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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?”


Posted on 03/31/14

B

The “excellent” ensemble, led by the “simply stunning” Tyne Daly giving an “exquisite” performance, appears to be the primary reason to go to Mothers and Sons. Though some find the production—McNally’s 20th Broadway play in his 50-year career—“moving, intensely resonant”, more comment on “air of artificiality.” Time Out’s Feldman concludes that “though dated at times, and shaded with passive aggression, this is arguably McNally’s best play in 20 years.” At the other end of the spectrum, the Post’s Vincentelli is quite unenamoured, considering it a “clunker of a show.”


Posted on 03/31/14
Photo from Les Misérables
Photo: Michael Le Poer Trench

B

Most critics roll their eyes at this revival of a musical that has enjoyed a Broadway presence for 18 out of the last 27 years. Still, they generally agree that this particular production is pretty decent, even if the story is as melodramatic, and the music as bombastic, as ever. The high marks are mostly due to a near across-the-board admiration for Ramin Karimloo's superb Broadway debut as Jean Valjean; more than a few rave that his restrained rendition of "Bring Him Home" is the best that they've heard. As for the rest of the cast, only Will Swenson as the vengeful Javert receives notable praise; the rest are decidedly hit-and-miss. As for that famous turntable? Critics don't seem to miss it at all.


Posted on 03/25/14
Photo from The Happiest Song Plays Last
Photo: Joan Marcus

B

As this is the final of Quiara Alegría Hudes' trilogy of "Elliot" plays, critics often look to the first two plays (the second of which, Water by the Spoonful, won the Pulitzer Prize) as a point of comparison. And for the most part, they are disappointed. Quite a few describe the play as "diffuse" or "shapeless" and think that Hudes has stretched the play too thin trying to address commentary on Iraq, PTSD, American health care, Egypt's uprising, and more. A notable dissent comes from TheaterMania's David Gordon, who believes Happiest Song is the best of the trilogy, and many critics appreciate the lyricism and sincere warmth of the writing. Actor Armando Riesco gets high marks for his performance as the lead, Elliot Ortiz, as does the Latin music from Nelson González.


Posted on 03/25/14
Photo from Appropriate
Photo: Joan Marcus

C

There’s agreement that Branden Jacobs-Jenkins new play is reminiscent of many classic plays and playwrights that have explored the dramatic possibilities of dysfunctional families and their secrets, with many bringing up comparisons to August: Osage County. Yet the extent to which this is considered a positive varies wildly from critic to critic. In one camp, there are those who consider this a "very fine, subversively original" (NYT's Brantley) play with “an uncommonly deft dramatic and technical achievement and perhaps a star-making production for Jacobs-Jenkins” (EW’s Lee). Others pillory it as a “a mess, undercooked and overexplained” (New York’s Green) which “could have made a significant impression on the American dramatic canon [but] lands with a mere ho-hum” (TheaterMania's Gordon).