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David Finkle



Reviews

A+

The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde's 1895 comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, now being revived by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre, is a perfect piece of writing -- a verbal playground you wouldn't want to add a single word to or subtract a single word from. Nonetheless, that doesn't mean it can't be compromised by a less-than-perfect production. Luckily, this new Broadway mounting, directed by and starring Brian Bedford, is as nearly perfect as it gets. (Read Full Review)

A+

Arcadia

A strong argument can be made that Arcadia is Tom Stoppard's best play, and that perception will only be reinforced by David Leveaux's revival at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, which is as close to perfection as the most discriminating viewer might want. (Read Full Review)

A+

War Horse

One of the most moving events of this or any year in recent memory. This harshly beautiful spectacle...offers some of the most astonishing puppetry ever put on a stage, which is only one of the elements that may bring tears to your eyes...The production gorgeously calls for an impressive array of theater arts, beginning with Rae Smith's stark sets, costumes, and drawings. It also receives notable creative work from lighting designer Paule Constable, sound designer Christopher Shutt, movement director Toby Sedgwick, and project designer 59 Productions, among others. Last, but certainly not least, kudos must go to puppet designers Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones and the Handspring Puppet Company, as well as the various on-stage "puppeteers," who bring Joey and a variety of other horses to amazing life. (Read Full Review)

A+

Born Yesterday

Many people consider Garson Kanin's Born Yesterday to be the funniest American comedy of the 20th Century, so it's a pleasure to report that marvelous supporting evidence for that belief is being offered by the current Broadway revival...In Doug Hughes' smartly directed production -- starring the consistently hilarious Jim Belushi, Nina Arianda, and Robert Sean Leonard -- not only does every line of pithy dialogue land as solidly as Apollo 11 on the moon, but equally important, Kanin's sardonic look at the nation's capital feels as fresh and as bold as it was in 1946. (Read Full Review)

A+

GATZ

The ingenious [Elevator Repair Service], under director-founder John Collins' inspired guidance, has adapted The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's perfect 1925 novel, into a mesmerizing theater piece called Gatz, now making its New York debut at the Public Theater.... Rarely have characters so boisterously and buoyantly leaped off the page. (Read Full Review)

A+

Gore Vidal's The Best Man

So spectacularly prescient it seems almost shocking that it was written 52 years ago. But the best news here is that Michael Wilson's smartly-timed, smartly directed, and very smartly acted revival of this consistently witty work simply can't be bettered. Much of the credit belongs to the knockout cast..."Well-made" doesn't begin to describe how tightly Vidal constructs his tale, how cleverly he pits his characters against each other in various combinations, and how their arguments and shifting alliances throw crucial ethical choices into high relief. (Read Full Review)

A+

One Man, Two Guvnors

In Broadway's long history, there may have been a comedy as funny...But it's a safe bet there's never been one funnier...[An] indelible, must-see production. (Read Full Review)

A+

My Wonderful Day

Alan Ayckbourn's new bittersweet comedy My Wonderful Day, now at 59E59 Theaters as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival, is among his best and most touching works -- which really says something considering it is his 73rd play...Ayckbourn wants to show the world of adults as seen through a child's innocent eyes. He's not the first to take the approach, but he's one of the funniest. Character-based laughs keep coming even as anxiety accumulates about the burdens children are asked to bear by the supposedly mature. For instance, Winnie knows that eager Kevin and willing Tiffany have gone off alone to the bedroom, but how should she respond when Paula, returning unexpectedly, asks about her husband's whereabouts? (Read Full Review)

A+

Hamlet

Jude Law's portrayal of the melancholy Dane...isn't just one of the best ever committed to the stage, it's also not your usual interpretation...Law's Hamlet is hardly the brooding, vacillating and intermittently crazed figure ticket buyers may expect to see. Instead, he's emotional, calculating, quick-witted, short-fused, and constantly moving on fleet feet across set designer Christopher Oram's high-walled, claustrophobic Elsinore...Moreover, Shakespeare's gorgeously poetic lines are spears shaken belligerently at everyone within shouting distance -- including the audience, to whom he addresses Hamlet's four soliloquies from the front of the stage as directly, challengingly, and engagingly as they may have ever been proclaimed. The entire enterprise, as Grandage has planned it, is also a piece of exhilarating work, speeding along as if jet-propelled...The director also has made a point of scaling the sinister proceedings to Law's explosive performance and to the grandeur of Shakespeare's language...Not one of the well-spoken cast falls short of delivering the text with impassioned lucidity.

USA Today A+
(Elysa Gardner) As brave, beautiful and robustly exciting a reading of this play as you're likely to see...Grandage mines the accessible motives and emotions of the Bard's characters and the visceral power of his language. In doing so, he appeals to younger fans and casual theatergoers likely to be drawn by Law's presence without patronizing them...This earthy eloquence is especially striking in Law's performance. His Hamlet is no brooding philosopher/prince; he's an angry young man, a bundle of nerves forever threatening to explode...The leading man benefits, too, from magnificent support. Grandage ensures that each character is as crisply drawn as the sleek business suits included in Christopher Oram's costumes, which provide this production's one subtly anachronistic touch...It's tough to imagine a more exhilarating way to spend three hours sitting down. (Read Full Review)

A+

Cyrano de Bergerac

No production of Cyrano de Bergerac is worth a minute of anyone's time unless the title character is portrayed by a top-drawer actor. Fortunately, "bravura" barely begins to describe Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge's portrayal of the large-nosed character in the Roundabout Theatre Company's scintillating revival...Bolt's neatly rhymed couplets could provide a challenge for a lesser cast, but Poesy is purely poetical -- even when expressing Roxane's prolonged grief late in the play...The entire troupe, under the direction of Jamie Lloyd, provides fine support. (Read Full Review)

A

Benefactors

A Grade-A revival by the ever-enterprising Keen Company at Theatre Row under Carl Forsman's forthright direction...To get his points across, Frayn puts demands on actors that this foursome completely meets. Benesch, who breaks the fourth wall as tightly-wound Jane to outline the action, initially gives the impression she' going to be more arch than called for, but before fade-out, she's cooking on all burners. Jenkins nicely balances David's desire to be fair to one and all in any situation with his professional desires. Turner makes the patience-trying Colin utterly believable. In perhaps the most difficult role, Lorette is the evening's true scene-stealer. It's especially hard not to watch her during her many silent passages. (Read Full Review)

A

New Electric Ballroom

Exhilarating...Composing in the urgently poetic tradition of Irish spellbinders as far back as William Butler Yeats, who co-founded the Abbey Theatre, Walsh has come up with a four-character work that has the power of something Samuel Becket [sic] might have produced had he chosen to write a 75-minute playlet about two women routinely and ritually expecting something to happen that looks as if it never will...Walsh, from whom words drop as copiously as rain in a downpour, is partial to lengthy monologues that blend hilarity with pathos. It's as if all three sisters and their clumsy gentleman caller don't so much talk to each other as take turns talking at each other in colorful, impassioned outbursts...Directing his elegy, Walsh sees to it that he gets out of his talky yet fluid manuscript what he put into it. No question that he's got the cast to help him...The first-rate acting quartet guarantees the chilling success of this ultimately gloomy if riveting play.

Variety A
(Sam Thielman) Enda Walsh's carefully wrought tragicomedy "New Electric Ballroom" again explores art's capacity to seriously screw people up. Walsh directs the play like Beckett on speed, ramming its hapless characters through interlocking recollections of bitter rejection that seem like they'll go on forever...Somehow when Walsh's play isn't unbearably tense, it's hilarious. Though the atmosphere stays charged the entire time, Breda's vicious one-liners and Clara's gentle blabbering force us to laugh, which lets out some of the tension and enables us to keep watching...While some of the appeal is surely in the writing, Mikel Murfi (who directed "Walworth") shines as Patsy, most appropriate of all the appropriate names here...Sabine Dargent's design work is eye-catching and cool, without at all violating the play's stark spirit. (Read Full Review)

A

The Emperor Jones

Director Ciaran O'Reilly has found at least one astonishing way to overcome these obstacles and restore The Emperor Jones to a blood-chilling, bone-rattling work of theater, by transforming the Irish Rep's stage into an eerie fantasy land. Furthermore, he's cast the monumental John Douglas Thompson, a memorable Moor in the Theatre for a New Audience's Othello production last season, who does an equally fearless, ennobling job now as Jones...To depict Jones' increasingly debilitating flight, Thompson applies his imposing physique and sonorous voice to a figure, assailed by growing fears. As he does, he inspires the kind of theatrical awe that playwrights since the Greeks have sought.

New York Post A
(Elisabeth Vincentelli) Even today, the play's meaning remains hotly debated. But there is no doubt that it is one of O'Neill's most haunting, visceral works, and this nightmarish staging does it full justice. Adding greatly to the evening's power is the central performance by John Douglas Thompson as Jones...The actor's fearsome physical presence and booming baritone voice makes Jones' psychological disintegration all the more harrowing. Director Ciaran O'Reilly's production brilliantly depicts Jones' journey into the terrors of the jungle, which seems to literally come to life thanks to superbly designed puppets and masks...Offering excellent support are Rick Foucheux as Jones' cockney henchman, and the rest of the ensemble playing characters ranging from a witch doctor to the leader of the native forces. (Read Full Review)

A

Ragtime

There's no point hammering away at the high quality of the ragtime-infused and heartfelt score (which has undergone only minor revisions since the show's original Broadway production) or harping on the fact that it has one too many plant-your-feet-on-the-stage-and-declaim anthems. Likewise, there's no point to singing the cast's praises at length, although they uniformly perform with fervor reflecting a nation struggling sometimes thrillingly, sometimes shabbily to attain equilibrium. Among the standouts are Darrington, who has the force of a steam-engine, Noll, who acutely embodies Mother's pre-feminist determination, and Umoh, Petkoff, and Bobby Steggert (as Mother's Younger Brother), who brim with joy and pain. (Read Full Review)

A

The Royal Family

Sparkling...John Lee Beatty's re-creation of an East-Fifties Manhattan mansion [is] perhaps the finest interior the architecturally savvy designer has ever created. It's so magnificent, in fact, that were Doug Hughes' production less accomplished than it is, audiences would leave the auditorium humming Beatty's sumptuous set instead of singing the praises of a 1927 play cynics might label old-fashioned -- but others will characterize as the kind they don't write any more. More's the pity that they don't, considering the attention Kaufman and Ferber pay to the delights that craft alone can impart...Under Hughes' inspired direction, the cast is just-about perfect...Indeed, this production of The Royal Family proves that, while the play may be the thing, so is the irrepressible playing of it.

Newsday A
(Linda Winer) There are many pleasures in Doug Hughes' sumptuous joy of an old-fashoned revival...[Director] Hughes...clearly knows that comedy is serious business. For all the gorgeous bustle of the luxurious 16-member cast, John Lee Beatty's period-luxe set and Catherine Zuber's impeccable costumes, this production both loves the life-upon-the-wicked-stage romance of the theater and knows the demands of its insularity...The Manhattan Theatre Club has had its ups and downs in its Broadway venue. This one is up. (Read Full Review)

A

The Late Christopher Bean

Under Jenn Thompson's warm and tidy direction, it's loaded with laughs; it has nine carefully articulated parts for the accomplished actors assembled here to enliven; and it contains genuine plot surprises right up to the deeply satisfying curtain line. What more do you need? ... Howard's portrait of greed is worthy of a Moliere satire, and Murtaugh grabs the role of Dr. Haggett and makes hay with it. By the time Haggett understands that tens of thousands of dollars are available to him if he can locate the missing paintings, Murtaugh's entire body is vibrating. (Read Full Review)

A

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Daniel Radcliffe is out to prove something, and he's doing a bang-up job of it. Set for life as the #1 Harry Potter alumnus, he could undoubtedly make a career of movie romcoms. He absolutely refuses, and now after giving his all-and showing it, too-in Equus and singing and dancing on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, he's taken on the physically punishing eponymous role in The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh's hilarious, heart-shattering 1997 dramedy. So, the comedy amid the tragedy in [McDonagh’s] works-this one no less than the others and maybe more so-is fall-off-your-seat funny. Michael Grandage, who has yet to direct a less-than-superb mounting, keeps all his players at the top of their form, but it's Radcliffe, the instant movie superstar, who commands the stage as a lost boy who only wishes he could become a faraway Hollywood somebody. Perhaps Radcliffe's most commendable facet is that he eagerly embraces his status as an ensemble performer. (Read Full Review)

A

The Pitmen Painters

Under Max Roberts' alternately gritty and glossy direction, and featuring the entire original cast from London's National Theatre, this transAtlantic export is already a front-runner for this year's Tony Award for Best Play... Much of the production's success belongs to the eight-member acting contingent -- which also includes Lisa McGrillis as a model whose readiness to shed her clothes stirs comic anxiety among the daubers -- who have performed Hall's stunning piece enough to get every savory detail of the men's illustrious progress, and make a story that could feel very distant hit completely close to home. (Read Full Review)

A

Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!

