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David Barbour



Reviews

A+

Brief Encounter (2009)

Emma Rice, who adapted and directed the stage version, pursues a risky, two-pronged approach. The scenes between Laura, the quiet, gentle housewife, and Alec, the doctor who falls desperately in love with her, are played with utter conviction, albeit with a pronounced patina of period style. Everyone else is amusingly caricatured, using every theatrical trick at the company's fingertips... According to all laws of the theatre, this should result in an unholy mess of knockabout comedy and soap opera emotions, a clash of tones that cancels everything out. Instead, Rice's methodology provides abundant amusement while casting the central story in a heightened, and remarkably moving, light. It also reveals something essential about Coward, a master entertainer who often packaged darker, more unpalatable truths inside his slick comedies and musicals. Later in life, Coward wrote a fan letter to Harold Pinter, expressing his fascination with how Pinter broke every rule of traditional theatre, "except to not bore the audience, even for a split second." My guess is he'd see what the Kneehigh Theatre is up to, and would wholeheartedly approve. (Read Full Review)

A+

Other Desert Cities

There's nothing quite like the experience of an audience listening -- really listening, in a profound hush, as if its collective life depended on each word. It doesn't happen every day, but you can count on it eight times a week at the Booth right now, as the Wyeths' ritual (and very funny) sniping gives way to furious confrontations and the ripping open of wounds that have never truly healed....This time around -- partly, I think, because of some canny recasting -- it's even easier to grasp the exposed nerve endings underneath the family's acidly hilarious repartee....The best new American play since August: Osage County. (Read Full Review)

A+

Lend Me a Tenor

Some of you, having seen Lend Me a Tenor, may be tempted to comment that Stanley Tucci is a brilliant director, but, really, I see him as a scientist -- skilled in both physics and higher mathematics -- whose field of research is the perfect execution of the theatrical gag. You're never going to convince me that he staged Ken Ludwig's farce without the aid of a slide rule, a calculator, and a stopwatch, such is the Cartesian precision of the comedy at the Music Box. Of course, he has enlisted a number of top colleagues in this field of endeavor. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Glass Menagerie

Productions of The Glass Menagerie tend to make use of all sorts of theatrical devices, including projections, music, and lighting effects, to seduce the audience. By sticking to that hotel room, designed by Michael Yeargan, and having Jennifer Tipton cover the stage in a dim pale-gray wash, Edelstein takes a great risk. He's putting the soul-killing nature of life in the Wingfield family's home front and center, doing away with Williams' strategy of giving us "the truth, in the pleasant guise of illusion." The biggest risk of all comes in the scene between Laura and the Gentleman Caller, which is staged almost entirely by candlelight, augmented only slightly by stage lighting. It should be impossible for this delicate dramatic pas de deux to work in near darkness, but Keira Keeley has already made such a strong impression as Laura -- loping clumsily across the room and slipping into a childish trance as she plays with the little glass animals of the title -- that somehow the darkness seems to enhance the overall effect. She is partnered beautifully with Michael Moseley, as Jim, the high school boy she loved from afar, now a shipping clerk disappointed by life but still dreaming of a kind of Dale Carnegie success. Even in the near darkness, we see Laura blossom under Jim's attentions, and when we learn that he can never be her suitor, the news is delivered with especially crushing force. (Read Full Review)

A+

Clybourne Park

Bruce Norris has taken an x-ray to the American conversation, at mid-20th century and today, finding precisely calibrated layers of tribalism, ignorance, and self-righteous rage. The result is a comedy of bad manners that is both shockingly funny and terribly sad. Liberals and conservatives alike, beware: This isn't the kind of play that rewards you for having the "right" attitudes; thanks to the author's take-no-prisoners approach, nobody emerges from the theatre unscathed...This razor-sharp satire has been guided with an especially sure hand by the director, Pam MacKinnon, who has assembled an exceptionally nimble compan...When it opened in 2010, it struck me as the best American play since August: Osage County. I see no reason to revise that opinion. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Whale

Charlie is an alarmingly believable creation, thanks to Hensley's remarkable powers of transformation...The Whale remarkably compassionate piece of work...Hunter takes his time, laying his plans with care, and some time elapses before we realize how artfully he has ensnared this quartet -- and Mary, Charlie's rageful ex-wife and Ellie's equally terrifying mother -- in a net of secrets, lies, and self-deceptions...Hunter is lucky to have the services of the director, Davis McCallum, who has guided a talented cast into giving their very best. (Read Full Review)

A+

Clybourne Park

How many times in a season does a play speak so clearly to the moment in which we live? How many times does it happen in the sneaky, offhand, thoroughly original manner used by Bruce Norris in Clybourne Park? If you ask me, the last time it happened, a guy named Tracey Letts was in town...Norris deploys a series of shocks and character revelations with a stunningly steady hand, deftly blending satire, acute social observation, and family secrets into a narrative of mounting tension...This bleakly hilarious satire has been guided with an especially sure hand by the director Pam MacKinnon, who has assembled an exceptionally nimble company...It's probably the most accomplished play I've seen all year. (Read Full Review)

A+

Satchmo at the Waldorf

Solo biography shows rarely get a performance as monumental as that currently being offered by John Douglas Thompson in Satchmo at the Waldorf, a new play about the last days of Louis Armstrong. But then the author, Terry Teachout, has ambitions that take this far beyond the conventions of the Dead Celebrity Playhouse genre. (Read Full Review)

A+

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark

The Book of Mormon aside...as ruthless and sustained a piece of satire as we have seen in some time...This kind of intellectual prank needs plenty of style to succeed and Jo Bonney's production is loaded with it, thanks to a nimble cast and a team of inventive designers...I suppose there will be those who complain that Vera Stark, with its decades-hopping structure and commentary-ridden second act, is largely an intellectual exercise, lacking in any emotional pull. But satire this pointed and deadly accurate doesn't come along every day, and Nottage's utter impatience with cant of any kind is, to my mind, exhilarating. (Read Full Review)

A+

Next to Normal

Yorkey has trimmed his libretto, cutting the jarringly flamboyant episodes that threatened to wreck the first act, while retaining the powerful second-act twist that suggests Dan may not be entirely immune to Diana's problems. Michael Greif's direction no longer strains for big effects, preferring instead to probe the characters' scar tissue with laserlike precision. The superb cast is led by Alice Ripley's Diana, her apparently normal demeanor offset by a disconcertingly intense stare and an unsettlingly blunt candor. (She's perfectly capable of telling Natalie that she's about to head upstairs to have sex with Dan, or of characterizing Gabe to his face with one of the few four-letter words that still shocks.) On the rare occasions when she slips into rage -- as in the emergency-room aria "Didn't I See This Movie?" -- she is thoroughly commanding. Most of the time, however, she seems to be viewing her loosening grip on sanity with a detachment that is eerie to behold. And when she finally stares down the loss that has haunted her for a quarter of a century, the moment is all the more powerful for the absence of applause-chasing tricks. Ripley has done good work in all sorts of shows, but here she's working on another level altogether; for my money, this is the musical theatre performance of the year. (Read Full Review)

A+

Being Harold Pinter

I have seen few pieces of theatre in the last several years that speak to our unhappy age as eloquently as Being Harold Pinter. By combining a great writer's simple, brutal, eloquent words with the deeply felt, fully lived experiences of real prisoners of conscience, the members of Belarus Free Theatre have cast a searching light on one of the great evils of this and the last century -- the attempt to erase the individual for political ends. No other production in town grips you in quite the same way. (Read Full Review)

A+

Ragtime

Marcia Milgrom Dodge's gripping, highly intelligent, staging is at its considerable best in the details -- and, to my mind, that's as it should be. The rap on Ragtime is that it is a sprawling epic (if you like it), or a ponderous history pageant (if you don't). In truth, however, it's an astounding act of theatrical economy. Few ever seem to note how brilliantly Terrence McNally has carved a coherent, cohesive storyline out of E. L. Doctorow's complex novel, and how equally brilliantly Lynn Ahrens, the lyricist, and Stephen Flaherty, the composer, have exploited the opportunities McNally has handed them. This is made blazingly clear in the opening number -- one of the most brilliant curtain-raisers in modern Broadway history -- which introduces us to a dozen major characters and nearly as many themes, all tied to the profound changes rattling American society in 1906. The sight of the show's three main tribes -- WASP, black, and immigrant -- circling each other warily to lyrics that evoke "an era exploding/a century spinning," is so thrilling that you immediately fear that disappointment must follow. (Read Full Review)

A+

The Motherf**ker With the Hat

Much as been made of the play's foul mouth, but I submit that there's not one gratuitous word in Guirgis' script, He knows these people inside out, and his ability to make bitter comedy out of their scarred lives marks him as a true original. This is American playwriting at its most distinctive. (Read Full Review)

A+

Richard III

...This may be the most cogent, carefully considered, and powerful version of this play that you may ever come across. Despite its popularity as a star vehicle…Richard III poses enormous challenges. Even with a really magnetic actor in the title role, [it]...can become a little monotonous before some real opposition erupts in the final battle scenes. Tim Carroll's production dispenses with these problems with remarkable ease. Thanks to the stunning lucidity of the performances-this is arguably the best-spoken Shakespeare in my experience-the chess moves of Richard's schemes are made deliciously clear…Leave it to Rylance, one of the most inventive actors alive, to come up with a thoroughly original take on Richard, one that contributes mightily to the play's dramatic arc. The result is a production firmly anchored in the Elizabethan era yet featuring a lead character whose psychology couldn't be more up to date. Rylance's performance calls to mind the many murderers and madmen who have exerted dictatorial power in our own time. The toxic combination of evil and political power has rarely been so vividly rendered. (Read Full Review)

A+

Twelfth Night

It has become common shorthand to refer to the current shows at the Belasco as the "Mark Rylance Shakespeares." As brilliant as he is, however, this does a disservice to the overall excellence of the company performing in Richard III and Twelfth Night, a fact that is especially clear when viewing the latter production. For sheer lucidity, intelligibility, and comic skill, this troupe is hard to beat...Rylance scores again, this time as Olivia, the lady who mourns her brother's death with such theatrical panache that she simply can't bear to get over it. It's not just the actor's skill at playing a woman, it's the way he imbues this very specific, wildly over-fastidious female with so many hilarious character details. Rylance's Olivia is a true tragedy queen, fond of acting out her delicate feelings for the appreciation of all, and not to be crossed under any circumstances. It would be a delectable comic performance under any circumstances, but when seen in repertory with Rylance's highly original take on Richard III, it becomes one for the books…Rylance is surrounded by a company of peers. What's most remarkable about this company...is the ease with which everyone plays together and their communal light touch with comedy. Tim Carroll's nimble direction results in a seemingly effortless farce…Forget the Yuletide entertainments infesting the city this month; if you want to be merry, this is the show for you. (Read Full Review)

A

Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!

Gerard Alessandrini's long-running spoof is back with a vengeance, cutting like a buzz saw through the follies of contemporary Broadway...Citizens of Broadway, beware: Heads will once again roll!...Alessandrini's savaging of the studiedly sensitive Irish musical Once is an instant classic...Once again, Alessandrini and Philip George, his co-director, have assembled a quartet of young talents, all skilled in the fine art of character assassination...If Alessandrini makes effortless fun of the self-important and self-obsessed, he has a slightly harder time with shows that are just for fun...The take-no-prisoners humor of Mormon proves particularly resistant, making clear that you can't satirize a satire. But, in an evening loaded with so much invigorating laughter, such occasional missteps matter not at all. (Read Full Review)

A

Finian's Rainbow

At a time when most revivals are overhyped or stylized beyond recognition--I'm talking about you, Bye Bye Birdie--it's a blessed relief to see one staged by artists who understand what the material has to offer. These pleasures include a genial, highly skilled cast; some delightful clowning; a gleeful willingness to spoof almost anything; and one of the most heavenly scores ever to float out of a Broadway orchestra pit. These days, it's no small achievement that Warren Carlyle, the director and choreographer, and his associates understand that this is more than enough...After years spent languishing in the "unrevivable" file, it turns out that all you need to put it over is the right cast, solid musical values, and a light screwball comedy touch -- all of which Carlyle's production has, in spades...I hope it sticks around for several St. Patrick's Days to come. (Read Full Review)

A

A Life in the Theatre

Oddly enough, the most telling moments in Neil Pepe's meticulously detailed production come when each man is left alone on stage.... Like so-called real life, it seems, a life in the theatre is one in which the subtractions pile up until you're left with nothing at all.
It's a lovely, if faintly chilling, image and it's as insightful as anything Mamet has ever written. So what if A Life in the Theatre isn't a meaty tale of men in conflict? Think of it as chamber music, and Stewart and Knight was virtuoso musicians. (Read Full Review)

A

Black Tie

Once again, a Gurney play benefits from a Mark Lamos production; the director's seamless style is a perfect fit for the author's airy, high-comedy technique. (Read Full Review)

A

Machinal

An expressionist experiment from 1928…[Machinal] provides a thoroughly gripping 90 minutes…Without careful handling, it might seem risibly out of date. But the director, Lyndsey Turner, keeps the action moving at a furious pace...Turner has also made sure that Machinal has a sleekly effective production design. Es Devlin's set is itself a kind of machine…[with] constant movement [that] adds to the feeling of impending doom, as does Jane Cox's lighting, which often frames the action in narrow bands of white light that move up and down, scanning the stage like a medical device. Rebecca Hall embraces the [lead] character's contradictions…Thanks to the entire cast and production team, Machinal still stuns with its open-eyed view of a society bereft of feeling or anything faintly spiritual, and how it acts to stifle the life of an innocent. In 1928, a New York Times editorial stated that "in a hundred years," Treadwell's play "should still be vital and vivid." At 86 years and counting, that prediction is looking more like prophecy. (Read Full Review)

A

No Man's Land

This season, fate has conspired to give us a lesson in the proper staging of Pinter…the cast of No Man's Land, led by the unbeatable team of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, is revealing the tightly coiled menace at the heart of Pinter's writing. Sean Mathias' staging gets every bit of acid-laced comedy and barely suppressed tension out of Pinter's text. With McKellen and Stewart on hand, how could it be otherwise? Once again, the two play together with superb intimacy, giving full due to Pinter's icily exact language. Crudup and Hensley once again provide expert support, each of them adding additional notes of menace. No Man's Land isn't quite the world-changing masterpiece that is Waiting for Godot…[it’s] a more compact, tensely effective work…And this is a rare chance to see it given the first-class handling it requires. The original production, starring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, is a theatrical legend; one suspects that McKellen and Stewart are about to join them in the record books. (Read Full Review)

A

Regular Singing

What started out as an experiment in drama as journalism has grown to become an extraordinarily rich family chronicle, one that has volumes to say about the way we live now. As in all the plays, there is very little action, but the conversation ranges all over the map…More and more, however, we see the Apples taking stock of their small victories and considerable losses. You can even say that Nelson, who also directed, is Chekhovian in his staging, as he and his cast strive for-and achieve-a level of naturalism that is unmatched in my experience. The four returning members of the company are, quite simply, matchless. Two newcomers bring new values to their roles. Regular Singing-and the entire Apple cycle-ends on a grace note, with Barbara making a sweet, short, heartfelt speech about the importance of coming together. She is, of course, speaking of her family, but the words apply equally to those members of the audience who have followed the Apples from the beginning and who must surely feel a powerful identification with them. By giving voice to their hopes and fears, Nelson has done more than write a quartet of plays. In a small, but important, way, he has built a little community. (Read Full Review)

A

Waiting for Godot

…boredom is impossible when these two are on stage. Still, as always, Waiting for Godot is a piece that suffers from longeurs…I submit that two and a half hours is a very, very long time for a play about stasis, emptiness, and the sheer mystery of existence. The duller parts of Godot are those featuring Pozzo, the overlord figure, and Lucky, his largely silent beast of burden; even in Mathias' otherwise-ideal staging, their scenes can be a bit of a chore. But McKellen and Stewart are the whole show here, converting Beckett's text into a kind of graveyard vaudeville, producing laughter that is sometimes rollicking and sometimes like the rattle of bones. Their deft handling of Beckett's comic crosstalk is so deft, their sense of intimacy so complete, they constitute the most extraordinary on-stage partnership, in my experience, since Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy exited forever. There are no gimmicks here, just superb technique informed by a thorough understanding of the text. Even if you aren't the biggest fan of Waiting for Godot, this production is an opportunity not to be missed, for the privilege of seeing what two of the world's greatest actors make of it. In one of my favorite passages, Vladimir says, "That passed the time." Estragon adds, "It would have passed in any case." Maybe, but it wouldn't have passed so transcendently. (Read Full Review)

A

Timon of Athens

It is the play's apparent flaws that make it seem so jarringly modern to our eyes, a fact that Edelstein turns to his advantage. Rather than trying to impose some unifying concept on the script, he emphasizes the dichotomy of styles, gambling, successfully, that the performances will hold everything together ... Not only does Thomas plausibly evoke both sides of the character, he somehow makes them seem aspects of the same unhappy individual. Given some of his recent roles -- most of which haven't called on his full range -- it's easy to forget just how abundantly gifted the actor is. This performance signals that he is ready, willing, and able to take on the most demanding classical roles. The rest of Edelstein's production is swift, efficient, and devastating in its lack of ornament and fuss. (Read Full Review)

A

Hello Again

To some Hello Again might [seem] coldly clever and all-too-obvious in its judgments. But La Chiusa's music transforms the piece, effectively evoking the ineffable needs that accompany sexual attraction--for affirmation, tenderness, and the healing of long-held wounds--and which prove tantalizingly, frustratingly out of reach for these desperately seeking souls...As with the recent revival of The Boys in the Band...the director, Jack Cummings III, has opted for an environmental staging, scattering the action all over a SoHo loft filled with round tables at which the audience sits...It's an eccentric, if generally effective, approach, that does much to support the mood of the piece...Thanks to Mary-Mitchell Campbell's sensitive new orchestrations and Michael Rasbury's remarkably restrained sound design, Hello Again achieves the ideal of seeming totally live and unreinforced...In the end, Hello Again is such an odd and original piece that you simply have to experience it...Few modern musicals are as rife with feeling as this, and thanks to a sympathetic band of interpreters, those feelings are brought ravishingly to life. (Read Full Review)

A

The Understudy

By the time all three characters get together for an utterly pointless gesture of joy in the face of an uncaring world, Rebeck has long since won over the audience with her own brand of screwball hilarity. The Understudy is such an accomplished piece of fun that -- who knows? -- it might even make old Franz K crack a smile or two (Read Full Review)

A

All That Fall

For those who have long-ago decided that Beckett is nothing more than a purveyor of existential gloom, All That Fall will prove to be something of a happy shock.. [it] moves by degrees from droll Irish comedy to intimations of the grave and a sorrow beyond rational explanation. It is both one of Beckett's most accessible works and one of the most affecting. In any case, it would be a sin to miss these two [Eileen Atkins and Michael Gambon] authoritative performances under the expert guidance of the director, Trevor Nunn. Rarely, if ever, have I heard Beckett's language delivered with such surgical precision. Beckett wrote All That Fall as a radio play and insisted that it was not suited to the stage. Nunn's staging honors the script's original intentions…The last lines...almost mock us for the enjoyment we have had earlier; it is only when the play is over that we realize how expertly we have been brought to this point. Beckett always thought that All That Fall didn't work on the stage. Perhaps if he had seen this stunning production, he might have felt otherwise. (Read Full Review)

A

The Royal Family

In assembling his cast for The Royal Family, the director, Doug Hughes, has helped himself to some of the crown jewels of the American theatre. First among them, of course, is Rosemary Harris...For years, I've told people that Rosemary Harris is the greatest actress of my theatregoing time, and I see no need to revise that opinion now. Harris has a nearly ideal partner in Jan Maxwell as Julie...Maxwell is one of the most gifted high-comedy technicians working in the theatre today, and she makes Julie into a most beguiling combination of grand gestures and hard common sense...Together, Harris and Maxwell constitute the most entrancing mother-daughter act in town. Under the perfectly timed direction of Hughes, who knows exactly how to handle this clockwork charmer from George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, a blue-chip cast runs, jumps, and bounces around the multiple levels of John Lee Beatty's stunning set...There have been a few complaints about Manhattan Theatre Club's propensity for staging war horses in its Broadway venue -- but how many companies can present a classic American comedy in a first-class production like this? (Read Full Review)

A

Kin

Odd, highly original, and thoroughly beguiling... Kin is something special, a play that offers up so many small pleasures that, before long, they add up to something much more. It has all the marks of a fresh sensibility. Bathsheba Doran is probably a hard name to forget -- but you'll want to be sure to remember it, anyway.

(Read Full Review)

A

Orlando

Cast as Virginia Woolf's omnisexual, time-traveling protagonist, Faridany proves to be a man (and woman) for all seasons...It's a tall order to play a character who begins as a sword-wielding, skirt-chasing Elizabethan male and ends up a kind of intellectual flapper, but Faridany inhabits the role of Orlando in all of his/her variety so fully that you never question her performance for a second...The playwright has done some conjuring work of her own, taking a seemingly unadaptable piece of prose -- essentially an essay disguised as a novel -- distilling it and giving it theatrical life...Under Rebecca Taichman's beautifully controlled direction, each member of the cast makes a significant contribution to a production that unfolds with the inexplicable logic of a dream...It's as if Woolf's intellectual rigor has had a clarifying effect on all involved, leading them to do their best work. (Read Full Review)

A

Becoming Dr. Ruth

Maybe that's one reason why Becoming Dr. Ruth seduces one so easily; in her plainspoken manner, she lets it all hang out, showing us how a happy life can be forged out of the darkest tragedy. (Read Full Review)

A

The Winslow Boy

The Winslow Boy works because nobody condescends to it, choosing to play it as the life-or-death matter that it is. When a production takes off like this, the only word for it is ageless. (Read Full Review)

A

Wishful Drinking

"My name is Carrie Fisher, and I'm an alcoholic," she announces, clarifying the situation for those two people in the audience who haven't heard. And we're off, as, with the acuity of anthropologist, she guides us through the bizarre practices of the beautiful, famous, and self-destructive. As she notes, "When you're a survivor, you have to get into trouble to show off your gift." Her real gift is for turning her life's low points into sparkling high comedy... These hair-raising tales are served up in the soothing tone of a nanny reading selections from Mother Goose to a roomful of sleepy children, an approach that only adds to their comic impact. Some have groused that Wishful Drinking isn't much more than a glorified stand-up act; okay, fine, but when the words are as glittering, as dagger-sharp as they are here, you'll get no complaints from me. (Read Full Review)

A

Fun Home

And yet, by remaining stubbornly faithful to their source material, the creators of Fun Home find a theatrical language for this sorrowful story, identifying laughter in the strangest places and also allowing its heartbreaking emotions to soar. By refusing to give in to the conventions of standard musical theatre, Fun Home manages to be the most powerful musical of the season to date. This trickily structured, often achingly painful, story is made all the more powerful thanks to the songs by Kron and Jeanine Tesori, whose quietly driving melodies contain a powerful yearning. Sam Gold's production is a delicate high-wire act, mining all the humor to be found in this stupendously dysfunctional clan's daily life while never losing sight of the story's tragic arc. It all goes to prove that, with careful handling, fine musical theatre can be made out of the most unpromising materials if everyone involved is fearless enough. Out of one family's corrosive secrets, they have made a singular and extraordinarily moving piece of work.
(Read Full Review)

A

Arcadia

In the end, Arcadia is best approached not as a compendium of facts but as a thoughtful exploration of what it means to know. At the same time, this is no mere intellectual exercise; death casts a faint, but persistent, shadow over the action, and the characters must come to grips with the knowledge that the universe is always winding down, energy is slipping away, and, eventually, time must have a stop. If you try to experience Arcadia, rather than solve it, I'm betting that you'll find it to be a thing of almost infinite beauty. (Read Full Review)

A

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Is anyone having more fun on any Broadway stage than Daniel Radcliffe? Cast as J. Pierpont Finch, the ultimate corporate climber...he's a pint-sized ball of fire, a kid let loose in a toy store, giving a running, jumping, singing, dancing performance that seemingly galvanizes everyone around him...His joy at starring in a big Broadway musical is contagious and it's simply impossible to resist. Then again, casting is one of the real strengths of Rob Ashford's superior production. He has assembled a company of comedians who know that underplaying is the key to unlocking the humor in the libretto...Ashford's staging is well-paced, never stopping to linger on a gag too long. You'll also find some of his wittiest choreography here. (Read Full Review)

A

The Book of Mormon

The fact that such ideas have been so easily slipped into a bright and merry -- and occasionally scalding -- musical comedy is a tribute to the authors, and also to the remarkably light-fingered direction of Casey Nicholaw and Parker and their nimble cast. Andrew Rannells, his cowlick firmly in place, his toothpaste-ad-ready smile lingering in the most desperate of circumstances, is exactly right as Elder Price. Blessed with lungs of steel, he delivers his frequently ridiculous lyrics with total conviction. Whether he's rhapsodically describing the beauties of Orlando, trembling in fear during a vision of hell, or, all faith gone, hitting the local coffee bar for a mega-dose of Mormon-prescribed caffeine, we're with him all the way. Josh Gad, with his gratingly nasal voice and his shirt dangling out of his pants, is an ideal foil for Rannells. Nikki M. James is winning as Nabulungi, the winsome villager who converts to Mormonism in hopes of emigrating to Salt Lake City. Rory O'Malley earns plenty of laughs as Elder McKinley, the leader of the Ugandan mission, who keeps insisting that his homosexual impulses have been resolved, all evidence to the contrary. (His big number, "Turn it Off," a kind of thesis statement of Mormon repression, is a real showstopper.) Michael Potts is also fine as Nabulungi's protective father. (Read Full Review)

A

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

People like to make cynical comments about Broadway being an entirely star-driven environment, but Bengal Tiger is fine case of a star putting himself at the disposal of a new playwright whose vision is distinctive and large enough for a Broadway house. (Kaufman has a knack for these projects; two seasons ago, he staged his own extremely interesting, play, 33 Variations, featuring a fine performance by Jane Fonda.) Joseph is an unusual writer -- I've seen three of his plays and each is startlingly different from the rest -- whose ability to treat this material with such a rich imagination and sense of the theatre can mean only one thing: We have been gifted with a major new talent. (Read Full Review)

A

The Old Friends

It's one of Foote's biggest plays -- a wide-angle canvas of drunkenness and dissipation, and Michael Wilson's production captures the sting of alcohol in every honeyed remark. Nor does it shy away from furious, full-throated emotional battles that stop just short of melodrama. Wilson has made sure that The Old Friends has a production design that is commensurate with its ambitions. Jeff Cowie provides three very different interiors -- Julia's suburban modern living room, Gertrude's cavernous bedroom, and Sybil's rundown family manse. Rui Rita has created lighting to fit each location -- most strikingly in Getrude's room, with sunlight held at bay by louvered window treatments. David C. Woolard's costumes are just right for the period and for the characters -- contrast, for example, Mamie's dowdy day-dresses with Julia's chic outfits, assembled to reassure herself that she is still in the game. John Gromada's sound design makes fine ironic uses of '60s bossa nova sounds to comment on the frivolous lives on display. (Read Full Review)

A

Ragtime

Marcia Milgrom Dodge's gripping, highly intelligent, staging is at its considerable best in the details -- and, to my mind, that's as it should be. The rap on Ragtime is that it is a sprawling epic (if you like it), or a ponderous history pageant (if you don't). In truth, however, it's an astounding act of theatrical economy. Few ever seem to note how brilliantly Terrence McNally has carved a coherent, cohesive storyline out of E. L. Doctorow's complex novel, and how equally brilliantly Lynn Ahrens, the lyricist, and Stephen Flaherty, the composer, have exploited the opportunities McNally has handed them. This is made blazingly clear in the opening number -- one of the most brilliant curtain-raisers in modern Broadway history -- which introduces us to a dozen major characters and nearly as many themes, all tied to the profound changes rattling American society in 1906. The sight of the show's three main tribes -- WASP, black, and immigrant -- circling each other warily to lyrics that evoke "an era exploding/a century spinning," is so thrilling that you immediately fear that disappointment must follow. (Read Full Review)

A

Love's Labour's Lost

…a mere 42 years [after the musicalized Two Gentlemen of Verona] the Public has done it again, applying the same tactics to another difficult Shakespeare work with equally beguiling results. As reimagined by Alex Timbers (direction and adaptation) and Michael Friedman (music), Shakespeare's cerebral, but sometimes tiresome, high comedy is transmuted into a screwball farce celebrating the joys of being young and on the loose. Timbers has assembled the right combination of sparkling personalities for this hot-weather charade. Friedman's score borrows from any and all available pop styles, slyly inserting his own jokes into the proceedings. Admittedly, there are moments when the helium-infused atmosphere leads to an excess of light-headedness [and] [t]he plot remains a frail, spindly thing…Even so, this giddy take on a problematic classic rarely, if ever, loses its champagne-cocktail fizz. And Timbers works wonders with the abruptly sad ending, which in the original seems to bring the play to a full stop. This production may be as fragile as a soap bubble, but how lovely it looks in the moonlight. (Read Full Review)

A

Wife to James Whelan

The Mint has taken up Deevy's case in a big way, combining productions with readings, publications, and seminars over the next couple of years. Rather audaciously, the company has chosen to kick things off with Wife to James Whelan, which, after that incident at the Abbey, languished without a production for 20 years before disappearing altogether. But if this is the least of Deevy's plays, we have much to anticipate. (Read Full Review)

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The Comedy of Errors

Sullivan's brightest idea is a casting coup: The four leading characters -- those long-lost twin siblings -- are here played by two actors only, each of whom barely has time to catch his breath before being plunged into a new thicket of complications. This wickedly cruel assignment has been handed to Hamish Linklater and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who run themselves delightfully ragged through the production's fast-paced 90 minutes. As the two men named Antipholus, Linklater, with his lanky frame, permanently tousled hair, and wary eyes, is built for farce; he has 101 nonplussed expressions, each of which is put to good use as he is mistaken for a cad, a chiseler, and a mental patient, among other indignities. His unfailingly timed low-ball line readings -- especially when he is trying to talk himself out of yet another jam -- never fail to amuse. And when finally, after one misunderstanding too many, he is roused to a fury and bares in a rapid-fire monologue the sequence of events that have brought him to his current state of peril, he does so with a fine, furious brio, honestly earning the applause that follows. (Read Full Review)

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Nikolai and the Others

Nikolai and the Others is a literate and richly detailed piece that demands, and rewards, the audience's concentration. Under David Cromer's highly observant direction, each little exchange among the characters yields a multitude of revelations. Cromer's production contains one of the finest ensemble performances to be seen in New York in years…Nikolai and the Others isn't filled with big scenes, stunning revelations, or twists of fortune. But it is packed with telling moments from beginning to end, and it arguably represents Nelson's finest group portrait to date.
(Read Full Review)

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Bull

If you like your theatre neat, nasty, and armed with a knockout punch, you should consider immersing yourself for an hour or so in the no-holds-barred world of Bull. (Read Full Review)

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Sweet Storm

Sweet Storm is a brief play, and it isn't filled with lots of action or major plot twists. Bo's plans for a romantic wedding night go awry -- harsh words are spoken, prayers are said, and buried pains are revealed. But Hudson's treatment of this situation is so honest and tender that you find yourself caring very much about this troubled pair of lovers ... The script is a delicate, fragile thing, and it needs exactly the kind of special handling it gets in Padraic Lillis' sensitive production, which introduces us to a pair of exceptionally talented young actors. (Read Full Review)

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Driving Miss Daisy

Alfred Uhry's play is an exquisitely wrought cameo about people who are, on the face of it, unremarkable...Both Redgrave and Jones are known for the extravagant use of grand gestures, and one might legitimately ask if they have any business playing a prim Jewish matron from Atlanta and her good-hearted chauffeur...But a star is composed of one part presence and two parts willpower, and somehow Jones and Redgrave command not only your attention but also your belief -- and it's not long before you are hopelessly in their thrall...With these two sorcerers at work, the actor playing Boolie had better know what he's doing; fortunately, someone had the brains to cast Boyd Gaines, who can hold his own with the best of them...Seen again after a quarter of a century, what's most notable about Uhry's play is its careful avoidance of easy sentimentality...David Esbjornson's finely tuned production...captures every bit of the script's dry-eyed humor and understated emotion. (Read Full Review)

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The School For Lies

The production piles artifice upon artifice while remaining grounded in contemporary reality. Ives' text is a kind of parody of the Richard Wilbur style of rhymed couplets, which, to most of us, is indistinguishable from Molière's plays. But, as we are informed in a cheeky prologue, the master French playwright is dead, and his play will be made to sing a contemporary tune, with new jokes and several surprising turns of plot. Everyone speaks in a stunningly clever blend of classical diction and modern slang, with rhymes so intricately worked out that Ives' script will be a pleasure to read when published. At the same time, in the hands of this gifted cast, the words - pointed, antic, and occasionally savage -- are always marvelously clear. (Read Full Review)

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The Late Christopher Bean

[S]uffice to say that, except for one or two moments when the action briefly drifts into expositional cul-de-sacs, this is an expertly plotted farce, filled with exquisitely timed bombshells that continue dropping up until the very last minute. And, under Jenn Thompson's smartly paced direction, a fine cast expertly underplays this genteel tale of cutthroat negotiations. Leading the way is James Murtaugh, as Dr. Haggett, whose laconic Yankee propriety crumbles into bits as his greed subjects him to a barrage of comic humiliations ... All of this double-dealing takes place on Charlie Corcoran's setting, which, with its dowdy furniture, homely paintings, and hooked rugs, is a fine study in respectable middle-class bad taste. Ben Stanton's lighting bathes the action in a warm, sunshiny glow that contrasts nicely with the dirty doings at hand. Martha Hally's costumes include some nicely tailored men's suits and a sufficiently august day dress for Mrs. Haggett. Stephen Kunken's sound design provides crisp reinforcement for the piano tunes, composed by Mark Berman, that bridge each scene. (Read Full Review)

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Henry IV, Part 1

Thanks to canny direction and a capable cast, a play that can sometimes come across as a disjointed collection of scenes and tones is seen as a thoroughly unified tale, in which personal and political conflicts commingle to shape the fate of a nation. This is more than a solid reading of a great play; it is uncommonly lucid. (Read Full Review)

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Stage Kiss

Jessica Hecht and screwball comedy; it's a match made in heaven...she finds laughs that are all but invisible on the page, instantly winning us over... Under the precisely timed direction of Rebecca Taichman, all sorts of Noises Off-style stage mayhem -- miscued scenes of torrid romance, onstage injuries, and a scene of gunplay that always, always goes wildly wrong -- is executed like clockwork by Hecht, Fumusa, and a skilled supporting cast... For all of its outrageous situations, Stage Kiss never really oversteps the line into silliness, a tribute to the control exerted by Taichman and by Hecht's tone-setting performance, which finds laughter in throwaway gags, deadpan line readings, and exquisite timing. Each time she appears, she seems to reveal yet another aspect of her multifaceted talent. If there is something she can't do, I haven't seen it yet. (Read Full Review)

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The Winter's Tale (2010)

Michael Greif has found a way to untangle the mass of plot threads otherwise known as The Winter's Tale, turning that seemingly ungovernable text into a deeply moving fable of betrayal and reconciliation...By charging the cast to play each scene as it comes, simply and intelligently, he coaxes us into accepting The Winter's Tale as a bedtime story for adults. If the details border on the absurd, the language is elegant and deeply felt, and the underlying emotions are unfailingly true...Once again, the fine company assembled for this summer's repertory rises to the occasion. (Read Full Review)

