romeo and Juliet” in which the most memorable bit involves a Triumph motorcycle. Orlando Bloom’s riding it, but he doesn’t make as much of an impression. This suggests that director David Leveaux isn’t sure how to hold our attention. Not that Bloom can, either. In this, his Broadway and Shakespeare debuts, the British actor is handsome but lacks stage presence. He’s game but merely competent — and less than that when he expresses anguish.
Equally underwhelming is Condola Rashad’s one-note performance as Juliet. Indeed, for a production with such a strong conceit, coherence is in short supply.
(Read Full Review)
The show might have worked better with expert actors at the top of their game. But under the direction of David Auburn (the Pulitzer-winning author of "Proof"), Richardson and Smith share little chemistry, and their characters lack dimension. Lindy sounds more neurotic than complicated, and little filters through Smith's impassive mask. (Read Full Review)
...if you’re not familiar with the plot and characters, the show won’t make any sense... The results are cryptic and yield no new insights to the original play... The best scenes involve Lady M, which Cumming plays in a coolly cunning manner. Having stripped naked for a bath, he morphs from Macbeth to his wife and back again with a mere flick of a towel... The production values are impeccable, from Merle Hensel’s clinical nightmare of a set to sound designer Fergus O’Hare’s scary static buzzes and infra-bass rumbles. But for what? If you take out the plot and the characters’ psychological motivations and tensions, you’re left with a star vehicle driving in circles.
(Read Full Review)
Huff's idea of thinking outside the box begins and ends with his naming the Irish character Joey (Craig) and the Italian one Denny (Jackman). Everything else is steeped in hoary convention, from the flashback structure to the tone, dripping with tough-guy attitude... Stuck with two guys reminiscing for 90 minutes, director John Crowley ("The Pillowman") resorts to pulling Scott Pask's beautiful sets in and out of the shadows at key dramatic points. It's impressive but feels like a desperate attempt to give the audience something to look at. In the end, it all circles back to the middling writing. Typically, a big plot point revolves around the fact that Denny and Joey believe a blond surfer dude is, as he claims, the uncle of a distraught Vietnamese boy. Are we really meant to think these guys are morons? Craig and Jackman were clearly eager to appear onstage together. Too bad they picked a clunky squad car for a vehicle. (Read Full Review)
On the one hand, we get attempts at frothy wackiness, including dancers in stovepipe hats and beards. On the other, the many speeches about tolerance, AIDS, outing and civil rights will make your eyes glaze over. A sneaking suspicion creeps in: Could this 2Â½-hour PSA be meant for a student audience?
...looks gorgeous... but Passionlacks a key ingredient — passion... the characters often seem to communicate in real time — think of a clunky 19th-century version of instant messaging... this is Sondheim’s most monotonous effort... and it often lapses into self-caricature... As gifted as Kuhn is ... she’s way too restrained here... And the wooden Silverman doesn’t sell his character’s switch from Clara to Fosca... At least Errico transitions beautifully from ravishment to pain. (Read Full Review)
One Night . . . is both over- written and underwritten.
Every scene lays on the melodrama super-thick. The motel’s bathroom has such thin walls, for instance, that you can hear everything next door — and, wouldn’t you know it, a prostitute’s hard at work there.
At the same time, the characters are blanks and it’s hard to care about them. The problem is made worse by Clinton Turner Davis’ ham-fisted direction and the uneven acting. (Read Full Review)
If only the show had more . . . life...Flaunting the masculine glamour of a 1940s film star, the British-born Julian Ovenden -- who looks to the tuxedo born -- suggests both weary experience and eager innocence. On the other hand, he and Jill Paice don't connect much, and their supposedly heated romance has all the sizzle of an electric fireplace. But then the stakes feel oddly low in a show literally about matters of life and death. Part of the problem is Doug Hughes' awkward staging...
On the plus side, we get to see such enjoyable actors as Rebecca Luker, Michael Siberry and Linda Balgord, who do well by the uneven score...
As many new musicals seek safety in pastiche and irony, Death Takes a Holiday is refreshingly earnest. Too bad its heart beats so erratically.
(Read Full Review)
The Winter's Tale is a disappointment. Granted, it's not nearly as dreary as last year's execrable Shakespeare in the Park version: Unlike the Delacorte crew, the Brits have technique and are comfortable with the language. But David Farr's production is mostly tepid, and only occasionally enlivened by sudden flashes of inspiration. (Read Full Review)
The brave cast in â€œBurningâ€ should get combat pay... Bradshaw churns up big ideas, but everything remains skin-deep. The actors may throw themselves into the most physically demanding scenes, but the characters are too sketchily written for us to care about them. And so we have a play thatâ€™s both too big and too thin, where we see a lot and feel little. The most interesting part is that the tone remains dead serious while the story gets increasingly melodramatic and hackneyed. ...Burning is like pulp fiction burdened with badly realized ambition â€” or maybe ambition burdened with clunky pulp. Youâ€™re better off renting one of John Watersâ€™ 1970s movies, which walked the line between inspired and inept with much more precision and flair than Burning does.
(Read Full Review)
Perhaps thinking that Payneâ€™s intimate play needed extra-bolstering to handle the weight of those expectations, director Michael Longhurst went rogue. Throughout the 100-minute show, the actors fling props and furniture into a water tank set up along the entire length of the stage.
When a bath runneth over and everything gets flooded, youâ€™re in awe of that over-the-top feat, but also wonder if it was necessary.
Seeing the actors slosh around ankle-deep is a semi-biblical, post-apocalyptic sight, but the play, underwritten as it is, hasnâ€™t earned it. (Read Full Review)
Politics and family feuds are a highly combustible combo. Except that these characters discuss their issues politely. And while this is an honorable attitude, it makes for boring theater...The show's saving grace is a great cast that includes such beloved actors as Jay O. Sanders, Laila Robins, J. Smith-Cameron and Maryann Plunkett. The last is both funny and touching as the long-suffering sister taking care of an actor uncle afflicted with memory loss. (Could he represent . . . America?) These pros make the dialogue feel as comfortably lived-in as their L.L. Bean attire. But even they can't mask the play's fundamental toothlessness. (Read Full Review)
Derek McLane's towering three-tiered set evokes a steel beaux-arts cathedral, as if to say, "We're dealing with important stuff here." Along with two essential props (a Model T and a piano reduced to their skeletal frames), it also signals that the show intends to look at America's very bone structure. Don't expect an X-ray -- "Ragtime" is more about XXL bathos. Where Doctorow was dry and cerebral, bookwriter Terrence McNally seems to have never seen a heartstring he didn't want to pluck. This is compounded by Marcia Milgrom Dodge's staging. She has a great eye and comes up with many gorgeous, painterly compositions (greatly enhanced by Santo Loquasto's inventive costumes), but she also tends to soften the story's harsher aspects. Some of the best scenes are the lighter, most tender ones, especially when they involve Noll, wonderful as a suburban wife whose corset can't restrict her kindness. (Read Full Review)
Visually speaking, this new Broadway musical is inventive, playful and often downright magical... Unfortunately, Andrew Lippa’s score is a hack job stringing one banal non-tune after another... But Stroman rises to the occasion and illustrates the prodigious imagination of her hero, Edward Bloom, by skillfully weaving together Benjamin Pearcy’s fancy projections, clever sets by Julian Crouch and good old-fashioned razzle-dazzle... John August’s book takes us from one set piece to another fairly efficiently... Sadly, Kate Baldwin and Krystal Joy Brown are given little to do... (Read Full Review)
Itâ€™s not a great sign when you leave a musical thinking more about the visuals than the songs â€” which is exactly what happens at Broadwayâ€™s new Chaplin. The show about the silent-film icon is packed with so many biographical details that it seems like a PowerPoint presentation with songs. But hey, at least it looks good! The stylish projectâ€™s sets and projections are all white, black or gray. Amy Clark and Martin Pakledinazâ€™s gorgeous monochromatic costumes ground the various points of the stretched-out timeline... At least things move along zippily under the direction of Warren Carlyle, who also choreographed. Every once in a while he cleverly incorporates famous images â€” like the dinner rolls so memorably used in â€œThe Gold Rushâ€ â€” but thereâ€™s a dearth of showstopping numbers. The agile McClure captures Chaplinâ€™s physical trademarks â€” particularly the Little Trampâ€™s duck gait â€” and heâ€™s very likable, but things move too fast for him to flesh out his character.