Sometimes you don’t know how much you miss something until it returns, and that’s indisputably true of Forbidden Broadway...While this version, the first in four years, may not be the absolute best of the 30-year-old series, as it pokes fun at the peccadilloes, pretenses, and perils of the Broadway musical, it often registers as among the finest editions. (Read Full Review)

A

Harrison, TX

As fans of the late Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winner know, Foote was born in Wharton, Texas to a typically story-telling family, and grew up listening -- and obviously retaining what he'd heard. Whether he eventually turned these tales verbatim into his manifold works isn't so much the issue as his unerring ability -- as proven in this highly satisfactory and expertly acted trio of plays -- to capture the attitudes, humanity, and manners of the people among whom he matured. (Read Full Review)

A

Richard III

The breakneck pace with which Amanda Dehnert directs her production of William Shakespeare's Richard III, now at The Public Theater for a final stop after its tour of prisons and community centers, impressively accomplishes something other less edited treatments seldom do.
What you get here, which should be catnip to patrons, is the fierce urgency that the ruthlessly ambitious title character (played by Ron Cephas Jones) puts into his ultimately successful climb to the throne. (Read Full Review)

A

The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church

Lanky, mildly chunky Daniel Kitson is a galvanic storyteller as he proves in his rapid-fire, gorgeously phrased 90-minute monologue, The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church, now at St. Ann's Warehouse. Speaking in a West Yorkshire, England accent so musical it's almost as if there's underscoring, and with an energy seemingly fueled by solar panels, he turns the space he works into an enchanted realm. (Read Full Review)

A

The Temperamentals

The play might have devolved into little more than a Powerpoint lecture had Marans not been so ingenious about constructing his work in short scenes during which Hay and Gernreich play out their deep devotion to each other, while the Mattachine movement gains traction and what seem like scores of peripheral parades through their lives and through their unceasing determination to legitimize themselves and their brothers and sisters. Part of Marans' ingenuity is having four of the five actors assume multiple parts on a dime, including sunbathing (and topless) men, ladies in hats representing some of the women in Hay's life, and assorted lawyers, policemen, and even HUAC interrogators. While Ryan commands as the usually serious Hay, the others -- even Urie, playing Gernreich with a cunning Austrian accent -- jump through the colorful character hoops Marans has devised. Beckett, Schneck and Wright are particularly effective as, respectively, flamboyant Chuck, reticent Bob, and tough-guy Jennings. Moreover, the requirements of the play's lickety-split pace are met by director Jonathan Silverstein, who also makes the most of a set designed by Clint Ramos on what must have been an extremely short shoestring. (Read Full Review)

A

What the Public Wants

Jonathan Bank has given a foster home to Arnold Bennett's 1909 play What the Public Wants at the Mint Theatre. And as directed superbly by Matthew Arbour and designed by Roger Hanna, what a welcome new resident it is...It's all scripted by Bennett with pungent dialogue and with a series of marvelously colorful characters regularly passing through...When at season's end, award givers are looking around for the best ensembles, they may very well decide this is what the public wanted -- and got. (Read Full Review)

A

Wife to James Whelan

What will be applauded, however, are Deevy's unmissable psychological insights. A lifelong spinster -- who became deaf at the age of 20 from the complications of Meniere's disease -- Deevey obviously had the eye and ear for the damage immature foolishness can cause the young. The entire company is also to be applauded. Most notable are Fagan -- often facing downstage with arms crossed on his chest and feet immovably planted -- who is as tough as a bantam boxer, yet with care often darting from his eyes, and Brookshire, whose Nan is fiery at first and then downtrodden but also unmovable in just the right degree.
(Read Full Review)

A

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Anyone who has a strong objection to first-rate musical comedy entertainment better steer clear of Nice Work If You Can Get It...Anyone else willing to surrender to the throwaway charm of Matthew Broderick, Kelli O'Hara's unlimited singing and acting abilities, a panoply of endlessly infectious George and Ira Gershwin songs, and director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall's unbounded inventiveness should snag tickets instantly...Everyone in this truly talented troupe excels...In short, Nice Work is heaps more than nice work -- it's great fun -- and you can get it right now. (Read Full Review)

A

In The Next Room or the vibrator play

If Henrik Ibsen and Oscar Wilde had decided to collaborate on a post-modern drawing-room comedy, the hotsy-totsy twosome surely would have turned out something very much like Sarah Ruhl's genuinely hysterical new work In the Next Room or the vibrator play, now being presented by Lincoln Center Theatre at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre... Handed material that theatergoers stuck in a bygone age might find unsavory, director Les Waters has honed it to a fare-thee-well. (He also helmed the piece for its Berkeley Repertory Theatre debut.) And his actors are certainly a game lot. Dizzia, Benanti, and Williams are obliged to present several approaches to orgasms, a requirement that may have evoked second thoughts on initial readings of the lubricious script. But they leap in. Cerveris, as a detached man of science, is adept at stripping his emotions bare and then some. Bernstine gets to deliver the play's longest speech -- a confession of her resentment at wet-nursing an infant after her own son died at 12 weeks -- and she breaks hearts with it. Ryan's thick-skulled Mr. Daldry and Stetson's secretly unhappy and longing Annie are additional assets. (Read Full Review)

A

Billy Elliot

The entire cast—including the shape-assorted miners and ballerinas—has been expertly drilled by Daldry, with the acerbic Gwynne (the sole holdover from the original London cast), the scene-stealing Shelley, Leah Hocking as the loving mum of Billy's memory, and the pint-sized Erin Whyland as Mrs. Wilkinson's precocious and plain-spoken daughter among those making the strongest impressions. (Read Full Review)

A

Zero Hour

In the entertaining Zero Hour, now at St. Clement's Church, writer-performer Jim Brochu impersonates girthful, mirthful actor Zero Mostel so accurately that his performance is tantamount to a reincarnation. From head to toe, he's got it right; he has Mostel's ludicrous yet somehow distinguished pushed-forward hair-do; he moves with Mostel's light-footedness; he has the facial expressions that include eyebrows traveling far up the forehead; and he has those famed busy-busy hands and booming voice. (Read Full Review)

A

Lost In Yonkers

Two of the undeniably hilarious comedic performances currently on view are being given by Matthew Gumley as 15-and-a-half-year-old Jay and Russell Posner as 13-and-a-half-year-old Artie in the solid-gold TACT revival of Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1991 work, Lost in Yonkers, now at the Beckett Theatre under Jenn Thompson's expert direction. (Read Full Review)

A

The Irish...and How They Got That Way

[A] fitting tribute to everything Irish -- and, in particular, to the lively, keening Irish songs now popular for eons. Name the tune, and it's a sure bet there's a rendition here as feelingly sung by Sheehan and fellow original cast member Terry Donnelly, as well as Kerry Conte and Gary Troy, all of whom have been directed with Gaelic care by Charlotte Moore and choreographed with Celtic energy by Barry McNabb. Furthermore, the revered ditties are robustly accompanied by music director Kevin B. Winebold, and on violin, mandolin, and bodhran by Patrick Shields. (Read Full Review)

A

That Championship Season

If the demise of Fox's 24 is what has freed Kiefer Sutherland to finally make it to Broadway -- in Gregory Mosher's immaculately gritty revival of Jason Miller's award-winning 1972 drama That Championship Season, now at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre -- then those die-hard series fans should much less deprived. Aided by co-stars Brian Cox, Jim Gaffigan, Chris Noth, and Jason Patric, the cast brings this emotinally charged drama to urgent and abrasive life. (Read Full Review)

A

Death of a Salesman

The place to start the praise is with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who gives an award-worthy performance of infinite depth and breadth as Willy Loman...Another facet of Nichols' magic touch is that Hoffman never upstages the other actors, all of whom have multiple moments to command the stage...Nichols has made certain the entire ensemble is flawless, including Fran Kranz as nerd-next-door Bernard who matures into a lawyer about to argue a case before the Supreme Court. (Read Full Review)

A

Hurt Village

Under direction by Patricia McGregor as fierce as Hall's writing, the cast makes a strong bid for a best-ensemble prize, as every actor vivifies each harrowing moment. And even if there isn't much news in Hurt Village, the continuing urban crises it recounts -- as if in an indicting documentary -- is precisely what makes the play obligatory viewing. (Read Full Review)

A

Look Back In Anger

There's no question the challenge director Sam Gold faced in mounting this possibly-dated work was finding an approach to the fire-brand script that would infuse it with the shock value it had at its debut. Not only has he met the test, Gold deserves a chorus of huzzahs for unmitigated audacity. (Read Full Review)

A

Richard III

This is a Richard so contemporary by way of his dictatorial wiles and who so personifies the phrase "a villain you love to hate" that it's surprising he doesn't ask the paying crowd he holds in his withered hand to follow him on Twitter...As might be expected, the show's creative team also delivers the goods...It could be said that excellent as Spacey's emoting is, there is a flaw: His profound enjoyment of Richard's evil is so thorough that when the man develops a conscience just before his fatal Bosworth field battle, the actor can't quite convince us of the unexpected remorse. Of course, this is Shakespeare's problem as well for having written such an alarming but so frequently charming villain. Still, it's a small concern when the entertainment quotient has been this charmingly high. (Read Full Review)

A

The Merchant of Venice (Central Park)

It's a tremendous understatement to say that Sullivan has come up trumps, not least because for the role of problematic Jewish usurer Shylock, he has Al Pacino, and for the supremely fair in looks and manner Portia, he has Lily Rabe. Under Sullivan's tutelage, he also has one of the most accomplished casts ever assembled for Park presentations -- each of whom has no trouble speaking the Bard's intricate language trippingly. (Read Full Review)

A

Much Ado About Nothing

Arin Arbus couldn't have done better. One of the numerous Arbus niceties is how well but not extravagantly she uses the thrust stage -- allows it to conjure Shakespeare's Globe. Arbus has also come up with sight gags that keep the audience guffaws coming, and the actors certainly join her in that pursuit. Maybe the best and most surprising of them involves a mirror, but no more will be said here. (Read Full Review)

A

Man and Boy

Under Aitken's gorgeously manipulative direction, the entire cast -- including Francesca Faridany as Florence, Antonescu's former secretary and now wife, and Brian Hutchison as Herries' often overwrought accountant -- plays Rattigan's histrionics full out. But it's Langella for whom the piece is a vehicle, and he drives it like a Rolls Royce. As a man so slick that anyone rubbing up against him runs the risk of sliding to a quick death, Langella puts his extraordinary technique to thorough use. From the way he comports himself right down to caressing a telephone cord to his every statement in an unfailing European accent as he struts in his double-breasted suit, the actor gives yet another impeccable portrayal. Indeed, in every detail, he's The Man. (Read Full Review)

A

Collected Stories

The writing Margulies does in delineating the dalliance is endlessly perceptive, and what Lavin does delivering it is the stuff of superlative acting. Able for decades now to get laughs simply from the way she rolls her eyes or darts them sideways -- and doing a great deal of that here -- Lavin uses the Schwartz-affair sequence to shift from the hard-edged, suspicious, and worldly wise author Ruth has become to the wide-eyed, 22-year-old, wannabe poet she was when first succumbing to Schwartz's spell at Greenwich Village's now-famous White Horse Tavern ... Also profiting from Meadow's astute guidance, the tall, blonde Paulson charts Lisa's transformation from (possibly deceptive) innocent to polished young author with commendable subtlety. Like her co-star, Paulson has to climb to her own heights, and she does so with ease. (Read Full Review)

A

Cymbeline

Even pluckier and perkier than it was less than year ago. Whereas the earlier outing was marred by too much flat delivery, the company now speaks the speeches with uniform emotion and humor. The change adds such fun at performing Shakespeare that the version can be recommended for audiences of all age...Fiasco's most attractive element is the ingenuity with which the sextet approaches so many of Shakespeare's knotty challenges -- not the least of which is severing that confounded head and, the reverse, presenting that headless body. (Read Full Review)

A

A Little Night Music

* Simply stunning. These veteran actresses are giving the kind of extraordinary performances that should ensure audiences will take a first -- or second or third -- look at this undisputed classic musical comedy...While the supporting players have remained intact since the show's opening, the good news is that the stronger of them are just as fine as they were when they show opened, while the weaker of them have dramatically improved. David's original review, an A-, can be read here. (Read Full Review)

A

Dr. Knock or the Triumph of Medicine

[R]arely has the power of suggestion brought so many people to a sick bed and given so many audience members a contagious case of the chuckles. Many of those laughs come from a parade of lively, often overripe characters who surround the not-so-good doctor. Perkins, Scott Barrow, Jennifer Harmon, and Chris Mixon all earn kudos for their chameleonesque shenanigans in a variety of roles, and designer Charles Morgan deserves high praise for his gorgeous set. Equally laudably, Hammond, with his etched profile and pomaded hair, makes subtlety his calling-card. Gulling the unaware townsfolk and ultimately the scheming Parpalaid, he indicates his wiles by mere sideways glances and half-smiles aimed through the fourth wall. (Read Full Review)

A

Nightingale

Lynn Redgrave's...honesty -- about herself and her family -- shines like a beacon throughout Nightingale, her engaging solo piece...Using the unsatisfyingly few -- and often hardscrabble -- facts she has at her disposal, Redgrave has constructed a tale of a life made up primarily of melancholy, bittersweet, and dolorous episodes -- not the least of which is the honeymoon Beatrice and her groom, Eric Kempson, endured. Redgrave's depiction of the two virgins fumbling through these events -- and eventually settling into loveless cohabitation -- brings the portrait of an entire uninformed, painfully innocent generation to mind...It's said that all writing is therapy, and...between the lines of Nightingale, there's definitely the indication of a woman courageously grappling with her own problems...Several times in her confessional, Redgrave mentions that the endeavor enables her to hold her grandmother's hand. Her urgent and unflagging need to make that metaphorical link, even if it requires a searching imagination, is almost unbearably poignant.

