Sign Up | Sign In



Chris Kompanek



Publications
TheaterMania

Reviews

A

We Live Here

The work proves to be an acutely observed family drama, and it receives a fine production, directed by Sam Gold and acted by a wonderful cast...What shines through the most is how real the Batemans feel. There are many moments when the structures of scenes float away, and while these moments could easily come off as aimless, Gold orchestrates these scenes so even the banal seems urgent...Many of the play's intentionally larger moments play well too. (Read Full Review)

A

HotelMotel

HotelMotel is an ambitious project for a small theater company such as the Amoralists to pull off -- yet they do so with absolute aplomb... The more voyeuristic and lighter of the two plays, Pink Knees...could easily become silly or sensationalistic [but is] deeply moving due to the sharply observed, honest writing and nuanced performances, notably the compelling Anna Stromberg as a comedian who cannot orgasm... Animals and Plants is squarely in Adam Rapp's comfort zone... he has crafted a great set up that turns seemingly mindless banter into increasingly building tension...it's thoroughly enjoyable -- if often in an uncomfortable way... HotelMotel is an incredibly immersive experience that could substitute for a quick summer getaway in a pinch as it transports its audience to weird and wonderful worlds.
(Read Full Review)

A

The Bald Soprano

The piece is brought to life by the Pearl's wonderfully talented company of actors, who -- in addition to the four leading players -- includes founding member Robin Leslie Brown who plays Mary, the Smiths maid who has grown delirious through years of servitude, and veteran member Dan Daily as the fire chief who's lost without his fires. Harry Feiner's set echoes this discord with an austere and realistic living room that could be plucked right out of Norman Rockwell, except for the back wall, which appears to be more or less upside down. It's the perfect metaphor for this delightfully offbeat work. (Read Full Review)

A

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend

Mike Birbiglia grapples with the messy complications of sexual attraction in his sharp, original, insightful, and -- most importantly -- hilarious new one-man show, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, at the Barrow Street Theatre, Starting with the moment he was first aware of making out in seventh grade, Birbiglia jumps through time -- in just 80 minutes -- recounting his painful coming-of -age experiences and adult relationships with a vulnerable charm that draws us in and plenty of humor. (Read Full Review)

A-

Herman Kline's Midlife Crisis

Part of what makes the play work so well is that everyone needs something desperately from each other: Liz needs to feel desired by her husband again; Herman needs to assert and hold onto his identity, which he feels is slowly slipping away; Lauren needs to pass the MCAT's and make an emotional break from her Ernie; and Ernie has probably the most immediate need of them all, as his life depends on locating the contents of the package. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller

At only 65 minutes, the show -- which is based on Christopher Stokes' short story of the same name -- begs for more time to fully tell its story, but it's still a deeply satisfying and thought-provoking theatrical experience. Cohen shows tremendous skill writing succinct dialogue that's simultaneously cutting and hysterical, and director Alfred Preisser navigates the tonal shifts with aplomb, seamlessly transporting us to the exotic island of New Guinea. (Read Full Review)

B+

Three Men on a Horse

Under the deft direction of Scott Allan Evans, this charming play about the world of horse racing moves at a brisk pace, even through three acts and two intermissions. Indeed, there's something to be said about the way the company embraces the play's datedness, even if their earnestness is often over-the-top. (Read Full Review)

B+

An Early History of Fire

David Rabe's autobiographically-inspired new play, An Early History of Fire, now being presented by The New Group at the Acorn Theater at Theatre Row, beautifully captures a specific moment in history in the early 1960s when the country was on the verge of profound change and in deep turmoil.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Thinner Than Water

Witty dialogue laced with strikingly truthful moments give the first act momentum that sustains through to a chilling climactic moment, but the second act gradually falls apart -- in part due to clumsy scenes such as the overlong exchange between Renee and Martin's girlfriend (Deirdre O'Connell) outside of the hospital, which threaten to bring the play to a halt. Luckily, the characters are richly drawn and equipped to fight through some of the clutter.... Mimi O'Donnell's direction is often spot-on and she elicits terrific performances from a very talented cast, especially the criminally underused Zayas, whose piercing stare can convey volumes. (Read Full Review)

