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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).


Posted on 12/18/13
Photo from The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence
Photo: Joan Marcus

B-

Although critics agree that Madeleine George's play gives audiences a lot to think about, they're not all sure that's a good thing. The central conceit delights a number of reviewers, but annoys those who lament, among their other disappointments, that the various Watsons really have nothing in common other than their names, that the criss-crossing storylines fail to cohere in a meaningful fashion, and that the characters themselves aren't sufficiently compelling. Still, there are no outright slams here. Almost everyone finds something intriguing about the play, and most enjoy the cast's versatile performances, even if many feel this Watson could use a helper (read: editor) of its own.


Posted on 12/09/13
Photo from What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined
Photo: Eric Ray Davidson

B-

What’s it all about, indeed. Reviews run up and down the scale and back again for Riabko’s folky reworking of Burt Bacharach classics. There’s no conflicted opinion about the songs, which “seemed in their day to be the very soul of musical modernism” though “finding a theatrical context for them has never been easy” (Lighting & Sound America’s Barbour). And so, while a few consider this a “stunning new musical” that’s “a revelation” (New York’s Green), a greater number appreciate the production as more of a sweet “loyal-to-its-roots homage” (Kahn, NBC). A less bubbly contingent grump about a “generic cover band tribute” that’s “a visual bore and a homogenized musical mush” (Windham, amNewYork), yielding a show that “is less a youthquake than a youthquiver” (Time Out’s Feldman).


Posted on 12/05/13
Photo from How I Learned What I Learned
Photo: Sara Krulwich

B+

Critics bear a lot of respect, not just for playwright August Wilson but also for co-director Todd Kreidler and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as faithful interpreters of the playwright's intentions. Overall, they praise Santiago-Hudson as an engaging storyteller, though opinions are more divided on the text itself. Some are engaged by getting a more personal, intimate look at the thoughts and life of a great playwright; others find the stories a bit rambling and disorganized. But the production overall gets high marks even from the skeptics.


Posted on 12/04/13
Photo from And Away We Go
Photo: Al Foote III

A

While many critics love McNally's new valentine to theater dearly, there are dissenters, with EW's Jason Clark damning it as "screechy hams fumbling with McNally's thudding text." And David Finkle's otherwise admiring notice adds this caveat: "McNally does go on--and on and on and yet on." Apparently one of the biggest jokes of the night is a stagehand's post-mortem on the flop of the U.S. debut of Waiting for Godot in 1956: "I could have told them what was wrong with this play: no women. People don't want to look at men all night. If they did, they'd go to a baseball game."


Posted on 12/02/13
Photo from Regular Singing
Photo: Joan Marcus

A

The final play in playwright/director Nelson’s Apple cycle is perhaps more sentimental—and to a few reviewers, a bit more artificial—than earlier entries in the series. But whether one considers this last encounter with the Apples “an evening…[that] will be cherished for a lifetime” (EW’s Bernardo) or “ a “show [that] fails to transcend its intimate scope” (The Post’s Vincentelli), there is universal acclaim for the "exquisite" ensemble. In a rare show of unanimity, all the critics emphatically agree that “to praise one artist is to praise them all and they all are beyond praise” (New Jersey Newsroom’s Sommers), with New York’s Green declaring, “I cannot recall a finer or more extreme example of naturalistic ensemble acting in all my years of theatergoing.”


Posted on 12/02/13
Photo from One Night...
Photo: Sandra Coudert

B-

Although many reviewers think One Night... bites off more than it can chew thematically, there's no disagreement regarding its importance as a play addressing the difficulties faced by military veterans both during and after their service. Most complaints focus on an excess of melodrama and narrative clutter; critics think the script tries to tackle too many complex issues, often muddling them to the point of distraction. The reviews are split on the actors' performances, though several praise Rutina Wesley's lead turn as a distraught former solider as "riveting" and "brilliant", especially in flashback scenes depicting the poor treatment she received after reporting her rape.


Posted on 12/02/13
Photo from Too Much, Too Much, Too Many
Photo: Joan Marcus

B-

Critics find Meghan Kennedy's new play surprisingly minimal with its small cast, single set, and 70-minute running time. Sheryl Kaller directs with a light hand, as well, gaining lots of praise. Still, the play's ambitious premise seems to dwarf its understated trappings, leaving many critics wishing for more depth and development of ideas. The higher the reviewers' tolerance for quirkiness (especially the kind that covers plot holes), the more they enjoy the show.


Posted on 12/02/13
Photo from Waiting for Godot
Photo: Joan Marcus

A-

The Sirs—Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen—live up to their reputations: AP’s Kennedy proclaims, “The theater gods have given you two inscrutably postmodern classics this season. They've also been so kind as to throw in a pair of theater gods.” Critics are split about which production of the repertory duo, they prefer, though there’s a slight edge in favor of Godot over No Man’s Land, which seems to fare better under director Sean Mathias’s “farcical” touch. The FT’s Lemon isn't impressed: Instead of the chemistry that his colleagues laud, he sees “routines [that] now seem so worked-out they’re stiff.” NYT’s Brantley disagrees, speaking for most: “These shows allow us to appreciate the great paradox in some of the best dialogue ever written, which uses eloquence to plumb the futility of speech. Only the sourest theatergoers will begrudge themselves the joy that Mr. McKellen and Mr. Stewart derive and impart from embodying this contradiction.”


Posted on 12/02/13
Photo from No Man's Land
Photo: Kevin Berne

A-

The superb Sirs—Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart—are offering a “masterfully acted Broadway repertory double” (The Hollywood Reporter's Rooney), though there’s a range of commentary about the merits of each production (this as well as Waiting for Godot). One thing is clear: The chemistry between the two leads is unassailable. EW’s Geier is one of many who notes that the “ease of their companionship is almost infectious, elevating these productions to the sublime.” Time Out’s Cote considers No Man’s Land a “glowing revival,” though a number of critics feel that the production mines more laughs than expected, and thus misses the sense of menace often woven through Pinter works. The Wrap’s Hofler comments, “For sheer laughs per minute, these two stars deliver the goods as if they were instead performing a farce…it ultimately becomes a distraction in No Man’s Land.”