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Posted on 11/18/10
Photo from Ghosts in the Cottonwoods
Photo: Sara Krulwich

B+

Two distinct strains of criticism emerge in response to this production. One focuses on the text, a 15-year-old Adam Rapp script directed here by the author. Does it forecast Rapp's later work? Does it deserve a remount in New York? Is it a condescending rant at backwoods America or an admiring, if pale, Sam Shepard imitation? The other, more approving strain of criticism focuses on the production. The Amoralists use Rapp's youthful work as a springboard for their aggressive, balls-out performance style. Consequently, Rapp's identity as director eclipses his identity as playwright in this outing. Rapp fans may be disappointed by the lack of textual refinement, but fans of The Amoralists are likely to be fulfilled by the production.


Posted on 11/18/10
Photo from Mistakes Were Made
Photo: Ari Unitz

B+

Craig Wright's almost-one-man showbiz satire involves an oversized koi, multiple phone calls, a recalcitrant movie star, a terrible unproduced play about the French Revolution and some kind of ill-fated money-making caper in Iraq involving sheep. Oh, and it also has Michael Shannon, of Bug and Boardwalk Empire fame, delivering an almost uninterrupted 90-minute monologue. For the most part, critics are over the moon for the result. While a small but vocal minority finds the play boring, unfunny, and, in the case of the Times' Charles Isherwood, annoying, most are awestruck by Shannon's performance and amused 90by Wright's zany plot conceits.


Posted on 11/17/10
Photo from There Are No More Big Secrets
Photo: Sandra Coudert

B-

Most critics agree that Heidi Schreck’s There Are No More Big Secrets is uneven, but some think that the funny dialogue and solid performances rescue the show, while others think it ends up dull and disappointing. John McDermott’s set gets praise, and most critics miss Dagmara Dominczyk’s fiery character, which doesn’t appear in the second act.


Posted on 11/16/10
Photo from Devil Boys From Beyond
Photo: Carol Rosegg

A-

Who would've predicted in the 1980s that we'd have Off Broadway commercial productions of self-conscious tributes to cutting edge queer theatre? David Barbour at Lighting & Sound America sums up the critical consensus when he notes that although Devil Boys From Beyond is a nostalgic throwback to the Ridiculous shows of yesteryear, and its performance style is somewhat conventional by now, he was too delighted to mind. Slant Magazine grumbles about the play, considering it alongside Charles Busch's The Divine Sister and finding it wanting, while New York Press finds that the move uptown has stolen the show's soul.


Posted on 11/15/10
Photo from The Merchant of Venice
Photo: Joan Marcus

A

Critics love Daniel Sullivan's staging of The Merchant of Venice even more in its new indoor location than in Central Park. Only The New York Posts's Elisabeth Vincentelli thinks that has Pacino lost some subtlety in the transfer, but other critics are even more drawn in by his performance. And critics continue to rave about Lily Rabe, whose performance impresses critics all the more given the recent death of her mother.


Elf
Posted on 11/15/10
Photo from Elf
Photo: Joan Marcus

C

It's the Scrooges vs. the Santas with reviews of this new film-to-stage adaptation: A fair number of critics count themselves reasonably diverted and engaged by the book, songs, and cast under director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw, whom they hail for evoking a lovably retro feel. The remainder of critics are either appalled or grimacingly tolerant of what they see as a rather cynical corporate Christmas confection. There's some praise for the cheery lead Sebastian Arcelas, given the unenviable task of filling Will Ferrell's pointy shoes, though most of the rest of the cast is praised backhandedly--as in, they're great but too bad they're wasted. There's surprising division on David Rockwell's sets and the production's overall design: Depending who you read, the show looks lavish and delectable or chintzy and "bargain-basement." The holiday season, it seems, is not the great leveler but the great divider.


Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 11/13/10

After a few weeks of mixed reviews and rocky receptions on and especially Off-Broadway, this past week offered a crop of shows in the B-and-above range. If there were an applause-o-meter, the candy-colored return of Paul Reubens' man-child in The Pee-wee Herman Show... (Read More)


Posted on 11/13/10
Photo from Notes from Underground
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

Bill Camp and Robert Woodruff's pet project--a relentless staging of Dostoyevsky's brutal classic--finally makes it to New York, and most critics are duly impressed by the actor's wide-ranging intensity and the production's modern touches. If there's any hesitation or faintness in the praise, it's only a reflection of the work's bottomless bleakness. Even Aaron Riccio of That Sounds Cool, a full-on admirer of the show, calls it a "crushing night of theater."


Posted on 11/13/10
Photo from Photograph 51
Photo: Gerry Goodstein

B

Anna Ziegler's new play brings physicist Rosalind Franklin to the stage, and with one notable exception, the critics are grateful for it. Backstage calls the material "first rate," while other critics praise Ziegler for bringing Franklin to vibrant life and not sanding down her rougher edges. Time Out's Helen Shaw, on the other hand, finds the play cloyingly sentimental and questions the politics of focusing so heavily on Franklin's frustrated love life.


Posted on 11/12/10
Photo from Play Dead
Photo: Thom Kaine

B+

Enough critics find this creepy, gory, old-fashioned but hardly quaint magic show positively scarifying to keep the grade relatively high. They marvel at Todd Robbins' chillingly slick way with a trick and a tale, even as they warn that this highly participatory and purposefully disturbing show may not be for everyone. Indeed, at the other end of the spectrum are critics who find the proceedings a little seedy, even silly.