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The Merchant of Venice (Central Park)

Sullivan's take may be the most distinctive of all, and, more than most, he has found a way to tie the clashing narrative strands together into a thematic and tonal whole. By resetting the action in an Edwardian world populated by financiers and idle aristocrats whose fiscal activities must be underwritten by moneylenders, the director immediately establishes Shylock as a both a necessity and an object of loathing for those who require his services... Sullivan's staging retains its bracingly original quality right through to the finale. An encounter between Lorenzo and Jessica, held after the trial, has always seemed like a distracting digression; here, it comes across as totally germane to the action. And, when Portia tests Bassanio's fidelity -- she tricks him, while disguised as a man, into handing over a ring that he swore never to surrender -- Rabe plays it not as a romantic comedy prank but an examination of her lover's soul, which produces unsatisfactory results. (Read Full Review)

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All In The Timing

One reason this production works so well is that Rando never loses sight of the realities under Ives' mad creations. There's real frustration lurking here, as well as loneliness and even something like terror. The final sketch -- the Trotsky melodrama -- may be the most outrageous, but it ends on a distinctly melancholy note, suggestive of the end that lies in wait for all of us. The hilarity is constant, but these pieces stick with one in a way that has nothing to do with mere gagging. (Read Full Review)

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Unnatural Acts: Harvard's Secret Court of 1920

Surprisingly, given the fact that it was written by many hands, Unnatural Acts appears to be the work of a single sensibility, thanks to its classic dramatic structure, stinging dialogue, and a climax that packs a wallop of a surprise. In this talented group's hands, what might have been a feel-bad history lesson designed to stoke the audience's righteous anger becomes a crackling drama in which heroes are conspicuously absent. (Read Full Review)

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A Christmas Story

Once in a while, however, a show comes along that really does the work of reimagining a popular film in theatrical terms. That's the case with A Christmas Story, which largely dispenses with tinseled sentimentality and false cheer in favor of giving audiences a raucous, rollicking good time. (Read Full Review)

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Sorry

If you want to experience really fine ensemble acting, you can't do better than the cast of Sorry. Appearing for the third time as the beleaguered Apple family -- classic New York liberals struggling with a changing world and faced with making a terrible decision -- each member of this superb quintet has honed his or her technique to the vanishing point, resulting in an astonishingly naturalistic style. (Read Full Review)

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In the Wake

[Kron] has written a play with the scope and richness of a novel; In the Wake is a comedy of social and political manners that sends you out into the night, asking yourself some extremely uncomfortable questions...In the Wake shows exactly how Ellen's life derails--and, with rare acuity, she also explores the limits of conventional left-wing thinking...As Philip Barry once wrote, "The time to make up your mind about people is never," and much of In the Wake is devoted to proving that proposition...Thanks to Leigh Silverman's direction, the action remains generally light and filled with laughter so, when the home truths arrive, they are all the more powerful...Cheers to Lisa Kron for giving us her most mature work yet. (Read Full Review)

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Other Desert Cities

Baitz has never before built such a devastating dramatic trap, and aided by five superb performances under Joe Mantello's seamless direction, it is sprung to stunning effect. You're likely to leave the theatre debating who is more scarily hilarious -- Stockard Channing's stoic, acid-tongued Polly or Linda Lavin's Silda, a wisecracking Hollywood basket case ... All of this unfolds on a wickedly accurate set by John Lee Beatty. The designer is especially gifted at suggesting a play's larger locale -- one look at the set of Proof, for example, and you didn't need a Playbill to inform you that you were in Chicago - and here he creates a setting that screams California mid-century modern. (Read Full Review)

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All's Well That Ends Well

So many times, when writing about productions of Shakespeare, we fault the director, saying, in effect, that he or she isn't worthy of our greatest playwright. In the case of the current revival of All's Well That Ends Well, however, I think Shakespeare -- wherever he may be on the astral plain -- owes Daniel Sullivan a debt of gratitude. It's because Sullivan has taken one of the Bard's most notorious "problem" plays and made it seem like a psychologically coherent, and even touching, piece of work...Any way you look at it, it's not a pretty story. Which is why it's all the more remarkable that Sullivan, working with an exceptionally able cast, manages to impose such emotional clarity on the play. (Read Full Review)

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Candida

Both simpler and subtler than other Shaw works...Only very brave directors need apply. Tony Walton is not only a brave director, he's a clever one, and he has assembled a well-nigh perfect cast to highlight the sharp ironies and surprisingly strong emotions buried under the surface of what appears to be a rather conventional romantic triangle. And, in Melissa Errico, he has identified the Candida of one's dreams...The rest of the cast is equally accomplished...The best thing about Walton's production is that it restores a play that recently has begun to seem problematic, proving that it is perfectly playable, if you have the right people. (Read Full Review)

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Master Class

Critics love to complain that Master Class is not historically accurate in its portrayal of Callas. But this is beside the point. McNally, one of New York's most famed opera buffs, knows all there is to known about Callas, and, had he wanted to write a biography, he surely would have done so. Instead, he uses a fictionalized version of the woman known as La Divina to meditate on the relation between art and life, and to wonder exactly where the pursuit of one's art becomes self-destructive. Intimate in style, Master Class is nevertheless a big play, filled with tantalizing, if unanswerable, questions, and it remains one of the playwright's finest achievements. Stephen Wadsworth's production is extremely well cast ... the thing to marvel at is the way Daly bends the role of Callas to her purposes, serving her talents and McNally's intentions in fresh and unexpected ways. Of all the ladies I've seen in the role, she may be the most formidable. If you see it, you'll know exactly what the term "monstre sacré" means. (Read Full Review)

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Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers

A slice of modern history that doubles as a crackling legal thriller. The time couldn't be more right for another look at what happens when the media stands up to power, and, to their credit, the authors don't duck any of the tough questions raised by their equally troubling and stirring tale...It takes a little while to get used to the artificiality of the presentation, and some of the dialogue feels a little forced and heavy with exposition. This is especially true of the scenes of reporterly bonhomie, which fairly bristle with self-satisfaction. But, for the vast majority of its running time, Top Secret maintains an atmosphere of steadily mounting suspense -- an achievement all the more remarkable for the fact that we already know the outcome...Rubinstein has assembled a fine cast of sketch artists who work both sides of the story bringing multiple characters to life...Everything in the production is simple, direct, and lacking in frills -- the words, and the ideas behind them, are more than enough for gripping drama. (Read Full Review)

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Sweet and Sad

Even more notable is the way the ensemble, under Nelson's sharp-eyed direction, turns every moment into a tiny, crystalline revelation. (Read Full Review)

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After.

After shows how much power can be derived from dark subject matter when everyone involved resists the impulse to juice it up with big scenes or outsized emotions. The facts of Monty's case are gripping enough, and, smartly, they know. Chalk it up as another winner for Partial Comfort Productions, a company that has an uncanny way of finding new talents to watch. (Read Full Review)

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The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

If you're looking for the pure, jolting, hilarious thrill that happens when you encounter a new theatrical voice, you can do no better than to get to Second Stage for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, which begins by spoofing the exaggerated and flagrantly false theatrics of, say, the World Wrestling Federation, and ends up indicting the way we live now. A (literally) smashing production, The Elaborate Entrance... uses the crazed world of the fictional THE Wrestling, to comment on populist politics, immigration, and this country's complex ethnic pecking order. If that sounds too serious, don't worry. Thanks to reams of endlessly quotable dialogue and an electrifying design, this production is practically guaranteed to rock the house. (Read Full Review)

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Cheri

This is by far the most intimately scaled of Clarke's pieces…relying as it does on the magnetism of three stellar personalities. It will be a must-see event for ballet fans, if only for the opportunity to once again see the retired ballerina Alessandra Ferri, who here partners stunningly with Herman Cornejo in the Lea-Chéri dance of desire...to read Colette is to know that she balanced eros with gimlet-eyed appreciation of the way the world works. It's the juxtaposition of the powerfully intimate dance scenes and Charlotte's [Amy Irving’s] coruscating narrative that creates a kind of implied drama. The result is a perfectly wrought little thing of beauty that will likely speak to those who have read the books and those who have not. Chéri is a brief piece, running little more than an hour, but the feelings it engenders may last for days. (Read Full Review)

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Closer Than Ever

Usually, these songbook shows are pleasant enough, offering a chance to relive some favorite numbers and sample some rarities from the artists' output. In contrast, Closer Than Ever is a finely chosen series of vignettes and penetrating character studies in song, a signal demonstration of what can be achieved when words and music are put to the purpose of creating an incisive dramatic situation. This isn't some thrown-together entertainment; in its ongoing examination of the joys and heartbreaks of young adults drifting into early middle age, and of middle-aged people both horrified and thrilled to find their lives turned upside down by unexpected circumstances, Closer Than Ever is as carefully put together as a short story collection by, say, John Cheever. (Read Full Review)

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Follies

This production works like no other I've seen because Schaeffer has focused on both Follies' grand vision and on the all-important details that give it emotional power. Thanks to the largesse of the Kennedy Center, the original producer, James Goldman's tale of aging entertainers and their spouses, on a date with the past in a crumbling Broadway theatre, is given -- there is no other word for it -- a monumental staging. It's an intimate drama about the havoc wreaked by unfulfilled dreams, but Follies also pays tribute to the lost world of Broadway between the wars -- a time when popular entertainment deeply reflected the social consensus -- before kissing it goodbye forever. It comes with a built-in grandeur, and any production needs to reflect that. This one has it all -- a cast of nearly 40, an orchestra of two dozen playing Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece score in Jonathan Tunick's ravishing orchestrations, and a design that reaches into the depths of the house. (Read Full Review)

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As You Like It

Given her intelligence, high spirits, and comic timing—among actresses her age, she has always seemed the most natively gifted with high comedy technique—Rabe is uniquely equipped to take on the role. And she does not disappoint...If Rabe's Rosalind emphasizes laughter over more melancholic or inspirational notes, this is a function of Daniel Sullivan's festive production, which resets the action in pioneer territory circa 1850, and relies heavily on a bluegrass score by, of all people, Steve Martin...This is As You Like It as if directed by John Ford, a big-hearted, high-spirited donnybrook of a play...Sullivan has surrounded Rabe with a cast of fine comedians...Cheers to the Public Theatre for giving us this lovely summertime gift. (Read Full Review)

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Motherhood Out Loud

In fact, one of the best things about this entertainment is how, in a fast and breezy 90 minutes, the committee of authors is able to touch on so many different aspects of the maternal experience. (Read Full Review)

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My Children! My Africa!

Thanks to the superb direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the current staging makes a strong case that My Children! My Africa! is one of Fugard's finest works...Under Santiago-Hudson's direction, the lengthy first act, which seemed a bit leaden in the earlier production, now sparkles with fun and good humor, the darkness slipping in only gradually...The production's biggest revelation is Stephen Tyrone Williams as Thami. (Read Full Review)

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The Lyons

Nicky Silver has imagined a spectacularly dysfunctional family named The Lyons and it's our good fortune that Linda Lavin is the queen of the pride...That this horrifying creature keeps us in stitches, and, by the time The Lyons is over, even lays claim to our sympathies, is proof of the special sorcery that is Lavin's stock in trade...The Lyons contains something new in [Silver's] work, an awareness that the elders of these tribes are just as victimized as the children. (Read Full Review)

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A Small Fire

An elliptical tale that speaks volumes when its characters are most at a loss for words...Bock never offers any explanation for Emily's condition, and I suspect some will accuse him of willfully piling traumas on his heroine merely to make a dramatic point...But he has a way of drawing us in via a series of quietly explosive revelations that convey the unthinkable fragility of life...Everything about Cullman's production comes together to powerful effect...What sets A Small Fire apart from other, weepier disease dramas is its overarching sense of mystery; clearly, Bock seems to say, we all live inches away from disaster. His acceptance of that fact -- and his ability to find grace in it -- makes this an exceptionally powerful experience. (Read Full Review)

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The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

By no means a personal hatchet job, it is a trenchant analysis of the way in which Jobs' inventions have succeeded, to the point that they constitute the window through which we view reality...And so it goes, rage-fueled laughter alternating with chilling realities, a strategy designed to make us see that the real cost of our shiny new technology toys is paid by others, and the price is terrible indeed...A refreshing corrective to the avalanche of hagiography created by the mass media in the wake of Jobs' death. (Read Full Review)

A

A Raisin in the Sun

By far the best of the three Raisins I have seen, not least for the way in which it fuses its company of actors into a thoroughly convincing family ensemble...Leon's direction is especially acute in highlighting the little details that reveal the big, troubling emotions that keep the Younger family at bay. (Read Full Review)

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Evita

The combined result of these performances, under Grandage's galvanizing and canny direction, is an Evita that seems like a truly cohesive musical drama. I've always felt that, after an exciting first act, the show merely marks time until Eva's big death scene. Here, the second act seems like a mordant exploration of the limits of power and the evanescence of fame. Eva's much-publicized "rainbow tour" draws mixed reviews, her social welfare programs are mired in corruption, her attempt at seizing the vice-presidency is controversial, and, finally, her body fails her as cancer takes over. Roger fearlessly draws Eva's rise and fall, turning Evita into a powerful parable about a woman who is vanquished by forces even her unconquerable will can't surmount. (Read Full Review)

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Newsies

The result of Disney's back-to-basics plan is a bright, brassy brawl of a show, and it offers incontrovertible proof that what makes an enjoyable musical is (a) a strong book, (b) a tuneful score, and (c) some talented people. Newsies has all three in spades. And if that's not headline news, I don't know what is. (Read Full Review)

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In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards

Especially likely to be a conversation starter for New York audiences...One of the joys of a Civilians production is how all sorts of feisty, gabby characters get to weigh in with unclassifiable points of view...By giving voice to so many, The Civilians find considerable drama in a situation that continues to reverberate throughout the city todayy...As so often happens with widely touted municipal development projects, all the promises are left behind, leaving behind plenty of dissatisfaction on all sides. (Read Full Review)

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Gabriel

It's a good thing that Riccardo Hernandez's set is so precariously tilted, because Buffini's characters live in a permanent state of peril, one loaded with unexpected power shifts and reversals of fortune -- and which is doomed to end in bloodshed. Under Esbjornson's carefully calibrated direction, a fine cast keeps you guessing what will happen next. Emery's Jeanne practically trembles with suppressed fury -- "I am not afraid of my cruelty," she says at one point, and boy do you believe her -- but you also see the frightened, fiercely calculating woman underneath. Zach Grenier's Von Pfunz is a most quick-witted opponent, never losing his composure at knifepoint. There are also fine contributions from Samantha Soule, whose Lillian is nearly as cagey as Jeanne; Libby Woodbridge, who captures Estelle's untamed qualities; and Patricia Connolly, as Margaret, who keeps score from the sidelines. As Gabriel, an amnesiac blank slate who becomes the focus of the women's misdirected emotions, Lee Aaron Rosen is a highly appealing enigma. (Read Full Review)

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Red

In Red, John Logan aces one of the toughest tests a playwright can take -- the revelation of a renowned artist's working process. History is littered with disastrous examples of plays about writers, painters, and composers -- we'll draw a veil over Hollywood's attempts in this area -- but Logan not only gets inside the head of his protagonist, the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, he makes it look easy. It's an achievement that qualifies Red as a work of art in its own right. (Read Full Review)

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The Merchant of Venice

Daniel Sullivan's staging of The Merchant of Venice has gone through several changes since its acclaimed run last summer in Central Park, but this already fine production has re-emerged at the Broadhurst even stronger and more incisive than it was before. Of course, the move indoors has resulted in a more focused and intimate production. But several new cast members and a series of small refinements to the direction have only contributed to Sullivan's singular achievement, which is to present a thoroughly straightforward version of the play while simultaneously turning it inside out.

(Read Full Review)

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Everyday Rapture

Are we really specks of dust in the universe? Does fame make a difference? Do we worship the god of judgment or of compassion? Do we have free will or are we ruled by destiny? These are not questions usually pondered on the musical stage. But Scott and her co-author, Dick Scanlan, have managed to put it all together into an entertainment that is both uproarious and deeply thoughtful -- while leaving room for wicked gags about Idina Menzel, musical theatre fanboys, and the religious right. Everyday Rapture may look like a nightclub act, but it is far better constructed than any other musical of this season. The star, in heavenly voice, also does right by an eclectic, and carefully chosen, song list that includes U-2's "Elevation;" "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe;" "You Made Me Love You" (amusingly made into a Christ-centered torch song); and "Up the Ladder to the Roof." (Read Full Review)

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Once

In an achievement that seems just short of miraculous, a team of theatre artists has taken these evanescent materials, carefully stylizing them into a highly original and deeply moving entertainment. Everything about Once shows the mark of restraint -- which is why its impact is so enormous...Everyone involved in bringing Once to the stage understands the power that comes from not overdoing it...The songs succeed magnificently in letting us know what's going on in the characters' troubled, overfull hearts. (Read Full Review)

A

Neighbourhood Watch

Domestic abuse, closeted homosexuality, vigilante justice -- these are the sour fruits of Bluebell Hill's new Eden, all of them detailed by Ayckbourn, with his gift for pushing situations to their logical extremes and his faultless ear for everyday remarks freighted with disappointment and suppressed desire. Although British to the core, the play's portrait of self-appointed guardians of the peace, who live to police community morals, will seem alarmingly on the money to most Americans in the audience. (Read Full Review)

A

Mistakes Were Made

Suffice it to say that Felix is the part of a lifetime and, under Dexter Bullard's expert direction, Shannon makes the most of it, second by second, flaying each nerve with surgical skill until he ends up on the floor in a near-coma state. Providing extremely skilled support is Mierka Girten, whose increasingly urgent bulletins from offstage keep the level of tension at the red-alert level (Read Full Review)

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Fences

If you want to experience a pair of old-fashioned, barn-burning, rattle-the-rafters performances, you won't do better than Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Fences. Washington may be the closest thing we have to a classic matinee idol...Here, he connects with the role of Troy Maxson -- one of Wilson's richest creations -- and finds a level of emotional engagement that has eluded him before...Washington's good looks and powerful presence make him a nearly ideal Troy; it only seems natural that his family would revolve around him. But, under Kenny Leon's probing direction, the actor focuses on Troy's unresolved anger, his near-paranoiac insistence on being respected...Fences won't work unless Troy has an equally matched antagonist in Rose, and, fortunately, Davis is, line for line, a match for her co-star. (Read Full Review)

A

American Idiot

Instead, the director, Michael Mayer, using dance, performance art, and music video as his coordinates, has mapped out an entirely new terrain in which the hit Green Day album becomes the soundtrack to a wide-angle portrait of a rudderless generation skidding into disaster. The songs don't really illuminate the characters, nor do they drive the plot, as happens in a conventional musical; instead, American Idiot is more like an oratorio with staged movement and a strong design concept. Astoundingly, it has audiences cheering what is surely the most nihilistic vision to land on a Broadway stage in a long time. (Read Full Review)

A

Collected Stories

Paulson's Lisa is seemingly more open-hearted and plain-spoken, although equally hungry for recognition. She also changes more profoundly; as her confidence grows, so does her armor, until, by the end, it's clear that she's well on her way to becoming another Ruth. The common shorthand reference for Collected Stories is that it's a literary All About Eve, but that diminishes Margulies' achievement, in which he trenchantly explores the constantly crossed border line between fiction and reality ... Under Meadow's guiding hand, the complexities of the Ruth-Lisa relationship are confidently evoked. Meadow has also overseen an impeccable physical production ... Ever since Collected Stories debuted in 1996, I've hoped that Lavin would get a crack at playing Ruth in New York; now she has, and she does not disappoint. She gets more laughs than any of her predecessors -- and, at the end, when Ruth is sick and profoundly alone, the look of desolation on her face is likely to haunt you for days. Her Ruth Steiner may be the most accomplished one yet. (Read Full Review)

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A Little Journey

It all makes for a finely detailed group portrait of the American middle classes just before World War I -- exposing their attitudes, prejudices, and the little fault lines of class that run through even this relatively narrow slice of society. In the third act, the conversation does become a little highfalutin at times, as Crothers focuses less on the characters and (alas) more on the meaning of life. (Although, when we finally get it, the author's philosophy of life is a remarkably tough-minded one.) But because of Bank and his talented colleagues, A Little Journey is revealed to be no small achievement. It's an example of the Mint at its finest (Read Full Review)

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Assistance

Headland is yet another distinctive talent who is going places partly because of her fresh, cockeyed take on the way we live now and partly because she has a director who knows how to present her work to its best advantage. Just as Annie Baker --- another Playwrights Horizons talent -- has Sam Gold to unlock the mysteries of her work, Headland is lucky to have Trip Cullman, who makes sure we see pass the laughter to grasp the games of one-upmanship, fleeting romances, and sudden betrayals practiced by the members of Daniel's staff. (The script is practically a user's guide to the art of passive-aggression.) He also contributes to the play's bravura finale, when Daniel's world literally falls apart. (Read Full Review)

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Beyond the Horizon

Not every single thing works; the decision to present Beyond the Horizon in two acts, not three as O'Neill intended, has a slightly undermining effect. The play is written to reveal the characters at intervals of four and five years, and I think it would work better if the original structure was honored. But there's no question that three fine young actors are revealing that, even in this early work, O'Neill was a mature artist, one of the very few American playwrights with an authentic sense of tragedy. (Read Full Review)

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No Place To Go

Throughout, Lipton makes for a fine companion, rousing the audience with shock-of-recognition laughs about the sheer difficulty of getting by in a world where the impulse to creativity is rarely rewarded and people are just another asset to be managed in a universal corporate game. Providing sterling musical support are Vito Dieterle (saxophone), Eben Levy (guitar), and Ian M. Riggs (bass). No Place to Go is the latest example of the Public Theater's uncanny ability to address the cold facts of our hard times. It won't help you with your 401(k), but it will make you feel that we're all in this mess together. (Read Full Review)

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The Cherry Orchard

What's remarkable about Andrei Belgrader's production is the ease with which comedy -- both the loose-limbed, physical variety and a darker, subtler humor -- coexists with a feeling of tremendous sadness and impending, irreversible loss. For all the inventive bits of business, one never forgets that The Cherry Orchard is about a once-wealthy family facing dispossession...In moment after telling moment, laughter and melancholy are joined together...Overall, there's something slightly effortful about the physical production...In any case, the director has obtained a rich and varied set of character portraits from his starry cast. (Read Full Review)

A-

Seminar

Theresa Rebeck has always had a special knack for creating characters who are only too willing to let fly their scalding opinions, and this talent has never found a happier outlet than in her current offering...Seminar is also the rare play that seriously considers what it means to be a writer. (Read Full Review)

A-

Venus In Fur

In some ways, the real hero of the much-improved Broadway version is [Arianda's] co-star, Hugh Dancy, who--line for line and nuance for nuance--is more than a match for his formidable leading lady...Arianda seems inspired by her co-star, finding new levels of mystery and mastery in Vanda...Walter Bobbie's direction -- which was perfectly fine Off Broadway -- has a snap and underlying sense of menace that keeps us engaged until the very last second. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Big Meal

I suppose some will dismiss The Big Meal as derivative or a one-joke affair; neither is true, although I would add that it goes on for about five to seven minutes too long, as the author seems to search for just the right swan song. But this is a fine introduction to a writer who clearly thinks like a playwright, with a gift for framing his characters and action in purely theatrical terms. He's well-known in Chicago; this is his second New York production of note. As far as I'm concerned, he's a real find. (Read Full Review)

A-

Beyond Words

How many mimes do you know of who are such amusing raconteurs?...Solo shows about growing up gay and misunderstood are a dime a dozen, but Bowers' youth, spent in rural Montana, keeps him supplied with the kind of fresh, attention-getting details that many other performers would kill for...There's a natural delicacy and honesty in all of Bowers' work...The only reservation I have about Beyond Words is its highly episodic structure...The show would benefit from a more cohesive structure for the pieces...In any event, Beyond Words is an evening of honestly earned laughter linked to surprisingly powerful emotions. (Read Full Review)

A-

Gore Vidal's The Best Man

If each season featured five or six more plays as good as The Best Man, Broadway would be a much happier place...Fifty years ago and today, The Best Man was and is an elegant guide to the fine art of political throat-cutting, as practiced by a gallery of strivers, schemers, and party hacks...Much of the pleasure of Michael Wilson's production comes from the first-rate cast of connivers he has assembled to act out Vidal's vision of the dirty business of politicking. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Truth: A Tragedy

For anyone who has ever dealt with an elderly or ailing parent, it's all here: the surgical procedures that go awry, the unresolved family issues that flare up, and the loss of independence...Dealing with subject matter that is both deeply personal and universal, Hopkins maintains an extraordinary detachment that keeps sentimentality at bay; at the same time, The Truth never feels clinical or exploitative. It is, by far, her most contemplative work yet...The Truth: A Tragedy is a strange hour and a half, but it is a gripping and fearless look at something all of us face sooner or later. (Read Full Review)

A-

A Slow Air

In most cases, the use of alternating monologues signals the lazy man's approach to playwriting, but in A Slow Air each narrative line is sufficiently compelling that you hang on each word, trying to figure out where and how the narratives will intersect. It allows Harrower to constantly add shadings and complications to our perceptions of Athol and Morna. He may be the more stable of the two, but there are many details -- an eruption of anger at a potential client, the admission of an extramarital affair -- that reveal many levels of discontent. Morna may have a world-class talent for self-destruction, but she knows her faults intimately, and her love for Joshua, despite its inappropriate moments, is very, very real -- more than even she realizes. "Rosie smiles at me," she says. "'Your face lights up when you talk about him,' she says. 'What?' I say, 'Like I've been electrocuted?'" (Read Full Review)

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Rapture, Blister, Burn

If The Heidi Chronicles portrayed women of the baby boomer generation as torn between traditional and contemporary role models, Rapture, Blister, Burn comically portrays their descendants as overloaded with choices, none of them palatable...[It] isn't quite the comic powerhouse that Becky Shaw, Gionfriddo's last work, was, but the dialogue crackles and, if anything, her observations are more mordant. Peter DuBois directs with a fine, subtle hand that is fully in synch with the author's hold-the-vermouth wit. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Cocktail Party

There's no question that Eliot's unique, possibly bizarre, mix of blank verse, psychoanalysis and Anglo-Catholic mysticism -- all served with just a pinch of existentialism -- may baffle modern audiences, but, thanks to Scott Alan Evans' finely tuned direction, an expert cast illuminates both the text's crystalline poetry and its elusive ideas. (Read Full Review)

A-

Detroit

At first, Detroit looks like an Americanized Alan Ayckbourn comedy -- marked by acidly noted class differences juxtaposed with physical gags...But D'Amour's camera eye has a wider focus...Anne Kauffman's production is filled with visual and aural surprises and features a quartet of actors who deftly juggle the play's moments of humor and high anxiety...If Detroit occasionally tries a bit too hard to make its points, it nevertheless has plenty of points to make. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Exonerated

Seen for the second time, The Exonerated isn't quite the revelation it originally was -- thanks to Blank and Jensen's work, we are more aware than ever how easily the judicial system can jump the rails -- but the stories still exert a vise-like grip. The authors crosscut from story to story, not so much to build suspense as to assemble a mural of rampant legal malpractice that will shatter the complacency of any thoughtful theatregoer. (Read Full Review)

A-

Lovers

Drew Barr's direction gets the most out of his talented cast, all of whom seem to instinctively trust Friel's gift for wicked comedy and profoundly Irish melancholy. The production also features an attention-getting look, thanks to Brett J. Banakis' unusual set design, which features a sharply angled low-rise wall with a second playing level. In front of the wall is an interior space. All the way upstage is a drop depicting an enormous black tree painted against a white sky. It's a surprisingly attractive concept that also suits the needs of both plays. In addition, Mary Louise Geiger's lighting, Kim Krumm Sorenson's costumes, and Daniel Kluger's original music and sound design are equally fine. (Read Full Review)

A-

Temporal Powers

Of all the lost names unearthed by the Mint Theatre Company, surely the most significant has been the rediscovery of the Irish playwright Teresa Deevy...Temporal Powers is filled with words that are both richly poetic and cruelly pointed...For all its attractions, Temporal Powers isn't as accomplished a work as Wife to James Whelan, presented by the Mint a year ago...Still, without having anyone raise his or her voice, the author works up a considerable amount of tension...And, under Jonathan Bank's sure-handed direction, the entire company delivers. (Read Full Review)

A-

That Face

This dysfunctional family shocker is so loaded with twisted emotions and bizarre behavior that many will recoil from it, if they don't burst outright into peals of derisive laughter. Either reaction would be a mistake, I think: Even when That Face threatens to slip out of control--which is every five minutes or so--it packs a confidence that makes it impossible to dismiss...What saves That Face from being a combination of Krafft-Ebing and As the World Turns is the clinical eye with which Stenham--who was all of 19 when she wrote the script--regards her characters; their behavior may be stunningly strange, but it is never, ever unmotivated. The author is matched every step of the way by Sarah Benson's production...Stenham has a way of sweeping aside your objections, sensible though they may be. Later on, after you've left the theatre, you might question the happenings in That Face--but, in the theatre, you don't doubt it for a second. (Read Full Review)

A-

Modern Terrorism

The really remarkable thing about Modern Terrorism is how Kern and company manage to play New Yorkers' worst nightmare for laughs without ever losing sight of the fact that these would-be killers are deadly serious...Obviously, this project is a minefield -- one false step and the audience will be lost -- and it must be noted that Modern Terrorism starts slow and isn't consistently funny. Overall, however, Kern keeps the play's elements of horror and hilarity finely balanced...Under Peter DuBois' finely judged direction, the cast walks this tonal tightrope with real agility. (Read Full Review)

A-

Silence! The Musical

Jen Harris [Clarice Starling] deadpans her way through two hours of rude, crude, ribald gagging...Thanks to her, even the weakest gag yields big time laughs...It's Harris' good luck that she is partnered with Brent Barrett as the evil Dr. Lecter...who matches Harris, grimace for grimace...Silence! is nothing more or less than a two-act Carol Burnett-style movie spoof, filtered through a very dirty mind...The score, by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan, is an extremely hit-or-miss affair...Rather better is Hunter Bell's book, which keeps the gags coming thick and fast, even if he shows little interest in separating out the good from the bad...Under Christopher Gattelli's crack direction (he also choreographed, wittily), a nimble, inventive cast works wonders with weak material and makes the good stuff seem even better than it is. (Read Full Review)

A-

Good Ol' Girls

The format blends country-style songs with bits of prose and character sketches drawn, by Paul Ferguson, from the works of the noted authors Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle -- not the kind of names you associate with a hootin'-and-hollerin' night out. Thanks to them, a show that could easily have settled for a bunch of sub-Steel Magnolias wisecracks offers words that are surprisingly tough, penetrating, and observant. A sketch about a young woman's foolish addiction to an abusive boyfriend is set on the beach, so a narrator can note how the breeze rustles the young lady's hair, making her black eye smart. As in a good short story, that single detail tells you all you need to know about her. (Read Full Review)

A-

Good Person of Szechwan

Good Person is a tricky piece; if not handled with sufficient style, it can quickly devolve into a tedious, humorless economics lecture. Brecht's barbed tale of money and morality becomes a mordant cartoon that, from time to time, surprises one with moments of power and deep feeling. Brecht's exhaustively made point is that, under capitalism, virtue inevitably shrivels, or, as one of the gods puts it, "No one can be good for long, if goodness is not in demand." (Read Full Review)

A-

Sondheim on Sondheim

Sondheim does more than provide each number with a perfect setting. The interplay of his skeptical, analytical, sometimes iconoclastic words with songs that threaten to explode with feeling creates a kind of dramatic tension that lends an overall shape to the entertainment. Song after song makes you wonder all over again -- how is it that Sondheim was pigeonholed as a brittle purveyor of crossword-puzzle cleverness? Weren't people listening? None of this would matter if Sondheim on Sondheim wasn't filled with golden musical moments. (Read Full Review)

A-

Our Town

Provocative and highly original...Cromer strips away the layers of folksiness and sentimentality that have accrued to Wilder's script over the decades, leaving intact its melancholy heart...Thanks to this approach, each scene sounds as if it could have been written yesterday....It's also true that, in his bid to avoid easy tears, Cromer overplays his hand: Jennifer Grace's otherwise well-drawn Emily turns a little strident as she recalls the beauty of the life she has lost...Even with its few missteps, this is an Our Town to remember. If you think you know the play, think again. (Read Full Review)

A-

Donnybrook!

