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Posted on 12/09/10
Photo from Haunted
Photo: Jonathan Keenan


Critics say that a compelling performance by Brenda Blethyn and a touching one from Niall Buggy aren't quite enough to elevate Edna O'Brien's slight story to a stageworthy enterprise. "Underplotted and overwritten" is the critic's refrain for a script that contains a handful of lovely lines but little dramatic heft. Director Braham Murray's choice to layer the production with projections, sound effects, and a heightened set design only emphasizes the frailty of the text. Because O'Brien is better-known as a novelist, several critics suggest that her efforts here would have been better served by a different medium or, at least, a smaller venue.

Posted on 12/09/10
Photo from Lay of the Land
Photo: Liz Ligouri


How deep is performance artist Tim Miller's culture war cred? Not only did he found PS122, but he was also one of the notorious NEA 4. In his latest solo show, Miller takes on issues of patriotism, gay rights, Prop-8, and the Constitution, all the time tweaking audience expectations about whether or not he's going to burn a flag onstage. The critics are unanimous in their praise of the show. While some admit that the material is a bit tired and the preaching definitely meant for the choir, the reviewers still enjoy the hell out of it.

Posted on 12/08/10
Photo from Looking at Christmas
Photo: Joan Marcus


Critics aren't exactly in the Christmas spirit when reviewing Steven Banks' (of SpongeBob SquarePants fame) romantic comedy. They wish he had been more subversive rather than presenting a fairly conventional Christmas play. Critics do occasionally enjoy the scenes of the window displays coming to life, which is more than they can say for the love story. The most praise goes to Gabriel Berry's costumes, called "witty" by more than one critic.

Posted on 12/08/10
Photo from The Great Game: Afghanistan
Photo: John Haynes


This Anglo-American history lesson about Central Asia's so-called "graveyard of empires" gets high marks from critics for its epic sweep and ambition, with the main split between critics being an enthusiasm gap: All note the inevitable unevenness of the work of 12 disparate playwrights, but for some the impact and relevance of the total experience transcends any quibbles, while others clearly admired the three-evening march more than they loved it, with some comparing it unfavorably to other "immersive" epics (Angels in America, Coast of Utopia, etc.). While directors Nick Kent and Indhu Rubasingham get a fair amount of faint praise (the word "efficient" pops up a few times), there's unanimous praise for the 14-member ensemble, particularly Jemma Redgrave, David Rabin, and Tom McKay, and for the sound design of Tom Lishman.

Posted on 12/07/10
Photo from Being Sellers
Photo: Oscar Blustin


The title of Carl Caulfield's play implies that actor David Boyle will bring the audience into close proximity with the legendary Peter Sellers. But if Boyle physically resembles Sellers, critics think Caulfield's writing resembles Sellers' inner life: it's a cipher. It's for that reason as much as any other (there's a notable lack of passion one way or the other in these reviews) that critics recommend skipping this "wispy" under-an-hour bit of theater in favor of a classic Sellers film, the 2004 biopic with Geoffrey Rush, or, most insultingly, Wikipedia. One more unfortunate resemblance: Sellers is shown flatlining in the play, and, critics say, so does the play itself. The Times's Jason Zinoman, the most generous of the critics, says the show "makes Sellers seem uninteresting."

Posted on 12/07/10
Photo from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Photo: Arthur Cornelius


The novel that was the basis for the 1982 film Blade Runner gets a play adaptation, and critics think the theatrical medium is an advantage in highlighting the more introspective aspects of the story. This may be the only play where the flatness of the acting is actually praised, as there is little distinction between real humans and androids. The biggest complaint is that though Henry Akona's music is effective in setting the tone, it is too prevalent.

Posted on 12/05/10
Photo from Rosmersholm
Photo: Gregory Costanzo


Ascendant liberalism battles conservative backlash in this rarely produced Ibsen play from 1886, and critics say the juicy contemporary parallels are fresh and plenty in Mike Poulton's 2008 adaptation. Though they feel that the mix of symbolism, realism, politics, melodrama, and psychodrama can feel unwieldy at times, every critic recommends this Pearl Theatre production for its deft direction, its layered performances, and its compelling topicality.

Posted on 11/30/10
Photo from Knock Me a Kiss
Photo: Lia Chang


Although the central plot of Charles Smith's historical-footnote-based play revolves around a doomed marriage in which no kisses are shared, let alone "knocked," critics offer this production a fair share of at least half-hearted pecks. It seems that after being aroused by the facts on which the play is based, critics are willing to ignore its dreary moments of exposition or the production's occasionally one-noted performances, especially when diverted by the jazzed-up comic timings of supporting players Gillian Glasco and Morocco Omari. Even the New York Post's Frank Scheck, who notes the "unsubtle" writing and direction, lauds the show's ability to nonetheless "elicit strong reactions from the audience."

Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 11/27/10

This week the blood flowed, of both the stage kind and the metaphorical kind, with the sole Broadway opening, the quirky Norwegian comedy Elling, posting its closing notice after just nine performances and a C+ grade from NY critics. Off-Broadway, Neil LaBute's office-slaughter fable ... (Read More)

Posted on 11/25/10
Photo from The Red Shoes
Photo: Marcus Yam


The Kneehigh Theatre applies its dark, invigorating aesthetic to the Hans Christian Andersen fable, yielding mixed results. Critics are pleased with the company's anti-Disney approach to Andersen's work, but they can't help comparing it unfavorably to the company's recent Broadway transfer Brief Encounter. Next to that rare, indie-commerical success, critics feel, The Red Shoes feels limited and repetitive.