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Erik Haagensen



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Backstage

Reviews

A+

The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part 3

Now that the end of the cycle has been reached, I'm happy to say that what I hoped for after seeing Part One is true: Foote's final gift to the stage is glorious, an essential American masterwork. (Read Full Review)

A+

Mistakes Were Made

Craig Wright’s explosively funny Mistakes Were Made is 100 minutes of high-octane bliss, with a tour de force turn from Michael Shannon blazing at its center. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard and so often at the theater. Gentlemen, my hat isn’t just off; it’s yet to come to earth. (Read Full Review)

A+

Born Bad

A smashing production...rings with the clarion force of the trumpet calls that brought down the walls of Jericho. Tackling well-worn subject matter that these days is usually found in sentimental TV movies, Green's verbally stylized, physically concentrated, psychologically stripped-to-the bone approach results in a thoroughly disquieting, relentlessly penetrating work of art. It's essential and stunning theater...Director Leah C. Gardiner's sculptural staging enhances Green's work at every turn...Gardiner elicits precisely etched performances from the superb six-person cast...One of the most exhilarating evenings of theater in recent memory. (Read Full Review)

A+

War Horse

For two and a half hours I sat enthralled by War Horse, taken completely out of myself and the petty concerns of my life. Gloriously theatrical and almost unbearably moving, this stirring testimonial to the power of honest sentiment is a never-to-be-forgotten theatrical experience...Directors Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris marshal their forces with limitless invention...But none of this immense creativity would have the desired effect without the script and performances to realize it. Fortunately, Nick Stafford's canny adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's fine children's novel is top-drawer. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Temperamentals

The cast conveys the repression of the era palpably, along with the tremendous bravery of men who refused to accept the situation. Everyone takes on multiple roles except Thomas Jay Ryan, who brings the outsize Hay to blazing life. Ryan is adept at highlighting the many contradictions in Hay, who was simultaneously controlling and vulnerable, and in charting his journey from buttoned-down conformity to the flamboyant charisma of the man who founded the Radical Faeries in 1979. Michael Urie matches him in intensity as Gernreich, capturing the character's Viennese charm and quiet confidence and, despite Urie's dark good looks, locating his sexual appeal in his restless intelligence. Tom Beckett, Matthew Schneck, and Sam Breslin create vivid and distinct fellow travelers as Rowland, Hull, and Jennings and contribute virtuoso work in all the remaining roles, with a special nod to Beckett's Minnelli. Gernreich's artistic credo was "a bold statement on a classic pattern," and Marans has taken his advice, successfully shaping for the stage a sprawling story more naturally suited to film. The Temperamentals deserves a much longer life than this limited showcase run. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Normal Heart

Finally where it belongs, on Broadway, it can be seen now for the towering American tragedy that it is, as essential to our culture as Long Day's Journey Into Night or Death of a Salesman. Being given a letter-perfect production by directors Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, this is a Heart that beats with blistering but redemptive power...Kramer's indispensable work tells us who we were and how we got here. Such knowledge is indispensable for knowing where we should be headed and how to get there. If you see only one play this year, make it The Normal Heart. (Read Full Review)

A+

A Streetcar Named Desire

One thing's for sure: Liv Ullmann's production of this Tennessee Williams classic is not your parents' "Streetcar." A penetratingly intelligent actor herself, Ullmann brings her keen sense of character to her direction, making bold and unusual choices that nevertheless feel fully grounded in psychological truth. She gets us to look at this story and these characters in fresh ways, and anyone who can accomplish that with a play so embedded in our culture deserves every one of the accolades certain to be tossed her way. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Best Is Yet To Come

What a joy it is to settle into a theater seat and watch a show unfold in which all hands are not only on the same deck but also know how to navigate with consummate skill and artistry...This beautifully structured, exquisitely executed revue is a dry-martini delight that should leave everyone, from aficionados of Broadway's coolest composer to the uninitiated, dizzy with pleasure. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part 1

By the time director Michael Wilson's bone-deep production of the first part of Horton Foote's "The Orphans' Home Cycle" is over, nearly three hours have passed in the blink of an eye. I wanted the second part to begin immediately...Foote based his work on the life of his father, which he learned of through numerous family stories told repeatedly to him in his youth. He certainly listened well: The writing is wise, deeply observant, and impressively detailed. Deceptively small-scaled and naturalistic, the work is really epic in scope, placing the lives of these modest people against the sweeping forces of social change and the vagaries of time. There is more genuine myth evoked in a single moment of Foote's simplicity than in all the self-consciously poetic strivings of the Public Theater's current "The Brother/Sister Plays." There's not a weak link in the 22-member company, which serves the writing beautifully under Wilson's piercingly clear-eyed direction...What we are being served here is nothing less than an American masterwork. (Read Full Review)

A+

Fences

Leon knocks it out of the park with this beautifully calibrated realization...Denzel Washington is magnificent in the role indelibly created by James Earl Jones, and the astonishing Viola Davis matches him every step of the way. It's a deeply moving, hugely satisfying evening of theater...Troy is a character of Shakespearian dimension, and Washington doesn't miss a facet...The electric Davis invests Rose with a lovely, almost girlish joy that can turn in a tick to implacable determination and womanly grit. (Read Full Review)

A+

Sondheim on Sondheim

Lapine makes smart choices. There's a healthy amount of less familiar material (Sondheim even sends himself up in "God," a brand-new piece of special material), and most of the cast aren't known for performing Sondheim's work. Combined with the decision to eschew chronology in favor of a thematic structure, the result is a continual sense of anticipation married with a welcome freshness of interpretation. Most important, despite the presence of stars—Barbara Cook, Tom Wopat, Vanessa Williams—this is an ensemble show that places the spotlight exactly where it should be: on the material. All but two of Sondheim's 20 professional outings are included ("The Frogs" and "Pacific Overtures" didn't make the cut). Musical director David Loud's terrific arrangements reinvent some numbers (a jazzy quartet version of "Something's Coming," arresting vocal harmonies in "So Many People," and an inspired pairing of "Losing My Mind" and "Not a Day Goes By"), while Michael Starobin's incisive eight-piece orchestration sounds amazingly full. (Read Full Review)

A+

Finian's Rainbow

A magical production that should enchant both lovers of the Golden Age musical and those who favor more-contemporary fare. Personally, I would have called such a thing impossible. But this "Finian's Rainbow" is for everybody, and I hope it runs forever...Wisely, the producers...brought in Arthur Perlman, a respected book writer in his own right and a Harburg aficionado. Perlman has restored the politics, worked overtime to maintain narrative cohesion, disciplined the whimsy, and kept the emotional stakes high. He and director-choreographer Warren Carlyle make sure there isn't a single wasted moment. The show flies giddily by, touching lightly but tellingly on issues of class and racial prejudice while making us care about its story and characters...Cheyenne Jackson and Kate Baldwin as the lovers were highpoints of the concert version, and they've only gotten better here. His easy grace has been fortified with grit and a sly wit, while she has discovered strength in stillness. Both still sing gloriously. Jim Norton's delightful Finian remains the show's emotional center...An immeasurable boost comes from the addition of the scintillating Christopher Fitzgerald.

Theatermania A+
(David Finkle) Every single production element coalesces into one incandescently seamless whole...While the script (which has been tweaked by Arthur Freedman and David Ives) can occasionally seem old-fashioned, lyrics which mock "the misbegotten GOP" and the birth of credit are astonishingly pertinent. As for the amazing score by Burton Lane and Harburg -- which includes such now-standards as "Old Devil Moon," and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" -- let's just say that every song in the show is the best song in the show. Director and choreographer Warren Carlyle not only sees to the show's singing and dancing requirements imaginatively, but he also takes care that every chorus member has a distinct personality. He's also assembled a stand-out cast of lead performers.

The New York Times A
(Charles Isherwood) Joyous...Here is where you should head this fall to warm your soul amid the diversions of that ever-great and ever-endangered American art form, musical comedy. All the comforting pleasures of the genre — infectious song, exuberant dancing, jokes both lovably corny and unexpectedly fresh, and of course the satisfying pairing of a him and a her — are on abundant display in this thoroughly winning production, a welcome picker-upper in an uneven Broadway season...Beautiful music has a way of binding together the most unlikely materials, and the score for “Finian’s Rainbow,” by the lyricist E. Y. Harburg and the composer Burton Lane, is itself an overflowing pot of memorable songs, by turns yearning and bouncy, mocking and sincere, soft as a rose petal and clever as a crossword. Under the nimble direction of Warren Carlyle, who also supplies the buoyant choreography, this bounteous score is being sung with lively conviction by a cast of Broadway regulars and veterans, and one confident newcomer. The morning after seeing “Finian’s Rainbow,” you may well find yourself shaking your head at the absurdities of the book by Mr. Harburg and Fred Saidy, a tipsy jumble of romance, fantasy and satire...But you will remember, above all, the soaring lift of the music. (Read Full Review)

A+

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

A sold-out hit Off-Broadway for Lincoln Center Theater this past fall, it is easily the best new play of the Main Stem season to date and a top contender for the Tony Award. Both breathtakingly funny and quietly poignant, this Chekhov-inspired work -- for which knowledge of the Russian master's plays is not a requirement -- is pure joy from start to finish. Director Nicholas Martin has skillfully refashioned his original thrust staging for a proscenium house, and the happy result is a small but undeniable comedic boost. (Read Full Review)

A+

Angels in America

Signature Theatre Company offered the theatrical event of last season with its extraordinary production of Horton Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle. Though it's a bit early to say, the company may have pulled off that feat again, thanks to director Michael Greif's equally extraordinary production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. One thing's for sure: This production makes it clear that Kushner's seven-hour, two-part epic belongs in the first rank of great American dramas... What's more, it's proof that despite Mike Nichols' fine film version, the only way to experience the work's full impact is in its original home: the theater.
(Read Full Review)

A+

The Big Meal

In The Big Meal, playwright Dan LeFranc has set himself a daunting task: capturing all the banality and beauty of human existence in a mere 80 minutes. And damn if he doesn’t succeed, and brilliantly. Clear-eyed yet compassionate, hopeful and heartbreaking, LeFranc’s compelling miniature works to maximum effect, proving the age-old rule that universality is rooted in specificity. In what I promise will be the only food metaphor in this review, The Big Meal is a richly satisfying repast. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Glass Menagerie

The quicksilver Darragh is a revelation as an unambiguously homosexual Tom, who is not just "going to the movies" at night. It's clear that Laura shares and protects her brother's secret, emphasizing their tight bond. When Tom tells his mother there's "so much I can't describe" about his feelings, his sexual turmoil infuses the moment. When his famous diatribe against her escalates into the epithet "you ugly babbling old witch," it's because Amanda is trying to tear up something Tom is writing. The famous curtain lines are more searing than ever. This Tom had no choice but to abandon Laura. Staying would have killed him. But that doesn't lessen his pain or guilt. Darragh is giving the kind of performance that lingers in the mind for life, and he's matched by Judith Ivey as Amanda. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Boys in the Band

Once word is out on this sensational production, tickets are going to be scarcer than straight boys at Splash. Cummings and his extraordinary cast—companies such as this one are why acting ensemble awards exist—burrow right to the core of Crowley's landmark work, and what they unearth feels as raw and fresh as "Boys" did when it blew the lid off the American theater in 1968. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Other Place

Bold, unflinching, and ingeniously constructed, this is a show not to be missed. Juliana insists that she has brain cancer, but as the proceedings progress we come to understand that she is in denial about more than just her illness, despite her ferocious intelligence and astringent personality. The title refers to a Cape Cod beach house that has been in Juliana’s family for generations and that will be the site of both Juliana’s humbling and her salvation. Nevertheless, even knowing what would happen, I was again riveted. (Read Full Review)

A+

Detroit

Gets under your skin and stays there. This disquieting comedy-drama speaks specifically about its characters’ lives while also addressing the state of American society in the wake of the Great Recession. In director Anne Kauffman’s confident, probing hands, D’Amour’s heightened naturalism grows in intensity as the placid suburban surface crumbles...Detroit has an exhilaratingly original perspective and voice that stamp D’Amour as a playwright to be reckoned with...I liked D’Amour’s play when I saw it. And then it kept insistently rattling around in my head for days afterward. Because I see a lot of theater, that doesn’t happen to me all that much. Don’t miss Detroit. It’s special. (Read Full Review)

A+

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Under Pam McKinnon’s ruthlessly incisive direction, Tracy Letts and Amy Morton—playwright and star of the celebrated August: Osage County—reunite as a particularly well-matched George and Martha, whose epic battles are as dangerous as their need for each other is palpable. Albee’s ferocious and funny masterpiece couldn’t be better served...The chance to see a great play in a great production doesn’t come along all that often. Here’s your chance. (Read Full Review)

A+

This Wide Night

Sometimes modest can be marvelous, and such is the case with Chloë Moss' new two-hander, "This Wide Night," getting its American premiere from Naked Angels after winning the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in England. Moss knows exactly what she's about and executes it simply, cleanly, and affectingly, aided by Anne Kauffman's sensitive direction and two piercing performances from Edie Falco and Alison Pill. Her story of two ex-cons trying to forge new lives in the world is not new, nor is her style, a sort of elliptical realism. But truth is always new, and Moss delivers that aplenty. (Read Full Review)

A

Slipping

None of this is new, yet all of it is compelling due to the specificity of character and emotional complexity of Talbott's script. The bifurcated structure helps enormously; we are only given pieces of the puzzle and must work to put them together. What is particularly gratifying is that when that puzzle fills in, it doesn't feel in any way pat or reductive, just true. Kirsten Kelly's sharply focused direction guides us confidently, and she even manages to make a virtue out of a debit. "Slipping" is a bit hemmed in by the tiny Rattlestick space; it needs the ability to move away from Eli's suburban bedroom, however nicely realized by designer Lauren Helpern. With no place for that bed and room to go, Kelly is forced to rely on her actors to move set pieces to change locales. They do this resolutely in character, so much so that the scene changes actually tell us more about them, keeping the action hurtling forward when it all too easily could have halted. (Read Full Review)

A

Golden Child

It’s been a busy time in New York theater, with major shows opening on and off Broadway like a row of falling dominoes. Happily, the percentage of good work has been high, and it just got higher with Signature Theatre’s production of David Henry Hwang’s “Golden Child.” Written with insight, compassion, and a sharp eye for the unintended consequences of clashing cultures, “Golden Child” is one of Hwang’s best works, as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

Under Leigh Silverman’s perceptive direction, the cast does superb ensemble work. Signature’s physical production—Neil Patel’s serene and symmetrical wooden set, Anita Yavich’s eye-catching costumes, Matt Frey’s chiaroscuro lighting, and sound designer Darron L West’s dramatically acute use of music—is first-rate, as is this exemplary and very welcome revival.
(Read Full Review)

A

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

a lovely, generous, and very funny new comedy at Lincoln Center Theater about aging and regret that, as the title implies, riffs on the characters and themes of Anton Chekhov. Sigourney Weaver ... knows exactly what to do with the oxygen-sucking Masha, whose narcissism comes as natural to her as breathing. David Hyde Pierce ... as the phlegmatic Vanya ... his comic timing with a look or a gesture is impeccable. (Read Full Review)

A

A Civil War Christmas

From the fecund imagination of Paula Vogel comes "A Civil War Christmas," a gorgeous tapestry of interconnected stories ... The valiant Tina Landau directs a crackerjack company of 11 actors - in multiple roles unrestricted by race or gender - with unceasing invention. Inspirational holiday-themed offerings are not generally my thing, but this New York Theatre Workshop show transcends its genre ... As Jessa, adrift on Washington streets in the bitter cold, Sumaya Bouhbal shines as bright as a Christmas star ... Vogel has made song the beating heart of the show, and Resnick, Waters, and the cast realize that vision beautifully. "A Civil War Christmas" is as fresh as a bracing winter snowfall. (Read Full Review)

A

Golden Boy

What a pleasure it is to encounter Clifford Odets’ soaring, expansive, and tough-as-nails “Golden Boy.” Director Bartlett Sher’s immensely satisfying production roars off the stage of the Belasco Theatre. Lincoln Center Theater has given us a formidable account of an American classic. A sumptuously talented cast of 19 digs into the tale of would-be violinist Joe Bonaparte, who forsakes music in favor of a high-stakes career as a boxer for monetary reasons. Space limitations forbid me saluting all the fine turns in the company. (Read Full Review)

A

Cyrano de Bergerac

In English director Jamie Lloyd’s tart reconsideration, using Ranjit Bolt’s tersely colloquial new translation and featuring a bracingly fresh interpretation of the title role by the Tony-winning Douglas Hodge, I suddenly found myself emotionally engaged in this unlikely love triangle. This is a Cyrano that sings...Hodge devours the role from his initial, highly theatrical entrance...It’s not just Hodge’s fine work, however, that puts the proceedings over. (Read Full Review)

A

If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet

It’s clear that Nick Payne has a keen understanding of the minefield that is the human heart. His “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet” offers a rigorously unsentimental yet deeply empathetic portrait of a loving family in crisis. Director Michael Longhurst’s inventive abstract staging supports Payne beautifully, and the terrific Jake Gyllenhaal, sporting a flawless working-class regional English accent in his American stage debut, eschews a star turn to take his place in a top-flight four-person ensemble. It all makes for a riveting evening of theater. (Read Full Review)

A

The Great God Pan

...a moving and unsettling look at the nature of identity and the vagaries of memory. With subtlety and compassion, Herzog contemplates how well we can really know ourselves... “Revolution” director Carolyn Cantor guides the production with clarity and sensitivity.
(Read Full Review)

A

Harrison, TX

The men are every bit as good. Jeremy Bobb gives C.W. a clueless condescension without obscuring his humanity and listens with fierce sympathy as the mysterious Ralph. Alexander Cendese differentiates the equally troubled McHenry and Harvey with aplomb, each a concentration of specific angst. A bright buoyancy is leavened by a callow sense of entitlement in Evan Jonigkeit's beaming Felix, the young man Dolores dredges up for Sarah Nancy. Devon Abner's Robert is full of perplexed middle-class masculinity, while his Pinkey, an assistant to C.W., is more rough-hewn and frayed. (Read Full Review)

A

Talley's Folly

The brilliant Danny Burstein and Sarah Paulson dance a delicate, enthralling waltz in “Talley’s Folly,” Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning 1979 play about two damaged people who unexpectedly find each other despite being trapped by the stultifying bigotry and conformity of 1944 Missouri. Director Michael Wilson’s exquisite production for Roundabout Theatre Company is, as critic Walter Kerr deemed Marshall W. Mason’s masterful original, “a treasure.” (Read Full Review)

A

Dogfight

Superbly crafted, gratifyingly intelligent, richly observant, and immensely enjoyable. This is musical theater at its finest...Klena is spot-on with Eddie's determined cockiness and smug surety that mask a more troubled, sensitive soul. Mendez is a luminous Rose, tougher and wiser than she appears and without a trace of self-pity. The two actors make this improbable pairing utterly believable and deeply touching. Mantello and Gattelli work together gracefully to deliver a seamless staging...Dogfight deserves a long and healthy life on Broadway. (Read Full Review)

A

The Temperamentals

Without wanting to denigrate any of the other worthy [gay-themed] offerings currently on the New York City boards, "The Temperamentals" remains by far the best of an interesting bunch...This production features four of the original five cast members, and their sterling work shines even more brightly...In the capable hands of Ryan and Urie, the political arguments are as hotly engaging as the couple's star-crossed romance.

