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Aaron Botwick



Reviews

A

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

What is most effective about the current revival at the Booth Theatre is that its stars, Mr. Letts and Ms. Morton, genuinely seem to care for each other. There is a tenderness to this production that hits precisely the right note—it would be too easy to drown in the invectives, but here director Pam MacKinnon emphasizes the understanding between George and Martha. (Read Full Review)

A

Grace

Despite an opening that seems to seal the fate of all the main characters, Mr. Wright’s play nevertheless manages a skillful ambiguity. And though the entire cast is first-rate, Mr. Shannon cannot help but stand out. (Read Full Review)

A

Clybourne Park

White authors do not have a terrific history of writing about race, from the self-congratulatory liberalism of William Rose’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner to the smug ignorance of Paul Haggis’ Crash­...Clybourne Park, then, comes as a wonderful surprise: it manages to address a wide range of race issues without ever resorting to lionizing or demonizing either side...It should also be mentioned that Clybourne Park is a hysterical play. (Read Full Review)

A

Bad Jews

Being a Jew is exhausting. There’s the self-loathing, the guilt, the language (which doesn’t even use Roman letters), and—for those of us born after 1948—the inescapable identification of Jewishness with Auschwitz. Even the question of what it means to consider oneself a Jew is too complex for any reasonable person to try to answer completely. But Joshua Harmon’s hysterical, brilliant play Bad Jews at least holds a mirror up to the modern iteration of the tribe and challenges everyone from the self-righteous Zionist to the bacon-eating secularist... Admittedly, Bad Jews isn’t for the lighthearted. It draws a great deal of blood, but it gets away with its attacks because it is so damn funny. This is the best depiction of contemporary Jewishness since Kinky Friedman’s “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You.” (Read Full Review)

A

The Two-Character Play

It is that rare but ever yearned for theatrical event in which the bald authenticity creates a feeling of both unease and wonder in the audience, who feel slightly dirty in their voyeurism. (Read Full Review)

A

Good Person of Szechwan

What a delightful revelation…to discover the Foundry Theatre’s Good Person of Szechwan. This is a carnival of a production that...manages to entertain—and entertain thoroughly. Director Lear deBessonet...never eschews the play’s central dilemma in her turn towards amusement. But she does direct a play and not an idealogical monologue. An old-time band, The Lisps, provide a soulful country background to Good Person, while the cast perform with the professionalism and precision of a first-rate cabaret act. [Taylor Mac’s] Shen Te is both hideous and beautiful, an object of ridicule and an object of pity. In his humor and in his pathos, we find the embodiment of this Good Person‘s success: here is a Brecht that is political through entertainment instead of political at the cost of entertainment. Here is a Brecht that will have you exiting the theater in the mood for a good old-fashioned hoedown.
(Read Full Review)

A-

The Trip To Bountiful

The emotions are easy and the pleasures simple in Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful—but they are emotions and pleasure nonetheless. (Read Full Review)

A-

End of the Rainbow

Tracie Bennett dominates the stage...Her performance is wonderfully athletic—she bounds across the stage, striking poses, belting out songs, smoking cigarettes, laughing uproariously one minute and balling uncontrollably the next...A great number of critics have accused End of the Rainbow of exploiting an old, broken-down star, of mining her life for its most humiliating moments. Nonsense. Judy Garland is dead and her life belongs in the public domain...Which is not to say it is a perfect play—there are a few too many musical numbers, for example—but nonetheless Mr. Quilter, director Terry Johnson, and their cast can be proud of producing a fine Hollywood drama. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Great God Pan

Though The Great God Pan has some creaky moments... it is nonetheless a sharp and adult work, one that covers serious subjects without ever becoming self-serious. And Mr. Strong does an admirable job, bearing a heavy load...
(Read Full Review)

A-

Bullet for Adolf

I’m not entirely certain that all the pieces of the play fit together, though that may be appropriate, given the complexity and inevitable unsolvability of the material. In the end, we are left with a portrait of confused, unhappy people, a few of the millions whose will is not being heard by those in power—that, and a damn fine play. (Read Full Review)