Talkin' Broadway A
(Matthew Murray) What’s true on February 14 is generally true in the theatre, too: It’s the simple valentines that mean the most...Redgrave delivers a poignant but probing look at a catalytic force in her life. This one, however, is perhaps made even juicier by the fact that Redgrave barely knew Beatrice herself and came to most of her discoveries and conclusions later...Because of the great care with which Redgrave approaches all of these anecdotes, it rapidly ceases to matter which are based in fact and which supposition - they're all moving and convincing nonetheless...Despite the lack of trappings, you never feel you’re seeing any sort of a lesser venture - only one woman at the top of her form, embodying a gloriously fictional real-life woman - or is that a gloriously realistic fictional woman? That it’s hard to tell for sure is one of the play’s most telling joys. (Read Full Review)

A

La Cage aux Folles

* Fierstein knows how to lend the appropriate light-heartedness and gravitas to his libretto's alternately amusing and serious lines, as well as Jerry Herman's tuneful score. Indeed, his first-act finale "I Am What I Am" perhaps resonates as effectively as it does because it not only reflects Albin's declaration of defiant self-assurance, but also Fierstein's unchanging view of himself. Sieber gives a completely likable performance, and gets the character's virile-with-just-a-touch-of-swish element down pat. He also has the rare ability to make everything he does seem effortlessly spontaneous, and convincingly gives the impression that he's actually ad-libbing to the front row, where imaginative director Terry Johnson has audience members seated at cabaret tables.

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

A

Master Class

Daly is especially effective in the play's two long speeches -- spoken arias, really -- that McNally positions towards the end of both acts ... While watching Master Class, one should keep in mind that while McNally is depicting an artist he loves (for further confirmation see The Lisbon Traviata, his earlier valentine to her), he takes dramatic license in creating her life. Fortunately. it pays off not just for audiences, but for Daly, an actress at the top of her considerable game. (Read Full Review)

A

Brief Encounter (2009)

Kneehigh has deconstructed and reconstructed the classic film as a marvelous piece of post-modern nostalgia, using mixed media that occasionally allows the actors on stage to walk through a screen only to reappear bigger-than-life in filmed scenes (by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington). More surprisingly, adaptor-director Emma Rice adds enough Coward songs to turn her piece into a new and altogether different kind of musical comedy. Into the bargain, she and her skilled colleagues also pay Coward quite a tribute as a lasting cultural icon. (Read Full Review)

A

Sweet and Sad

Under Nelson's own stunning direction, this finely-turned ensemble -- Jon DeVries, Shuler Hensley, Maryann Plunkett, Laila Robbins, Jay O. Sanders and J. Smith-Cameron - once again delivers naturalistic acting at its peak of perfection. (Read Full Review)

A-

Jerusalem

Roaming the stage in an olive drab wife-beater, loose trousers, and goofy headpieces, Rylance slurs his speech, hobbles energetically as a result of the motorcycle crash, and makes it clear that none of the character's indulgences have eroded his sharp mind. Indeed, Rylance's superlative acting technique keeps Butterworth's work vibrantly alive for every second of its three acts, even while some of what transpires over three hours may appear aimless. Yet, despite the play's seemingly random occurrences, Butterworth definitely has something distressing on his mind -- and it's nothing less than the collapse of English society. (Read Full Review)

A-

A Magic Flute

Incidentally, while it's true there's much to be said for Brook's less-is-more approach, Mozart fans will undoubtedly note the absence of the great Mozart overture, a full orchestra, and a mesmerizing chorus, Nonetheless, Brook's version is indisputably refreshing. (Read Full Review)

A-

Lend Me a Tenor

While best known as an actor, Tucci proves to be a sly director, full of clever ideas (one of which includes bubbles blown onto the stage for a reason that won't be explained here). And Tucci's not the only one with catchy notions. Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz's idea of 1930s couture includes lined capes that are opened with a flourish and furs to be flung on divans. The major joy of this production, however, is watching this polished cast show what kind of all-out farceurs they can be -- especially the top-billed stars. Figurative steam comes from Shalhoub's ears as his producer's dismay mounts, while LaPaglia's nonplussed expressions in Othello drag and Bartha's Max letting go with operatic song at Merelli's behest are moments of great fun. (Read Full Review)

A-

Bluebird

Simon Russell Beale...delivers yet another must-see performance...While an astonishing number of his lines are limited to one, two or three words, Jimmy speaks his freest during the exchange with Claire, which takes up the last quarter of the script, and where the range of profound emotions Beale exhibits adds up to sheer artistry. Not incidentally, he's matched in this wrenching scene by McCann from start to finish. The production is also helped enormously by director Gaye Taylor Upchurch...Admittedly, there are more than a few moments in Stephens' work that are contrived, sentimental or often both. But as a vehicle (no pun intended) for Beale and this skilled company, Bluebird proves to be a skillfully crafted ride. (Read Full Review)

A-

Anything Goes

Marshall deserves high praise here for her staging, notably her inventive choreography and readiness to reference classic Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers numbers if they serve her needs. Furthermore, she takes care that her large cast smartly negotiates the various set-pieces aboard Derek McLane's ocean liner. Kudos as well to Martin Pakledinaz for his glittering costumes, the wittiest of which is the flames-of-hell outfit he lacquers on Foster and her "angels" for "Blow, Gabriel, Blow." In the end, Anything Goes offers what many theatergoers are looking for today: a lot of bang for the bloated Broadway buck and a chance to see a true star in action. (Read Full Review)

A-

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Harry Potter -- aka Daniel Radcliffe -- has graduated from Hogwarts with a Master of Arts in singing and dancing, as is evident in Rob Ashford's sleek revival...The 21-year-old Radcliffe proves he can carry a major musical on his five-foot-five frame -- even a show such as this one, which shows slight signs of wear after 50 years. Indeed, there's a good possibility that a Tony Award is in his immediate future...Radcliffe takes charge of the Hirschfeld stage with a smile, a direct approach to all his lines, and a way of winkingly bringing the audience in on the fun...Many of Ashford's dances suggest he's either repeating himself -- or giving him the benefit of the doubt -- spinning variations on previous work...Moreover, Ashford has surrounded Radcliffe and Larroquette with a company completely up to the demands put on them. (Read Full Review)

A-

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

While the show will likely prove to be a crowd-pleaser, it can be difficult to tell whether all of those offering a standing ovation at the curtain call actually enjoyed what they saw -- or are simply surrendering out of sheer exhaustion. (Read Full Review)

A-

Private Lives

The production, directed debonairly by Sir Richard Eyre, is so close to ideal that spectators caught caviling should be led to a corner and forced to hunker there until they come to their senses...Playing the intense and self-absorbed lovers, Cattrall (slim as a lily stem) and Gross (suave as the silver cigarette case he carries) are the overflowing volcanoes of molten intelligence, humor, glamour, impetuosity, rancor, unpredictability and desire that Coward created...All is not complete perfection. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

Nevertheless, they have not undercut the work's emotional highpoint, which is reached when Lewis and McDonald -- two gorgeously trained singers and beautifully crafted actors -- profess their love in "Bess, You is My Woman Now." Moreover, McDonald's aching "I Loves You, Porgy" mines Bess' deepest fears of the hold Crown has on her, and the grinning Lewis' "I Got Plenty of Nothing" is helium-buoyant. The same care has been given to all the beloved songs. Grier's "It Ain't Necessary So" is totally vital, while Daniels and Henry loft "Summertime" to the sky. Bryonha Marie Parham as the pious Serena, Natasha Yvette Williams as the wise Mariah, and Andrea Jones Sojola, Phumzile Sojola and Cedric Neal as a trio of produce vendors all raise their clarion voices when cued. (Read Full Review)

A-

Measure for Measure (2010)

Arin Arbus seemed delivered in full bloom from nowhere last year to direct an astounding Othello for Theatre for New Audience. Now the obviously undaunted director has come back to the group with a modern-day production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure that is as intelligent as her previous outing, beautifully-designed (by Peter Ksander), and containing heaps of passion. Still, Arbus' worthwhile efforts don't render the play less problematic and strangely stiff-necked for 2010 audiences than it usually is. (Read Full Review)

A-

We the People: America Rocks!

While the high-energy show is laden with anachronisms -- the foremost of which is presenting founding fathers George Washington (Colin Campbell McAdoo), John Adams (F. Michael Haynie), Thomas Jefferson (Jamie LaVerdiere), and Benjamin Franklin (Abe Goldfarb) as a bewigged rock band -- the lessons of the past still come through loud and clear...While just about every one of the show's word-heavy ditties -- penned by a large variety of songwriters -- suggests the cleverness of bright undergrads putting everything they know into words and music, it's Adam Overett's ode to "The First Amendment" that may be the outstanding piece in the eight-number score. The show's conviviality is further enhanced by Gordon Greenberg's directio...Still, just how much new knowledge the kindergarten-to-third-grade set will retain is questionable. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Winter's Tale (2009)


With his late dramas like The Winter's Tale, now at BAM as part of The Bridge Project, Shakespeare entered his own maturity, promoting forgiveness. Fortunately, no real forgiveness is necessary where Sam Mendes' lucid, tough-minded, and ultimately charming production of this problematic play -- which is ordinarily considered a play about death and rebirth but is just as much about the related importance of penitence and its humane reward -- is concerned. (Read Full Review)

A-

Sorry

Nelson's most potent observations about how families operate are universal. For that reason, the Apple Family plays stand a strong chance of remaining deliciously, juicily ripe for who-knows-how-long. (Read Full Review)

A-

Leap of Faith

The best song in this season's smallish crop of new musicals is "I Can Read You" -- a duet for flimflamming evangelist Jonas Nightingale (Raul Esparza, in his finest performance to date) and local sheriff Marla McGowan (Jessica Phillips)...The musical also includes the season's second and third best songs: "Dancin' in the Devil's Shoes" and "Are You on the Bus?"...As Nightingale, Esparza infuses substance into this sometimes contrived material...Chalk up the rest of what clicks to the abundant musical stops pulled out by director Christopher Ashley, choreographer Sergio Trujillo (at least once borrowing from Alvin Ailey's "Revelations") and a mixed chorus of gospel shouters who deliver the Menken-Slater score. (Read Full Review)

A-

Murder in the First

While the territory is somewhat familiar, director Michael Parva's production is not just an intensely exciting theatrical experience, but one that has all the heated drama -- and melodrama -- of an irresistible John Grisham novel. (Read Full Review)

A-

Les Éphémères

The thrilling paradox of Ariane Mnouchkine's Lincoln Center Festival 2009 entry, Les Éphémères, now at the Park Avenue Armory, is that it's not like anything you've seen before and yet you've somehow seen it every day of your life. The revered French director has put together a two-part, seven-hour-or-so pageant in which vignette after vignette documents the sort of daily events that no one traditionally marks as sufficiently memorable to be chronicled in a theatrical enterprise; it's as if Mnouchkine had decided to be fabulously mundane by expanding on the third act of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. (Read Full Review)