(Read Full Review)
Sadly, while several spoofs hit the bullâ€™s eyeâ€”Alessandrini knows musicals inside outâ€”too many of the jabs lack edge. In the best number, Marcus Stevens impersonates an overly affectionate Mandy Patinkin fondling Patti LuPone (the excellent Jenny Lee Stern) in a demented rendering of the starsâ€™ joint outing last year...Too much of the humor lazily relies on marquee names blithely announcing that theyâ€™re miscast or canâ€™t sing...The jokes often cross the line between insightful and inside-baseball...It adds to the pervasive feeling that Alessandrini has become the Andy Rooney of Broadway, idealizing some mythical golden age...Broadway could do with some harder kicks than the ones it gets here. (Read Full Review)
Playwright Jon Robin Baitz was just 27 when this drama premiered in 1987, and it’s an ambitious effort — though far from the sophisticated storytelling of “Other Desert Cities,” his Tony-nominated, Pulitzer-finalist hit. Here, he’s juggling heavy themes and conflicts without developing them in a satisfying way. Worse, the show has little dramatic momentum — and director Jonathan Silverstein’s limp, musty staging doesn’t help. One problem is that we don’t get much of a sense of time or place. Another issue is that large chunks of the play are spent on static conversations, made worse by the oddly disaffected cast. The big exception is Maxwell, who brings a regal, sardonic disdain to her underwritten part. Only when she’s onstage is there some spice in that bland porridge of a show.
(Read Full Review)
During the first 45 minutes of Lidless, itâ€™s hard not to feel little tremors of excitement: It really seems as if playwright Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig is on to something. And then she goes out and wrecks it all with nutty plot twists thatâ€™d make â€œOne Life To Liveâ€ blush...Cowhig is dealing with fascinating stuff here. Can the soldier abusing prisoners turn into a regular soccer mom? Could Alice really move on after doing all those terrible things?...But the more we learn about all these poor characters, the less sense they make. (Read Full Review)
Someone's slipped Sarah Goodwin a chill pill . . . or 10. When we first met the prickly photojournalist heroine of Donald Margulies' Time Stands Still--during the play's first run, in January--I described her as "a holier-than-thou, joyless prig"...Laura Linney...has made her less abrasive this time around. A welcome side effect is that we now understand better what Sarah's writer boyfriend, James (Brian d'Arcy James), sees in her...But this new wrinkle isn't enough to make up for the play's many contrivances and false notes...In her Broadway debut, Ricci has a natural stage presence, even if she looks freakishly young. Elisabeth's original review, a D+, is here. (Read Full Review)
A political campaign is great background for a play... But to make this more than a news report, you also need tight storytelling, high stakes and clashing viewpoints â€” all of which are in short supply in the new off-Broadway drama Warrior Class. The one thing playwright Kenneth Lin does pull off is some interesting ambiguity. Youâ€™re never sure whether New York Assemblyman Julius (Louis Ozawa Changchien), whoâ€™s running for Congress, is a psycho in sheepâ€™s clothing, or whether heâ€™s being unfairly blamed for youthful mistakes...
This is a solid premise, which goes unexploited by Lin, director Evan Cabnet and the journeyman cast... If the plot were more gripping, it would be easier to overlook things like Nathan having the keys to Juliusâ€™ apartment... But too often, trivial chatter replaces argument. The playwright wants to suggest people who warily circle each other before attacking, but the result is more like reading updates on Facebook.
(Read Full Review)
The action in The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence jumps around time periods and settings, the transitions between them smoothed by a large curtain that glides around on a rail above the stage. Unfortunately that curtain is visually distracting and incredibly loud — it’s like a giant version of those garment carousels at the dry cleaner.
This cumbersome device is typical of Madeleine George’s new dramedy, which in trying to say a lot only draws attention to its own cleverness — starting with that parenthesis in the title. (Read Full Review)
Prime among the Brits is Juliet Rylance. To say she does Rosalind justice is an understatement: We're only in January, but it's unlikely we'll see a more insightful, more luminous performance all year. She comes up with one irresistible grace note after another, whether bursting out in girlish excitement or teaching lessons in love with witty, confident poise... And then there's the home team, which seems completely befuddled by the characters, the language -- pretty much everything having to do with the show. (Read Full Review)
The musical interludes are the most memorable moments, and at best, Hopkins comes across like a mix of Natalie Merchant and Laura Nyro...Things get dicier when it comes to staging the show's narrative strands. Director DJ Mendel keeps things moving, but I'm not convinced Hopkins is strong enough as a writer or a performer to pull off the goals she set herself; it's not that she's bad executing Faye Driscoll's choreography, for instance, but she's not all that strong either, and you'd need a topshelf physical entertainer to hold our focus with such material. By the end, we still don't know much about either James or Cynthia Hopkins, and the show feels like one more self-absorbed effort by an artist who happens to find her family life terribly interesting. (Read Full Review)
The Roundabout's revival of "Present Laughter" that opened last night hits all of these targets -- Alexander Dodge's lavish deco decor, in particular, gets applause -- and yet it almost never feels right. We're a far cry from "Brief Encounter," the warm-hearted British import that recently proved that one can be both innovative and true to Coward...The performances are fun to watch -- and Garber does have a smooth charm -- except that they belong to different shows. (Read Full Review)
Goes through more personalities than Toni Collette in United States of Tara. It looks as if Lozano...couldn't make up her mind as to what to write about, or what tone to adopt. So she checked the "all of the above" box...One minute underneathmybed is a family drama packed with siblings and parents bickering about boys and American imperialism; the next, it's a horror movie, complete with a mysterious girl who never appears without spooky lighting and ominous music. That's when the show isn't a screwball comedy...Add a committed but stretched-thin bilingual cast often required to yell at ear-splitting volume...and by the end, you're half-deaf and entirely disoriented. (Read Full Review)
Real anger and passion are in short supply ... when Ann tries to get Cathy to snitch on her old lover/accomplice Althea, or when Cathy implies that Ann is a frustrated lesbian. That last point is further made by the official's uptight hairdo and boxy pantsuit, which scream "repressed!" as if we were in a 1970s women-behind-bars movie. At least LuPone's Ann is equally mistreated by costume designer Patrizia von Brandenstein, who clad her in unflattering, sub-Eileen Fisher linen. You spend a lot of time staring at those outfits because there isn't much else to look at ... (Read Full Review)
While the producers were busy signing up Katie Holmes and Norbert Leo Butz, playwright Theresa Rebeck forgot to write a show... With its cardboard characters and implausible developments, â€œDead Accountsâ€ feels like a rough first draft... [Norbert Leo Butz] should be declared a Broadway Treasure: Holmes may be the name luring ticket buyers, but itâ€™s Butz who makes sure they get their moneyâ€™s worth... Holmes, on the other hand, doesnâ€™t have similar stage chops to fall back on. Sheâ€™s got one note â€” shrill, impatient â€” and yells it at top volume... You wish director Jack Oâ€™Brien had told his star to tone it down a notch, but he seems to have just leaned back and prayed for the best... Rebeck tries to introduce some gravity by bringing up faith, ethics and the mortgage crisis, but the effort feels half-baked.
