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Posted on 02/03/14
Photo from A Man's A Man
Photo: Richard Termine

B-

This revival of a rarely performed early Brecht piece doesn’t win over many new converts. Though Good Person of Szechwan won plaudits in its recent run at the Public Theatre, A Man’s A Man is considered a pale stepsister in comparison. There’s appreciation for director Brian Kulick’s staging and the cast overall, but critics feel the second act lags. As the Daily News’ Dziemianowicz notes, “Part of the problem owes to the rough-hewn play itself, but some issues are in sluggish pacing.” Duncan Sheik’s original music, which he also provided for CSC's last Brechtian outing, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, is almost universally acclaimed. Though a few might still find “much to recommend,” others note “missing mojo” in a “hopelessly dated” play. This Man is clearly not one for all seasons.


Posted on 02/03/14
Photo from Intimacy
Photo: Monique Carboni

C-

Not a whole lot of love is lost for playwright/provocateur Thomas Bradshaw's newest ostensible comedy. Most critics, in fact, wonder where all the funny is amid the pornographic action, complaining there's no real point of view here--what exactly is Bradshaw trying to say about sex and intimacy? On the other hand, there is a sense that this is actually Bradshaw's tamest work (there's no incest), and some do savor his deadpan dialogue and the game cast, though many say they find Scott Elliott's flat direction a disservice to the play and its actors.


Posted on 02/03/14
Photo from Stop Hitting Yourself
Photo: Erin Baiano

C+

"Engrossing," "fiendishly clever," "uneven," ineffective" and "a mélange of self-conscious, ill-matched ideas" are just some of the conflicting words and phrases used to describe Lincoln Center's Stop Hitting Yourself. About the only thing the critics seem to agree on is that the show has a 90-minute running time. The majority do find the show, by Austin, Tex.'s Rude Mechs, entertaining, and they embrace its scenes of frivolity and humor. But the critical opinions diverge on the show's tonal shift from light-hearted satire to earnest economic critique. Some consider it refreshing, others find it jarring. Perhaps such a disparity of opinion is fitting in response to a show that makes imbalance its main theme.


Posted on 01/29/14
Photo from The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Photo: Kevin Thomas Garcia

B-

The critical responses to this stage update of the 1959 short story and 1962 film are decidedly lukewarm. Leading man Sheldon Best gets most of the praise here, although compliments are paid more to his "lean and muscular" physique and impressive stamina than to his acting abilities. The rest of the cast fares better, receiving accolades across the boards. But despite strong performances, most critics agree that the writing and characters ultimately lack the emotional depth that would have made the piece go the distance.


Posted on 01/29/14
Photo from Outside Mullingar
Photo: Joan Marcus

B

Reviews are mostly warm for John Patrick Shanley’s new play, which critics find more similar to the romantic/family vein of his screenplay for Moonstruck than to his more substantial stage fare. A few even consider it “Mr. Shanley’s finest work” since the multiple-award-winning Doubt, though others are less entranced by what they call its “sluggish, sentimental” sensibilities. The experienced cast is well-received, and as the lovelorn couple, Brian F. O’Byrne and Debra Messing are praised for their “lovely chemistry.”


Posted on 01/29/14
Photo from King Lear
Photo: Richard Termine

A-

There’s no question that Frank Langella is the draw for this newest Lear in town. Even those who aren’t as enthused about other aspects of the production laud his “commanding” performance, saying that “Langella is never less than surprising and compelling” (Newsday’s Winer). There’s more difference of opinion about other aspects of this Chichester transplant. The Times’ Brantley notes that director Angus Jackson presents a “generally unsurprising Lear” sans “nuance among the supporting cast members,” and there’s some agreement about the latter point, with New York’s Green remarking that “when Langella is not onstage, though, the production grows shaggy.” Still, for many, “Angus Jackson’s vigorous production as lucid and gripping an account of this classic tragedy as an audience could desire…[with] the right actor at the right age” (The Hollywood Reporter’s Rooney).


Posted on 01/22/14
Photo from Machinal
Photo: Joan Marcus

A

Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play is met with surprised approval by most of the critical community, who applaud the unexpected remounting of an Expressionist play by the Roundabout. Lyndsey Turner’s “lavish yet beautifully stark production” (Variety’s Stasio) wins unanimous appreciation for its “sleekly effective production design” (LS&A's Barbour), especially Es Devlin’s rotating set. The ensemble is led by the “incredible, award-worthy performance” (Cititour’s Lipton) of Rebecca Hall, along with a “large cast [that] is in top form” (NY1’s Torre). David Cote of Time Out urges, “If you care about American theater—particularly its experimental heritage—go now.” Still, despite its acknowledged visual sheen, others find the play unsympathetic; USA Today’s Gardner remarks on “an anti-heroine who inspires dark fascination but little empathy,” with which NBC New York’s Kahn agrees: “How you ultimately view Machinal depends enormously on your sympathy for Helen and your ability to empathize with her actions.”


Posted on 01/18/14
Photo from Beautiful—The Carole King Musical
Photo: Joan Marcus

B

Critics—except for Talkin' Broadway's Matthew Murray, naturally—agree: an engaging, lovely-voiced Jessie Mueller, as the beloved singer-songwriter, is the best reason to see this biomusical. While Marc Bruni's direction and Jason Howland's orchestrations get mixed marks—some see them as smooth and polished, others lament some clunky transitions—the supporting cast is also widely admired. The biggest gripe is with Douglas McGrath's book: Nearly everyone feels it's formulaic and drama-free (and not in a good way).


Posted on 12/19/13

B-

One thing is certain among critics: Prima ballerina assoluta Alessandra Ferri and ABT principal Herman Cornejo are brilliant dancers. What reviewers question, though, is whether such exquisite dancing is enough to make this theatre/dance hybrid an effective or memorable work of stagecraft. Even the most generous reviews concede that “while the elements of drama and dance are beautifully done individually, Clarke doesn't quite merge the strengths of the two art forms without the seams showing” (Broadwayworld’s Dale). Less charitable critics bemoan a production that “lacks eroticism, nuance, a sense of the inevitable courses that life and love take, or a feeling for the period” (Bergen Record’s Feldberg).


Posted on 12/19/13
Photo from The Night Alive
Photo: Helen Warner

A-

Whether one considers this Donmar Warehouse transplant a “spellbinding and absolutely gorgeous new play by one of the true poets of the theater” (Time Out’s Cote) or “not on par with [his] earlier works” (Daily News’ Dziemianowicz), Conor McPherson’s The Night Alive (he also directs) is notable for its remarkable cast. Led by the “marvelous” Ciarán Hinds, along with talented stage veteran Jim Norton, the excellent ensemble, critics feel, is the most compelling reason to see this production: “What’s inarguable here is that the acting is flawless. There’s not a false note in any of the lived-in performances” (Hollywood Reporter’s Rooney).