A-

Other Desert Cities

These are relatives who share love and hate so complexly intermingled it's impossible to tell which is which. Like all Baitz's characters, they express themselves in witticisms that are sometimes sincere, sometimes cynical but forever keep them hanging, often perilously, on each other's every lacerating, healing word ... There's nothing black-and-white about the family or the arguments in Other Desert Cities, although Brooke would like there to be. The dexterity with which Baitz repeatedly shifts audience attitudes towards who has the more convincing position is an adroit job of writing. The rhythmic seesawing of sympathy is invaluably heightened by the five members of a cast directed by Joe Mantello with profound appreciation of the script's depths ... Other Desert Cities is less than perfect. Some of the truths pried out feel calculated and often couched in dramaturgy worryingly close to television fare. Nevertheless, its interest in airing secret and lies -- hardly a new purpose in American drama -- adds something fresh. (Read Full Review)

A-

A Steady Rain

While their Chicago accents may not be perfect, Craig and Jackman -- best known to film fans as James Bond and Wolverine respectively -- are giving movie-star hungry ticket buyers enough of what they want (other than taking their shirts off). In doing so, they easily make the intermissionless 90-minute work a satisfying time in the theater. Craig, sporting a less-than-attractive mustache and comb-over (which makes him resemble Ted Levine on Monk) is a stage natural who is solidly authentic in every utterance and movement, while Jackman once again displays the kind of masculine grace blended with gruff virility that guarantees uninterrupted attention from the audience. (Read Full Review)

A-

Wishful Drinking

Admirably, her consistent humor isn't simply built on the funny-now-but-not-so-funny-then chapters from her book of the same name. Still, as polished as the proceedings are, they lack some of the gravity that her book possesses -- especially in its discussion of Fisher's experience with electroconvulsive therapy.Throughout Fisher has an ability to use words like Play-Doh, manipulating them to her clever advantage. For example, on the subject of remarrying -- which she's seen a lot of going on around her -- she coins the term "the triumph of nostalgia over judgment." On the subject of substance abuse, she juggles Karl Marx's "Religion is the opiate of the masses" pronouncement to report she took "masses of opiates religiously." There's no denying what Fisher is doing is a stand-up routine; but as directed by Tony Taccone and designed by Alexander V. Nichols, that aspect of its origin is craftily disguised. (Read Full Review)

A-

Rutherford & Son

Saying more about the circumstances in which the verbal explosions occur could spoil the fun, but it's certainly fair to note that the principal tyrant in Sowerby's work is self-made glassworks mogul John Rutherford (Robert Hogan). Indeed, the man so thoroughly disallows criticism in his house that those over whom he regularly tramples are as bent as the sea-wind-tormented bare tree outside the window on Vicki R. Davis' set. (Read Full Review)

B+

A View From the Bridge

It's a large credit to Mosher that every one of Miller's down-to-earth, yet-larger-than-life characters -- including neighborhood lawyer Alfieri (Michael Cristofer), who narrates the unrelentingly downbeat tale -- is profoundly etched ... From the instant Schreiber's Eddie scuffs in to join a coin-pitching game with two fellow workers (Robert Turano and Joe Ricci), the actor has every nuance in place for his depiction of a morally conflicted man who is imprisoned by illicit desires but damned if he's going to cop to them ... While the play never packs less than a knock-out dramatic punch, it does have its weaknesses. It's one thing to use Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides and colleagues as models, but it's quite another to keep calling attention to the tactic. (Read Full Review)

B+

Driving Miss Daisy

This will likely be the biggest commercial theater hit of 2010 (or at least since Denzel Washington and Viola Davis spent the early summer selling out the Cort in Fences)...The work not only navigates the fine line between sentiment and sentimentality with equanimity, it doesn't hurt that along the way Uhry adds in a dollop of social commentary as it hints at the effect the Civil Rights movement had on the changing South...Jones strikes exactly the right tones as a deferential Negro of the old, obsolescing South who never loses his dignity...Redgrave, erect as a Sabbath candlestick until Daisy's final moments in a nursing home, understands that the starchier she makes the adamantly independent retired teacher, the more hearty laughs she'll reap...There's little doubt that Driving Miss Daisy is not just about a vehicle; it's a vehicle in the old theater sense. But when stars such as this trio dispense their charms and craft this well, audiences will be only too happy to go along for the ride. (Read Full Review)

B+

Betrayal

Something Mike Nichols chose to do when directing the final moments of Harold Pinter's Betrayal…annoyed me so I had to remind myself that up until then, the revered director had brought unusual insight and vitality to the nine-scene intermissionless play…Because it occurs at the very last seconds of the play, I'm not going to describe it precisely…What's devastating about Nichols's (undoubtedly deliberate) decision is that he doesn't abide by that crucial stage direction. As a result, what's lost isn't nearly compensated for by what's been substituted. Too bad. (Read Full Review)

B+

Lovers

Andy gets around that by loudly reciting Thomas Gray's classic poem, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"— a solution as funny as it sounds and made more so by Riordan and Brazda's frenzied tussling. (Read Full Review)

B+

That Hopey Changey Thing

At first, That Hopey Changey Thing...looks to be the "disposable" work playwright Richard Nelson suggests it is in his program note. Taking place on November 2, 2010 -- which is when the opening audience watched it -- the comedy-drama has the earmarks of something already becoming a period piece. Yet, there's something undeniably appealing here...that says the play will stand the test of time...As might be expected, the subtle political differences between and among the Apples is a problem. Although they're all left-leaning Democrats, they do disagree...But there's also singing and even reading from Anton Chekhov's Cherry Orchard...Even while prepared to accept his play's possible short shelf-life, Nelson has maximized its potential by directing six actors who couldn't be better...As required, they simply talk, listen, and touch. It's a commendable instance where the acting family that plays together earns praise together. (Read Full Review)

B+

Mary Broome

Playing a woman with difficult decisions to make about her place in the unfair scheme of things, Brookshire brings all the intelligence and reticence necessary. Negotiating his treacherous challenges, Hill is an acting wonder. And everyone in the ensemble is up to the examples Brookshire and Hill put down. (Read Full Review)

B+

New Girl in Town

Bob Merrill wrote such a clever and often catchy score for the George Abbott-written 1957 tuner New Girl In Town that it's reason enough to hotfoot it over to the Irish Repertory Theatre for the current revival. Other enticements are Margaret Loesser Robinson's performance as Anna, a bitter hooker trying to turn her squalid life around and Danielle Ferland's performance as wise, funny barfly Marthy, who eventually does Anna right -- and wrong. (Read Full Review)

B+

Harvey

Oblivious to the danger into which Elwood has been placed, Parsons creates a magic spotlight for him and his unorthodox friend. Regularly exchanging knowing looks and comments with his tall chum, he reaches a performance peak when Elwood says, "I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it." Amen to that. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Common Pursuit

When British dramatists educated at Cambridge or Oxford write about what they know, as Simon Gray did in his biting, slightly awkward play, The Common Pursuit...they tend to present one or more brilliant but dissatisfied characters unable to maintain the undergraduate ideals they once claimed to cherish. Moreover, while these whip-smart playwrights are at it, they usually shape the sort of to-kill-for roles that allow actors to shine, which six fine performers do in Moises Kaufman's fine production. (Read Full Review)

B+

Old Jews Telling Jokes

Most importantly, the jovial five-person cast infuses the lines and lyrics with well-tempered accents, eye rolls, mouth calisthenics, shrugs and more. Marilyn Sokol, whose white hair is as clenched as her features, is a constant stitch airing various comic frustrations, as is Lenny Wolpe, a burly fellow who doesn't even try to disguise the amusement he's giving himself. Todd Susman often scores simply through his feigned stoicism. And as the younger Jews on the ride, Bill Army and Audrey Lynn Weston match their elders' tale-spinning authority and frequent weary resignation. (Read Full Review)

B+

Man and Superman

The work is most renowned for its third act, which contains "Don Juan in Hell," a dream sequence that Jack shares with the rakish Spaniard, Mendoza (Jonathan Hammond). Although the gabby interruption is often dropped completely -- or is sometimes presented on its own -- Staller keeps a shortened version for this outing. Pruning the section with great care, he doesn't dilute the hilarity of the attitudes expressed in it towards dying and going to boring heaven or intellectually stimulating hell. As Mendoza, playing the devil to Jack's Don Juan, says, "There's a notion that I was turned out of [heaven], but as a matter of fact, nothing could have induced me to stay there." And that's just a tantalizing sample. (Read Full Review)

B+

Brief Encounter

Under adaptor/director Emma Rice's tongue-in-cheek yet straight-backed direction, the company simultaneously and seamlessly mock the source material devilishly, yet also honor it wholeheartedly. The result is not only a bravura statement on the giddy, difficult nature of love and loyalty, but a true one-of-a-kind entertainment -- which uses mixed media that occasionally allows the actors on stage to walk through a screen only to reappear bigger-than-life in filmed scenes, and more than enough Coward songs to turn the piece into an altogether different kind of musical comedy. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Caretaker

Indeed, any crew taking up the playwright's imagined aftermath must decide where the dramatic emphases will be placed. This treatment focuses on the less dangerous aspects Pinter infused into his flight of squalid fancy in favor of the amusing vacillations inherent in even small-scale power-plays. It's not that the atmosphere is airily light, but it's decidedly lighter than it has been in other equally adroit hands. (Read Full Review)

B+

God of Carnage

* The change in casting doesn't mask the fact that Reza's play remains far from perfect in its determination to demonstrate that civil behavior is a gossamer-thin veneer. Where the play is headed is apparent in the first minutes, and the fact that Alan and Annette stick around after the first 15 or 20 minutes tests credulity. Still, it remains incontestable that Reza writes parts that ravenous actors can sink their teeth into. David's original review, a B, is here. (Read Full Review)

B+

Our Town

Cromer has accomplished so much on a floor-level playing area with Wilder's poetically quotidian story about life in Grover's Corners that his eventually consigning a sequence in the devastating third act to something more closely resembling a realistic scene in a proscenium setting ends up seeming like a surprisingly misguided notion. On the plus side, he has asked lighting designer Heather Gilbert not to turn the house lights down but only to dim them somewhat from act to act, and seen to it that costume designer Alison Siple dresses the cast in contemporary street clothes so that his message about the audience being the cast and the cast being the audience is indisputably driven home. Significantly, Cromer has also tapped himself to be Wilde's [sic] famous Stage Manager -- which may be why he delivers the lines with the inflections of a director on the first day of rehearsal explaining to his cast what he's after. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Taming of the Shrew

Faced with a sometimes problematic work for modern audiences, Arbus has wisely cast a troupe of genuinely amusing comic actors -- and having guessed them up in Anita Yavich's wild Wild-West costumes on Donyale Werle's all-wooden saloon set -- presents them almost as if they're clowns emerging from a circus car. (Read Full Review)

B+

South Pacific

\While Bartlett Sher's current revival of South Pacific...is not a perfect realization of the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein-Joshua Logan musical, it's near enough that anyone caviling about its drawbacks for more than 10 seconds is just a spoil-sport...Sher...must shoulder responsibility for what many will consider a misconstrued interpretation of Nellie, who's far more restrained in O'Hara's performance than someone vociferously declaring herself "a cockeyed optimist" would likely be. Sher also might have helped Szot seem less awkward during the book scenes than he does; however, he spectacularly sings "This Nearly Was Mine" and "Some Enchanted Evening"...The musical -- coming during a presidential campaign where race is a heated issue -- now registers as indisputably relevant to the headlines. (Read Full Review)

B+

A Moon for the Misbegotten

Much of the credit for mining the barrelful of laughs in the ultimately heart-rending tale of how strapping, self-proclaimed everybody's girl Josie Hogan (Kim Martin-Cotton) breaks through to suicidal James Tyrone Jr. (Andrew May) with the instigated blessing of her father Phil Hogan (Dan Daily) goes to director J. R. Sullivan for recognizing the yuk-potential, and leading Martin-Cotton and Daily, in particular, to maximize it. (Read Full Review)

B+

Palestine

Thoroughly engaging but nevertheless disturbing...Unfortunately, director Sturgis Warner doesn't entirely trust the message to carry the event. He keeps Said moving like a chess piece across set designer Meghan E. Healey's square chess-board-variant floor, while being underscored by Ray Leslee's original music. But the truth is Said would be just as compelling were she stationed on a stool, simply sharing her life with us. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Temperamentals

Marans has used his dramatizing wiles to write an instructive and consistently amusing lesson in gay studies by focusing on the seminal if now forgotten Mattachine Society. Indeed, this is the rare docudrama that succeeds at everything it gallantly sets out to accomplish...The play might have devolved into little more than a Powerpoint lecture had Marans not been so ingenious about constructing his work...The requirements of the play's lickety-split pace are met by director Jonathan Silverstein. (Read Full Review)

B+

Richard II

Playing the liege at the outset as charmingly but unrealistically sure of his invincibility -- and therefore not to be challenged on his decisions -- McNall allows the king's understanding of common humanity to seep into him slowly but, in time, agonizingly. He alternately repels and commands sympathy, which is an actor's accomplishment worth witnessing. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Miracle Worker