(Read Full Review)
Leslie Jordan is relentless. In his new solo show, he comes out at you like a hyperactive Energizer Bunny. A flamboyantly homosexual bunny...Jordan has been talking about himself -- a subject he clearly loves -- for a while now...Jordan's quips should put an end to the myth that all gay men are witty: Saying "Honey, she's evil" of Boy George doesn't qualify as a zinger...But don't expect any real dish, other than about Jordan himself. (Read Full Review)
Blame it on self-indulgence. A rainy dream sequence is so nice, we see it twice. Worse, the script instructs the actors to recite the stage directions. "Enter Shango, dressed in an Army recruit uniform," Shango (the charismatic Sterling K. Brown) announces. Well, yeah, we can see that. If this heavy-handed staginess wasn't enough, the actors occasionally indulge in soliloquies and direct winky asides to the audience. As precious and redundant, naive and obvious as it is, this affectation is an integral part of McCraney's poetic storytelling style. Too bad it often feels like an MFA writing assignment... And yet the plays entertain almost in spite of themselves, thanks to directors Tina Landau (for Part 1, "In the Red and Brown Water") and Robert O'Hara (for Part 2, "The Brothers Size" and "Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet"), and the superb ensemble they pilot. (Read Full Review)
Considering the volatile ingredients in this mix, you'd think the show would be more affecting. Director Will Pomerantz and his cast do what they can, but the earnest text stubbornly resists all attempts at dramatization. Civilizations aren't even clashing here -- they're just clumsily rubbing against each other. (Read Full Review)
If these flimsy one-act plays weren't by David Mamet, they probably wouldn't have been produced by the Atlantic Theater Company. Both works amount to the kind of flimflam the author used to write about....Some of the gags land, and the dependable Murray displays a true mastery of the eye roll. But director Neil Pepe should have pushed his cast into a higher gear. At the end, we're left feeling that Mamet didn't try quite hard enough. Why should we bother if he doesn't? (Read Full Review)
A giant spoonful of uncut sugar...The screen Buddy was played by Will Ferrell, who brings a naughty, slightly sleazy quality to everything he does. Here, we get the sunny, milquetoast Sebastian Arcelus. He's appealing and works very hard, but lacks the gleefully anarchic strain that made Ferrell's Buddy such a cathartic force of nature. But then, everything has been toned down several notches. Book writers Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Thomas Meehan (Hairspray, The Producers) can't seem to tell the difference between childlike and childish. It's all very tasteful and safe, when the show should conjure semi-lawless energy...Luckily, the main cast members are easy to like...Too bad they all feel underused. (Read Full Review)
As wholesome as a PBS concert -- the only thing lacking is a pledge drive...The show is economical, which is a polite way to say cheap: a single set, four singers who back themselves up on piano and guitar, plus a drummer and a stand-up bassist. Since "Million Dollar Quartet" is basically a covers show, everything hangs on the songs. Arranger Chuck Mead, a founding member of the alt-country band BR-549, wisely didn't mess them up. But the performances themselves are merely adequate...Only at the very end does the adrenaline surge a little. Out of the blue, director Eric Schaeffer goes all Vegas on us. It's not rock 'n' roll in the least, but at least it's fun to watch. (Read Full Review)
A lot of energy is spent setting up an explo sive situation in the family drama Blood From a Stone. But despite the efforts of a strong cast led by Ethan Hawke -- giving his best performance in years -- this New Group production never really detonates...Director Scott Elliott can't do much with a verbose script that lacks both wit and traction. (Read Full Review)
A new show that has a lot going for it, including a wonderful performance by star Lindsay Mendez and swift staging by Joe Mantello...But Dogfight...also has a terminally dull score. And thatâ€™s kind of a problem for a musical...What made the film so endearing was its evolution from a cruel premise to grudging tenderness. Here, the edges are smoothed out. This creative team doesnâ€™t trust the audienceâ€™s intelligence...That guys in their 20s could write such fuddy-duddy songs is baffling. (Read Full Review)
Does Amanda Peet have something on Manhattan Theatre Club? It’s hard to imagine why else this powerful nonprofit put up the actress’ feeble first play, “The Commons of Pensacola” — starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Blythe Danner, no less. Because right now there’s a thousand-watt klieg light turned on this show, making it easy for everybody to see its weaknesses. For starters, couldn’t anybody tell the rookie author that fart jokes just aren’t that funny? Parker is excellent, and unexpectedly poignant, as a woman at the end of her rope.. [she] has genuine presence, and, even in this dour role, she fills the stage with energy. It’s also fun to see her engage with Danner, with whom she has a warm stage rapport—the two last paired in A.R. Gurney’s 1995 “Sylvia...”Here she and everyone else are chained to witless dialogue and clichés. With all this nonsense sucking up oxygen, Peet misses her story’s heart — the fraught relationship between Becca and her mother. (Read Full Review)
Ethan Hawke has picked the worst possible time to show restraint… the titular murderous Scotsman seems less present than the ghosts who haunt him. Often Hawke mumbles in a monotone, as if dead-set on foiling those who accuse him of overacting. Meanwhile, he’s surrounded by a production that’s anything but shy or retiring… it’s all so dramatic, you’d think you were at an Alexander McQueen runway show… Driving the occult point home is goddess of the underworld Hecate (Francesca Faridany), who prances around looking like a Goth-Kabuki Lady Gaga. Catherine Zuber’s costumes are a nonsensical mess… A lot of this is entertaining in a 1980s, car-crash-horror kind of way. Less so is that the “weird sisters” are played by three cackling men, including John Glover hamming it up… it doesn’t add much to the production... there’s no getting around Hawke’s underwhelming performance, which doesn’t vary much, aside from being dialed up in volume toward the end… It’s almost enough to make you believe that the Scottish play really is cursed. (Read Full Review)
The big hook of the new musical “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” is Jefferson Mays. He doesn’t just give a performance — he gives eight of them... yet none of them really register. It’s hard not to think about the real tour de force here — the one pulled off by Mays’ dressers, who sometimes have just 30 seconds to transform him into a loony clergyman in mutton chops, a cleanshaven young toff or a buxom battle ax... this “Guide” has nothing on “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” — the 1985 caper musical that was successfully revived last year. Problem No. 1 is Freedman and composer Steven Lutvak’s score, a collection of innocuous music-hall pastiches. The lyrics can be fun… But the melodies aren’t very interesting… The pacing is uneven as well… Meanwhile, the charmless Pinkham — much better as the villain in “Ghost: The Musical” — basically functions as a placeholder during Mays’ costume changes… In general, the women inspire Freedman and Lutvak, who award them their finest ditties. Worsham in particular is in gorgeous lyric voice. (Read Full Review)
The thin line between leisurely and self-indulgent is crossed repeatedly as Fugard takes more than an hour and a half to show how Thami and Isabel learn from each other...The actors handle the dense text well, but between the didactic exchanges and the occasional monologues â€” equal parts illuminating and grating â€” this is tough going...Well-directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the play is best when building on the unsaid...But most of the time, My Children! My Africa! relies on earnest speechifying. A teachable moment doesnâ€™t have to feel like a lecture. (Read Full Review)
In the right hands, old-fash ioned farce can still kill, as the 2008 revival of "Boeing-Boeing" proved. The return of "Cactus Flower" -- another French comedy from the mid-'60s, this one adapted by Abe Burrows -- shows what happens when it's in the wrong hands.