(Haagensen's review of the first production is here.) (Read Full Review)

A

Harvey

I really didn't expect Mary Chase's popular 1944 comedy to fly in our much more cynical age. So I'm happy to report that Roundabout Theatre Company's production at Studio 54 is a lighter-than-air lark grounded by a strain of touching melancholy. Chase's gentle fable about the costs of conformity and the human need for connection states universal truths that continue to resonate. It's also a hell of a lot of fun. (Read Full Review)

A

Rapture, Blister, Burn

Packed with humanity, wit, and plenty of compelling argument, the show is a hugely entertaining cross between Bernard Shaw and Wendy Wasserstein...Under director Peter DuBois' astute and fleet direction, the cast sparkles. (Read Full Review)

A

The Columnist

Faced with a fascinating protagonist but lacking a strong plot, Auburn has devised an ingenious structure of subtly accreting scenes that generates considerable forward motion, coalescing in both a complex character study and a surprisingly full portrait of an era of rapid change in American society. Under Daniel Sullivan’s unerring direction, John Lithgow delivers a riveting turn in the title role of this crackling entertainment. (Read Full Review)

A

4000 Miles

One of the things about my job over which I fret is that I get only one shot at assessing a production. I know how shows can vary from night to night, affected by everything from an actor’s bad day to a show-me audience to the cumulative effect of regularly playing the piece. It can be a challenge separating the writing from its realization. When I saw Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles” last June at the Duke on 42nd Street, while I found much to praise, I had my caveats. I expected to have them again at Lincoln Center Theater’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, where the play has been remounted with its original cast and director intact. Though Herzog has hardly changed a word (apparently just a few tiny tweaks), the flaws I found then were entirely absent. I don’t know whether it’s due to the mercurial nature of theatrical alchemy or if I just got it wrong. In any event, “4000 Miles” is a quiet triumph. (Read Full Review)

A

The Old Boy

As American society finally reaches a tipping point in its acceptance of gay people, it’s vital to remember the culture’s once-ubiquitous acceptance of the belief that gays were sick and sinful and needed to be made “normal.” Director Jonathan Silverstein’s piercing, beautifully acted production quietly but powerfully dramatizes the damage and waste caused by such Neanderthal attitudes, as well as the courage required to overcome them. (Read Full Review)

A

After Miss Julie

After Roundabout's recent Bye Bye Birdie debacle, it's heartening to be able to report that the company has bounced back with a gripping production of Patrick Marber's After Miss Julie, his reworked version of Strindberg's classic...Film star Sienna Miller essays the title character. Though this is only her second stage appearance, she is clearly to the medium born. She wrings every nuance from her mercurial character and is particularly adept at suggesting the damaged girl within this restless and unhappy young woman. While Miller's beauty lights up the American Airlines Theatre, she doesn't rely upon it and is indeed fearless in abandoning it when necessary. When Miss Julie's fantasies of running off with John to New York to start a new life collapse, Miller turns her character's attempt to reassert her class privileges into a throbbing wound. Even when Miss Julie's actions threaten to destroy everyone around her, Miller makes her selfishness understandable and even sympathetic. (Read Full Review)

A

The Lady From Dubuque

The conventional wisdom was wrong. This blistering yet deeply humane metaphysical drama about death ranks with Albee's finest work... Albee is painting a carefully heightened portrait of the grimy pettiness to which human beings can descend, and it's an ugly sight... Under David Esbjornson's textured direction, the fearless cast tears into the play... Albee gets all the brutality, messy emotions, and infuriating banality exactly right. The Lady From Dubuque is a sure and stunning blow to the heart. (Read Full Review)

A

Tribes

Ruthlessly unsentimental and well-observed. Under the doesn't-miss-a-trick direction of the excellent David Cromer, a superb six-person cast mines every ounce of humor and feeling in this enthralling new work...Cromer's enveloping in-the-round staging puts us smack in the family home, dodging to get out of the line of fire. (Read Full Review)

A

Brighton Beach Memoirs

Cromer's clean, straightforward direction happily shuns all shtick. Even better, he has cast well. Of course, without a Eugene there is no play (the role made a star out of Matthew Broderick), and here we get the terrific Noah Robbins, making an auspicious Broadway debut at only 19. Robbins take control like a seasoned veteran. His rock-solid comic timing is nevertheless integrated into a detailed, finely nuanced characterization of this young man struggling to discover himself. He and the charismatic Santino Fontana as Stanley have excellent rapport: Their scene in which Stanley enlightens Eugene about sexual matters is a highlight. As their cousins, Gracie Bea Lawrence charms as the dutiful Laurie, who isn't as sure about her heart's flutter as her mother is, and Alexandra Socha makes a strong impression as Nora, showing us the inner seething resentment that could easily lead this bright young girl down dangerous roads. (Read Full Review)

A

Neighbourhood Watch

Alan Ayckbourn is back in top form with the dryly hilarious “Neighbourhood Watch,” a stinging comedy that spares no one as it looks at a group of British suburbanites who decide to self-police their placid little bit of England’s “green and pleasant land” to keep out the riffraff. Directed faultlessly by its author, the show arrives from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, England, with its incisive original cast intact, led by the brilliant Alexandra Mathie, a comic goddess if ever there was one. (Read Full Review)

A

Blood and Gifts

Rogers' pungent writing is full of sharp characterizations as it painstakingly charts how decisions made with even the best of intentions can lead to chaos...Evoking such writers as Graham Greene and John le Carré, Rogers nevertheless asserts a unique voice in this gripping and absorbing drama...Bartlett Sher's direction crackles and pops, keeping this two-and-a-half-hour show moving with inexorable force. (Read Full Review)

A

Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway

There are definitely better singers, finer actors, and more-accomplished dancers out there than Hugh Jackman. There are even bigger stars. But I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone else in show business today who can levitate an audience the way Jackman is doing right now in his not-exactly-one-man musical show...Combine his potent triple-threat capabilities with unstinting charisma and bottomless geniality and the result is one of the most memorable performers ever to grace a Broadway stage in my lifetime. (Read Full Review)

A

The Blue Flower

To properly enjoy this insinuating, intensely creative show, you need to put aside intellectual questions and simply take the ride. Exotic and playful, suffused with empathy, this Flower blooms with a haunting beauty...Director Will Pomerantz orchestrates the many elements into a spellbinding whole and elicits powerful performances from his four leads...The Bauers' formalistic, presentational script, in which narration often dominates, heightens the evening's sense of reserve yet somehow never obscures character. Mr. Bauer's ravishing music, which he has orchestrated himself, mixes appropriate period influences with arresting contemporary sounds and rhythms, emotionally enveloping the show. (Read Full Review)

A

Other Desert Cities

Have Baitz and director Joe Mantello kept the magic intact? You bet...Cities remains both grandly entertaining and deeply perceptive in its portrait of a loving but dysfunctional American family riven by political and personal differences...Baitz, a playwright known for his intelligence, perception, and nuanced psychology, here adds a rich theatricality and faultless command of craft that lift his work to a new level. Mantello orchestrates it expertly. (Read Full Review)

A

Nightingale

About as minimalist as you can get. She sits at a desk and tells us the story of her maternal grandmother, Beatrice "Beanie" Kempson, alternating her account with relevant reminiscences from her own life. It may not sound like much, but thanks to the tremendous specificity and detail of Redgrave's writing and acting, "Nightingale" is a haunting elegy and a moving act of love...Paradoxically, the acknowledgement of all this heartache, rather than coming across as an unhealthy dwelling on the past, proves healing. Understanding leads to forgiveness, even sympathy, and ultimately self-knowledge...As the child of English parents with a passel of U.K. relatives, I am perhaps predisposed to "Nightingale": Beanie reminds me in many ways of my late Auntie Dorothy. But as universality is rooted in specificity, I can't imagine anyone could be unmoved by Redgrave's compelling rendition of her and Beanie's story. (Read Full Review)

A

Chinglish

I don't in any way want to make "Chinglish" sound like a chore. Yes, it's perceptive and intelligent and told with a perspective not usually seen in the commercial theater. But more than anything else, it's just very, very funny. (Read Full Review)

A

The Last Five Years

Enthralling... Perceptive, detailed, and beautifully paced, Brown’s direction illuminates the material with striking clarity, and he draws a matched set of marvelous performances out of Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe... Jon Weston’s invisible sound allows us to hear every texture in Brown’s excellent six-piece orchestrations and each nuance of Tom Murray’s precise musical direction... It’s quite the accomplishment. (Read Full Review)

A

Lemon Sky

If you have any doubt about the magnitude of the loss we suffered when playwright Lanford Wilson died this past March, Keen Company's heart-stopping production of his 1970 play "Lemon Sky" makes it all too abundantly clear. This unsparing yet deeply humane autobiographical drama about the wounds that families inflict in the name of love is luminous under Jonathan Silverstein's quietly piercing direction. (Read Full Review)

A

The Winter's Tale

David Farr's meticulous and sensitive direction of the outstanding Royal Shakespeare Company ensemble somehow marries the stark drama of the first three acts with the playful comedy of the final two. He's aided by designer Jon Bausor's set—dominated by two huge bookcases—that allows for a coup de théâtre that provides an inspired metaphor for the darkness encroaching on that lightheartedness. (Read Full Review)

A

Sex Lives of Our Parents

I confess to approaching Michael Mitnick's new play "Sex Lives of Our Parents" with more than a touch of skepticism. That old cliché of not wanting to think about your parents in the sack hardly seemed enough to hang a play on. But from the delightful opening pantomime, set to a recording of Frank Sinatra singing "If I Had You," of a young couple meeting, courting, and deciding to marry, it's clear that a refreshingly original sensibility is at work. Mitnick has a lot more on his mind than obvious laughs in this consistently inventive and surprising comedy-drama. (Read Full Review)

A

The Illusion

A penetrating and poetic consideration of human desire told with a shimmering theatricality. Produced with the intelligence and meticulous care we have come to expect from this indispensable theater company and graced with Michael Mayer's inspired direction, the two-and-a-half-hour show is a joy from start to finish. (Read Full Review)

A

Zero Hour

The centerpiece of "Zero Hour" is the McCarthy era and the blacklist, of which Mostel was a target and which led a dear friend, actor Phillip Loeb, to suicide. Brochu delivers this part of the evening with caustic wit and striking passion, making us understand in the most visceral way the price Mostel and many others paid for their convictions. It also provides an effective first-act curtain, something generally hard to come by in one-person shows. Brochu's writing is necessarily bold considering his subject, but there's also a welcome subtlety. After Mostel has related the tale of Loeb's suicide, the reporter questions the means of the actor's death, having found differently in his research. Mostel's response: "You're asking an actor for truth?" Later, we see Mostel inventing his legacy when he discusses "Forum" and says that Harold Prince hired authors Larry Gelbart, Burt Shevelove, and Stephen Sondheim only after Mostel deemed the script submitted to him "god-awful." Not true, of course. (Read Full Review)

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Letters to the End of the World

What makes “Letters to the End of the World” so refreshing is Dudley’s ability to write with thoughtfulness and complexity about eternal concerns. There are no heroes or villains and not a trace of sentimentality. Compassionate yet clear-eyed, he allows his characters independent life as they search for meaning and connection, and the result is thoroughly satisfying and movingly human. (Read Full Review)

A

So Help Me God!

Bart describes Lily as having "the face of Little Eva and the heart of Simon Legree," and, happily, Kristen Johnston delivers all that and more. She is a symphony of mood swings: melodrama, insincerity, hunger, lust, saintliness, frivolity, and cruelty being just a few. It's a grand creation that Johnston nevertheless keeps anchored in honest emotion, which leads to a startling moment in Act 3 when Lily dispatches her insurgent understudy: "Nobody ever gave me anything! I fought my way up—every inch of the way," snarls Lily. Johnston does it with such sudden feeling that we understand in one moment exactly how Lily became the monster she is. Under Jonathan Banks' rapid-fire direction, the other 15 members of the company support Johnston ably. (Read Full Review)

A

Brief Encounter (2009)

Adapter-director Emma Rice remains true to Coward's essence while enlivening the work with songs (some by Coward), film sequences, dance, and even puppets (representing Laura's children). Repeated episodes of stylized movement find a moving physical expression of societal constraints and emotional repression. Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, so important in the film, surges as scenes of crashing waves roll upstage. Interestingly, the text hews more closely to "Still Life" than the film, which is told in flashback, practically eliminates Beryl and Stanley, and cuts back on Myrtle and Albert in order to focus more on the leading couple and bring in other characters. Hannah Yelland and Tristan Sturrock wisely underplay the central lovers. If they miss the detailed subtext of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, that seems intentional: Subtext is expressed here through the above-mentioned devices. (Read Full Review)

A

Born Yesterday

[A] loving and intelligent revival...Arianda is aided by comparably fine turns from co-stars Jim Belushi and Robert Sean Leonard...Backed by a crackerjack supporting cast, the trio brings Kanin's comic engine of a play to clattering life...Definitely a play of its time, Born Yesterday moves at a more leisurely pace than contemporary works and is unembarrassed by its idealized political message concerning a democracy's need for an informed citizenry. I hope that won't stop younger audiences from enjoying it. Me, I had a ball. (Read Full Review)

A

Buyer & Cellar

…“Buyer & Cellar,” is inventive, witty, and pretty wonderful, a fleet 90 minutes of the way Barbra might be, delivered with oceans of charm by the impish, utterly delightful Michael Urie. Under Stephen Brackett’s deft direction, Urie gracefully keeps the bubble afloat, giving each character a slyly comic slant, even James Brolin, who makes a cameo appearance in search of frozen yogurt. Alex warns us up top that he doesn’t “do” Barbra, and Urie finds her in subtle physicality and touches of a Brooklyn accent. While Tolins trains his subversive gaze on all his characters, he keeps them sympathetic, and Urie knows just when to move in for sweet, even tender moments. She may not always behave well, but there is plenty to like about this Barbra. Should Streisand ever see “Buyer & Cellar,” I have a hard time imagining her response as anything but warm to Tolins and Urie’s affectionate, highly entertaining fantasia.
(Read Full Review)

A

Go Back to Where You Are

"Go Back to Where You Are" is a 70-minute slice of joy about the rebirth of the human spirit. Wistful, romantic, melancholy, a bit catty, and very, very funny (when it wants to be), it leaves, as one character puts it, "a little spot on the heart." (Read Full Review)

A

The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part 2

Horton Foote's epic nine-play cycle about early-20th-century life in the small fictional town of Harrison, Texas, continues on its winning way. The three plays making up Part Two follow Horace Robedaux into his early adulthood, marriage, and incipient fatherhood, and there's not a wasted moment in them. As with Part One, three hours fly by as this utterly engaging and deeply compelling work unfolds. (Read Full Review)

A

The Other Place

Laurie Metcalf proves yet again that she is one of our finest actors in her raw and riveting portrayal of Dr. Juliana Smithton in Sharr White's taut, incisive puzzle play...This unflinching look at a dementia specialist who begins to develop the condition herself combines an inventive structure with first-rate character observation. Under Joe Mantello's disciplined, keenly intuitive direction, the 80-minute show takes nary a false step as it comes together piece by piece to form a harrowing and moving tale...Juliana is a tour de force role, and Metcalf dominates as a woman whose sharp intelligence is, as White's script describes, "her greatest asset and her largest burden." (Read Full Review)

A

Macbeth

Arin Arbus' muscular direction shows an acute understanding of the Bard's most psychologically satisfying play while thankfully eschewing gimmicky concepts. The commanding John Douglas Thompson is a startlingly human Macbeth, whose bloody journey to madness and denial can't be dismissed as that of a psychopathic monster. Thompson and the uniformly fine cast speak the text with clarity and insight as they send the play hurtling ferociously toward its gut-wrenching climax. This is no-frills, no-nonsense Shakespeare, and the result is electrifying. (Read Full Review)

A

The Witch of Edmonton

Theatergoers with an affinity for Jacobean tragedy are in for a treat at Red Bull Theater's remarkable production of a real rarity...Under Jesse Berger's muscular direction, this two-hour-and-40-minute production flies by while telling a juicy tale of witchcraft, sex, and murder that's based on a true story. The uniformly excellent 15-person cast, which includes such names as Charlayne Woodard, André De Shields, and Everett Quinton, disproves the tired adage that the Brits do this kind of thing better. (Read Full Review)

A

The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore

Tennessee Williams' 1962 play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, an unruly, extravagant, almost surreal meditation on mortality, failed on Broadway in two different productions a year apart, bombed again in 1968 on screen under the title "Boom!," and is regarded as the turning point in Williams' career: He never again had a commercial success. I've always considered it a better play than its reputation, but I never thought it could work as well as it does in Michael Wilson's mesmerizing production for Roundabout Theatre Company. If any production can undo the decades of unwarranted critical scorn heaped on Milk Train, this is the one. (Read Full Review)

A

Green Eyes

Couperthwaite gives Claude a powerful sexual appeal and an inherent sense of dangerously fragile decency. Both actors address the sexual content forthrightly and bravely, exposing considerable flesh and surging desire just inches away from their audience. Chamberlain's site-specific staging turns the 20-person audience into a collection of voyeurs, something Markey significantly enhances by constantly locking eyes with individual patrons. It's a smart choice, because it suggests for us today how transgressive the subject matter would have been in 1970. (Read Full Review)

A

Lay of the Land

Passionate, witty, endearing, furious, and fabulous, Lay of the Land witheringly assesses America's shortcomings on gay (and other) issues while somehow still inspiring hope. Though it largely preaches to the choir, there are times when the choir needs bucking up. I, for one, was thoroughly grateful for the opportunity. (Read Full Review)

A

The Great Game: Afghanistan

On paper, The Great Game: Afghanistan sounds about as enticing as the prospect of a long day of homework...I confess to being unable to shake a sense of dread at having to review it...So it's with great relief that I can report that I had one helluva good time. Epic in scope yet intimate in characterization, the show is smart, absorbing, and deeply affecting. It's also easy to follow and full of impressively versatile acting. For anyone with an interest in history and political drama, it's a no-brainer. Don't miss it...It's the sweep and scope that make The Great Game: Afghanistan special. The show will haunt you long after the final curtain comes down. (Read Full Review)

A

Secrets of the Trade

Playwright Jonathan Tolins hits the bull's-eye with his new comedy-drama Secrets of the Trade. This look at a pushy Long Island kid who longs to make theater and snares a major Broadway producer-director-writer for his mentor is breezily engaging, as rock-the-rafters funny as it is bracingly touching. Under Matt Shakman's smart, inventive direction, the show moves with style and speed, propelled by terrific performances from Noah Robbins and John Glover. I have one word for you: pounce. (Read Full Review)

A

Lingua Franca

Peter Nichols' latest play, "Lingua Franca," is a deceptively sedate, neo-Chekhovian character study of misfit language teachers at a private school in mid-1950s Florence, Italy. But just as you start to think that the experience is never going to transcend pleasant, Nichols delivers a surprise haymaker that shows just how crafty he's been. By the time the dust settles and you're heading out of the theater thoroughly unsettled, it's clear that the acclaimed author of "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" and "Privates on Parade" is functioning in top form. (Read Full Review)

A

The Trip To Bountiful

In director Michael Wilson’s impeccable revival of Foote’s masterwork, Tyson is giving a performance for the ages. (Read Full Review)

A

Wife to James Whelan

You might think that James is just one more example of the standard strutting Irishman with a gift for blarney, but you'd be wrong. Deevy creates in James an original mixture of great emotional sensitivity and self-aggrandizing bluster, finished off with a surprising primness. Shawn Fagan is superlative in the role, capturing all its shadings and successfully negotiating some hairpin turns in temperament. He's particularly effective at showing the change that seven years works on James. Janie Brookshire is a good match as Nan, as adept at girlish willfulness as she is at stoic resignation. (Read Full Review)

A

Me, Myself & I

Edward Albee has said that a playwright should write every play as if it's his or her first. He's certainly managed that feat with "Me, Myself & I," a ferociously comic foray into the realm of the absurd. This is Albee playing in "The Sandbox," and while it also recalls "The Play About the Baby" and displays his signature precision with language (and its deconstruction), it feels like nothing else in his canon. There's an explosive giddiness and a gleeful disregard for form that combined with a rigorous internal logic makes "Me, Myself & I" seem, in one of those idiomatic clichés so beloved by the play's characters, as fresh as a daisy. Featuring Elizabeth Ashley in what could be the performance of her career, the show is a not-to-be-missed serving of delicious existential vaudeville ... Emily Mann directs with a musicality in tune with Albee's writing and smartly lets Ashley's work set the tone. Interestingly, in the show's 2008 premiere at Princeton's McCarter Theatre, she did the same for the equally superb Tyne Daly. Daly's Mother was darker than Ashley's, though just as funny, lending that production less outrageousness but more menace. Still, when Ashley's Mother muses midway through Act 2 that it's possible to love someone who doesn't exist, then makes the pronouncement "I don't think existence determines much of anything," the world turned momentarily black as, much to my surprise, I found myself nodding in agreement. (Read Full Review)

