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Posted on 09/16/13
Photo from The Hill Town Plays
Photo: Sandra Coudert

C-

As the inaugural playwright for Rattlestick's theater:village festival, Lucy Thurber takes several hits for what is seemingly an honor. A downtown playwright with a cult following, Thurber gets five simultaneous productions, and it invites intense scrutiny rather than celebration from most critics. For every strength (a gritty focus on the under-theatricalized working class), the critics find at least two weaknesses (cliched characters, monotonous themes), with the latter leaving a stronger impact. Despite near-unanimous agreement that the performances and direction are solid to great across the board, these plays are >.....


Posted on 08/27/13
Photo from Harbor
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B-

While some applaud Harbor as a “warm and funny” (Huffington Post’s Steven Suskin) play with “thrilling and dramatically charged results” (TheaterMania’s Zachary Stewart), more are critical of the play’s inconsistencies, including the significant change in tone between Acts 1 and 2. Speaking for several reviewers, the Bergen Record's Robert Feldberg calls the characters “all in all, not especially believable,” which may be why the ensemble receives mixed marks; an exception is Alexis Molnar, who garners considerable praise for her portrayal of the teenage Lottie.


Posted on 08/20/13
Photo from Soul Doctor
Photo: Carol Rosegg

C-

Critics find this "Journey of a Rock-Star Rabbi" to be an overstuffed, by-the-numbers biomusical that doesn't dig deep enough into the life of its fascinating subject. More than a few complain of whitewashing--where, for instance, are the charges of sexual harassment that Carlebach faced later in life?--and all bemoan the shticky book and direction by Daniel Wise (Benoit-Swan Pouffer's pseudo-Hair choreography doesn't win fans either). Where this strange musical goes right, critics say, is with Carlebach's own infectious, joyful music and in the compelling performances of Eric Anderson, as the Soul Doctor himself, and Amber Iman as Nina Simone.


Posted on 08/15/13
Photo from Love's Labour's Lost
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

The latest frothy late summer offering from the Public Theatre garners predominantly positive reviews for director Alex Timbers and songwriter Michael Friedman (the team that brought us Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), who fashioned a new musical around Shakespeare's romantic comedy. For most, what criticism there is is directed at the original play itself, which is widely considered problematic. Yet this “musical mash-up” charms many as a “screwball farce celebrating the joys of being young and on the loose,” according to Lighting & Sound America’s David Barbour. The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck warns purists to beware, even as he considers this “delightfully antic show…a perfect midsummer night’s entertainment.” Even the less-than-captivated Ben Brantley of the Times has praise for the “incredibly inventive Mr. Timbers,” while he calls the production “a silly diversion for the silly season, [which] passes muster, but only just.”


Posted on 08/12/13
Photo from First Date
Photo: Joan Marcus

B-

Let's start with the positive: Critics are thoroughly charmed by television actor Zachary Levi in his Broadway debut, writing that he has a natural presence on the stage. Krysta Rodriguez, playing his date in this First Date, also gets plenty of love from the critics, as does the small supporting cast playing all the other roles. But critics wouldn't necessarily go on a second date (their words) with this show. Some of the reasons they give: The plot is not enough to sustain a Broadway musical, the characters are stereotypes, and the dialogue is predictable. Still, some critics are genuinely amused and see potential in the creative team.


Posted on 08/05/13
Photo from rogerandtom
Photo: Taylor Hooper

A

Reviews compare the ways this absurd comedy plays with time and space to the TV shows Lost and Twilight Zone, and to the films Inception and Pleasantville, and see echoes of Abbott and Costello in it to boot! TheaterMania calls it a "fun house," The New Yorker says it's a "light, whimsical, very well-acted play about the imagination," Time Out New York calls it "a three-person existential juggling act" that's "short and punchy." And the Post thinks director Nicholas Cotz "does an excellent job of making the complex action coherent."


Posted on 08/05/13
Photo from Bill W. and Dr. Bob
Photo: Joseph E. Reid

B

Most reviewers find this play, about the founding of Alcoholics Anoymous, a somewhat satisfying and quite meaningful revival, with Time Out's David Cote observing that “its theatrical virtues are less important than its social value,” and the Post’s Elisabeth Vincentelli admiring its “sincere earnestness” even as she also notes its lack of “dramatic tension or insights.” The L’s Dan Callahan is far less accepting, calling the play a “paper-thin representation of the founding of such an important group" which, as a play, "does nothing to truly help or enlighten anyone.”


Posted on 08/05/13
Photo from Storyville
Photo: Carol Rosegg

C+

Though there is some praise for the music and choreography in this revival of Storyville—the Times’ Andy Webster, for one, finds the production “tirelessly exhuberant”—the predominant critical sentiment is less favorable, especially with respect to the storyline, which is called “dramatically thin,” “very much like a work in progress,” and even worse; as New Jersey Newsroom’s Michael Sommers puts it, this is “a flimsy two-act melodrama.” Even those who appreciate, as Show Business Weekly’s Iris Greenberger does, the “gifted ensemble of strong vocalists,” find the book “unfocused and rambling.”


Posted on 08/01/13
Photo from Murder for Two
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

Critics are of two minds when it comes to this fast-paced two-hander. There tends to be consensus that the libretto and direction are a little chaotic, interspersing moments that land with other moments that fail. Director Scott Schwartz gets high marks for creating an energetic production, but gets some demerits for pacing issues at the beginning and end. Meanwhile, for some critics, the intense eagerness to please becomes off-putting. For others, though, the boundless energy of the performers, Brett Ryback and Jeff Blumenkrantz, carries the day.


Posted on 07/29/13
Photo from Let it Be
Photo: Chad Batka

C-

It’s not just a guitar that is gently weeping in this new production about the Beatles: the critical consensus is predominantly indifferent to negative about this “lazy,” “uninspired,” “below-par cruise ship revue.” There is some appreciation for the “excellent cover band” and the “perfunctory yet enjoyable” concert experience, but this show--which many critics agree is suspiciously similar to 2010's Rain--is clearly meant for those who are seeking nostalgia over innovation.