Breslin's inarticulate Annie -- looking like a Sir John Tenniel illustration for Alice in Wonderland -- impressively meets all requirements for floundering stamina, while Pill's Annie is a petite tower of strength, despite some accent uncertainties. Modine's goateed Captain is resolute but not ultimately without gratitude for Annie's achievement. Morrison's Kate hits the right balance as the harried go-between serving her tradition-entrenched husband and Annie. Segal's frustrated James is sympathetic; Franz lends weight to the proceedings in a small role; and Daniel Oreskes does well as both an attending physician and as the once-temporarily-blind Annie's mentor. The main drawback in Whoriskey's treatment has to do with the show's in-the-round staging. Specifically, her decision to favor a Derek McLane design that has various set pieces -- a dining-room table, a desk, beds, et cetera -- repeatedly lowered and raised on wires that then remain in place means that the audience watches much of the action with strings attached. Nevertheless, The Miracle Worker emerges a still-welcome report on one of the world's most exciting steps forward in human communication. (Read Full Review)

B+

On the Levee

The three-act piece, conceived and directed with sensitive urgency by Lear deBessonet, is officially described as "a play with music." But it is better called a compact historical pageant -- and it is an ultimately satisfying, deeply disturbing one...One of the solemn beauties of this production is the contribution made by the projections of the acclaimed artist Kara Walker, who specializes in illustrating the African-American experience through simultaneously jaunty and corrosive silhouette tableaux. For On the Levee, she provides, on an upstage screen, silhouetted bunraku-like figures manipulated by sticks. Often, they represent the only instances of choreography in this musical piece. (Read Full Review)

B+

Queen of the Mist

There are many talented performers today for whom musicals should be specifically written. Mary Testa is one of them, and composer-lyricist-librettist Michael John LaChiusa knows it. As a result, he's crafted the insistently involving, though still imperfect, Queen of the Mist...Musically, much of his work here is on a consistently high level...All the supporting players...cavort energetically under Jack Cummings III's inventive direction...But the main attraction remains Testa. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Cocktail Party

Director Scott Alan Evans obviously has an affinity for the play's sentiments and rhythms, and he has actors at his disposal with the right honed techniques. As Harcourt-Reilly, Jones gives another of his authoritative performances, and his face-offs with the handsome Koenig -- whose jawline looks to be carved from marble -- are galvanizing. Harris is unfailing funny as deceptively gabby Julia; Rolfsrud is an aristocratic Lavinia; and both Alhadeff and Beck are flawless as partygoers with their own secrets. It's worth noting that The Cocktail Party is a verse play -- a genre that rarely dares speak its name nowadays for fear of causing a box-office freeze. From the way, Eliot structured the piece, however, and from the way it's delivered by the outstanding ensemble, ticket buyers would never guess its infrastructure. (Read Full Review)

B+

Tryst

If you're chomping at the bit to see two Edwardian neurotics face off -- and who isn't? -- you're encouraged to head towards The Irish Repertory Theatre, where Karoline Leach's Tryst is having a chilling revival. (Read Full Review)

B+

Promises, Promises

[V]iewed as a two-star vehicle, Promises, Promises is absolutely enjoyable ... Too many of the jokes misfire -- largely because of the dramatic changes in office politics over the past five decades ... Besides singing with fervor, Hayes is a geyser of comic creativity ... Rather than portraying Fran as a naïve, confused employee -- as was done in the film and the original Broadway musical -- Chenoweth reinterprets the part as someone more mature yet afflicted by impulses she can't fight. More importantly, Chenoweth proves once more that she knows how to deliver a song with steely finesse ... Even if this version of Promises, Promises falls short of consistently stellar status, the production is a reminder that Bacharach is a composer of ineffable invention and David is his perfect match as a lyricist. While they never made any promises otherwise, it's a pity they only wrote one Broadway musical. (Read Full Review)

B

Dov and Ali

Effective if less-than-psychologically complex play...Towards the play's close, Ziegler has Ali say to Dov, "I just don't think, Mr. Gold -- with all due respect -- that life is about pleasing our fathers." It's a remark that pretty much puts the play's message in a nutshell, which isn't the sort of thing that counts as the mark of a subtle playwright at work...Green, Ambudkar, Gandhi, and Armbruster enhance the work's strengths and minimize its obvious weaknesses.

Backstage C
(A.R. Perlman) There are no surprises. The plot proceeds not by logic but by convenience, with characters knowing whatever's required to advance the dialogue while remaining ignorant of whatever might impede it. The four actors give the performances asked of them. Adam Green is the unsure teacher, Utkarsh Ambudkar the too-sure student, Heidi Armbruster the shiksa, Anitha Gandhi the Muslim woman who dares to think. These are, of course, ideas, not characters, but the actors poke a few nice grace notes through the thick surface. Something similar happens in the writing. In the toss-away moments, where the dialogue is lived-in rather than hurled to make a point, Ziegler is smartly observational. Perhaps she had to write this play, but I look forward to seeing future, less important works. (Read Full Review)

B

La Bête

Mark Rylance dazzled audiences with his high-octane physicality in the recent Broadway revival of Boeing-Boeing, and the Tony Award-winning actor proves to be equally astonishing in Matthew Warchus' often hilarious revival of David Hirson's 1991 rhyming-verse play, La Bete, now at the Music Box...The primary drawback of La Bete is that Hirson can't refrain from being didactic. Elomire's final outcry about the damage the Valeres of the world do and the debasement they represent may well be true; but it's heavy-handed, especially coming after the enactment of Valere's unintentionally tedious play. (Read Full Review)

B

Enron

The challenge of disguising a stage documentary so it doesn't look like one gets wrestled to the ground by playwright Lucy Prebble and director Rupert Goold in Enron, which -- after making several acclaimed stops in England -- has come to Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre with an all-American cast giving it the old razzle-dazzle....Prebble's most noticeable drawback in this high-wattage undertaking is that she never probes very deeply into Skilling's tragic-figure psyche, although she may think she does by inserting two cute scenes with his precocious daughter (Mary Stewart Sullivan at some performances, Madisyn Shipman at others). (Read Full Review)

B

Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance)

What Foreman has been doing all along with the works he writes, directs and designs is plumbing his own labyrinthine psyche. He's incorporating his wide range of personal symbols into a career-long play by adding one act after one act. Those unwilling to go along should avoid the farrago. Others are invited to wallow. (Read Full Review)

B

Lucky Guy

As McAlary, Hanks takes charge of the stage, surely proving to any potential skeptics that he's as strong on stage as he is on screen. With unlimited stamina and carrying his own inner spotlight, he shows McAlary as gruff and tough and then moderately less so after recovering from a near-death 1993 automobile accident when drunk and later developing cancer from which he recovered only briefly.

With the ultra-assured performance, Hanks has to be a Tony-nom cinch and an on-odds favorite to win. (After all, there are television ratings to be considered.) Yet, there must be an asterisk affixed to Hanks's indisputably affecting performance -- while keeping in mind it's unlikely Lucky Guy would be where it is without him attached. (Read Full Review)

B

The Shaughraun

A rare and worthwhile production at the always-pioneering Irish Repertory Theatre... there are times -- especially in the first act -- when Moore allows the proceedings to remain too static. Moreover, set designer Klara Zieglerova has had her own trouble meeting the challenges offered by a small budget, a large cast, and a script covering too many rural Ireland locations. (Read Full Review)

B

Ten Chimneys

Unfortunately, in doing so, Hatcher feels obliged to portray Alfred, Lynn, and their associates as if they spoke in real life just as they did when someone like Noel Coward (who's mentioned several times) was writing their dialogue. And while Hatcher's reach too often exceeds his grasp, Jennings, McCormick and their cohorts end up giving vivid-enough performances, under Dan Wackermann's direction, to keep Ten Chimneys in working order. (Read Full Review)

B

Him

Although there are some troublesome aspects to Daisy Foote's Him...too much about the author's new work about a dysfunctional Tremont, New Hampshire family demands attention...The piece is too noticeably a spin on Dividing the Estate, written by Foote's father, Horton...Moreover, the always remarkable Hallie Foote is asked by director Evan Yionoulis to give a performance that is simply too close to her characterization in that earlier work. However, the author finishes strongly...proving she is a playwright with something extremely perceptive to say and someone to watch in the future. (Read Full Review)

B

Cradle and All

Goldfarb deserves extra points, however, for a particularly astute observation: He's noticed that when couples argue -- no matter the issues -- they make comparable accusations and revelations. Accordingly, both couples here confess things about themselves they hadn't before, both couples make accusations of lying, both couples walk a thin line between staying together and parting. This could be seen as merely unconscious repetitive writing, but it isn't. (Read Full Review)

B

An Enemy of the People

Gaines gives it his fiery all and Thomas hands in another of his considered performances – even if there are times when Hughes asks them and their colleagues to shout more than necessary to get their – and Ibsen's – timely points across. (Read Full Review)

B

Photograph 51

Because anything concerning science is mistakenly believed by audiences to be dry stage material, it's understandable that in Photograph 51, now at Ensemble Studio Theatre under Lindsay Firman's firm direction, playwright Anna Ziegler has a tendency to get cute with her characters. She doesn't need to. There's enough palpable, persuasive drama in this work about the 1953 discovery of the search to delineate deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) for several plays -- and just as compelling is the work's secondary search for male-female compatibility. (Read Full Review)

B

Romeo and Juliet

It's not just the young romantics who shout it out, though. This is a Romeo and Juliet in which just about everyone talks at the top of his or her lungs -- as if Verona were populated by nothing but rageaholics. Richard Katz as Capulet and Christine Entwistle as Lady Capulet are in a constant fury, implying Juliet's rebellious fury was passed down in the DNA from parents tolerating a rocky relationship. Even Forbes Masson's Friar Laurence is not above hollering his religious oaths (Read Full Review)

B

The Collection & A Kind of Alaska

The Collection feels less a vital revival of the work than a perfectly preserved period piece. No such feeling occurs during the instantly -- and consistently -- involving A Kind of Alaska. Here, Deborah (Lisa Emery) wakes from a 29-year sleep caused by encephalitis lethargica. Observed by Hornby (Bryggman), the physician attending her throughout the extended slumber, she attempts to understand her whereabouts, and her wrangling provides the opportunity for an actor's tour de force -- and Emery grasps the chance and refuses to let go until she's conveyed the text's every nuance. (Read Full Review)

B

West Side Story

In revising West Side Story to guarantee it feels as persuasive as possible, Laurents does make a few missteps. The most obvious is the scene at the very end when Maria is tending to Tony's fallen body in the playground. Originally, members of both chastened gangs formed a respectful retreat while the policemen looked on. Now, claiming that no law enforcement officer would allow such a brazen removal of evidence, Laurents has trimmed the number of witnesses and keeps them on the spot. At the very least, he should have brought all gang members back -- and contrite -- at the slow curtain. But although Laurents dilutes the ending of his own work, he nonetheless retains the heated theatrical magic that always was and always will be West Side Story. (Read Full Review)

B

Jersey Boys

So what if the Des McAnuff production is so slick that you could slip on it and slide to an untimely end? Fuhgeddaboudit! It's got the Four Seasons songs, an astonishing string of melodic and melodramatic celebrations of adolescent emotion that make this show a highly appealing oldies concert. It pushes its broad-shouldered way into the theater as a better example of the currently ubiquitous "jukebox musical" form...Despite its flaws, you can't beat this show with a stick. (Read Full Review)

B

Good People

What becomes clear is that Lindsay-Abaire is intrigued by goodness not as an absolutely unadulterated trait but more as a dominant strand in an individual's complex psychological make-up. Equally important, the playwright is undeniably interested in how goodness is played out by the constantly at-odds social classes. While the entire cast is splendid, McDormand -- who is on stage for practically every moment of the two-hour show -- is so breath-to-breath convincing portraying a blue-collar worker battling a world denying her comforting choices that she makes the character and the play consistently irresistible. She's more than good people; she's a great actress at the top of her game! (Read Full Review)

B

The Road to Mecca

Gordon Edelstein's new production of Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca, now at the Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre, fails to pick up steam until the second act. But even the most patience-tested audience member should hunker down and stay until the end. Fugard has too much of vital importance to say about human interaction for substance-hungry patrons to miss any of the show's two-and-a-half-hours. (Read Full Review)

B

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman were the Swiss clockmakers of American comedy, creating immaculate structured laugh machines such as The Man Who Came to Dinner, which is receiving a more than acceptably polished revival by The Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theatre at St. Clement's, with director Dan Wackermann guiding a cast of over 20 actors with screwball flair. (Read Full Review)