A

After the Revolution

Amy Herzog's "After the Revolution" sounds, from both its title and plot synopsis, like a political drama. But while politics are most definitely involved, at its heart it's a family story of generational conflict. And as delivered by a crackerjack cast under Carolyn Cantor's trim direction, it's a damn good one.
(Read Full Review)

A

Brief Encounter

St. Ann's is a decidedly intimate space. Would the show fill a much larger house? Happily, the answer is ringingly affirmative. Of course, in retrospect I should have known that it would. Though Coward's story is of repressed emotions, those emotions are of huge dimension, involving two middle-class people in prewar England who accidentally meet in a train station and fall in love, though each is married with children... Admittedly, some of the more intimate two-person scenes between the lovers are a little farther away, in medium shot rather than close-up, but they still pack a punch. Other moments, mostly having to do with stylized movement and video projection that adapter-director Emma Rice uses to convey just how constrained this society is, actually benefit from the larger space. (Read Full Review)

A

Pippin

I have never been partial to “Pippin.” So today my gratitude to director Diane Paulus is boundless. Thanks to her beautifully buoyant, intoxicatingly sensual revival, I am a convert. I finally love “Pippin” too. Paulus has had the inspired idea of making the company a troupe of circus performers, who execute a profusion of wondrous acrobatics, many of which Paulus smartly integrates into the story. Gypsy Snider, of the French-Canadian company Les 7 Doigts de la Main, is credited with “circus creation” and has done a splendid job, as do the circus-trained performers in the cast. “Pippin” cannot succeed without a magnetic leading player, and it has one here in the person of Patina Miller, who is as accomplished a dancer as she is a singer, riding confident herd over the swirling proceedings. Handsome Matthew James Thomas delivers a sweetly earnest Pippin with just a touch of nerd. Standing out above all, however, and for only a few minutes of stage time, is Andrea Martin, in a sensational turn as Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother.
(Read Full Review)

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The Lying Lesson

Kane is terrific as Davis, expertly delivering the icon’s signature speech patterns, clipped diction, and jerky body language while hurling cutting bons mots about Hollywood with lethal timing. What makes the performance work, though, is its humanity; not for a moment does Kane allow her Davis to descend into caricature. Sumner sports a flawless lower-class Maine accent and keeps us guessing about the surly, self-castigating Minnie, whose darting glances and alternately friendly and distant behavior indicate a hidden agenda. Under director Pam MacKinnon’s eagle eye, the women make a great team. (Read Full Review)

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Into the Woods

The most moving account of the musical I've seen, yet just as charming and funny as ever. It makes for an enchanting night in Central Park. Key to the show's success is the endlessly inventive physical production...The 22-member company is replete with fine performances. Heading them all is Donna Murphy's commanding turn as the witch...The production, however, is not flawless. Though Denis O'Hare does strong work as the nervous baker and shares a haunting rendition of "No More" with Zien, he is hampered by the casting of Amy Adams as the baker's wife. Though obviously talented and admirably diligent, Adams is a bit young for O'Hare, and the two never successfully develop the marital bond as equals that the show demands...Fortunately, these flaws are subsumed by Sheader and Steel's inspired vision. (Read Full Review)

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Gore Vidal's The Best Man

As outrageously entertaining as it is relentlessly penetrating...Vidal's insights resonate today, whether in Tea Party true-believer pressure or birth control controversies, to the point of being scary. There aren't many plays at which the audience regularly applauds the dialogue. You'll likely applaud much more than that in Wilson's grandly satisfying revival. (Read Full Review)

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The Pitmen Painters

What really distinguishes "Painters" is the superb acting of its all-U.K. company under Max Roberts' knowing direction. Deka Walmsley takes care to let George's vulnerability underlie his bluster. Michael Hodgson makes Harry's political rants both funny and endearing. David Whitaker slyly understates Jimmy, who may be dense but can sling a zinger with the best of them. Christopher Connel's carefully laid groundwork results in complete believability when Oliver starts to realize his potential. Best of all is how these four actors create such a vivid sense of community. The sense of having known each other all their lives is palpable. (Read Full Review)

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Newsies

Top of the heap is Jeremy Jordan’s star-making turn... His Jack Kelly is destined to be remembered as an iconographic Broadway performance... The authors have punched up [the show] in important ways... [but]Medda, who needed a greater emotional connection to the story line and a character-defining song that dramatized it, is now the show’s one glaring weakness... The talented youngsters who play the newsies continue to amaze with their extraordinary execution of Gattelli’s acrobatic choreography while conjuring a visceral sense of boyish camaraderie. Kudos once again to the knockout physical production... and the fluid way Calhoun’s speedy direction takes advantage of it. Newsies may not be perfect, but few shows are. Seize the day and make a beeline for this Disney winner. (Read Full Review)

A-

Rutherford & Son

There is, however, no play without a Rutherford, and talented director Richard Corley has one in the excellent Robert Hogan. Playing against the character's raft of unlikable qualities, Hogan makes the monster sound almost reasonable. He's clearly the adult in the room, at least until Mary surprises us, and something of a wit ("There are more ways than one of shirking life, and religion's one of them," he airily tells the pouting Richard). But when his world starts to fall apart, Hogan homes in on Rutherford's cavernously empty soul, and we are appalled at the damage wrought, not only to others but to himself. (Read Full Review)

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Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!

Emerging out of the mist like a demented Brigadoon, the 21st edition of this long-running franchise is called Alive and Kicking, and when it’s over, Broadway is indisputably black and blue. Creator-writer Gerard Allessandrini (he also co-directs with Phillip George) took a three-year sabbatical, and it has paid off. The show is for the most part sharper and funnier than ever, with delightfully wicked new material outnumbering a few oldies but goodies...The main drawback of this edition is that both acts close on weaker material...But ultimately that’s a minor matter. The combination of Alessandrini’s racing wit and nimble lyrics, the inventively on-the-cheap physical production, and the shockingly talented cast (joined occasionally by estimable musical director David Caldwell) makes Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking! essential viewing for all theater lovers. (Read Full Review)

A-

Mary Broome

Under Jonathan Bank’s nuanced direction, Janie Brookshire leads the faultless 11-person cast as a memorable Mary, light but tough, dispassionate yet caring, conventional and transgressive. Brookshire excels at limning Mary’s rock-solid sense of class and is especially effective in the final act displaying a soul of steely resolve. As Leonard, Roderick Hill nimbly keeps us off-balance, unsure of whether to like or despise the fellow, ably mixing the character’s bottomless self-absorption with a keen perception of human nature and a genuine affection for the girl he has wronged. (Read Full Review)

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The Assembled Parties

Richard Greenberg’s touching comedy-drama “The Assembled Parties” isn’t saying much of anything new: change is constant, the universe is random, time takes its toll on all of us. Fortunately, he says it through the interactions of interesting, well-written characters dramatized with wit, insight, and boundless affection. The play, sensitively directed by Lynn Meadow for Manhattan Theatre Club, observes two Christmas Day celebrations in the 14-room Upper West Side apartment of agnostic Jews Julie, once a teenage film star, and Ben, the wealthy wheeler-dealer for whom she left the silver screen. (Read Full Review)

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Blood Knot

There's little plot or dramatic action, and at two and a half hours it can sometimes feel a bit slow going. Nevertheless, thanks to the superb performances of Scott Shepard and Colman Domingo and author Fugard's knowing direction, the show keeps picking up steam and ends with a Beckettian wallop. (Read Full Review)

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Matilda the Musical

Director Matthew Warchus’ meticulously calculated production offers coup after coup de théâtre... The show is strenuously entertaining, as dark as it is funny, and just a tad cold... Dennis Kelly’s smart book hews closely to Dahl’s voice while finessing the novel’s episodic nature... Tim Minchin’s oddball, single-idea songs are more problematic. His pleasant music takes a backseat to overstuffed lyrics, which are poorly structured and so full of wide-ranging imperfect rhymes that their content is rendered unclear and the jokes too often don’t land. What distinguishes “Matilda” is its immersive physical production and staging... “Matilda the Musical” resembles nothing so much as a highly sophisticated machine. It’s built to dazzle, and it does. (Read Full Review)

A-

I Never Sang for My Father

Director Jonathan Silverstein shows again how adept he is at illuminating text through precise staging and strong acting. Servitto shines as Gene, who in the wrong hands could come off as weak and whiny, communicating Gene's confusion and anguish with piercing honesty. Dullea cannily modulates his performance, infusing Tom with a crusty charm that he gradually strips away to reveal the gaping emotional hole underneath. The two actors play the wrenching climactic father-son confrontation with such understanding that you cannot look away even as you long to. Mason's Margaret is notable for the nervousness beneath her cheerful exterior and the confusion she feels about loving her husband despite what he does to their children. In her one scene as Alice, Rose Courtney seems uncomfortable with the character's loquacious armchair psychoanalyzing and uncertain how to deliver lines like "He wants your balls—and he's had them." The role isn't Anderson's finest moment. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Ugly One

Von Mayenburg reinforces his central theme by having a single actor play each identically named character, and the lightning switches from one to another, simply but brilliantly staged by director Daniel Aukin, significantly increase the entertainment factor. Lisa Joyce is a precisely stylized hoot rolling libidinously about in an office chair as the vulgar Mrs. Fanny, then immediately segueing into Lette's demure, eager-to-please wife. Steven Boyer is hilarious flipping back and forth from intensely concentrated envy to namby-pamby passive-aggressiveness as the two Karlmanns. Andrew Garman's Schefflers share a core of dithery self-preoccupation yet are somehow always separate. As Lette, handsome Alfredo Narciso is at first an island of reason amid all the shenanigans, which works greatly to the actor's advantage when Lette succumbs to self-importance and then later starts to come apart. (Narciso handles a breakdown scene in which Lette has a dialogue with his reflection in a mirror very effectively.) (Read Full Review)

A-

A Little Night Music

* The show is still pretty wonderful. The unquestionable highlight of the evening is Peters. This is without doubt one of her finest stage performances. Impetuous, delicate, earthy, sardonic, willful, sensual, loving, and shatteringly vulnerable, her Desiree is endlessly enchanting and completely believable as a combination of scattered diva, caring mother, battling daughter, and enthusiastic lover...[Stritch's] ferocious concentration of energy explodes into the theater every time she appears, and she excels with Peters at creating a long-complicated mother-daughter relationship. But unlike Peters, who inhabits Desiree, Stritch must wrestle her character to the ground, imposing herself upon her. It’s not ideal, but it sure is entertaining...The superb Alexander Hanson remains the best Fredrik I’ve seen, and he and Peters share delicious sexual chemistry. The performances of the supporting cast seem to have lightened in response to their new leading ladies. Haagensen's original review, an A-, can be read here. (Read Full Review)

A-

Disgraced

Akhtar writes incisive, often quite funny dialogue and creates vivid characters, managing to cover a lot of ground in a mere four scenes and 80 minutes. There is the occasional awkward use of exposition, and his climactic revelations teeter into melodrama, but these are minor flaws. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Whale

As embodied by Shuler Hensley, encased in a body suit of unnerving size, Charlie is a curious mixture of crippling self-loathing and determined optimism, deep sadness and fierce love. He’s a singularly arresting character, and Hensley brings him to life in a tour de force performance of aching humanity...Hunter writes sharp dialogue that can sting and evoke laughter, sometimes simultaneously...Under Davis McCallum’s taut, perceptive direction, a four-person ensemble supports Hensley’s impressive turn with vivid, precise work. (Read Full Review)

A-

Bad Jews

Harmon’s biting script, which unfolds in 100 minutes of real time under Daniel Aukin’s unerring direction, marks him as a new theatrical voice to be reckoned with. “Bad Jews” is not without flaws. It starts to run in place just before Melody switches things up by asserting herself, and the ending is too predictable. Ultimately, though, it’s a stunningly knowing work that sent me out of the theater on a cloud of pure exhilaration. (Read Full Review)

A-

Annie

There’s so much that’s right about director James Lapine’s joyous revival of the classic Martin Charnin–Charles Strouse–Thomas Meehan musical comedy “Annie” that it’s particularly painful to have to note the one element that isn’t working. Lapine has lovingly rethought this Depression-era fable for the 21st century, working with book writer Meehan on some smart script tweaks and scraping away the calcification of years of overfamiliarity to reveal the freshness, spontaneity, and heart “Annie” possessed when it debuted on Broadway in 1977. Lapine correctly focuses on the growing relationship between the titular orphan and her savior, Oliver Warbucks, which I’ve never seen play more touchingly than it does here. The exuberant physical production—Susan Hilferty’s wonderful parade of period costumes, Donald Holder’s luscious lighting, and especially David Korins’ endlessly inventive pop-up comic-book sets—is a delight. Andy Blankenbuehler’s fun choreography both pays homage to Peter Gennaro’s iconic original work and impresses with new ideas, including a sensational staging of “NYC.” So what’s the hitch? Katie Finneran’s Miss Hannigan just isn’t funny. (Read Full Review)

A-

Elective Affinities

Considerably enhanced by both its inventive presentation and the slyly insinuating Zoe Caldwell as Alice. Though the show is perhaps not quite as disturbing as it wants to be, Adjmi's meditation on the symbiosis of savagery and civilization definitely unnerves...The superb Caldwell toys entertainingly with us as she allows glimpses of Alice's inner gorgon, which finally seeps through and poisons the matron's cultivated social façade. (Read Full Review)

A-

Ivanov

Chekhov called his plays comedies, and Pendleton orchestrates a satisfying balance of drama and humor. In the title role, Ethan Hawke finds infinite shadings in Ivanov’s depressive rants and keeps the character active despite his wallowing and indecision. Hawke delivers Ivanov’s bleak wit with precision and makes his frustration with himself particularly palpable and touching. The play is often referred to as the Russian “Hamlet,” a character Ivanov references sarcastically, and if Chekhov’s work isn’t the equal of Shakespeare’s, the title role is just as big a challenge, one that Hawke triumphantly meets. (Read Full Review)

A-

Now the Cats With Jewelled Claws

An absurdist meditation on mortality, loneliness, and the general triviality of human existence, it combines bitter comedy and decadent sexuality with eccentric song-and-dance sequences...Thanks to the imagination of director Jonathan Warman and his enthusiastic cast, it makes for an outrageously entertaining 50 minutes...Warman mixes Williams' diverse elements skillfully, letting them jostle gently about, feeding rather than fighting each other...[An] admittedly minor but nevertheless raucously effective grotesquerie. (Read Full Review)

A-

Langston in Harlem

Director and co-author Kent Gash's inventive production strains the tiny black-box space at the seams with its vitality and intelligence, and a crackerjack 12-person cast delivers the show with rich humanity and flair ... the only time the show falters is in a few baldly expositional dialogue scenes ... "Langston in Harlem" presents Hughes in all his thorny complexity, never shying from the darker aspects of his story. And yet the show leaves you with an irrepressible sense of joy in its celebration of a great American artist. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Submission

Fearless, whip-smart, and hyperarticulate, Talbott's incendiary political comedy-drama asks hard questions about our supposedly post-racial world and will likely make audiences uncomfortable. Good for him. As delivered by a crackling cast of four under Walter Bobbie's swift direction, the 105-minute intermissionless show is spectacularly entertaining. Yes, there are some flaws in logic and motivation, and at times the rapid-fire dialogue comes to sound like didactic arguing rather than the organic expression of character, but these problems can't derail the proceedings. "The Submission" scintillates.

(Read Full Review)

A-

Golden Age

It’s possible that “Golden Age” may not transcend its milieu to resonate strongly with general audiences, but its intelligence and heart should captivate anyone who has ever pursued an artistic dream. (Read Full Review)

A-

Temporal Powers

A powerful and original consideration of the competing moralities of religion and institutionalized economic inequality in a patriarchal society. It also boasts a fascinating anti-heroine in the embittered Min Donovan, here brought to fierce and unforgiving life by the riveting Rosie Benton...Under Bank's subtle, knowing direction, Benton shines...Aidan Redmond's saturnine Michael is a worthy match...One warning: This being rural Ireland, Deevy's language is considerably more idiomatic than in the urban-set Wife...Combined with the accents, it can occasionally strain intelligibility. This is one case where you might consider reading the play before seeing it. (Read Full Review)

A-

Black Tie

Now comes "Black Tie," a "Father Knows Best" sort of comedy that celebrates the civility of good manners. Gurney is mining for gold in the same territory where he once found dross, and he certainly strikes it here. Wryly witty and warmly embracing of its characters' eccentricities and foibles, this generation-gap tale is a charmer—funny, observant, and altogether winning. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Patsy

Ultimately, this double bill reminds us of what a unique artist Greenspan is, without question one of our theater's treasures. (Read Full Review)

A-

Is Life Worth Living?

The invaluable Mint Theater Company's genial production of Lennox Robinson's 1933 comedy (originally titled "Drama at Inish") keeps a smile on your face for two hours. This loving look at the work of an important figure in Irish theater in the first half of the 20th century brims with shining talent and smartly executed craft ... director Jonathan Banks' finely calibrated direction brings each to the fore. Paul O'Brien is a commanding and sympathetic Twohig, making subtle comic hay out of the character's lack of introspection. As his wife, Bairbre Dowling is entrancing in her certitude that drama is just not for her. As their love-struck son, Graham Outerbridge descends convincingly into the kind of existential despair that belongs only to the inexperienced young. As the object of his affection, a modern girl from the city who is in town to do the local factory's accounting, Leah Curney is full of cool charm and bright confidence. Margaret Daly plays Twohig's spinster sister with a fine eye for her foibles and insecurities as well as her big heart, while Jeremy Lawrence is engagingly clueless as the hapless national assemblyman for the area who had no idea he jilted her back in the day. Real-life spouses Jordan Baker and Kevin Kilner are particularly believable as the long-married thespians who run the acting company and star in all the productions ... But as I left the theater still smiling, a nagging thought crept into my head that perhaps one slight miscalculation had been made. If Banks had just kicked everything up a notch, I might have been smiling less and laughing more. Pitched at the current level, "Is Life Worth Living?" can't escape just a hint of academia. But don't let that deter you from a visit. Robinson was a fine writer, and this "Life" is definitely worth living.
(Read Full Review)

A-

Aftermath

Simple isn't easy, but playwrights Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank prove just how powerful it can be in their disquieting, moving, intensely human docudrama "Aftermath." Nine actors play eight refugees from the Iraq war and their translator. The text, taken from their own words, recounts the terrible toll war and its consequences have taken on them and their loved ones. It all makes for riveting and important theater...Blank's invisible direction knows just when to linger and when to accelerate, and her simple staging on the black-box set filled with nothing but an assortment of living-room chairs seems inevitable....If I had any reservation, it would only be that in a show like this, which feels as if it wants to use this group of characters as a composite portrait of a society, there is no gay or lesbian character. (Read Full Review)

A-

Master Class

In D.C., Daly and director Stephen Wadsworth seemed to have decided to deemphasize the diva in Callas in favor of a more empathetic approach to the character. But after reading several interviews with Daly in which she says that because she lacks such qualities as Callas' glamour and hauteur ("Have you noticed I play blue-collar a lot?" the actor asked Playbill.com's Harry Haun), she resisted McNally's entreaties to do the role, it now seems that the star just needed time to find her footing. That she has done triumphantly, integrating a cutting edge into her performance without sacrificing a submerged warmth that makes Daly's Callas fascinatingly unique in the pantheon of memorable performances in the role by the likes of Faye Dunaway, Dixie Carter, Patti LuPone, and, of course, the Tony-winning and utterly sublime original, Zoe Caldwell. Daly is now working at the absolute top of her game, and it's inspiring to watch this superb actor stretching herself instead of playing it safe ... Daly still seems occasionally uncomfortable in Wadsworth's rather effortful staging of McNally's two long interior monologues for Callas, in which her thoughts drift off to people and events in her past. But it's a minor quibble about a performance filled with invention and intelligence. Just watch what Daly does in her final moment on stage, which involves an orange. That's magic. Brava, diva! (Read Full Review)

