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Posted on 02/23/11
Photo from Vieux Carre
Photo: Paula Court

B+

With the exception of Helen Shaw's balls-out rave for The Wooster Group's 70s porn-inflected deconstruction of Tennessee Williams' Vieux Carre the reviewers seem respectful, but unenthusiastic. Charles Isherwood is reduced to summarizing the plot and production choices, and both Andy Propst and Elisabeth Vincentelli get bored after awhile, the former because of the script the latter because of the production. Either way, everyone seems more than happy to have yet another bottom shelf obscure Williams play come to New York for his 100th birthday, regardless of whether they end up loving the eventual results.


Posted on 02/23/11
Photo from Invasion!
Photo: Carol Rosegg

A-

A Swedish satire about the war on terror has been surprisingly well-translated, say the critics. It's all the more surprising, notes the Times' Jason Zinoman, because the play is also about the tragicomic confusions of language. Director Erica Schmidt gets extra credit for surfing the comic-tragic edge and her four-person ensemble manages multiple roles with equal dexterity. Except for voicing the usual reservations about missing something in translation, critics are overwhelmingly pleased with the Play Company's latest import.


Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 02/21/11

It was the best of times and the worst of times for theatre beyond Broadway this past week, with three wildly divergent shows (two way out in Brooklyn) coming out on top, each with an A-: Geoffrey Rush's bravura turn in the title role of Gogol's Diary of Madman at BAM; Half-Straddle's endearing gridiron goof In the Pony Palace/Football at the Bushwick Starr; and LAByrinth's production of Melissa Ross's gritty family comedy Thinner Than Water. Also getting mostly raves, for a B+, is Jeff Cohen's brief speculative diversion, The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller.

The dropoff from there is precipitous, with one of the week's most anticipated shows, Rinne Groff's Compulsion at the Public Theater, garnering deeply ambivalent reviews for its stylized approach to the tangled Anne Frank/Meyer Levin story, and for the divisive performance of Mandy Patinkin, resulting in a C+. My Scandalous Life at Irish Rep tells another history of an unbeloved hanger-on to a large literary reputation--in this case, Alfred Lord Douglas and Oscar Wilde--to a disappointed reception of C-.

Faring worst is David Hay's dinner-party-from-hell play A Perfect Future at the Cherry Lane, which critics gave an F+. If it's any consolation, that's also Spider-man's critics' grade (Spidey's community grade, on the other hand, has swung up to C-.)


Posted on 02/20/11
Photo from A Perfect Future
Photo: Richard Termine

D

Critics really don't like David Hay's new get-the-guests exercise, which they nearly unanimously compare unfavorably to a certain Albee classic. A few spare some kind words for Wilson Milam's direction, Charles Corcoran's set, and a few of the performers, but by and large this is a wine-drowned dinner party most critics would just as soon not have had the pleasure of.


Posted on 02/20/11
Photo from My Scandalous Life
Photo: Carol Rosegg

C-

Only Backstage's Karl Levett has much affection for this tale of the later life of Oscar Wilde's most famous lover. With the New York Times deriding the play as a somnambulent, dramatically inert talk-a-thon and the rest of the reviews falling somewhere in between, it appears that like Lord Alfred Douglas himself, this show is hard to love. While everyone acknowledges that it's nice to get to know this historical figure a bit better, most are dismayed by the choice to render him in up in two seldom-interrupted lengthy monologues and an abrupt, symbolism-laden ending rather than writing, you know, a play.


Posted on 02/20/11
Photo from The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller
Photo: Lia Chang

B+

Critics are charmed by The Man Who Ate Michael Rockefeller--so charmed, in fact, that they actually wish it were longer (when's the last time you heard that complaint?). At just 65 minutes, this tale of what-might-have-happened in New Guinea is apparently fresh, funny, and thematically complex enough to sustain more time. Also appreciated is the quite graphic sex scene between a maker/shaman character and a very pregnant woman, during which the title character's murder is plotted.


Posted on 02/18/11
Photo from Compulsion
Photo: Joan Marcus

C+

This new historical drama doesn't just divide critics; it divides their reviews. Generally speaking, most are torn between praise for playwright Rinne Groff's ambitions and daring, and disappointment at the unevenness of the dramatic results; between the aptness of casting Mandy Patinkin in the role of a larger-than-life monomaniac and exhaustion with his extremes; between fascination at the real-life story behind the play (a thinly veiled account of Meyer Levin's single-minded zeal for Anne Frank's story) and puzzlement at the way it's handled. In short, almost everyone finds something they really like, and a few things they don't, in varying degrees. Most critics are in awe of Matt Acheson's haunting marionettes, though some wonder whether they belong in the play.


Posted on 02/18/11
Photo from In the Pony Palace/Football
Photo: Hunter Canning

A-

If the reviews for Half Straddle's charming new show were gathered for a school pep rally, they'd mostly be on their feet clapping along with the routines. Even for some critics who find this all-female gridiron romp slightly puzzling or lightweight, there's an almost awestruck admiration for the otherworldly mood writer/director Tina Satter and her spirited captures. The Times' Jason Zinoman (though he stops to correct one technical mistake in the rules of the game) even goes so far as call it a better play on its subject than Broadway's sleeper hit Lombardi.


Posted on 02/18/11
Photo from Diary of a Madman
Photo: Heidrun Lohr

B+

There's praise all around for Rush's haunting and hilarious performance, and particularly for his master-class slapstick. Cheers of "tour-de-force" can be found throughout, though a few critics maintain that "force" isn't quite enough to crack the nut of Madman. Fans of Gogol's economical prose may wonder, as Terry Teachout did, why this material was chosen for a production whose chief appeal is its zany excess. And fans of Rush's 2009 performance in Exit the King may feel disappointed, as Ben Brantley did, that this production doesn't match that show's harrowing finale. But even the dissenters agree that Rush's work is a rare spectacle worth seeing.


Posted on 02/16/11
Photo from Thinner Than Water
Photo: Monique Carboni

B+

The best way to explain the divergence over Ross's first play may be to consider water itself, which can be a liquid, solid, or gas. In other words, while the critics are all describing the same show, some, like Backstage's Erik Haagensen find the show "facile," with "little lurking beneath the flashy exterior." Others, like Michael Sommers of the New Jersey Newsroom, hope for an extension "so more people can take in Ross' fruitful and funny shaking of a contemporary family tree." Which version of the show you'll see depends on if you're the right audience for what Variety's Marilyn Stasio identifies as "that thing they do at LAByrinth -- that anxious, angry, smartass, pissed-off-at-the-world attitude that more or less defines the house style."