B+

Jomama Jones: Radiate

May well be the feel good show of the year for the downtown crowd...As the audience, we know somewhere in the back of our collective head that this is just make believe, but the story and the performance feels very real. The music, composed by Jones and bandleader Daniel Halvorson, is occasionally reminiscent of Dreamgirls, but it owes more to the great divas of soul than to Broadway...Audience participation can often feel like an unreasonable demand, but Radiate shows that it doesn't have to be. Possibly the most moving moment of the show comes towards the end when Jones asks everyone to look at a stranger in the audience. Once our eyes are focused, she then asks us to make a wish for them. It's a simple yet exhilarating moment that heightens a sense of community that grows throughout the evening of this impressive new work. (Read Full Review)

B+

A Summer Day

It's to Fosse's credit – as well as the work of translator and director Sarah Cameron Sunde -- that we feel so deeply the unspoken unhappiness at the center of the work.

Yet, at the same time, there's a static feeling that overwhelms a good chunk of the show as we're waiting for the inevitable. It is also frustrating that we never get a good sense of who any of these characters are beyond the superficial, despite numerous monologues by Allen's character. (Read Full Review)

B+

Born Bad

Engaging...There's a sense from the beginning that something profoundly wrong happened to Dawta as a child, but Green is content to let it float ominously in between the lines for most of the 60-minute running time as her wounded characters talk around what they really want to talk about. It's a clever, if well-worn, minimalist device -- one that's been pioneered by master playwrights such as Edward Albee and David Mamet and overused by countless others -- but Green makes it plausible that her characters would do everything they could to avoid talking about this deep secret. The vignette scene structure serves the play exceedingly well, stringing us along with glimpses of the trauma festering beneath the surface and presenting tableaux flashes that are as fractured as the family they depict...Under the direction of Leah C. Gardiner, the talented cast...confidently navigates the material with flair, bringing weight to the no-frills dialogue. (Read Full Review)

B+

Voca People

A powder-faced octet of frightfully talented a cappella singers run through fractions of dozens of songs from the pop music catalgoue...Wnile there's surely something for creating an entertainment that caters to every musical taste, it's a bit like listening to a car radio on scan...Under the musical direction of Shai Fishman, the group uses their powerfully resonant voices in creative ways to recreate a live band...It's rather like watching the acrobats of Cirque du Soleil; even when you bore of the scenes, you can't help but marvel at their sheer talent...for some embarrassing but good-natured fun, Voca females get on their knees to sing the 1950s classic "Lollipop" to a certain part of the men they bring on stage, while a male Voca chooses a special lady each night to serenade with a barrage of over-the-top love songs. It's this kind of nonsensical fun that Voca People does best.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812

[A] clever distillation of Leo Tolstoy's epic classic novel...Director Rachel Chavkin stages the action so fluidly that one always feels at the center of it even though the tables are scattered throughout the room. (Read Full Review)

B+

Michael & Edie

Bonds' dialogue is often witty and well constructed, effortlessly flowing from the mouths of Micucci and Thompson, who have a natural chemistry. As their characters flirt with the idea of flirting, glances and subtle gestures carry many key moments. Director Robert Saenz de Viteri's keen sense of staging and the inventive art installations by Hugh Morris further immerse us in Bonds' world, but she takes us out of it near the end when the play veers into the esoteric. (Read Full Review)

B

Space//Space

A wonderfully abstract exploration of gender identity and a playful riff on the space-time continuum...The script...plays out a bit like a stream-of-consciousness game of telephone. It's hard sometimes to look back from where you came and make sense of it all, but that seems to be the point...Fortunately, director Mallory Catlett has a keen sense of orchestrating mood, and while the show falls a little short of its existential ambitions, it's nonetheless a worthy way to while away some time with a side of introspection. (Read Full Review)