There's no pretending that Donnybrook! is as richly detailed or as wickedly amusing as the film ... In any case, there's a lot to like in such numbers as "Sez I," Mary Kate's declaration independence from the male sex, and "Sad Was the Day," a not entirely sincere ode to the passing of a local publican. The aces in Moore's deck are a trio of big-voiced Broadway regulars, each of whom, in addition to being thoroughly in tune with the show's contrarian humor, knows a thing or two about selling a song. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Best Is Yet To Come

All the elements for magic-making are in place: a six-pack of golden voices, an elegantly sassy band, and the scintillating songs of Coleman and his many collaborators. David Zippel...has devised a fleet and flippant overview of Coleman's output...My only real reservation...is that there could have been more of it...A slightly expanded format would have allowed for more emotional variety. (Read Full Review)

A-

Passion

...Lapine's libretto is an original and literate piece of work. The good news about John Doyle's production is that it makes the best possible case for Passion -- possibly even more than the Broadway original. Nevertheless, this is still Passion, in all its relentless, almost studied, darkness, and if, like me, you have trouble accepting the relationship at its core, it is likely to seem a curiously chilly affair... Jonathan Tunick's simple, yet stunning, arrangement... aided by an uncannily sensitive sound design by Dan Moses Schreier, is just right... Even more impressive is Judy Kuhn as Fosca...who carries a chill all her own. By any standard, it's a remarkable performance... despite its many seductions, Passion remains an attempt to dramatize a hypothetical situation rather than an accurate reflection of lived reality... If you're a fan of Passion, then this production is unmissable. If you've never seen it or are on the fence about it, you'll never see a better staging. If it leaves you cold, expect a touch of frostbite. (Read Full Review)

A-

Be A Good Little Widow

Be a Good Little Widow is by no means a perfect work, but it shows a fresh sensibility, a way of looking at characters that is both sympathetic and a little bit clinical. And, when dealing with material that might invite a certain amount of sentimentality or hand-wringing, she's a pretty tough cookie. (Read Full Review)

A-

Here Lies Love

It's a tough-minded history lesson that you dance to. Never boring for a second, Here Lies Love exploits its club atmosphere for maximum effect, the upbeat, highly danceable tunes laced with irony as these often laughable characters commit capital crimes. [Director Alex] Timbers has assembled a gifted and energetic cast to put over this true, yet trashy, tale of democracy deferred. Ruthie Ann Miles is a fabulous Imelda Marcos, blossoming into a monster before our very eyes; as a bonus, she's a dead ringer for the real Imelda. (Read Full Review)

A-

Twelfth Night

A deft balancing act, giving each of the play's emotional colors its due, and providing a playground for an unusually starry cast...All in all, Sullivan's direction has a sharp eye for understated comic detail, when Toby piously crosses himself, his whiskey bottle firmly in hand, or, at the end, when Orsino, unable to tell Viola and Sebastian apart, accidentally picks the wrong sibling for an embrace. And everyone looks great in Jane Greenwood's Regency-era costumes...This production's double vision reaches its fulfillment in the final scene in which all secrets are revealed and the paired lovers are serenaded with the oddly introspective final song...Cheers to Sullivan and company for providing three hours of civilized amusement. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin

Adding significantly to this atmosphere of shattered hopes is Beowulf Boritt's set, which places a turntable (containing James' and Karen's very different living rooms) against a peeling, weathered billboard advertising a new housing subdivision; Donald Holder's frequently crepuscular late-afternoon and morning looks add to the sense of loss. Jeff Mahshie's costumes -- James' long-sleeved slacker T-shirts, Chris' suits, Karen's no-nonsense casual wear -- fit each character perfectly. Obadiah Eaves provides some solid sound effects -- cars arriving, television programs -- as well as subtle reinforcement for his original music. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Pride of Parnell Street

If The Pride of Parnell Street pulses with some of Barry's finest writing, it also casts a harsh spotlight on his weakness as a dramatist. A novelist of note, he often constructs his plays out of monologues, a strategy that inevitably leaves one impatient for action, conflict, anything like drama. The dueling points of view do provide a certain implied tension, and there are certain passages -- especially Joe's attempt at winning back Janet's attention by quietly placing a gravestone on their child's grave -- that are particularly affecting. But narration isn't drama, and, too often, the play bogs down in lengthy stretches of prose. There's no getting away from the fact that the last half hour, with its unrelieved parade of agonies, is a bit of a trial. This would be a more significant problem if The Pride of Parnell Street wasn't powered by two riveting performances. As Janet, Mary Murray proves to be a quick-change artist of the soul, executing a series of transformations that reveal with devastating precision how the years, and their collateral damage, have had their way with her. Recalling a happy family moment, she glows with an incandescent interior light; a second later, she seems old, haggard, thoroughly used up. When violence strikes, she doesn't raise her voice, but her body trembles from the struggle to maintain her composure. Curled up on a magnificently scrofulous mattress, ravaged by illness, Aidan Kelly's Joe recalls his life as a landslide of sins and misfortunes with blackly comic detachment, his demeanor occasionally shattered by stabs of pain that leave him doubled up. Clearly, the director, Jim Culleton, is a marvel with actors; both Murray and Kelly treat the material with a welcome understatement that only adds to its power. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Film Society

When The Film Society opened in 1988...it announced the 27-year-old Jon Robin Baitz as a playwright of uncommon promise. I didn't see the play, which is one reason I'm grateful to Keen Company for reviving it; even better, Jonathan Silverstein's production is so persuasive that it's difficult to imagine anyone other than Euan Morton in the role created by [Nathan] Lane. Baitz artfully knits together academic and social politics...[and] The Film Society has the density of a good novel…For all of its considerable élan, The Film Society is still a young man's play, and during the last half hour or so you may find each of the characters giving one too many speeches, just to make sure we understand every little detail of the evening's theme. But it's hard to think of another young playwright in recent decades who delivered such a fully realized first work. This is a vivid, scalding portrait of a colony living in the past and clinging to its hidebound ideas like so much wreckage, and Morton is most persuasive as its heir apparent. (Read Full Review)

A-

A Boy And His Soul

Besides his attention-getting turn last season in Passing Strange, Domingo also appears on the Logo Network's Big Gay Sketch Show, where he has clearly honed his skills as a caricaturist. He cocks an arm at a 45-degree angle and tilts his head back to become his sister, loaded with attitude and spoiling for a fight. He shifts his upper body back, extends his legs, and lowers his voice a couple of octaves to become his grumpy, gravel-voiced stepfather. One of his most amusing characters sketches is of an aunt who stores various objects -- money, lottery tickets -- in her bra. These transformations are instantaneous and often last for only for the length of a single line. The rest of the time, he's a study in perpetual motion, irresistibly moving and grooving to that Motown beat; this is the rare solo show to come complete with its own choreographer -- in this case, the accomplished Ken Roberson. The storytelling is so genial, so evocative, and so touching that it's not until late in the evening that you realize that A Boy and His Soul isn't much more than a series of vivid family portraits attached to a rather weak throughlines. For this reason, the action lags a bit in the last ten minutes or so, when Domingo struggles to find an ending. It may be very well be that young JJ's childhood was entirely too happy for the purposes of drama. Still, as staged by Tony Kelly, A Boy and His Soul brings to life a world of feisty, funny characters who live by rules -- and a soundtrack -- of their own. (Read Full Review)

A-

Bad Jews

At a time when so many young playwrights prefer to mind their manners, Harmon is blessed with a talent for invective that might give pause even to Edward Albee; he also has the skill to compose arias that are the verbal equivalent of flaying someone alive. Whether he can create fully rounded characters is something we will learn another day. The pitched battle that is Bad Jews is not really between people, but viewpoints. But, for now, the vigor of Harmon's words is more than enough. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Model Apartment

Now 18 years later, Primary Stages is giving The Model Apartment another shot, in a production that is certainly worthy of it. This time, the ball is in the audience's court; can they accept a play that acts like a swift kick to the gut? (Read Full Review)

A-

After Midnight

…the members of the sensationally gifted company are, collectively, the spirit of nonchalance... some of the most fiendish footwork you've ever seen is delivered with a smile and shrug. Time and again, the audience is roused by a well-turned musical phrase, a single grand gesture, an intricately executed time step… completing the spell of enchantment are The Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, a superb collection of musicians… After Midnight is fast on its feet, aided by Carlyle's seemingly endless gift for inventive staging ideas and his ability to maintain an informal, this-is-happening-for-the-first-time atmosphere… this chic and casual entertainment is its own best argument. The work of Ellington and his colleagues remains one of the miracles of 20th-century American art; this is an excellent chance to get to know it better. (Read Full Review)

A-

Disaster!

One part Mad Magazine and two parts The Carol Burnett Show, Disaster! mines the lower depths of '70s pop culture for shameless hilarity...Much of this has to do with Plotnick's fast-paced, inventive direction and a cast that knows exactly how to get away with murder...Given the relentlessness of its gags and its two-hours-plus running time, Disaster! risks outstaying its welcome, however...Still, Disaster! looks like it may be the season's guiltiest pleasure, the kind of show best enjoyed by going in a group and having a couple of drinks first. (Read Full Review)

A-

One Night...

Both a strong social drama and a cat-and-and mouse thriller, One Night... creates two compelling characters whose motivations nevertheless keep you guessing. Alicia's rape is recreated to horrifying effect via Gil Sperling's video projections and Sean O'Halloran's sound design. Alicia's subsequent experience with a shockingly indifferent military bureaucracy is shown in unsparing detail, especially when she is told frankly that her search for justice is secondary to the need to preserve morale. "Why am I a hero if I die, and a nuisance if I live?" she asks. (Read Full Review)

A-

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Nobody is every going to accuse Priscilla, Queen of the Desert of advancing the musical theatre form, and, given its likely success, I shudder to think about some of the shows that will attempt to duplicate its winning formula. But resistance is futile: Priscilla is irresistible, a go-for-broke evening of bitchy hilarity, campy self-affirmation, and a few well-placed tears -- all set to a beat that you can dance to. It's party time at the Palace. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Divine Sister

Busch is never funnier than when one of his heroines is looking transcendent, her face turned upward, as if seeking out God, or her key light, or both. Loretta Young, that icon of phony Tinseltown goodwill, has always been a role model for him, and one of the joys of The Divine Sister is how it allows him to swan about the stage, dispensing dollops of great-lady graciousness to one and all...Happily, Busch has brought along some of his best wicked conspirators in the fine art of Hollywood satire...Under Carl Andress' assured direction, all of them have mastered the art of comedy, Charles Busch-style. (Read Full Review)

A-

And Away We Go

McNally wisely avoids turning his play into a parade of great men and women, preferring to focus on those largely unsung workers who dedicate their lives to the theatre despite its many discontents. Wandering through these scenes from ages past are members of a contemporary repertory company dedicated to the classics, which is facing various woes, most of them fiscal. These sequences must have a peculiar resonance for the Pearl, a company dedicated to the classics, which last year suffered a fiscal crisis that required the postponement of, yes, "And Away We Go." (Read Full Review)

A-

Invasion!

When you're in the hands of totally confident, committed theatre artists -- well, there's nothing like it. Invasion! begins with a stunning coup de théâtre -- on pain of death, I wouldn't reveal the details -- that, at the performance I attended, left the audience thoroughly hoodwinked. After that, we were putty in the hands of a nimble, exceptionally gifted company of four as they enact Jonas Hassen Khemiri's shaggy-dog story -- one of the very few plays to find genuine laughter in the ugly details of the age of terrorism ... The action unfolds on Antje Ellerman's set, which keeps acquiring new depths with each twist in the tale. Oana Botez Ban's costumes range from hip-hop fashions to the kind of look you might call CNN casual. Bart Fasbender's sound design paces the action with a variety of effects and musical selections. My one reservation has to do with Matthew Richards' lighting design; whether playing a strip of LEDs on the upstage wall or creating backlight effects with floor units, the light is sometimes aimed a little too directly at the eyes of the audience. The play is confrontational enough without resorting to such tactics. But 99% of the time, Invasion! hits its targets wittily and remorselessly, placing us inside the crazy, self-justifying logic that sees terror in every unfamiliar face. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Whipping Man

It's always a pleasure to meet a new playwright with a real gift for narrative, and, based on the evidence of The Whipping Man, Matthew Lopez has it in spades. From the minute the lights come up on a ruined, rainswept Virginia mansion -- a tumbledown gothic monstrosity that is one of John Lee Beatty's most distinctive recent achievements -- Lopez unfolds his Southern Gothic tale of race, religion, sex, and family secrets with a remarkably sure hand...It's a fascinating piece of lost history, and Lopez examines it skillfully, delineating the conflict between Jewish ethics and the demands of the South's peculiar institution...The author's storytelling knack is so assured that my only complaint about The Whipping Man is that, at times, the characters are less vivid than the story they inhabit...At a tense, compact 90 minutes, this is one play that could probably stand to be 10or 15 minutes longer. Nevertheless, under Hughes' expert guidance, all three actors deliver first-rate performances. (Read Full Review)

A-

In Transit

A brash, funny, and thoroughly charming little entertainment that casts a cocky, sideways glance at the often bizarre details of New York life...In Transit isn't so much constructed as it is pasted together, presenting a series of snapshots of New Yorkers enduring the indignities of metropolitan life while pursuing their dreams...They're hardly original conceptions, and, in truth, all four storylines are severely underdramatized. But the people make for pleasant company and the songs -- with their caffeinated rhythms and lyrics that capture the stream-of-consciousness rush of city life -- are thoroughly winning...What's most appealing about the entire enterprise is that it contains so many fresh faces; only in New York can you find so many talents you haven't heard of yet. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Emperor Jones

By teaming with some inventive designers and a commanding leading man, O'Reilly has created an experience that, one suspects, is just as nerve-rattling as O'Neill would have wished...Not everything in O'Reilly's production works. The use of performers dressed as trees, lurking in the background and reconfiguring themselves to further confuse Jones, is a little awkward -- although, in other respects, Antonia Ford-Roberts' costumes (especially Jones' military uniform) fit well into the production's hothouse atmosphere...But The Emperor Jones also provides fascinating evidence of how O'Neill could transfer his own terrible conflicts into startlingly varied theatrical frameworks. In this production, the question of racism is tabled, partly because of the power of Thompson's performance and partly because Jones so obviously seems to be a projection of the ravenous appetites and searing guilts that tormented the author...Like much of O'Neill's second-tier work, The Emperor Jones is weird, excessive, even foolish. And yet, like most of his work, it exerts its own undeniable power for all of that. (Read Full Review)

A-

Brighton Beach Memoirs

[The play] is such a funny and touching experience because Cromer has presented the play straight up, no chaser. His achievement -- and it's a considerable one -- lies in his ability to get his talented company to enliven the play with a beautifully realized design and any number of telling bits of business. Simon's play is a sentimental, sepia-toned snapshot of his family as it never was -- a hard-working, battling, wisecracking Jewish-American tribe who get through each day of the Depression on sheer grit and tough love. The first of a series of darkercomedies rooted in the author's past, it's a decidedly uneven piece of work. Cromer doesn't try to hide any flaws; instead, he deepens this sometimes cartoonish family portrait by filling out a bit of color here and extending a shadow there, bringing out dimensions that hardly seemed to exist before. (Read Full Review)

A-

Three Sisters

A fuller, truer account than any I have ever seen. Pendleton doesn't so much stage the play as he unleashes it, scattering across the CSC stage a vividly detailed, intensely alive portrait of a community of lost souls...The director's all-seeing eye is nearly as intent as the author's, and, through dozens of telling little details, we see who is in love and who is not, who is tense with expectation and who is wracked with melancholy, and, perhaps most important of all, who is at home in this house and who is terribly adrift. Canny casting is the key here...This production comes closer than any in recent memory to realizing Chekhov's account of lives spent in constant anticipation of fulfillments that are doomed to remain forever elusive...I've heard a few people complain that Paul Schmidt's translation is a bit too contemporary-sounding, but, to me, it's all in the service of a production that gives an electric charge to a play that, in other hands, has seemed rather too studied in its sadness. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Tribute Artist

If you stop to think about it, The Tribute Artist asks you to believe far too much -- Busch also somehow works anti-gay bullying and trafficking in human body parts into his bizarre storyline -- and, for that matter, the action is a little top-heavy with exposition, but as a playwright, he is meticulous about construction, and he builds his plot with enough care that it's easy to go along for the ride. Anyway, with these laughs, you'd be crazy to complain. It goes without saying that Busch is a riot, swanning around in Adriana's caftans, dispensing his own brand of great-lady graciousness to Christina and Oliver, and discreetly chasing after Rodney while (unsuccessfully) trying to keep his identity a secret from him. (Read Full Review)

A-

Aladdin

...largely delightful… It is the very essence of one of the old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road pictures… Aladdin has many of the standard Disney tropes… But all of these are overruled by an anarchic sense of fun, courtesy of director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw and an antic cast… Jacobs immediately establishes himself as a personable, big-voice leading man with a light comic touch and a smile that radiates to the back row of the balcony… You've seen it all before, but even here, things are livened up considerably by the number… "Friend Like Me," which may be the most deliriously over-the-top piece of comic choreography to be seen in New York in a long, long time… Nicholaw is the wittiest choreographer working on Broadway at the moment. The second act pretty much goes from strength to strength… In all respects, not just Barnes' costumes, Aladdin looks great... its exposition is draggy, and at times its insistent wise-guy tone can become a tad grating… But for sheer rowdy fun combined with sophisticated musical staging Aladdin is going to be hard to beat. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

In the hands of the meticulous adaptor, Rebecca Gilman, Carson McCullers' novel, about the disfiguring effects of loneliness in a small Georgia town, becomes a quietly moving drama in the Horton Foote mode ... Cristin Milioti, who made a big impression earlier in the season in David Adjmi's Stunning, is equally fine here as Mick, the 14-year-old tomboy who lives on dreams of being a composer ... Gilman deftly keeps all four narratives moving along as the characters interact with each other and with Singer, portrayed with enormous grace and feeling by Henry Stram ... If Gilman deftly recreates these characters and their interlocking stories, she does grapple with certain structural problems; much of the action consists of brief scenes, many of them lasting less than a minute, hopping from location to location. Even in Neil Patel's elegant set design, in which a series of wagons roll into place under a false proscenium, and even with the cinematic crossfades of Michael Chybowski's lighting, there's a certain amount of unavoidable dead time spent waiting to get from here to there. (Read Full Review)

A-

Mothers and Sons

Not a great deal happens in Mothers and Sons, and at times the characters have a slight tendency toward speechmaking...But…McNally has an uncanny insight into how evasions, secrets, and lies poisoned the relationship of Katharine and Andre-and, by extension, so many other parents and children of their era. There are many well-observed moments in Sheryl Kaller's production…Frederick Weller is exceptionally fine as Cal…Bobby Steggert is appealing as Will…And Daly, in a role written for her, is simply stunning…I've sometimes heard McNally accused of being too sentimental or too much of a boulevard playwright, and I suppose that, given his particular knack for bitchily amusing wisecracks and big emotional scenes, there is some superficial truth to that. But underneath the surface of Mothers and Sons is the terrible insight that no matter how devastating one's losses are, one has no choice but to move ahead, and if happiness requires a certain ruthlessness, then so be it. (Read Full Review)

A-

Baby Universe: A Puppet Odyssey

Whether or not you'll find Baby Universe interesting hinges on your ability to accept this bizarre and seemingly unwieldy premise, as well as the script's oddball blend of sentiment and horror. I resisted it for a long time, but such is the company's knack for creating haunting stage pictures that, little by little, I was drawn into this dark alternative universe. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Scottsboro Boys

The most savagely original musical to reach New York in several seasons. Not that it isn't, in some ways, typical Kander and Ebb; in works like Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman, song and dance have seduced us into a complicit knowledge of the corruption lurking behind musical comedy smiles. In The Scottsboro Boys, however, those smiles are more like bared teeth, the songs are vehicles for virulent hatred, and the dancing involves intricate time steps around an electric chair...In its Off Broadway engagement at the Vineyard Theatre last year, the show stumbled over its assaultive, presentation of minstrel conventions, a fault that has not been entirely avoided here...But there's a new confidence in Susan Stroman's production that we'll get the point without having it underlined, and, as the show goes on, it arrives at its horrifying conclusion more swiftly and surely than it did before. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Great Game: Afghanistan

Each play stands alone, zooming in on a single moment in history, looking to find the epic in the intimate...The works are, necessarily, of variable quality, but, taken as a whole, the embody the implicit drama of two cultures that somehow can't let go of each other, despite their long history of exploitation, brutality, and betrayal...It's not a pretty story, but, in the hands of these fine artists, it's an extremely illuminating one...For the vast bulk of its running time, The Great Game is a gripping, infuriating, saddening, and altogether hypnotic experience. (Read Full Review)

A-

A Free Man of Color

Too often, we punish ambition in the American theatre; how else to explain some of the more abusive notices for A Free Man of Color? Yes, it is far from a perfect work -- as many have noted, it is overlong, overstuffed, and occasionally shrill in its presentation. But it's also a major new satirical drama by one of our most distinctive playwrights, and the sheer reach of its vision is exhilarating. Even in a season filled with interesting plays on political themes, John Guare's latest work is notable for its grandeur, its original turn of mind, and its teeming cast of characters, both fictional and real. Next to it, most contemporary American plays pack the nourishment of cocktail canapés. (Read Full Review)

A-

After the Revolution

As she has demonstrated before,with her stagings of such dramas as Neil LaBute's In a Dark, Dark House and Willy Holtzman's Something You Did, the director, Carolyn Cantor, is especially skiled at keeping things moving at a crackling pace. She has the help of a first-class cast. Ironically, Emma is the most underwritten character -- I kept feeling there was a scene missing that established more fully the depth of her idealism -- but Katharine Powell makes her a most formidable young lawyer, who finds herself turning her interrogative skills on her loved ones. (Read Full Review)

A-

A Little Night Music

* When Trevor Nunn's intimate staging of A Little Night Music opened in November, it seemed a thoroughly so-so affair, despite a memorable performance by Angela Lansbury in a key role. Now, with the addition of two Broadway legends--Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch--the production sparkles and shimmers with the rueful, melancholy wit that its authors--Hugh Wheeler and Stephen Sondheim--always intended. This is a Night Music to cherish...Nunn's production is still too slowly paced, and the design--especially the lighting--can be dreary at times. Still, the cast has improved enormously. David's original review, a B, can be read here. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Mystery of Irma Vep

One of the most delightful bits of nonsense to come out of Charles Ludlam's mind, this so-called "penny dreadful" begins with a Rebecca-like premise…and folds into the narrative of the entire 1940s output of Universal Studios…It's a delirious mash-up of horror movie clichés…The kicker is, this grotesque cast of characters is played by a cast of two. Both performers have plenty of pearly moments…Of course, the real fun involves the lightning-fast changes of character and costume that turn the play into a night-long marathon, fraught with comic peril. My one reservation about the Red Bull revival is that Burton and Sella are hard-working, intelligent, and thoroughly clever actors, while Ludlam and his co-star, Everett Quinton, were inspired clowns…But stars of his nature don't come along every day, and, under Quinton's authoritative direction, this is as close to a perfect Irma Vep as we are likely to get…The Mystery of Irma Vep has proven to be a keeper, a classic comedy premise that provides a playground for the right actors. And that's what this production so happily has. (Read Full Review)

A-

Edgewise

Anytime a new playwright comes along with a knack for creating dramatic situations and ratcheting up tension to nerve-shredding levels, it's cause for celebration. Say hello to Eliza Clark; if her new drama, Edgewise, doesn't totally succeed, it introduces us to a real playwright with a real skill for keeping us on edge...For most of the short 90-minute running time, you'll be on tenterhooks, wondering where the next outburst is most likely to come from. It's too bad that the author doesn't up with a fully satisfying ending. (Read Full Review)

A-

How I Learned To Drive

As Peck, the nicest, gentlest, most sweetly reasonable pedophile you've ever met, [Butz] takes an already complex character and finds a treasure trove of new insights...One of How I Learned to Drive's most powerful truths is that the greatest evils are perpetrated by people who are convinced of their own goodness...Indeed, Butz subtly conveys how Peck sees himself as the innocent victim of a connection too powerful to be denied...In Kate Whoriskey's staging, the Greek chorus of three (here played by Kevin Cahoon, Jennifer Regan, and Marnie Schulenberg) is a particularly strong presence. (Read Full Review)

B+

Cock

With its sneakily subversive view of gay relationships and its brittle, battle-ready dialogue, Cock is the kind of play that sends the audience to the nearest bar, where they can argue about it far into the night. Anyone who can do that is clearly a talent to watch. Next time, however, I'd like to see characters who can fully embody the author's agenda. (Read Full Review)

B+

Russian Transport

In scene after scene, new horrors are revealed in matter-of-fact fashion -- prostitution, grand theft, assault -- as Alex and Mira learn just how much corruption has seeped into their family tree. Sheffer's characters speak disparagingly about the Soviet past, but most of them have embraced a form of capitalism that is, effectively, nature red in tooth and claw. This could be the stuff of melodrama -- and, at the intermission, I imagined the indie crime drama (directed by, say, Quentin Tarantino with both guns blazing) that could be made from it. Instead, Sheffer goes about her business quietly, giving us the willies by keeping the violence and histrionics to a minimum. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Threepenny Opera

Using the Blitzstein translation and rearranged into two acts with a trim running time of a little more than two hours, this is a fat-free interpretation with a clear narrative line -- not always a hallmark of Threepenny revivals -- plenty of bad attitude about the pieties of bourgeois life in the Weimar Era, and a cast of gifted vocalists who prove surprisingly suited to the acrid score by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill...The cast is not uniformly ideal...The production has a simple, strong look that recalls expressionist films and theatre of the period...And Clarke's staging has many arresting moments...One can imagine a Threepenny Opera with more humor -- the show is never as funny as its reputation suggests--but this is a solid, often inspired, production that does far more than any other I've seen to suggest why the show endures. (Read Full Review)

B+

Devil Boys From Beyond

Of course, the script is a free-for-all, a brazen mash-up of hold-the-presses clichés, wildly overwrought emoting, and mean-girl catfights. (Taking a gander at a glass container with the body of an alien baby, Lucinda snipes, "Mattie dear, a mayonnaise jar is no place to store your stillborns.") And, when all else fails, the alien devil boys are trotted out in skimpy outfits -- all the better to lecture us about same-sex marriage... Anyway, the fun is all in the playing, and Elliott has assembled a game cast of clowns who are well-versed in Theatre in Limbo's house style, which, by now is as set in stone as the rules of Restoration comedy. (Read Full Review)

B+

Ionescopade

Sleek, stylish, and spotty fun...Even in its most amusing moments, Ionescopade is never entirely free of the twee...Still, Bill Castellino directs with such a sure hand and a solid sense of style that I'd love to see him tackle other vintage revues. (Read Full Review)

B+

Horsedreams

Under Gordon Edelstein's ferociously paced and remarkably nuanced direction, all four performers deliver exceptionally strong work. Roxana Hope captures Desiree's glittering, and faintly frightening, edge, her need to be an object of desire, and the rage she feels when it is denied her. ("I want to hurt him," she says of Loman, who has done nothing but care for her. "I want to bring him to his knees.") Michael Laurence's Loman is boyishly charming at first, his face radiant with happy surprise -- which makes his slide into utter dissolution all the more horrible. Both of them are superb at enacting denial. ("I did coke -- but only a few times" is a typical remark.) Orlandersmith, who plays Mira, is a compelling presence, her watchfulness transformed into quietly mounting fury. The producers at Rattlestick must have been in a panic about finding a young actor capable of learning Luka's substantial role and giving it some kind of psychological reality; they lucked out with Matthew Schechter, who handles the job with remarkable assurance. (Read Full Review)

B+

Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays

A distinguished lineup of writers...mine what is hilarious -- and, sometimes, heartbreaking -- about the marriage equality issue. The plan is to have a revolving cast, but the genial group put together for the opening couldn't be more up to the task...It's never easy to design one of these omnibus evenings, but the team assembled here does just fine....Will be of interest mostly to those for whom marriage equality is particularly relevant, but, for any audience (except the most hard-line conservative) it offers the pleasures of real pros at work. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Aliens

Baker once again takes us on a tour of her own private Vermont, a terrain populated by the feckless, the deluded, and the cripplingly shy. And, once again, she makes sly comedy out [of] her characters' woebegone existences...Skillful as it is, The Aliens suffers in comparison to her previous work, Circle Mirror Transformation...Here, she lets her characters wool-gather a little too freely; at the intermission, I wondered if the play had any point at all...Even so, The Aliens can be enjoyed for Sam Gold's super-sensitive direction and three first-rate performances. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Kid

A breezily hilarious and emotionally acute account of what happens when a sweetly mismatched, but committed, pair of gay men decide to add a child to their lives. It also introduces us to some bright new musical theatre talents...[The Kid] wins us over by gleefully staring down any number of uncomfortable facts until we can't help but laugh...Having assigned themselves this high-wire act, the authors do occasionally stumble...Most of the time, The Kid makes an excellent argument for the case that gay parents are as crazy, neurotic, and functionally dysfunctional as their heterosexual counterparts -- and also just as loving and committed to doing the best they can for their children. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Really Big Once

The director, David Herskovits, tells the story in cubist fashion, with a talented young cast of five mouthing a collage-like text; everyone plays Williams and Kazan at one point or another, and speeches are assigned without regard to gender...It's almost as if the audience is being dared to make sense of it all. God help you if you attend The Really Big Once without some pre-existing sense of the players and story involved. But, if you are already interested in this material, there is something weirdly compelling in the spectacle of watching two of the 1950s' greatest theatre men wrestle with material that is--good or bad--somehow beyond their collective grasp...By building an avant-garde theatre piece on the history of an avant-garde theatre piece's disastrous Broadway debut, the Target Margin troupe creates a meditation on theatre history. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Maids

[I]f you're curious to see The Maids, this is a solid, stylish production, as good as many, and better than most. (Read Full Review)

B+

Milk Like Sugar

The fact that the audience is one step ahead of the characters in Milk Like Sugar doesn't really matter; they're so likable that it's hard not to hope against hope that Greenidge will spare them from making self-destructive choices. By the time she contrives to put Annie and Malik together for what is most likely a farewell date, the author has fulfilled her audience's worst fears while keeping them attentive to the details of each character's fate. She has a natural storytelling gift that bodes well for her future. (Read Full Review)

B+

Lost In Yonkers

More than once in the last few years, I've wondered if Simon, despite his phenomenal success, wasn't doomed to become another one of the American theatre's back numbers, a curiosity of another era. Happily, this production suggests there's still a lot of life left in his plays. (Read Full Review)

B+

Ode to Joy

…Ode to Joy, a frequently riveting, if not always extraordinarily lucid, drama about an alcoholic painter and her co-dependent relationships…written and acted with plenty of crackle… and it may only be as Ode to Joy comes in sight of the finish line that you begin to feel what a lopsided and slightly confounding work it is. Still, there is no more fearless playwright than Lucas, and he has plenty to say about the peculiar difficulties of being an artist and how these can be used to mask, and even justify, the most destructive behaviors. And even his most lacerating insights are accompanied by a hard-won forgiveness that takes the play beyond mere melodrama. In addition to three savagely on-target performances, Ode to Joy has a fine production design. Ode to Joy isn't Lucas' most fully worked-out or, at times, even coherent piece -- it is too stuffed with ideas that don't get fully pursued -- but it is the most powerful thing he has turned out in years. Clearly, facing his own demons has had a tonic effect on his art.
(Read Full Review)

B+

You Better Sit Down: Tales From My Parents' Divorce

A funny and hair-curling series of dispatches from the marital battlefield...It's harder to know which is more disconcerting -- the cheerfully detached way they recall these events, or the fact that most of them don't remember discussing their divorces with their children...My only complaint about You'd Better Sit Down is that, for all of the mayhem recounted, it is a rather slight piece, ending without any sense of catharsis or meaningful change...Still, there's plenty here to evoke shock-of-recognition laughter in most theatregoers. (Read Full Review)

B+

Restoration

As Restoration progresses along a thoroughly enjoyable -- if predictable -- path, we see a great work of art, and its restorer, brought back to life. Of course, Shear is perfect for the part of Giulia, but her director, Christopher Ashley, has seen to it that she is surrounded by a company that is fully equipped to take advantage of the script's juicy supporting roles ... The production also features a smashing set design by Scott Pask, depicting the museum, with the statue of David encased in scaffolding that leaves it partially revealed. (The play climaxes in a stunning reveal of the statue.) Kristin Ellert's video design includes a mock documentary about art restoration and some stunning stage-wide images of Florence. David Lander's carefully considered lighting adds depth and detail to the stage pictures. Dan Moses Schreier's sound design includes traffic sounds, the babble of museumgoers, and a torrent of clicking cameras; he has also composed some appealingly world-weary music to accompany the scene changes. (Read Full Review)

B+

Uncle Vanya

It seems as if every Anton Chekhov revival also resurrects the never-ending debate about the correct approach to his plays; Gold's solution is to create a world that, despite its modern veneer, easily contains the author's distinctive mix of blunt comedy, frustrated romance, and existential despair. This is a strategy that yields mixed results, to say the least, but the positives are impossible to dismiss...Contributing enormously to the production's effect is Annie Baker's adaptation, which is cool, often bitterly funny, and thoroughly uninterested in romanticizing the terrible loneliness afflicting the characters...To enjoy [the] fine performances, however, you have to put up with more than a few inconveniences...Gold and his company don't always make it easy for us, but they offer a view of Chekhov's text that is both true to the author's intent and entirely fresh. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Submission

It's rare that a play can get past such a weak premise to become something really interesting... But even during this wobbly opening stretch, Talbott provides plenty of amusement... Helping matters enormously is Walter Bobbie's confident staging, which has the snap and pace of screwball comedy, aided by an extremely adept cast... The Submission gets wobbly again near the finale, with a couple of twists that don't quite make sense; also, Talbott has trouble finding a way of wrapping it all up. But this is exactly the kind of promising, provocative work that a company like MCC is supposed to showcase. In the case of The Submission, they can safely say, mission accomplished. (Read Full Review)

B+

Cyrano de Bergerac

[Hodge] is giving us a distinctively different Cyrano. Typically, he is portrayed as a tall, dandyish figure, delighting in his florid manners and rapier wit...Hodge's Cyrano is more like an unleashed terrier, a scrappy bantamweight troublemaker who looks like he slept all night in his doublet...The rest of Jamie Lloyd's production is a collection of pluses and minuses...In its best moments, Lloyd's staging embraces Cyrano for the melodrama it is, full of swordfights, dashing entrances, rousing battles, and outsized emotions. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Pretty Trap

As a brief dramatic sketch whose main interest is its relationship to another, far greater work, The Pretty Trap isn't really for the average theatergoer. But for scholars, lovers of theatre history, and Williams fans, it's an unmissable opportunity to get a sense of the young author at work. And, in Katharine Houghton, it offers an actress who would make a fine Amanda Wingfield in a revival of The Glass Menagerie...The Pretty Trap isn't really a major event -- it's nothing more than a gloss on a masterpiece...but, if you have a deep interest in Williams, it has many fascinations to offer. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Patsy

Most of the time, Greenspan, under Cummings' canny direction, finds a surprising amount of humor and heart in what should be, by all rights, a lifeless antique. He gets plenty of mileage from a running gag in which Patricia, aiming for social success, delves into a book titled Wise and Witty Sayings, and baffling everyone with inappropriate remarks. ("All the world's a stage -- but most of us are only stagehands" is one of her favorites.) He makes the most of Conners' snappier wisecracks. ("I always thought husbands were like measles - you catch them or you don't catch them.") And when two lonely souls finally get together for a long-awaited kiss, he manages to present the event from both points of view. (Read Full Review)

B+

Outside Mullingar

In Outside Mullingar, John Patrick Shanley explores the eternal contrariness of the Irish in matters of the heart, to delightful and frequently hilarious effect. Outside Mullingar reunites Shanley with the director Doug Hughes, who has a solid grasp of the script's commingling of the deeply melancholy and wickedly droll…[and] has also put together a near-ideal cast. Outside Mullingar may not be the most profound play to come from Shanley's pen, but it is one of the most closely observed, both in terms of his characters' innate perversities and of the psychological climate that they inhabit.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Picnic

William Inge hit a nerve with his tale of a small town upset by a sexy, none-too-bright drifter…It's a tricky one, however-sensual and sensitive in equal measure. Lean too far in one direction, and you end up with pure melodrama; go too far the other way, and audiences will wonder what all the fuss is about. On the face of it, Sam Gold, the preferred director of some of today's better young playwrights, wasn't necessarily the first choice for this material; his style seems too casual, too deadpan, too ironic. But by applying the same patient pacing and close attention to detail that worked with The Big Meal, Kin, The Aliens, and Circle Mirror Transformation, Gold lays the foundation for a most inviting Picnic. Indeed, the director, aided by a first-rate cast, has found a hundred little ways of revealing the tempests roiling the souls of Inge's characters. Inge was never satisfied with the end of Picnic…If he could have seen Gold's production, he might have looked at Picnic with renewed appreciation. (Read Full Review)

B+

Side Effects

It just goes to show that even the dullest idea can be given a shot in the arm by thoughtful, detailed writing, skilled actors, and a perceptive director. (Read Full Review)

B+

Really Really

It's worth nothing that Colaizzo is only 26, and he wrote Really Really when he was 21, which may explain the play's overly determined plot fireworks; clearly he was out to make a big impression, and fast. With that in mind, Really Really is a promising piece of work, and he has been lucky in getting Cromer to give it the best possible airing. (Read Full Review)

B+

God of Carnage

Reza isn't so much a playwright as she is a zookeeper, assembling menageries of irritable little beasts and prodding them into displays of bad behavior. In this, she is part of a long and honorable postwar European tradition, including, but not limited to, Jean-Paul Sartre and Luis Bunuel...But she lacks the philosophical framework of a Sartre and the élan and sophistication of such Bunuel film classics as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. When one of her plays entertains, it's because she's coasting on the talents of collaborators who know how to make high-style mayhem out of her gimlet-eyed observations. This isn't the first time that she has benefitted from a translation by Christopher Hampton and direction by Matthew Warchus, but this may be the most felicitous example of their collaboration...Everyone jumps through the Reza's hoops with superb skill, keeping us amused at their awfulness, while cleverly preventing us from turning away in revulsion...While it may be tempting to dismiss her as a one-trick pony, God of Carnage has a certain stinging relevance. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Pitmen Painters