A-

One Arm

An uncharacteristically cool work from the pen of Tennessee Williams. And yet it's precisely that emotional void that allows this terse drama to worm its way under your skin...Thoughtfully adapted and directed by Moisés Kaufman, this taut and fluid co-production with the New Group unsettles with a quiet intensity...Using his considerable charisma like a banked fire, [Claybourne] Elder keeps us intrigued by the remote Ollie in the same way that Ollie attracts his clientele. (Read Full Review)

A-

Luck of the Irish

Kirsten Greenidge moves imaginatively between past and present, something director Rebecca Taichman ably reinforces in her careful staging of the transitions. My only complaint would be that the inevitable climactic scene merging the two timeframes doesn't pack quite enough of a wallop, a rare misstep in an astute play that otherwise knows exactly where it’s going and how to get there. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Revisionist

I missed Eisenberg’s 2011 debut play, “Asuncion,” which Rattlestick Playwrights Theater also produced, but “The Revisionist” proves him to be an imaginative playwright who’s not afraid to ask his audience to work. The connect-the-dots script keeps us guessing about this mismatched pair, and what isn’t said is as important as what is revealed. At 100 intermissionless minutes, the show might be just a tad too long and a bit structurally repetitive, but these are minor flaws mitigated by Kip Fagan’s astute direction, which knows exactly when to linger and when to move. (Read Full Review)

A-

Ann

The estimable Holland Taylor has not simply found the role of her career in former Texas governor Ann Richards; she’s written it as well, after doing impressively extensive research. If the actor somewhat outshines the scribe, it’s not a major problem. Taylor’s witty, sharp-eyed script is sufficiently compelling to serve for this entertaining solo show at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. Ann is a large enough character to fill the Beaumont’s vastness, and Taylor lays her out there, warts and all, with relish and consummate skill. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Dance and the Railroad

There are occasional moments when the drama feels a bit intellectualized and holds us at a distance, but the play always recovers quickly. Inventive and deeply felt, “The Dance and the Railroad” is memorable theater. (Read Full Review)

A-

Katie Roche

"I'm done with humble. I was meant to be proud." So says the titular heroine of Irish playwright Teresa Deevy's 1936 comedy-drama Katie Roche ... It's an assertion that will be both her undoing and her refuge in Mint Theater Company's first-rate production of this odd work ... The Mint consistently creates top-drawer physical productions, and this one — set by Vicki R. Davis, costumes by Martha Hally, lights by Nicole Pearce, sound by Jane Shaw, props by Joshua Yocom — adds immeasurable atmosphere. (Read Full Review)

A-

Bring Us the Head of Your Daughter

The outrageous and the mundane commingle with surprising camaraderie as the show examines the impossibility of human relations in general and the up and down sides of that longed-for but elusive drug, unconditional love. Directed with precision and wit by Ahonen, the two-hour intermissionless show serves up its surreal black comedy with accomplished naturalistic acting from a dynamite four-person cast. No, it doesn't always make sense, and sometimes you're aware of Ahonen switching gears just to keep things from stalling, but the production's spontaneity and insight more than win the day. This is a Daughter to make her parents proud. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Lady WIth All the Answers

[Ivey] mines Rambo's script for every ounce of subtext and can change the emotional temperature on stage instantly, whether with a glance, a shrug, or a vocal modulation...Ivey creates a warm camaraderie with us while always remaining firmly, effortlessly in character...Where Rambo falters is in exposing Eppie's emotional core. Admittedly, he's hamstrung by the fact that she is a deeply private person who would never share her dirty laundry with the world. Indeed, she tells us so herself. But the play should at least suggest why the crisis has occurred in Eppie's life, and it never does. Fortunately, Ivey's performance is so human and specific that she almost compensates. (Read Full Review)

B+

Mrs. Warren's Profession

George Bernard Shaw's infamous play on the subject of female prostitution may be 117 years old, but its ideas still feel decidedly modern in director Doug Hughes' largely crackling production for Roundabout Theatre Company. Cherry Jones returns to the New York stage in the title role and proves once again why she is one of our finest actors. (Read Full Review)

B+

Queen of the Mist

Rarely offstage for the show's two hours and 20 minutes, the triumphant Testa is reason enough to see this fascinating if flawed show, for which LaChiusa has written a strong (and strongly melodic) score redolent of turn-of-the-20th-century popular music as filtered through his own unique voice...Director Jack Cummings III and choreographer Scott Rink have staged the show with considerable invention...It's heartening to watch the gifted LaChiusa continue to treat the musical as an American art form. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Really Big Once

So full of passion and love that I couldn’t help but surrender to it...This isn’t a dry piece of documentary theater. Rather, the text is exploded, raining down on its audience like a shower of brightly colored confetti...The intrepid young cast of five takes turns playing all the players in this saga—Williams, Kazan, his wife Molly, producer Cheryl Crawford, star Eli Wallach, and others...Ultimately, the collision of these colors with the fragmented text feels like a remarkable illustration of the messiness of the creative process. (Read Full Review)

B+

American Sexy

Baldwin's new play "American Sexy," now in the tiny downstairs space at the Flea Theater, is rarely surprising in its look at four randy college students on a joyride to Vegas. Nevertheless, Baldwin's ear for contemporary speech and eye for telling character detail hold our interest as she examines the effect of today's numbingly oversexualized society and its soul-deadening infatuation with communications technology on these hapless youngsters.... Director Mia Walker's intuitive direction knows when to linger and when to move, and she elicits fine ensemble playing from this talented quartet, who spend a lot of time acting between the lines, which is where the heart of Baldwin's play lies. (Read Full Review)

B+

Giant

The authors of the new musical “Giant” possess the same soaring ambition that motivates their larger-than-life characters. Book writer Sybille Pearson and composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa have set themselves a daunting task in wrestling Edna Ferber’s sweeping 1952 novel about the creation of then-modern Texas into shape as a three-hour show. That they have succeeded as much as they have is cause for celebration. (Read Full Review)

B+

Richard III

For all the violence in the play, the horror in this production seems scant. The script has been whittled down from five long acts to 90 or so uninterrupted minutes. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Big Knife

Despite its flaws, Odets' drama is filled with honesty and feeling, and Roundabout serves it to a fare thee well. (Read Full Review)

B+

Other Desert Cities

Baitz's characters are all beautifully drawn; for every expected cliché, there's a balancing personal quirk. The playwright charts a smart dramatic trajectory, beginning with light but pointed banter for these intelligent and witty people that recalls drawing-room comedy and generates hearty laughter, then gradually darkens as events unfold. The laughs start to sting, then they stick in the throat, finally disappearing as raw nerves become exposed. (Read Full Review)

B+

Haunted

[T]hough her talents seem more literary than dramatic, O'Brien does possess a uniquely eccentric theatrical voice that grows on you. "Haunted" is equal parts exasperating and enveloping. Acted to a fare-thee-well by Brenda Blethyn, Niall Buggy, and Beth Cooke, it leavens a studied preciousness with combustible confrontations and ends up packing considerable emotional force ... Murray's canny direction pitches the actors one full notch above realism while maintaining access to it. Blethyn and Buggy rise to the challenge, emphasizing the dialogue's musicality and at times almost incantatory quality while also providing detailed psychological portraits of Gladys and Jack. Blethyn is very funny emphasizing Gladys' social pretensions, while Buggy glows with a forceful energy ideal for such an obsessed character. Their final confrontation scene is blistering and brilliant. (Read Full Review)

B+

King Lear

Hicks' Lear is very much a man of his world and times rather than a baleful giant bestriding them. In Lear's crucial first scene with his three daughters, Hicks has the monarch revel in his ability to manipulate people. Lear doesn't seem to genuinely believe Goneril's and Regan's protestations of overwhelming love; he just enjoys being able to make them say it. The implacable impassivity on Cordelia's face when she refuses to follow suit suggests that she is annoyed by her father's behavior, which nicely precipitates his sudden, childish rage at her. Indeed, it's just such shallow petulance at Goneril and Regan's refusal to house his retinue that later sends Lear out into the storm to wallow in an ocean of operatic self-pity that eventually drowns him in madness. It's the loss of power, not the realization of the absence of love, that undoes this Lear, and while that may not be a new approach, Hicks charts it expertly. He's particularly effective in the mad scenes, giving us a clear descent into madness as well as a nuanced retreat from it. The 21-person company meshes effortlessly in a joint effort in storytelling. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Scottsboro Boys

Somehow, though the authors stuck to their guns about dramaturgical choices I questioned when the show played Off-Broadway last winter, the last musical written by John Kander and Fred Ebb has pulled together...This look at a monstrous, racially motivated miscarriage of justice in the Depression-era South, staged in the form of a minstrel show, packs quite a punch. It’s a satisfying finale for the legendary songwriting team...Thanks to some small but smart focusing, clarifying, and tightening of the book and director-choreographer Susan Stroman’s exemplary staging, the show now makes it clear that its purpose is not to tell the personal stories of these men. The musical is about what happened to them, and how that changed America...Here’s to the creative team for insisting on delivering the show it wanted. The Scottsboro Boys sets a high bar for Broadway musicals this season. (Read Full Review)

B+

Unnatural Acts: Harvard's Secret Court of 1920

The exemplary 11-person cast is led by Nick Westrate, superb as Roberts, a fascinating mixture of rebellious hedonism, pragmatic cynicism, and a startlingly butch effeminacy. Brad Koed gives Cummings an appealing decency and spirit that crumble appallingly in Cummings' confrontation with Roderick Hill's practically possessed Lester. Frank De Julio and Joe Curnutte make a golden couple as Smerage and Wollf, touching in their obvious affection, then both deeply wounded as the macho senior sells out the sensitive sophomore in a desperate attempt to save his degree. Handsome Roe Hartrampf's Day is both an enticing sex object and a genial fellow whose uncharacteristic moment of guilty cruelty registers with particular force. Max Jenkins plays the weaselly Gilkey with a fascinating touch of constantly suppressed hysteria. Will Rogers' Lumbard seems to have his nose perpetually but involuntarily pressed to the glass. Though nailing every bon mot with style, Jess Burkle doesn't neglect Say's fragile sense of self. Jerry Marsini and Devin Norik inhabit the less colorful Clark and Saxton with authority. (Read Full Review)

B+

Elling

With Brendan Fraser and Denis O’Hare having terrific rapport as two polar-opposite social misfits released into the world from a state mental institution in the hope they can make a life together, this quirky, intimate comedy-drama proves to be unassumingly successful ... Doug Hughes directs with a keen sense of tone, never letting sentiment swamp humor, and comes up with some useful staging interludes that help disguise the cinematic short-scene script structure. (Read Full Review)

B

Time Stands Still (early 2010)

Laura Linney proves yet again she's one of our finest actors. Even when others are speaking, we are drawn back to Linney, watching her reveal more and more simply by listening and observing. I can think of no one today who achieves quite the same empathetic translucency, and you can imagine Margulies keeping it in mind when creating her character...But though the play gives Linney resonant opportunity, Margulies' largely well-observed, intelligent four-hander ultimately can't transcend its predictability. While the journey holds our interest, the destination is disappointing...Margulies seems to want this to be a tough consideration of our complacency in the face of documented horrors, but he doesn't gain serious traction...Daniel Sullivan smartly directs as much between as on the lines, but he can't keep the proceedings from feeling slightly static. (Read Full Review)

B

The Kid

What's good is so good that it makes the show's stumbles all the more glaring. Nevertheless, the creators get it right more than they get it wrong in this funny and touching new musical...Book writer Michael Zam telescopes intelligently and excels at capturing Savage's quirky comic voice...Jack Lechner's lyrics are a major asset: clever, witty, attuned to character, and distinctly well-crafted. Composer Andy Monroe's music is attractive but lacks muscle...Lechner and Monroe also struggle with the ensemble numbers, which often seem more dutiful than organic, particularly the generic "Seize the Day." Nevertheless, much of the score works, and the songwriters deserve high praise for Melissa's "Spare Changin'," which neatly solves the problem of making a character who seems unlikely to sing do so...Director Scott Elliott deserves as much credit for the fine performances as he does blame for the dramaturgical failings. (Read Full Review)

B

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

A press release says the play “explores revolution, radicalism, marriage, sex, prostitution, politics, real estate, unions of all kinds, and debts both unpaid and unpayable.” Whew. And I suppose it does, but right now they’re too often butting up against each other rather than synthesizing satisfactorily. Nevertheless, beat by beat the play is compelling, and Kushner’s acutely observed, often-overlapping dialogue is well-served by a dynamite cast under Michael Greif’s meticulous direction. There are some terrific set pieces, including Paul’s anti–Marcantonio clan rants and a slam-bang Act 2 closer, but the oddly tentative lady-or-the-tiger ending doesn’t work. (Read Full Review)

B

The Pride

Intelligent and imaginative, it grabs your attention from the start and holds it...Of course, that's partly due to director Joe Mantello's crackling production and faultless cast. Still, upon leaving the theater, I had a nagging feeling that "The Pride" is something less than the sum of its undoubtedly interesting parts. What is Campbell trying to say?...I was left with a Peggy Lee moment: "Is that all there is?"...Ultimately, Campbell's writing is more persuasive in the past than in the present. (Read Full Review)

B

A Little Journey

Director Jackson Gay's nurturing production flies by swimmingly for the first two acts, revealing the playwright's considerable gift for characterization and idiomatic dialogue, but when Act 3 takes a lurch into melodrama, it's clear why Crothers both succeeded in her day and has since faded from the public consciousness. (Read Full Review)

B

The New York Idea

As smart as Auburn's work is—tighter, better structured, more-rounded characters—he significantly alters Mitchell's more censorious moral intentions and one-foot-always-on-the-floor sexual delicacy while injecting much of the play's "contemporary" sensibility himself. I'm not sure to what end, as even this modernized adaptation is unlikely to cross over to commercial audiences. Still, those with a taste for period comedy should thoroughly enjoy themselves...Under Mark Brokaw's fleet and shiny direction, the 12-person cast delivers top-flight performances. (Read Full Review)

B

Farm Boy

Farm Boy never transcends its origins as a children's novel in the way the stage version of War Horse does, and at 70 minutes it may not sate everyone's theatrical hunger. But there is still plenty of power in its conscious understatement and perceptive writing. (Read Full Review)

B

Lost In Yonkers

I’m happy to report that the script holds up just fine, despite the mildness of TACT’s production, in which director Jenn Thompson re-envisions (and slightly edits) Yonkers as a chamber work.
(Read Full Review)

B

Blues for Mr. Charlie

Nesmith's direction is hampered by the barebones physical production, which cannot accommodate some of Baldwin's tone-enhancing staging requests, and he paces the show too slowly (the nearly three-hour running time could be considerably shortened simply by speeding things up). Still, Nesmith's work keeps a complicated construction clear at all times. (Read Full Review)

B

Good People

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People is full of interesting characters and sharply written scenes, which combine to paint an indelible portrait of a social milieu, the economically depressed blue-collar culture of Boston's South End. Daniel Sullivan has directed with intelligence and sensitivity, eliciting top-notch performances from a powerhouse cast. Though the show is never less than emotionally compelling and often surprisingly funny, afterward I couldn't elude a slight sense of disappointment. This well-made play is just a tad too well-made. I couldn't shake off the sense of having seen more of a thesis than a drama. (Read Full Review)

B

The Vandal

Structurally, this study of three lonely and damaged people haltingly attempting to connect relies excessively upon manufactured surprises and though only 70 minutes takes too long to make its point. Still, thanks to first-rate performances and Jim Simpson’s careful, perceptive direction, Linklater’s playwriting promise comes through forcefully. (Read Full Review)

B

Ordinary Days

Out of context, the individual songs are undoubtedly impressive; strung together, they diminish each other ... Gwon is fortunate to have such a fine cast to deliver his show. Jared Gertner is sweet and lovably eccentric as Warren, who could easily come off as hopelessly annoying. Kate Wetherhead is spiky and amusing as Deb, who gets some of Gwon's wittiest lyrics, delivered by Wetherhead with rapier-like aplomb. Lisa Brescia excels at suggesting Claire's unexplained disaffectedness without alienating the audience. As Jason, Hunter Foster brings the force of his personality to another contemporary urban cipher and makes the character as interesting as he can. All four sing powerfully, and it is a pleasure to hear the unamplified results under Vadim Feichtner's precise musical direction in the intimate Roundabout Black Box space. Director Marc Bruni's staging is simple and swift on Lee Savage's nearly bare stage backed by stacks of changing colored-light boxes. Jeff Croiter illuminates it cleanly, and Lisa Zinni's contemporary costumes fill the bill just fine. (Read Full Review)

B

Water by the Spoonful

It will be quite a while before I forget the image of Liza Colón-Zayas as Odessa Ortiz, broken and alone, sitting on the floor of her threadbare Philadelphia home while ladling spoonfuls of water into empty air. At that moment, Quiara Alegría Hudes' "Water by the Spoonful" has all the power expected of a Pulitzer Prize–winning drama. Nevertheless, for much of its duration, this uncontestably warm and generous play is hampered by conventional plotting and engaging but predictable characters. (Read Full Review)

B

Arcadia

Leveaux's staging was done first in London, and it shows in the assured performances of the three cast holdovers. Tom Riley is a dashing and unflappable Septimus, equal parts withering wit and full-blooded sensuality while possessing an honest and open heart. He also shares great chemistry with Bel Powley, who is Thomasina. The radiant Powley burrows to the core of Stoppard's "uncomplicated girl," emphasizing her directness and fearlessness. In the present, Lia Williams dominates as the caustic, controlled, overachieving Hannah, who sublimates her depth of feeling to a determined rationality. The American newcomers, alas, never feel entirely English or fully integrated into the production. Faring best is Billy Crudup, who knows his way around the play, having played Septimus in its 1995 American premiere. Still, his Bernard, though undeniably entertaining, is a bit too broad of a pompous ass. As Valentine, Raúl Esparza is commendably still and subtle, but his accent falters and he never finds the longing at the character's center. (Read Full Review)

B

Kinky Boots

There’s no use putting up a fight with “Kinky Boots"... Yes, Harvey Fierstein’s funny book is a bit too bald, Cyndi Lauper’s catchy songs are more lyrically repetitive than they should be, and director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell slights character and story in favor of splashy production numbers. Still, boasting a powerhouse performance from Billy Porter as Lola, the drag queen who’s also a trained boxer, the damn thing works... Porter’s rip-roaring, strongly sung performance is always rooted in emotional truth, and he effectively contrasts Lola with Simon, the shy, uncomfortable young man who is Lola out of drag. Just as good in a quieter way is Stark Sands... Sands combines rigorously honest acting with personal charm and an attractive, flexible singing voice, and he is touching in Charlie’s Act 2 meltdown... Annaleigh Ashford is a tart, sassy Lauren, and she brings the house down with one of Lauper’s best songs, “The History of Wrong Guys,” a comic tour de force that also beautifully establishes character... “Kinky Boots” is likely to be ensconced at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre for some time. (Read Full Review)

B

Julius Caesar

What follows does indeed take place in a brutal and savage society in which virtually all the elite are corrupted by the lust for power and privilege while the boorish, unheeding masses get the representatives they deserve. It's undoubtedly intended as a metaphor for today, and while I find it more apt than I'd like to admit, it does tend to flatten out Shakespeare's tragedy into melodrama. Nevertheless, it's a gripping melodrama that hurtles forward at such speed that we're largely swept along with it (Read Full Review)

B

Hello Again

It's a pleasure to re-encounter the slightly revised show, even if the undeniably talented company isn't quite as special as the original cast and is further hampered by director Jack Cummings III's puzzling decision to stage the musical site-specifically in a cavernous SoHo loft...LaChiusa mixes dialogue, song form, and recitative in fascinating and imaginative ways, with the end result being a hypnotizing tapestry of human desire...Cummings' far-flung staging, alas, doesn't do the show any favors...There are really only two choices in staging sexual encounters such as these: a successfully discreet stylization or total commitment to realistic nudity. What Cummings is doing is neither fish nor fowl. Fortunately, the director does a much better job with his actors. Everybody turns in quality work...Musical director Chris Habert and music supervisor Chris Fenwick deserve special praise for the cast's confident singing and expert meshing of acting and song. With each new Broadway season bringing shows intent upon debasing this glorious art form further, it's a gift to have the chance to say hello again to Hello Again. (Read Full Review)

