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Posted on 11/11/13
Photo from How to Make Friends and Then Kill Them
Photo: Hal Horowitz

B

Most critics appreciate actor-turned-playwright Halley Feiffer's dark and brutal humor in her disturbing tale of sisterly love, but her use of repetition and Kip Fagan's snappy-but-shrill direction get mixed reviews. The cast receives high marks across the board, though, and all seem to agree that Feiffer, if not in her best form here, is a talent to watch.


Posted on 11/08/13
Photo from After Midnight
Photo: Matthew Murphy

A-

It doesn't have a plot or any real social consciousness of the 1920s Harlem era it depicts, but critics don't seem to mind (except for Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune--he minds a lot). Instead, they're having a swinging good time at this song-and-dance revue. There's full admiration for the talented cast, and director/choreographer Warren Carlyle keeps the entertainment fast and sleek. But the highest praise is reserved for the show's "real stars," according to critics: the 16 musicians called the Jazz at Lincoln Center All-Stars, who consistently steal the show.


Posted on 11/07/13
Photo from Domesticated
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

Bruce Norris’ latest provocation (directed by the "expert" Anna D. Shapiro) explores a now typical storyline of personal and political mischief—along with reflections on gender politics and monogamy—with mostly positive results. With its “scathingly funny dialogue” and its “large and excellent” ensemble—especially the “brilliant” and “utterly magnificent” Laurie Metcalf—critics think the play succeeds on many levels, although many consider the whole uneven. Some feel the play doesn’t fully develop and is “better on caustic humor and verbal one-upmanship than real insight or character development” (EW’s Geier), while Time’s Zoglin thinks that this “terrifically, almost scandalously entertaining” play should be Broadway-bound. The minority opinion comes from Bloomberg’s Gerard and WSJ’s Teachout, who wasn’t a fan of Norris’ well-received Clybourne Park, either, and finds Domesticated to be an equally “comprehensively phony piece.”


Posted on 11/04/13
Photo from A Midsummer Night's Dream
Photo: Es Devlin

B+

Spider-Who? Julie Taymor makes a triumphant return to directing with Theatre For A New Audience’s inaugural production at its new home in Brooklyn. Most reviewers agree that her visual techniques and creative approaches are beyond compare: “tremendous,” “magical,” and “beguiling” are but a few of the compliments bandied about. Yet some also note that though it’s “visually stunning,” it’s also “verbally stunted” (Daily News’ Dziemianowicz), with uneven performances and less attention to Shakespeare’s text than is merited. Yet, even the unconvinced admit that “the notion of the play as indeed a dream has seldom been so strikingly realized” (Bloomberg’s Gerard).


Posted on 11/04/13
Photo from Grasses of a Thousand Colors
Photo: Joan Marcus

B-

To describe reviews of Wallace Shawn's Grasses of a Thousand Colors as "mixed" underplays the gap between critics, where at one end Village Voice's Alexis Soloski describes it as a "tour de force" and at the other end Lighting & Sound America's David Barbour calls it "a digression in search of a play." What critics tend to agree on is that it's not for everyone, particularly as it runs over three hours and includes long, explicit descriptions of every kind of sex man and beast can share under the sun. Critics who appreciate it focus on Wallace Shawn's captivating performance and the intricacies of the writing. But overall, many critics do wish it were scaled back, tighter in focus, and less distracted by the shocking eroticism.


Posted on 10/31/13
Photo from Good Person of Szechwan
Photo: Carol Rosegg

A

The move to the Public Theater from LaMaMa has only strengthened the acclaim for the Foundry Theatre’s production of Brecht’s 1943 masterwork. “Sublime,” “invigorating and exuberant,” and, as Talkin’ Broadway’s Murray proclaims, “one of the most fulfilling productions of 2013,” are only some of the superlatives bandied about this show, helmed by innovative director Lear DeBessonet. The accolades for “the staggeringly charismatic Taylor Mac” and his “virtuosic star turn” (Time Out’s Feldman) are even more gushing for his “exceptional” and “devastating” performance. The rest of the cast (including Lisa Kron, whose Fun Home is garnering high praise a few floors away at the Public) and the “terrific” songs by César Alvarez and the Lisps fully support this “thoroughly entertaining romp.”


Posted on 10/30/13
Photo from The Snow Geese
Photo: Joan Marcus

C+

After his impressive debut with last season's The Other Place, Sharr White raised high hopes with his second Broadway production, especially one featuring the likes of Victoria Clark, Danny Burstein, and Mary-Louise Parker. Unfortunately, most critics feel that a star-studded cast, excellent direction, and beautiful design can't save White's uninteresting take on the Chekhovian mode. They find Daniel Sullivan's production pretty to look at and many of the performances worthy, but think the play takes too long to reach its point and could use some rewriting.


Posted on 10/28/13
Photo from Betrayal
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe

A-

It's a given that the draw of this production has less to do with its content and much more to do with its starry cast. Audiences are likely to be pleased in this regard, as both Craig and Weisz are received with general, if moderate, favor. But it is Spall who emerges as the standout in the cast, with several critics calling him “sensational.” Ultimately, even the most enthusiastic critics temper their praise for the production by noting the replacement of the emotional repression synonymous with Pinter with an overcharged sexuality. But this doesn't stop most critics from enjoying the results.


Posted on 10/28/13
Photo from The Winslow Boy
Photo: Joan Marcus

A-

Terence Rattigan was one of the last major playwrights in England writing "the well-made play," and this revival is received by critics as a good example in the form. At its best, critics enjoy the luxury of the writing, the time the story takes to unfurl, and the deeper meditation on interesting issues. For other critics, however, the pace of the work in comparison with the somewhat banal details that unfold over the course of the play make it a more tiresome and less rewarding experience.


Posted on 10/28/13
Photo from The Seagull
Photo: Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

C

Many of the critics can’t help but mention Trudie Styler’s most recognizable role ("Mrs. Sting," as more than one person put it), and reviews of her performance range from “plain and wooden” to “poised and elegant.” There are greater concerns about Max Stafford-Clark’s directorial choices, which range from “tonally very, very odd” to “feather-headed.” Whether one comes out on the side of the “das” or the “nyets” also seems to be related to how much one appreciates Thomas Kilroy’s adaptation, which has moved the play to Ireland from Russia.