To work, farce needs both precise control and gleeful abandon. And it needs to be so fast that the audience doesn't have time to ponder the ludicrous plot. This "Cactus Flower" fails on both counts. (Read Full Review)
Catch Me If You Can makes Abagnale a sympathetic figure guilty mainly of charming everybody. Tveit is handsome and sings well, but overuses his Colgate smile and lacks the pizazz necessary to sell the snake oil. This Frank is a junior, all right: many personas but little personality. Butz, on the other hand, has charisma to spare -- which is saying something, since he puts the "ratty" back in Hanratty. His body hunched at an angle, a greasy-looking hat perched on his head, he creates a fully rounded character, and displays unfailing musical-comedy flair. (Read Full Review)
Over the past few years, shows like The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side and Happy in the Poorhouse have heralded the Amoralists as one of the most vibrant troupes in New York. Whether or not you like their style -- in-your-face bravado with a side of American grotesque -- at least it has coherence and integrity. Alas, after such a good run, the Amoralists were due for a misstep...After about 40 minutes of setup, Ahonen is at a loss: He's dreamed up outlandish people in outlandish situations, but then what?...This time, the Amoralists have truly surprised us -- by not surprising us. (Read Full Review)
The only semi-interesting character actually is John (Mark Blum), a director who embodies Tinseltownâ€™s delusions of grandeur and petty manipulations...Weâ€™ve seen the type before, but playwright Christopher Shinn, of the well-received Dying City, has a bit of fun with him. Johnâ€™s taste for kooky concepts spice up this otherwise lifeless production â€” especially since Blum is an old hand...who knows what heâ€™s doing...The best thing you can say about the younger actors is that they know their lines. You also have to wonder why the stiff Donna Hanover â€” yes, the former Mrs. Giuliani â€” gets to play a couple of small parts when a dozen local actresses could have done them in their sleep. An ambiguously hopeful ending doesnâ€™t tell us much about what Shinn is trying to say. (Read Full Review)
[E]verybody has a habit of getting up and leaving the room under flimsy pretenses, making it hard to keep a conversation going. It's during one of Kate's offstage moments that we're told she was taken by the (unseen) Wilson family. It's an intriguing development, but it's stillborn, like everything else in the play. Jackie dates a married woman -- but nothing is made of it. There's palpable hostility between Kitty and her brood -- but it's as unexplained as it is senseless. Besides the presence of its stars, the other puzzling aspect of this 75-minute-long ordeal is the total absence of anything resembling a point or, worse, laughs. That's a problem for a would-be comedy. (Read Full Review)
Desperately trying to avoid any suggestion of camp, Arima goes for the opposite extreme and steers clear from anything that could suggest flamboyance. There are blood-red projections rather than gore, and we donâ€™t see enough of Carrieâ€™s psychic powers. So she moves a chair without touching it â€” big deal. But this is a larger-than-life tale where the supernatural plays a big part. Depriving it of visual and sonic extravagance completely misses the point. Poor Carrie: First sheâ€™s the victim of bullies, then she falls to well-intentioned advocates. (Read Full Review)
Youâ€™ve got to admire the York Theatreâ€™s willingness to sniff out obscurities. But at the same time, you canâ€™t help but wonder if Ionescopade is really worth revisiting...Director/choreographer Bill Castellino seems to want to recreate a 1950s Parisian cabaret, complete with cheeseball magic acts, a gloomy chanson, dancing â€œApachesâ€ (i.e., Montmartre gangsters) and excruciating skits...These are bright spots, but too often the show steps over the thin line between absurd and pointless. (Read Full Review)
Here, we never get any inkling of this grandeur. A big problem is that the 38-strong cast is drawn from the Fleaâ€™s resident â€” and unpaid â€” company, the Bats, most of whom are in their 20s. And so we have wholesome, earnest actors gamely try to play rulers tormented by colossal issues. Sorry, donâ€™t buy it â€” this shouldnâ€™t be â€œGossip Girlâ€ in Thebes. (Read Full Review)
Summing up a show that doesnâ€™t go anywhere, poor [Seth] Numrich...spends the entire play shoveling up dirt...At its best, the show lands somewhere between Winterâ€™s Bone and The Sopranos episode in which Paulie and Christopher get lost in the Pine Barrens. But those flashes are few and far between...Too often, this static play relies on clichÃ©s such as a full-on screaming match. Sadly, what stays with you isnâ€™t the characters themselves, but all that relentless digging. (Read Full Review)
Given [Spacey's] talent for playing menace, youâ€™d think that the title character in Shakespeareâ€™s Richard III â€” who cheats, lies and kills for power â€” would have shot to the top of Spaceyâ€™s wicked heap. But in the Sam Mendes production that opened last night at BAM, the starâ€™s choices tend to be obvious...Practically the only thing he doesnâ€™t do is stroke a fluffy white cat while letting out an evil cackle...While handsome-looking â€” especially when Tom Piperâ€™s set opens up to an eye-popping perspective â€” this final installment of the trans-Atlantic Bridge Project follows a well-trodden path, down to the clichÃ©d use of Nazi-like uniforms. (Read Full Review)
Relationships -- between man and wife, father and son, "us and them" -- are fraught with tension in "The Book of Grace," and yet the show is slack from beginning to end. It's hard to believe, considering the play is by Suzan-Lori Parks ("Topdog/Underdog") and stars Elizabeth Marvel, this most fearless of actresses, as Grace. And yet here we are: While competently written and acted, the show gets bogged down in a poetic morass and doesn't add much to an overly familiar subject. (Read Full Review)
Harper dominates the first act as Tallulah spits out a stream of one-liners ("I'm bisexual: Buy me something? I'll be sexual"). Several of her exchanges with Danny devolve into "Who's on first?" routines, but it's still fun to watch this over-the-top flaming creature take down such an embodiment of squareness, and Rob Ruggiero's perfunctory staging doesn't get in her way. But in the second half of the show, Tallulah inexplicably turns into a supportive listener (Tallulah, meet Rhoda) and we have to suffer through Danny's back story. Are we supposed to believe she would have listened to that bore for more than a minute? It plays like a gay man's fantasy of being a BFF with a diva. (Read Full Review)
Guess what? This â€œrevisalâ€ still has great songs and a nutty book â€” along with a downcast lead who looks as if heâ€™d rather be anywhere but the St. James Theatre...That Harry Connick Jr. is so stiff and ill at ease is a huge bummer, because his character bears the biggest load in Peter Parnellâ€™s new book...At least the score still shines...Mueller and Turner are both appealing actors and bring charm to their characters and songs...Mueller is the real discovery. (Read Full Review)
Had she been written better, Sarah would have been an interesting challenge for the actress -- and she could have handled it -- but author Donald Margulies ("Sight Unseen," "Dinner With Friends") only looks at murky waters, afraid to dive in...Sarah and James argue -- about the ethics of bearing witness to war, about an affair Sarah had in Iraq, about the sacrifices required by coupledom -- as every scene predictably flares up into contention...Under Daniel Sullivan's direction, the cast of this Manhattan Theatre Club production rises above the material it's been handed. Richard is a sketch of a nice guy, but Bogosian fills it with substantial decency. Silverstone imbues Mandy -- a part written with infuriating condescension -- with a kindness and generosity that make Sarah and James look like rude jerks. (Read Full Review)