B

Benefactors

Vivienne Benesch is a terrific Jane, immediately suggesting dark areas of judgment underneath a happy-to-be-subordinate exterior and then volcanic when that exterior cracks. Deanne Lorette is bravely uncompromising as Sheila, so convincing in her whiny lack of self-regard and aggressive puppy-dog ardor that we wince more than the characters at Sheila's behavior. Stephen Barker Turner, as Colin, seems to be channeling James Mason, which is not inappropriate, but he misses the aching emptiness in the man's soul. Daniel Jenkins gets the surface right but takes David's comment that he hates a fight too much to heart, reducing the character's capacity for anger and frustration just enough that his transformation amounts to less than it should. Can you tell I had mixed feelings? I'm still sorting them out, something I think suggests that Benefactors is well worth your time and attention. (Read Full Review)

B

A Christmas Story

It’s not a phenomenon I understand, but if you are going to musicalize something for such inorganic reasons, “A Christmas Story” is the way to do it: with taste, intelligence, and affection. (Read Full Review)

B

An Early History of Fire

This is a gentler, more sentimental Rabe than usual, which may account for the play’s unfortunate tendency to meander, seemingly never quite sure of where it wants to go and what it wants to say. (An entire character was excised during previews.) Still, there is some fine writing, a well-observed protagonist, and an affecting if expected ending. (Read Full Review)

B

The Miracle Worker

The story of teacher Annie Sullivan unlocking the deaf-and-blind young Helen Keller from a world of darkness carries an elemental power that survives even director Kate Whoriskey's troubled staging. Fortunately, Whoriskey has mostly cast it well, particularly in choosing the immensely gifted Alison Pill to play Annie. Pill is more vulnerable than Bancroft, but that only puts Annie's eventual success in greater question. The diminutive actor, utterly convincing as a 20-year-old, makes Annie's raw youth the gauge by which we can measure her character's journey into adulthood. It's nearly as moving to watch Pill's Annie attain her maturity as it is when Helen finally understands that the letters Annie has been spelling into her hand have meaning ... During the famously shattering climax at the water pump, I found myself with a fine view of the back of Breslin's head. If there is ever a time when every audience member should have an unimpeded view of Helen's face, this is it. Instead, I watched the face of a young girl in the audience opposite me. Eyes wide, absolutely riveted, her surprise was manifest as it dawned on her what was occurring on stage. She even mouthed something to herself. Clearly, Breslin delivered. I only wish I could have seen it. (Read Full Review)

B

The Grand Manner

The four-character play spins a passing encounter into a touching if slight fable about the theater's allure and the costs of maintaining it, the encroachment of the new generation on the old, and the dangers of hiding one's true self from the world. If none of that is particularly new, Gurney compensates with engaging characters and wise observances married with pure, old-fashioned charm ... Under Mark Lamos' light-as-air direction, Kate Burton astutely captures Cornell's outward serenity masking deep insecurities. Simultaneously plummy and unaffected, she successfully shows us the quiet sadness of a woman who can no longer step out of a role she longs to quit. Bobby Steggert makes a fine foil for her as Pete, all boyish masculinity and sunny directness, even when trying to be tactful. Brenda Wehle's dry Macy cuts the sentiment like a twist of lemon while providing emotional heft through the bottomless affection apparent in her protective gazes at her lover. Boyd Gaines infuses a welcome energy with his late entrance as McClintic, firing off waspish remarks with alacrity. Gaines and Steggert make McClintic's veiled attempt to seduce Pete a real highlight ... Those whose determination to be perceived of as youthful, hip, and cutting-edge dominates their taste may be immune to the pleasures (and perspectives) of "The Grand Manner," due not only to its traditional sensibility but also because Cornell's predicament may strike rather close to home. Others, though, will likely find a good deal to savor in this literate, civilized, and mature work. (Read Full Review)

B

CQ/CX

All this is there in McKinley's script, but it rarely dips beneath the surface, playing more like an extended TV-drama episode than a thoughtful theater work. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Mound Builders

Lanford Wilson’s 1975 play The Mound Builders is, according to Wilson’s published preface, constructed to resemble the process at an archaeological dig, where scientists painstakingly sift through dirt to find artifacts. This makes it extremely important for the playwright’s subtle slices of exposition to be delivered with maximum clarity. That’s not always happening in Act 1 of director Jo Bonney’s revival for Signature Theatre, which is why the show takes too long to start cooking. Fortunately, Act 2 catches fire, and the drama ends as a reasonably satisfying meal. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Bald Soprano

Eugene Ionesco's "The Bald Soprano" was one of those seminal developmental moments for me. At 13, I was the sound crew for my high school production of the show, which meant I sat in the wings and periodically banged on a set of tubular bells borrowed from the school orchestra to simulate the chiming of a clock. I marveled as the show (and my clock) got huge laughs at every performance, and I came to realize that theater could be more than just "Inherit the Wind" and "Arsenic and Old Lace." Somehow, though, I've never seen a professional production of this 65-minute one-act until now. And even if the Pearl Theatre Company doesn't quite sound all the notes of this "anti-play" (as the author subtitled it) that laments the limits of language, I'm grateful for the chance to re-encounter this thought-provoking, richly entertaining work. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Bacchae

Pentheus' choices are entirely reasonable, those of a loving son and a responsible leader. The point Euripides is making is not about a feckless government oppressing its citizens. It's that what man wants doesn't matter in the face of the gods, who demand submission and worship. This undoubtedly resonated with the Greeks, but we don't believe in their gods today, nor does the Western belief in a just and loving God allow for such capricious and tormenting behavior on his part. The central question of the play is moot. And that makes it awfully hard to stage successfully....The Bacchae is worth the trip for serious theatergoers, but Akalaitis hasn't solved the problem of making it relevant. (Read Full Review)

B-

In Masks Outrageous and Austere

There are echoes of many Williams works, as well as what seems to be commentary on his then reputation as a decadent cultural provocateur, but what struck me most was Williams' newfound confidence in creating out gay characters. That may be the main mask he was working to shed in this problematic work, which despite its flaws is a must-see for any serious Williams fan. (Read Full Review)

B-

Slowgirl

Pierce’s problems begin with his premise. After 17-year-old Becky, a sheltered suburban middle-class kid, was involved with others in a potential bullying situation that seriously injured a mentally challenged classmate, her mother abruptly sent her to stay with her uncle Sterling, Mom’s once-close but now-distant brother. The nervous, repressed, generally uptight Sterling lives like a hermit in an overgrown open-air hut in the jungles of Costa Rica, having fled from his own problems. Extrovert Becky only met him once, when she was 8 years old. It doesn’t seem a likely choice for a worried parent, and Pierce never manages to make it one, despite the use of extensive backstory. He does, however, create two plausible characters and chart their sudden, forced relationship interestingly. (Read Full Review)

B-

Future Anxiety

When all is said and done, however, Haines' vision lacks the sharpness her concerns require. There's a glibness to the proceedings, and that extends to the performances. (Read Full Review)

B-

Glengarry Glen Ross

It doesn’t help that Sullivan too often lets the pacing go slack in that crucial initial encounter. Fortunately, actor John C. McGinley, as the hard-charging Dave Moss, grabs the reins and snaps them to in the next scene as Moss attempts to convince Richard Schiff’s wonderfully shlumpy George Aaronow to team up with him for the above-mentioned crime. Mamet’s first-act series of attempted seductions is then capped by Bobby Cannavale’s bravura delivery of smarmy alpha-male Ricky Roma’s sale of some worthless Florida swamp land to a complete stranger he targets in the tatty Chinese restaurant in which Act 1 is set. Though Cannavale has played variations on this kind of character before, his Roma is the most memorable of them all. (Read Full Review)

B-

Follies

The story of two unhappily married middle-aged couples attending a 1971 reunion of Broadway musical performers, "Follies" is an ensemble piece. Schaeffer does star Bernadette Peters no favor by making this production too focused on her role, the obsessive and delusional housewife Sally Durant Plummer, who's been married to one man while pining for another for 30 years. Peters, who has completely reworked her performance since Washington, is not helped by the cutting, rewriting, and restructuring done to Goldman's original 1971 text, which strips the manic part out of this manic-depressive character. She chooses to play it woeful, weepy, and scared, and though this resourceful, hard-working performer has repressed her trademark cuteness and finally found a persuasive emotional through-line for Sally, the result is a less interesting character. Peters is still uncomfortably challenged in her singing, particularly in her upper register, and she now delivers the iconic "Losing My Mind" with far too much fussy and phony psychological naturalism. (Read Full Review)

B-

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

It took me a while to understand my disappointment in Lincoln Center Theater's musical adaptation of Pedro Almodóvar's 1988 film "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," now at the spectacularly restored Belasco Theatre. There had been much to enjoy: Jeffrey Lane's frequently funny book, David Yazbek's perfectly professional Latin-infused songs, a stellar cast at the top of its game, and Bartlett Sher's fluid staging that combines with a highly imaginative physical production to capture Almodóvar's idiosyncratic visual style and editing rhythms. Yet the show hadn't jelled. Eventually, a light dawned. "Women" is what composer Mary Rodgers calls a "Why?" musical. It has no compelling reason to sing; it's just the original property with songs dropped in. (Read Full Review)

B-

Mother

What the show has going for it, aside from Henry and Taylor, is Ebersole's ear for dialogue. She knows exactly who these people are and how they interact. Under Andrew Grosso's precise direction, the cast navigates complicated physical business and all that chatter with utter conviction. It's impressive to watch. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel like it's serving any particular purpose. There is a moment, when a handwritten note arrives at the family's table apparently announcing that daughter Kate has been kidnapped, when it seems the play is moving beyond cute hyperrealism to something more interesting. But Ebersole drops the gambit without exploiting it. (Read Full Review)

B-

Death of a Salesman

Without a compelling Biff, you haven’t got a show, and though Miller’s masterwork still has power, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre that power is diluted...Hoffman, at 44, is also younger than his character, by nearly two decades, but he doesn’t allow that to be an obstacle, offering a carefully thought-out performance that stresses Willy’s boisterous, childlike optimism...It doesn’t help matters that we have a potential Biff onstage staring us in the face: the excellent Finn Wittrock, who here is playing the younger brother, Happy...There’s plenty to recommend this “Salesman,” not least of which is Miller’s titanic play. But without a dramatically equal Biff to lock horns with, Hoffman (and Nichols) can’t quite generate the sense of tragedy a great Willy can evoke in an audience, resulting in a “Salesman” that’s intellectually moving but not emotionally shattering. (Read Full Review)

B-

Collision

Timing can be a bitch. The Amoralists had Lyle Kessler's new play "Collision" in rehearsal when the Newtown, Conn., massacre occurred. Suddenly, an "incendiary black comedy" about ... guns, wasn't such a good idea. The Amoralists announced through its press agent that the show's tone had "evolved during the rehearsal process" and that the company was changing the play's designation from "black comedy" to "drama." Perhaps postponement wasn't an option, but "Collision" would likely have been better served, forgive the expression, by sticking to its guns. (Read Full Review)

B-

Lucky Guy

Surprisingly, Ephron seems more taken with the milieu than the man, who comes across as a rather standard-issue every-guy-for-himself narcissist. Still, suffused in her palpable affection for a bygone era, peppered with her trademark wit, and sporting Hanks, Lucky Guy should do just fine. (Read Full Review)

B-

Checkers

Under Terry Kinney’s broad but effective direction, the play’s collection of short scenes in many locations (it often feels as if it were more suited to the screen) speeds along, aided by Neil Patel’s simple unit set and especially Darrel Maloney’s inventive and witty projections. Anthony LaPaglia is persuasive as Nixon, finding him in voice and body language and smartly injecting the character with a youthful vigor and innocence in the flashback. What he can’t do is provide much psychological depth, but that’s due to the script. (Read Full Review)

B-

Myths and Hymns

Guettel's score is inspired by Christian hymns and Greek mythology. Quite sophisticated musically, it melds pop and classical influences into arresting art songs featuring poetic texts that only occasionally employ the specificity of character- or action-defining theater lyrics. The elasticity of meaning allows Lucas to use the songs in new ways, but it also prevents her from exploring those ways in any depth, reducing her newly created tale to a compendium of clichés. This is most damagingly apparent in "Icarus," when the son's death seems to be attributed to his hubris in embracing his sexuality, though I doubt that was the intention. (Read Full Review)

B-

Stick Fly

Set designer David Gallo's handsome, comfortable home, lit invitingly by Beverly Emmons, makes you want to move right in. Reggie Ray's casually contemporary costumes are attuned to personality and articulate class. Peter Fitzgerald's sound design is admirably natural, though the simplistic incidental music by pop star Alicia Keys (who is also a producer) tells us little and bloats the running time. It's a critic's job to figure out what the artists wanted to do and then analyze whether or not they succeeded and why. If Diamond's goal was a lively potboiler that would bring serious ideas to the masses, then mission pretty much accomplished. (Read Full Review)

B-

Hit the Wall

There’s no doubt that Ike Holter's "Hit the Wall," an attempt to dramatize the Stonewall Riots, which are generally considered the birth of the modern gay rights movement, means well. Unfortunately, that's not enough. Holter's script follows the adventures of eight gay or lesbian people on the day of the riots. The actors commit fully to the endeavor, but there is little they can do with the stereotypical writing. Throughout "Hit the Wall" the characters repeatedly intone "I was there." It's painfully obvious Holter wasn't. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Merchant of Venice (Central Park)

First things first: I've never been much able to stomach "The Merchant of Venice," not when I first read it in high school nor when I first saw it (in 1973 on TV, starring the husband-and-wife team of Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright). I'm always too aware of William Shakespeare enthusiastically pandering to the anti-Semitism of his day in this "comedy" while absolving himself with the "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech. Nevertheless, there's some vintage language and two intriguing characters: Shylock and Portia. Director Daniel Sullivan is fortunate to have terrific performances in those roles from Al Pacino and Lily Rabe. So if you can stand the play's ick factor or are unfamiliar with the work, a trip to the Delacorte is probably in order. (Read Full Review)

B-

4000 Miles

Amy Herzog's new play 4000 Miles is a bit of a companion piece to After the Revolution, her captivating political family drama produced at Playwrights Horizons last season, as both plays contain the character of Vera Joseph, a no-nonsense 91-year-old grandmother who's also a member of the Communist Party. Vera is as interesting here as she was in the earlier play, but the story surrounding her is considerably slighter. Herzog's talent still shines, but 4000 Miles is more successful as character study than as a fully realized dramatic work. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Summer Day

Too often, however, despite all the loving care, “A Summer Day” feels like an intellectualized expression of emotion. (Read Full Review)

C+

Bachelorette

The new bite-size comedy "Bachelorette," about three young women behaving very badly, prizes shock over substance and judgment over character. Though Second Stage Theatre Uptown has given it a first-class production, with astute direction from the talented Trip Cullman and sharp performances from a six-person cast, all the queen's horses can't disguise the depressing shallowness of the proceedings.... Only Carmen M. Herlihy, as Becky, gets a character we don't totally expect, with the result that Herlihy dominates from the moment Becky finally shows up. (Read Full Review)

C+

Wolves

Brewer's recurring wolf imagery—Caleb and Kay's car collides with one on their way home from the party, one appears ominously to Julie when she's alone in the woods, and, of course, there's that teenager—never resonates with clarity, coming across as a gimmick intended to provide cohesion to a muddled piece. Structurally, Brewer traps herself into far too many two-person scenes, and the alternation of party scenes with car scenes in the first part is predictable and repetitious, not to mention awkwardly staged by director Mike Klar in the tiny, exit-challenged Theater C (that poor dying wolf has to get up, go out, come back, and lie down again entirely too often, each time carrying a pool of blood with it). (Read Full Review)

C+

Parents' Evening

Though the writing is sharp enough to sustain interest from moment to moment, in the end this compact 75-minute work (including intermission) seems incomplete, as if it wants somehow to be part of a fuller canvas.... There's a surprising amount of humor in Doran's caustic script, and Julianne Nicholson and James Waterston know where it is and how to mine it. Director Jim Simpson, however, doesn't quite get the balance right, allowing Waterston to make the unpleasant Michael excessively shrill and Nicholson to suppress too much of the passive-aggressive Judy. The actors do well, however, at suggesting the casual intimacies of a long-married couple, aided by Doran's choice to set the play on and around their king-size double bed. (Read Full Review)

C+

Belleville

The prolific Amy Herzog hits a snag with “Belleville,” a portrait of the seriously dysfunctional marital relationship of a couple of Americans in their late 20s living in the titular bohemian Parisian neighborhood. While Herzog’s considerable talent for dialogue and character is in evidence, the play is not stylish enough to be just a thriller, while the nature of Zack and Abby’s problems is based on such a web of outrageous lies that the drama fails to resonate beyond them. Director Anne Kauffman keeps things moving and elicits nuanced performances from Maria Dizzia, as Abby, and Greg Keller, as Zack. Dizzia and Keller make a convincing couple, especially in their physical intimacy with each other, but they fail to draw us in emotionally. Indeed, Herzog appears to want “Belleville” to be a tale of how a perfectly ordinary marriage can go shockingly amiss. While it’s never less than professional, all I was left with was a single nagging question: What was the point of that? (Read Full Review)

C+

Compulsion

Groff tells this fascinating and rather scary story imaginatively, with marionettes of Anne Frank and other characters, both in the diary and in Groff's play, employed to unsettling effect. But director Oskar Eustis fails to guide star Mandy Patinkin to a disciplined portrayal of Levin, here renamed Sid Silver, allowing the actor's insufficiently shaded and over-the-top emoting to undercut the proceedings...The most arresting moments come when the marionette Anne interacts with Silver and others...But Groff lets the play peter out. (Read Full Review)

C+

What Rhymes with America

The quirk quotient is dangerously high in Melissa James Gibson’s “What Rhymes With America,” a rather sketchy collection of scenes in search of a play. The no doubt deliberately drab physical production—set by Laura Jellinek, costumes by Emily Rebholz, lights by Matt Frey—reinforces the depressive tone. The title makes a forced appearance during the final scene, when, as father and daughter conduct a conversation from opposite sides of an apartment’s locked front door, Marlene asks it and Hank glumly replies, “Nothing.” (Read Full Review)

C+

The Coward

Ultimately, though Jones does manage a rather shopworn indictment of conventional definitions of masculinity, he has little new to say on the subject and takes far too long to do it. In addition, this exercise in style is too pleased with itself and its jejune juxtapositions of period behavior and contemporary snark. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Nance

Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Nance” is a bold, brave play, in which this eminent theatrical boulevardier reaches for something deeper and darker…the show offers taut direction from Jack O’Brien and a tour de force turn from the brilliant Nathan Lane. So it’s with great regret that I have to say that Beane’s yin-and-yang mix of low comedy and high tragedy, the personal and the political, never meshes. I spent most of “The Nance” fascinated by the subject matter but frustrated by Beane’s execution. As flawed as it is, it’s an important try that’s worth seeing. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Talls

There's nothing particularly wrong with The Talls... Kerrigan's characters flirt with stereotype but have just enough specificity not to hook up with it; the playwright's dramatization of family dynamics is acute; and her evocation of period is generally solid. But there's nothing very distinctive about it either... There's fine work from a talented cast of seven and simpatico direction by Carolyn Cantor, but upon leaving the theater I couldn't shake the nagging thought "That's it?"... The show's most arresting performance [is] Christa Scott-Reed's turn as Anne... [she] makes Anne an appropriately maternal taskmaster in her opening scenes, then proceeds to unravel with skill and subtlety... Set designer Dane Laffrey does a great job with his very lived-in suburban living room and kitchen... [and] Jenny Mannis gets the duds right... There's no question that Kerrigan's got talent and ability... [but] The Talls comes up a bit short. (Read Full Review)

C+

Carrie

Industry chat boards have been abuzz with arguments about who is the better Margaret, original Betty Buckley or current Marin Mazzie, but comparisons are pointless. Buckley's memorable turn was fashioned to fit Hands' way-over-the-top production. It wouldn't work here, and Mazzie wisely underplays in a riveting, psychologically nuanced portrayal. She's notably good with Margaret's slow unraveling as she realizes that she has lost control of her daughter, leading to a devastating rendition of "When There's No One," the song in which Margaret, who does love Carrie in her own twisted way, decides that she must kill her to save her. (Read Full Review)