B

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

In many ways an improvement on the original...Enhancing this Clear Day is the stirring score by Lerner and Burton Lane...Connick, an instinctive stage performer, brings humor and depth to the likable yet troubled Bruckner...The jazz warbling is handed to Broadway debutante Mueller, whose consistent spunk is a delight and whose pipes instantly explain why she was cast...Unfortunately, this Clear Day -- now set in 1974 -- has its share of drawbacks, the foremost being Christine Jones' optical-illusion set and Catherine Zuber's too-often-matching optical-illusion duds. (Read Full Review)

B

Lidless

There's no question that Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's Lidless...packs a heavyweight's wallop to the solar plexus, but some audience members will nonetheless resist believing the narrative's extraordinary coincidences, and therefore find the work's power diminished...One thing that can be said for Cowhig's constantly-spinning plot is that it provides the kind of melodramatic moments actors love sinking their teeth into. Under Tea Alagic's pointedly relentless direction, Skraastad dominates the proceedings with a superb performance. (Read Full Review)

B

The Mountaintop

By the conclusion of the 95-minute piece -- featuring award-worthy performances by Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett under Kenny Leon's admittedly inspired direction -- we realize what we've witnessed is basically inspired hokum. Not that, as the saying goes, there's anything wrong with that... The tone Hall wants seems to be comic, suggesting to audiences that, while we know King will die the next day, he might have had an amusing final night with a feisty follower. And while many of these exchanges click, they begin to pall by the time the work is two-thirds through. Fortunately, that's when Hall gives the plot a play-rescuing twist.
(Read Full Review)

B-

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Evidently, times are changing, but I'm from that generation of musical comedy lovers who attended shows to hear songs. Sad to say, Natasha... has none. Check that. It may have four. There's one sung by Natasha, one by Sonya, the finale item sung by Pierre, and the "Balaga" group number. Of them, only the last truly hits the mark Malloy intends. The remainder of the not-quite-sung-through, oom-pah-pah-rock score is nothing more than expositional lyrics riding clumsily on endless strings of uninteresting notes. (Read Full Review)

B-

Cymbeline

It's a bright feather in cap of the six-actor Fiasco Theater troupe...that so much fun abounds in this crazy-quilt of an opus. Paring cast members means that five of the eager and committed thespians are required to play more than one role...Amusingly, the change-character-on-the-spot conceit inserts bountiful laughs, although light-hearted humor wasn't necessarily the Bard's intention when concocting his admonitory tale...Fiasco's most attractive element is the ingenuity with which the sextet approaches so many of Shakespeare's knotty challenges...There is, however a least attractive element here, too. For an ensemble so devoted to Shakespeare, there seems to be insufficient interest in the music of his language...This is a genuine drawback, when so much else is plucky and perky. (Read Full Review)

B-

Golden Boy

There's an unmistakable hole at the center of a play where a tragic choice is made between art (the violin) and money (boxing purses). The catch is that in Odets's scenario, there isn't much of a conflict. Though Seth Numrich has honed his boxing skills, at no point during the play is he asked to manifest Joe's profound passion for the violin. For whatever reason, the playwright never gives us a glimpse of Joe actually playing. (Read Full Review)

B-

Little Black Dress

The play might be considered a quickly forgettable miss if not for the fact that it includes too many unfortunately memorable images. There's the sequence in which Amy appears in a floppy gown and blond fright-wig; a scene where Jimmy Sr. is shooting the television because he's fed up with a quiz-show contestant's stupidity, and there's the moment when Charly hopes to arouse the primed-to-be-aroused Amy by sticking on a thick, black chest-hair patch, to name a few. (Read Full Review)

B-

The House of Blue Leaves

Cromer does well in plumbing the fathomless dark that Guare sees engulfing his characters, and gets exemplary work from his supporting players in the process. But he notably misfires with Leigh and Stiller. Leigh looks right in the gaudy dresses Greenwood picked and the sorry black coif wigmaker Watson rightly arranged; but her Bunny Flingus is like something from a burlesque turn. She mines all the cliches of an ambitious floozy, yet never digs deeper. (Read Full Review)

B-

rogerandtom

Clever as the premise is, its metatheater (i. e., theater about theater) aspects -- about using a play as a means of reconciling two brothers -- come across as too precious by half. Following who any one of the three figures is in this curious cross between a Jorge Luis Borges short story and Gaslight is a large part of what amuses patrons so constantly. I suppose the thing to say is that despite my annoyance with the recurring huh?-what? elements of rogerandtom, I never stopped watching. Maybe that's praise enough. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Raisin in the Sun

With Washington's return to The Great White Way...he does a tremendous favor. Once again, as he did with his limited-runs Julius Caesar and Fences, he brings large audiences--especially African-American audiences--to a theater and to theater in the larger sense...This time, however--superb actor that he is--the favor he's doing comes with his doing an unfortunate disservice to Hansberry and her autobiographical play...Washington is 59, and can get away (almost) with appearing as a man almost 20 years younger than he is, but something is still wrong...All cast members, like Washington, give strong performances. Perhaps the strongest is Jackson's...Drawing the best out of them is director Kenny Leon. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Columnist

In The Columnist, now at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre under Daniel Sullivan's suave direction, David Auburn fiddles with the facts of influential Washington, D. C. newspaper scribe Joseph Alsop's life. While these imagined facts severely compromise his dramatic purposes, Auburn nonetheless supplies the always remarkable John Lithgow with the opportunity to present a penetrating character study in the title role. (Read Full Review)

B-

After Miss Julie

Director Mark Brokaw production is initially quite effective, but as it proceeds -- especially after Miss Julie and John have gone to his room to consummate their relationship, and after Christine has discovered them and later confronts him (none of which Strindberg strictly specified) -- the mood switches from genuinely theatrical to histrionic. Among its more problematic moments are the killing of Miss Julie's pet bird and its bloody aftermath (real and symbolic), which require a dramatic delicacy not entirely brought off by its leading lady. (Read Full Review)

B-

An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

Loved her, tolerated him. Truth be told, neither of these indisputably accomplished performers...are [sic] devoid of mannerisms while sashaying through their impressive careers, but LuPone's fast-and-loose phrasing of beloved show tunes is easier to accept than the 45-degree-angle-arms-imploring stance Patinkin often affects while floating that parallel-universe falsetto of his. (Read Full Review)

B-

Lingua Franca

Peter Nichols' involving Lingua Franca, now at 59E59 Theaters as part of the "Brits Off Broadway" series, is a meditation on the loss of innocence and disillusionment that spread through Europe during the decade following World War II. Under Michael Gieleta's fine-tuned direction, the cast does its utmost, but they can't completely overcome the text's disruptive flaws. (Read Full Review)

B-

And Away We Go

There's much to recommend in this newest addition to his I-Love-Show-Business annals. The actors here, directed with gallons of energy by Jack Cummings III, are Rachel Botchan, Donna Lynne Champlin, Dominic Cuskern, Sean McNall, Carol Schultz and Micah Stock. They're noted in alphabetical order, because noting them in order of effectiveness would be impossible. Maybe the way to put it is that while McNally's "And Away We Go" is his gift to actors, these six actors reciprocate with possibly an even greater gift. They keep the play alive even after it's overstayed its welcome. (Read Full Review)

C+

All About Me

[I]magine a show back then pairing Milton Berle, always famous for his drag routines, and chart-topper Eddie Fisher, and you've conjured something like the mildly diverting All About Me, a sort of shotgun-wedding teaming of Barry Humphries as ribald Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein as his ebullient self, at the Henry Miller's Theatre. The show's it's-all-about-me conceit -- which supposes that Edna and Feinstein have both booked the same theater on the same night for their respective solo shows -- seems tired even before it begins. (Read Full Review)

C+

Hero: The Musical

The anthem-heavy production should appeal to Korean ticket buyers gratified to witness a story they've likely known since childhood as brought resoundingly to the stage. But it could be a very different matter for others to whom the information is new but the derivative manner in which it's offered is as familiar as an Andrew Lloyd Webber opus.
(Read Full Review)

C+

Bonnie & Clyde

Rarely rises above mediocrity...Following Jeff Calhoun's conscientious direction and scant choreography, the cast determinedly go about singing the score, occasionally creating some sparks. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

[Colin’s] final action [in the play] is born of his uncertainty about whom he's actually running for…Depending on how the individual observer assesses Colin's choice, he can be considered either as declaring his independence or as self-destructively tossing it aside. Either way, Sillitoe's and Williams's (and movie director Tony Richardson's) final image is devastating, haunting, a truly indelible fade-out…Although Leah C. Gardner has either requested that the players raise their voices more than necessary or hasn't put a stop to some of the declaiming, the acting by all concerned is strong. Special praise goes to Best, however. Though I didn't clock the amount of time during the 90-minuter he spent running in place, it might have been as much as half…He may be amused to know that on leaving the auditorium not a few patrons are huffing and puffing on his behalf. (Read Full Review)

C+

Rapture, Blister, Burn

Because Gina Gionfriddo fires off witty line after outright belly-laugh after witty line throughout Rapture, Blister, Burn...and because she's aided in her task by a fine cast under the direction of Peter DuBois -- her examination of contemporary feminist attitudes becomes a more entertaining piece of work than her awkward issue-oriented plotting should allow...Like the characters in television's long-running Designing Women series, the three generations sit around discussing the changing-or-not-changing plight of women over half a century and arguing the politics of Betty Friedan and Phyllis Schlafly. (Read Full Review)

C+

Marie Antoinette

...it transpires, more's the pity, that Adjmi isn't after a send-up of the French Revolution and its causes... Still, nice work from all on hand... As for Ireland, she does no wrong, and lends as much credibility as could be wished to the anguishing last years Marie Antoinette never expected to experience. Ireland's final expressions come close to making the entire enterprise click. Anka Lupes designed the quasi-18th-century clothes, and Amanda Miller designed the quasi-18th-century wigs. But wigged out, I wasn't.

(Read Full Review)

C+

Food and Fadwa

A mildly effective, if well-acted, look at a Palestinian family dealing with, among its many issues, a harsh Israeli-imposed curfew in their Bethlehem home...One suspects, however, that the comedy-drama itself might have been harsher than it is in its treatment of Israeli rule...but co-authors Lameece Issaq and Jacob Kader clearly opted (perhaps unwisely) for a lower-key approach...Hewing to a successful Chekhov formula that devolves into soap opera format, Issac [sic] and Kader move from dilemma to dilemma and to charged discussions between and among the characters, with mixed results. (Read Full Review)

C+

Beyond the Horizon

In his desire to demonstrate just how rotten existence can be, O'Neill continues to pile on the tribulations -- there are several deaths over the nine years the play covers -- and O'Reilly doesn't minimize the play's pitfalls. True, his cast members throw themselves into the overblown emotions and occasionally rise to the peaks required, but too often their abilities don't include finding the redeeming depths in their characters. (Read Full Review)

C+

Elling

The problem lies neither with Fraser nor O'Hare, as the two game and energetic actors -- often seen pushing furniture around in the semi-darkness -- are just doing what they've been asked to do in Simon Bent's script ... The fault lies with director Doug Hughes, who has asked his actors to emote at high volumes when muted tones would be just as effective or even more so ... O'Hare, who has been flashing his quirks in local theaters for some time, is a walking twitch and in time is wonderful as such, while Fraser gleefully deglamorizes himself and throws himself and his imposing, fleshy physique into the role. It's their talents that often redeem a script that too often devolves into a second-rate on-stage buddy flick. (Read Full Review)

C+

Lascivious Something

Callaghan's script...is so overripe and occasionally confusing it seems about to burst...Callaghan hints here and there that she's got Greek mythology on her mind -- such as a whiff of pansexuality in a torrid love game dictated by August and participated in by Daphne and Boy. One of Callaghan's other brazen strategies is presenting several histrionic scenes of a nasty nature that are brusquely halted by designer Christopher Akerlind's stuttering lighting cues, after which what is really said and done is depicted...Unfortunately, it's a conceit that proves to be illuminating in theory but annoying in practice. On the plus side, the play does benefit from Campbell's Heathcliff-like performance as August, although somehow the man's plight is not well-enough realized. As the women in his life, Eskelson is nicely vital, Levenson is sullenly plucky, and the scene-stealing Waterston is as beautiful and stately as the script insists. (Read Full Review)

C+

Freed

The play is at its best when the three characters confront each other; most notably in the second half, when Wilson dictates his inviolable decision to Templeton and Templeton challenges it, as well as when Jane has an especially harsh diatribe in which she likens her position as a woman to Templeton's as a black man. Less convincing, however, are the speeches delivered through the fourth wall. Under Joe Brancato's stately direction, the cast members give notably dignified performances. Although they don't shy away from the occasional histrionic outburst, they each also maintain postures reminiscent of historical paintings. There's nothing destructively wrong with that, but the result stresses the lecture-circuit overtone from which Smith would probably wish his figures to be freed. (Read Full Review)