The Pitmen Painters also introduces a fresh set of design faces, all of whom work together in unified fashion. Gary McCann's setting is both a bare backstage and the grim union hall where the painters meet weekly -- a choice that keeps the characters' lives in perspective and eliminates the need for elaborate scene changes, allowing the action to unfold at a headlong pace. McCann, who apparently created the show's projections, uses a trio of screens to present the painters' work close up, allowing us to see key details of each man's style and technique. (McCann's costumes also feel grittily realistic, contrasting the men's inexpensive suits with Helen's often grand ensembles.) Douglas Kurth's lighting is full of subtle details that help to highlight the story. Martin Hodgson's remarkably creative sound design blends a number of effects -- pit elevators, drills, and air raid warnings, in addition to dance band music and the singing of Al Jolson -- between each scene, to remind us of the grim facts of everyday life in Northumberland. (Read Full Review)

B+

Good People

Good People builds its arguments slowly, relegating most of its drama to the second act, and, as such, it's a script that can use special handling. Fortunately, Daniel Sullivan is on hand to guide an ace cast through its paces, making sure our interest in the characters never flags. Frances McDormand's Margaret is a many-splendored thing -- a woman of complex moods and motives with a wicked tongue to back them up. It's a performance where the eyes have it; note the rising panic in them as she struggles to hold on to a crummy job that doesn't allow her to pay her bills. Then again, consider the provocation that flares in them when she is skillfully torturing Mike. Later, when she begins to wonder about her own motives, they look haunted, as if Margaret is rushing to conclusions about herself that she'd rather not entertain. We don't get McDormand on stage all that often and this is one of her most accomplished performances...[Good People is] clear, compassionate, and often surprisingly funny look at the way we manage the class system that so often we are reluctant to admit exists in these United States. (Read Full Review)

B+

Memphis

You don't often see such a richly imagined character in a musical and Kimball inhabits him from head to toe. The actor hasn't had the happiest theatre career to date, and it's a thrill to see him tear into material that is worthy of his talents. He is more than matched by Montego Glover as Felicia, the black singer who becomes Huey's protégée...This double dose of star power is especially felicitous because, much of the time, Memphis is stranded between two poles. Is it a searing, propulsive melodrama, or a small-scale laughter-and-tears romance lifted by a procession of roof-raisers? Hard to say, because, too often, it seems headed in both directions at once...Even when the libretto tries to get tough, it remains firmly predictable...Still, under Christopher Ashley's fast-paced direction, everyone delivers on the show's many crowd-pleasing aspects. This includes Sergio Trujillo's inventive and athletic choreography...It's not a great show, but it's a professional one, and it sends the audience home, feeling thoroughly entertained. (Read Full Review)

B+

Circle Mirror Transformation

Watching this, I felt sentenced to hell. It didn't help that the audience was loaded with actors who greeted each bit with peals of laughter. I gritted my teeth in expectation of a nearly two-hour inside joke. Then, however, I start to chuckle a bit, then a bit more. It wasn't long before big laughs were coming with surprising regularity. By the halfway point, I had completed a circular transformation of my own, convinced that I was seeing a thoroughly original little comedy of artistic manners. The playwright, Annie Baker, has given herself a tough assignment, and darned if she doesn't just about make good on it.As expertly directed by Sam Gold, the untold embarrassment caused by these unwanted revelations detonates one appalled laugh after another. The entire cast is adept at Baker's deadpan humor, especially when they're following Marty's lead with something less than enthusiasm. The funniest is Chimo as Lauren, who is fast losing patience with Marty's controlling ways ... David Zinn's rehearsal room setting is a photorealistic representation of the real thing, and his costumes tell you something about each character without seeming like anything other than everyday wear. Mark Barton's lighting cleverly underlines the script's many jumps in time, and Leah Gelpe's sound design fill the tiny pauses between scenes with realistic effects, including traffic and birdsong. (Read Full Review)

B+

Now Circa Then

The laughs come with such regularity that you might not notice that their on-the-job squabbling would probably get them fired in record time. And you might be on your way home from the theatre before you realize that Now Circa Then is little more than a deftly engineered comic sketch, and that Mensch has skimped on the details of her characters' lives ... Then again, thanks to Jason Eagan's supremely light-fingered direction and a pair of winning performances, Gideon and Margie make such good company that complaints like these seem like nit-picking ... The action unfolds on Lauren Helpern's setting, a pitch-perfect rendition of a museum's depiction of a tenement apartment ... To many, the entire sex comedy format is museum-ready, a leftover from another era. But Mensch gives it a clever contemporary spin, catching the characters in the act of discovering their own true feelings, and, by the end, you find yourself caring very much what happens to them both. (Read Full Review)

B+

Belleville

If there was an award for most merciless play of the year, Belleville would take it handily. Amy Herzog's new play is not so much a dissection of an unhappy marriage as it is a vivisection; she all but flays her characters alive, for our horrified fascination. I'm still not sure if I liked Belleville, but not for a split second did my attention wander. Belleville has been described as a psychological thriller…but in some ways Herzog seems to be intent on deconstructing the genre. Instead of generating mechanical thrills, she picks people apart, holding back crucial information until we can stand it no longer. Under Anne Kauffman's astute direction, a quartet of fine actors nails each of their characters like butterflies to a wall. My only reservation about Belleville is I'm not entirely sure what Herzog is getting at. There were times when I wondered why I should care about Abby and Zack -- even as, admittedly, I breathlessly awaited the next revelation. Belleville is a frankly ugly play, but its ugliness is ruthlessly alive. You might hate it, but you won't feel neutral about it. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Dance of Death

The productions at Red Bull are looking better all the time and The Dance of Death is no exception. In addition to Boritt's set, Clifton Taylor's merciless lighting, Alejo Vietti's smartly tailored costumes, and Brandon Wolcott's sound design, which includes gusts of wind that seem to come from hell itself, all make solid contributions. It's telling that, when asked when and why her marriage went haywire, Alice has nothing to say. All she knows is she has been locked in battle as far back as she can recall. Watching her humiliate Gustav, it becomes clear that sadomasochism is the lingua franca of these characters. Interestingly, Hardy's production takes Strindberg at face value, never letting the laughter fully obscure the unchecked rage underneath. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Testament of Mary

This is a performance so monumental that everything else on Broadway vanishes in comparison ... Warner's production is a frankly bizarre affair, full of distracting staging touches that constantly threaten to divert one's attention from Toíbín's searing words and Shaw's burning intensity ... The Testament of Mary is an extremely fine piece of writing, but it is not a play. At 80 minutes, it is a closely argued monologue, full of vivid details that build toward an admittedly astonishing summing-up, a speech that Shaw handles with devastating finesse. (Read Full Review)

B+

Oleanna

Doug Hughes' revival is, to my mind, vastly superior to the Off Broadway original, in which Rebecca Pidgeon's whiny, passive-aggressive Carol proved no match for William H. Macy's John. Here, Julia Stiles' go-for-the-jugular hostility makes her a more-than-worthy opponent for Bill Pullman, who visibly degenerates under the pressure of constantly having to defend himself. (Read Full Review)

B+

Let Me Down Easy

There are many people you should meet in Anna Deavere-Smith's latest channeling session, but none more so than Kiersta Kurtz-Burke. She's a physician at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, an institution that, she admits, most of her colleagues are looking to flee as quickly as possible, on the way to well-paying careers. (An anecdote about a male colleague's unspeakably cruel bedside manner -- it's too shocking to repeat here -- is, sadly, par for the course, she adds.) Kurtz-Burke has always prided herself on the level of care that Charity provided to the city's poorest citizens. Then Hurricane Katrina hit and she details, with devastating clarity, how everyone -- patients and staff -- were all but abandoned in the stifling heat, with no electricity and a dwindling food supply. It's no wonder, she says, that the nurses on her staff believe the government opened the levees on purpose, drowning the Ninth Ward in order to save the city's wealthier districts. Even more dismaying to her is their certainty -- accurate, as it turns out -- that they will be the very last to be rescued... The scene occurs at about the halfway point in Let Me Down Easy, and, from there on in, the show moves from strength to strength. Before that, however, it comes across as a scattered, if often incisive, collection of character sketches. (Read Full Review)

B+

How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them

...an astonishing exercise in the theatre of cruelty. What it all means, however, is quite another question… All of this may make How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them sound like other calculatedly irritating Rattlestick productions such as That Pretty Pretty, or The Rape Play or anything by Adam Rapp. But really, it is far more interesting than that. It is clearly the product of a powerful and arresting voice... Feiffer gets excellent support from Kip Fagan's production, which pitches the action at a precise note of hysteria that never becomes too wearing, and from three sterling performances… At the very least, How to Make Friends and Kill Them is a fine introduction to three young actresses who are very much worth knowing about. Still, the question of where Feiffer is going with all of this hangs over the proceedings. The play is never boring, but it is repetitive and one has to wonder why the characters never acquire adult demeanors… No matter how you look at it, How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them is an attention-getter, and Feiffer has a gift for invoking a child's-eye view of a world of mayhem. (Read Full Review)

B+

A Bright New Boise

Hunter's skill with his characters ensures that no one is patronized, and Davis McCallum's remarkably polished production maintains a fine balance between the script's out-of-left-field humor and its profound sadness. There's fine work from a cast of new faces: Andrew Garman perfectly captures Will's deep-seated unease, his awkward body language, and halting speech. The open, almost childlike wonder with which he greets Alex's bitter, and not inaccurate, comments is especially affecting, as is the moment when he bares the savage disappointments that fuel his faith. Matt Farabee's self-lacerating Alex is a fine study in free-floating anger inflected with quieter glimpses of need. John Patrick Doherty persuasively evokes Leroy's hipster, avant-garde-for-Boise attitude, as well as the worried, troubled young man underneath. Sarah Nina Hayon gives Anna a surprising edge when needed, and Danielle Slavick's Pauline is an authoritative study of the middle manager as martinet. (Read Full Review)

B+

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

Once again, Birbiglia demonstrates his gift for making the entire audience his confidante; he is never so funny as when, having gotten a gasp from the audience, he responds, sympathetically, "I know." Even when the subject matter turns wild and woolly, he seems incapable of pushing for a laugh. And, unlike John Leguizamo, he's content to sign off after 90 minutes, happily leaving us wanting more. Under Seth Barrish's guidance, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend has a number of pleasingly theatrical touches, including Beowulf Boritt's blackboard set, which is covered with scrawled chalk marks, and Aaron Copp's lighting, which subtly supports and highlights the text. There's nothing fancy here, just good, solid professional work. That comment could extend to Birbiglia himself, a true pro who treats a well-worn topic with such originality and insight that he wins us over without seeming to try. I hope that he has more chapters of his life to share with us -- I look forward to the digression (Read Full Review)

B+

Hamlet

This is an old-fashioned, by-the-numbers revival that engages only when the star occupies center stage...Law gives us a prince who is, quite simply, outraged at the rank corruption polluting the court of Denmark...In speech after speech, he sorts through his feelings, painfully working his way toward conclusions that can end only in bloody revenge. Law also invests Hamlet with a daunting intelligence and guile...Michael Grandage's handling of the trimmed text brings out the terrible logic of Shakespeare's play, how the Ghost's revelation to Hamlet of Claudius' crimes sets off an inexorable chain of events, ending in a roundelay of deaths...But, compared to Law's headlong characterization, the rest of the cast fades into the scenery...In fact, the general level of performance is so flat that I wonder if the real problem is that nobody has adjusted his or her work upward, from the intimate Donmar Warehouse, where the production originated, to the Broadhurst, a large-ish Broadway house. As long as Law is on stage, however, there's plenty to keep one engaged. (Read Full Review)

B+

Pippin

Some actors steal a show; Andrea Martin takes over Pippin the way Sherman took Georgia-with ruthless efficiency and brooking no opposition. If Martin provides Pippin with its greatest star turn, it is hardly the only one; Pippin thrives on-indeed, requires-outsized personalities to put it over. Cleverly, Diane Paulus' production adds a full complement of 21st-century thrills paying tribute to the Fosse tradition…[and she] has found a cast of personalities that can carry this slightly rickety vehicle even when we aren't being distracted by the hocus-pocus...There is no finding the core of Pippin; at its heart it remains a dull fable about a wandering youth who finally realizes that real life is better than his ill-formed dreams. But as Bob Fosse and now Diane Paulus have demonstrated, it can still be the occasion for plenty of flash, dazzle, and fun. Pippin was never a good musical, but it can make for a hell of a show.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Core Values

Core Values provides ample evidence that Levenson is a playwright to remember. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Other Place

Metcalf negotiates the twists and turns of Sharr White's script with the skill of an acrobat doing backflips. From moment to moment -- sometimes second to second -- she is authoritative, bitter, sarcastic, accusatory, terrified, and ravaged by furies. It's a Grucci-level display of emotional fireworks, and yet each shift in attitude seems part of a carefully considered approach to the character; at no time do you feel you're being subjected to a vain display of technique. This is one of the most notable performances of the year. That The Other Place isn't one of the most notable productions of the year has to do with White's script, which seems calculated to create a tour de force for an actress rather than making any kind of meaningful comment on mental illness or family life...If not for Metcalf's nerve-shredding intensity, The Other Place might feel like an unpleasantly calculating piece of work. Everything else in Joe Mantello's production is first-rate. (Read Full Review)

B+

Little Black Dress

If Little Black Dress reads more strongly than it plays, it is, I suspect, because it has yet to find its ideal production. Nevertheless, it provides further evidence, following his earlier work, The Atheist, that Noone is a playwright with a distinctively dark sense of humor. Maybe next time out, he'll get more of a full-service production. (Read Full Review)

B+

A Picture of Autumn

It's conventional wisdom that the Mint Theatre Company rescues lost plays; more recently, it has been salvaging playwrights…A Picture of Autumn introduces us to N. C. Hunter, and once again it is something of a revelation. Interestingly, the Mint has chosen one of this obscure author's most obscure works. It's pretty clear that stasis will overwhelm this little tribe [at the center of this drama], but Hunter's treatment of them--a combination of clear-eyed affection and brutal candor, mixed with a slightly surreal sense of humor--keeps us vitally interested in their communal fate. Under Gus Kaikkonen's finely wrought direction, you'll believe that the residents of Wilton Manor have been quietly driving each other mad for years. It's strange to think that N. C. Hunter was more or less put out of business by the likes of John Osborne and his angry young colleagues…for all its gentle manners, A Picture of Autumn, in its presentation of a country suffering profound spiritual drift, is as pointed and devastating as anything Osborne ever wrote. Say hello to N. C. Hunter, and let's hope we hear from him again soon.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Benefactors

Not seen in New York since its modest Broadway run in 1985, it proves to be aging remarkably well -- at least in Carl Forsman's well-cast and acutely observed production...Nothing goes well for anyone in Benefactors. One marriage is destroyed, another is changed beyond recognition; revenge proves fleeting and barely worth the effort. Frayn isn't one for melodrama, however, and he makes clear that all of his characters will find a way to go on, one way or another. Still, this resolution is a far cry from the hopes and ideals with which the play begins. The distance between these two things is what makes Benefactors such a wise and absorbing piece of work. (Read Full Review)

B+

Nobody Loves You

This represents one of the show's rare missteps; in his laudable desire to keep Nobody Loves You a fast, funny 90 minutes, the librettist, Itamar Moses, telescopes the action, introducing the contestants, then jumping ahead several weeks when they've been whittled down to a precious few. This leaves Jeff standing outside the action a little too much; we'd like him better and more quickly if we saw him subjected to a few of the show's more mortifying rituals. Nevertheless, under Michelle Tattenbaum's delectably farcical direction, the amusement never flags as each contestant throws his or her dignity to the four winds, taking part in such exercises as "The Obstacle Course of Love" and "The Crush Ceremony." (Read Full Review)

B+

Natural Affection

Not to be dismissed, Natural Affection is, even in its most lurid moments, the work of a talented playwright struggling to express how stifling conformity and dissatisfaction is eating away at his middle-class characters. It's no surprise that audiences in 1963 weren't interested, and many today will find Natural Affection to be similarly off-putting, if only because the author's despairing view ultimately becomes so airless. But this fine production is often powerful on its own terms, and it adds enormously to our understanding of Inge's star-crossed career. Once again, TACT has done us a favor. (Read Full Review)

B

County of Kings

County of Kings mixes straight narrative passages with poetry-slam-style riffs for moments of heightened emotion. At times, the rush of words is so thick that you'll have to listen extra hard. It's also a bit of a challenge because, for all his undeniable skill as a writer, Andersen isn't an especially gifted performer. The ability to deliver a short, intense poem into a coffee-house microphone doesn't really prepare one for the rigors of carrying a 90-minute solo piece. He's particularly weak at evoking the other characters in the text. This problem is especially apparent right now, when such outsize personalities as Coleman Domingo, Charlayne Woodard, and, yes, Carrie Fisher, are holding forth, all by themselves, on Manhattan stages. It's hard not to feel that Elise Thoron, who directed (and also developed the piece), hasn't quite gotten Andersen to the point where he is fully up to the ambitions of his own text. (Read Full Review)

B

The North Pool

It's a tribute to Joseph's skill that The North Pool remains compelling even when it isn't very convincing. He gets major assistance from Giovanna Sardelli's direction and a cast that never lets the tension level drop, even for a second. Stephen Barker Turner's Danielson is a self-righteous bully, battered by life and unable to see how his envy and disappointment color his behavior; trapped in an unexpected battle of wills, Babak Tafti's Khadim skillfully plays rope-a-dope, deflecting and evading Danielson until he bares his fury with surprising force. The two men play off each other with remarkable skill, keeping us guessing which of them will gain the upper hand next. (Read Full Review)

B

The Pee-wee Herman Show

You've got to admire the skill with which Reubens and company dispense their gags -- and how, at 58, Reubens can still prance about the stage, every spastic movement intact...The Pee-Wee Herman Show is a cue-perfect technical extravaganza...The director, Alex Timbers, runs a tight ship, and the show proceeds at a rapid clip, without a second of wasted time...Somewhere around the 70-minute mark, however, my good will caved in and I was ready to go home -- to say that this wasn't a typical reaction is, at the least, an understatement. (Read Full Review)

B

A Lifetime Burning

As long as the author, Cusi Cram, is aiming poison darts at her self-obsessed characters, A Lifetime Burning is gleeful, malicious fun ... Overall, Pam McKinnon's staging works reasonably within the play's limits. Jennifer Westfeldt's charm and solid comic timing help to fend off our nagging questions about Emma until relatively late. As Tess, Christina Kirk gets her laughs, although I wish her line readings were a little less emphatic. Raul Castillo's likeability goes a long way toward making Alejandro a credible character. As Lydia, Isabel Keating pockets every scene she's in ... [E]ven if A Lifetime Burning goes awry, it's the work of a real talent, and Primary Stages is doing us all a favor by giving Cram a New York showcase. (Read Full Review)

B

Rantoul and Die

In its best moments, Rantoul and Die is written with a fury that burns these small-town losers into your brain. In its less successful moments, it seems desperate to shock by any means necessary. In its worst moments, it seems like a freak show designed to give permission to a New York audience to laugh at a bunch of losers from Nowheresville. Nevertheless, under Stull's direction, the performances frequently have the impact of a pickup truck striking a brick wall at 60 miles an hour. Roberts isn't an important voice in American drama--not yet, anyway--but he has a gift for scalding language and characters who aren't as easily pinned down as you might guess. Right now, he needs to pick and choose his effects more carefully, as opposed to carpet bombing the audience with freakish behavior. Rantoul and Die is really just a collection of scenes, all of them overloaded with shock tactics, but the best of them definitely scald.
(Read Full Review)

B

That Hopey Changey Thing

In his program notes, Nelson calls That Hopey Changey Thing...a "disposable" play, by which he means it's so of the moment that may become relatively meaningless in a short while. That may well be true but, right now, it has a great deal to say about how America's liberals, so recently consumed by euphoria, find themselves in a remarkably dark place...The dinner is casual, a thrown-together event to be followed by a night of watching the election returns -- but, during a 90-minute conversation in which hardly a voice is ever raised, we are reminded that Nelson is unmatched at a) portraying close-knit family (and quasi-family) groupings and b) using tiny, but telling, remarks to lay bare the fault lines and hidden alliances among them...Once this conversation starts, many provocative points are raised. We are made to relive many Democratic follies...If Nelson is a master at folding these talking points into a thoroughly believable family setting, it's regrettable that he hasn't done more to whip up a little drama...Not for the first time, I've wondered if he is the ideal director of his own plays. (Read Full Review)

B

A Map of Virtue

Has a way of getting your attention and keeping it, thanks to Courtney's eerily precise way with words and the tremendous assurance of Ken Rus Schmoll's direction. Courtney clearly isn't one for sticking to the rules--except the one that says you get and hold the audience's interest. On that note, she succeeds very nicely, thank you...The script is arguably overloaded with thematic red flags - or are they red herrings? -- including, but not limited to, the preponderance of bird imagery...It helps that Schmoll has assembled a cast that is firmly on Courtney's wavelength. (Read Full Review)

B

CQ/CX

You'd think that, with his insider's point of view, McKinley would be the man to deliver a lively, no-holds-barred account of one of the Times' most mortifying episodes, but it would seem that his years at the Gray Lady have permanently colored his approach. The great drama about the Blair affair remains to be written, and I'm guessing that it will come from an outsider with a strong imagination and nothing to lose. (Read Full Review)

B

Far From Heaven

Even if one wonders if the show's creators might have done more to give Far From Heaven a theatrical identity of its own, it serves as a deluxe vehicle for O'Hara, who handles a marathon role with remarkable delicacy and insight. And, of course, her voice seduces with every perfectly wrought note. Even in her final appearance, when Cathy, stripped of nearly everything that once made her life matter, admits that she was living in a dream -- a moment of both loss and, oddly, triumph -- she is nothing less than ravishing. There is more to Far From Heaven than Kelli O'Hara, but she alone is more than enough to justify a visit. (Read Full Review)

B

Blood and Gifts

A rich narrative, loaded with revelations and reversals, and utterly dismaying in its conclusions...This production couldn't be more timely...Under the smartly paced direction of Bartlett Sher, the tension builds, the ironies multiply, and crimes are committed for reasons that seem less and less clear as the damage piles up...Blood and Gifts is far from perfect, but it becomes more and more involving as it goes along. (Read Full Review)

B

Private Lives

For reasons I've never really understood, Private Lives, conceived as a work of youthful daring, has, with age, become a warhorse for superannuated stars...Eyre's production gets one thing absolutely right: As played by Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross, Amanda and Elyot are wicked children in grown-up clothing...The only thing wrong with Cattrall and Gross is that they are simply too old for their roles...Furthermore, Eyre's direction doesn't always provide his stars with the right kind of support. (Read Full Review)

B

Falling for Eve

It's not perfect, but it has a way of winning you over; it starts out simple and silly, but then--you should pardon the expression--it evolves into something surprisingly complex and engaging...Just as the storyline picks up some steam, the score--music by Bret Simmons, lyrics by David Howard--breaks out of its cheerful children's-theatre mode, its tinkly melodies and easy, simple rhymes giving way to darker, bluesier chords and words that have a little bit of fight in them...Larry Raben's direction has a blessedly light touch. (Read Full Review)

B

Born Bad

If the result is something like Harold Pinter translated into a British black vernacular, it's also clear that Green has a voice of her own and dramatist's instincts. However, one must add that Born Bad, which won an Olivier Award, is somewhat hobbled by its own format...If individual scenes jump to life, the overall effect is a little bit flat; also once the conventions of the play have been established, there's little in the way of development. Even with a 60-minute running time, the author is pushing her luck. In any event, the director, Leah C. Gardiner, gets a set of emotionally committed performances from the cast. (Read Full Review)

B

Bullets Over Broadway

…Woody Allen and Susan Stroman have conspired to produce the big, splashy, stylish old-school musical that every season needs. By and large, they have succeeded, with one proviso: This is musical comedy that lacks a distinctive musical voice. This being a Woody Allen show, a cast of expert comics is assured…Bullets Over Broadway is so self-assured that it's hard not to notice that the score, a collection of '20s-era pop and jazz tunes, often seems incidental to the action. This unwillingness to fill out the characters is perhaps connected to a slight uncertainty of tone in the second act…Bullets Over Broadway certainly fills a gap in the season's offerings, providing the big, uncomplicated evening of fun that should keep the St. James filled for some time. And if I still wish it had a score that illuminated the characters, raised the dramatic stakes, and helped advance the plot? Well, t'aint nobody's bizness if I do.
(Read Full Review)

B

Knickerbocker

For all of its quietly pointed wit and clear-eyed wisdom, Knickerbocker is a conversation piece, and, as Jerry duels, in friendly fashion, with each new interlocutor, you may begin to wish that Sherman had been more attentive to investing his piece with some dramatic conflict. There are longueurs, and not all of the author's attempts at humor come off. But the piece never bores, and, as it unfolds, it touches on some surprisingly deep feelings. This is especially true in the next-to-last scene, featuring Jerry's father, Raymond. Here we see a bond that has survived all tests, beginning with the loss of Jerry's mother to madness and an early death. Clearly Raymond was an imperfect father -- among other things, he tried to foist a set of condoms on his prepubescent son before sending him to sleepaway camp ("I wanted you to be well-rounded," is his entirely lame explanation.) -- but the affection between father and son is real, as is often the case between survivors of terrible events. (Read Full Review)

B

The Jacksonian

Both arresting and more than a little off-putting, The Jacksonian suggests that Henley may be headed in a new and more coherent direction. Even when it disappoints, it makes one curious to see where this distinctive writer may go next. (Read Full Review)

B

Painting Churches

The original 1983 production of Painting Churches would be hard to beat -- I fondly remember it as the moment when I suddenly understood the brilliance of Marian Seldes, whose Fanny was one for the books -- and Carl Forsman's current staging, which certainly has its moments, doesn't really challenge one's memories. But it certainly captures the play's singular tone -- which might be best described as A. R. Gurney gone absurdist -- and it features three very solid performances. (Read Full Review)

B

Through the Night

Beaty's ability to inhabit characters of all ages and social levels -- a few ladies make cameo appearances as well -- is pretty much unparalleled. He often leaps from one persona to another in the space of a few lines, but never for a second are we uncertain or confused as to where we are. A small shift in posture and a change of voice is all that's needed. Even more than in his last, very impressive, New York appearance, in Emergen-SEE!, Beaty has perfected the technique of the solo show that contains multitudes...Too much of the time, however, Through the Night is given over to speechmaking; the action stops dead for exhortations, frequently in rhyme, designed to make the characters stand up and fly right. Many lines seem overtly designed to get a hand from the audience, which they often do: "A black man needs something he owns to overcome his history of being property," notes Eric's mother, a debatable point that brought the house down at the performance I attended. If that's not sentimental enough for you, there's always Eric, the preternaturally wise boy, who says, "My life's work is to find a cure for broken hearts," and who may or may not kill himself so the others can be healed. Other formulaic touches includes Dre's denunciation of God -- which somehow you know will be taken back in record time -- and a brief appearance by Isaac's boyfriend, a nelly queen whose fey, hey-there-girlfriend manner got a huge, and not entirely sympathetic, laugh. (This character is restricted to one appearance only, possibly because Beaty - who is bravely taking on the issue of black homophobia - knows the limits of his core audience's tolerance.) (Read Full Review)

B

Queen of the Mist

Cast as Anna Edson Taylor, who, at the unlikely age of 63, rode over Niagara Falls in a barrel, [Testa] is one part con woman, one part visionary, and all parts wonderful...This is one of LaChiusa's finest scores, with fiercely assertive melodies supported by a strongly melancholy substructure and words that are clean, clear, and evocative of the turn of the last century...If LaChiusa is one of the most inventive and original theatre songwriter now at work, he is, at best, an indifferent librettist, and Queen of the Mist runs into major second-act problems...Still, there's plenty to love about Jack Cummings III's production. (Read Full Review)

B

Dr. Knock or the Triumph of Medicine

As translated and staged by Gus Kaikkonen, Dr. Knock is a genial, mildly barbed spoof of the medical profession, marred by too much exposition and a certain lack of conflict, but given a big lift by an extremely expert cast of sly farceurs ... Eighty years after they were written -- when every TV, magazine, and website is loaded with ads for medication to treat, say, restless leg syndrome -- Romains' gags seem freshly minted. We can't say the same about his dramatic construction. It takes a good half-hour of exposition to set the plot in motion. And the spectacle of Dr. Knock fleecing everyone in sight is pretty much the whole show. Romains never finds a strong antagonist or plot complication to put in his path, preferring to let him coast to victory. If I were a doctor, I'd describe the play as slightly anemic, a little underfed, and a good candidate for reconstructive surgery. Still, there's fun to be had from Kaikkonen's deft handling of the script and the cast's skillful underplaying. (Read Full Review)

B

The Lady WIth All the Answers

The script is nothing but a series of delaying tactics -- how many times can she not write the column -- and Rambo struggles to keep things going even for only 90 minutes, including intermission. Ivey is more than willing to massage her lines into something like a drama, but a vehicle is supposed to support the star, not the other way around. But oh, the hell with it: Ivey is irresistible, whether she's teasing the audience with a handful of letters about sex ("You really want to hear some of these, don't you," she smirks), modeling her floor-length fur, recalling how she took it upon herself to explain the details of oral sex on a local talk show, and showing a little steel in her smile as he deals with Jules on a long-distance call. From start to finish, she's the kind of funny, frank, foursquare dame you'd love to tell your troubles to. (Read Full Review)

B

So Help Me God!

It would be lovely to say that So Help Me God! is thoroughly worthy of [Johnston], but, in the words of those critics, the star is not always ably supported. This lost work by Maurine Dallas Watkins, author of Chicago (the source material for the musical) is a standard backstage farce of the period (1928), peopled with cardboard cutouts and distinguished largely by a diamond-hard distaste for the hustlers and money-grubbers of the Great White Way. It's loaded with characters and subplots, all of whom come and go at a frantic rate; the one real conflict, involving a starstruck mouse from Cincinnati who grows a few claws after appearing opposite Lily, isn't all that interesting, despite the fine work of Anna Chlumsky as the aspirant with Klieg lights in her eyes. Several promising situations are brought up, then dropped, as Lily is basically allowed to run amok for three acts. (It would be instructive to see The Royal Family and So Help Me God! in the same day; the contrast between Watkins' pedestrian construction and low-down gags and Kaufman and Ferber's pristine high comedy would hardly be flattering.) (Read Full Review)

B

Chinglish

There's a downside to this comedy of business manners, however; in holding his people at arm's length from each other, none of them ever acquires anything more than two dimensions. At first, it's a little surprising to see a Chinese-American playwright make such cartoons out of his Asian characters -- until you realize that the Westerners don't have much more to them. The play requires a delicate balance, relying on the comedy of cultural misunderstanding -- rather than any kind of character identification-- to keep one's interest, and it's an effort that falters from time to time. (Read Full Review)

B

Dancing at Lughnasa

I'm still not convinced that Dancing at Lughnasa might not work better as a prose piece, but, under Moore's direction, a multitude of nuances add up to a pointillist picture of emotionally starved siblings clinging to each other for dear life, even as little cracks of conflict appear between them. (Read Full Review)

B

Million Dollar Quartet

Even if you're not a fan of this kind of dead-celebrity entertainment, Million Dollar Quartet has four ferociously talented performers on offer...And there's no question that Million Dollar Quartet has been slickly and professionally staged. Eric Schaeffer's direction keeps the energy level spiking off the charts; he even manages to generate some tension out of the script's meager conflicts...It's easy to make an audience happy with songs it already knows -- but what kind of musical theatre do we have if it doesn't make its own kind of music? (Read Full Review)

B

Time Stands Still (early 2010)

[Linney] moves through Donald Margulies' drama like a low-pressure weather cell, providing this drama of modern relationships with a cool breeze of skepticism...If the role of Sarah is a gift for Linney, it's also true that Time Stands Still is a mixed blessing for all involved...Like everything else in the play, however, the ugly realities of Iraq seem oddly disconnected from the articulate conversation unfolding in Sarah and James' chic loft...If, in the end, Time Stands Still comes across as a talky romantic drama set against a distant background of wartime trauma, it benefits from Daniel Sullivan's nicely detailed and unsentimental staging, and from the solid contributions of four highly professional stars...If the play never quite manages to provide satisfying drama, Linney's fierce dedication to her character is something to behold. (Read Full Review)

B

After Miss Julie

If After Miss Julie must be listed under the season's misfires, it's a classy and fascinating one, put together by people of real talent. The problem is, what do we make of August Strindberg today -- and what of value does he have to say to us? (Read Full Review)

B

Glengarry Glen Ross

If anything, Daniel Sullivan's cast may be a little too mesmerized by Mamet's words to fully put them to the uses of drama. What's missing from this otherwise strong revival is the stench of desperation, the Darwinian awareness that forces them to use every trick in the book to close deals on (probably useless) Florida real estate. It's a kind of jazz arrangement of Death of a Salesman, making harsh, astringent music out of the art of the deal; Mamet's characters are stripped of Willy Loman's illusions of being admired; instead they pressure, wheedle, and con their marks into making expensive purchases they neither need nor want. (Read Full Review)

B

Les Misérables

It certainly has its moments, but, to my mind, the necessary compression of Victor Hugo's boulder of a novel into slightly less than three hours of running time only highlights the many contrivances of the ludicrously coincidence-riddled narrative… Still, for that not inconsiderable portion of the population that has always thrilled to Les Miz, this is a Les Miz that packs many thrills. First among them is the Jean Valjean of Ramin Karimloo… Quite simply, he has it all… Will Swenson earns plenty of bravos as well… Not everything is as satisfying about Laurence Connor and co-director James Powell's production. The Fantine of Caissie Levy seems more professional than heartfelt, even as she belts her way through "I Dreamed a Dream"… Samantha Hill and Andy Mientus are competent but not really exciting… If Les Misérables is destined to be as inevitable as death and taxes, at least Mackintosh and company are guaranteeing it a first-class presentation. (Read Full Review)

B

Hair

If you didn't catch it the first time around, at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park or later on Broadway, here's your chance. If you've already seen it, you'd probably do just as well staying home with your fond memories. This is a slick, fast-paced staging featuring an energetic young company, but the mostly recast leads lack the distinctive personalities of their predecessors. (Read Full Review)

B

Children

Children was Gurney's first full-length play, and while his camera eye for the absurdities of WASP society was fully in operation, his distinctive wit had yet to arrive on the scene...One misses the hilarity of such recent Gurney comedies as Black Tie or Indian Blood, in which WASP manners are submitted to an examination more thorough than any CT scan. Still, even in this early effort, the author had a knack for turning the tiniest social skirmish into a battle of world views...The characters' portraits are both sympathetic and stingingly true, and the action climaxes arrestingly. (Read Full Review)

B

All New People

It's almost as if, after 90 minutes of scathingly funny wisecracks, the author suddenly needed to provide a raison d'être for all these seedy/funny goings-on. (Braff isn't below stooping for a laugh, either; some of the material is unpleasantly coarse, such as Kim's professional explanation of the difference between crabs and scabies, which had me ready to head to the lobby for a drink.) But this late-in-the-day stab at seriousness feels pro forma and tacked on. But, under Peter DuBois' deft direction, an adept quartet of high comedians will most likely keep you laughing at some highly appalling examples of contemporary behavior. David Wilson Barnes is the edgiest of the crew, handing out tough love to Charlie and struggling between his lust for Kim's body and his contempt for her empty head. (Read Full Review)

B

A Lie of the Mind

Having proved his stage chops in a variety of modern and classical roles, [Hawke has] emerged as a remarkably assured director as well. Only strong, confident talents need apply to Shepard's big, baggy, harrowing monster of a play, and, from the production's opening moments, it obviously resides in very good hands...Thanks to the extremely capable and superbly handled company, scene after scene brims with black comic rage and lurking menace. Oddly enough, however, Hawke's fluent staging and the company's unified style backfires in one significant respect--all these fine performances have a way of exposing that, for all of its moment-by-moment brilliance, the play is hounded by a ponderous structure and clashing tones...The author blends melodrama and farce in a way that becomes increasingly unpalatable as the action wears on. (Read Full Review)

B

Almost, Maine

At times like these, it becomes clear that there is no symbol or turn of phrase that the author isn't willing to render in the most literal of terms.