Of course, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with plays about dysfunctional clans. But weâ€™ve seen a lot already, many of them very, very good. If youâ€™re going to throw another one into the pot, you may want to avoid howlers such as a high-strung mother (Amy Irving) wailing at her grown, neurotic daughters, â€œWhy do you want to hurt yourselves? Why?â€ during a climactic screamfest...We Live Here does have something to say about sisterly rivalries, and the difficulty of living and loving in a gifted personâ€™s shadow -- it may not be a coincidence that the author is the granddaughter of director Elia Kazan. At times, you can glimpse the play that could have been. And then itâ€™s back to clichÃ©s. (Read Full Review)
But the performance is more subtle than this reflexive response indicates: There's a hauntingly off-kilter poetry to Walken.
It almost distracts you from how contrived McDonagh's writing is. The problem is that "Behanding," which opened last night, is simultaneously trying too hard and not hard enough. The first part relates to the tone, which aims for the Coen brothers' sweet spot: hip grotesque, abundant profanity, comic digressions (substitute a monkey for the Royale with cheese here). (Read Full Review)
...terminally earnest and relentlessly sunny... “Soul Doctor” is unlikely to be as popular as the man himself... its hackneyed awkwardness will spell doom on the main stem... Actually, that hackneyed vibe applies to the whole show, from Benoit-Swan Pouffer’s vague choreography to the groan-inducing dialogue. You often wish “Soul Doctor” had called a script doctor... (Read Full Review)
This 12-year-old "play with music" is plagued with well-meaning didacticism...At times, it feels as if we're taking an audioguide tour of the new "Dinosaurs of American Music" wing at the Museum of Natural History. Which is totally fine if you're out with a school group, but frustrating if you want a little more than educational dioramas. (Read Full Review)
Playwright Molly Smith Metzler concocted a volatile mix by layering wacky high jinks over a troubled father-daughter relationship. But both the plot and characters lack structural integrity â€” nothing anybody does or says makes sense. As if this werenâ€™t bad enough, Metzler tarts everything up with clunky cuteness and hackneyed sentiment.
(Read Full Review)
You wonder why Sam bothers, because we sure donâ€™t care â€” none of these characters registers, even when their faces appear in huge black-and-white projections, like Calvin Klein commercials. â€œEverything about us is right,â€ sings Molly, who clearly didnâ€™t notice that 1) she and Sam have zero chemistry and 2) her latest sculpture looks like a giant chocolate cruller. (Read Full Review)
But the whole, blandly acted thing just feels pointless. Itâ€™s as if Rabe wasnâ€™t sure where to go, or how. So in the second act, weâ€™re told that half the city is on fire, then some characters smoke pot and babble on (â€œWhatâ€™s Elvis going to die from?â€). Danny recounts a traumatic memory, Pop barges in with pearls of wisdom (â€œThey are a wind that whirls, these youngâ€) and you wish you could put your head under a pillow and block it all out. (Read Full Review)
It's rare to witness so stunning an act of self-sabotage: Bank found a lovely gem from 1933 by a now-forgotten playwright named Lennox Robinson, then proceeded to obliterate its humor, liveliness and gentle subversion ... something vital is missing in this listless production -- Bank somehow overlooked the helpful subtitle Robinson gave his play: "an exaggeration." It's as if nobody on stage had any inkling this is supposed to be funny. Things are even worse when the characters aren't speaking: The actors just stand there, as stiff and blank as logs. In the chewy roles of touring thespians Hector de la Mare and his wife, Constance Constantia, Kevin Kilner and Jordan Baker barely register. They don't need to imitate Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, the feisty divas in "Kiss Me, Kate," but we could expect at least a bit of zest. Kilner, in particular, speaks in a distractingly indeterminate accent, as if Hector hailed from Cork-on-the-Volga. (Read Full Review)
Self-important...After enduring Rothko's pontificating for two years, Ken finally blows his top. He lashes out at his employer, spitting out exactly what we've been thinking for the past hour: that Rothko is a pompous prig, that he may act all high and mighty but he got a fat check to paint for the rich patrons of an expensive restaurant. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much what Logan has been doing, passing off grand statements as deep thoughts. (Read Full Review)
Chekov's Three Sisters is a tough nut to crack. The characters talk and talk about how much they long for life and meaning, and much of the action takes place offstage. Even with stars like Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard -- a compelling lure in a small theater's close quarters -- doing the talking, the Classic Stage Company's wan revival renders idleness and boredom a bit too realistically...Director Austin Pendleton never gets the tone right, and too often frustrated restlessness is rendered as mere lethargy...By the end of the play, things have changed in slight increments, decisions are finally made. "Life isn't over yet," Olga points out. "We'll go on living." And we'll go on waiting for a good production of this tricky play. (Read Full Review)
But much of the execution is either sloppy or feels like an inferior recycling of "Sleep No More," with a similar grand finale and rumbling mood music. The projected titles, in English and cutesy mangled French -- looking as if it went through Google Translate several times -- quickly become annoying. Why have crap French if the action takes place in France? (Read Full Review)
It may seem like a school effort, but sadly this inept, birdbrained concoction is done by professionals. So instead of one bad “Romeo and Juliet”—the Broadway show with Orlando Bloom and his motorcycle—we now have two. Talk about an embarrassment of glitches. The lure here is Elizabeth Olsen as Juliet…has an appealingly grave, sober presence, but she needs help from a strong actors’ director to channel that inner strength. Tea Alagic isn’t that director. To make matters worse, Romeo is equally green. Left to their own devices, Olsen and Cihi say their lines with conviction and not much else. But then, little in the show has been thought through. We don’t get a sense of the intense hatred between the Montagues and the Capulets, either. The first have no clear identity, while the second seem to have escaped from the Pacino version of “Scarface.” (Read Full Review)
Plays like a stilted hybrid of sitcom and soap opera. Thereâ€™s even a catfight...The show is more interested in family dynamics than political messages. Nothing wrong with that approach, and some details, including one characterâ€™s obsession with â€œArab Idol,â€ are funny. Still, the play suffers from broad characterizations and limp sentimentality. By the end, youâ€™re not even hungry anymore. (Read Full Review)
As the play lugubriously unfolds, nothing really happens beyond Shepardâ€™s usual blend of magical realism and heavy-handed symbolism...As with so many of Shepardâ€™s works, what it all means is anybodyâ€™s guess. But here the mysteries seem shapeless, the conflicts arbitrary. And while the dialogue displays traces of his trademark sardonic humor, the proceedings are mostly dreary and uninvolving. Daniel Aukinâ€™s subdued direction makes the two-hour play seem longer than it is...The uneven performances donâ€™t help matters. (Read Full Review)