A-

The Philanderer

Fortunately, the new revival at the Pearl Theatre plays down the didacticism in favor of a comedy of manners...The Pearl’s production is all in good fun, which is a wise choice, since they are packed with fine comic actors...Who knew Shaw could be so much fun? (Read Full Review)

B+

All That Fall

Though the material is admittedly dark—the play is mostly concerned with death and decay, and even sex doesn’t seem to bring pleasure to anyone—Beckett’s gallows humor is in fine form. As always, he seems to suggest that he did not make this miserable world, he is simply reflecting the one he sees, so we should appreciate the jokes he is able to find in it. Mr. Gambon, who is excellent—grumpy, exhausted, one of the few actors I have seen who can skillfully handle Beckett’s dialogue—frequently elicits nervous laughter, as when he notes with contempt that he may “pant on to be a hundred.” And he is paired well with Ms. Atkins, whose ebullient persona reeks of desperation, of a sadness that is perhaps more devastating than Dan’s.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Rantoul and Die

Mark Roberts’ Rantoul and Die is a good choice for the Amoralists, a theater group that is bursting with ideas and stylistic ingenuity but rarely produces a consistent, cohesive work. Rantoul may be that work. It’s an hysterical, dark comedy whose tone and subtext never drowns out its characters and their problems. The title is worth considering: Rantoul and Die, as if the two words are synonymous. These are people who will never leave their awful town, who will never accomplish anything, and who will not be remembered after their funerals. With this premise, Mr. Roberts has managed to write a rather exceptional—and ultimately tenderhearted—comedy.
(Read Full Review)

B+

A Streetcar Named Desire

Emily Mann has directed a fine production...marked by gorgeous, mournful jazz (courtesy of Terence Blanchard) and a mostly top-notch cast...Mr. Underwood is successful in Stanley’s sober scenes, his double entendres thudding against the floor as he sizes up his sister-in-law, Blanche DuBois (Nicole Ari Parker), playing the Neanderthal while quietly picking away at her insecurities and pretenses. And yet the violence that was always conspicuously lingering inside Brando is present not here...Ms. Parker, on the other hand, handles Blanche wonderfully...Ms. Mann’s production doesn’t feel like a failure—most of the slack is picked up by the remainder of the cast and crew. It is flawed, certainly, but delicious. (Read Full Review)

B+

The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Azdak ([played by] Christopher Lloyd) is a difficult character…[and] is the backbone, if not the protagonist, of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Mr. Lloyd, given the burden of this character, does an excellent job. He hacks and coughs out his lines, alternately playing an icon, a Shakespearean fool, and a deeply unhappy drunk. Director Brian Kulick has also chosen to give him the part of the “signer” (or narrator), which may prove thematically confusing, but he has such a rich voice—with the melancholy but reassuring texture of a well-read bedtime story—that we can hardly fault the mistake. He has undoubtedly assembled a handsome, intelligent revival. The Caucasian Chalk Circle can be a frustrating play, one whose emotions are not easy to locate; consistent with Brecht’s interest in alienating his audience, this is not a production that inspires much feeling from us. Instead, its greatest pleasures are to be found after the curtain, when one attempts to unwrap its many contradictions.
(Read Full Review)

B+

Marie Antoinette

Mr. Adjmi’s previous play, 3C, was last year’s most unsung work. Marie Antoinette is not as strong, suffering from some uninspired metatheatrics (the actors change between acts onstage) and a second half that drags a bit. Still, Ms. Ireland is phenomenal in the title role, portraying Marie as petulant and bratty but never unsympathetic... Mr. Adjmi has performed a not unimpressive feat: Marie Antoinette is ultimately a comedy of misunderstanding in which the playwright evokes empathy—and yes, understanding—for one of Western history’s most battered figures. (Read Full Review)

B

In Acting Shakespeare

Ultimately, Mr. DeVita is passionate enough to overcome his intellectual shortcomings, and his endearing love for Shakespeare triumphs over his uninspired take on the man’s life. (Read Full Review)

