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Posted on 02/11/11
Photo from Interviewing the Audience
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B

Talking Broadway’s Matthew Murray observes that because the show is a series of extemporaneous interviews of audience members who change every night, the experience may vary based on who’s there to be interviewed. So most of the reviews focus on Zach Helm’s interviewing style, and unfortunately he doesn’t fare well. In a prime example of how opinions differ, the Times' Charles Isherwood uses a particular question (“Have you ever heard your father swear?”) to illustrate Helm's lack of skill, while TheaterMania’s Andy Buck finds the same question “poignant.” Although some finding him insightful, even some who enjoyed the show thought he failed to capitalize on his guests at best, or bland and disinteresting at worst.


Posted on 02/09/11
Photo from How I Fell In Love
Photo: Kim T. Sharp

B

Does familiarity breed contempt? While critics are mostly warm towards Joel Fields' romantic comedy, even the highest praise (from Nytheatre.com's Martin Denton) acknowledges that many of the play's narrative furrows have been plowed before. Most aggravated by this is The New Yorker, with everyone else landing somewhere in between. The wonderful Polly Lee gets praised frequently for her performance as the female lead.


Posted on 02/09/11
Photo from Black Tie
Photo: James Leynse

B

Playwright A. R. Gurney retreads familiar ground with his play about WASP manners and traditions. For some critics, the result is an effortlessly engaging comedy led by the suave and touching performance of Daniel Davis; for others it's a stilted, unconvincing sitcom that trades on WASP stereotypes. Talkin’ Broadway’s Matthew Murray may have it exactly right when he says that your enjoyment of the play may be determined by how much you agree with the premise or the moral of the show. All, however, agree that the fare is light and breaks little new ground.


Posted on 02/08/11
Photo from American Sexy
Photo: Dan Applegate

B

Like the Grand Canyon setting itself, reviews for Trisha Baldwin's lewd new play seem to be divided across a generational chasm, with the Times and Voice judging these indifferent teenagers rather harshly, while Backstageand Nytheatre.com see the authenticity of the characters and the emotions between the lines. Perhaps the mediating New Yorker comes closest to uniting the two camps, praising the dialogue, cast, and director, while still suggesting that "the audience ends up overstimulated and disturbed, but not edified or enlightened."


Posted on 02/07/11
Photo from Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark (Original production)
Photo: Jacob Cohl

F+

As you are no doubt aware, this troubled extravaganza has postponed its opening date a total of six times, and in fact the show that many critics saw fit to review around February 7, 2011 may not be long for this world: Producers recently announced that the show will shut down on April 17 for significant retooling (minus director/co-author Julie Taymor) and reopen June 14. The general consensus about the show as it stood in February was that the problems in the show cannot be fixed, with the biggest being the incoherent book. The reviews have not all been scathing--Scott Brown and Jesse Oxfeld say they were at least entertained. Many critics attended a performance at which Patrick Page had to vamp as the Green Goblin during a technical glitch. Those critics considered his references to the injuries and other problems plaguing the show the highlight of the evening.


Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 02/06/11

This week Off-Broadway, critical favor shone on three very different revivals: Irish Rep's mounting of Brian Friel's monologic drama Molly Sweeney was greeted with near-unanimous huzzahs, for a pristine A median grade, while Classic Stage Company's starry take on Chekhov's Three Sisters garnered mostly enthusiastic praise for its overall effect, to the tune of a B+. Also racking up a solid B+ was Red Bull Theatre's unearthing of the juicy Jacobean triptych The Witch of Edmonton.

The only other noticeable critical agreement was at the other of the scale, with a resounding D for the unfortunate new musical The Road to Qatar. Elsewhere consensus broke down, with critics staking out positions all over the map regarding two high-profile bows by young playwrights, Rajiv Joseph's Gruesome Playground Injuries and Matthew Lopez's The Whipping Man. Each had its share of partisans and detractors, as well as everything in between, with the result of a B- for both.

Something similar happened with the Roudabout's revival of Tennessee Williams' seldom-seen The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, for which the critical spread was wide enough put it squarely in the C range.

This coming week on Broadway, a little-talked-about show from Julie Taymor, Bono, the Edge, and Glen Berger was supposed to have opened. But though producers have pushed the official opening of Spider-man back to March 15, it remains to be seen whether critics will honor that date or buy their own tickets and review the evolving show that's been selling briskly at the Foxwoods Theatre since November of last year. As always, StageGrade will be on the case, and we'll keep you posted.


Posted on 02/06/11
Photo from The Witch of Edmonton
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B+

The Jacobean-theater specialists at Red Bull Theatre Company have another winner on their hands with this extremely rare find, about the Devil coming to a small town in the form of a seductive dog. With the exception of That Sounds Cool's Aaron Riccio, all the critics are fascinated by multi-authored play itself, and nearly all are smitten with the show's design, as well as with director Jesse Berger's ultra-clear elucidation of the work's interlaced plots. A few note an unevenness in the performances, but as the demonic canine, Derek Smith gets raves.


Posted on 02/04/11
Photo from The Road To Qatar!
Photo: Carol Rosegg

D-

Poor David Krane and Stephen Cole. First, they were asked to create an American musical to premiere in Qatar for which they were never paid (the true story that inspired this musical). Then the musical they wrote about that experience, The Road to Qatar!, opens to a rash of very negative reviews. Though critics think the backstory is an interesting one, they say this musical has too many stereotypes, undeveloped characters, and unmemorable music. More than one critic is bothered by the superfluous use of the exclamation point in the title. On the positive side, critics appreciate the efforts of the cast and director, and admire the set and costume design of Michael Bottari and Ronald Case.


Posted on 02/04/11
Photo from Three Sisters
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

Maybe because his writing is so subtle and mercurial, and there is still such disagreement about the best approach to his work, revivals of Chekhov almost never provoke a unanimous critical response, either positive or negative. But while this new CSC rendition is no exception, reviews are heavily weighted toward praise for Austin Pendleton's intimate, moody, contemporary take on the show's despairing siblings and lovers. Even critics who quibble with a performance or two, or who count themselves jarred by Paul Schmidt's slangy translation, find Pendleton's Altman-esque staging deeply involving and ultimately affecting. A handful of dissenters, though, can't get over the contrast between period clothes and modern speech, with most division centering on the brash performance of Marin Ireland as the grasping Natasha. Interestingly, that old standby the samovar is employed as a cudgel against Schmidt's translation: WSJ's Terry Teachout amusingly offers, "Dude, where's my samovar?", while TheaterMania's David Finkle boggles our minds with the challenging request, "Pass the samovar."


Posted on 02/02/11
Photo from Molly Sweeney
Photo: Carol Rosegg

A

This emotionally minimalist tragedy gets high marks across the board, with many critics saying that the questions the show raises have followed them home. The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout, for instance, calls playwright Brian Friel “the greatest playwright of the English-speaking world,” and calls Molly Sweeney “one of Mr. Friel’s most remarkable plays.” Some warn that the play’s structure--three interlocking monologues--is somewhat static, but the actors overcome this pitfall through engaging performances in the intimate space of the Irish Repertory Theater. Still, the consensus around the production is clear: It's a touching, memorable production that provokes thought through poetic and beautiful language and a compelling human story.