Ponderous, snoozy...The entire 90-minute show consists of Roelf trying to exorcise [his] trauma while Simon listens and thoughtfully eats from a can. The two men share the stage but not much else â€” Fugard never establishes any meaningful or dramatic connection between them. This is the kind of show that obviously guns for importance. You can tell it wants to say something big and deep about the desperate mess South Africa is in, but the metaphor isnâ€™t grounded. (Read Full Review)
The showâ€™s full title alludes to Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, but itâ€™s obvious that Kern, a staff writer on The Simpsons, has a sensibility closer to the Farrelly brothers than Stanley Kubrick...Under Peter DuBoisâ€™ direction, the show plods along like a fake-edgy, not particularly well-acted sitcom....Weâ€™re far from piercing satire and firmly in basic cable land, if only because the targets are fuzzy. Who is Kern making fun of: 20-something Brooklynites? Fanboys? Terrorists? America? (Read Full Review)
Sisto (Detective Lupo on "Law & Order") is saddled with an underdeveloped character, which Henry Wishcamper's journeyman direction doesn't help illuminate. Still, the actor is the best thing in the show, and his stoic opacity is quite affecting. But it works only up to a point because the plot is riddled with holes and questionable ellipses. (Read Full Review)
The cast does its best -- Heidi Schreck suggests affecting melancholy as Mary, the neglected wife -- but this is a losing battle. Cho was so concerned with being clever that she forgot to write characters. Here, they're not flesh and blood but artificial constructs designed to make a point. This would matter less if the play fully embraced its occasional surrealism -- a style where psychological depth doesn't matter as much. Instead we get the watered-down version of fantasy: whimsy.
(Read Full Review)
The Forest is a wonderful piece and deserves to be seen -- just not necessarily in this production. Director Brian Kulick seemed to have a hard time deciding what the play is about, and struggled to find the right tone...Kulick sets a torpid pace, dragged down even more by Santo Loquasto's drab set. (Read Full Review)
Unfortunately, Callaghan's attempt to stir up a noir satire -- of academic sycophants, artists without scruples, suburban busybodies, government surveillance -- is toothless. Wrapping the show in tired multimedia trickery meant to suggest a paranoid world doesn't help, either. Having news reports and spy-cam footage flash on monitors serves to remind us only that we'd be better off at home, checking out Law & Order: Los Angeles.
(Read Full Review)
Some shows leave you scratching your head, wondering when they went wrong. At least "Collision" makes it easy: It goes south in the first minute. And it’s all downhill from there -- a better title would be "Train Wreck." At times, the show is so inadvertently laughable that, well, you just have to laugh, as when Doe (Anna Stromberg) earnestly explains that her musician dad called her Do Re Mi. "My father died of an overdose," she says. "The name died with him." If only he had taken the play along. (Read Full Review)
If only this had been "Harold and Kumar and Jesus Start a Band." Sadly, the show is never as funny as that movie franchise, just loaded with witless vulgarity. Like all good aspiring musicians — not to mention deities — Jesus has a groupie of sorts: Sushil's slave, an untouchable named Mahari (Meera Rohit Kumbhani). Flirtation ensues, and eventually she gets pregnant. Rest assured that this is all so lame that it doesn't even qualify as sacrilege. (Read Full Review)
Before winning a Tony for "Memphis," [Joe] DiPietro's claim to fame was the long-running off-Broadway hit about dating "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." This time, he's pretty much written "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Try This Apple"...Director Larry Raben sets a constantly cheerful tone: His Eden is a kitschy '60s paradise of shag carpeting and psychedelic lighting...A lot of this irony is on purpose -- but not all of it. Bret Simmons and David Howard's dull-witted numbers, in particular, have a distinct Up With People! vibe, jaunty and bland. (Read Full Review)
Granted, Tale is a tricky, split-personality work that requires considerable skill. It starts off as a tragic story of devastating jealousy, then abruptly turns into a comedy infused with farce and romance. Director Sam Mendes negotiated those hairpin turns with uncommon grace at BAM last year, but here Michael Greif...is at sea...Santiago-Hudson...doesn't bring any insight to [Leontes] and seems to think memorizing the lines was enough. Rarely has a wrathful king looked and sounded so ineffectual. The tone is much lighter in the second half...But most of the action is taken up by the farcical shenanigans of hick shepherds (Max Wright, Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and a con artist (Hamish Linklater). Singing "the pale moon shines by night," Linklater drops trou. It perfectly encapsulates a show that tries too hard and yet not hard enough. (Read Full Review)
Teenagers on an adventure, a bittersweet coming-of-age lesson, a pudgy friend supplying wisecracks, a rowdy tomboy: This sounds like a musical version of "The Goonies." We should be so lucky.... At least Dusty and Frances add welcome comic relief, and their exchanges are among the funniest in the play. Director Joe Calarco illustrates all this with just some foldout ladders and chairs. It's a brave attempt but quickly wears thin.... Composer Chris Miller and lyricist Nathan Tysen have written undistinguished, bland tunes that sound as if they've been workshopped to death.... Everybody involved should have kept one thing in mind: When the song tells you to "climb ev'ry mountain," you're not meant to take it literally. (Read Full Review)
The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, now in a new Roundabout revival starring Olympia Dukakis, is one of those ill-loved works. The central characters are Williams archetypes -- a devouring older woman, her hypermasculine object of desire -- and the morbid eroticism is hysterically overwrought. It's as if the playwright had gathered his favorite ingredients, jammed them into a microwave and pressed the "nuke" button.
(Read Full Review)
A half-baked play in an attractive package...Itâ€™s not that Regrets is inept or idiotic. Itâ€™s semi-competent and the well-meaning Charman addresses hot-button issues like communism, race relations and male bonding...Carolyn Cantor...canâ€™t even convincingly stage the tussles that tend to break out among idle men. (Read Full Review)
While the actress-turned-author is handy with a quip, "Wishful Drinking" quickly wears thin. After more than two hours of raspy-voiced zingers and Hollywood gossip -- it's actually faster to read the book this touring show inspired -- you feel as if you've been stuck in a simultaneously garish and cheap boudoir with a garrulous drag queen who just. Won't. Shut. Up. That tone is set from the very beginning: Fisher, barefoot in black satin pajamas and a dressing gown, enters singing "Happy Days Are Here Again" while a montage of lurid headlines flashes in the background. Fisher looks downright cheery, dusting the front rows with what looks like sequins. We're one step away from Liza Minnelli, and what follows, complete with sexually ambiguous husbands and complicit use of the audience, only confirms that impression. But while Minnelli channels her tragic baggage through songs, Fisher is a lot more direct: She just tells us. (Read Full Review)
This Roundabout revival of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs. Warren's Profession is agonizingly static and slow, with a tone that navigates a narrow range between flat and distinctly off. Nobody seems to know how to handle the play's wicked balance of anger and comedy.
