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Posted on 04/14/14

B+

David Ives’ newest adaptation of an 18th-century text—this time of the lesser-known Regnard, rather than Moliere—has equally strong fans and detractors. Ives' talent with rhyming couplets is well-acknowledged (indeed, they inspire TimeOut’s Feldman to pen his own rhyming review), as is the strength of the cast. But one man’s “boisterous, bawdy and endlessly funny” farce (NYT’s Isherwood) is another woman’s “exhausting” and “wearisome” production (NYP’s Vincentelli. Even as WSJ’s Teachout applauds that “the cast is perfect, and John Rando's staging is a slapsticky riot,” there are those who think the “inferior source…plays like a cruder Molière pastiche [and] grates as often as it amuses” (LS&A’s Barbour).


Posted on 04/14/14
Photo from I Remember Mama
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B+

Most critics are moved by Jack Cummings III's staging of I Remember Mama, from the 10 older actresses playing all the roles to having the action take place at 10 tables (set design by Dane Laffrey) arranged throughout the gym space. Frank Scheck, reviewing for the New York Post, is the lone dissenter, finding that the staging makes the play somewhat hard to follow and emotionally distant.


Posted on 04/14/14

A

The reviews are strong for Lolita Chakrabarti’s new play, especially for the memorable portrayal by Adrian Lester (her real-life husband) of the little-known black theater pioneer Ira Aldredge. Initially mounted by London's Tricycle Theatre, Red Velvet is a “fascinating play” that “provide(s) insight into the art of acting and of theater” (newyorktheatre.me’s Mandell) led by the “magnificent” Lester. The L Magazine’s Callahan notes, “As theater goes, this is the real, living, breathing, violent thing, a major performance in a major new play.”


Posted on 04/14/14

B-

The movie-to-stage adaptation of this 1994 film by Woody Allen and Susan Stroman clearly raised critical expectations for a smash a la The Producers, but you're at risk of whiplash when examining the gamut of critical reactions. From being considered a “fun, beautiful musical...a work of art of the highest caliber"” (AP’s Kennedy) to a “charm-free” experience akin to “being head-butted by linebackers” (NYT’s Brantley), and everything in between, this may be among the most polarizing shows of the current season. Of particular note is the writers' decision to forgo an original score for jazz standards that are shoehorned into the story; this is considered anywhere from a major misstep to a lost opportunity, even among those with the most positive comments overall. Across the board, there are three consistent points of consensus praise: William Ivey Long’s lavish costumes, Santo Loquasto’s on-point scenic design, and a “breakthrough” performance by Nick Cordero. Everything else is up for grabs.


Posted on 04/09/14
Photo from The Realistic Joneses
Photo: Joan Marcus

B

Will Eno’s first Broadway production is as polarizing as his earlier works, generally winning praise for its ambition even as some critics scratch their heads at the meaning of it all. Most often compared with Beckett and Albee (with a bit of Steven Wright tossed in for good measure), The Realistic Joneses’ inspired wordplay wears thin for some, with ever-diminishing returns as the 90 minute work progresses. Many agree with the NYT’s Isherwood’s appreciation of this “funny and moving…wonderful and weird” play, though even he warns against expecting “tidy resolutions, clearly drawn narrative arcs or familiarly typed characters.” From a less enamored angle, New York’s Green comments that “even though The Realistic Joneses is smart and witty and beautifully produced, it’s not exactly enjoyable.” Variety’s Stasio, like many, hails the starry cast, which "brings out character nuances that would be lost in a less savvy production,” though for some, that doesn’t help; as the AP’s Kennedy notes, “It may have been more fun to write than see.”


Posted on 04/09/14
Photo from The Threepenny Opera
Photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia

B-

While many critics prefer this lean, artfully composed new revival of Brecht and Weill's cutting classic by dance/theater maven Martha Clarke to its most recent Broadway revivals, even its admirers find it less sharp and edgy than is ideal. To some, the score has never sounded better and Clarke's sinuous tableaux are mesmerizing, but many feel that all this smoothness blunts the material, and that aside from a few musical high points (from Laura Osnes' crystalline Polly, Michael Park's handsome Macheath, and in particular Sally Murphy's intense Jenny), not to mention some stunt staging with an English bulldog, this Threepenny doesn't quite add up.


Posted on 04/04/14
Photo from A Raisin in the Sun
Photo: Brigitte LaCombe

A-

Enthusiasm runs high for this new revival, despite some quibbles, but critics are near-unanimous on one point: This is a far better account of Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 classic than the last Broadway revival from the same director (back in 2004), and the difference is partly in the star driving the vehicle: Then it was Sean "Puffy" Combs, making an uncertain stage debut, now it's Denzel Washington, a theatrical natural. Some critics can't quite see past the star's age, which is indeed some decades older than Hansberry prescribed for Walter Lee, but even they join the chorus of raves for his strong, rangy performance, and second the praise for the ensemble, led by three lauded ladies: LaTanya Richardson Jackson as his stalwart but flawed mother, Lena, Anika Noni Rose as his naively idealistic sister, Beneatha, and Sophie Okonedo as his stoic wife, Ruth.


Posted on 04/02/14

B-

How very…not the film, most critics opine. With the exception of New York's Jesse Green (who calls the 1989 cult hit a "sloppy, poorly directed mess"), everyone digs the source material, and one particularly delighted critic (Time Out's David Cote) raves that Heathers: The Musical is the best teen-centric musical since Spring Awakening. Mostly, the musical amuses with its '80s-inspired pop, sassy lyrics, and generally fine cast--even if the direction is considered rough and the material less biting than it should be. A prevalent complaint is the musical's lack of edge, though many critics aren't sure a musical comedy about school killings--no matter how well done--can work in a post-Columbine society. But it feels like they all kinda wish it did.


Posted on 04/02/14

B-

To say that Idina Menzel single-handedly saves this show would apparently not be an understatement. Or, as the Post's Elisabeth Vincentellli succinctly puts it, the "new Broadway musical If/Then would be DOA without Idina Menzel." Variously described as being "divine," a "powerhouse" and a "blazing supernova," Menzel's performance provides moments of clarity and depth in an otherwise "muddled," "overstuffed," "complicated," and "ambitious but unwieldy" show. And although almost every critic applauds Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey for once again venturing into the (now increasingly rare) realm of the "new" Broadway musical, they are all more than a little disappointed with the underwhelming, repetitive, and slightly confusing product they have created.


Posted on 04/02/14
Photo from King Lear
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B+

Director Arin Arbus’ “potent revival” of King Lear—the second of three scheduled for 2014—is mostly met with appreciation by the critical community, in part for its “thoughtful and affecting interpretation of this most daunting of tragedies” (NYT’s Brantley). Others find it more serviceable than powerful, suggesting, “If you like your Shakespeare without a lot of auteurship, this is the production for you” (TheatreMania’s Stewart). The Post’s Vincentelli is much harsher, indicting the production’s “lack of conviction and vision,” griping, “Why bother with yet another Lear when you have so little to say about it?”