Again and again, the hugely skilled cast -- joined by Cariani himself -- challenges the material, finding something authentic amid all the writerly conceits. (Read Full Review)

B

Olive and the Bitter Herbs

At least in the first act, Olive and the Bitter Herbs packs many crowd-pleasing elements, especially for older audiences who miss the days of old-fashioned Broadway comedies, but, in truth, Busch's play mostly serves to demonstrate that they don't make them like they used to. (Read Full Review)

B

Rent

How does Rent fare in its new down-market digs? It's certainly looking good after all these years. Mark Wendland's new setting is a two-level assemblage of fire escapes, rabbit-warren hallways, rolldown store gates, and leaded windows, adding up to an accurately forbidding portrait of the Lower East Side of two decades ago. Kevin Adams' lighting suffuses the action with bursts of saturated color and festoons the stage with clusters of light bulbs, an appropriate choice for a show that begins and ends on successive Christmas Eves. Peter Nigrini's projections add images of tent cities, streetscapes, and trash television. Angela Wendt's ragbag of costumes is as on the money as it ever was. If the overall effect of this new Rent is a tad muted, it's partly because of an uneven cast and partly because of circumstances beyond anyone's control. (Read Full Review)

B

Now. Here. This

Given the show's scattered, loose-limbed, what-shall-we-talk-about-next quality, it's probably not surprising that Now. Here. This. is marked by a certain unevenness. As the gags whiz by, some of them are bound to miss their marks. And some sequences -- including a not-very-amusing account of a seafaring birthday party that ends in a gigantic case of mal de mer -- seem a little too off-topic for their own good. But all four performers have perfected the fine art of playing themselves, and, under Michael Berresse's canny direction, the show has a pleasingly improvisational air. If anybody is capable of entertaining us with a spiritual pep talk, it's this funny foursome. (Kudos, also, to Larry Pressgrove, the group's equivalent of the fifth Beatle, who collaborated on the orchestrations and vocal arrangements, and serves as musical director.) (Read Full Review)

B

Is Life Worth Living?

For most of the first act, Is Life Worth Living? looks to be one of the Mint's most golden finds. But the piece wobbles in the second act; Robinson doesn't so much develop his theme as repeat it, and the fun thins out a little. I also can't help feeling that the climactic scene, in which Hector and Constance are dispatched, should be funnier and more touching. I could also do without the Irish reel the entire cast dances at the finale; the play has a perfectly good curtain line and needs no such folkloric touches. But, once again, the Mint has found a perfectly playable piece from the past, serving it up in a charming production. (Read Full Review)

B

Food and Fadwa

Dispensing with polemics, the playwrights aim instead at exploring the texture of life in one of the world's most politically fraught corners...In their treatment of family and romantic issues, the authors are similarly neutral...In fact, if there's any complaint to be made about the play, it's that it could use a little less food and a little more Fadwa...Still, under Shanna Gold's sure-handed direction, a skilled cast creates a world that most of us know very little about...It provides a much-needed counterpoint to a popular culture that typically portrays Middle Easterners as religious fanatics or human bombshells. (Read Full Review)

B

Into the Woods

Has a simple, but unmistakably clever, premise, replacing the show's avuncular, man-of-a-certain-age narrator (Tom Aldredge and John McMartin in previous versions) with a little boy...It's a concept that pays big emotional dividends in Act II, leading to an emotionally binding finale...By itself, it probably justifies this revival. But if Sheader and Steel's production capitalizes on the strengths that make Into the Woods so easy to admire, it also magnifies the weaknesses that make it so hard to love...Even if the finale leaves you in tears, you may feel that the entire enterprise is both willful and a little bit schizophrenic...The casting choices, all of which looked good on paper, are equally mixed...The directors' vision, whatever you think of it, is distinctive enough to give Sondheim fans something to talk about. (Read Full Review)

B

Play It Cool

All hail Sally Mayes, one of our most distinctive musical theatre stars. Both a Broadway and a jazz baby, she can deliver a ballad straight, no chaser, breaking your heart in the process...Play It Cool is both underdramatized and overmusicalized...Everything that happens feels motivated by the librettists, not the characters. As a result, what should be a steamy, wisecracking melodrama set to a jazz beat never quite pays off. Still, if Play It Cool never really heats up, it's frequently enjoyable, thanks to the leading lady, her on-stage companions, and a handful of lively tunes. (Read Full Review)

B-

Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play

The third act gives one plenty of time to think about Mr. Burns, leading to the unfortunate conclusion that the play's brilliance consists of its elaborate arrangement (and rearrangement) of surface details, not in its thematic structure; I'm sure we're all agreed that a nuclear disaster would be a terrible thing. Washburn's point about pop culture and collective memory seems powerful at first, but the play consists of the same point repeated three times, ultimately to diminishing effect. (Read Full Review)

B-

Red Dog Howls

Chalfant's delivery of the speech -- her posture erect, her voice clinically precise, her eyes staring into an abyss only she can see -- guarantees that no one will be able to look away, no matter what.

If the rest of Red Dog Howls were on the same level it would be one of the most remarkable plays of the year. Sadly, the rest of Alexander Dinelaris' script is a flat and awkwardly assembled affair, a flawed setting for a dark jewel. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Bridges of Madison County

…for all its telling and touching moments, The Bridges of Madison County stops just short of delivering the emotional knockout punch that it seems to promise all along. This is, I submit, because, from time to time, Norman and Brown seem confounded by the challenge of creating sophisticated theatre from such rudimentary materials... the story of Francesca and Robert's affair never escapes a certain falseness… the scenes focusing on Francesca's family and neighbors, given relatively little stage time, feel too thinly drawn, and the occasional attempts at comic relief feel thoroughly out of place. Still, there are many moments marked by musical and lyrical intelligence...
As always, O'Hara builds a subtly detailed characterization… Pasquale has less to work with, but his charismatic presence goes a long way… In addition to doing fine work with his cast, Bartlett Sher's staging makes interesting use of Michael Yeargan's set design… for all the carefully wrought work on its edges, Norman and Brown don't entirely transform its glossy, women's fiction heart. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Open House

The Open House is never dull, the cast is a pleasure, it looks great, and some of the dialogue is nicely turned. Eno has many fans, but I continue to wait for him to deliver a play that is something more than a gently quizzical puzzle. (Read Full Review)

B-

Lombardi

The ostensible subject of this biographical drama is Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest football coach of all time. But the great man himself pales in comparison whenever Judith Light appears as his highball-swilling, mink-clad wife, Marie ... [Lombardi's] contradictions are many, but the treatment he gets here is closer to hagiography, and while Simonson's script is usually brisk, funny, and likable, he hasn't found a way to make drama out of it ... There's no question that, with its fine performances, colorful dialogue, and genial characters, Lombardi comes with a full set of crowd-pleasing elements. All in all, however, everyone involved has forgone a really insightful portrait of Vince Lombardi, settling instead for an evening of light entertainment. Lombardi, who fiercely controlled his image, might have approved. Then again, with his insistence on excellence in all things, he might have decided that he deserved better. (Read Full Review)

B-

Next Fall

Breen and Huesinger have a real chemistry, and you'll find yourself rooting for them to stay together. As noted, Dugan invests an underwritten role with real depth of feeling. Maddie Corman is just about ideal as Adam and Luke's friend and sometimes employer, who, unlike everyone else, possesses reserves of tact and common sense. Cotter Smith does a lot with the thinnish role of Butch, who mostly exists to make insensitive remarks that upset Adam and disappoint Luke ... In Next Fall, Nauffts has tried to do a very difficult thing, creating a comedy of manners about some of the most polarizing issues of our time. He's a good writer and this is a good try, but the result, while sometimes funny and touching, is also marred by a certain falseness. (Read Full Review)

B-

Through the Yellow Hour

You begin to experience the distinctive mix of suspenseful drama and utter nonsense that is Through the Yellow Hour even before you enter the theatre... Andromache Chalfant [created a] fabulous ruin of a set... the early stretches have the tension of a superior thriller... As long as it maintains a teasing air of mystery, keeping you guessing who, if anyone, can be trusted, Through the Yellow Hour exerts a considerable grip... The slow reveal of information, the bristling lack of trust between the two women, and the atmosphere of continual menace guarantees that, at least for its first half, Through the Yellow Hour is Rapp's most powerful work in some time. As the play wears on, however, a vagueness sets and it isn't helpful at all... Through the Yellow Hour [begins] to seriously squander its powerful mood. It's at this point that the dialogue begins to develop a B-movie ripeness... yet, because Rapp is a highly skilled director, Through the Yellow Hour is kept afloat for a remarkably long time by a cast that makes clear that these characters are facing terrible life-or-death choices... Through the Yellow Hour is never boring, but it is sometimes risible. As always, Adam Rapp pushes his premise to the limit. But did he really want to make us snicker? (Read Full Review)

B-

Love and Information

One way of looking at Love and Information is to see it as a cabinet of curiosities, each scene a little exhibit illustrating another aspect of Churchill's rangy subject. Some of them are breezily amusing, and others are quietly shocking, the jumble of encounters both trivial and terrifying, keeping the audience constantly off-guard... That's not to say that Love and Information is consistently gripping. Not really a work of drama, it is also relatively structure-free... It's up to the audience members to sort through the episodes, making meaningful connections if they can... I found the first hour to be intriguing, but my interest devolved by degrees until near the end, when I was discreetly checking my watch... Love and Information is a collection of puzzle pieces that never get assembled. We are left to sort through them ourselves, imagining our own solutions. In this case, it's not an entirely satisfying way to spend an evening at the theatre. (Read Full Review)

B-

The New York Idea

Thanks to a sly supporting cast, The New York Idea never really runs dry of laughs. You won't find a better pride of elderly prigs than Peter Maloney, Patricia Connolly, and Patricia O'Connell, as Philip's relatives. I treasure the memory of Connolly being forcibly carried into a wedding she wants nothing to do with, her body as straight as an ironing board. Maloney amuses endlessly, especially when pausing in the middle of a tirade to take a calming sip of tea. O'Connell's increasing bafflement at the intrigue unfolding around her constitutes a lovely bit of underplaying. Michael Countryman's Philip is blissfully unaware of his own dullness. ("And I agreed we'd earn our happiness," he tells Cynthia. "Build it by the sweat of our brow...slowly, laboriously, brick by brick.") There are also lovely contributions from John Keating as an insolent English manservant and Mikaela Feely-Lehmann as a French maid with a remarkably laissez-faire attitude toward matters of the heart. In addition, Jeremy Shamos adds a needed touch of sincerity as John, and Rick Holmes is a genial plummy-voiced rake as Cates-Darby. (Read Full Review)

B-

Magic/Bird

Attention sports fans: Magic/Bird is a slam-dunk entertainment, packing a few laughs, a few tears, and plenty of basketball lore into a fast-moving 90 minutes. Attention everyone else: The theatre district is packed with fine attractions for you to choose from...If Magic/Bird is about two giants of sports, the script is just a little slip of a thing, a sketchy collage of incidents -- most of them overloaded with exposition -- over a 20-year period...Kail's staging is swift and eye-pleasing enough that there's no time for spoilsport questions as long as Magic/Bird is on the court. The cast is a little uneven. (Read Full Review)

B-

Inner Voices: Solo Musicals

Mosaic is a slender little thing, but the authors manage to tenderly probe a life filled with missed opportunities, creating a character who is tough, funny, and thoroughly lovable...It can't be easy to run the emotional gamut while sitting at a desk, clicking on a mouse, and belting your heart out, but Blickenstaff makes it look like child's play; as a result, this potentially mawkish material has a casual, lived-in charm...Judith Blazer is a pro, too, and her ability to invest all kinds of material -- from superb to shaky -- with a startling intensity is much needed in the bizarre and uninvolving second piece, Whida Peru: Resurrection Tangle...It's a piece that would be thoroughly ridiculous without Blazer's conviction. If you have a soft spot for these ladies, Inner Voices is worth a look, but you may find yourself wishing you'll see them again soon, under more fully realized circumstances. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Freedom of the City

That Michael, Lily, and Skinner are not terribly well drawn or interesting characters is a problem that plagues The Freedom of the City; they are the center of the drama and its weakest aspect...Still, Friel's language, as always, makes its own beautiful music. (Read Full Review)

B-

Sons of the Prophet

As of now, Karam is more skilled at making laughter out of life's horrors than he is at probing the darker emotions underneath, and, based on the evidence here, he hasn't been able to assemble all of his plot elements in a fully coherent pattern. But Sons of the Prophet has a deadpan grasp of the absurdity of tragedy that isn't quite like the work of any other writer. The other skills can be picked up; what Karam has is the one thing you can't buy -- a voice of his own. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Starry Messenger

Even with its lively cast and multitude of amusing lines, there's no getting around the fact that, at three hours, The Starry Messenger is desperately in need of cutting. (It doesn't help that, after all that time, the play ends on an unresolved note.) It plays like an extremely promising first draft. The script, by all accounts, has been around for a long time, and had a difficult time during previews. Is it too late to take a second look, prune away the excess details, and find the touching, melancholy comedy inside? (Read Full Review)

B-

A Man's A Man

But even in a staging with attitude to spare, A Man's a Man is of surprisingly little impact, largely, I think, because the people in it don't really seem to matter. Those cast members who are given musical interludes fare better…Bond proves to be a superb interpreter of the songs, and as the second act darkens…a most valuable member of the company. The music, by Duncan Sheik, is filled with attractively rueful melodies, so much so that I began to wonder if something more acidic wasn't what was wanted. In any case, the songs go a long way toward making a rather spotty evening much more pleasurable than it might have been. Overall, a lot of good work has gone into trying to enliven a talky, didactic script, its humors long faded and its bite eroded by time. For those with a strong interest in Brecht, it remains a must-see if only because another chance might not come around for another 50 years. Others are likely to see a script that feels embalmed in the ideas and styles of 1926. (Read Full Review)

B-

My Name Is Asher Lev

My Name is Asher Lev is neither the best nor the worst of the recent rash of book-of-the-month offerings...Posner struggles to transmute this prose tale into theatre, resulting in a mix of narration and half-dramatized scenes that diminishes the source material...[Mark Nelson and Jenny Bacon's]virtuosity creates real pleasure, which goes a long way toward papering over the script's many awkward moments. (Read Full Review)

B-

How I Learned What I Learned

It's hard to see How I Learned What I Learned as anything other than a pleasant, occasionally insightful, tribute to an eminent American playwright, given a big lift by the considerable skills of the actor playing him. On the other hand, Wilson has so many admirers that this may be more than enough for them. (Read Full Review)

B-

Mrs. Warren's Profession

It cannot be said that Sally Hawkins' performance makes anyone's blood run cold. She looks perfect for the role, and, when confronting her mother, she raises her head every so slightly and speaks with an implied insolence, which, if teased out a little more, would make for a more interesting characterization. But her Vivie is a tense, high-strung creature, full of nervous manners, with a distracting way of swallowing her words as she rushes through each line. This appears to be a classic case of an actress who iplaying the subtext too blatantly -- we see too much of Vivie's underlying tension and uncertainty, when we should be better acquainted with her toughness and assurance. As a result, when Vivie, in a moment of destabilizing shock, realizes that her mother has never given up her career -- and even worse, her suitor may be her half brother -- Hawkins is forced to increase the intensity level past any acceptable point; in a performance already marked by a certain vocal stridency, she resorts to screaming her lines in a way that had me thinking less of Vivie's emotional distress than the possible damage to Hawkins' vocal chords. The rest of Doug Hughes' smoothly paced and often very funny production is marked by a similar unevenness. (Read Full Review)

B-

What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined

The good news is What's It All About puts the emphasis where it belongs, on the music. Riabko…is his own best spokesperson, especially when stripping down ballads…suddenly, songs that one associates with big voices and even bigger orchestrations are given the urgency of a lover's whisper. But there remains the problem of how to turn all this interesting material into a cohesive evening's entertainment. A revue like this doesn't, of course, have a plot, but it needs a through line, a clear understanding of how the material should be arranged for maximum effect. This is where Riabko and company stumble…Riabko also sometimes forgets that the songs are powerful musical monologues...There's nothing wrong with taking vintage music and bending it to one's own purposes; jazz musicians do it every night of the week. But sometimes the approach taken here has the unfortunate effect of homogenizing Bacharach's varied output, removing much of its magic in the process, in a show that oddly often seems to lack a strong sense of purpose. (Read Full Review)

B-

Equivocation

A tart, skeptical comedy...As long as Shag is dueling with Cecil, Equivocation is a sharp-witted comedy of ideas...The author is on less sure ground when the action shifts to the King's Men, marking time with fairly standard gags about vain actors and difficult writers...Tries to tell a sweeping story with a small cast and a unit set, and, at times, the strain shows, even in Garry Hynes' otherwise elegant production. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Flick

...The Flick is [Baker's] most ambitious project yet, which yields both good and bad news: It is both a summary of her considerable skills and a worrying indication that this particular lode of material may be nearly tapped out... aided by the direction of Sam Gold and a cast that has honed in on Baker's high-velocity wavelength, The Flick is given the kind of production other playwrights can only dream about... Virtually every last detail of this production is lovingly worked out; the worry is that there are so many of them... it's hard not to wonder why Baker needs the same running time as Doctor Zhivago or The Godfather to deliver what is, after all, a kind of short story... (Everything else about the production is aces, including Jane Cox's varied lighting looks, drawn from the practical units on stage, and Bray Poor's sound design, which includes the whirr of the projector and several examples of bombastic film music.)... The big question is, Where does [Baker] go from here? (Read Full Review)

B-

King Lear

If MacDonald's staging lacks an overarching point of view, it has its moments. The way Regan and Goneril shrink from Lear's curses tells you something unflattering about his relationship with his daughters; there's the intriguing suggestion that, evil though they may be, the ladies' disdain for their parent may be well-founded. There's a chilling moment when Lear first realizes the depth of his daughters' betrayal ("They durst not do't/They could not, would not do 't; 'tis worse than murder"), making you realize how terrible Lear's loss of power and position must be. There's a strangely effective bit of business when the Fool, much the worse for wear, picks up his ruined ukulele, and a string of chainmail falls out; it's a surprising and powerful gesture of futility. The sight of Lear cradling the blinded, ravaged Gloucester is truly almost unbearable, as is his childlike cry, "Do not abuse me." By the time he appears bearing the body of Cordelia, this Lear has become more than sufficiently informed by the terrors of the earth. (Read Full Review)

B-

Stick Fly

Diamond has a number of interesting things to say about race, class, fathers and children, and male-female relationships -- especially when they are complicated by all of the above. This time, however, she may have taken on a bit more than she can handle. Stick Fly has the scope of a novel, but is structurally faulty; the curtain falls on an ending that feels overly manufactured. Still, it may be unsatisfying, it's never a bore; my guess is Diamond is a play or two away from writing something remarkable. (Read Full Review)

B-

Me, Myself & I

Me, Myself & I is closer to such savagely cartooned cameos as The Sandbox and The American Dream than to his later, more complex, works and while it's fun to see the author, now in his ninth decade, in such a mischievous mood, the piece has a slightly tired quality; one can't help feeling it would have been a real shocker in 1960. Often in Albee's plays, the comedy cracks open to reveal furies hidden underneath. Here, the vaudeville steals the spotlight, the horrors rather more muted than usual ...This is nothing against Thomas Lynch, the set designer, who has given that effect every possible color and curlicue; for that matter, the rest of his work -- an elegant white void -- is perfectly suited to the play's needs. Kenneth Posner's lighting fills the space with blue-tinged white washes that add to the atmosphere of attractive minimalism. Jennifer Von Mayrhauser's costumes fit each character perfectly; she's also done a reasonable job of making Zachary Booth and Preston Sadleir -- who don't really resemble each other -- into the twin Ottos. There are very few sound effects -- most notably an offstage burst of sexual ecstasy and a flourish of trumpets near the end -- but they are done by Darron L. West with his usual professionalism. And Emily Mann, the director, has led her cast to find exactly the right level of stylization the material so sorely needs. (Read Full Review)

B-

Jomama Jones: Radiate

What really interests Daniel Alexander Jones is the kind of persona that Jomama and her sisters had to adopt in order to maintain a precarious foothold in a society that still wasn't comfortable with them. He captures with unfailing fidelity Jomama's almost eerie composure and her sexily insinuating manner, which turns every remark into a double entendre...Radiate packs plenty of crowd-pleasing elements, not the least of which are some tasty pastiches of '70s-era easy-listening soul..For all its amusement value, it seems clear that, in certain respects, Jomama Jones remains a work in progress. Her creator seems unsure whether he wants to spoof her or be her. (Read Full Review)

B-

If/Then

As so much care has gone into the creation of If/Then, it is sad to have to report that is frequently more ingenious than engaging. It's always interesting to see how Yorkey rearranges the same set of characters into contrasting patterns...But watching Beth/Liz forever reviewing her options about nearly everything becomes a little wearing...For at least the first act, If/Then is all exposition, all the time, conscientiously filing reports about Elizabeth and her extended family of friends without really making us care about what happens to them. Similarly, Tom Kitt's music seems infected by If/Then's state of perpetual indecisiveness, only occasionally providing the haunting melodies that are his specialty. The role of Elizabeth has been expressly tailored to the talents of Idina Menzel, and...the pleasure is all ours...In If/Then's very finest moments, Menzel's character suggests a 21st-century female counterpart to Bobby, the similarly fence-sitting protagonist of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company...But Company's astringently satirical attitude tends to focus the mind. If If/Then leaves us feeling sorry-grateful, it's because it too often seems as confused and wishy-washy as the woman at its center. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Great Recession

Somebody at the Flea Theatre -- probably Jim Simpson, the inventive artistic director -- had the idea of commissioning a batch of short plays tied to the current economic mess and its effect on today's young adults. It was probably inevitable that the resulting six-pack -- known as The Great Recession -- would be wildly uneven, but it has its moments, and it allows one to get a look at the theatre's talented young acting company, The Bats. The most successful plays are those that get at the theme in sideways fashion, rather than head-on... If The Great Recession is better in theory than in execution, it's an appealing idea, one that I hope the Flea will apply to other themes. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney

Disney is certainly ripe for reappraisal, and, mixing fact and myth, the playwright, Lucas Hnath, assembles a persuasive portrait of a distinctively weird Howard Hughes-style megalomaniac. The text is a rush of words and scenes that initially sets a jangly, jumpy tone. The performances are highly assured ... For all the good work, however, A Public Reading palls pretty quickly once it becomes obvious that Hnath has character assassination on his mind ... in a glib hit job that is all but guaranteed to get a big hand from a downtown theatre audience. (Read Full Review)

B-

Bunty Berman Presents...

With its purposely convoluted plot -- mixing farce, thriller, and romantic comedy elements - Bunty Berman Presents has one foot in Bollywood, and with its wheezy gags and uptempo nightclub-revue-style score, it resembles many bubble-headed West End musicals of the '50s and '60s. Many of the jokes were coined around the time the Taj Mahal went up…And the cast plays with a certain slam-bang assurance that at times makes the material seem better than it is, especially when everyone is spoofing the clichés of Bunty's formulaic epics. It's all as cheerful as it is idiotic, and I must admit that many in the audience at the performance I attended were won over by the finale. But now that he has this musical under his belt, I hope [playwright] Ayub Khan Din is ready to get back to what he does best and leave the musicals to the professionals.
(Read Full Review)

B-

The Memorandum

It's rare to find satire as timeless as The Memorandum, and it's too bad TACT's revival is as spotty as it is. Vaclav Havel's 1965 satire of sclerotic bureaucracies is, in its details, as hair-raisingly accurate as the day it was written...Still, this kind of satire needs to be stylistically on point, and, outside of Leffert's scenes, Thompson's production lacks the requisite light touch. This may be a simple matter of bad luck. Simon Jones, originally cast as Gross, had to leave the production following a car accident; his replacement, James Prendergast, is a solid actor, but he lacks Jones' skill at conveying outraged dignity and bureaucratic hauteur. There's a certain lack of malice in his performance, and, as a result, too many of the scenes go slack. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

The director Brian Kulick makes a boldly imaginative gambit in his new staging of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and, before the production runs out of steam, it offers a fresh look at a classic rarely seen in New York. It's a daring idea to stage Brecht's tale in the ruins of the system that informed most of his life, but this bleak, morally bankrupt environment proves to be highly suitable for a tale in which, until a last-minute reversal of fortune, no good deed goes unpunished. The English translation...is direct and devastating in equal measures...[and] Kulick's staging is marked by an admirable economy. But something goes terribly awry after intermission for reasons that are hard to pinpoint. Part of the fault lies with Brecht…[b]ut casting has something to do with it, too…As a result, what started as an arrestingly barbed fairy tale limps through a remarkably dull second half before arriving at a surprisingly sentimental happy ending.
(Read Full Review)

B-

Galileo

It's not until after intermission, when the power of the church is turned against him and he must struggle to stay alive, that Galileo's story becomes sufficiently dramatic.... Even if this production isn't a total success, it's a useful reminder that the issues of faith, reason, and individual liberty -- the fundamental weapons of today's culture wars -- have been wielded like cudgels for centuries. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Sugar House at the Edge of the Wilderness

More than most, however, a play filled with such terrible events -- and characters so covered with scar tissue -- needs a surer-handed presentation. This one tries to be too many things at once, and none of them get to the heart of Greta and Han's pain. (Read Full Review)

B-

See Rock City & Other Destinations

The best sequence has the benefit of three numbers and a beginning, middle, and end; it strongly suggests that, when the authors get around to writing a full-out book musical, they're going to be names to contend with... Still, if the libretto bats a little under .500, the songs consistently beguile. Alexander's music is frequently soaring on the surface with a percussive restlessness that's like the mental drumming of fingers. Exaltation and exasperation are made to exist side by side, to fine dramatic effect. Mathias' lyrics are full of sneakily amusing jokes as well as a plainspoken yearning. (Read Full Review)

B-

Bonnie & Clyde

You'd think such a blood-stained tale of romance would be the stuff of full-barrel melodrama. But, for a pair who rode the rails of their crime spree to the ultimate end of the line, the musical that contains them is oddly inconclusive...For all the good work done, nobody has made a solid case for a musical about Bonnie and Clyde...Because the creators are so busy fitting numbers in and around the action, a show filled with gunplay and getaways comes off as careful, even plodding. It may well be that the solid craftsmanship displayed by Wildhorn and Black aren't right for this thorny, unpleasant subject; Bonnie and Clyde probably needs an approach as reckless as its title characters. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Forest

A slow and sleepy comedy being given a loving revival...The Forest is calibrated to 19th-century sensibilities able to tolerate extended stretches of idle conversation and plot contrivances that are visible from far in the distance...It's not just that the author's elaborate and complicated plot machinery lumbers along -- it's the lack of a governing tone. As adapted by Kathleen Tolan, The Forest tries to stake out some kind of middle ground between character comedy, probing drama, and social satire, and the result is insufficient in all three areas...The director, Brian Kulick, does his best to impose a vibrant atmosphere on the lulls that often overtake the action, and sometimes he succeeds, largely because he has assembled such a first-rate cast. (Read Full Review)

B-

Burn The Floor

Jason Gilkison's choreography is designed to expose the maximum number of scissored legs and flying limbs as couples writhe and wrap themselves around each other in increasingly tortuous fashion. But whether billed as lindys, jives, sambas, or rumbas, the routines are almost totally indistinguishable. Each is an athletic obstacle race, designed to whip bodies around the stage at supersonic speed. The prevailing mood is gymnastic rather than romantic, mechanical rather than erotic. If you're looking for narrative or any kind of dramatic build, look elsewhere; indeed, several numbers simply come to dead halts... The dancers, all veterans of the ballroom dance world, are brilliant technicians, but who are they? Each is gifted with two expressions -- sultry or toothy -- and watching them execute their limited repertory of moves becomes a bit wearing. Even Smirnoff and Chmerkovsky fail to stand out in the crowd... It's brief, it's fast-moving, and it knows its audience -- in short, it's an almost perfect offering for Broadway's summer silly season. The rest of us should chill out: Autumn is coming. There are better days, and plays, ahead. (Read Full Review)

B-

Betrayal

It is, in many ways, an accomplished production -- well-spoken, full of nuance, loaded with character-revealing details. And yet, for all the good work plainly on display, Nichols and company somehow bypass the terrible anguish at the core of Pinter's drama. It looks like Betrayal, and it sounds like Betrayal, but really it's "Adultery," the nightclub sketch...On some level, an all-important sense of chemistry is absent. Craig, with his chiseled-Neanderthal features and brutish air, is strange casting for an Oxbridge graduate who smoothly transitioned into the posh world of publishing...Still, he alone among the three leads hints at the play's submerged emotions even if he doesn't do so consistently. (Read Full Review)

B-

A Night with Janis Joplin

...it's perfectly fine, as long as you know what you're getting into. And what you're getting into is a concert starring Mary Bridget Davies... If, like me, you never were a Joplin fan, there is little reason for a visit to the Lyceum... This Janis Joplin is sanitized, glamorized, and all but given a good conduct medal... Anyway, Davies is a genuine star presence, the other ladies are accomplished, and the band that backs them up is first-rate. (Read Full Review)

B-

Lysistrata Jones

Where this production goes wrong -- and I wonder if it is one reason for the show's all-over-the-place reviews -- is in the opening number, "Right Now." In the far-more-intimate Off Broadway production, it was a winning introduction to the show's mood and methodology. At the Walter Kerr, it seems overstaged, and Tony Meola's sound mix -- which elsewhere is acceptable -- is muddy and indistinct. It's a fast-moving number with some dense lyrics and, right now, it's pretty much impossible to hear. (Although Lysistrata Jones is hardly on the same level, one is reminded of the troubles A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum had before Stephen Sondheim came up with "Comedy Tonight.") The unfortunate result is the cast has to work extra hard to get the audience in the right mood, and it's a good half hour before the fun really starts to pop. (Read Full Review)

B-

Lear

I'm sure there's a rigorous theory behind all this; watching it, however, I was dogged by the image of Young Jean Lee throwing ideas at a wall in order to see what would stick. Sad to say, many of her topics fall solidly into the "banal" category, and none of them are enlivened by their treatment here. It would be easier to dismiss Lear in its entirety if the production wasn't so accomplished. (Read Full Review)

C+

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence

Sadly, connecting with the characters in George's play proves next to impossible, as all these Watsons, Merricks, and Elizas are merely cogs in the author's often-clumsy dramatic machinery, which boils down to a debate between connectedness and independence in different technological eras. Never as witty or as clever as it needs to be, the play sags under the weight of its conceptual framework. The Baker Street Watson plot is left hanging for most of the running time, until an eleventh-hour revelation of the 19th-century Merrick's plan to create a kind of mechanical woman, an enterprise that mirrors the 20th-century Eliza's concept of a digital manservant. The Bell Telephone Watson gets very little stage time, as he exists only to articulate the play's theme. (Read Full Review)

C+

Flipzoids

Once Pena establishes his group portrait of alienation, however, there's nowhere else to go, and Flipzoids increasingly looks like a situation in search of a play.