B

Women or Nothing

Ultimately, Women or Nothing proves a perfectly acceptable way to pass an evening. It is smart and funny though somewhat underwhelming. Soon it will be forgotten, but perhaps not entirely gone. (Read Full Review)

B

The Heiress

Ms. Chastain manages to be transformative... Through a simultaneously off-putting and endearing frenetic shyness, Ms. Chastain embodies Catherine as well as any actor could... Mr. Srathairn is devastating...
Like many melodramas, The Heiress loses steam after intermission, and at two hours and forty-five minutes, it is rather overlong. Still, for the performances alone, it is entirely worth the price of admission. (Read Full Review)

B

Ann

Ann is unlikely to be among the most memorable plays of the season. But as the sequester deal continues to flounder, snuggling up with Governor Richards proves a warm, entertaining diversion.
(Read Full Review)

B-

The Flick

...In its first, extended act, The Flick has the casual, incidental tone of Linklater’s best work... But after a nearly two-hour first act, The Flick runs out of steam. Almost nothing that happens after intermission is truly necessary... everything that was implicit eventually becomes explicit... With some trimming, The Flick could be a fine play. As it is—with a runtime thirty minutes longer than Avatar—it ends up feeling like a Kevin Smith movie without an editor. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Anarchist

It is the kind of delicious, verbal con game that has attracted Mr. Mamet for years. The characters relentlessly spar onstage ... And while Ms. LuPone, a Mamet veteran, handles the language perfectly, Ms. Winger, a newcomer, reveals how awkward his dialogue can sound coming out of the wrong mouth. It requires an actor who is fluent in his structured messiness. (Read Full Review)

B-

The Lying Lesson

The Lying Lesson is unlikely to irk fans of Bette Davis, because it is more fanciful, less autobiographical, and ultimately, less raw, less naked. If Mr. Lucas had pulled back on his desire to deconstruct the legend, he would have had a terrific little fantasy. As it is, The Lying Lesson is a pleasant little misstep. (Read Full Review)

B-

Much Ado About Nothing

Last year, Arin Arbus directed a wonderful Taming of the Shrew for TFANA and this season she returns with her star Maggie Siff for Much Ado About Nothing, an appropriate, complicated companion piece. But where Shrew succeeded because it treated the text with the appropriate amount of irony, Much Ado falters because it fails to address the darkness in Shakespeare's play. I do wish it had been a smarter production, but those are not easy to come by and in the meantime this will certainly do. (Read Full Review)

B-

Golden Boy

The script for Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy reads like the third movie you would see at a Film Forum triple feature, like one of those early, sixty-five minute talkies with bad sound and stock characters. People say things like “Use your noodle,” “cock-eyed gutter rat,” and “phonus bolonus” without a trace of irony, which makes it pretty difficult to take seriously. There is, admittedly, an antique charm to the production. Ultimately, however, charm alone cannot sustain this nearly three-hour play, and its one note gradually begins to sound like nothing at all. (Read Full Review)

C+

Heartless

Looks and sounds like a Shepard play. It smells like one, and it bears a superficial resemblance to Buried Child, his best work, but something is missing: drive, perhaps, or passion...While Ms. Nicholson does a wonderful job with her part—her childish agony can be very affecting—in general, the actors seem to just be going through the motions...This is not vintage Shepard, but ersatz Shepard, and contains none of the real sense of dread, none of the riveting, honest violence that has made his such an unmistakable and invaluable voice in our theater. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Dance of Death

The Dance of Death, currently running at the Lucille Lortel Theater, has been translated and significantly cut by Mike Poulton, who believes that its second part compromises its first. Therefore, his rendering excises over half the play’s characters and ends the action much earlier than in the original, though this kind of editing isn’t uncommon for the play, which is often only partially produced. This may suggest a more streamlined version, but The Dance of Death still runs for two hours and twenty minutes, and Strindberg’s unfaltering rage eventually becomes tedious. (Read Full Review)