C+

There Are No More Big Secrets

The husband-and-wife team of Heidi Schreck (playwright) and Kip Fagan (director) is behind "There Are No More Big Secrets," the latest offering from Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Schreck, also an Obie-winning actor, has a gift for writing layered characters, and Fagan knows how to make the most of their interactions. Ultimately, though, this tale of an endangered Russian journalist and her American husband seeking refuge in rural New York with two of his former close friends, now married, never coheres. (Read Full Review)

C+

Tender Napalm

English playwright Philip Ridley certainly loves words. His pretentious two-hander “Tender Napalm,” which looks at the teetering marital relationship of a young man and woman, is awash in a sea of overwrought verbiage more suited to the printed page than a theater. It’s only thanks to the terrific performances of Blake Ellis and Amelia Workman, fortified by Paul Takacs’ muscular staging and Yasmine Lee’s kinetic movement, that the show doesn’t drown in its increasingly baroque imagery. (Read Full Review)

C+

Orphans

When I saw the original Off-Broadway production of Lyle Kessler’s “Orphans” back in 1985, I found the play to be a tiresome mix of pilfered Pinter and stolen Shepard, notable solely for Steppenwolf Theatre’s visceral acting style, exemplified in the flashy performances of Kevin Anderson, Terry Kinney, and John Mahoney. Nearly 30 years later the play is getting its Broadway debut, but time hasn’t altered my assessment. “Orphans” remains as synthetic as ever, only now Tom Sturridge, Ben Foster, and Alec Baldwin do the bravura thesping. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Scottsboro Boys (Off-Broadway)

First the good news: The score for "The Scottsboro Boys," the final collaboration of a legendary team—lyricist Fred Ebb, who died in 2004, and composer John Kander—is a strong one, containing songs as good as any they've given us. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking to have to report that those songs are in the service of David Thompson's ill-conceived and thinly written book...Susan Stroman's direction does nothing to mitigate the book's weaknesses, even as her confident staging works hard to do so. The result is that a potentially brilliant musical slips through the creators' fingers. (Read Full Review)

C+

Freed

Playwright Charles Smith has an interesting tale to tell in the true story of John Newton Templeton, who in 1824 became the first free black man to attend college in the Midwest and only the fourth in the whole country. Smith also writes believable dialogue and characters. Indeed, there's much to recommend Freed (formerly titled Free Man of Color) in this Penguin Rep production under Joe Brancato's careful, measured direction. Ultimately, though, the play falters due to the restrictions of the three-hander form...Indeed, Smith's problems involve the rather predictable architecture of alternating two-person scenes, mixed with too much distancing narration, and a tendency to introduce arguments that all too neatly and predictably turn around to the detriment of their proponents...Though the play is never less than engaging, I couldn't shake the feeling that this fascinating story requires a larger and messier canvas. (Read Full Review)

C+

Love Goes To Press

It’s just not a very good play... [Gellhorn] and Cowles knew nothing about playwriting and the whole venture was motivated by the desire to make pots of money on a film sale. It shows in the ramshackle structure, shaky plotting, and unbelievable character motivations... [Director] Ruiz never finds a consistent tone for this uncharacteristically uncertain Mint production, leaving some fine actors struggling. The best work is to be found in the smaller parts... Especially notable is Margot White’s narcissistic Daphne, who garners the lion’s share of laughs as she cuts a heedlessly selfish swath through all the wartime privations... Despite the shortcomings, I’m glad to have had a chance to encounter Love Goes to Press for its value as an interesting artifact. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Brother/Sister Plays

The Tarell Alvin McCraney bandwagon is rolling. Embraced by the cream of the nonprofit theatrical establishment and winner of the first New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, the talented 29-year-old is placed in the esteemed pantheon of O'Neill, Miller, Shepard, and Parks by Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis in his effusive program notes. It's a heavy burden to put on any young author, and McCraney can't shoulder it in his sprawling new trilogy, "The Brother/Sister Plays." While there are definitely elements to admire, particularly in "Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet," the final play, there's also a good deal of overblown mythologizing combined with a paucity of convincing character writing. At his best, McCraney has a decidedly original way with language; at his worst, he relies on sociological stereotypes for easy laughs. Is he deserving of careful nurturing and support? You bet. Is he the second coming? Not yet. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Book of Grace

Parks keeps both us and her characters determinedly off kilter, doling out information parsimoniously and mysteriously. Two important questions linger: Did Vet sexually abuse the young Buddy? Why do Buddy and the middle-aged Grace, who haven't seen each other since Buddy was 10, have sex as soon as they meet? Parks' choice not to answer is obviously deliberate, but the effect is to undermine credibility. Symbols abound—that border fence, Buddy's lifelong proclivity for explosives, a hole Vet digs in the backyard—but we're too aware of them. Parks also falters in her use of what seems to be two endings. This clearly mirrors a sad story in Grace's book about a dog named Trouble. It lacks an ending, so Grace makes up a variety of them. (Read Full Review)

C+

Cinderella

There are moments of theatrical magic strewn throughout... Unfortunately, they have little to do with Beane’s ambitious but ungainly rewrite, which creates a musical at war with itself, failing to fuse snarky one-liners and self-consciously with-it anachronisms with the romanticism of the source material. Despite three sterling performances and the timeless songs, lovelier than ever in Danny Troob’s gorgeous orchestrations, the show never comes together in a satisfying way... (Read Full Review)

C+

Picnic

William Inge’s 1953 Pulitzer Prize–winning “Picnic” is indisputably an American classic, but that doesn’t mean the play is foolproof. An ensemble piece, its mercurial moods and shifting subtext require careful orchestration. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what it’s not getting from director Sam Gold at Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre. Coarse, excessively anxious for laughs, and deficient in the repression rampant in 1950s small-town Kansas, the production strands its 12 actors in several very different plays. (Read Full Review)

C

Clybourne Park

There’s no denying the cleverness of Norris’ dramatic conceit and the slickness with which he executes it...Norris spends Act 1 picking off the expected 1950s targets—racial bigotry, religious hypocrisy, repression of women, suffocating social conformity—with reasonable flair. What he can’t do, however, is give the characters much substance...Act 2 is less predictable but more rickety, featuring some unpersuasive behavior from Lindsey and the awfully pat juxtaposition of Lena’s racism with Karl’s. The coda, referencing Kenneth’s death, is entirely unsuccessful. Director Pam McKinnon keeps things crackling with her sharp direction, and the top-notch cast has further refined its comic timing. (Read Full Review)

C

Gabriel

Buffini tries to elevate her tale into something new by focusing on weighty issues of morality, throwing in touches of mysticism, and writing much of the script in blank verse. Ultimately, though, she doesn't find a fresh angle on the eternal tango of occupiers and the occupied.... David Esbjornson's character-focused direction does its best to keep us involved. Lisa Emery's detailed work makes the hard Jeanne understandable, if not likable, while Samantha Soule is her vigorous opposite as the high-minded Lilian. Zach Grenier avoids cliché as Von Pfunz as much as he can. Patricia Conolly's entertainingly pragmatic Mrs. Lake comes from any number of British war films. Libby Woodbridge, alas, is too old to convince as a 10-year-old, which makes Estelle even more annoying. As Gabriel, Lee Aaron Rosen isn't asked to do much beyond look angelic and be mysteriously romantic, and he's just fine doing both.... A 2004 British miniseries, "Island at War," shown here on PBS, covered the same territory with less pretension. It's just one more thing that makes "Gabriel," despite all the talented folks involved, feel like old news. (Read Full Review)

C

Clybourne Park

Bruce Norris' a-pox-on-all-your-houses satire scores its share of points in Pam MacKinnon's sharply directed production...But...Clybourne Park evaporates almost as soon as it's over, largely because this self-styled "pitch-black comedy" hasn't a dangerous bone in its body...Norris has a high old time in Act 1 making hay out of the emotionally repressed, overtly racist '50s, but the era and his characters are easy targets...Everyone in the crackerjack cast plays at least two roles, working hard to humanize characters that rarely transcend types...Though it's a reasonably engaging way to pass a couple of hours, one waits in vain for Clybourne Park to draw blood. (Read Full Review)

C

The Little Foxes

Lillian Hellman's sturdy melodrama about the greedy, grasping Hubbard clan in the Old South at the turn of the 20th century is a play I know well and admire as a minor classic yet have no particular affection for. So I watched with fascination as director Ivo van Hove and his excellent actors went at its deconstruction with hammer and tongs. I don't think The Little Foxes has any unexplored depths to mine, but the folks at New York Theatre Workshop certainly searched for them with vigor. Alas, the whole thing came off as an acting exercise that would probably be very helpful somewhere around the middle of rehearsals. (Read Full Review)

C

Private Lives

[Eyre's] tiresome insistence on naturalistic acting rooted in emotional truth pretty much does the current Broadway production in, despite a talented cast that quite likely could deliver the comedy under happier circumstances...Cattrall...looks great and handles an English accent effortlessly, but she has trouble locating Amanda's dryness and mercurial whimsy. Gross, also 50ish...looks just as great and brings a commanding presence to the stage. (Read Full Review)

C

Bare, the Musical

This is director Stafford Arima's second attempt in quick succession to retool a failed cult show into a hit, but he has been even less successful with “Bare” than he was with “Carrie.” Arima has instigated extensive revisions, the first of which are [added] book scenes, which get off a few snappy lines but also sap the extravagant sense of raging hormones once conveyed by the nonstop singing without compensating by establishing dimensional characters. The original “Bare” has a devoted following. Perhaps it might have been better to leave things well enough alone. (Read Full Review)

C

Bring It On: The Musical

Bring It On: The Musical aspires to be nothing more than a frothy distraction... Whitty's generic script is full of predictably sassy one-liners and types rather than characters. It regularly grinds to a halt so that director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler can whip out yet another cheerleading routine; these are impressively athletic at first but grow increasingly repetitive as the show progresses... It's a lot of firepower for such a lightweight result, but the songs are never less than pleasant if rather interchangeable. The bright young cast works hard for its money... Last season Disney brought Newsies to Broadway despite the fact that the show was only intended to tour. It's now a hot ticket in an open-ended run. I doubt Bring It On will be duplicating that feat.

(Read Full Review)

C

The Winter's Tale (2010)

Director Michael Greif seasons the stew with a healthy dose of magic and wonder, and a game cast stirs the pot vigorously, but in the end, well, it's still The Winter's Tale. If you like the play, you'll almost certainly enjoy this Public Theater production...If not, you're in for a long three hours and 15 minutes...There is...one stunning performance on display: that of Marianne Jean-Baptiste, in the admittedly showy role of Paulina, a lady at court close with the queen who is the only one to stand up to Leontes. Full of fire and fury, Jean-Baptiste consistently offers the necessary emotional size that the rest of the production too often lacks. (Read Full Review)

C

When We Go Upon the Sea

Lee Blessing has written a real head-scratcher in "When We Go Upon the Sea," a three-person play set on the imaginary evening before George W. Bush faces the International Court of Justice at The Hague for war crimes. To his credit, Blessing doesn't go the easy satirical route, though there are some satisfying moments early on in which we see Bush squirming. Blessing seems to have a meditation on the pursuit and exercise of power on his mind. But in this uneasy blend of naturalism and symbolism, it's never clear just what the playwright wants to say ... Blessing writes the former president with exemplary naturalistic detail, and the coiled Conan McCarty brings him swaggering to life without tipping into caricature. Piet and Anna-Lisa, however, never convince as real people, nor does it seem as if they are meant to. (Read Full Review)

C

How I Learned To Drive

Never slips satisfyingly into gear...Elizabeth Reaser...hits the role too squarely on the head, missing the complicated feelings shifting under Li'l Bit's surface. Norbert Leo Butz, as Peck, understands the power of emotional suppression and uses it well...Butz, however, is handicapped by his inherent quality as an actor that repeatedly gets him cast as tricksters...The most successful acting is done by Kevin Cahoon, Jennifer Regan, and Marnie Schulenburg as a Greek chorus...Director Kate Whoriskey keeps the 90-minute drama moving briskly, perhaps a bit too briskly for the subtext to resonate. (Read Full Review)

C-

Death Takes a Holiday

The source material...is a delicate mood piece with little action. How would this trio of smart writers address that problem? Sadly, they haven't. With the ubiquitous Doug Hughes seeming out of his element directing a musical, this Death is no holiday...
Yeston provides some attractive compositions, but they are too many (often holding up what little action there is), too similar (the romantic solos and duets for Grazia and the prince feel interchangeable), and too lacking in dramatic purpose (especially when dutifully giving every supporting character a turn in the plodding second act)...Yeston can write a soaring melody, and it's possible that this score will sound better on CD, shorn of its dramatic responsibilities. Unfortunately, it's being heard on stage right now, where it manifestly does not work.
(Read Full Review)

C-

Promises, Promises

For this story to work, both Chuck and Fran must be young and dewy-eyed, just like the movie’s radiant Shirley MacLaine (25 at the time) and charmingly vulnerable Jack Lemmon (34 but seeming years younger). If the characters are older and thus more experienced, their actions become off-putting. Neither Hayes nor Chenoweth can conjure such youth believably ... Rob Ashford’s direction prizes yuks over truth, symbolized by a period chair in Sheldrake’s office that exists solely for a visual joke requiring utterly unbelievable behavior from Sheldrake, while Ashford's busy choreography can’t erase memories of Michael Bennett’s delightfully simple “She Likes Basketball” or orgiastic “Turkey Lurkey Time.” Set designer Scott Pask imprisons the show in a wraparound cyclorama reminiscent of the Berlin Wall. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Subject Was Roses

Director Amy Wright gets things off to a good start, quickly establishing Nettie and John’s unhappiness before we meet Timmy. With his entrance, their dynamic changes, and we watch all three playacting the relationship they would prefer to have. We’re assailed with an overpowering feeling of people walking on eggshells. As those shells start being cracked, by characters who can’t help themselves, we should get an increasing sense of foreboding. But that never really takes hold, mostly because Carol Schultz, as Nettie, and Dan Daily, as John, aren’t mining enough of that subtext. Schultz needs to make more of Nettie’s festering resentments about her husband, letting us see the effort it takes her to repress them. Daily lacks the almost panicked macho bonhomie of this coffee salesman who likes to put ’em away with the boys down at the bar. John should be a man we can imagine might slap his wife or son if sufficiently threatened. Daily’s John would never do such a thing, which makes the moment when he drunkenly tries to force his sexual attentions on Nettie awkwardly unconvincing.y (Read Full Review)

C-

The Testament of Mary

That Fiona Shaw is a force of nature is indisputable ... I'm not convinced, however, that all the symbolic clutter is the best elucidation of Tóibín's simple, moving deconstruction of one of the world's most beloved religious icons ... Tóibín appears to be suggesting that Christianity would be better off if it abandoned the dubious idea of Jesus' divinity. I haven't been a Christian for 40 years, so that's a question I'll leave to others, except to say that the case might be more compellingly made with less. (Read Full Review)

C-

Office Hours

By turns amusing and pointed, and yet also forced and thin, the play is a too-gentle lament for the loss of classics-based education. This one could have used a little more edge...The six fresh-faced actors play 28 roles, and while their talent is abundantly evident, they are not always completely successful in making each character unique...Jim Simpson's direction is clean and straightforward...Office Hours is a reasonably persuasive mosaic of 1970s academia, coalescing in a final scene that's more touching in theory than in execution. (Read Full Review)

C-

Passion

...largely unsuccessful... Gloriously melodic and fervently theatrical, [the score] sweeps the action forward, and Lapine’s superb book is written with depth and subtlety... [but] on Doyle’s dull, nearly bare unit set... the characters are constantly pacing pointlessly about... Kuhn’s Fosca lacks any trace of the grotesque; she’s merely dowdy and has little sense of physical frailty... Silverman possesses the requisite good looks and sings strongly, but... the actor is utterly unpersuasive in Giorgio’s change of heart... Errico fares best, her bell-like soprano as clear and lovely as ever and her acting uncluttered, direct, and full of feeling... (Read Full Review)

C-

Tin Pan Alley Rag

Playwright Mark Saltzman clearly loves the work of Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin, and he wants to share it with the world. And, indeed, whenever music takes center stage in The Tin Pan Alley Rag, there is enjoyment to be had. Unfortunately, the play Saltzman has fashioned, about a fictional encounter between the two musical titans, is a thin, unbelievable affair that ultimately plays like dueling episodes of Biography...Director Stafford Arima indulges the script's penchant for sentimentality far too often. (Read Full Review)

C-

Driving Miss Daisy

It seemed like such a good idea on paper: Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in Driving Miss Daisy...So it's with tremendous regret and disappointment that I have to report that, under the puppy-soft direction of the usually reliable David Esbjornson, this Daisy never fully blooms. There are pleasures to be had, of course, and it's always instructive to watch the work of such consummate actors. Plenty of laughs are landed, but the primal power of this intimate meditation on race in America circa the civil rights era is never unleashed...Redgrave and Jones, being two of our finest stage actors, inevitably rivet attention...But Jones' hearty bluster too often obscures Hoke's demons, while Redgrave displays a distressing aptitude for being cute...Gaines gives the most successful performance. (Read Full Review)

C-

Heartless

I’m honestly not sure what Sam Shepard is up to with Heartless...It is visually arresting, beautifully directed by Daniel Aukin, and well-acted by a company of five...Heartless, however, lacks a sufficiently rigorous internal logic that would allow Shepard to communicate his ideas and emotions in a way that makes them palpable. (Read Full Review)

C-

Motown the Musical

If you are looking to bathe in nostalgia evoked by beloved tunes while watching talented and committed professionals do their industrious best to locate the magic of legendary performers, this is the show for you. If you prefer a well-written story with multidimensional characters that digs beneath the surface and uses song with dramatic acumen, then steer clear.
(Read Full Review)

C-

Inner Voices: Solo Musicals

For such a serious topic, [Mosaic] is remarkably insubstantial. Steinkellner's obvious script skirts banality, and while the lyrics are carefully crafted, they too are largely dull and insufficiently revelatory of character. Stitt's music is pretty but flavorless...There's more interest to Whida Peru: Resurrection Tangle, a rather self-consciously arty piece...Fortunately, the dynamic Judy Blazer, she of the blazing eyes, is on hand for this one, and from the moment she sashays on stage, we are hers...Ultimately, despite Blazer's excellent work, the character is diminished by the effortful writing. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Dream of the Burning Boy

Under Evan Cabnet's straightforward direction, the acting is better than the writing, but only one performer is able to get beyond type. As Rachel, Alexandra Socha, whom I've previously admired in Roundabout's concert presentation of "A Little Night Music" and in Yale Rep's musical version of "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," is a wonder. Highly intelligent and intimidatingly articulate, Rachel hides her emotions behind a spiky façade of rationality and her attractiveness under shlumpy clothes. She's Read's most successful creation, and Socha invests her with a restless and unpredictable humanity. (Read Full Review)

C-

Hands on a Hardbody

After watching S.R. Bindler’s 1997 documentary “Hands on a Hard Body”—about a 1994 Texas contest in which people stand around a Nissan truck while always keeping one hand on it, and the last left upright wins the vehicle—I shook my head and thought, “I just don’t see it.” Nevertheless, many a good musical has been born out of apparently unpromising material. Now that I’ve experienced “Hands on a Hardbody”—book by Doug Wright, lyrics by Amanda Green, music by Trey Anastasio and Green—I still haven’t seen it. The tuner coarsens its self-effacing, quietly observant source with cheesy soap-opera backstories, forced Lifetime-movie subplotting, and self-righteous hot-button-issue pressing in an obviously manipulative attempt to stir our emotions. Padded out with an unnecessary intermission and extraneous songs to nearly two-and-a-half hours, the proceedings rarely come to life. (Read Full Review)