Jones comes close, but only at times. (Read Full Review)
After a few minutes of strained banter, you wonder where playwright Bathsheba Doran is going. Could this be a piece in which yuppies bicker about life, love, work and relationships? Why, yes it is! And the one thing worse than being embroiled in a pointless domestic dispute is having to watch one.... Even director Jim Simpson and his cast seem to have just given up. Waterston simply plays up his character's spoiled petulance, while Nicholson -- who was excellent in "This" earlier this year -- looks defeated. It's hard to blame her. (Read Full Review)
Creedon has written a lot of radio dramas, which isn't much of a surprise: The shows here are all talk. Tim Ruddy's barely-there direction doesn't do much to enliven the fluid if totally predictable prose, and you won't miss much if you close your eyes for extended periods of time. Ruddy doesn't extract enough nuance from his cast, either. Lane runs down a narrow gamut of expressions ranging from glowering to befuddled in the first show. Mellamphy gives the same puppyish tics to his two characters. His rendition of an umpire's behavior during a match is so static that you have to wonder if he or Ruddy has ever seen a soccer game. That passivity is typical of the production as a whole: It just stands there, seemingly unsure of where to go, what to do. (Read Full Review)
Under director-choreographer Robert Longbottom, this "Birdie" has been completely drained of fun and energy. The Roundabout would have been better off recycling the spirited Encores! production from 2004... Only Jayne Houdyshell, as Albert's overbearing mother, knows how to act cartoonish and stay in character. Everybody else fumbles. As Kim's dad, Bill Irwin looks as if he'd been teleported from another show -- or planet Loony Tunes. Stamos and Gershon sure look great. Then they open their mouths. (Read Full Review)
Dazzle Machine's colorful costumes are inventive as ever -- one evokes a patch of grass, complete with fast-food detritus -- and the second act pointedly suggests that activism can be a smoke screen for selfish motives. But this isn't enough to cover up the fact that nothing happens.... Members of the 36-year-old [Talking Band] played a big role in the work's conception and execution, and their style feels outdated.... That he's a mere ensemble member here says a lot about Mac's generosity, but it also deprives "The Walk Across America" of its fiercest weapon. That's pushing pacifism a step too far.
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The barrage of self-satisfied quips is so relentless that the show quickly becomes numbing...Beane, director Scott Ellis and the two actors are pros, so the show canâ€™t be said to be inept. What it is is grating...When the show finally ends, you canâ€™t wait go home and cleanse with an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, some Lady Gaga and a rerun of "Jersey Shore." (Read Full Review)
The proceedings keep hitting contrived snags, the biggest being Harry and Roxanne's joint baggage -- he dumped her right before their wedding. The real issue, though, is that Roxanne seems to be written for a younger actress. White has no chemistry with either man. Amid forced entrances and exits -- staged in a needlessly frantic manner by director Scott Ellis -- everybody complains, grandstands, agitates, throws fits. The theater, Rebeck seems to say, is one crazy place. And she says it over and over again. (Read Full Review)
As far as subjects for a play go, Mike McAlary is a pretty great choice... And yet Dan Klores' ham-fisted new play, The Wood, hardly ever gets dramatic traction... Klores has little ear for either dialogue or pacing. Even a key confrontation between McAlary and accused cop Justin Volpe (Michael Carlsen) is limp. You're better off reading McAlary's own account of that meeting, a terse column boiling with restrained fury.
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[Sam] Gold went for full immersion here. He reconfigured Soho Repâ€™s small space so itâ€™s now in the round, with the audience seated on bleacher-like steps covered in industrial carpeting. Unless youâ€™re a yoga fiend, prepare for a fidgety, uncomfortable night...This closeness allows the actors to speak naturally, without being forced to project...But Gold and company take this realism one step too far: Just because the characters are bored and depressed doesnâ€™t mean we should be, too. The punishingly slow pace and the monotonous, perpetually downbeat mood miss the satire and snuff out any potential sparks...Too often, the characters come across as merely whiny or pathetic. Itâ€™s hard to muster compassion for any of them. (Read Full Review)
The most exciting moment in "That Championship Season" comes when Jason Patric's character, Tom, falls down a flight of stairs. For a couple of seconds, you're involved in what's happening: Wow, that was something! Is he OK? How long did he have to rehearse that stunt? And then it's right back to sleep. Jason Miller's "That Championship Season" was showered with awards back in 1973: a Tony for Best Play, a Pulitzer Prize. Yet this ham-fisted drama about basketball teammates reuniting 20 years after winning the state high school trophy has aged so badly -- the absent women, for instance, are typically described as whores -- that these accolades seem baffling today. (Read Full Review)
Subpar at best, these efforts -- I use the term loosely, because it looks as if nobody tried very hard -- come nowhere near the authorsâ€™ best. This is an egregious case of selling your audience short...Coenâ€™s opening trifle, â€œTalking Cure,â€ might have been dashed off between takes on a shoot...Recalling his ghastly â€œhumorâ€ pieces for The New Yorker, Allenâ€™s â€œHoneymoon Motelâ€ plays as if it spent decades in a freezer. Rest assured, though, that ticket prices very much belong to 2011...The filling in this stale sandwich of horrors is Mayâ€™s â€œGeorge Is Dead,â€ and it is indeed somewhat meatier. (Read Full Review)
The cast treads gingerly around the flimsy-looking set -- even the library's books are fake -- and displays less heat than New Yorkers discussing the blizzard's cleanup. Playing the Dutch-born Van Helsing, Hearn -- a Tony winner for the original "La Cage aux Folles" -- stops rolling his R's midway through. As Lucy, one of Dracula's victims, Emily Bridges (daughter of actor Beau) manages looks of dazed stupor that almost match those in the audience. (Read Full Review)
Welcome to the most boring midlife crisis of the year. No matter what happens to Harper Regan, the title character of Simon Stephensâ€™ new drama, itâ€™s hard to care...The most emotion this show creates is the joy of finally being able to leave the theater after two hours and 20 minutes of mind-numbing soul-searching...Helping us pass the time are some worthy supporting turns. (Read Full Review)
Herzog treats some deep subjects in a hopelessly bumbling manner. It's hard to pinpoint where things irremediably go wrong: the tone-deaf dialogue, the sluggish pacing, the cardboard characters. Even minor details ring false. Someone mentions seeing Vera play tennis in Central Park, but as wonderful as the 80-year-old Smith is, it's unlikely she'd be running around a court. Carolyn Cantor's clumsy direction doesn't help. (Read Full Review)
...Maroulis trades lines with a giant video projection of himself as Hyde. So much for the show’s one and only point, that good and evil live within one man. Maybe Jeff Calhoun, the usually capable director/choreographer (“Newsies,” “Bonnie & Clyde”), lacked confidence in his star. But it’s unfair to single out poor Maroulis when the overall production is a cheap mess of bare-bones set and clueless staging that defeats the show’s bombastic allure... Maroulis is a likable performer... But he’s out of his depth here... the evening is a dispiriting slog.
