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Posted on 10/20/13
Photo from A Night with Janis Joplin
Photo: Jenny Anderson

B

No one's arguing with Mary Bridget Davies’s startlingly spot-on vocal impersonation of the rock songstress, though there are a couple minor quibbles about her acting chops. Then again, all are in agreement that Randy Johnson's book--which whitewashes Joplin's self-destructive tendencies and harps on the meaning of the blues--doesn't give the actress anything to work with. But let's be honest: No one's going to Janis for story. The critics know this, and recommend the the show as a superb tribute concert for Joplin fans.


Posted on 10/20/13

A

Contrary to Shakespeare’s original text, the critics come to praise this Julius Caesar, not to bury it. There's universal acclaim for director Phyllida Lloyd’s “brilliant” all-female casting of this classic tale of ambition, loyalty, and betrayal, and the cast is unanimously hailed, especially the “extraordinary” Harriet Walter as Brutus and the “imposing” Frances Barber as Caesar. To be clear, gender-bending casting isn’t new, particularly in Shakespearean productions, but as Time Out’s Cote notes—and his critical counterparts agree—“this may be the most thrilling, lucid and, yes, authentic Julius Caesar for years to come.”


Posted on 10/09/13
Photo from Big Fish
Photo: Paul Kolnik

B-

Though critics display great admiration for this creative team, their feelings on this new musical are mixed--not even the spectacle unites them. While some regard the physical production as the show's highlight, others grumble that it's not fantastical enough, while still others declare it's so dazzling as to take away from the story itself. Andrew Lippa's score is just as divisive, with half finding it his loveliest, and the other declaring it mediocre at best. Likewise, notices are mixed for Susan Stroman's direction and choreography. But, as usual, lead actor Norbert Leo Butz shines above all, receiving high praise across the board (except from Matthew Murray, who finds him, rather strangely, "astonishingly miscast").


Posted on 10/07/13
Photo from Bad Jews
Photo: Joan Marcus

A

Last year, Bad Jews premiered at the Roundabout Underground and received a median A-. Now that it's moved upstairs to the Laura Pels, a few critics do miss the close quarters of the smaller space, but most think the play has been tightened and the performances have become more nuanced--even the tornado-like lead turn by Tracee Chimo--which may explain the slightly higher median grade.


Posted on 10/07/13
Photo from Natural Affection
Photo: Marielle Solan

C

Aside from a couple of admiring reviews, there's not a lot of affection for this revival of one of William Inge's critical flops, rarely seen onstage since its short-lived Broadway run in 1963. Although critics note the material on its own makes for a steep uphill climb, several add that this production suffers from flat performances by actors miscast in their roles. A standout supporting turn by the "startlingly under-appreciated" John Pankow earns a chorus of praise as the highlight of the show.


Posted on 10/07/13
Photo from The Film Society
Photo: Carol Rosegg

C+

Going by some of the critical commentary, one may wonder why The Film Society was revived by Keen Company at all. Jon Robin Baitz’s first play is generally considered to be a lesser work in his canon, and this remounting is deemed lacking on several grounds, with the Voice’s Miriam Felton-Dansky noting that the “drama feels dated, its scenes long, its monologues preachy.” Jonathan Silverstein’s direction and staging is mostly panned, called “dull” (EW’s Geier) and “limp, musty” (NY Post’s Vincentelli). The Times’ Brantley is somewhat more appreciative, calling it “a welcome if slightly ponderous revival,” and The Easy’s Silver is further afield with her praise for the “strong performances by the six-person cast” in a “play that is quietly effective.” Lighting & Sound America’s Barbour’s reaction is the most positive, commending this “vivid and scalding play” and its “persuasive” production.


Posted on 10/01/13
Photo from Arguendo
Photo: Joan Marcus

B

Who other than Elevator Repair Service would look at Supreme Court transcripts and see fodder for theatrical exploration? With the critical judgment rendered, it’s a split decision for this newest offering by the troupe that is known for challenging the boundaries of what constitutes theatre. On the side of the ayes is the Times’ Brantley, who admires the “wittily inventive” show, while the Bergen Record's Feldberg is on the opposing end, finding it “tedious.” The remainder of the critical opinion varies: There are those who are highly engaged by the quirky one-act (remarkably brief by ERS standards), appreciating its verbal and visual details, down to coughs and wordless interjections, even as others feel a bit weary from all the frenetic activity when it’s all over.


Posted on 10/01/13
Photo from The Glass Menagerie
Photo: Michael J. Lutch

A

The Williams play that's revived about once a decade finally receives the production the critics think it deserves--and they're pouring forth the superlatives ("brilliant," "first-rate," "devastating," "stunning") to prove it. With but a couple quibbles regarding the concept and the acting, the critical consensus is overwhelmingly in awe of this Menagerie. The four-member cast, especially Cherry Jones's more grounded and sympathetic matriarch--as opposed to the typical delusional-diva portrayal--and Zachary Quinto's desperate, sensitive, and just-a-bit-campy narrator, receive near-unanimous raves, and director John Tiffany, and his creative teams, are highly praised for fully giving into the surreal dreaminess of this memory play, blurring the lines between text, movement, and music.


Posted on 09/23/13
Photo from Women or Nothing
Photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia

B-

Although the majority of critics call Women or Nothing "a perfectly acceptable way to pass an evening," few are willing to go much further with their praise. Complaints focus mostly on the writing: Remarks about the implausibility of many of the plot points abound, and a number of reviewers note that the play feels "unfinished" or "undercooked" (several mention that the audience sat in silence after the final blackout, seemingly awaiting another scene to tie the piece together). But high marks go to David Cromer's "stylish" "impeccable" direction and the "boho-chic" set, and Deborah Rush is lauded across the board for her "delectable," "deadly funny," and "delightfully droll" performance as one of the leads' moms.


Posted on 09/23/13
Photo from Romeo and Juliet
Photo: Carol Rosegg

C

The Capulets and the Montagues aren’t the only ones who aren’t overly enthused about these star-crossed lovers. The critical consensus is mixed at best, although there’s little uniform agreement. There are supporters and detractors for each actor in the ensemble, amid general criticism of miscasting and lack of chemistry between the leads, though the secondary characters fare better, with Jayne Houdyshell receiving the bulk of positive comments for her spirited portrayal of Juliet’s Nurse. Director David Leveaux receives pointed criticism for many of his choices—including the interracial casting of the Montagues and Capulets—which many critics consider ineffectual gimmicks.