C+

Collision

Collision ultimately feels like a promising rough draft. The Amoralists are a terrific voice in New York theater, and I am fully confident that they will eventually produce their great play. Collision is not that play -- but with some work, it could be. Except for the months following Columbine, it is just about the worst time in American history to stage a comedy about school shootings -- and while The Amoralists are not known for their timidity, they have rewritten Collision, excising some of the jokes for the sake of decency. (Read Full Review)

C+

Dead Accounts

...when it is not swiping at profundity, Dead Accounts is a fairly enjoyable play... Mr. Butz is a terrific performer, ideally cast... It is no surprise, of course, that Ms. Holmes is terrible... it is the kind of performance we often see from an average high school drama student... Dead Accounts will be forgotten almost as soon as it closes, but it is nonetheless a perfectly acceptable way to pass two hours this winter.
(Read Full Review)

C+

The Good Mother

The Good Mother showcases good acting but feels somewhat pointless. There is nothing bad about it, but there is nothing especially good about it, either. An early, extended scene ... is one of the more awkward sexual encounters I have sat through in a theater. This is a perfect epitome of the play itself: eager but unsuccessful, marked by genuine attempts to please both itself and its audience, but sheepishly fizzling out instead of culminating in thunderous orgasm. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Freedom of the City

Mr. Russell, Ms. Seymour, and Mr. Sikora are all adequate in their parts—neither stellar nor dreadful—though unfortunately director Ciarán O’Reilly has played down the comedy, resulting in a tone of static moral outrage...Still, the merits outweigh the faults here, and The Freedom of the City is the best show the Irish Rep has produced in about a year. (Read Full Review)

C+

The Whale

Visually, The Whale offers a lot to engage its audience. Charlie is quite a sight, and Mr. Hensley, packed into a fat suit, heaves and sweats his way through a tremendously athletic performance...Still, Mr. Hunter falls shy of the substance that would make The Whale a great play. Pairing a six hundred pound man with Moby Dick is inspired imagery, but it doesn’t really go anywhere interesting, while Charlie’s faith in mankind in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is neither tragic nor funny enough; it is, in fact, surprisingly flat. (Read Full Review)

C

Big Fish

Big Fish is about what you would expect it to be: it is diverting, colorful, and it goes down easy... The book by John August is decent if predictable and the music by Andrew Lippa is inoffensive and forgettable when listened to in a Broadway theater but slightly embarrassing if replayed later... The result is a kind of candy-colored Death of a Salesman... Mr. Butz does what he can with the material and he manages to succeed in making Edward an endearing character... But there is something off-putting about Mr. Steggart, who can never shake the facial expression of the cat who got the cream... The sets, as would be expected, are impressive, though not magnificent in the way Big Fish requires... Ultimately, this is an unimposing and occasionally cute musical... (Read Full Review)

C

A Time to Kill

...so long as you don’t expect it to provide any insights on race relations or the law, it can be a fairly entertaining little show... Mr. Thompson seems about as excited to be on Broadway as he did to be running for president. When he doesn’t flub his lines, he mumbles them... Mr. Arcelus, too, performs like a sixteen-year-old... Mr. Page, on the other hand, has a kind of swaggering brilliance... Mr. Skerritt is charming as ever... because it is so divorced from reality... it gets away with its emotional manipulation. (Read Full Review)

C

What Rhymes with America

Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Melissa James Gibson’s What Rhymes with America is that it is not quite as bad as it should be. Despite the overwhelming dead weight of the dialogue, director Daniel Aukin’s show is always low-key and unassuming. And yet, this production is not completely unbearable. But it is Mr. Aukin who deserves the most praise for keeping this leaky ship afloat -- against all odds, he has transformed what should be an embarrassing production into a merely middling one. (Read Full Review)

C

The Other Place

For a work that deals with such a heavy subject, it doesn’t have much weight. There is a nice scene, during a medical conference, in which she berates a woman she assumes to be a prostitute: "I see we have a guest with us today in a lovely string bikini -- Miss, are you are doctor or are you just here to show someone where it hurts?" Sharpening her claws, she continues, "Now I'm going to make this next part quick so everyone please sit up. Except you, String Bikini, it looks like all you need to work on today is somebody's diction." (Read Full Review)