C-

That Championship Season

Gregory Mosher's low-key direction treats the play as if it's a masterpiece, which doesn't help, though there's probably not much he could have done to mitigate all the sledgehammer dialogue, abrupt revelations, and gerrymandered outcomes. At least he's assembled, with one exception, a strong cast that works hard to give complexity to the largely one-note roles. Kiefer Sutherland finds a surprisingly volcanic core for the resentfully responsible James while never obscuring the man's ordinariness. Jason Patric, as Tom, lobs his inebriated zingers from the sidelines with faultless timing and intriguingly feminine physical gestures while projecting a visceral, mysterious sense of self-hatred. Chris Noth swaggers and glad-hands effectively as Phil, though the fit, sexy actor can't supply the seedy Lothario aspect of the character. Brian Cox accentuates the self-congratulatory sentimentality of Coach, suggesting an interesting softness at the center of this brusque authoritarian. Only Jim Gaffigan, as George, is unsuccessful. Gaffigan hits all the right notes, but his work is all on the surface, unsupported by convincing emotional depth. (Read Full Review)

C-

Look Back In Anger

Gold's decision to stage the show non-naturalistically, on a thin strip of downstage space (set designer Andrew Lieberman seals off the proscenium arch with a looming black wall) amid symbolic swaths of garbage, filthy furnishings, and assorted detritus (food and drink frequently go flying during meals), effectively puts the focus on these uncomfortable relationships and the characters' self-loathing. And by eliminating Alison's Edwardian father from the dramatis personae, put there by Osborne to serve as a symbol of all that Jimmy detests, Gold hermetically seals us in this unhappy quartet's dysfunctional universe. Alas, what that reveals is that Osborne was less interested in his people than he was in his rage. (Read Full Review)

C-

How the World Began

Trieschmann's characters are far too blankly written and reliant upon stereotype. Predictably, Susan is the prickly, condescending, citified intellectual; Gene is the genial good ol' boy whose affable manner masks a darker intractability; and Micah is the pure-in-heart, obsessive teenager who sees the world in black and white. Lacking sufficient backstory and largely devoid of compelling specifics, the characters resolutely refuse to coalesce, not helped by the playwright's determination to keep motivations murky until a final—and very forced—reveal of information that should have been a turning point instead of a finish (Read Full Review)

C-

The Road to Mecca

Fugard's delicate three-person work has a great deal of talk and very little action. The drama turns on small moments and subtle subtext and requires intimacy. Despite sterling performances from Carla Gugino, Jim Dale, and the luminous Rosemary Harris, it's a bit of a slog to Mecca as the show tries to punch its way across the footlights in the Roundabout Theatre Company's too-large American Airlines Theatre.
(Read Full Review)

C-

Heresy

Gurney’s obvious Biblical parallels are too cute by half and never add up to anything, while his curtain line traffics in one of the hoariest clichés around: If Jesus came today, society would once again reject him. Under Jim Simpson’s indulgent direction, the overqualified seven-person cast can do little with the limp material. Kathy Najimy looks for laughs in Phyllis’ rising alcohol level and blithe narcissism and finds a few. Reg. E. Cathey’s pompous and prissy Ponty lacks menace. Steve Mellor is a suitably modest Joseph, but Annette O’Toole pushes Mary’s sourness too hard. Tommy Crawford (Mark), Danny Rivera (Pedro), and Ariel Woodiwiss (Lena) are attractive young talents who keep forcefully striking the one note Gurney gives them to play. (Read Full Review)

D+

Modern Terrorism

[A] depressingly shallow comedy...Kern seems to think that it’s transgressive simply to treat the terrorists as ordinary people rather than the summation of evil. Unfortunately, his paper-thin first act plays like a repurposed episode of Three’s Company...Peter DuBois’ bouncing direction does nothing to mitigate the script’s inadequacies. The capable four-person cast does its best with what it’s given. (Read Full Review)

D+

Next to Normal

The estimable Alice Ripley makes Diana more compelling than she's written and sings with power and precision. As Natalie, Jennifer Damiano ingeniously finds as many different ways to be damaged as she can, and Adam Chanler-Berat is charming if a bit one-note as her insistent suitor. Aaron Tveit as Gabe provides a riveting stage presence and an impressive voice but is still stuck playing a melodramatic symbol. J. Robert Spencer is a more boyish and brittle Dan than Brian d'Arcy James, who played the role at Second Stage, lacking the latter's emotional richness and quiet authority. Louis Hobson manages to register in the bland roles of two doctors. Greif stages the show smartly on Mark Wendland's triple-tiered metal set that, as evocatively lit by Kevin Adams, imaginatively represents the family home, Diana's mind, and other locations. Greif does, however, allow some of the ballads to dilute the show's swift pacing. As Broadway becomes increasingly hostile to the presence of serious musicals, one roots even harder for those that make it there to succeed. Next to Normal, alas, still misses the mark. (Read Full Review)

D+

Yosemite

It's clear that in Yosemite, the talented Daniel Talbott is writing about something that matters greatly to him. Unfortunately, his spare script is so opaque that he fails to communicate exactly what that is. Worse, he's created a high-stakes situation that's thwarted by a frustrating lack of character development and backstory, as well as a determined avoidance of dramatic action...Under Pedro Pascal's studied, overly deliberate direction, the show keeps its audience at such arm's length that we finally throw ours up in exasperation. (Read Full Review)

D+

Hard Times

A three-and-a-quarter-hour slog through Dickens' shortest novel...The overall result is like a long freeway drive on cruise control: You spend most of the unmodulated journey in contemplation of when you'll finally arrive at your destination...Among the problems of director J.R. Sullivan's spotty production are a lack of clarity about various characters' ages and the inability, due to doubling, of some characters to share the stage. The use of story-theater techniques is tentative and sporadic, and there's far too much aimless wandering while delivering swaths of narration. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Flick

Playwright Annie Baker pushes her deliberately anti-theatrical approach to drama past the breaking point in “The Flick”... Despite Sam Gold’s precise direction and fine performances... the artificiality of Baker’s attempt to dispense with artifice becomes glaringly apparent, while her characters aren’t interesting enough to justify the time spent with them... It’s not that Baker eschews the mechanics of traditional theater. Carefully planted plot seeds sprout as expected in Act 2, and an arc of sorts is provided by Avery... But there are also self-consciously extended silences and even wordless scenes whose action we can only glimpse, as they take place in the projection room... Maher, Moten, and Krause are all impressive in their ability to be emotionally in the moment, even the ones that seem to take forever... “The Flick” may be a worthy experiment, but not all experiments succeed.
(Read Full Review)

D+

The Heiress

It seems as if Kaufman is embarrassed to be directing this warhorse, so much does he undercut the script’s sturdy melodrama... Chastain is consistently underpowered... [she] fails to convince in Catherine’s painful shyness in social situations, playing it too often for easy laughs... The fine actor David Strathairn excessively dials down Dr. Sloper’s suppressed anger, which drives much of the character’s behavior, coming off at times almost dithery. Dashing “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens, as Morris Townsend... proves in his Broadway debut that he is quite the stage animal, commanding his scenes. Still, his Morris, too sunny and open-faced, lacks mystery, and he affects an aggressive Americanness that seems out of place in 1850 society. As Lavinia Penniman... the redoubtable Judith Ivey is inexplicably allowed to italicize the character into a painful silly-old-biddy stereotype. The best acting is to be found in smaller roles... The handsome physical production... creates the right note of quiet yet assertive opulence.
(Read Full Review)

D+

The Wood

As actor John Viscardi, as McAlary, barrels his way through a long opening monologue of ham-fisted biographical exposition, impatience stirs. The bald-faced writing continues once the characters begin to interact, in scenes virtually devoid of subtext. Klores' use of Louima as a shadowy interrogator in McAlary's mind's eye is inconsistent, particularly after the two men meet, and ineffective. The supporting characters, especially McAlary's wife, Alice, struggle to attain even two dimensions. Finally, the play peters out in an excess of uncompelling falling action leading to a predictable ending... What Klores really lacks, apart from natural talent, is a proper grounding in the basics of the not-so-easy-as-it-looks craft of writing for the stage. (Read Full Review)

D+

Thinner Than Water

Ross has certainly allowed for some showy turns from company stalwarts. Unfortunately, in this domestic drama about damaged half-siblings searching as adults for a second chance at life, there's little lurking beneath the flashy exterior. "Thinner Than Water," well, is. (Read Full Review)

D+

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Let's be blunt: Radcliffe wouldn't be up there without his phenomenal screen success as Harry Potter. But not even Harry could muster the magic to turn the undeniably talented young man into a musical comedy star. The likable lad, alas, is in over his head...The material is evergreen, but that doesn't mean it's foolproof...Ashford tries to compensate with such excesses as Howell Binkley's busy, relentlessly colorful lighting of Derek McLane's overbearing set of endless hexagonal boxes; Catherine Zuber's wink-wink costumes...Doug Besterman's cheesy period-invoking orchestrations; and, worst of all, Ashford's own overblown and often extraneous dance sequences. The show ends up frenetic and dull all at the same time...The terrific John Larroquette, the show's one saving grace, plays with a ferociously concentrated understatement. (Read Full Review)

D+

A Small Fire

Despite a fine cast and sensitive direction from the reliable Trip Cullman, A Small Fire ends up being neither fish nor fowl. It's not detailed enough for its simple story to resonate meaningfully, and it's not bold enough to function successfully outside the boundaries of realism...Emily's predicament increasingly feels like an artificial construct imposed by an author anxious to make his small story into something much bigger. Bock's impressive facility with everyday speech and psychological nuance undermines his attempts to shift into the realm of parable or magical realism. Ultimately, the marriage of the two styles seems just as forced as John and Emily's. (Read Full Review)

D+

Jekyll & Hyde

...monumentally dumb... It’s hard to understand why Wildhorn chose loud rock music as his vocabulary for this show. It has no connection to time, place, and character, and it works actively against the depiction of severely repressed emotion, a hallmark of Victorian society and so necessary to the story... somewhat compensated for by Ost’s lush period costumes and the always excellent Jeff Croiter’s heavily atmospheric lighting. Daniel Brodie’s cheesy projections, however, are another matter entirely. Neither Maroulis, as Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil twin Edward Hyde, nor Cox, as London prostitute Lucy Harris, is a stranger to the Broadway stage, which shows in their committed performances. That they are one-note performances is the fault of the writing, not the stars... and boy can they sing... much of Calhoun’s staging is unaccountably awkward... (Read Full Review)

D+

Jekyll & Hyde

...monumentally dumb... It’s hard to understand why Wildhorn chose loud rock music as his vocabulary for this show. It has no connection to time, place, and character, and it works actively against the depiction of severely repressed emotion, a hallmark of Victorian society and so necessary to the story... somewhat compensated for by Ost’s lush period costumes and the always excellent Jeff Croiter’s heavily atmospheric lighting. Daniel Brodie’s cheesy projections, however, are another matter entirely. Neither Maroulis, as Dr. Henry Jekyll and his evil twin Edward Hyde, nor Cox, as London prostitute Lucy Harris, is a stranger to the Broadway stage, which shows in their committed performances. That they are one-note performances is the fault of the writing, not the stars... and boy can they sing... much of Calhoun’s staging is unaccountably awkward... (Read Full Review)

D+

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

caught the original 1985 Public Theater production...and on opening night on Broadway. I was considerably less than charmed on both occasions by its generic ersatz Englishness, meandering score, and relentlessly one-joke construction...Now Roundabout Theatre Company has brought it back to the Great White Way in a strikingly handsome production featuring another cast riddled with talent. My reaction was identical...Director Scott Ellis’ edition is brisker and brighter than Wilford Leach’s original...The audience I saw Drood with adored it, and I suspect most will, so hooray for Roundabout. Alas, the show still makes my teeth hurt. (Read Full Review)

D+

Sister Act

A ramshackle yet agreeable film comedy with plausibility issues has here become an even more ramshackle and outlandish musical comedy that consistently diminishes its source...Cheri and Bill Steinkellner's book, even revised, is a mess...The film's wonderfully individuated nuns get turned into a hard-sell chorus line of cutesy women executing choreographer Anthony Van Laast's unison robotic gestures while making the ladies of Nunsense seem worthy of Eugene O'Neill. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater have contributed an uninspired pastiche score of smooth soul and churning disco...Zaks keeps it all moving at a good clip. (Read Full Review)

D+

Burning

On the plus side, the play is never boring and rarely predictable. But Bradshaw's peculiar mix of sincerity and satire is no more successful here than it was in his The Bereaved. Thin characters can't sustain the naturalistic acting, and the satire is more silly than savage... The numerous scenes of carnality... are presented with matter-of-fact specificity but only rarely provide enough character information to justify their explicitness. Moments of would-be satire... just play as cheap. Bradshaw throws out lots of ideas... but they feel random and forced... I admire Bradshaw's ambition and nerve in writing Burning, but I'm afraid I'm still waiting for my own light-bulb moment when I'm persuaded by his method. (Read Full Review)

D+

Girls in Trouble

Though director Jim Simpson and members of the Flea Theater's fine acting company, the Bats, provide a first-rate production, Girls in Trouble leads not so much to intellectual ferment and debate as to exasperated eye-rolling and a quick contemplation of where to have dinner...Though Reynolds goes to great lengths to ridicule the calcified extremes into which pro-choice and pro-life adherents have painted themselves, you can sense the self-consciousness of his provocations. Worse, by restricting the situation to a pregnancy on the brink of the third trimester, Reynolds short-circuits larger debates on the issue, almost as if he were afraid of them...Satire ceases to sting when it topples over into silliness. (Read Full Review)

D+

Another Part of the Forest

Brooks Atkinson complained in The New York Times that Forest "went over the line, into old-fashioned melodrama." Alas, he was right. Though Peccadillo Theater Company gives it a game go, director Dan Wackerman and his largely solid if unspectacular cast can't compensate for Hellmann's schematically plotted, two-dimensional script...I wish I could report that Peccadillo had uncovered a neglected gem. Still, anyone with an interest in Hellmann's work will want to take advantage of this rare opportunity to see Another Part of the Forest. (Read Full Review)

D+

A Strange and Separate People

Marans' central problem is Stuart. We never understand why such an intelligent, contemporary, comfortably out gay man would be drawn to a creed that so forthrightly condemns him. Nor is Stuart's steadily increasing devotion, which Marans too predictably pairs with Jay's growing acceptance of his own sexuality, made to seem anything other than a playwright's heavy-handed manipulation. The most interesting thing we learn about Stuart is that his family, which embraced him when he came out as gay, has stopped speaking to him because of his religious conversion. But that's only there to support the idea that Stuart needs a new family, his religious compatriots, rather than to tell us how a family that would do that might have influenced Stuart's character. (Read Full Review)

D+

Suicide, Incorporated

The idea of a Suicide, Inc. business might work for a black comedy or a satire, but it doesn't fly in an earnest naturalistic drama. For one thing, its very existence, even in today's jaded, desensitized society, would surely be enough to prompt a media uproar and religious protestors. But there are more problems. Jason and Norm are the only two characters Hinderaker manages to flesh out, principally because we get the most information about them. Scott is a standard-issue macho would-be business magnate who enjoys humiliating people, Perry chief among them. But we never know why young and able Perry is so desperate to keep his job that he's willing to countenance such treatment. (Read Full Review)

D+

Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers

In the hands of director John Rubinstein, the [radio-play] conceit only proves distancing and annoying. The undeniably dramatic true story of a great struggle for American freedom of the press seems awfully dry, coming across as theater that's good for you rather than good theater...The 11-person cast is not the problem...But all the good acting in the world can't undo the shackles of the staging concept...There's just no compelling reason for this story to be told in this format, except perhaps that it makes the bare-bones staging easy to tour. This inspiring tale deserves a more inspiring presentation. (Read Full Review)

D+

A Perfect Future

Thin but reasonably entertaining for an act and a half, then goes spectacularly off the rails, over the cliff, and smashes to bits on the rocks below...Hay is fortunate to have a quartet of talented actors who manage to keep their characters' emotions believable even when their behavior isn't...Best of all is Donna Bullock...When the play turns into a bargain-basement Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Bullock is impressive in her ability to go to dark places even as we observe the playwright's ham-fisted manipulations. Director Wilson Milam's swift pacing is a definite asset.
(Read Full Review)

D

What the Public Wants

Time has long since passed by this artificial broadside against the evils of indulging the people's "low" taste. Indeed, in the age of the Internet, when the public can self-satisfy its hungers through tweets, blogs, videos, and chat rooms, "What the Public Wants" seems positively irrelevant...Director Matthew Arbour keeps the pace up, but he's unable to find any kind of persuasive through-line, no doubt because Bennett, to dramatize his ideas, lards his episodic script with minor characters who contribute little to the central story. Further, Arbour has made the baffling and highly distracting decision to play this very English play with American accents, robbing Bennett's dialogue of its intrinsic sounds and cadences. (Read Full Review)

D

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Playwright Richard Greenberg has adapted Truman Capote’s novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” for the theater with remarkable fidelity—and that’s the problem. Capote’s wispy memory tale, told principally in carefully carved prose, may be hypnotic on the page, but it’s dull onstage, with too much narration and not enough drama. Greenberg and director Sean Mathias haven’t rethought it in theatrical terms. Add to that a game but awfully artificial performance by Emilia Clarke as Holly Golightly, and it’s enough to give you a case of the mean reds... The lovely Clarke looks the part, but she seems so determined to show us Holly’s manipulative, role-playing side that when genuine emotion needs to bleed through, it plays like just one more calculated choice... Cory Michael Smith does Herculean work in the role, confidently navigating all that direct address with just a hint of a Southern lilt while giving Fred an endearingly cracked vulnerability and a youthfully needy ambition and ego... Oscar-winning screenwriter and Tony-winning book writer Peter Stone always asked when his students chose a project, “What’s the envelope?,” meaning what about it speaks to today. Mathias and Greenberg have no envelope. (Read Full Review)

D

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

John Logan’s solo show “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers” skips as lightly across its subject as a shard of shale whipping across a pond. Bette Midler…is disappointingly content to reprise the Divine Miss M persona that she delivered so successfully in three Broadway concerts in the 1970s. Thanks to the lazy writing and acting, Mengers goes missing. The stories are amusing, the one-liners zing, and Mengers comes across as grasping, greedy, and awfully shallow. Perhaps I’m asking too much of what is intended as merely a bon bon. As the box office receipts for the show attest, many adore Midler in this mode. I’ll pass.
(Read Full Review)

D

This Side of Paradise

It's no surprise that "This Side of Paradise," Culture Project's new musical about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, began life as a CD of jazz songs (by Nancy Harrow) called "Winter Dreams: The Life and Passions of F. Scott Fitzgerald." The tuner is so dramatically inert it seems as if the musical moments were dropped into Harrow and director Will Pomerantz's ploddingly sincere book like so many raisins into a rice pudding.... "This Side of Paradise" doesn't even have the invention to come up with its own title, instead appropriating that of Fitzgerald's breakthrough novel. Alas, that's indicative of the show as a whole. (Read Full Review)

D

The Bereaved

Thomas Bradshaw has had the shocking insight that selfish people behave badly, and he spends a long 70 minutes sharing it with us in "The Bereaved." This self-styled provocateur playwright serves a remarkably mild dish here..."The Bereaved" plays as if it wants to be a harsh Jules Feifferesque cartoon, but it never touches the stylization necessary to achieve that kind of intensity. Neither director May Adrales nor the talented company...has been helped by following Bradshaw's stage directions...As his characters barely approach two dimensions, they can't sustain naturalistic acting. And the naturalism neutralizes any savagery that might be found in Bradshaw's surprisingly ordinary observations. (Read Full Review)

D

Medieval Play

I can only assume that the fine playwright Kenneth Lonergan just had to get “Medieval Play” out of his system. How else to explain this thudding schoolboy jape attempting to mine the brutality and venality of the Middle Ages for postmodern yuks? Windy, snarky, obvious, and repetitive, the show blunders on under Lonergan’s indulgent direction for a mind-boggling two hours and 45 minutes. At the end of this play you’re considerably more than another play olde (Read Full Review)