Itâ€™s tempting to think of Title and Deed as an elaborate prank played on a helpless audience...The playwright may aim for Beckettian existentialism, but Title and Deed feels more like a torturous, high-concept stand-up act...This is Jerry Seinfeld in hell. â€œI donâ€™t sense much joy around here, with all of you,â€ our narrator observes. Accurate enough, and it may have something to do with the fact that heâ€™s boring us senseless with asinine, pseudo-deep prattle. Just an educated guess. (Read Full Review)
With Faith stumped, the Velociraptor of Innocence (Alex Wyse) goes off to find answers from the exiled Velociraptor of Science (Lindsay Nicole Chambers). Both actors, late of â€œLysistrata Jones,â€ have a knack for comedy, and â€œTriassic Parqâ€ is best when theyâ€™re front and center. But thereâ€™s only so much they can do with the lazy material. â€œThe â€˜sâ€™ in science is for â€˜Suck my d - - k,â€™ â€ raps the Velociraptor of Science. â€œThe â€˜câ€™ of science is foâ€™ â€˜Come and take it.â€™â€ Amazingly, it took three people â€” including Marshall Pailet, who also wrote the music and directed â€” to come up with those lyrics. Worse still, the show has no inner logic. (Read Full Review)
Mulligan is perfectly fine, of course, but even she can't save the show...[Bergman is] lucky to be dead and safe from this fiasco. As an adaptation, Through a Glass Darkly is clueless about Bergman's aesthetics and themes. But we didn't trade up: On its own terms, it's a ham-fisted melodrama. Talk about lose-lose...Whereas the austere, slow-paced movie gradually suggested the issues gnawing at both Karin and her family, Worton spells everything out. She replaces Bergman's silences with constant, shallow pop-psychological yakking...What a colossal missed opportunity. (Read Full Review)
* Its title may be The 39 Steps, but this play feels like at least 3,900 of them by now. Between January 2008 and January 2010, it played 771 performances on Broadway -- in three different theaters. Then the show followed Avenue Q in transfering from to the off venue New World Stages. But seeing The 39 Steps again for the first time in over two years, I'm sad to say that it's time to pull the plug...The actors overplay with no sense of measure. They're either going too fast and confusing frantic for madcap, or too slow and dragging gags an unnecessary extra beat or ten. The less said about their British and Scottish accents, the better...I felt like I was watching the Kids in the Hall perform Beckett. (Read Full Review)
... a grinding slog. Amazingly, itâ€™s possible to make a story about a bombed-out New York overrun by militant Muslims seem tedious. This should surprise Rappâ€™s fans... But this show is a big stumble... we never get a clear idea of what the Egg Headsâ€™ master plan is... Eventually two mysterious characters come to trade it for a 14-year-old (Vladimir Versailles). Why? No idea. Couldnâ€™t we just have had a plague of zombies and called it a day? (Read Full Review)
But then nothing makes sense in this poorly plotted show. The urbane, well-traveled Khadim, who at one point corrects Danielson’s English, doesn’t know what a prom is. More likely he’s lying, but why would he lie about something so trivial? And why would the principal confess to so many incriminating details? As the clock in Danielson’s office ticks by, very slowly, the characters bring up more and more shocking revelations, as if pulling them out of thin air: cold-war tunnels under the school! A gang rape! A sex tape! (Read Full Review)
Sellars' wretched show is both too much and not enough. In actuality, this supposedly daring Public Theater/Labyrinth Company production is a sheep in wolf's clothing. There's nothing genuinely radical onstage, only a cosmic void free of passion, insight and imagination. Surprisingly, considering some of the talent involved, the most basic level of craft is lacking. The only thing you'll find in abundance is time: The glacially paced show takes four hours to go nowhere...Even the set is preposterous -- dominated by a bed made of TV monitors, so when Othello and Desdemona (Jessica Chastain) roll around on it, it's like they're making out at Best Buy. Worse, the miscast actors are misdirected -- when in doubt, they shout their lines the way "American Idol" contestants fall back on melisma. Ortiz is pallid, Chastain ineffectual, and Ekulona (fantastic as the brothel owner in "Ruined") just glowers. As for Hoffman, his Iago is a socially maladjusted nerd in a tight top. (Read Full Review)
The Rattlestick Theatre has a vintage tin ceiling. I noticed it because I kept rolling my eyes at all the contrived drama in "Little Doc." .... Klores piles on the shock tactics -- this is yet another play with onstage vomiting -- and 11th-hour revelations, but to little effect. Granted, the cast bears some responsibility. Under John Gould Rubin's direction, they never suggest a visceral connection with the material.
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'Goodbye and good luck to you all," a woman said as she fled Studio 54 at intermission like a bat out of musical-theater hell. It wasn't clear whether she wished that to the audience members who remained at The People in the Picture or the actors in that Roundabout fiasco.
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[I]t's not easy to say that his latest effort, "Me, Myself & I," which opened last night at Playwrights Horizons, is a downright embarrassing mishmash of tired influences and lazy wordplay. The only way you'll find it remotely interesting is if you haven't been to the theater since 1945.
Writing about identical twins OTTO (Zachary Booth) and otto (Preston Sadleir), Albee is back working in his metaphysical/absurdist vein. This means he borrows a lot -- think US national debt-level -- from Ionesco and Beckett. In this world, both existence and action are defined by language. You need only to say something to make it happen -- or to make others take it at face value -- as when OTTO tries to will otto out of existence, or declares he wants to become Chinese. That this goes exactly nowhere is part of the maddening point, but it's still frustrating because the execution is so hackneyed. (Read Full Review)
The most popular young-adult novels these days—“The Hunger Games,” “The 5th Wave”—feature hotties entangled in love triangles while trying to survive in a dystopian, dangerous world. Now comes “Venice”—same idea, only it’s an off-Broadway musical. The disaster may be in the past for the characters, but the audience is living it, having to endure a poorly written, limply staged and feebly acted show. In addition to writing the book and directing, [Eric] Rosen penned the lyrics with composer Matt Sax—another multitasker who gave himself a juicy role billed as “Clown MC.” Translation: a rapping narrator who comes across as a pale, irksome copy of “In the Heights” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. This banality is reflected in Beowulf Boritt’s scaffold set and Clint Ramos’ costumes…Terrible musicals are a dime a dozen, but what makes “Venice” galling is its humorless grandstanding. Bad is bad, but self-important bad is worse.
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Levieva, in particular, is downright unbelievable as the cunning, headstrong Anika. (She's much better in contemporary roles, as those who caught her in "Adventureland" can attest.) Granted, Anika is saddled with wince-inducing lines. "The world continues to disappoint me, Jascha," she moans. "The world continues to be unfair." This twaddle would defeat Meryl Streep, and Levieva, sounding like a petulant emo kid with posters of Theodor Herzl in her bedroom, doesn't stand a chance. (Read Full Review)