C

The Master Builder

[T]he initial hesitancy about the material (one that I share, for I have never seen Ibsen work) seeps into the production. Despite several solid performances and gorgeous scenic design by Santo Loquasto—a simple revolving set with tilted, rectangular scaffolding in the center—The Master Builder plays like typical Ibsen: sterile, stilted, and emotionally anachronistic. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Bad and the Better

By the second act, however, Mr. Ahonen begins to lose both narrative and tonal control of his play. Confusions about motives and plotlines are perfectly acceptable in this noir context, confusions about intent less so. The Bad and the Better is billed as “a cautionary tale about the hypocrisy of extreme principles,” and it’s hard to tell by the end whether this is meant in earnest or not, whether he is actually trying to educate as well as entertain. If it is meant to be political, then its insights are rather bland and uninteresting. If it’s just a joke, then it very abruptly ceases to be funny. (Read Full Review)

C-

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

"If everyone took antidepressants, Chekhov would have had nothing to write about," Sonia (Kristine Nielsen) jokes in the opening scene, and this line is about as sophisticated and deep as Mr. Durang will get for the next two and a half hours. I cannot recall ever seeing such a talented cast waste themselves on such a worthless script. It is only fair to mention that on the night I attended the audience was positively roaring and constantly interrupting the actors with applause. The phrase, I suppose, is crowd-pleaser. The crowd was pleased. I was not. (Read Full Review)

C-

Hands on a Hardbody

Onstage, Hands on a Hardbody is all gloss, not the ideal coating for its subject matter. Don Curtis (William Youmans), husband of contestant Janis (Dale Soules), provides a telling example—he decides to stay up as long as she does, effectively meaning they will be in the competition together. This is an obvious relationship for a musical to cling to, but in the Mr. Bindler’s film, Don is missing most of his bottom teeth and wears a hand-made cardboard hat that reads “I Love You JANis! GO BABY GO!” There is something uncomfortable if not downright condescending about the absence of these touches in the musical, as if we can only view poverty through Broadway’s rose-tinted glasses. (Read Full Review)

C-

Romeo and Juliet

I am far from a traditionalist when it comes to Shakespeare, but I challenge anyone to justify restaging the Capulet party as a half rave, half middle school dance, with Romeo (Julian Cihi) in the middle dressed up as Winnie the Pooh. Perhaps director Tea Alagić wanted to emphasize the youth of Shakespeare’s characters—but in that case, she might have considered casting an actress who isn’t a decade older than Juliet (Elizabeth Olsen). Of course, Shakespeare Lite has become endemic in a theatrical world that would rather direct the plays for those who don’t like Shakespeare than for Bardolators. Granted, things aren’t all bad over at the Classic Stage Company. Still, these are ultimately periphery successes in what is an otherwise disappointing production.
(Read Full Review)

C-

The Dance and the Railroad

It is a beautiful, poetic image, but unfortunately the play that follows does not live up to its potency. (Read Full Review)

C-

The Big Knife

I had thought we all agreed—I don’t know, half a century ago—that Odets was no longer relevant and certainly did not belong to the ranks of great American playwrights. And yet, The Big Knife follows last fall’s Golden Boy: two major revivals (and major disappointments) in under one year. “The theater’s a stunted bleeding stump,” Charlie complains, “Even stars have to wait years for one decent play.” Let’s hope this isn’t true—and let’s hope Mr. Cannavale and Mr. Kind quickly recover from this misstep. (Read Full Review)

D+

The Lyons

It is funny to watch Ben and Rita go back and forth, a little shocking to see how nonchalant she is about the whole cancer thing, but ultimately these don’t feel like real people; the dialogue is composed not for verisimilitude but for what will elicit the biggest reaction at any given moment. Admittedly, the second act suffers less from this problem, but that is due in part because it falls apart at the seams...It’s a shame, too, because the cast is actually quite good. (Read Full Review)