D

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

There’s a lot of yelling going on at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, but very little drama is generated in director Rob Ashford’s maladroit production... Johansson is hopelessly beyond her skill set as Maggie...Ashford’s unmodulated direction results in one-note performances from some gifted actors as the show plods to its unpersuasive, much-awaited end... Though Hinds is never convincingly Southern and also exhibits a tendency to charge through his lines unheedingly and indistinctly, he goes doggedly toward Big Daddy’s objective, and Benjamin Walker, as Brick, finally has something to play against... Michael Park largely keeps Gooper, the unfavored son, in a place of self-justifying suppressed hurt. Emily Bergl, as Mae, focuses on the character’s smug superiority. The usually wonderful Debra Monk, as Big Mama, is directed to join in all the shouting and fails to find the vulnerability that should engender our sympathy. Ashford’s awkward, excessively physical staging includes far too much unimaginative circling of Brick and Maggie’s dominating bed... Ashford ham-fistedly employs Adam Cork’s busy sound design, ... Williams should be allowed to make his own music.
(Read Full Review)

D

Bass for Picasso

Unfortunately, in this screwball play set at the dinner party from hell, the standup shows through. Bass for Picasso is as half-baked as its host’s failed first attempt at cooking Toklas’ dish...Director Ike Shambelan keeps the pace popping but can’t disguise all the artificiality. Except for Nicholas Viselli’s strident Joe, the actors wisely play against the absurdity. Best are Mary Theresa Archbold’s wry Bricka and Felice Neals’ wide-eyed, loopy Pilar. Anita Hollander has authority as Francesca and gets a good laugh whacking the unfaithful Pilar with her prosthesis, while Terry Small falls off the wagon with welcome understatement as the nervous Kev. (Read Full Review)

D

A Minister's Wife

Unfortunately, Candida is exactly the play Shaw wanted to write, which means that this simple-minded and reductive approach only does violence to the original. Combine that with the score's arty pretensions and the result can only be described as unbearably precious. (Read Full Review)

D

Present Laughter

This "Present Laughter" is hyped and coarsened, as if Martin doesn't trust American audiences to get Coward's very English humor. An immediate warning is set designer Alexander Dodge's far-too-glamorous Art Deco apartment. Yes, Essendine is a matinee idol of the British stage, but as an upper-class Brit of a certain social standing, it's unlikely he'd be given to such opulent excess, particularly in the late 1930s after the Depression and with the war clouds gathering in Europe. Martin also overrides Coward's sophisticated comic rhythms, encouraging his cast to push as if driving a second-tier Neil Simon comedy. The show is shot through with an American idea of Englishness. (Read Full Review)

D

Picked

Thoroughly irritating...Shinn certainly has an ear for actor-speak, but it doesn't coalesce into interesting characters. Ultimately, all that navel-gazing, combined with Act 1's...desert of dramatic conflict, makes for pretty soporific drama...Act 2, which charts Kevin's career decline and breakup with Jen, at least features some drama...The usually reliable Michael Wilson's studied direction only indulges the problems. The cast, good actors all, are hamstrung by Shinn and Wilson's apparent insistence on stasis...Here's hoping that Shinn has now gotten his de rigueur Hollywood play out of his system and returns to more-fertile subject matter. (Read Full Review)

D

Really Really

It’s hard to fathom what convinced the estimable David Cromer to direct “Really Really,” Paul Downs Colaizzo’s ersatz, glaringly manipulative “Did it happen or didn’t it?” melodrama about contemporary college students, an obstreperous kegger, and rape, from MCC Theater. Colaizzo certainly has an ear for glib, profane dialogue, but it reveals precious little about his stereotypical characters, who need to stay that way so he can make them do what he wants (Read Full Review)

D

The Madrid

Flahive can’t make any of this credible and particularly shoots herself in the foot by withholding motivation for Martha’s act much longer than she should. Falco hides behind defensively hunched body language and a weak, apologetic smile and tries to rely on her considerable ability to create empathy, but the hopelessly unrealized character defeats her. (Read Full Review)

D

Bonnie & Clyde

A paint-by-numbers primer that presents the murderous pair as a couple of misunderstood kids trapped by the Depression...Whatever made Bonnie and Clyde special is missing from this sentimental musical, as are sufficient character development, adequate dramatic thrust, and any kind of subtext...Wildhorn has contributed a reasonably melodic pastiche score that's right for the period, but in his seventh Broadway outing he still shows no ability to write for character...Black's lyrics match the music in their baldness and lack of specificity, though not always in their scansion. (Read Full Review)

D

With Glee

Unfortunately, what might have passed for charm at the Theatre de Lys in JFKs America comes across today as dull and derivative. At times I was convinced I was watching a rediscovered piece of Clark Gesner's juvenilia...The show has book, music, and lyrics by John Gregor, a credit of which it's best to be wary. As Tony-winning book writer (and Oscar-winning scenarist) Peter Stone would repeatedly tell his students, being good at one of those disciplines is no guarantee that you know how to do the others well—or even have the aptitude for them—as they require very different talents. Gregor fares best as lyricist, offering at least some agreeable wordplay, though the heart sinks when he resorts to the hoary "friend/again" false rhyme right up top, and there are too many misaccents. Gregor's music plateaus at pleasant, regularly recalling other composers. Worse, it's music that's wildly unconvincing as a vocabulary for any 13-year-old in this Internet age. As for Gregor's book skills, I suggest he seek a collaborator in the future. (Read Full Review)

D

The Train Driver

Under the author’s own direction, this two-character 90-minute meditation on guilt is barely dramatic, too obviously symbolic, and so self-consciously Beckettian that I imagine the Nobel Prize–winning playwright’s estate could sue for royalties...We never get a convincing sense of why Roelf has become so unhinged with guilt, despite the character’s reams of narration and declamatory speeches...Fugard’s deliberate pacing doesn’t help matters. (Read Full Review)

D

A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick

Corthron’s arresting voice and restless mind aren’t sufficient compensation, and the overabundance ends up drowning whatever it is that she wants to say in this maddening, disjointed, overly elliptical work. (Read Full Review)

D

Jerusalem

Jez Butterworth's "Jerusalem" falls squarely in the tradition of works lionizing the charismatic nonconforming outsider whose outrageous behavior masks a pure and noble heart that by contrast proves the mendacity of the society surrounding him. Blowing into town from England's Royal Court Theatre on a gale of critical praise and starring the highly acclaimed Mark Rylance, it's very likely to repeat its London success. While nothing would make me happier than to be able to join in the chorus of hosannas, I sadly must report that I found the show to be three hours and 10 minutes of windy bollocks. (Read Full Review)

D-

Personal Enemy

Osborne and Creighton were passionate about blowing up the self-satisfied, apolitical British theater, and that's obvious here. Unfortunately, credible characters, believably colloquial dialogue, and accurate cultural portraiture end up as collateral damage. In particular, the authors' attempt at small-town speech is wincingly off-key and condescending. (Read Full Review)

D-

Being Sellers

Caulfield's script attempts to illuminate Sellers' psyche through the characters he created as an actor. Unfortunately, what this leads to is whiplash as the peripatetic Boyle impersonates everyone from some early "Goon Show" personages to Chance the gardener from "Being There." Without an expert knowledge of Sellers' career, it's rarely clear what Caulfield is trying to say by linking that character to this issue in Sellers' life. (Read Full Review)

D-

Catch Me If You Can

Buried somewhere under all the 1960s TV variety-show flash and trash, there's an interesting story struggling to get out in the new musical Catch Me If You Can. Unfortunately, the show's creators, much like its teenage con man anti-hero, seem fixated on surfaces. Particularly damaging is that those excellent Hairspray songwriters, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, whose idea this was, have found no compelling reason for these characters to sing. The result is a busy, empty, by-the-numbers musical comedy that has to rank as the Broadway season's biggest disappointment to date. (Read Full Review)

D-

High

The numbingly repetitive structure regularly rotates among backstory-revealing soliloquies for Sister Connelly, combative scenes between her and the priest, and treatment scenes between her and Cody. The climax, of course, brings all three characters together. Unfortunately, no character achieves flesh-and-blood humanity; instead, each is a collection of carefully chosen neuroses, weaknesses, and secrets intended to dovetail with each other to create a desired outcome...Lombardo's flair for snappy laugh lines, ironically, does him no favors. They too often fail to come across as gallows humor and instead only trivialize the dark and depressing subject matter...Rob Ruggiero's obvious direction does little to mask the writing's flaws, nor do the actors transcend them. (Read Full Review)

D-

Bullet for Adolf

Harrelson and Hyman have based their shenanigans on experiences they had working construction together nearly 30 years ago. Unfortunately, you need a better reason for writing a play than reconnecting with your bud. (Read Full Review)

D-

Wild Animals You Should Know

[T]his naive and glib comedy-drama about a sexually confused golden boy who hits on his closeted scoutmaster in order to destroy him suggests that Higgins would be more at home on the small screen than in a small theater.... The talented cast struggles with the material. Jay Armstrong Johnson succeeds at Matthew's magnetism but not the emptiness that's supposed to exist underneath it. Gideon Glick is adept with a quip but can't turn Jacob into anything more than a passive plot facilitator and at 23 is getting a bit past playing a callow teenager. To suggest Walter's unease in the world, Patrick Breen adopts an awkward physical bearing that's entirely too self-conscious. Alice Ripley is confident and warm as Marsha but can't make believable her post-trip outburst suggesting that she is considering ending her marriage. John Behlmann conveys Rodney's love of the outdoors but leaves the rest of him blank. Larry is the thinnest character in the bunch, and Daniel Stewart Sherman can do little but play into the stereotype. (Read Full Review)

D-

Red

There's barely a cliché left unturned in John Logan's "Red," a two-hander about the late-in-life creative struggles of artist Mark Rothko, arriving direct from London's Donmar Warehouse. Though it's served to a hi-fi fare-thee-well by director Michael Grandage and actors Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne (who won an Olivier Award for his supporting performance), all their efforts can't disguise the fact that this is a prime example of theater of the exclamation point. (Read Full Review)

D-

Olive and the Bitter Herbs

Olive is so unpleasant that it's hard to understand why anybody puts up with her for long, so Busch throws into the mix a magic mirror in her apartment in which she sees a man named Howard, with whom Olive says she's in love. The others are fascinated with the mirror (and Howard) and keep trying to gaze into it, much to Olive's cantankerous dismay. It's an awfully artificial way to keep everybody coming around, and Busch never makes the device pay off, either thematically or structurally. (Read Full Review)

D-

Enron

Enron wants to be a bold, slashing piece of political theater that exposes the greed and selfishness at the heart of American capitalism through the titular energy company's collapse. I'm in sympathy with her point of view but unpersuaded by her methodology. Her play is like a big, shiny, beautifully wrapped package that once eagerly ripped opened reveals a horde of Styrofoam peanuts through which you search vainly for the anticipated present. (Read Full Review)

D-

Nymph Errant

"Nymph Errant" is steeped in a high comic style that's as dead as the dodo today, but Urbinati finds no contemporary equivalent to replace it. Instead, he substitutes more-obvious jokes and romantic corn... (Read Full Review)

F+

I'll Be Damned

An irritatingly naive, dramaturgically challenged musical-comedy riff on the Faust legend...The tone is somewhere between Zanna, Don’t! and Avenue Q, always reminiscent, never unique. The same goes for Broadhurst’s pastiche score, ranging from traditional Broadway to rock ’n’ roll to gospel. Black’s lyrics show an awareness of craft and structure but are shaky in execution, particularly in a largely unintelligible rapid-fire patter song. (Read Full Review)

F+

Chaplin: The Musical

It’s hard to know where to begin with Chaplin... The most the writing aspires to is mediocrity, which it rarely if ever achieves, something Warren Carlyle’s busy direction and choreography can’t disguise. The one performance of note comes from the extremely gifted Rob McClure in the title role, but the show’s relentless shopworn sentimentality erodes even his fine work. Nobody escapes Chaplin unscathed... Curtis and Meehan’s first mistake is to try to tell Chaplin’s entire story. As he lived to be 88, it’s far too much to cram into one show and has the effect of reducing nearly everyone who is part of it to a crude caricature... Curtis’ largely pastiche music is a pale imitation of better and more original composers, while his lyrics never met a cliché or a false rhyme they didn’t like (my favorite was “Chaplin”/“happen”)... I left the Ethel Barrymore Theatre humming Jerry Herman’s score for Mack & Mabel. Chaplin makes that famously flawed musical look like My Fair Lady. (Read Full Review)

F+

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

And in this romanticized, politically correct revision (it is much more than a mere "adaptation") by author Suzan-Lori Parks, composer Diedre L. Murray, and director Diane Paulus, it has been cheapened as never before. Star Audra McDonald has stated publicly that she would not consider playing the part of Bess as originally written, which probably explains why the show's spine is now Bess' newly created journey from self-loathing drug-addicted slattern to feminist heroine. Parks, Murray, and Paulus do their best to support her with textual edits and additions, radically new arrangements and orchestrations (the latter by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke), and altered dramatic intentions for songs, but they don't have the freedom to make the big changes necessary. McDonald—perhaps our finest musical theater actor, whose work I have never disliked before—tries to will her vision of the character into being through busy acting, a profligate use of subtext, and a prominent scar on her upstage cheek, but it ain't on the page so it ain't on the stage. (Read Full Review)

F+

The Addams Family

Imagine sitting down sporting your best finery in a grandly appointed dining hall to the promise of a sumptuous feast. The elegant butler has filled your glittering crystal wineglass with a pungent cabernet, the luscious lobster-bisque appetizer has been consumed, and it's time for the main course. With a flourish, the butler lifts the shining dome of a rococo sterling silver antique platter, only to reveal some strands of wilted lettuce, a few canned pear slices, and dripping dollops of cottage cheese. That's what it's like to watch The Addams Family. (Read Full Review)

F+

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

The clutch of top-flight tunes written by book writer and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Burton Lane...have lured reconceiver-director Michael Mayer right onto the rocks in this misguided retooling attempt. Mayer and current book writer Peter Parnell keep trying to jam them into a new story and characters that manifestly don't want them, diminishing the very thing Mayer and Parnell supposedly value. The result is the depressing misfire currently at the St. James Theatre, starring a distinctly ill-at-ease Harry Connick Jr. (Read Full Review)

F+

Leap of Faith

A compendium of formulaic characters and clichéd situations all too obviously cribbed from better and more original works. Bathed in composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater's generic score and driven to an artificial frenzy by Christopher Ashley's desperately meta direction and Sergio Trujillo's repetitive choreography, the show is busy, empty, and, worst of all, boring...Trapped in this mess is Raúl Esparza, a first-rate musical theater actor being asked to elevate the material through the kind of charismatic star power that is antithetical to what he does. (Read Full Review)

F+

Looking for Billy Haines

Brockmann is a best-selling author of gay romance novels, while McCabe is "the pen name for an Edgar Award finalist." This undoubtedly explains the reams of narration that sweet-natured Jason T. Gaffney must deliver as Jamie. Time and again the play stalls for these undramatic expositional sections. But the writing is no better in the candy-coated scenes, which suggest an Adam Rapp play as rewritten by TV's Mister Rogers. Brockmann's heavy-handed direction doesn't help the eager company, whose credits skew heavily to musicals, no doubt because everyone is required to tap dance. (Read Full Review)

F+

Dietrich and Chevalier - The Musical

It takes guts to attempt to play such legendary entertainers as Marlene Dietrich and Maurice Chevalier, particularly in a vest-pocket Off-Broadway production with almost no production values, so kudos to Jodi Stevens and Robert Cuccioli for their cojones. Unfortunately, saddled with Jerry Mayer’s trite script and Pamela Hall’s hokey direction, neither actor is able to convince...Strictly for those looking for a quick nostalgia fix of familiar songs and surface imitations. Everyone else will be wise to steer clear of this unimaginative, thuddingly obvious jukebox bio-musical...The chintzy piano-only accompaniment is further hampered by musical director Ken Lundie’s propensity for hitting wrong notes. (Read Full Review)

F+

A Streetcar Named Desire

An unfathomable misstep from the gifted Emily Mann, whose work I have often admired as both director and playwright. Helmer Mann and her starry cast treat the work as if it were a combination soap opera and sitcom. The result is embarrassing and sad. There are so many head-scratching miscalculations that it's hard to know where to begin...Indeed, it seems as if Mann and company have deliberately set out to strip the poetry from Williams' themes, characters, and especially his dialogue. The great playwright is shown no kindness here. (Read Full Review)

F+

Regrets

[A] strenuously gerrymandered drama-with-a-big-secret...The ham-fisted writing is at least occasionally ameliorated by some of the performances...Cantor doesn’t help matters with forced staging of her own...The confident realism of Rachel Hauck’s rickety set, Ilona Somogyi’s period garb, and especially Ben Stanton’s mimicry of natural lighting only reinforces the artificiality of the script. (Read Full Review)

F+

Trust

Second Stage Theatre seems to be out to corner the market on emptiness. Hot on the heels of its uptown production of the vacant but flashy Bachelorette, we get Paul Weitz's schematic, wafer-thin Trust. You'd think a play featuring Sutton Foster as a professional dominatrix would at least keep your mind off the grocery list. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. (Read Full Review)

F

The Performers

Read makes his porn performers insultingly stupid—Mandrew doesn’t know the difference between the Post and the New York Times and thinks that he will be the centerfold; Peeps tells her husband “I’m pregnant…with a baby”—and his “normal” couple contemptuously bland. He’s also prone to unbelievable behavior: Peeps and Sara decide to trade dresses and go into the bathroom to do it rather than stay in the larger hotel room, because the playwright wants them offstage. Evan Cabnet does little but direct traffic as Jenni Barber (Sundown), Daniel Breaker (Lee), Ari Graynor (Peeps), Cheyenne Jackson (Mandrew), Alicia Silverstone (Sara), and Henry Winkler (Chuck) soldier manically on. The only thing they can be blamed for is signing on in the first place. (Read Full Review)

F

Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party

Director Chris Smith lets the pace lag and does nothing to help his actors, address the script's myriad problems, compensate for its tonal schizophrenia, or ameliorate its trivializations of important issues. Nor does Loeb's cutesie audience-participation gimmick "draw theatergoers into the conflict," as an interview with him claims. Instead, it just highlights that he thinks his plot is so interesting that it can sustain being told three times, with nothing to keep us hooked but some gap-filling. Perhaps he's never seen "Rashomon." (Read Full Review)

F

Dead Accounts

... [a] lazy and predictable comedy that wouldn’t even pass muster as a Lifetime movie... The clichés fly thick and fast... Cheap shots abound... as the characters strain to develop dimension. Under Jack O’Brien’s just-go-for-it direction, Norbert Leo Butz works feverishly to make something out of Jack... Unfortunately, there’s no there there, and this talented actor’s work is reduced to a bag of tricks. Holmes can’t give the passive, colorless Lorna distinction and contributes a whininess that’s at odds with the character’s essentially sympathetic nature... (Read Full Review)

F

The Anarchist

Mamet takes a potentially juicy situation and drains it of all humanity and drama. The Anarchist is a droning, pompous essay brought to unnatural life... Mamet certainly believes in punishing his audience. His airless, leaden dialogue smothers whatever dramatic action there is ... The regular top ticket price for The Anarchist is $134.50, which means that audiences are paying $2.25 per minute for this mind-numbing experience. Ambien may not be more effective, but it's a lot cheaper. (Read Full Review)

F

The Pretty Trap

Williams' centenary is being used by Cause Célèbre as the pretext for trotting out this "long-buried" piece, but it seems more an act of exploitation than celebration...The tone is lighter, but it's quite a stretch to deem this a comedy, even with its abrupt and unconvincing happy ending. There are probably more laughs in Menagerie...Clocking in at a scant 40 minutes, this is hardly a full evening's entertainment...Strictly for Williams scholars or completists.

(Read Full Review)

F

Bye Bye Birdie

Director-choreographer Robert Longbottom's production seems calculated to decimate the material. Number after number implodes, whether due to clueless direction, fussy and unfocused choreography, or incompetent singing and dancing. Joke after joke dies on the vine. Longbottom appears not to understand that "Birdie" is a satire. It needs to be played within quotation marks. Its roots are in American vaudeville and the sketch comedy that book writer Michael Stewart and songwriters Charles Strouse and Lee Adams perfected creating Catskill revues. The outrageous one-liners and comically quick emotional reversals cannot be played naturalistically. When they are, as happens here (with one glaring exception), they die. (Read Full Review)