Before it reaches that blind alley, however, Flipzoids has a number of amusing and insightful points to make. (Read Full Review)

C+

Compulsion

Clearly, this is irresistible dramatic material, which is why it's so sad to say that, in Compulsion, Groff doesn't do it justice...Groff's minimalist approach...focuses relentlessly on Levin and his obsession. Aside from Mandy Patinkin, who plays Levin -- here known as Sid Silver -- there's a supporting cast of two; it's not enough to convey this story in all its rancor and complexity...Groff clearly feels that the drama in this story consists in watching Sid eaten up by his fury, which is fueled by a mix of genuine outrage and insane, Iago-like jealousy. And, of course, Patinkin is the man for the job...He always goes too far, and he always fascinates, particularly in the climactic scenes, when he emits sounds of despair that are unlike anything you've heard before....Groff's best invention is the addition of marionettes to the action....Never boring, frequently frustrating, Compulsion is that toughest of nuts, a play in which the idea is better than the execution. (Read Full Review)

C+

Water by the Spoonful

A powerful family drama begins to assemble before our eyes. But Water by the Spoonful never settles on an organizing principle, and Hudes allows herself to jump from narrative to narrative, letting her characters express themselves at length while arranging them into a triptych display -- meant to display the healing powers of compassion -- without making any of them vivid enough to matter. (Read Full Review)

C+

Look Back In Anger

Partly because of the way the script has been cut, it no longer seems to be an indictment of an entire society frozen into deadly passivity. Taken as a psychological study, Look Back in Anger has a certain ugly fascination, but in this version Jimmy is oddly diminished, a kind of bully without portfolio. (Read Full Review)

C+

Beautiful—The Carole King Musical

Beautiful isn't a terrible show, but it is a signal demonstration of the difficulties posed by the bio-musical genre... press jumped all over Douglas McGrath's book, calling it thin, superficial, and clichéd. All true... In all other respects, Beautiful is thoroughly professional... if Beautiful is only occasionally the powerful musical drama it might have been, you can take comfort in Jessie Mueller, who is the most skilled musical theatre actress to come our way since Kelli O'Hara. (Read Full Review)

C+

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

Not without its charms...Purely considered in terms of intention, it seems to me that Malloy's approach to Tolstoy's novel is not unlike that of, say, a Giuseppe Verdi...All comparisons end there, however...The score is also hurt by the lack of variety and invention, the constant flow of minor chords and run-on musical lines becoming monotonous...In any case, Chavkin's production is a fine chance to get acquainted with some very talented young people. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Temperamentals

There are many penetrating insights, but Jon Marans packs his compact drama with so many incidents and themes that it threatens to burst at the seams...As long as The Temperamentals is tracking the halting progress of the Mattachine Society, it's a crackling, funny slice of social history...Heading into Act II, however, the story proves too unwieldy for Marans' approach...The script tries to cover so much ground that it loses track of the central relationship...Thanks to Jonathan Silverstein's inventive and meticulous direction, however, the highly skilled cast goes a long way toward keeping things lively. (Read Full Review)

C+

When We Go Upon the Sea

When We Go Upon the Sea has its moments, especially when Anna-Lisa is narrating her harrowing history or when Bush is implicating the entire U.S. in his actions ... But this essentially plotless 80-minute exercise drags and dawdles, largely because the author has positioned the piece about halfway between political satire and Pinterian menace, offering up not enough of either ... It's not easy to build much of a conflict between a stick figure and a pair of enigmas, and despite a reasonably smooth staging by Paul Meshejian, it winds up being a fairly static experience. Conan McCarty is a reasonable facsimile of the ex-president, but, by emphasizing his lightweight aspects, makes him seem almost inconsequential. The tall, lantern-jawed Peter Schmitz fences with him deftly as Piet, and Kim Carson is both appealing and slightly sinister as Anna-Lisa; both of them are limited by their roles' dimensions, however. In other respects, the production is top-notch. Meghan Jones' hotel setting is both polished and antiseptic, an ideal holding room for the powerful and yet-to-be convicted. (Read Full Review)

C+

Him

Father-daughter comparisons might seem unfair—it's not Daisy Foote's fault that Horton Foote was one of the great American playwrights...Him is plotted with a finely honed sense of irony, but the effect is blunted by a set of characters so thinly conceived that it is nearly impossible to care what happens to them...The production benefits from the contributions of a number of solid theatre pros, beginning with the director, Evan Yionoulis, whose subtle staging tells us much about the family's changing fortunes...Him is a drama with good bones, but it needs some meat on them. (Read Full Review)

C+

Anything Goes

Sutton Foster is an electrifying singer and a lively dancer -- but is she a broad? After all, she's stepping into a role whose provenance includes the likes of Ethel Merman, Ginger Rogers, and Patti LuPone, playing the kind of dame who's been around the block more than a few times and has the mileage on her odometer to prove it. Foster, that pro of pros, gives it everything she's got, stalking the stage in peroxide curls, leaning back and flashing a bit of thigh when the occasion calls for it, and cracking wise in a heavily shellacked New York accent, but, for all the effort, she's play-acting. Her rendition of "I Get a Kick Out of You" lacks the necessary feeling of regret, and whether she's berating a suitor for treating her with too much respect or she's trying to pass herself off as a wronged Chinese maiden, she's really not all that funny. She has her moments -- including an amusing deadpan duet of "Friendship" with Joel Grey as an on-the -am gangster -- but, for all the effort, the lady is not a tramp, and the portrait simply doesn't stick. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Brother/Sister Plays

The talk can also be brutally honest, sizing up whole lives in a handful of words. Ogun, fed up with his brother's troublemaking ways, says, "You say I ain't never been in the pen?...All my life, I carry your sins on my back." Or it can conjure up a stylized, wittily woeful poetry all its own. "Ever had so much on your mind that you forgot what you wanted to think about?" wonders Marcus, weighed down by the fear that he might be "sweet." ("They ain't even have gay folks in Africa," he haplessly tells a properly nonplussed adult.) His would-be girlfriend is under no such illusions; "I mean, you the only one I can sing The Wiz straight through with," she points out, outing him once and for all. The author has bigger ambitions, however, and these afflict all three plays with a bad case of self-consciousness; he is aided and abetted in this by his collaborators. It's one thing to have the actors address the audience throughout; it's another thing to have them constantly speak their stage directions. "Moja looks at Oya like, 'What I say?'" says Oya's mother, following up with "What I say?" It's a gimmick that gets old in record time; the fact that it doesn't cripple the plays is a testament to the cast's superior skills. (Read Full Review)

C+

Ghetto Klown

Soon, Hollywood comes calling, and he has to deal with stereotyped roles -- he is eternally being cast as drug dealers -- hack directors, and the constantly relegation of his footage to the cutting room floor. Some of the evening's most amusing bits feature his sharp-elbowed imitations of Brian De Palma, Kurt Russell, and Al Pacino... If Leguizamo had focused entirely on this material, he'd have the stuff of a compact, and explosively funny, 90-minute show. But because he seems to feel you can never have too much of a good thing, Ghetto Klown covers much more territory, including fraught times with his parents and extensive looks at both of his marriages. These sequences have plenty of good things in them, too, but, at a certain point, Ghetto Klown starts to feel as overstuffed as some of his feature films. (Read Full Review)

C+

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

The main problem, I think, is that Gus' existential crisis doesn't provide a central spring for the play's mechanism. It's difficult to build a drama this complex around a depressed and withdrawn character. Even with his outbursts of fury, Gus doesn't really care much about the people and events around him - and, the more we learn about the family history, the more it seems that his effect on his children mostly amounts to sins of omission. As the characters drift off in Act III, their problems addressed but largely left unresolved, the one remaining point of -- whether Gus will choose to live or die -- doesn't seem all that urgent. (Read Full Review)

C+

Lemon Sky

Sadly, Lemon Sky is probably not the most fruitful place to start. Even in Jonathan Silverstein's sensitive, well-acted production, the play is best viewed as a guide to Wilson's many idiosyncrasies as a writer. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Snow Geese

In the end, The Snow Geese is a highly professional production, if not an especially touching or lively one, largely because it never achieves a life of its own. A disgrace to nobody involved, it comes off less as a fully realized drama than as a writer's exercise, a kind of ventriloquist's act. (Read Full Review)

C+

Dogfight

A show with many problems, but they do not include dishonesty or lack of craft...Nobody has taken the easy way out, and more power to them. And there are more than a few moments when their no-glitz approach pays big dividends...The principal -- and, possibly, unresolvable -- problem with Dogfight has to with its subject matter...The authors find themselves hemmed in by their seedy, sordid source material...Duchan's libretto, for all its willingness not to whitewash this ugly activity, never quite settles on a definitive tone...All in all, Dogfight is the kind of disappointment that makes you eager to hear again from its authors. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Miracle Worker

As desks, chairs, and dining tables fly in and out, and, as one cranes one's neck to take in key moments of the play, watching this Miracle Worker becomes something of a chore. It's too bad, because Whoriskey's production is smartly cast and, when it calms down, it gets close to the story's powerful heart. Abigail Breslin may be twice as old as the seven-year-old Helen, but she captures the character's rages as well as her animal cunning and her ability to manipulate the members of the family. You never doubt her sensory impairment, and yet you feel the powerful intellect struggling to get out. It's a fine stage debut. Annie Sullivan is an exceptionally fascinating character -- inexperienced, haunted by a horrific childhood spent in squalid institutions, yet driven by a ferocious will -- and she is done full justice by Alison Pill. Her Annie is by turns furiously impulsive and shockingly vulnerable, yet the possessor of a razor-sharp tongue and an almost unseemly determination. She partners beautifully with Breslin, especially in the scenes of extended combat. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Shaughraun

If you're wondering how comfortably all this fits on the postage-stamp stage at the Irish Rep, the answer is not very. The play's outsized emotions all but threaten to blow the place down. Further complicating matters is Charlotte Moore's direction, which veers between taking Boucicault's clockwork plotting at face value and kidding it to death. The scenes featuring Kevin O'Donnell as Robert Folliot, the stalwart hero, and Sean Gormely as Corry Kinchella, Robert's sworn enemy, are pretty much played straight, while the agenda-ridden courtship of Claire, Robert's sister (Allison Jean White), and the British Captain Harry Molyneux (Mark Shanahan) plays like something out of The Carol Burnett Show. As the title character, Patrick Fitzgerald tries to steer a middle course, but his lovable scalawag routine palls before too long. (My favorite cast member is Sadie, in the all-important role of Tatters, the dog; she's a delight in every appearance.) As a result, The Shaugraun teeters this way, then that way- ending up nowhere in particular. (Read Full Review)

C+

A Steady Rain

Huff knows how to keep the surprises coming, and, on its best and most basic level, A Steady Rain has the page-turning fascination of a good crime novel. But the playwright makes a basic mistake, I think, in having Denny and Joey speak directly to us, narrating the tale by turns, and only occasionally acting out a scene together. Denny's moral corner-cutting and Joey's silence have trapped them in a web of complicity and retaliation, and every attempt at extrication only tightens their constraints. Given their circumstances, they should be choking with rage and/or tongue-tied with guilt. But the script requires them to deliver the story with such fluency that its darker emotions are smoothed over. The action climaxes in a profound, if necessary, act of betrayal -- but you never feel the full power of it, because it all seems so after-the-fact. The script is full of horrors, all of them held at arm's length. Because of this slight distancing effect, you start to notice just how contrived the narrative is and how brazenly Huff tries to score his points. Thus, a concealed case of gangrene doubles as a symbol for moral decay, and an innocent victim is found clutching a puppy. Instances of violence against children are employed, frequently and shamelessly. Stars that they are, Craig and Jackman effortlessly seize your attention; employing surprisingly good Chicago accents, they create a believably troubled friendship. To my mind, Craig's Joey has the edge, pacing the stage and using awkward hand gestures to create a guy who isn't really at home in his own skin. There's a chilling look in his eye as he begins to make calculations that are both thoroughly logical and -- he is forced to admit -- utterly selfish. (Read Full Review)

C+

Venice

This neo-Shakespearean soap opera is told through a heavily hip-hop flavored score led by a narrator, known as Clown MC, played by Matt Sax, one of the show's authors. Sax is a charismatic figure on stage -- with his stage presence and skill with tongue-twisting lyrics, he's a little like Lin-Manuel Miranda -- but his lyrics, co-written with Eric Rosen, aspire to topicality without providing any meaningful details.
The music, by Sax, with additional contributions by Curtis Moore, has some attractive melodies…but Rosen's storytelling and direction often leave one confused. Keeping Venice watchable throughout is the skilled young cast...The sheer amount of talent involved makes the net result of Venice all the more dismaying. It's a good sign to see young writers tackling serious political subjects in a musical theatre format. It's a really bad sign when they exploit this material for such frivolous purposes. Venice wants to make a serious statement about where we are heading, but its plot and characters would not be out of place on a CW serial. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Two-Character Play

But most of the time, The Two-Character Play seems to be written in a language that only Williams understands, and its occasional moments of lucidity are powerful to the extent that they remind one of the terrible pass Williams had reached. The production's design has its own mysterious qualities. Alice Walkling's set consists of a collection of unfinished flats fronted by some ratty furniture, as if Felice and Clare are being forced to perform on a rehearsal set. Jake Fine's lighting comes in three parts: The first, when Felice and Clare prepare to perform, is so dark the actors are often hard to see; the second, which covers the bulk of the play, is a harsh, bright wash of warm white light; the final section features a heavy overlay of patterns on the set. Phillip Hewitt's sound design includes an effective, if mysterious, montage of sound effects near the end of the play. (Read Full Review)

C+

Bronx Bombers

...Bronx Bombers has moved to Broadway, just as genial, pleasantly sentimental, and pointless as ever. Eric Simonson's play about the New York Yankees begins promisingly in 1977…His Act I earns an "A" for construction. But then Simonson throws the ballgame, so to speak, by concentrating on a lengthy Act II dream…the drama of Act I becomes but a memory as the author concentrates on pumping the audience's sentimental feelings for the boys of long-ago summers. This larger consideration of the Yankees' legacy might be worth if it Simonson had something trenchant to say…As before, the main pleasure of Bronx Bombers, smoothly directed by Simonson, is the way it fields a team containing some of New York's finest character men. Bronx Bombers is the third joint effort of Simonson and the producers, Fran Kirmser and Tony Ponturo, designed to lure sports fans to the theatre…But surely the world of professional sports has more real drama to offer...Bronx Bombers is like a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown-no real people, just images of idols past. (Read Full Review)

C+

Storyville

You'd think a musical called Storyville might have a better grasp of, well, story. There is enormous potential buried inside this material, but in its current incarnation, it is too scattered, too focused on nonessentials to have much impact. With so much going on, Storyville should be positively teeming with drama, but it isn't for two main reasons. First, the characters have no meat on their bones. The second, and even more crucial, missing element is context, a way of looking at the phenomenon of Storyville and its relationship to the larger world. Mildred Kayden's score has its moments. There's a great American saga -- something gritty, raw, and magnificent -- buried somewhere in this material, but its creators haven't managed to find it. Instead, they've reduced it to a routine musical comedy, and not even a proficient one. –
(Read Full Review)

C+

A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick

A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick is a play about scarcity, but the author, Kia Corthron, has laid such a full table that she risks giving the audience a bad case of mental indigestion. The play combines domestic comedy, family secrets, political speechmaking, and elements of magic realism. Key plot points involve Hurricane Katrina, Christian baptism, mass murder, racism, capitalism, socialism, and water management. If Corthron could whip all these elements together into a unified drama, she'd be the new George Bernard Shaw. As it is, she's assembled an engaging, if overcrowded, agenda of talking points, and set her characters to gabbing about them. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Good Mother

The Good Mother is billed as a psychological thriller, but it is really a study of a female train wreck and the equally damaged men who get caught up in her orbit. Gretchen Mol, whose Larissa is a whirlwind of emotions that are deeply held, if only for a few seconds, gives as good as she gets. There's no pretending that The Good Mother is anything but a mess. The ending is especially abrupt. But if the play fails to satisfy, scene by scene it can exert an undeniable, if malicious, fascination. (Read Full Review)

C+

Regrets

What starts out as a reasonably observant study of middle-aged male angst in the Eisenhower era turns into a political melodrama marked by a faint, but persistent, lack of conviction...Some reviewers have dismissed it as an old-fashioned well-made play; it is definitely old-fashioned, but the well-made part is subject to debate...That Regrets remains so watchable is due to the contributions of a solid cast under the expert directorial eye of Carolyn Cantor, who orchestrates the action with subtlety and skill. (Read Full Review)

C+

Harbor

Playwright Chad Beguelin plots a fractious family reunion...the ensuing emotional chaos isn't nearly as entertaining as it might be, largely because of Beguelin's uncertain handling of his material. Most of the first act is played for laughs that are strictly formulaic. There's a fairly notable change in tone in Act II; the jokes fade away as major decisions must be made, ugly truths are aired, and both emotional blackmail and cash payments are put into play. At this point, Harbor becomes rather more interesting, but Beguelin never makes these people and their problems matter. There are also nagging plausibility issues…Mark Lamos directs these mixed-up proceedings with a surprisingly sure hand, keeping the tempo brisk and making sure that each member of the four-person cast makes the most of his or her slim opportunities. By the final curtain, everyone's domestic arrangements have been reshuffled, and yet somehow nothing important seems to have happened. The characters in Harbor are full of talk, and their problems couldn't be more up to date. But as far as dramatic family reunions go, this one is pretty minor.
(Read Full Review)

C+

A Behanding In Spokane

Exported from Ireland to an anonymous American hotel room, the action of A Behanding in Spokane feels forced and generic, a minor criminal comedy that is nothing more than the sum of its violent gags. It reminded me of nothing so much as a Road Runner cartoon, in which the antagonists spend their time thinking up new ways of annihilating each other -- each of which comes to naught. (If, when Walken produced his gasoline time bomb, it had said "Acme Gas" on the side, I wouldn't have been surprised in the least.) It's not helpful that the story often barely makes sense -- even when Toby is chained up, the hotel phone is within his reach, but he never tries to call for help. Later on, we are expected to believe that he has never learned to dial "9" to get an outside line. (Also, McDonagh is still learning to master the American idiom -- in this country we call it a "closet," not a "wardrobe.") (Read Full Review)

C

All About Me

Rarely has such mass labor resulted in such a flimsy harvest. We go to Dame Edna's shows to see her run amuck, lampooning the fake sentimentality and manufactured candor of show business while engaging in scandalously funny comic riffs with members of the audience. And, whenever she is allowed some elbow room here, All About Me is golden entertainment ... By the time they get to the shared medley that is the de facto eleven o'clock number, there are even signs of chemistry. But too much time is wasted on tedious episodes of feuding between the stars, all of which play horribly false. It makes you want to shout: Free Dame Edna! (Read Full Review)

C

Rocky

If Rocky turns out to be Broadway's next blockbuster, it will be because of Alex Timbers, the next great theatre showman… It certainly helped that the 18-minute-long fight sequence, stunningly choreographed by Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, is a genuine thriller… But the first act is all exposition and no drama, and it suffers from a serious case of the mopes… Ahrens and Flaherty's entirely honorable determination not to overinflate a small story results in a score that suffers from a certain sameness and, too often, a rather slow pulse… if Timbers hasn't been able to reconcile the contradictions of a show that wants to be both a tender little indie musical and an epic battle to the finish, at least he finally delivers the spectacle that the audience wants from Rocky. Like its climactic bout, however, the most it can manage is a technical knockout. (Read Full Review)

C

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

...Johansson can't find the rich melodies in Williams' words; instead, she builds her characterization on a single shrill note, barking her lines like a general issuing orders... Ciarán Hinds is a fine Big Daddy... Opposite him, Benjamin Walker's Brick...suddenly leaps to life... Ashford's direction, in addition to being unevenly cast, is a collection of theatrical effects in search of a unifying vision... Throughout, the play's bruising conflicts aren't framed to their best advantage; instead, they're sometimes lost in a barrage of fussy details. Ashford does stage the play at a blessedly lively place, and he gets good work out of Michael Park and Emily Bergl... this is a production that, from moment to moment, excites and frustrates in equal measure.

(Read Full Review)

C

Appropriate

…it becomes clear that Jacobs-Jenkins has attempted an ambitious and imaginative twist on the standard family slugfest that so many American playwrights favor…It's a bold idea and, sad to say, it ends up sabotaging the entire enterprise. This isn't a matter of making the characters likable or relatable. But they do have to be interesting, and sadly, they turn out to be something of a bore. It takes a lot of skill, and plenty of wit, to bring such narcissistic fools to dramatic life. It's a talent that, for example, Tracy Letts has in abundance. It's a talent that Branden Jacobs-Jenkins does not yet possess. Appropriate is such an interesting idea that you keep hoping that Jacobs-Jenkins will make it work, but, for all the volume expended, it never catches fire. His indictment of the characters never sticks because they never seem to matter. Their ancestors may have left behind a terrible legacy, but all we know is that they make for extremely tiresome company. (Read Full Review)

C

Maple and Vine

Even when it bogs down in the details, it still offers a fair amount of fun. But, oh, those details...Whenever Jeanine Serralles, who plays Ellen, is around, Maple and Vine is good wicked fun...There are the makings of a good sketch here...But a little bit of this goes a long way...Anne Kauffman, does her best to make sense of this hodgepodge of fantasy, satire, and melodrama, but it's a tough battle. (Read Full Review)

C

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Kathleen Marshall and company have set out to brew a Jazz Age cocktail with a bathtub gin kick. If the result is more like a Shirley Temple, that's not entirely bad; it is sweet, fizzy, and colorful. But large doses will cloy, and, at two hours and forty minutes, it is a very, very large dose. The one thing that might make it go down easily -- a pair of stars with genuine romantic chemistry -- is conspicuously missing...If it never really soars, Nice Work If You Can Get It never falls below a certain minimum level of professionalism. (Read Full Review)

C

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Off-Broadway)

Alternately hilarious and grating, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is nearly as cluttered as Donyale Werle's set. It's a mash-up of sketch comedy gags and emo heartbreakers portraying the Tea Partiers of American history as furiously self-involved adolescents, besieged by raging hormones and unable to make sensible choices...I was going to criticize Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson for being slapdash and amateurish too much of the time -- but that's apparently the point. The jokes are crude ("Would you like to see my stimulus package?"), the scenes are barely constructed, and Michael Friedman's songs are pretty much inserted into the action at will...The show wears its coarseness as a badge of honor...Sometimes it uses adolescence attitudes to spoof politics; at other times, it's merely adolescent. And yet, Timbers and Friedman have scored a direct hit on a particularly sensitive cultural nerve. At a moment when populism runs rampant -- when protestors insist that any form of government health care is a socialist plot, when a majority of Republicans believe that President Obama is a secret Muslim, when you can say pretty much anything you want on Fox News and it will stick with a significant portion of the American public -- their little joke of a show injects a blast of fresh air into our poisoned political discourse. If Timbers and Friedman supply the fury, they often coast on the talents of a cast that is capable of taking dangerously lame material and invigorating it with their clowning. (Read Full Review)

C

The Heir Apparent

Once again, Ives has come up with passage after passage of intricately rendered, gag-laden verse, creating a kind of verbal slapstick that has no peer at the moment. But, possibly because he is working with an inferior source, The Heir Apparent...grates as often as it amuses. The caustic insights of The School for Lies have been replaced by a mad, scrambling, anything-for-a-laugh approach that proves far less satisfying. In general, the humors of The Heir Apparent are marked by a coarseness that, combined with various aggressive attempts at audience participation, creates an atmosphere where desperation, rather than laughter, reigns. To be sure, the hard-working cast members, as directed by John Rando, get their laughs from those who are willing to get high on this helium silliness. But you're just as likely to feel fatigued by their relentless attempts at inducing amusement.Any time you have to be told this insistently to have fun, something is wrong. (Read Full Review)

C

Love Song

Love Song is billed as a romantic comedy, but that's a misnomer. John Kolvenbach's new play touches on married love, sibling love, and illusory love, but at its heart it's about a certain very specific and debilitating form of eccentricity. Then again, whether it touches on any of subjects deeply enough to make a play is open to debate...In its sentimental soft-pedaling of the horrors of mental illness and in its skimpy, anecdotal structure, Love Song, which starts out on such a bright note, fades fast...That Love Song remains watchable throughout its 90-minute running time is a tribute to the cast members, who, under Kolvenbach's rather skillful direction, find laughter and sadness in even the weakest passages. (Read Full Review)

C

Spy Garbo

Schwartz is particularly acute in exploring the dizzying, many-leveled deceptions that constituted the World War II spy game...Line by line, Spy Garbo has plenty of trenchant commentary to offer, but, ultimately, Schwartz has written a conversation piece rather than a play that contains any meaningful dramatic action, and the somewhat circular nature of the talk becomes a little wearing. More complex and troubling is the role of technology in Kevin Cunningham's production...It's a complex setup -- the video is by Aaron Harrow, Jeff Morey, and Peter Norrman -- and it arguably pulls too much focus from the cast. As is always the case at 3LD, the work is technically flawless, but the enormous images dwarf the cast...Given all of this, the actors' ability to connect with the audience is compromised. It's hard not to feel that a more intimate approach would have served the script better...The elements tend to fight one another, resulting in a play that intrigues but doesn't command your attention. There's a better script in this material, and I hope someone finds it. (Read Full Review)

C

The House of Blue Leaves

There may well be more than one way to handle Guare's script, but Cromer's approach, like so many stagings of modern classics, gives the game away, beginning emotionally where the play should end up. In The House of Blue Leaves we should be made dizzy with laughter, then brought up short by dark moment of truth, ending by gasping in shock at the play's horrifying climax. But the way Cromer has staged it, there's no journey to be taken; in a way, the play is over when the curtain goes up. (Read Full Review)

C

Looped

Aside from The Little Foxes (71 years ago) and The Skin of Our Teeth (68 years ago), the lady's stage career consisted almost entirely of flops or trivial and long-forgotten vehicles. (Foolish Notion, anyone? Midgie Purvis?) Of her handful of films, only one -- Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat -- is worth discussing. As legacies go, it's pretty thin. And yet, in the last quarter-century, there's been a cottage industry in Tallulah bio-plays... The answer, I think, is that Bankhead was a pioneer in the field of celebrity, her larger-than-life persona eclipsing her talent until she reached that most dreadful of fates, being famous for being famous. As such, we no longer think about Bankhead, the woman, or Bankhead, the actress; instead, she has morphed into a comic character, everyone's Platonic image of the bourbon-voiced, foulmouthed Broadway diva, spouting one-liners to a cadre of camp followers. (Read Full Review)

C

Wild Animals You Should Know

There's a good idea hiding somewhere in Higgins' play - a kind of panorama of troubled manhood on both sides of the generational divide - but it is far too rickety to support much of anything.... On the plus side, Higgins has a fine ear for the way young people talk, and Trip Cullman, the director, keeps the action moving at a crisp pace. But when actors like Patrick Breen, as Walter, and Alice Ripley, as Marsha, look totally stranded, something is wrong. (Read Full Review)

C

Cornelius

Anyway, this most admirable production does little to disguise the fact that Cornelius is a dull and downbeat evening that meanders toward a conclusion that strikes an entirely false note of affirmation. Plenty of people are going to want to see this production -- for Alan Cox, for the chance to see such a rarity, and to fill out their knowledge of Priestley. That's fine, as long as you know what you're getting into. (Read Full Review)

C

Rx

As a result, Rx at times induces a bad case of tedious theatre syndrome -- a sadly overlooked disease, although it affects millions -- and, in this instance, it isn't entirely relieved by regular infusions of Fodor's barbed wit. (Read Full Review)

C

Idiot Savant

Watching Idiot Savant, which is a veritable archive of vintage avant-garde tropes, I suddenly had a vision of Foreman as a kind of downtown Neil Simon, plugging away at his vision, never mind that the world has moved on ... Of course, a critic like Ben Brantley -- who isn't all that concerned about drama, anyway -- thinks he's great, but a surprising number of thoughtful minds have found much to praise in Foreman's work. It must be a trick of the light -- all I can see is a series of gestures left over from those feverish days when every performance was a self-conscious act of provocation against the audience ... in truth, the set, by Foreman with an assist from Peter Ksander -- it's a kind of cartoon of an English great house with a touch of Edward Gorey about it -- is an amusingly shifty place. (It grows and shrinks, as required.) Heather Carson's lighting, as always, is endlessly inventive, making use, as it does, of all sorts of oddball instruments. (Well, I didn't love the blinder cues, but that's part of the Foreman playbook.) Travis Just's sound design is more like a sinister soundtrack of cues that often have little or nothing to do with the action onstage; again, he's serving the director, and he does it well. Gabriel Berry's costumes cleverly mix and match styles from many different periods. (Read Full Review)

C

The Library

If The Library has more melodramatic verve than complexity of character or action, it is nevertheless watchable thanks to some tense confrontations... Even with its penchant for condescension... The Library would be a fairly gripping evening but for the extremely odd staging... It is the most blatant instance in many a season of a director sabotaging a play with his stylistic affectations. It's too bad because if you peer hard enough at the stage, you'll see remarkably persuasive performances... (Read Full Review)

C

Three Men on a Horse

Ideally, farce should begin on a low-key note and ramp up by degrees -- but this one is stuck in idle for so long, it risks losing the audience altogether.

It's just barely possible that, in superbly timed and deadpan staging, Three Men on a Horse might still have that old magic. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Addams Family

What's most peculiar about The Addams Family is that a show so cleverly designed should, whenever it speaks or sings, be so lacking in any distinctive character whatsoever. (Read Full Review)

C-

Still Life

David Korins is very possibly the most interesting set designer working Off Broadway today, but Still Life does not feature one of his happiest inventions. It's a fairly generic collection of elements -- a couple of pillars, some ceiling moldings, a window unit, and a long table -- that tries to stand in for so many locations it ends up suiting very few of them. It also doesn't solve the structural problems of a script constructed out of many short scenes; much of the second act is taken up with people moving furniture around in the dark. However, the action is lit with rare fluency and skill by David Weiner. His nighttime sidelight looks are particularly alluring, as is a wash of African sunlight, and there's a shocking moment, late in the play, when harsh morning light is made to pour into a room. Barring an extremely unfortunate cocktail dress for Paulson, Sarah J. Holden's costumes seem accurate and up to date. Fitz Patton's sound design includes some ambient urban noises, as well as reinforcement for the melancholy guitar music penned by Michael Friedman. As it shifts it focus among its leading characters, and shuttles between cynicism and sentimentality, Still Life offers a blurry image of its characters. There's a play in there, but it need a surer hand for its power to be fully brought to life. (Read Full Review)

C-

Middletown

How long can your attention thrive on a diet of tiny ironies and wry observations? ... But if, like me, you feel that this sort of humor is best administered in small doses, then it won't be long before you find Middletown to be pretty cloying. Most of its charms are contained in the throwaway gags listed above -- indeed, at times, the humor seems designed to distract us from the overall banality of the conception -- and you quickly find yourself wanting more. The frail dramatic line focuses on a sort-of friendship between Mary, a housewife who's new in town, and John, a handyman who, in his spare time, likes to read books about gravity. Nothing much happens between them, but in the second act, both end up in the hospital -- she to give birth, and he to expire from an infection acquired by accident during a botched suicide attempt. Yes, Middletown is dedicated to reminding us that we live, we die, and who knows what it all means. It's Our Town for hipsters -- but even now, seven decades later, Thornton Wilder's gaze remains so cool, so penetrating into the dark mystery of life, that, in comparison, Middletown pales into nothingness ... I didn't really care for Eno's last piece, the highly acclaimed Thom Paine: Based on Nothing, so this will probably be a minority report. But, like that earlier work, Middletown comes across as a series of writerly strategies in search of a workable structure. It seems to me that Eno is a real writer, possibly even a poet. What I've yet to see is any evidence that he's a playwright. (Read Full Review)

C-

Passion Play

In rolling out variations on one situation in three different contexts, Ruhl has posed an enormous challenge for herself, one that proves to be beyond her powers. She appears to have been consumed by her grand design, which, sadly, is not always supported by its details. As in a medieval triptych, the characters are lacking in any humanizing detail or dimension; they're flat figures, to be arranged and re-arranged as necessary. Their banal triangles and secret romances don't always relate organically to the larger political situation. The most successful of the plays is the third, because the possibility of P committing an act of violence lends some underlying tension, and because the characters' choices are linked to the fallout of the war in Vietnam. Even here, however, Ruhl lets the drama slip away, preferring to concentrate more on an addled monologue from President Reagan that would have been much funnier in, say, 1988...Passion Play is never dull, and, from time to time it comes to life. But it remains better notionally and as executed. It occasionally impresses, but it almost never grips. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Metal Children

The action is so consistently outlandish that, on the face of it, it sounds like farce -- but the script's stabs at black humor are inconsistent and Rapp's staging leans toward drama. In such an uncertain situation, each member of the cast goes his or her own way ... Billy Crudup takes a two-pronged approach as Tobin, reacting to the script's demands on a line-by-line basis; it's no small tribute to his talent that his work goes a long way toward holding The Metal Children together. But the wilder the action gets, the less convincing it becomes, and the more you begin to suspect that Rapp's portrayal of a community driven mad by literature is a pretty feverish fantasy of its own, a self-congratulatory tribute to the power of the word. This is especially true of the final scene, set a year later, which seemingly reframes the entire play as yet another portrait of a tormented writer struggling his way toward enlightenment. (Read Full Review)

C-

Burning

Burning is a kind of fabulous, ambitious mess, a pileup of people, ideas, revelations, and moods. It's never dull, but its main fascination lies in trying to figure out where this bizarre, out-of-control vehicle could possibly be headed... About half the time, it's not hard to feel that Bradshaw is kidding; at other times, he appears to be deadly earnest. What seems obvious is that he has spent an enormous amount of time moving figures across his broad canvas, but has spent little or no time on giving them any kind of recognizable humanity... If the director, Scott Elliott, can't knit together this mishmash of ideas and tones, well, who could? ...This one needed a lot more time in the workshop. (Read Full Review)

C-

Vanities

Vanities was always enjoyable because of its refreshing absence of a thesis statement. Instead, through little bits of everyday conversation, we discovered the young ladies' foibles, and their hidebound mores. ("When I found out George Eliot was a woman, I got all confused!") Without editorializing, we saw them grow apart and struggle with realities they could never have imagined as teenagers... David Kirshenbaum's songs consist of pleasant, polished, and thoroughly disposable pop music of no particular character; this is less a comment on his talent than on the difficulties of finding reasons to make these characters sing. Oddly, except for one mildly Burt Bachararch-ish tune, Kirshenbaum avoids period pastiche. A couple of the big pieces -- "Flying into the Future," in which Mary itches to cut loose from the sorority house, and "Cute Boys with Short Haircuts," in which Kathy basically says the hell with men -- are overscaled for this modest comedy. Oddly, Heifner, who wrote the book, has dispensed with some of the script's best and edgiest jokes -- including a memorable shock laugh about John F. Kennedy's assassination. Even more surprisingly, his original point, that all three young ladies were ill-served by upbringings that left them unable to cope with changing times, is now erased by a new finale, set years later in a funeral parlor, when everyone convenes for a big sisterhood-is-powerful hug. I'm the last person to complain if he wants to reverse the point of the play -- it's his play, and he can do what he wants with it -- but I can't help but feeling that the Vanities, a New Musical isn't a patch on just plain old Vanities. (Read Full Review)

C-

What the Public Wants

There are exactly two scenes that really crackle in Arnold Bennett's 1909 drama What the Public Wants, and both of them involve Rob Breckenridge and Ellen Adair...In both these scenes, an otherwise stodgy Edwardian drama is temporarily loosed from its stays; the rest of the time, What the Public Wants is a slightly plodding account of an early 20th-century media mogul...Funnily enough, a play about a man who traffics in sensation lacks anything of the sort. Each of the four acts is loaded with discussion, but very little of it scintillates; what may once have been a sharp satirical commentary has faded with age...None of this is the fault of the cast, which, under the direction of Matthew Arbour, delivers as polished a performance as one could possibly want...For all the good work, however, the script stubbornly refuses to come to life. (Read Full Review)

C-

I Married Wyatt Earp

Walter Kerr once described a certain misbegotten musical as "a bad idea gone wrong." It's the perfect description for I Married Wyatt Earp, in which some talented people have made some very strange decisions, resulting in a form of artistic self-sabotage. (Read Full Review)

C-

Dov and Ali

C-

Little Miss Sunshine

...Little Miss Sunshine repeatedly fails to strike the right tone... But several other numbers feel like placeholders, and Finn's famously spiky wit is largely absent... James Lapine's libretto has a handful of amusing wisecracks... but it often goes seriously awry in its attempt to recreate the film's oddball blend of laughter and melancholy... Stephanie J. Block and Will Swenson, capable musical theatre leads, are surprisingly bland... Logan Rowland invests Dwayne with a real sweetness, and little Hannah Nordberg is a total charmer... Little Miss Sunshine simply wasn't crying out to be a musical. (Read Full Review)

C-

Honey Brown Eyes

Despite the playwright's imagination and seriousness of purpose, however, Honey Brown Eyes never fully persuades ... [it] suffers from a certain artificiality that proves distracting. Zadravec's decision to have the characters speak in a contemporary American idiom doesn't prove helpful, but each part of the play has weaknesses of its own. The action is so fast and violent in the Visegrad scenes that we never get much of a chance to know the characters; in the Sarajevo scenes, they nearly talk your ear off bemoaning their fates, and there's too many cute-old-lady character bits involving Jovanka, a real wisecracker if ever there was one ... It's possible that another director might establish a more plausible atmosphere, but, in this case, Erica Schmidt's overwrought staging results in a series of performances that never seem like anything more than performances ... One has to appreciate Zadravec's effort even if it doesn't come to life. Honey Brown Eyes is pretty good at showing the violence it so abhors, but it never helps us to see why it is happening in the first place. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Illusion

Michael Mayer, the director...has clearly worked long and hard with his design team to create a world that can contain Corneille's bizarre tale of reality and appearance. It's all the more remarkable then that Mayer's handling of the actors and text are so leaden. As a result, The Illusion comes across as a series of plot complications in search of a theme, an elaborate joke with a punch line so attenuated that when it arrives it hardly seems worth the trouble...Kushner's language is more elaborately wrought than insightful or amusing. (Read Full Review)

C-

I Never Sang for My Father

Even if I Never Sang for My Father eventually becomes moving -- I definitely heard sniffles around me -- it remains strangely arid. The people in it lack flesh and blood, and their problems seem a little too obviously manufactured (Read Full Review)

C-

The Realistic Joneses

...four people, of no special distinction, unmoored in midlife as hints of mortality draw in around them. Nothing else happens: There is no plot development, no major revelations, just a kind of coming together as the darkness draws near. Some of Eno's dialogue amuses, and he is a bit of an expert in conveying the basic fragility that is the essence of life and which we tend to ignore on a daily basis. But I remain baffled by those who divine in the author's purposefully banal words any intimations of cosmic truths...Comparisons have been made between him and Albee and Beckett, which I guess is possible if you strip the latter writers of their fury and terror, leaving little more than wry observations and a faint sense of unease. Still, the high-powered cast is a pleasure to spend time with, even under these uncertain circumstances. I found myself deeply in sympathy with John when he says, "This was fun -- I mean, not fun, but some other word." That's the play in a nutshell; you can supply your own word. (Read Full Review)