B

All-American

Early scenes between Mike and Beth fall flat as they exchange clumsy exposition -- "you retired seven years ago!" -- but bold characters quickly emerge, especially with Katie and Aaron.... Directed seamlessly by Evan Cabnet, the scenes flow into each other building momentum, and like a fast-paced football game, it ends suddenly and thrillingly. (Read Full Review)

B

The Deep Throat Sex Scandal

If the piece's more serious elements--especially towards the show's end--end up falling flat, there are some very entertaining moments. Moreover, both Bertolino and director Jerry Douglas deserve credit for not sensationalizing the adult film industry...The momentum builds nicely...as the scenes unfold from Reems' first off-off-Broadway play to when the actor meets Damiano, a straight hairdresser from Queens who moonlights as an adult filmmaker...There's also a great contrast between Lovelace's painfully shy persona and her sexual openness that fuels a lot of the show...Theatergoers may even be surprised how the show's frequent nudity even begins to feel normal. (Read Full Review)

B-

Summer Shorts 5: Series A

Summer Shorts 5: Series A, now at 59E59 Theatres, has a particularly impressive lineup of playwrights, with new plays by Christopher Durang and Neil LaBute. Unfortunately, the program is a mixed bag at best, with the veterans being outclassed by a 17-year-old playwright. (Read Full Review)

B-

Tender Napalm

Ellis and Workman give charged performances, but ultimately there's too much antagonism to believe this Man and Woman love each other until the last quarter of the play when we rewind and see the first moment when they meet. All of the structural underpinnings for their relationship are present, and it's fun to see where it all began. There's a lot to admire in Ridley's writing and the way he subverts the boy-meets-girl genre, but there's also still a lot to be desired. Many of the monologues stretch on too long to hold one's attention and do not mine the psychological depths needed for these characters to come fully to life. Still, it's a hell of a glimpse into modern relationships. (Read Full Review)

B-

Happy Hour

Ethan Coen's ironically titled trio of one-acts, Happy Hour, now being presented by the Altantic Theater Company at the Peter Norton Space, offers glimpses into the lives of a paranoid news junkie, misanthropic struggling musician, and philandering business man with anger issues. A more accurate title for this mixed-bag of work, directed by Neil Pepe, might be The Anger Plays. (Read Full Review)

B-

Summer Shorts 5: Series B

Like Series A, the quartet of plays that make up Series B of Summer Shorts 5, now at 59E59 Theatres, provide both pleasure and disappointment. (Read Full Review)

C+

Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War

At just 75 minutes, it feels like there was a lot left out...The story unfolds in a rather predictable manner, which lets us shift our focus to the characters of the radio show, who despite projecting energetic vibes over the airwaves, are much more sullen and tied into themselves in real life...Director and co-conceiver Lila Neugebauer has crafted a rich atmosphere where it's easy to forget we haven't left Manhattan. Yet, there's something left wanting. The play doesn't end so much as flicker out with many unanswered questions about the robot war, the radio show, and the rest of this dystopic world. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Language Archive

Indeed, the play requires lot of suspension of reality, as it alternates between stretches of naturalism and then random encounters that might work in a more fantastical setting. And despite Mark Brokaw's deft direction, we never get a good sense of who many of the characters are or where they're going. The ending tries to tie everything all up with heightened narration about what happens to each character, but it feels forced. (Read Full Review)

C+

In the Footprint: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards

There's a lot of material here to squeeze into 100 minutes, and while director Steven Cosson does an admirable job, the staging can feel unfocused. With the action moving from the stage to projections on the far side wall, it can be tiring to follow the transitions. Morever, while a sense of community is gained from the alley theater style staging, the show would benefit from a more conventional proscenium stage. One big plus is Michael Friedman's songs, including "The Four Brooklyns", which whimsically divides residents into socio-economical groups, and the heartfelt finale, "The Neighborhood," that captures the spirit of what Brooklyn means to the many people who call it home. (Read Full Review)