D+

Chaplin: The Musical

...for a musical about The Little Tramp, it is surprisingly joyless. The star, Rob McClure, has all the mannerisms down: the hat tricks, the cane twirling, the duck walk, the twitching moustache and the goofy grin. But he rarely gets to break them out. Apart from one or two delightful numbers, Chaplin tends to bury itself in the wallowing, lonely side of genius... Mr. Curtis and Mr. Meehan fall prey to the type of hero-worshipping that results in shaky biography... In fact, I often found myself thinking about Modern Times throughout Chaplin... It is this tone that is missing from Chaplin; the tramp, faced with an indifferent world that continually knocks him down, will always get up again, brush off his oversized trousers, and reaffix his bowler hat. Perhaps an elderly Chaplin would prefer this treatment, this serious depiction of a serious artist. But even if it is the show he would have wanted, it certainly isn’t the one he deserves. (Read Full Review)

D+

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Unfortunately, this musical takes only its plot from Kind Hearts and none of the latter’s wit or charm. Admittedly, Mr. Pinkham is quite good as Monty, and his take on the part is wholly different than Price’s… However, to say that Mr. Mays falls short of living up to Alec Guinness would be unnecessary and a little cruel, since the two are so far apart in talent that it would be like comparing William Shakespeare with John Grisham. His is an athletically impressive performance (the costume changes alone would topple a less gymnastic actor), but he has an off-putting, almost creepy smugness about him, and one gets the impression that he is the type of person who laughs loudest at his own jokes. True, this isn’t entirely Mr. Mays’ fault, since the writing is consistently obvious and unfunny, not to mention occasionally uncomfortable. (Read Full Review)

D

Women of Will

[T]he too-rehearsed banter quickly becomes tiring. “You’re objectifying me,” Mr. Gore replies after Ms. Packer mentions his penis, a particularly stale moment in a consistently stale evening. Women of Will has a great deal of mass but no density. Shakespeare is bursting with sexual interest, but Ms. Packer has yet to scratch the surface. (Read Full Review)

D

The Comedy of Errors

But readers and viewers of The Comedy of Errors can hardly be faulted for ignoring this dread; what follows is (apart from some parallel investigations into the relationship between master and slave and husband and wife) a parade of silliness: two sets of twins, mistaken identities, phenomenal verbal juggling, and an ending that leaves nearly all involved content. Which is why Daniel Sullivan’s revival at the Delacorte Theater is so thoroughly baffling. The Comedy of Errors is already Shakespeare’s broadest comedy, and yet the director, as if he has no faith in the text, inserts a series of easy gags that cheapen the work and form the husk of this production: spaghetti is plopped on heads, water is thrown in faces, asses are slapped, and pratfalls are taken; there are even nuns with guns—this isn’t Shakespeare, it’s the Keystone Cops. (Read Full Review)

D

The Castle

I have never been less sure of a play than I am of The Castle. I am not the one to know whether the emperor is exquisitely dressed or wearing nothing at all; it may be a masterpiece, and then again it may be garbage. (By his own definition, Mr. Barker is doubtlessly a genius.) I can only say that I certainly did not enjoy it, that I found the experience monotonous and exhausting, and that it will likely take years before I am on firm ground with Mr. Barker. (Read Full Review)

D

Breakfast at Tiffany's

...a beat-by-beat replication of the novella... this is a pathetic production, one where nothing about it need be wrong and yet nothing about it is right. But instead of frustration with the writer, with the director, or with the actors, I just feel sorry for them as they flush this opportunity down the toilet. The entire production is too lifeless to inspire any feelings beyond casual indifference... Fred, I think, is from the South, though Mr. Smith’s stammering cadence sounds more like a parody of slam poetry... Ms. Clarke is too happy, too healthy looking to play Holly; she has none of her sadness... I’m not sure I’ve ever understood Holly’s appeal—perhaps she’s not for me—but this production surely did nothing to shed any more light. (Read Full Review)

D

The Madrid

Ultimately, The Madrid is stale and vaporous—it never seems concerned with complicating its characters, with elevating them above movie of the week personalities. Ms. Flahive is a writer for Nurse Jackie, which is probably how Ms. Falco got stuck in this play. Next time she should cut her television ties and get ahold of a chewier text. (Read Full Review)

D

Really Really

This is the kind of laughably transparent dialogue you would expect from an angst-ridden teenager. There is nothing to indicate that Mr. Colaizzo cares about his characters—no love, no irony—only a juvenile, unattractive cynicism.