C-

An Early History of Fire

But An Early History of Fire comes across as an unfocused and unremarkable evening of talk. Very possibly, there's a book inside the script, waiting to get out, which would allow Rabe the space to really delineate the shifts in consciousness that are driving Danny away from everything he knows. As it is, this Fire is conspicuously lacking in dramatic heat. (Read Full Review)

C-

Wild With Happy

If everyone associated with Wild With Happy weren't so busy trying to land boffo laughs, their show might be a great deal better. But they're so hell-bent on mining the material for every last bit of wackiness -- before arriving at the inevitable sentimental epiphany -- that the effort shows, and badly...Especially considering the high-pitched nature of the material, Robert O'Hara's direction amps up the volume to an unnecessary degree. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Morini Strad

Peil makes Erica one formidable old dame...Still, it's not hard to feel that the lady deserves better material...The main problem with The Morini Strad is the one that plagues almost all two-handers -- their sheer predictability...Thanks to Peil and Laurence -- as well as the violin stylings of Hanah Stuart, who appears as a kind of vision of the younger Erica -- it all goes down easily, if unmemorably. If Casey Childs, the director, has gotten fine work out of his cast, he has also elicited a somewhat problematic design. (Read Full Review)

C-

Soul Doctor

Eric Anderson's performance goes a long way toward keeping Shlomo from seeming impossibly smug and self-involved... As Nina, Amber Iman is the most interesting person on stage... Carlebach's simple melodies are catchy enough to set off frequent bouts of clapping in the audience, but they were never meant to perform the tasks assigned to them here, where they are expected to dramatize a broad variety of emotional situations and points of view. As a result, they blur together, unaided by the clunky lyrics. Clearly intended as a celebration rather than a probing biographical drama, Soul Doctor does its subject no favors by so strenuously pleading his case. It practically begs you to love him, but it never lets you get to know him. (Read Full Review)

C-

A Perfect Future

A throwback to those days when Edward Albee was all the rage, and everyone and his brother wrote plays about social events where the boozed-up guests tear each other to shreds...These plays are tricky, because, if the playwright isn't careful, he comes off as a kind of sadist, making up characters just to torture them...By the time all is said and done, you'll most likely be wondering why Natalie and John didn't end up in divorce court some time around the Iran Contra scandal...Thanks to Wilson Milam's strong direction and a skilled cast, A Perfect Future is a lot easier to take than it might have been...Also helpful is the production design, especially Charles Corcoran's sleek setting...But, in truth, it may be time to retire this dinner-party-of-the-damned format and its attendant laments for the lost raptures of the counterculture years. Both are looking pretty old-fashioned these days. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Road to Mecca

You won't be surprised to hear that Rosemary Harris, Carla Gugino, and Jim Dale are doing fine, subtle, quietly revelatory work in The Road to Mecca. With these three, how could it be otherwise? They're enough to constitute any playwright's dream cast, but there's a strange irony buried inside Gordon Edelstein's meticulous production: The more this trio digs into the subsurface of Athol Fugard's play, generally to brilliant effect, the more they inadvertently cast a harsh light on its stagy construction and bald-faced use of old-fashioned theatrical devices. (Read Full Review)

C-

Ivanov

At CSC, Hawke hasn't found a plausible approach to the character; his Ivanov is petulant, highly irritable, rapidly approaching basket-case status. He isn't suffering from a sickness of the soul; he is merely cranky. In his search for intensity, the actor pumps up the volume, stamping his foot and shouting his lines to surprisingly little effect. The effect is damaging; the play is robbed of its vital center, the closest thing it has to an organizing principle. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Retributionists

The production's designers have conspired to give the play a voluptuous, film-noir sheen. Most of the action takes place in the train car and hotel room, both conjured up by Derek McLane with ease, using a few modular scenic pieces linked by a common door. The designer's skill at using a few telling details to create a strong sense of place has proved especially useful here. And, when the action moves to that bakery in Nuremburg, that stage is opened up to create yet another distinctively different location. Most of these locations are set against a basic set-up in which rows of black street lights run upstage to downstage, creating a kind of shadowy, back-alley look. Peter Kaczorowski's lighting endows the action with the requisite noir glamour; the hotel scenes in particular have a lovely sepia-toned quality. The forest flashback scene glitters with moonlight. Susan Hilferty's costumes include some beautifully tailored men's suits; her costumes for Dinchka are especially revealing of changes that characters life at three different points in the narrative. (I'd love to know why Anika is always barefoot, however.) Jill B. C DuBoff's sound design provides solid reinforcement for Tom Kitt's attractively melancholic piano-strings melodies; she also comes up with some extremely realistic train-station sounds. For all of this good work, however, The Retributionists remains one of those how-did-it-ever-get-on bafflers. Goldfarb's characters learn that the road to hell is paved with good intentions -- words he might well take to heart. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Too often, the stage is filled with people walking funny and acting funny, but not really getting laughs because their delivery is off by a crucial half-second. This lack of precision extends to the design as well. (Read Full Review)

D+

Dog and Wolf

Filloux sees them as a geopolitical odd couple, their differences forming an allegory of American innocence versus an Old World knowledge of evil, but the characters are too thinly drawn to be of real interest...There's no complexity to their arguments, just a lot of bickering, some of it disconcertingly jokey...Under the direction of Jean Randich, the actors are encouraged to emote at a level that is too big for the tiny Theatre C at 59E59...A largely frustrating experience, a squandered opportunity. Its subject is gripping; its people are not. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Hallway Trilogy

Having spent nearly five hours in one day taking in The Hallway Trilogy, I can say with total confidence that it is a trilogy about... a hallway. I'd like to be more specific, but I'm at a loss...Both [Rose and Paraffin are typical of Rapp in terms of his strengths and weaknesses. As is almost always the case, he comes up with unusual situations and broad galleries of characters -- and yet it's almost impossible to become engaged with these people and their problems...As staged by Trip Cullman, Nursing is loaded with striking and unsettling moments, even as it bogs down in contrivances...The author has imagined this disease-free future so he can comment that such an apparent accomplishment is more akin to a disaster -- if you rob life of pain you also rob it of its savor. But he makes this point early and often, and has nothing to add to it...As presented by a trio of directors, a fine set of designers, and a cast of some of Off Broadway's more notable names, The Hallway Trilogy has all the marks of a first-class endeavor, but it ultimately reveals itself to be as pointless as it is elaborate. None of the plays stands on its own and they don't combine to any significant effect...If nothing else, this enterprise proves there's a lot more to writing a trilogy than simply coming up with three plays. (Read Full Review)

D+

La Cage aux Folles

Finally, there's Johnson's direction. It may seem too obvious to point out, but La Cage aux Folles is a work of artifice, adapted from the kind of thoroughly mechanical French farce that still draws audiences on the Paris boulevard, with Herman's numbers acting as bursts of emotional truth amid the gagging and plotting. It works best when directed in slam-bang fashion, pausing for breath when it sings, but Johnson opts for a slower, more "realistic" pace that gives you far too much time to ponder the plot's many holes. The final scenes, in which Albin and Georges end up tangling with Anne's furiously right-wing family, are surprisingly lacking in farcical fizz. (Read Full Review)

D+

P.S. Jones and the Frozen City

On a technical/design level, P.S. Jones and the Frozen City is quite the achievement...But as for the rest of P.S. Jones and the Frozen City, I am at a total loss. The script is a scattershot series of limp jokes, none of which hint at any particular point of view. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Duchess of Malfi

[T]he attractive and well-spoken company assembled by Berger has trouble conjuring Webster's world of malice run rampant. The words are there, but a festering sense of evil is missing in action ... And so it goes, with everyone on their best behavior, announcing their intentions in language of rare clarity, apparently in the hope that words alone will supply the furies that propel the story. It's a strange approach, leaving one with too much time to contemplate the plot's many absurdities. One might think that Berger and company, in shying away from the play's bloodstained melodrama, have tried to give it an ironic contemporary spin ... He may have died in 1634, but Webster is an honorary modern, fully armed with irony; he doesn't need any director's help in this regard. (Read Full Review)

D+

Office Hours

The peculiarities of academic life have been fertile ground for many writers, and Gurney, who taught for many years at MIT, certainly knows the territory. But somehow his collage-like approach doesn't add up to a substantial work with a strong point of view...Taken as a whole, they aren't funny or pointed enough to compensate for the lack of a solid dramatic arc...Each scene passes by painlessly, and occasionally amusingly, without ever amounting to much at all. (Read Full Review)

D+

Too Much, Too Much, Too Many

Kennedy is big on cute conceits like Hidge and Rose pretending to dance together on opposite sides of the door. But her characters are so thinly conceived that they barely seem to exist. (Read Full Review)

D+

Milk

There are plenty of developments, including a disastrous storm, budding romances, a cheese-making session, anti-pasteurization rants, and the unearthing of a big secret about James' marriage. But few of them seem to stick, and DeVoti is unable to provide the story with any fundamental dramatic tension or well-drawn characters ... Under Jessica Bauman's direction, a talented cast does its level best to make sense of it all. As Meg, Jordan Baker, last seen as a world-weary leading lady in Is Life Worth Living?, is a convincingly drab farmwife, and her scenes of marital bickering with Jon Krupp's Ben have the ring of truth. Peter Bradbury is an attractive and slightly mysterious figure as James, but the character, as written, simply doesn't add up. Noah Robbins, who passed through Broadway last fall in Brighton Beach Memoirs, is a skilled young actor, and he has a nice rapport with Anna Kull as Veronica. It's never fun playing a symbol, but Carolyn Baeumler at least has a strong stage presence as Auroch ... The most impressive design aspect is Amy Altadonna's sound design, starting with the opening sequence, which blends wind, chimes, the mooing of cows, the clatter of milk buckets, and what sounded very much to me like a toy piano. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Little Foxes

But really, none of this matters, because this is director's theatre, and presumably nobody in the audience at New York Theatre Workshop expects to see Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. They know they're getting Ivo van Hove's notion of same, and they don't expect that his sensibility will have even a nodding acquaintance with that of the playwright. (For the curious, it's an excellent chance to see what the traffic will bear in European theatre these days.) It's a funny thing, though; even with its steel-trap structure, black-hearted wit, and air of menace, The Little Foxes has been critically downgraded in recent years; why this has happened is a topic for another day. It may be an American classic, or it may be middlebrow melodrama -- but at its worst, it's never as coarse and vulgar as van Hove's treatment of it. (Read Full Review)

D+

Godspell

The original staging was fast, funny, and seemingly freeform in the way it presented Christ's parables as a series of put-ons and comic sketches...Goldstein's production tries, in a thousand different ways, to update Godspell for modern audiences, but to little avail...What once seemed like an outburst of innocent fun has hardened into showbiz shtick -- a farrago of glitter cannons, pools, trampolines, dry ice effects, and moving-light cues...The result is a noisy, charmless entertainment that remains firmly stuck between two worlds. (Read Full Review)

D+

Measure for Measure

Angelo, maddened by lust for the young novice Isabella, will all but rape the poor young woman before trying to blackmail her into giving herself to save her brother, Claudio, from the executioner. (Claudio is under arrest for having impregnated his girlfriend; it's part of a moral crackdown that includes shutting down all the bawdy houses.) If ever an actor was ill-equipped to convincingly undergo a Mr. Hyde-like transformation, steeping himself in moral disgust, Michael Hayden - a fine actor in many situations - is the one. His boyish good looks, affable manner, and easy way with the verse all militate against him here. He does his best - even resorting to lowering his voice to show how degraded he has become - but he isn't believable for a second. (Read Full Review)

D+

Heroes

There's nothing to the script, aside from a series of running gags delivered with metronomic regularity, and, for a bit of color and dramatic heft, the occasional reminder that the grim reaper is near...It's tempting to blame Tom Stoppard's translation for this bland, not terribly amusing laughter-and-tears concoction--and, indeed, it's hard to see what drew the most articulate and intellectual playwright in the English-speaking world to an enterprise that resembles nothing so much as a kind of Gallic edition On Golden Pond. Whether you will find this spry trio and their vaudevillian dialogues amusing will be a matter of taste...Even a trio of skillful old pros has to struggle to get the best out of this material. (Read Full Review)

D+

White Woman Street

The peculiarities of White Woman Street become apparent as soon as the lights come up; Barry's idea of World War I-era Ohio -- envisioned here as an outpost of the Wild West, complete with saloons, train robbers, and Native Americans selling whiskey -- is about as realistic as Bertolt Brecht's Chicago. If Barry cared at all about verisimilitude, the play would have been set about 50 years earlier, in, say, Arizona -- but, clearly, he wants to draw a parallel with the Easter Uprising in Ireland, providing an ironic, if unspoken, contrast with O'Hara's dreams of returning home. And so it goes, with the demands of drama and storytelling subsumed to the author's unbending will. (Read Full Review)

D+

Dietrich and Chevalier - The Musical

Robert Cuccioli and Jodi Stevens -- true pros, both -- are being asked to do the impossible...They're being asked to incarnate two of the most indelible personalities in 20th-century show business. It's not that they don't give it their best...In any event, both stars are stuck with Jerry Mayer's script, a wartime melodrama with songs that plays like something from the bottom half of a Paramount double feature circa 1943...Pamela Hall's staging is as good as the material allows. (Read Full Review)

D+

One Arm

Williams' works grew bleaker as he aged - by the '70s, any possibility of love or transcendence in his works has been replaced by quick sexual transactions, usually in the tawdriest of circumstances - but, even so, One Arm stands out as an exceptionally forbidding piece of writing...The relentless sameness of the narrative's incidents is the main reason why One Arm ultimately becomes an oppressive experience...Ollie barely exists as a character; he's really only a beast of burden onto which Williams (and Kaufman) can place loads of suffering...One Arm too often appears to be a study in squalor for its own sake. (Read Full Review)

D+

Love's Labor's Lost

Karin Coonrod...has chosen to double down on the play's self-consciously winsome qualities, resulting in an evening that is full of either (choose one) sprightly laughter or enervating shtick. I'm sorry to have to vote for the latter category, but there you are...Coonrod gets her laughs by hook or by crook -- this production sets some kind of world record for the use of funny voices and eccentric walks -- but, sadly, rarely in concert with Shakespeare...Before the evening is over, you will understand the term "anything for a laugh" like never before...The accomplished cast does occasionally deliver, usually in quieter, more intimate moments. (Read Full Review)

D+

Rock of Ages

Anyway, Rock of Ages, ghastly as it as at certain moments, at least has a point of view, which is more than you can say for the dreadful revival of Grease that occupied the Brooks Atkinson for more than year. And, although I expect Rock of Ages is going to be there for quite some time, at least I'm done with it. And for producers contemplating other jukebox musical ideas, I have a message from the musical theatre fans of New York: We're not gonna take it anymore (Read Full Review)

D+

Relatively Speaking

A throwback to all the flop comedies that populated the Times Square area in the '60s...The first half of the evening, which examines the family ties that bind -- and gag -- is the deadlier of the two. The opener, "Talking Cure," by Ethan Coen, is simply inexplicable..."George is Dead" is the strangest of the evening's offerings. As Doreen, Thomas is an amusing caricature right out of an old Mike Nichols-Elaine May sketch, but she's strangely adrift in a downbeat drama...For a total change of pace, there's Woody Allen's "Honeymoon Motel"...[It] gets its share of laughs, but it's tacky, derivative stuff, a coarse procession of one-liners smuggled out of the Borscht Belt. It feels like outtakes from a television special circa 1970. (Read Full Review)

D+

Oliver Parker!

I'm all for playwrights employing shock tactics, but you've got to choose your targets carefully if you want to have the right effect. Take the case of Elizabeth Meriwether. In Oliver Parker!, she pushes so many envelopes, she runs out of things to push. What starts out as a startling black comedy quickly becomes a case study of the law of diminishing returns...n any event, Evan Cabnet's direction maintains a reasonable level of tension, even when the action is barely credible. And, if nothing else, the production provides a real showcase for Michael Zegen, whose Oliver is exactly the uncontrollable sociopath the author dreams about, assessing the chaos he has stirred up with the air of a true connoisseur. I also liked Monica Raymond, as Willa's tightly wrapped assistant, whose idea of hot foreplay is to be spanked with a copy of The Economist. (Read Full Review)

D+

Blood From a Stone

There may be a real zinger of a drama embedded in Blood From a Stone, but more work is needed to extract it. There's not enough meaningful action; Nohilly simply lets his characters have at each other, fighting round after round to diminishing returns. The play was cut by at least half an hour during previews, but it's still at least 30 minutes too long. He could eliminate two full scenes and characters -- Sarah, Bill and Margaret's daughter and the only non-basket-case in the family, and Yvette, an old flame of Travis' -- without doing any damage at all. (This is in spite of the fact that Natasha Lyonne and Daphne Rubin-Vega are fine as Sarah and Yvette, respectively.) Also lacking is a larger sense of resonance. A play like August: Osage County says something about the state of American society in the late Bush years; Nohilly's focus on the characters is so intense that you end feeling trapped in the sordidness of it all. Scott Elliott's direction tends to put the brakes on the script's more melodramatic elements, resulting in an oddly halting pace; the incident-packed final scene ends on a surprisingly flat note. (Read Full Review)

D+

Macbeth

This Macbeth goes wrong in so many ways, it's difficult to describe them all, the most fundamental being the premise: It never becomes clear why this madhouse concept is anything more than a stunt...Furthermore, the script has been so severely streamlined that what we're seeing could be more fairly called Highlights from Macbeth. Cumming does a poor job of differentiating between the characters.... the staging ideas get nuttier and nuttier... there are occasional moments of power... The best one can do is admire Cumming for his stamina... This production is horrifying in all the wrong ways. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Wood

It's remarkable how quickly a fine actor, armed with some powerful words, can wake up a sleeping play... Vladimir Versailles' quietly stunning performance...is a remarkably controlled piece of work... There's another pretty good scene in Act II... [but] otherwise, The Wood is a sad case of rich, potentially sensational, material being fumbled and frittered away... Klores continues to demonstrate an alarming lack of facility as a playwright... This is hagiography, not drama, and nothing gets explored in detail.

(Read Full Review)

D+

Romeo and Juliet

I really hate to state the obvious, but these are confused times, so here goes: If you're going to stage Shakespeare's plays, you will need actors who can handle his verse. Got it? This seemingly irrefutable proposition is apparently big news in New York these days, where Romeo and Juliet is being wrestled to a draw both on and off Broadway. At Classic Stage Company, you can hear the words, but they are stripped of any music or meaning…The director, Tea Alagic, is capable of providing striking and unusual bits of business…[but] glaringly absent is any overarching point of view, along with a pulse of passion. This is a hot-blooded play in which emotions strike like lightning, but you wouldn't know it here...it's impossible to tell what drove Alagic and her collaborators to revive Romeo and Juliet in the first place. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Scottsboro Boys (Off-Broadway)

What's most notable about The Scottsboro Boys is the sheer daring of the enterprise, not its achievement. And if, to me, it belongs in the same category as such interesting K&E also-rans as The Rink and Steel Pier, it is, I suspect, a show that will find many defenders...The minstrel show approach is inherently noxious, and the authors' determination to shatter every possible taboo makes The Scottsboro Boys seem less like a Brechtian political satire than an all-out assault on the audience's sensibilities...[It] risks becoming increasingly grating, a grimly unfunny cartoon that threatens to choke on its own rage. The effect is exacerbated by Susan Stroman's hard-sell staging. (Read Full Review)

D+

In the Daylight

Glazer is not an untalented writer--his last piece, Stain, about an equally troubled family, certainly had its moments--but here his carving knife is thoroughly dull, and the constant drumbeat of mean-spirited, faux-sophisticated remarks quickly wears one down. The characters are the thinnest of cardboard--the alcoholic writer, the castrating mother--and everyone speaks in the same unpleasant, unfunny voice. The actors, under the direction of John Gould Rubin, attack their lines with vigor, to little effect. (There's an appallingly high level of screaming.)...The rest of the production is striking, if also occasionally annoying. (Read Full Review)

D+

Heartless

Heartless is most notable for the air of enervation that prevails...The action purposely doesn't track...None of this would matter--a certain mysterious, dreamlike quality is central to most of Shepard's best plays--if there was some underlying resonance, a feeling that Heartless was headed somewhere, anywhere. But the play feels stuck in neutral throughout...Daniel Aukin's production can't impose coherence where none exists, but at least he has assembled an enthusiastic cast...Even if you think of it as a late-career chamber piece, Heartless remains desperately in need of a heartbeat. (Read Full Review)

D+

Romeo and Juliet

This one is a real head-scratcher--not because its intentions are so obscure, but because it seems to have no intentions whatsoever. From time to time, portions of the set burst into flames, but little else catches fire...The lack of excitement extends to the production's leads, neither of whom demonstrates any skill at speaking iambic pentameter verse nor…provides much in the way of emotional variety. But the performances of a wildly uneven supporting cast strongly suggest that Bloom and Rashad are not alone in being at sea on stage...The best thing about Leveaux's staging is its rapid pace...But really all this Romeo and Juliet offers is a quick bus tour of Shakespeare's text plus a bit of stargazing. Missing in action are the text's moonstruck poetry, any sense of a society riven by violence, or an appreciation of the tragic twists that destroy two promising young lives. If anyone had any thoughts about this all-too-familiar classic, they remain, like so much of the script, hard to make out.
(Read Full Review)

D+

Spirit Control

Beau Willimon pitches his tale halfway between naturalistic domestic drama and Twilight-Zone-style fantasy, resulting in an awkward disjunction of styles.... Henry Wishcamper's extremely uneven production seems overmatched at times by the cracks in the play's structure. To the extent that it holds together at all, it's because of Jeremy Sisto's work as Adam. The actor can't make his character totally believable, but his natural charisma and easy way with a line go a long way toward keeping us attentive to Adam's dilemma. The rest of the cast struggles with underwritten roles, especially Maggie Lacey as his hapless wife, Mia Barron as the mysterious Maxine, and Brian Hutchison as Adam's colleague, who makes a ham-fisted attempt at getting his friend back on the job. (Read Full Review)

D+

Arguendo

Do not attend Arguendo expecting an exploration of freedom, censorship, or judicial oversight. The American legal system is not under consideration, except as a justification for silly bits of theatrical business. The arguments offered by the two lawyers are numbingly dull and repetitive, and since it is part of the ERS aesthetic to reproduce every cough, pause, and ahem, you will quickly find yourself unable to concentrate on the issues at hand. Instead, the creators appear to be fascinated by the surface of things…If anything, Arguendo is an attempt to find a theatrical language for a process that appears to bore even those who take part in it for a living. Or so I surmise. The point of Arguendo is often elusive; it's a production with the manner of satire yet lacking any substantive point…it [also] relies on an unhappily intrusive use of video technology that erases the actors and left me feeling bilious from the sense of constant movement. There is enormously rich material here, sadly used as the basis for a startlingly empty evening.
(Read Full Review)

D+

Freud's Last Session

A stilted exchange of intellectual bullet points...The author's compare-and-contrast approach takes precedence over dramatic conflict. If you're looking for a meaty intellectual boxing match, look elsewhere. It's more like table tennis...There are moments when the conversation becomes so pointed and personal that drama threatens to erupt...But always the author retreats to glib jokes about circumcision, wisecracks (Freud to Lewis: "I have two words for you -- grow up!"), and other evasive tactics -- and then they're off again, yelling at each other like those professional talking heads on a cable news show...Takes two of the last century's most supple minds and packages them for easy consumption. (Read Full Review)

D+

Haunted

There's a faintly interesting idea here -- a relationship of the mind versus one of the too, too solid flesh, but, for most of its running time, Haunted feels bereft of conflict even as the author busies herself giving every line a poetic twist and Braham Murray's production piles on the portentous special effects. Still, even when Gladys, having discovered that many of her personal effects have gone missing, goes on a tear -- "There's something rotten in this house of Versailles," she warns him -- the level of tension remains surprisingly low. As one scene of flaccid conversation followed another, to little or no dramatic effect, I began to suspect that O'Brien was holding back some kind of shocker ... [Murray] has a penchant for too many blunt sound effects and giant projections of flowers opening to the sun and waves smashing against the shore, all of which add a level of intensity this tiny sketch cannot bear. (The operatic video imagery is by Jack James.) Similarly, Simon Higlett's set design, which places a few pieces of furniture against a transparent, curved surround, is overly stylized; it would be more helpful if it gave a sense of the characters' mundane daily lives. (Read Full Review)

D+

Sister Act

What's particularly frustrating about Sister Act is that it has good bones. As adapted from the popular film by Bill and Cheri Steinkeller, with an assist from Douglas Carter Beane, it hits all the right marks in telling the story...If anyone involved trusted it, it might have made for a fine evening of farcical fun. But they're all too busy pushing for the next laugh, whether makes any sense or not...The score, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater, is similarly uneven...One area where Sister Act doesn't stint is its on-stage talent...The fact that the audience goes wild over Sister Act suggests to me that nuns, a dying breed in the Catholic Church, no longer have any reality for most people. In the course of my life, some of the smartest, toughest, most independent-minded women I've ever met were nuns. (Read Full Review)

D+

Man and Boy

No playwright knew more about the confines of the homosexual closet than Rattigan, and the encounter between Antonescu and Harries is filled with the deft parrying of innuendos. Even now, however, the idea of a man pimping his son in order to save his business is an ugly and distasteful one. Aitken chooses to direct the scene for high comedy -- and there's no doubt that Langella and Zach Grenier, as Herries, milk it like the pros they are -- but it nevertheless left me feeling awfully queasy. This may be because, the title notwithstanding, the Gregor-Basil relationship never really comes into focus. Adam Driver does his best with Basil, but the character is little more than a cardboard ingénue, a collection of socialist platitudes who seems to change his mind about his father every few minutes. (His alcoholism is only one a many traits that seem affixed to the characters like so many doodads.) (Read Full Review)

D+

We Live Here

I'll bet that MTC took the script on the basis of the first act alone...Anyone reading or seeing the first act of We Live Here would, in all probability, conclude that Zoe Kazan is a playwright of real promise...Add in the skill of Sam Gold, the director, in orchestrating the action -- aided by an uncommonly skilled cast -- and you have every reason to expect a gripping domestic drama...Chekhov gives way to Days of Our Lives in the second act, however...It's one of the most blatant examples I've ever encountered of a playwright losing control of her material, and it's sad to see the efforts of a blue-chip cast go for naught. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Road To Qatar!

Oddly, the show has little or nothing to say about the pleasures and frustrations of working in an art form as arcane and unforgiving as musical theatre. Even more oddly, it's never clear what this project means to Michael and Jeffrey. As a result, The Road to Qatar! becomes a show about meeting a deadline -- not the most interesting of challenges. Aside from a weirdly irrelevant song called "Oil," most of the numbers tend to restate the situation in song; even the lightest of entertainments needs a touch of emotional engagement, but these numbers are drawn from the same worn joke book as the libretto. One exception is the title song from the show-within-the-show, "Aspire," which has an insanely catchy pop hook that I know I'll get out of my head in only eight or nine weeks. (Interestingly, "Aspire" is taken from the show that Cole and Krane wrote for Qatar.) (Read Full Review)

D+

Massacre (Sing to Your Children)

In any case, the director, Brian Mertes, gets extremely committed performances from his cast, who have to portray something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder while drenched in blood and delivering Rivera's overripe dialogue. I felt especially sorry for Brendan Averett as Hector, the gay diner owner, who has to spend the entire play in a pair of green Y-front underpants; in the thank-God-for-small-mercies department, when he squats on the toilet, he is partially blocked by part of the set. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Mountaintop

For all the considerable imagination that has gone into it, The Mountaintop hinges almost entirely on that one big twist and the cleverly staged finale; as such, it's a work propelled more by gimmicks than any particular historical or psychological insights. And its attempt to create a sentimental, comforting myth around one of the great crimes of the 20th century displays a dismaying lack of sense of occasion. There's no feeling for that tumultuous era... Absent any major conflict, the play is little more than a sermon about progress -- and not a very convincing one, at that... Hall soft-pedals one of the greatest tragedies of the second half of the 20th century; it's not what King deserves.

(Read Full Review)

D+

The Designated Mourner

The Designated Mourner is not a play. Instead, it is a prose piece for three voices…A short story's worth of material stretched to three hours…Before The Designated Mourner collapses under its own ponderousness, there are many turns of phrase worth savoring…But the terror at the heart of The Designated Mourner remains muted, mummified under many layers of verbiage as Jack talks and talks and talks, with Judy chiming in from time to time. The lack of specifics is another problem; the world of the play is an all-purpose house of political horrors, so vaguely rendered as to lack any reality whatsoever. It is difficult to see what [director Andre] Gregory has contributed, since all three performances are out of sync with one another. The combination of extreme length and clashing styles takes its toll. By the time we reach the climax…any sense of disturbance has long been replaced by an awareness of Shawn's button-pushing ways.
(Read Full Review)

D+

Abraham Lincoln's Big, Gay Dance Party

Loeb isn't really in control of this story -- the action pauses for too many stump speeches, and each character is given but a single dimension -- but, much of the time, the script's many twists offer a certain amount of potboiling fun. Too bad the show is overloaded with devices and clashing tones. The courtroom scenes -- especially when Harmony's students testify -- slip into Saturday Night Live territory. One character -- Anton's wisecracking Cuban photographer -- exists only so she can make dumb jokes in mangled English. And every so often the cast slips into Lincoln drag for yet another dance interlude. The result is messy, to say the least -- real anger and sharp-eyed satire are made to coexist with anything-for-a-laugh silliness and inappropriate stabs at show-biz pizzazz. The plot is also loaded with holes: Would Jerry really agree to hold a gay dance party in his hometown? Why is everyone shocked to learn that Harmony, who has lived with another woman for 30 years, is a lesbian? Did Harmony really think she was going to get away with her provocative Christmas pageant? (Read Full Review)

D+

First Date

It's not just that the jokes are overfamiliar; it's that they're overstated. This is particularly true of the songs, by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, many of which consist of choral numbers featuring the restaurant's patrons, who assume the roles of Aaron and Casey's friends, lovers, and relatives. Aaron's nonplussed reaction to the news that Casey isn't Jewish is pretty funny -- but then the cast instantly dons Hasidic headgear and launches into a loud number punctuated with "oy veys" and Aaron's grandmother rises up, like Grandma Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, to cast a malediction: If he dates a shiksa, she sings, "I'll break your matzo balls!" Reggie, Casey's best gay boyfriend, has been tasked with phoning in regularly with "bailout calls," allowing her to make a graceful exit if the date is beyond endurance. This cues a series of grimly unfunny numbers, notable only for the way Reggie is reduced to a loud, offensive gay stereotype. (Interestingly, Rory O'Malley played a not-dissimilar character in Nobody Loves You recently at Second Stage, but, thanks to better writing, direction, and performance, he all but stole the show.) (Read Full Review)

D+

In Masks Outrageous and Austere

It appears that everyone involved has strained every nerve to make something out of In Masks Outrageous and Austere -- the title comes from a poem by Elizabeth Bishop -- but it is a Sisyphean task. Usually, when given the chance to see an obscure work by a great playwright, I am grateful for the opportunity. This time, however, I have to wonder if any good is being served by digging up this unfinished, opaque piece. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Bacchae

Two minutes haven't passed before it's painfully clear that this Dionysus is in over his head. It's not that the preppy, puppyish Groff isn't believable as a vengeful god; you'd be hard-pressed to accept him as a juvenile delinquent. He strolls around the stage, clad in a leather jacket, his mouth stained with lipstick or blood; he makes extensive use of his crooked smile, when not crooning a brooding ballad or, more often, shouting himself hoarse. But he never comes off as anything but a troubled youth, the kind of kid who's mad at the world because nobody understands him. Much of his performance seems recycled from last summer's staging of Hair, but this is a terrible miscalculation. Dionysus is no flower child; he will slaughter innocents to make a point. When Pentheus, his cousin and antagonist -- an otherwise solid Anthony Mackie -- snarls at him, "You exude last," you want to laugh out loud, because Groff does nothing of the kind. (Read Full Review)

D

Come Fly Away

If it's probably true that the bright, shiny, and very, very loud entertainment at the Marquis is likely to attract audiences on the prowl for floor-show-style amusement, it's also true that the evening is surprisingly lacking in personality and emotional engagement...Storytelling and character revelation take a back seat to toothy smiles, athletic leaps, and the disembodied voice of the Chairman of the Board...The action is lively, packed with physical stunts and well-timed gags, with each number carefully designed to earn a big hand. For many, that may be enough, but it must be said that Come Fly Away is oddly lacking in impact--largely, I think, because Tharp hasn't provided any kind of emotional center, let alone narrative...Trimmed by 20 minutes or so, Come Fly Away could fit nicely into any Vegas showroom. Somehow, I can't believe this is what Tharp intended. (Read Full Review)

D

Don't Dress for Dinner

[F]arce should start out in a low-key manner, with at least a nod to everyday reality, and slip into hysteria bit by bit; the more one underplays, the bigger the laughs. In the first few minutes of John Tillinger's production, both Adam James and Ben Daniels leap around John Lee Beatty's attractive half-timbered set, looking like advanced cases of St. Vitus dance; as the plot keeps twisting, they have to constantly up the ante until they are twitching like deranged puppets.
(Read Full Review)

D

February House

Reduces these neurotic, selfish, creative, and altogether devilishly complex personalities to a series of drab cartoon sketches. The outlines are there, but somebody forgot to fill in the colors...These disappointments are not relieved by Gabriel Kahane's songs; he's a new and somewhat distinctive writer, and, regarding his abilities as a theatrical storyteller, the jury remains deadlocked...Some numbers, which set Auden's lyrics to music, are worth a second listen...It all strains the efforts of an appealing cast...The best work comes from Erik Lochtefeld, whose Auden is wearily aware of his own contradictions. (Read Full Review)

D

The Common Pursuit

Inside the mechanical, deterministic universe of the play, nothing good ever happens; disillusionment is the only option. Gray was too mordant a writer to wring his hands over lost youth or shattered ideals, but his detachment is as counterproductive as false sentimentality would have been...Because the characters are so thin and lacking in substance, this state of perpetual decline becomes monotonous...These weaknesses are severely exacerbated by Kaufman's production, which is filled with attractive, talented actors who appear to have little or no understanding of the characters they are playing. (Read Full Review)

D

Murder in the First

The most notable thing about Murder in the First, the play, is how awkwardly it sits on the stage... In the right hands, this story could make for a gripping melodrama, but what's most striking about Gordon's script is how much happens offstage... Then again, what we do see of the trial strains credibility to the breaking point... Under Michael Parva's generally listless direction, the cast struggles to bring any conviction to the dialogue; I can't remember when I last heard so many phony-sounding line readings... Murder in the First does nothing to advance the cause of film-to-stage adaptations. In fact, it should serve as a warning to anyone similarly inclined that the transition from one medium to another is much harder than it looks. (Read Full Review)