C

Carnival Round the Central Figure

[A] vaudevillian meditation on mortality, weaving a deathbed scene in-between gospel numbers from a fictitious evangelical TV show. Despite the fine efforts of director Karen Kohlass, these transitions are often jarring and the dialogue is often maddeningly repetitive and frustrating in its circuitous nature..... While [the] evangelical choir scenes provide many of the show's dramatic highlights, they also prevent a deeper conversation on the often-conflicting thoughts and emotions surrounding our mortality. (Read Full Review)

C-

Flight

The opening moments of a play can be crucial, setting the tone, rhythm and structure for what's to come, and unfortunately, Michael Wallerstein's well-intentioned but less-than-compelling Flight, now at the DR2, gets off to a shaky start... Many of the play's 90-minutes drag on mercilessly thanks to Padraic Lillis' often stagnant direction. (Lea Umberger's lackluster set and costumes don't help matters, either.) Fortunately, there's one ray of light: Maddie Corman, who delivers a strong performance as Linda, a quirky administrator in the assisted living facility where Judith lives. She often says the wrong things and can be awkward, but has a genuine concern that shines above all.
(Read Full Review)

C-

A Map of Virtue

Director Ken Rus Schmoll elicits strong performances not only from Huppuch, but the entire cast, but they are not enough to ground this ambitious but frustrating play. Courtney crafts some wonderfully tense moments and her characters have potential to be compelling, but she traps them in artifice that confounds more than it illuminates. (Read Full Review)

C-

Beyond Words

Uneven...While there's a lot to be said with -- and about -- silence, Bowers is clearly still struggling to find the language with which to express it...There's clearly a passion that peers through Bowers' eyes and ignites his movement across the stage, but there's also a disconnect between that passion and what he's communicating. (Read Full Review)

D+

Septimus and Clarissa

Stram conveys a lot with a glance, but many of his quiet moments are drowned out by Gina Leishman's oppressive score that plays nearly constantly through the two-and-a-half hour play like the underscore to a film. The music itself could be used to much greater effect in spare quantities by director Rachel Dickstein, but she seems to prefer an overwhelming approach, which is true of her staging as well. The actors are often forced to contort their bodies (in ways rarely seen outside of the modern dance world) to illustrate moments of turmoil, but these motions often seem misguided and distract from rather than enrich Woolf's themes. (Read Full Review)

D+

Asuncion

An over-the-top comedy of P.C. manners...While the piece has its considerable charms, including Eisenberg's fine ear for dialogue, the two-act play's promise ultimately fizzles...Eisenberg has a great energy on stage, and displays a natural sense of interplay with Bartha...Director Kip Fagan keeps a brisk pacing throughout, but it's not enough to keep the play from imploding on itself. (Read Full Review)

D

Desperate Writers

Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber's desperately unfunny comedic fantasy, Desperate Writers, now at the Union Square Theatre, traps a talented cast in a thoroughly amateurish script that director Kay Cole is unable to steer in an intelligible direction. (Read Full Review)

D

Manipulation

Depressed characters are especially difficult to bring to life onstage because of the challenging nature of turning their inward struggle out for us to see and emphasize, and Calderon isn't able to let us into her character in any meaningful way. Director Will Pomerantz's attempts to communicate these emotions visually often result in awkward gestures that fall flat. Manipulation is full of overblown, soap-opera emotions but without any of the plot twists, except for one at the end that is laughably far-fetched. (Read Full Review)

D

Marie and Bruce

Wallace Shawn's problematic play Marie and Bruce, now being revived by the New Group on Theatre Row under Scott Elliott's direction, might best be described as a thorny slice-of-life peek into the unhappy marriage of the title characters. Unfortunately, it's also a bleak and unsatisfying evening of theater. (Read Full Review)