C+

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

There's a huge difference between sketch-writing and playwriting, but Christopher Durang often seems to have trouble remembering what it is. Weaver ... sports a swingy hair-cut that has to have women in the audience covetous ... and extraordinarily buff Spike (Billy Magnussen), several decades her junior and a Roman candle of self-love. David Hyde Pierce surges head-long [into] an 11 o'clock aria about how much better the past is when compared to the present -- a time when Spike thinks almost landing a role on Entourage 2 is a coup. (Read Full Review)

C+

Mary Poppins

Effective as it may be, the show is also a gigantic machine. Every cog and wheel, including Bob Crowley's jolly-enough Victorian sets and costumes, is securely in place and well oiled. Indeed, Mary Poppins is reminiscent of a Swiss cuckoo clock that goes off precisely when and how it should. Where it might glow with humanity, it's too often mechanical, as if its primary materials are steel and wood rather than Travers' insights about British society. (Read Full Review)

C+

Knickerbocker

Sherman sticks too much to the thoroughly self-involved. The result is a comic drama that will be most appreciated by expectant dads and their spouses--as well as couples recollecting their recent child-bearing past.
(Read Full Review)

C+

Any Given Monday

Devilishly devised from the plot standpoint, and will undeniably tickle many spectators' fancies. But once audiences assess its moral underpinnings, they may feel it was their sense of right and wrong that was punched in the stomach...While Graham is evidently commenting on contemporary attitudes toward the pragmatics of morality, what he utlimately [sic] delivers suggests he's satisfied with showing a rosier outcome than might be expected. (Read Full Review)

C+

Evita

The most significant reason to see Evita is the reliable Michael Cerveris as Juan Peron. Since he can act with depth -- and sing on key -- he commands much attention whenever he's on stage. The only thing hampering him is that this Juan Peron is hardly the complex man the real Peron was. Instead, he's little more than a gullible cipher for Eva's questionable charms. Finally, there are Lloyd Webber's varied and indelible melodies. Conducted with muscle by Kristen Blodgette, they may sound even better than they ever have before. Indeed, Lloyd Webber has often been accused of working too closely under the influence of Giacomo Puccini, but listening to this Evita, even his detractors must admit he has at least learned well at the knees of his predecessors. (Read Full Review)

C+

Levittown

While this drama suffers severely from structural problems, it ultimately remains somewhat powerful in examining how dysfunctional families are far from "just the same," no matter how similar their physical surroundings...Palmieri is aided in his quest by an estimable acting ensemble -- not one of whom, as directed by George Demas, lets a nuance slip by -- and by set designer Michele Spadaro's one-set vision of two identical Levittown abodes in their late 1940s-early 1950s semi-splendor. But in ultimately trying to make the whole family dynamic his subject -- an aim solved much more effectively in plays such as Tracy Letts' August: Osage County -- Palmieri hasn't quite built as strong a house as he intended. (Read Full Review)

C+

Present Laughter

For the Roundabout Theatre's current revival, with suave-as-a-pair-of-kid-gloves Victor Garber in the focal role, director Nicholas Martin has ladled on the acting pyrotechnics. Out to pull maximum yuks from the self-deprecating Coward lines, the ensemble does everything short of cartwheels to achieve the sought-after results; but too often, the cast gives the impression they're at a noisy party where they have to exert extra effort just to be heard. (Read Full Review)

C+

Sondheim on Sondheim

Unfortunately, much of the show's first act borders on the offensive in the way it often features annoying too-cute medleys and otherwise ill-reconceived approaches to Sondheim's work. In the considerably better second act, however, the singers are allowed to warble most of their gorgeous material in a more rewarding fashion. Cook -- whose glorious soprano is marked nowadays by tarnished glory -- delivers "In Buddy's Eyes" and "Send in the Clowns" as if giving a master-class in the art of music-comedy interpretation. Williams stands out in the suggestive "Ah, But Underneath," a song added to the London revival of Follies, because, as Sondheim explains, Diana Rigg was more a singer than the dancer Alexis Smith had been in New York doing The Story of Lucy and Jessie. (Here, by the way, stager Dan Knechtges earns his pay.) (Read Full Review)

C

Penelope

The performances, well directed by Mikel Murfi, are all extremely effective. Shiels is often hilarious as he struts about with blatantly dyed-black hair styled in one ominous front curl. Buggy makes Fitz -- who derives whatever solace he can muster from reading Homer -- palpable in his acquiescence. Conway's Dunne is a recognizable social dunce, and the thin Murphy's Burns is properly pathetic. While they present their pleas with irresistible conviction, there's nonetheless something a bit pretentious about Walsh's point that men today no longer have the potential to live large (like Ulysses) but instead have retreated into pointless vanity. Moreover, the point is made long before play's end -- and impatience does not make a theatergoer's heart grow fonder. (Read Full Review)

C

Alphabetical Order

Carl Forsman has directed Michael Frayn's 1975 comedy Alphabetical Order...with astonishingly sure-handed control. Nathan Heverin has designed the initially cluttered set with scary accuracy. And the players are impeccably cast and thoroughly adept at inhabiting their role. And yet, the experience ultimately adds up to less than the sum of its commendable parts. While the work deals with the very contemporary subject of a newspaper in dire economic straits, the play's threatened anarchy may feel a touch too British for stateside audiences fully to fathom. Another possible problem is the play's abrupt shift from a breathtakingly fast-paced (and relatively short) comical first act to a somber (and also short) second act. (Read Full Review)

C

A Behanding In Spokane

Christopher Walken has built a career of playing characters who look as if they're capable of doing almost anything with no remorse whatsoever. And audiences love him for it. They're also going to love him -- vociferously -- in Martin McDonagh's new play, A Behanding in Spokane, now at Broadway's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. They may not love the play, however. Under John Crowley's direction, the work is little more than a not very resonant, occasionally macabre sketch that lapses and regains momentum. (Read Full Review)

C

Natural Affection

Featuring Kathryn Erbe as mom Sue, Chris Bert as her paroled son Donnie and Alex Beard as her live-in lover Bernie, what's on view is competent production, directed by Jenn Thompson, of a not very good 1963 work. To celebrate Inge's centennial, the company might have revived one of the Kansas native's better plays. (Read Full Review)

C

Grace

Craig Wright obviously has a potent thing against organized religion of any variety, but with Grace, now making its Broadway bow at the Cort Theatre under Dexter Bullard's committed direction, he hasn't found the altogether proper way to let off steam. Instead, he's written (unintentionally) a histrionic and symbol-clanging work about misguided belief and possible redemption. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Hill Town Plays

[I] was extremely impressed with [Scarcity's] unflinching depiction of a lower-class family... Exiting Where We're Born, at the Rattlestick--which I had seen before and which was the cause of my believing Thurber a highly promising playwright--I decided... that [she] was on to something not always available to audiences: proof that no matter how valiantly we strive, where we're born and how we're brought up inexorably dictates what our lives become. It was with Killers & Other Family, at the Axis, that I began to question my belief... Thurber's [are] annoyingly repetitious plays... There's nothing wrong in presenting a cycle about a character progressing from damaging childhood to escape from psychological entrapment adulthood. Indeed, it's a great idea. But the over-and-again Hill Town Plays are clearly not the way to do it. (Read Full Review)

C-

With Glee

About halfway through the new musical With Glee, now being presented at the Kirk Theatre, five boys at the elite Maine prep-school Winchester sing and dance their capricious way through a delightful song called "Normal." Unfortunately, nothing else that comes before or after in this new tuner, for which John Gregor has provided book, music and lyrics, rises to its level -- or even above the level of mildly amusing -- under Igor Goldin's effortful direction. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

Meanwhile, those who know the book will see a loose version of McCullers' wounding tale -- directed in stately measure by Doug Hughes -- that misses one of McCullers' major points so widely it practically amounts to a travesty ... While Gilman is mostly true to the melancholy tale, the area where she goes horribly wrong -- and where Hughes does little to correct her -- is the depiction of the Singer-Antonapoulos relationship. Whereas McCullers establishes the men as a familiar sight in their town from her opening sentence, Gilman has the sick man barely introduced before being whisked away with a pained parting gesture to Singer. A subsequent meeting and a projection of the two on the wall of Neil Patel's economic set further suggests the two men are happy together. They're anything but. No fault can be attached to the actors -- including Michael Cullen as Mick's ineffective father and Roslyn Ruff as Portia, Dr. Copeland's daughter and the Kelly's maid -- all of whom look and act right in Catherine Zuber's period costumes. Michael Chybowski's moody lighting and David Van Tieghem music also help the production. But they're all working in service of a script that fails to do justice to a singular piece of American literature. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Duchess of Malfi

Matthew Rauch, one of our most consistently forceful thespians in classic plays, brings the right kind of menace and troubled conscience to the role of Bosola, a hired killer who begins to worry about the expediency with which he snuffs out lives. Gareth Saxe speaks his pithy lines with authority as Ferdinand, one of those homicidal brothers; while Patrick Page as the other brother, a Cardinal as corrosive as they come, musters frightening conviction. In tandem, though, the rest of the cast simply hasn't the craft to carry off an assignment that isn't helped by some of Berger's directorial notions. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Winter's Tale (2010)

Director Michael Greif doesn't so much ease The Winter's Tale problem as compound it...The ensemble does the first-half ranting and second-half romping on a so-so set that suggests Mark Wendland ran out of inspiration with Merchant...Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Grief's treatment is his casting a black actor as Leontes and a white actress as Hermione. Instantly, The Tragedy of Othello--written several years later--becomes an unmissable reference. (Read Full Review)

C-

Children

Fans of the beloved and prolific A. R. Gurney will want to catch his rarely-seen play...but theatergoers hoping for more than lightweight dramatic fare might wisely choose to sit this one out...The major problem with the work...is that it ends up playing like a series of under-nourished sketches. (Read Full Review)

C-

Three Sisters

Some of the cast of Austin Pendleton's uneven production of Chekhov's Three Sisters, now at Classic Stage Company, rise to the challenge of walking that fine line between comedy and drama...The most troublesome performance comes from Peter Sarsgaard as Vershinin, the married military officer who falls in love with Masha. The actor doesn't get anywhere near the despair his character is meant to suffer. (Gyllenhaal, his real-life wife, also suffers at times from the same problem.)...While the fervor of Chekhov's characters should inspire deep involvement with the audience, Pendleton's production only accomplishes that feat on a few occasions. (Read Full Review)

C-

Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play

Because Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play--and its attenuated pretensions and theatrical misapprehensions--so consistently frayed my nerves, I recognized it as one of those undertakings about which others who have their own pretensions are bursting to cry, "Work of genius." You don't think so? I say, Watch for it. Watch out for it. To my way of thinking, Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play is less close to Matt Groening than it is to Much Groaning. I won't even append, "Pardon the pun." I don't care if you pardon it or not. I'm that put out. (Read Full Review)

C-

Good Ol' Girls

Good Ol' Girls, the new revue at the Black Box Theatre at Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center, feels like what might have happened if several people got together to turn Steel Magnolias into a musical. The result is a fair to middlin' tuner that is engaging enough, but vanishes -- to quote from the show -- like fog on the mountain the second you leave the theater. (Read Full Review)

C-

Looped

Moreover, just think of the entertainment Lombardo could have emerged had he not simply skimmed the fabulous Bankhead facts and provided a fuller picture of her. For example, he only refers glancingly to her upbringing as "the daughter of a congressman and Speaker of the House, the granddaughter of a United States senator"; he barely recalls her reign in the 1902s as a theater goddess; and he makes little mention of the myriad renowned people she knew throughout her life. The one interlude he does focus on is Bankhead's failed go at Blanche DuBois in the Coconut Grove Playhouse's production of A Streetcar Named Desire in the 1950s. He contrives to have her do a bit of the challenging role -- which Tennessee Williams wrote for her and which she originally turned down -- with Ken Billington's lights fading set designer Adrian W. Jones' record studio walls so that an impression of New Orleans fretwork glows through. But it's all too cursory. (Read Full Review)

D+

Catch Me If You Can

Intermittently involving...Unlike Steven Spielberg's delightful fim adaptation, the musical has Frank recounting his escapades within the context of a 1960s television variety hour. This device has the unfortunate effect of making the show no more engaging than a typical 1960s television variety hour like Hullabaloo. (Read Full Review)

D+

Painting Churches

Unfortunately, under Carl Forsman's direction, Chalfant, Cunningham, and Turnbull play Fanny, Gardner, and Mags during much of the first act as if they're starring in a deranged sitcom. It's not until Fanny -- fed up with Mags' superficial view of the parents' daily poses -- reads her single-minded daughter the riot act that Chalfant takes full command of the role and then follows through to the end. Cunningham has several moments during which he captures the flickering embers of a man's dissolving mind -- one is his mesmerizing delivery of William Butler Yeats' "Song of Wandering Aengus" -- but he doesn't connect the dots throughout. Turnbull appears to see Mags as an overgrown teen throwing a tantrum, but there's more to the character than that. (Read Full Review)

D+

Perfect Harmony

Simply too arch and too modestly sung...While this show...charmed in its initial incarnation, the entirely new 10-member troupe playing the two groups, The Acafellas and The Ladies in Red, have done the show no favors. Furthermore, Grosso has unwisely encouraged his players to overcook their characterizations and their intramural conflicts...Many of the actors, notably Chadiwck and Barlow, are so excessive in their determination to be funny -- especially as they frequently have to deliver feeble laugh-lines -- that they're regularly grating...When the performers solo, the cast's so-so vocal quality becomes apparent...And when the ensembles harmonize, they make pleasant sounds, but the enterprise remains far from perfect or even gleeful.