D

It Must Be Him

I began to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, trapped in Exposition Hell for eternity as playwright Kenny Solms stated and restated the play's situation without attempting to develop it...If Louie was a more engaging character, maybe none of this would matter, but, as presented here, he's an embarrassingly obvious case of arrested development...The role of Louie is a tall order for Peter Scolari, who piles on the mannerisms in a vain attempt at winning us over...In any case, a remarkably large supporting cast, under Daniel Kutner's fast, no-frills direction, provides some fleeting moments of amusement. (Read Full Review)

D

Another Part of the Forest

Another Part of the Forest isn't really a lost masterpiece, but it's eminently playable and thoroughly nasty fun, if you have the right people on board. A sensitive director, like a Daniel Sullivan or a Jack O'Brien, could make a barn-burning evening out of it. Sad to say, the Peccadillo production is lacking in almost every respect, beginning with Joseph Spirito's ungainly set, which depicts the parlor and patio of the Hubbard manse. It sits awkwardly on the stage and is shorn of any detail that might give clues to the family's stifling existence. The problem is compounded by a cast that delivers a thoroughly superficial reading of the script, one lacking in any sense of menace, sorrow, or cynical wit. Watching the play, you can instinctively sense the play's big moments -- the coiled expressions of tension, the shock-laugh lines, the rush of pathos, and surprising reversals of fortune -- as they pass by the cast members, unrecognized and unexpressed. (Read Full Review)

D

Mother

Nothing much happens: There's a bizarre subplot about the family's contentious relationship with another, unseen, clan, but it exists only as a reason to get characters on and off the stage. Conflicts are brought up, then dropped, every few minutes, as the conversation heads into another dead end. Kitty delivers two bombshells near the finale, but nothing comes of either one. With so many loose ends, I began to wonder if Mother was originally a longer play -- not that I'm asking for that. (Read Full Review)

D

Banished Children of Eve

All the elements are there for an old-fashioned, barn-burning melodrama laced with mordant observations about race and class in 19th-century New York. But in adapting Peter Quinn's 622-page historical novel, the playwright, Kelly Younger, trips over the book's multitude of characters and incidents. It's Reader's Digest Condensed Theatre, and the execution is none too elegant...It's almost impossibly rich material and it resists dramatization...Act II devolves into one big group argument followed by a chase scene and surprise death, after which play ends with too many narrative lines left hanging...The actors attack their roles furiously but to curiously little effect...It's an epic without sweep, a saga populated by the thinnest of characters. (Read Full Review)

D

Banana Shpeel

Part old-fashioned vaudeville revue, part standard Cirque spectacle, part burlesque of burlesque. One crucial creative decision will probably determine whether or not you'll choose to attend. If, like me, you've been thinking for years that the clowns are the weakest aspect of any Cirque show, you'll give the Beacon a wide berth, because, in Banana Shpeel, the clowns are front and center...Everything is so self-consciously wacky -- and the dialogue so lame -- that it's all you can to do sit there, waiting for the next act to begin...Some of the acts are first-rate, especially that hand-balancer, Dima Shine, who seems to have left his skeletal structure in the wings as he executes astonishing feats of flexibility...But every time Banana Shpeel starts to get entertaining, the clowns take over, and the air goes out of everything. (Read Full Review)

D

Gruesome Playground Injuries

This isn't the first time that Joseph has depicted an emotionally charged relationship in unusual - even exotic - circumstances. Animals out of Paper, seen two years ago at Second Stage, throws together three troubled people linked by their interest in, and prowess at, origami. The main plot line, in which a perpetually hopeful young man tries desperately to reach the depressed and withdrawn woman he loves, is hardly original. (In a funny way, it finds a mirror image in Gruesome Playground Injuries.) But the use of origami lends subtlety and distinctiveness to the characters, making the action seem fresh and unpredictable. In Gruesome Playground Injuries, the concept acts like a straitjacket. (Read Full Review)

D

Bye Bye Birdie

There are a few satisfying things. As Albert's mother, Jayne Houdyshell creates an amusing gorgon right out of a Mad Magazine cartoon; her work is confident, funny, and right on target. Allie Trimm is charming as Kim, the 15-year-old fan selected to give Conrad the big kiss-off, although her number, "How Lovely to Be a Woman," has been stripped of the comic business that makes it so amusing. Nolan Gerard Funk is a fairly ideal Birdie; when he launches into "A Lot of Livin' to Do," you sigh in relief, because at last somebody knows how to sell a number. (The staging suddenly snaps to life -- largely, I think, because Longbottom is more at home in darker, stranger musicals like Side Show and in "Livin'" he has a long, complicated choreographic sequence to work with.) Also, Ken Billington's lighting casts a bright Technicolor palette over everything, and Acme Sound Design has provided one of the most natural-sounding reinforcement jobs I have encountered in many seasons; you can't really see the mics on the actors, either. But there's no question that this is a sad, sad affair, rather like trying to parse a great Russian novel through a middling translation. The saddest thought, to me, came on the way home: Is Encores at City Center the only viable venue for a show like this? (Read Full Review)

D

Ideal

Suffice to say, each of Kay's fan-faceoffs is crazier than the one before. If you see Ideal -- and I'm not recommending you do -- you can amuse yourself by assembling a list of your favorite whoppers. I was especially fond of those squabbling socialists, Fanny and Chuck. "You're turning petty [sic] bourgeois," she announces. "I've had an article published in The Nation! Yes, The Nation!" he snaps back ... Why this lively troupe of young people -- most of them recent NYU grads -- chose this nonsense to showcase their talents is anyone's guess. I will not deny that they work very, very hard at playing boozers, lounge lizards, and spiritual basket cases twice their age. I'm sure I'll enjoy seeing them in other circumstances. In any case, Kim Rosen livens up one scene considerably as a flashy lady evangelist who could give Aimee Semple MacPherson a run for her money. The best thing about Jenny Beth Snyder's direction is she gets everyone to say their lines with a straight face. (Read Full Review)

D

Asuncion

The intentions of Jesse Eisenberg's play are just about impossible to make out. It suffers from a bad case of multiple personalities, leaping from sex comedy gags to ugly power plays to political satire, without fully embracing any of them...The director, Kip Fagan, does his best to track the show's hairpin turns, but it's a losing battle...The best thing about Asuncion is that Eisenberg has real ambitions and a taste for provocative ideas, but, at this point, he's too shaky in matters of plot and character to present them credibly. (Read Full Review)

D

Tryst

Rather mysteriously, the Irish Rep has chosen to revive this two-hander romantic thriller by the English playwright Karoline Leach, which ran for a couple of months Off Broadway in 2006. Why, I cannot say; perhaps they felt their subscribers needed a juicy potboiler for the hot summer months. In any event, that's what they got. The script features big scenes, big emotions, and plot reversals aplenty; it's set in 1910, and, for most of its running time, it could have been written then, too. (Read Full Review)

D

The Burnt Part Boys

[F]or most of its brief 95-minute running time, The Burnt Part Boys is one long chase sequence, leaving little room for character details or anything that evokes the texture of life in that time and place. What details we get often seem to be borrowed from other, better musicals. Pete's best friend, Dusty, is the local sissy, who prefers quilting and playing the musical saw to mining and sports.... Frances is a classic tomboy, a pint-size Annie Oakley without the laughs, and there's just a hint of a triangle between her, Pete, and Dusty, which never goes anywhere. Pete is a peculiar character; driven and mature one minute, he is, moments later, a dreamy boy who is obsessed with the film The Alamo, taking part in imaginary meetings with its cast of characters. Anyway, everybody meets up at the entrance to the mine, where disaster ensues, followed by a Rod Serling twist that's meant to be a real tear-jerker, but comes across as just this side of shameless. (Read Full Review)

D

Elling

I can't be sure, but I have a strong suspicion that, somewhere along the line, whatever appeal Elling had to offer has been adapted out of the current version, because, to my eyes, it's one of the most baffling attractions to land on Broadway in years ... I have to add that Denis O'Hare and Brendan Fraser deploy every bit of their combined pinpoint comic timing to bring Elling and Kjell Barne's dilemmas to life ... Even so, there are only so many times Fraser can twist his body into a painfully uncomfortable pose and cry out "I'm hard!" before the joke wears thin. Similarly, even O'Hare can't make all of Elling's tall tales amusing. It doesn't help that the play is so vague about details, including what's really wrong with Elling and Kjell and the terms of their release. (Read Full Review)

D

Double Falsehood

It appears to have been constructed out of a Build Your Own Jacobean Revenge Drama Kit. The only real way of amusing yourself is by counting all the devices that are used more effectively in other Shakespeare plays. The cast, mostly fresh faces plus the great Philip Goodwin and Jon DeVries, opts to play the text line by line, emotion by emotion. This approach yields little in the way of clarity; then again, it's hard to see what else they could have done. At least Brian Kulick's staging maintains a headlong pace, getting us in and out in a little over two hours...Of course, all sorts of people -- scholars, hard-core theatre fans, and Shakespeare completists -- will be drawn to this production, and, in truth, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. But best to attend with your eyes wide open, fully aware of what you're getting into. With Double Falsehood Once again, Classic Stage has attacked an unusual text with vigor, but this time, the play is no classic. (Read Full Review)

D

Ages of the Moon

This is well-trod terrain for Shepard, and, in another time, he might have made such a situation percolate with menace and black humor. Sad to say, however...Ages of the Moon plays more like the AARP version of True West than a vital new work from a major playwright...It's possible that longtime Shepard fans will greet this work with more goodwill, treating it as an eccentric casual, an entertaining minor piece from a writer who has more than proved his chops. Nothing wrong with that -- but don't be surprised if quite a few others feel that Ages of the Moon is nothing more than a brief, unsatisfying encounter with a couple of grumpy old men. (Read Full Review)

D

The Blue Flower

Seems to exist primarily as a vehicle for projections; this is one trend I'd like to see nipped in the bud...The story is meant to follow Max and his friends as Europe is devastated by the war, followed by the agonies and panics of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism. But they barely exist as characters; instead, they're used as posed figures, singing sad, sensitive ballads while the horrors of the 20th century unfold behind them...A notable example of form hijacking content. (Read Full Review)

D

Clive

Surely, any version of this material should challenge, disturb, and put one on edge. Ideally, you should leave the theatre angry or in a fury, eager to forget this production and, even more ideally, unable to do so. None of that happens here. (Read Full Review)

D

A Midsummer Night's Dream

If you're going to stage one of Shakespeare's plays, you ought to pay attention to the words. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it may be news to the crew down at Classic Stage Company, where A Midsummer Night's Dream is being buried under an avalanche of shtick.... The most lamentable comedy continues as the four lovers carry on like the understudies in Don't Dress for Dinner, shrieking, leaping, mugging, and generally making asses of themselves. (Read Full Review)

D-

Mahida's Extra Key to Heaven

I can appreciate that Davis wants to treat his subject matter dispassionately, but here he lets it evaporate altogether. Whatever strengths the play possesses are not well served in Will Pomerantz's production, which keeps the action on a very low boil. As Mahida, Roxana Hope knows how to spread sunshine with her smile, but her weird accent is off-putting and her work lacks emotional variety. James Wallert has almost nothing to play as Thomas, so thinly conceived is the role, and he remains a cipher throughout. Michele Pawk manages to reconcile Edna's charming and insufferable qualities, forging them into a recognizable human being. Arian Moayed makes Ramin into an upsetting presence, his manner utterly correct, his face radiating disdain; he makes something powerful out of Ramin's big speech. It's the one moment when Davis makes good on dramatizing the terrible, seemingly irreconcilable, cultural divisions at the heart of the play. The production is further slowed down by a problematic production design. (Read Full Review)

D-

The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters

According to Marlane Meyer, the patron saint of sea monsters is St. Martyrbride; her spiritual purview also includes spinsters and those with childhood infirmities. She is entirely the playwright's invention; she isn't even one of those saints -- likes Christopher -- who were downgraded during Vatican II. But she is hardly the only contrived thing about The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters. A bizarre amalgam of metaphysical speculation and white trash antics à la Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Meyer's play seems hell-bent on stupefying the audience into submission. Suffice it to say, if you've ever wondered what it would be like to see Candy Buckley discussing the epic nature of her vaginal infections, this is the play for you. (Read Full Review)

D-

GATZ

On the page, Fitzgerald's words continue to seduce; in public performance, they remain intractable - and oddly artificial. And, of course, there's the question of Gatz's format. The construction-office setting and cast of working stiffs seems almost calculated to induce lively post-show talkbacks. To me, it functioned as a giant, eight-hour-long non-sequitur.... Do you really need to spend a full eight-hour shift in the Martinson Theatre to be told about the excitement of reading? (Read Full Review)

D-

Grasses of a Thousand Colors

Whatever the good folk at the Public Theater are trying to achieve with their earnest talkbacks, surely the play is a confidence trick, an ostensibly serious statement about the environment that allows Shawn to indulge himself in his secret garden of erotic reveries. Whether you have the stomach for that is strictly up to you. As far as I can see, Grasses of a Thousand Colors is about the destruction of the environment in the same way that Valley of the Dolls is about Big Pharma. (Read Full Review)

D-

Zero Hour

First of all, there are the lame jokes -- bushels of them-- that come thick and fast. "My life is an open zipper," he reassures his interrogator. Answering the phone, he coos, "Palestinian Anti-Defamation League....Yasir speaking." Dismissing his first wife, he says, "Clara had the sense of humor of a grapefruit." Comparing her to his second wife, he adds, "Katie had the face of a Rockette. Clara had the face of a rock." Brochu hurls these would-be zingers with remarkable force, a strategy that only further exposes the poverty of the gags. Which brings us to the second problem: Mostel was, by all accounts, a bizarre personality -- bitterly contentious one moment, seductively charming the next. His moods came a mile a minute, which, I suppose, was part of his fascination. But Brochu plays him on a single note of accusatory rage, a strategy that becomes increasingly wearying. (Read Full Review)

D-

Heresy

The same treatment is applied to homeland security, the WIC program, pedophile priests, the Patriot Act, gay rights, consumer culture, the environment, and other issues of the day. Heresy isn't a play; it's a stump speech, composed of catch phrases designed to please undemanding liberals who don't need a plot, characters, or amusing dialogue to keep them satisfied. (Read Full Review)

D-

Cactus Flower

f you are going to make a case for sex comedy, Cactus Flower probably isn't the place to start. Viewed from the distance of five decades, the plot barely makes sense and much of the dialogue falls flat. (If Toni insists on meeting Mrs. Winston, why doesn't she ask to see the children?) Then again, given Michael Bush's amateurishly staged, tackily designed production, it's impossible to know for sure. (Read Full Review)

D-

Antony and Cleopatra

It is also listlessly staged, often confusing, and trapped in a conceptual frame that does little to illuminate the original text. Instead of unfolding in Rome, Egypt, and other parts of the Mediterranean world, the play has been transferred to the Caribbean in the early 19th century. Cleopatra is apparently the queen of Haiti, and Antony, Caesar, and the other Romans all seem to hail from post-revolutionary France. The attempt at remaking Antony and Cleopatra into a parable of empire and colonialism is jarring to say the least. In Shakespeare's text, Egypt is a regional power of enormous consequence, and Cleopatra is a formidable, if erratic, figure. But the Haitian Egypt of McCraney's imagination is little more than a vassal state , an island nation filled with colorful music and voodoo ceremonies overseen by a pretty young thing with poor impulse control. (Read Full Review)

D-

Giant

If only somebody had been able to impose some kind of order on this jumble of elements. Because Giant is loaded with more raw talent than any other musical so far this season, the resulting muddle is all the more dismaying. (Read Full Review)

D-

Go Back to Where You Are

Is there a new play shortage I haven't heard about? Are companies so strapped for new material that they're putting on first drafts? That's the only explanation I can think of for Go Back to Where You Are. David Greenspan's 70-minute comedy treats its narrative so cursorily that it practically creates its own new genre: Reader's Digest Condensed Theatre. Unfortunately, in this case, they left out all the good parts. (Read Full Review)

D-

Such Things Only Happen in Books

On occasions like this, even if the work in question isn't too prepossessing, I usually express thanks to the producing company for letting us have a look at it. Here, I'm not so sure that the cause of theatre history is being served. I'm sadly forced to conclude that, but for the name Thornton Wilder on the first page, none of these pieces would be seeing the light of day. The plays break down into two types. The opener, "Now the Servant's Name Was Malchus," and the closer, "The Angel That Troubled the Waters," are part of a cycle of playlets written in the teens and '20s, each running about three minutes. (According to the program notes, The Theatre Guild Magazine announced these constituted "a new dramatic form.") "Malchus" and "Angel" are both works of theological speculation -- God is a major character in "Malchus" -- and each is over before it has begun, leaving behind a negligible impact. (Read Full Review)

D-

Parents' Evening

It's never easy to portray angst among the upper middle classes, and Doran doesn't really meet the challenge. If it's impossible to regard Judy and Michael with any kind of sympathetic interest, neither are they objects of sharply etched satire. They're just dreary, passive-aggressive whiners, and they make Parents' Evening into a singularly unpleasant experience. Under Jim Simpson's direction, the cast of two struggles to find the right tone. Julianne Nicholson has always been good at dismissing others with a single curt remark, but she can't find any warmth or vulnerability behind Judy's all-business exterior. That James Waterston, an actor of considerable charm, is so irritating as Michael, cannot be his fault; the character is a world-class injustice collector, with few, if any, redeeming qualities. The script's 80 minutes of sniping unfolds largely without variety or dramatic tension. (Read Full Review)

D-

Yosemite

After establishing a creepily compelling premise, [Talbott] fritters it away, indulging himself in a series of "poetic" arias on the theme of dysfunctional families...Yosemite is possibly the most static play I've seen all season...The director, Pedro Pascal, is hard put to give the action any kind of reality. Seth Numrich acquits himself pretty well as Jake. (Read Full Review)

D-

Intimacy

...Bradshaw only wants to get to the money shot by any means possible... whether these moments are germane to the playwright's thesis or if he just can't resist pulling the chains of the New Group's season subscribers is impossible to tell… [The cast] throw[s] themselves into Bradshaw's sex-mad scenario like the troupers they are… Anzuelo is an affable presence throughout… Similarly, Ella Dershowitz (Janet) shows nerves of steel in the fantasy scene in which she comes on to her father, and Déa Julien (Sarah) brings a sunny imperturbability to every situation… it seems a little bit ironic to be talking about intimacy when the stage is filled with cartoons rather than credible characters… Even more glaring in a play billed as a comedy is the absence of wit; for Bradshaw, it sometimes seems that a shock laugh is the only kind of laugh there is. As far as I can tell, his only interest lies in trying to provoke the audience, but, given its one-note nature, it ultimately seems pretty listless. As provocations go, it could use the theatrical equivalent of a shot of Viagra. (Read Full Review)

D-

Lingua Franca

Having populated his faculty room with this motley and faintly seedy lot, Nichols is more or less content to let them rattle on, exposing their hidden selves and occasionally making trouble for each other. What plot there is hinges on Peggy's unrequited -- and delusional -- infatuation for Steven, whose enjoyment of sex with Heidi seems directly related to his contempt for her. It all comes to a head in a blur of melodrama, followed by one of those finales in which everyone steps forward to reveal what happened next to him or her. There might be a workable play here, but Nichols paints his characters in such pale watercolors that they never really come alive. (Read Full Review)

F+

Creature

When I first heard about Creature, my first thought was, I wonder why the playwright, Heidi Schreck, wants to write about a 15th-century mystic. Having seen Creature, I'm still wondering....Kempe lived a singular life of controversy and achievement, and she was actively caught up in the important spiritual dialogues of her times. She could have inspired all sorts of plays; the treatment she gets here is thin, sketch-comedy stuff, informed by a casually derisive attitude toward the Middle Ages. (Read Full Review)

F+

Peter and the Starcatcher

There's so much going on in Peter and the Starcatcher that simply keeping track of the plot can be a chore; it doesn't help that a great heaping hunk of exposition is delivered in a rush at the top of the show by the entire cast, speaking directly to the audience. But there's a more fundamental problem: In dispensing with typical Disney sentimentality, Rick Elice, the adaptor, hasn't given us a single reason to care about these characters and their involved storyline. Instead, he has taken a gag-a-minute approach -- and most of them aren't too fresh. It's difficult to get involved in the narrative when you're being distracted every few minutes by warmed-over jokes about Sarah Palin and Sally Field. (Really, aren't we about two decades past the point where someone saying, "You like me! You really like me!" is funny?) (Read Full Review)

F+

Alphabetical Order

This may have all seemed terribly amusing in 1977, when Alphabetical Order was written, but today the first act plays like a busted sitcom pilot, with the laugh track firmly turned off. Much of the dialogue is impossibly twee...The structure of Alphabetical Order is so awkward, its action so truncated, that I began to wonder if the cast had accidentally skipped over 30 or 40 pages of the script...Carl Forsman keeps the action fast and frantic -- the first act plays like the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera -- which, I guess, is as good an approach as any. The overall quality of performance is so arch that I briefly wondered if the real problem isn't a cast and director who are painfully out of touch with Frayn's singularly British sense of humor...One of the season's most prominent head-scratchers. (Read Full Review)

F+

Marie and Bruce

In any event, it's almost impossible to imagine anyone getting caught up in the non-action of Marie and Bruce. Nobody loves an evening of invective more than I -- I'll go anywhere for a good production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? -- but it has be more than the sum of its ugly words. If anything, Marie and Bruce is less (Read Full Review)

F+

underneathmybed

There's rich material here, but the author's approach is so stunningly self-centered, it takes your breath away...For a few minutes, Lozano and her director, Pedro Pascal, work up an an undeniably effective atmosphere of quiet dread...Such hopes are quickly dispelled, as underneathmybed becomes increasingly challenging to sit through. Lozano never met a magical-realism device she didn't like, and her penchant for self-consciously poetic effects becomes cloying...Then there's Lozano's disregard for the niceties of plot, character, and construction...The truly offensive thing about underneathmybed is the way Lozano has appropriated the horrors of Argentine history as a metaphor for Daisy's crippling fear of womanhood...One bright spot is the production design. (Read Full Review)

F+

Othello

It's possible to scramble the play's racial politics and still make it work--but not if Othello isn't strongly defined as the other in some fundamental way...If Othello isn't, in some sense, a provocation to the world he inhabits -- because of his race, his pride, or his sexually charged relationship with Desdemona -- if he is just another cog in the military machine, the play has lost its basic underpinnings...Sellars is often criticized for adding irrelevancies to his productions, but here his method is subtractive. In seeking to impose a unified vision on the play, he strips out any distracting bits of color and contradictory emotion. It's not just that he flattens out a great text; he undermines its foundations. But then all the performances are delivered in the same flat-affect style...The most distressing thing about this Othello is that Sellars has abdicated any responsibility for shaping, pacing, and dramatizing this powerful, but slightly unwieldy, tragedy. The scenes all move at the same slow pace, the actors rarely, if ever, vary the tone -- the scenes of yelling seem thoroughly arbitrary -- and the script's basic emotions seem to have been left offstage. (Read Full Review)

F+

End of the Rainbow

It's doubtful there's another show in town more polarizing...Whether you think it's an unsparing look at an artist in extremis or an exercise in grave-robbing will probably depend on how you react to the play's ugly, unvarnished depiction of Garland. Or, let me put it this way: If you've ever wanted to see Judy screaming "Suck my dick!" or running around the stage on all fours, pretending to be a dog, lifting a leg in simulated urination, this is definitely the show for you. Those who feel that there is nothing to be gained by such rubbernecking may well want to steer clear. (Read Full Review)

F+

Any Given Monday

Imagine a sitcom written by Thomas Hobbes...The show doesn't simply posit the idea that human existence is nasty, brutish, and short -- it celebrates it, with wisecracks...If there was a shred of emotional reality to Any Given Monday, it might make for an evening of good, nasty fun along the lines of one of Yasmina Reza's theatrical bestiaries. Instead, it's a crude domestic comedy populated with cardboard characters and punctuated by lengthy passages of direct address repeatedly making the point that living by the rules is strictly for sissies...The real drama in Bud Martin's production involves watching four capable actors struggling with material that lacks the faintest conviction. (Read Full Review)

F+

A Minister's Wife

Even at only 95 minutes, an uncommonly tedious experience... nobody involved in this enterprise has been able to make a case for a musical Candida. Next to the robust writing of Shaw's original - seen only last season in an excellent revival at the Irish Rep -- A Minister's Wife is a serving of very weak tea. (Read Full Review)

F+

The Book of Grace

In case you've missed the point, let me recap: A frustrated, angry black man and a pathetically love-hungry woman, struggling to find her own voice, live in the house of their oppressor, a thuggish, controlling white man -- and, sooner or later, something is going to explode. In trying to explain terrorism using the tired language of identity politics, Parks trivializes everything. There's no drama, because the characters have no flesh on them. Grace would have to be brain-dead not to notice Vet's monstrous nature. Buddy is a cipher, and we never really find out what happened between him and Vet. At the same time, the writing isn't vigorous enough for satire. "It always comes down to us vs. them," says Vet, just in case we hadn't quite gotten to the bottom of his politics. Buddy, strapping on the bombs, recites passages from the Declaration of Independence, in a spurious attempt at given his actions some kind of symbolic weight. Grace keeps talking about reaching the "house of wisdom," but, in this household, attitudinizing is the main activity. (Read Full Review)

F+

I'll Be Damned

Whatever else you might say about I'll Be Damned, it's a chance to make the acquaintance of Jacob Hoffman. Cast as a young man who has been home-schooled out of any connection to reality by his pathetically overprotective mother, he creates the most eager-to-please man-child this side of Peewee's Playhouse... At the moment, however, he's trying -- more or less alone -- to carry I'll Be Damned, a jumble of plot twists, whimsical notions, and oddball theological speculations, all attached to a ludicrously unworkable premise. (Read Full Review)

F+

Job

Offers plenty of violence, most of it sexual, along with some casually blasphemous jokes, most of which suggest that the author hasn't yet seen The Book of Mormon, but their impact is surprisingly weak; in truth, Bradshaw, faced with one of the most timeless and confounding pieces of world literature, is laughably overmatched...The entire enterprise has a tired feeling about it. Indeed, the most surprising thing is the thinness of Bradshaw's imagination...It's always a pleasure to see the Bats in action, and, under Benjamin H. Kamine's direction, there are several striking performances, even in these sordid circumstances. (Read Full Review)

F+

Life and Times: Episodes 1-4

I believe I appreciate the creators' intentions -- and only an utter fool would attend Life and Times expecting plot, character, and theme -- but what I cannot understand is why they need to conduct this exercise at such crushing length. It was during Episodes 3 and 4 that, instead of drifting through a sea of banalities in a modestly pleasant haze, the entire enterprise became intolerable. Perhaps it was a mistake to attend the marathon performance, but if I had chosen the three-night option, I would never have returned after the first night. (Read Full Review)

F+

Little Doc

It aspires to the grit and fury of an early Martin Scorsese film; unfortunately, it leaves an overwhelming impression of vagueness.... Little Doc manages the not-inconsiderable trick of being both confusing and predictable. Ricky's fate is never really in doubt, even when the action is muddied by a number of out-of-left-field revelations about electroconvulsive therapy and an undelivered letter from the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting. The latter is the biggest shocker of all, because, before it's brought up, no one on stage displays the slightest interest in the theatre. (Read Full Review)

F+

This

For the rest of two acts, the four characters get together in various combinations for conversation, usually with drinks, while Jane worries about the ticking bomb of her adulterous secret. This would be fine if the talk were more amusing or the people more interesting. Too much of the time, however, the dialogue doesn't get beyond low-level cocktail chatter. "I hate that the word 'blog' sounds like a large accumulation of snot," says Jane. "My career is an American movie and what I've just now realized is it wants to be a foreign film," muses Alan. "I want to pick your brain," somebody asks. "Sounds messy," is the reply. This approach is especially unhelpful in trying to illuminate the reasons why the characters are stuck in neutral. "Death is such a killjoy," says Jane, who can't quite let her deceased husband go. Alan, who capriciously decides he wants to be a humanitarian -- probably because he thinks Jean-Pierre is pretty hot -- wonders, "How do you break into doing good?" When Jane and Tom's little secret is finally let out, the impact is fairly nil, because everybody is too busy trying to crack wise. (Read Full Review)

F+

The Shoemaker

Both blatant in its intentions and listless in execution, The Shoemaker handles its characters like dolls in need of repair...Sadly, the author has found no meaningful action with which to make her point; worse, her mix-and-match approach to global tragedies is profoundly unenlightening. She has nothing to say about the murder of six million Jews or of 3,000 Manhattan office workers; she's only interested in deploying them for their tear-jerking characteristics. Antony Marsellis' slow-moving direction seems designed to keep the action going for at least 90 minutes. Given the fact that they are rarely given anything convincing to say or do, all three cast members perform reasonably well. (Read Full Review)

F+

Carnival Round the Central Figure

Everything is so broadly, and unamusingly, caricatured that it's all too easy to tune out altogether. (I haven't even mentioned the nurse, who sits on a platform watching the action, and who occasionally draws blood from the Central Figure with an enormous syringe for no apparent reason; it's all supposed to daring and terribly shocking, and, of course, it's nothing of the kind.) ... [T]o my eyes, this is a clear case of when Bad Plays Happen to Good People. (Read Full Review)

F

A Summer Day

I may be going out on a limb here, but it seems to me that a play written for adults should boast a vocabulary larger than that of a Little Golden Book.

Repetition appears to be the modus operandi of the playwright, Fosse, who clearly believes if something is worth saying, it is worth saying five times in a row with minimal alterations. (Read Full Review)

F

Lidless

There's nothing more dismaying than watching a playwright get her hands on incendiary material, only to write the life right out of it. That's the case with Lidless; the author, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, sets out to probe the devastating moral fallout from the practice of torture at Guantanamo Bay; sadly, she puts considerable distance between us and the horror such a tale should inspire...It would take a masterful writer to probe this complicated psychosexual situation, and in Cowhig's inexpert handling, it comes off as crude and melodramatic...Tea Alagic's direction tends to underline the play's most portentous moments while doing little to add a sense of reality. The cast mostly seems ill at ease. (Read Full Review)

F

Girls in Trouble

[Reynolds] is largely giving aid and comfort to the enemy, making his case in such ham-fisted fashion that the other side ends up looking far better than surely he intended...No one seriously interested in engaging an audience in a moral discussion of the subject would use such cardboard characters mouthing such predigested attitudes...The cast is all over the place...Only in a culture determined to give equal time to all points of view would a piece of writing as ill-conceived and immature as this get produced by an important Off Broadway company. (Read Full Review)

F

Bullet for Adolf

Surely this has happened to you: You're somewhere -- say a bar or a party -- and you find yourself talking to a pair of acquaintances. You don't know them well, but they've been friends forever. They tell you a story from days gone by; the tale is long and elaborate, and they keep cracking each other up, piling on detail after irrelevant detail. As their hilarity builds, so does your boredom. You sit there, politely, watching them amuse themselves, waiting for the payoff, and, when it arrives, it's not remotely worth it. (Read Full Review)

F

Lucky Guy (Musical)

Everything about Lucky Guy has the faintly yellowed quality of the tired-businessman entertainments of yore. This is even true of the show's premise -- a babe lost in the show business woods -- although, with a little effort, you could probably get a pretty good show out of it...Lucky Guy is loaded with hitches, most of them having to do with the contrived, convoluted plot; the silly, unmemorable songs; and the twice-told jokes...Worst of all are the feeble attempts at bawdy remarks...Nobody loves a lighthearted, just-for-fun show like me. But if Lucky Guy represents the state of the traditional art, then bring on the jukeboxes! (Read Full Review)

F

Picked

Is it possible to be a playwright and yet be afraid of drama? I've asked myself this question more than once when attending plays by Christopher Shinn...His people are often plagued by a fatal passivity that leads to a kind of theatrical drift. More troubling is his apparent insistence on avoiding anything resembling a strong conflict -- the very thing theatre does best...I went into Picked wondering what it was about. Two hours later, I left the theatre wondering the same thing...Under Michael Wilson's direction, the cast is as good as it can be, even if he can't really pace the action or dredge up any drama. (Read Full Review)

F

Ghost: The Musical

We get a few bad musicals each season, many of them brazen attempts at repeating the success of a hit film, and most of them are easily forgotten. But Ghost is something different -- a warning sign of what Broadway shows might become if new technologies are deployed recklessly, without any consideration for the theatre's unique ability to create an electric connection between the people on stage and those in the audience. The show's creative team is a fine one. Matthew Warchus is one of the best directors of contemporary plays around -- especially comedies -- and all his designers have done excellent work many times before. Watching Ghost, however, I couldn't help recalling an interview I did with the projection designer Wendall K. Harrington a few months ago, for a story in American Theatre magazine. "Video has a kind of perfection that is dangerous," she said. "It makes the people on stage smaller and less interesting. The question needs to be asked: Are we competing with the people on stage? When we negate that, we're killing our future." Consider yourselves warned. (Read Full Review)

F

Reading Under the Influence

Playwright Tony Glazer spoofs the "Real Housewives" franchise that has seemingly taken over the Bravo cable network. If this isn't the definition of shooting fish in a barrel, I don't know what is - which makes it all the more amazing that this tone-deaf effort ends up so wide of the mark...The script is quite a storehouse of lame gags, from the notion of a puppet version of The Eyes of Laura Mars to the idea that the ladies' objections to the reality series would be instantly wiped out by the chance to meet Ryan Seacrest....The best thing to be said about Wendy C. Goldberg's direction is that it keeps things hustling along...You have to have a lot of nerve to make fun of crass TV with jokes that wouldn't make it past the table read of the weakest sitcom. (Read Full Review)

F-

The Atmosphere of Memory

What makes The Atmosphere of Memory so mind-boggling is that Bar Katz is clearly a writer of talent and imagination. He's also ambitious, trying to give a black-comedy twist to dysfunctional family classics.... If he could pull this idea off, he'd be the new Joe Orton -- or, at least, another Christopher Durang. But sometime around the 100th lousy penis joke it becomes clear that the author is so desperate to shock that the play is thoroughly overtaken by coarseness rather than wit. It doesn't help that Jon's play, as seen here, is a farrago of styles such as no theatre has ever seen; it ranges from naturalism to Greek tragedy to Gilbert and Sullivan, complete with a musical narrator who carries an acoustic guitar.... The best satire is applied with a stiletto; here, Bar Katz is armed with a sledgehammer. (Read Full Review)

F-

White's Lies

The perpetrator of White's Lies is Ben Andron, a motion-picture advertising executive, who should pay attention to some of his clients' work; he might learn something about plot and characterization. Act I is bad enough, but the writing becomes positively mind-numbing in Act II, which consists of a mass of tasteless complications involving adoption schemes, paternity tests, and medical fraud... I'm always tempted to feel bad for people who get involved in flops, but, this time, all I could think was, They read the script, didn't they? In any event, they're participating in one of the worst plays I've seen in more than 30 years of theatergoing. Let me give that remark a little bit of context: I saw Moose Murders. (Read Full Review)

F-

The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World

This bizarrely misbegotten project is Gypsy for indie hipsters, a downbeat, depressing, and altogether sordid account of parental exploitation and the dissolution of a family, all in the name of dreams too flimsy to warrant a moment's consideration...The librettist, Joy Gregory, demonstrates no knack for storytelling...Even more dismaying, the songs -- music by Gunnar Madsen, lyrics by Gregory and Madsen -- are...tuneless indie-rock ditties with run-on lyrics that melt into an endless drone...This flat-affect attitude extends to John Lang's staging, which fails to a find a consistent or compelling tone...As unwatchable as anything produced in the long history of Playwrights Horizons. (Read Full Review)