Admittedly, he has been blessed with an outstanding cast. Ms. Mamet has an opaque, clinical demeanor that indicates an intelligence and a viciousness to Leigh not explored in the script, and it is a blast to watch Mr. Hull treat his gorgeous apartment, his campus, and his friends like a private circus. If only they had been given a text that could put their talents to greater use. (Read Full Review)

D-

An Early History of Fire

There is nothing especially wrong with An Early History of Fire, but there certainly isn’t anything right. The territory is so familiar, the metaphorical scope so old, we wonder why the play even exists. (Read Full Review)

D-

Man and Superman

It sounds like it’s all good fun, but Man and Superman is far too bogged down in its ideas to be solid entertainment and its ideas are far too dated to be interesting propaganda. Don Juan in Hell, an act that is usually cut and sometimes performed on its own, is certainly the most interesting conceptually, but Juan’s philosophical tirades are exhausting. And it is not as if Shaw isn’t aware of this problem: one character moans, “If you would stick to the concrete, and put your discoveries in the form of entertaining anecdotes about your adventures with women, your conversation would be easier to follow,” while the Devil (who presumably has eternity to listen to this) complains about “the intolerable length” of his speeches. As for his views—women view men only as “a means to the end of getting children and rearing them,” “marriage is the most licentious of human instincts”—they may have been cutting edge in 1903 but have most definitely gone dull by now. (Read Full Review)

D-

Detroit

Yet another entry in the never-ending American tradition of theater about angry drunk families who have secrets that will be revealed after the intermission...Admittedly, Detroit is not the worst play to follow this outline, but it is hardly good enough to justify the retread...Detroit, then, is ultimately brought down by its transparency—it is a play that is too clearly written starring a man who is too clearly acting. (Read Full Review)

F+

Peter and the Starcatcher

I can’t say with certainty that Peter and the Starcatcher is the worst play currently running on the New York stage, but I would be surprised if it weren’t the most disappointing. Barrie’s wonderful story, now having reached mythical status, is reduced to a series of misfired jokes aimed at both children and their parents. For the children, we get bowel humor and alliteration (and sometimes both, as when one character recalls that moo shu pork “went through me like the winter wind in Wessex”). For the parents, it’s a series of increasingly grating anachronisms...Fortunately, we have Mr. Borle, whose inspired campy energy nearly makes Peter and the Starcatcher bearable—nearly. (Read Full Review)

F

Reasons to be Happy

People who are a little smart and a lot insecure love to associate with lesser minds. They will make allusions with the sole intention of being asked to explain them and they will quietly correct others’ mistakes—only doing so quietly so they can repeat the corrections louder, all the while pretending it’s no big deal. They use their intelligence as a weapon, even though the kind of fights they engage in are less like battles and more like poking unarmed children with forks. Neil LaBute, I suspect, is this kind of intellectual fraud; he certainly enjoys writing them…The play that ensues…is a sickening, narcissistic male fantasy. Those who like Mr. LaBute—largely freshman acting students who still get a kick out of swearing in public—insist that he has a great ear for dialogue and that he accurately dissects gender relations and issues of masculinity. This sounds to me like David Mamet, who has penned his share of vicious misogynists, whereas Mr. LaBute is more like one of those vicious misogynists turned playwright.
(Read Full Review)

F-

A Summer Day

When the house lights came up, the audience surrounding me suggested that I had just seen a play. The rules of drama would indicate that that play had featured characters and action. But walking out of the Cherry Lane Theater, I had an itching feeling that I had been sitting quietly for eighty minutes for no logical reason; that perhaps what I saw was a play, but as the dialogue (very quickly) evaporated in my memory, it seemed more likely that I had just watched Karen Allen repeat the same phrases about “darkness” and “the waves” over and over again. (Read Full Review)

F-

Clive

Clive is quite possibly the worst play I have ever seen. (Read Full Review)