(Read Full Review)

D+

Mrs. Warren's Profession

While the costume may be just a tad vulgar for the character -- a successful brothel owner -- it's when Jones starts speaking that Doug Hughes' misguided revival encounters its first serious setback. In attempting to tackle a Cockney accent, Jones not only gets nowhere near the mark, but she also leaves the audience constantly preoccupied trying to figure out why Mrs. Warren sounds so clownishly wrong. Ultimately, her accent undermines the entire enterprise and makes the revered actress' return to the stage after several years a let-down. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Addams Family

Making matters worse for the enterprise, Brickman and Elice simply run out of plot by the second act. The rest of the attenuated show is reduced to a series of numbers in which you sense everyone is keeping their proverbial fingers crossed. "Tango de Amor," choreographer Sergio Trujillo's snappy dance for Morticia, Gomez and the ever-present spectral chorus, and a loopy number about Fester's infatuation with the moon that Chamberlin does floating about (as if introducing a companion-piece to "The Man in the Moon (is a Lady)" from Mame) are the best of the batch. Still, it hardly helps matters that most of Andrew Lippa's score is generic at best -- and too often derivative or even embarrassing. While one might be happy to hear "Let's Not Talk About Anything Else But Love" again; such abysmal tunes as "Waiting," "Crazier Than You," and "In the Arms" (in which Carmello and Mann must chant about squids) are definitely not worth a second listen. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Misanthrope

Moliere was writing in the 17th Century about the gossipy court presided over by Louis XIV. During that era, a panache abounded that had become more conventionally mannerly by the 18th Century, where Hanreddy has placed his version. While here's no rule dictating that classics must be done in period, more thought needs to be given to shifting a play into a different era than Hanreddy appears to realize. For example, what about the playing area representing a room in the residence run by the coquette Celimene (Janie Brookshire), whom Alceste adores in contradiction to everything he stands for? Entered through a series of glass double-doors placed upstage, the unadorned space is little more than a triangular patio. The only piece of furniture on it is an upholstered four-legged stool, which means society hostess Celimene's guests have virtually no place to sit, occasionally requiring them to squat on the floor in their finery. (Read Full Review)

D

Levittown

Fact is, [the characters are] all a pretty dreary lot, and the burden of being a collective symbol of the shattered American dream doesn't make them any more interesting. (Some awkward wartime flashbacks and from-beyond-the-grave appearances by Jack do little to enliven things.) George Demas' direction doesn't cut through the general malaise, although, on a scene-by-scene basis, he does get some fine work from his cast. For example, Susan Bennett makes Colleen into a touching figure; the pleased, yet embarrassed way she announces her engagement makes for one of the play's better moments. Her disastrous attempt at rapprochement with Richard -- portrayed as a hair-raising mixture of guilt, rage, and affronted dignity by Curzon Dobell -- gives Levittown its one real jolt of dramatic energy. Todd Lawson is appealing as Brian, who just wants to take care of Colleen...In the end, Levittown offers little more than one-dimensional figures in a pre-determined structure of loss and heartbreak. One tragedy can break your heart; half a dozen are merely monotonous. (Read Full Review)

D

The Lady From Dubuque

The title character (played by Jane Alexander) declares in significantly apocalyptic manner that the most important question a misguided earthling can pose is "Who Am I?" Clearly, Albee intends these comments to indicate the depths of his dramaturgical probing of the human condition, but as in many of his lesser works, his characters end up sounding merely portentous throughout most of this hollowly intense two-act play... Try as the hard-working cast might under David Esjbornson's direction, they can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. In the end, these obscure theatrics add up to very little -- and very little worth watching. (Read Full Review)

D

Heartless

As the work unfolds, it's a challenge to decide which of the nut cases residing in a California (nut)house is the nuttiest...As Shepard's two-act drama unfolds on Eugene Lee's sparely-furnished black set with its upstage raked playing area and two palm trees, it repeatedly makes the tired point that Hollywood destroys souls...Unfortunately, because the work's intentions are otherwise so obscure, there's no way to judge the effectiveness of Daniel Aukin's direction or the ensemble's acting. (Read Full Review)

D

Nightlands

Pretentious...The meaning of Oswald's drama escapes easy explanation. It may be concerned with suburban discontent under the uncaring stars, or perhaps the playwright is attempting to establish how all things are ephemeral. Sadly, after watching the shortish two-act proceedings, the audience has cause for further chagrin. Just before fade-out, the cast lines up to call into question the truth of what has just transpired. (Read Full Review)

D

The Select (The Sun Also Rises)

While perhaps ticket buyers who don't know the book may be satisfied with this production, Hemingway aficionados will unquestionably be dismayed over what they're asked to witness.
(Read Full Review)

D

The Shoemaker

There have been Holocaust plays and there have been 9/11 plays, but Susan Charlotte's The Shoemaker...may boast the distinction of being the first-ever drama that combines both devastating events into one ambitious whole. Sad to say, the drama has little other distinction -- unless you count Danny Aiello's return to the commercial stage in a title role that may not be as well suited to him as he hopes...Aiello has to put himself through a range of theatrical antics; but it's an ultimately shallow role. (Read Full Review)

D

Harper Regan

British playwright Simon Stephens has written several striking plays, but Harper Regan...simply doesn't impress as one of them...For the majority of the play, Harper holds a series of mostly one-on-one, relatively unedifying chats. (Read Full Review)

D-

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

While Yazbek's previous scores for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty were thoroughly delightful, he fails on the musical end here. Why the show begins with an extraneous paean to Madrid delivered by Burstein is unclear, when a number introducing the for-the-most-part amorphous characters would be immeasurably beneficial. And the songs which Mitchell booms -- one with the lyric "Tomorrow is an ice cream sandwich" -- are cumulatively insulting. Meanwhile, LuPone does well with her big second-act number, "Invisible," but the attempt to give her another "Rose's Turn" is dreadfully obvious. Only the first-act closer "On the Verge," with women bouncing on long, colorful rubbery ropes, comes closest to capturing Almodovar's adorable madness. (Read Full Review)

D-

It Must Be Him

Dismal...While director Daniel Kutner has amassed an unusually large and talented cast for an Off-Broadway production...only two performers make any real impression. Alice Playten, as Louis' deceased mother who comes back in fantasy sequences, gets to deliver the script's one bona fide yuk; while Liz Torres, as Louie's maid, musters the talent to make a rayon purse of a sow's-ear role...On the plus side, theater lovers might also enjoy Court Watson's convincing multiple-use set. (Read Full Review)

D-

The Road To Qatar!

Unfortunately, Cole has larded his libretto with miserable jokes full of Jewish-mother, gay-men, Middle-East-stereotypes. Worse still, the pair have produced a score devoid of inspiration or much skill. It's not only that Cole and Krane can't summon numbers on the level of "Moonlight Becomes You," "But Beautiful," "Personality" and 'Road to Morocco" (featured in Bing Crosby and Bob Hope's hilarious, always topical Road series of films), but they insert two songs back to back -- "Must Be" and "Good Things Come in Threes" -- about what they plan to include in the plot of the opus they're expected to manufacture in six weeks. (Read Full Review)

D-

Letters to the End of the World

But if Agnatha and Todd -- who are less ugly Americans than self-absorbed Americans -- run into trouble with Emmanuel and Mrs. Mwando, Dudley doesn't. It's their bordering-on-love friendship under distressing circumstances that lends this play whatever substance it has. Had Dudley concentrated on them and discarded Todd and Agnatha altogether, perhaps he'd have achieved something along the more cogent lines of Lynn Nottage's Ruined. He didn't, however, and even compounds the effrontery by inserting a handful of scenes in which left-behind Bryan continues seeing Champagne-swilling Tess (Burkett again), an alcoholic mess with whom he'd cheated earlier and incurred Todd's hissy wrath. (Read Full Review)

F+

Blind

The adjectives "pretentious" and "silly" are among the worst that can be applied to a play. Unfortunately, both can be attached to Craig Wright's Blind...The only thing keeping Blind from being a complete calamity is the actors' commitment to it. (Read Full Review)

F+

King Lear

With the current movie Anonymous calling attention to the argument that William Shakespeare didn't write the plays attributed to him, James MacDonald's version of King Lear, at the Public Theatre, might instead be making the case that Shakespeare wrote the play, but that it isn't a very good one. Rarely has such a wide-of-the-mark revival been committed to the stage. (Read Full Review)

F+

Haunted House

Whatever Roberts is trying to do here beats me -- except that after a seemingly endless 85 minutes, I decided Roberts could be doing anything other than writing a coherent play...Wastes the talents of five apparently competent actors and director Brian Ziv. Or should I says six actors, since the awaited Sorcha (not credited in the program) returns at play's end and begins cleaning the outdoor grill. And all along I'd assumed she had read the play and had gotten out while the getting was good.

CurtainUp F
(Paulanne Simmons) Runs for 90 minutes with no intermission. Even so, four people managed to walk out when they could find a time when their leaving would not be too obtrusive. I was envious...Haunted House sounds as if it was written by a horny sixteen-year-old who spends ten hours a day looking at pornography on his computer and communicating over the Internet with people he hasn't met and doesn't particularly like. There's an extended scene in which Moses uses the bathroom several times, clogging the toilet and smelling up the room. Perhaps this is all in the interest of humor. (Read Full Review)

F+

The Pillow Book

Sometimes it's hard to know which is worse: a bad play by someone whose talent doesn't lend itself to playwriting, or a bad play by someone with the basic requirements who deliberately abuses them. Anna Moench's The Pillow Book, now at 59E59 Theatres, is an example of the latter -- and I think more egregious -- type of play. While Moench gives signs she can compose credible dialogue and even has meaningful insights into the complexities of human relationships, in this intermissionless 80-minute exercise, she's obscured these signs by couching them in a calculatedly ambiguous -- and therefore precious and pretentious -- context. (Read Full Review)

F+

I'll Be Damned

Unsalvageable...The annoyingly illogical story is draped with instantly evaporating songs, and It's a measure of this production's deficiency that even the enduringly marvelous Testa only occasionally lifts the gloomy mood by dint of inventive singing and line-readings. (Read Full Review)

F+

Tomorrow Morning

Yes, there is also talk about Adam, the unseen son who was the result of the hastily-revealed pregnancy, but aside from Catherine's plan to remove the boy from Los Angeles to New York City as a result of her publishing-editor's transfer, not much is known of him until (too) late in the proceedings. Moreover, much of what the foursome say to each other is trite and what they sing to each other and to themselves is even triter, as particularly evidenced in a final song called "All About Today" that espouses the gee-whiz belief that what matters as we look towards our tomorrow mornings is, well, today. Only in the two numbers, Jack and John's "Look What We Made" about fatherhood and Catherine's Joni Mitchell-like "Self-Portrait," does Wythe offer evidence that he has genuine songwriting abilities. (Read Full Review)

F

That Face

It's more or less understandable that a young woman in late adolescence would throw what amounts to an irate daughter's tantrum in public...More puzzling than Stenham's imagining the opus, though, is the generally favorable -- even rapturous -- reception the 90-minute hissy-fit has received from critics in England initially and now here...Handed Stenham's outlandish manuscript, helmer Sarah Benson and ensemble don't have much choice but to fling themselves into it body and soul -- mostly body. The result is a clutch of over-the-top performances that'll get them other assignments. (Read Full Review)

F

Victory: Choices in Reaction

If you have a high tolerance for historical and political mumbo-jumbo ratcheted up by school-boy vulgarity, then Howard Barker's Victory: Choices in Reaction, being presented by PTP/NYC at Atlantic Stage 2, is likely your cup of Earl Grey tea. But it's not surprising that it's taken 28 years for this sprawling, muddled drama about the onset of the post-Cromwell restoration in 1660 England to reach our shores. Wiser theater companies probably chose to leave well enough alone. (Read Full Review)