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Posted on 05/26/13
Photo from Murder Ballad
Photo: Joan Marcus

B+

The verdict is in: After a successful run last fall at Manhattan Theatre Club, Murder Ballad has made a worthy commercial transfer, with the Times’ Brantley deeming it “more entertaining than it was before.” Though some object to the “anorexic script” or the “simplistic and wince-worthy” lyrics, this immersive musical gets largely positive plaudits from the critical jury. As Variety’s Marilyn Stasio puts it: “Maybe you’ve heard this story before, but surely not like this.”


Posted on 05/19/13
Photo from Bunty Berman Presents...
Photo: Monique Carboni

C+

Max Bialystock lands in Bombay in this musical tribute to classic Indian movies. Some critics are delighted—AP’s Jennifer Farrar calls it a “buoyant musical”—while more lament the slight story, wishing for a bit more spice to elevate the production beyond its simple, rather clichéd structure. Bloomberg’s Jeremy Gerard considers “the show a half-charming revue sketch blown way out of proportion,” with many of his counterparts in agreement, even as some appreciate the cast’s efforts and enthusiasm.


Posted on 05/19/13
Photo from Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
Photo: Chad Batka

A-

Most critics love the Russian supper club vibe--the caviar, borscht, the vodka--and the way both the band and actors are deployed among the tables. But Jesse Green of New York calls the swirl of activity around him "seriously disorienting," and others bemoan the collapse of the fourth wall in this and several other current downtown productions. Transferring Natasha to a bigger room with a wider menu and higher ticket prices than last fall also bothers some. But Time Out says the piece is "as beautiful as ever," while amNew York says it "plays better" than it did last time.


Posted on 05/15/13
Photo from A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney
Photo: Julieta Cervantes

B+

"Nothing that ever came out of the Magic Kingdom was ever this animated," writes David Cote in Time Out New York, though other reviewers aren't quite as charmed by Lucas Hnath's new play. As Walt Disney fumes against his compatriots at a boardroom table spread with cheese cubes, cigarettes, and vodka, the scribes agree on the well-seasoned acting of Larry Pine, Frank Wood, and others, along with Sarah Benson's tangy direction. It is Hnath's script, however, that earns a light drubbing from some critics, who accuse it of being neither sympathetic nor subtle.


Posted on 05/13/13
Photo from Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance)
Photo: Joan Marcus

B

If you’re a fan of Richard Foreman and you’ve been missing his singularly absurd approach to staged performance, critics are pretty sure you’ll love this play. But they also assume you already knew that. They say the rest of the audience is likely to experience the kind of bewilderment that can provoke everything from delight to boredom to rage, depending on their attachment to narrative coherence. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the polarizing playwright’s very particular appeal that almost every review implicitly gives two grades for this piece: one for Foremanites and one for the general public. For the former and for the curious and/or open-minded, critics suggest giving Old-Fashioned Prostitutes a whirl.


Posted on 05/13/13
Photo from Bull
Photo: Carol Rosegg

A-

Like playwright Mike Bartlett's previous play, Cock, Bull is described by critics as a tight, terse fight between archetypal characters coming to blows in a combat arena. Critics are largely engaged by this event, in part because, at 55 minutes long, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Most critics also praise the fine performances, especially by Sam Troughton as the play's victim. For a few critics, the overwhelming cruelty of Bull's world is tiring and doesn't enlighten as much as it promises, but for most the short time factor doesn't make that an issue.


Posted on 05/13/13
Photo from Nikolai and the Others
Photo: Paul Kolnik

B

Though critics don’t agree on whether it’s advisable to spend a weekend in the country with these talkative Russians, they readily concur that the ensemble of veteran actors is excellent (while several mention that perhaps a scorecard would help keep the 18-member cast straight). Some reviewers also reflect that Nelson’s sprawling play is reminiscent of Chekhov, without quite reaching that level of achievement. The real debate centers on how much one can enjoy the characters’ continuous conversations; as Variety’s Stasio puts it, “For all these fascinating bits and pieces, nothing coalesces in this play and absolutely nothing happens,” while, on the other hand, Jeremy Gerard of Bloomberg News calls it “rich in emotional detail.”


Posted on 05/13/13
Photo from The Memory Show
Photo: Carol Rosegg

B-

Critics admire the Transport Group for producing a brave work which deals with an unhappy subject matter many might not want to see musicalized. So all the reviews are respectful, even though some critics think the writing fails to present three-dimensional characters or a fully engrossing story. Other critics are very moved and think that composer Zach Redler has potential. If there is one thing that all the critics agree on, it's the merits of the lead performances by Leslie Kritzer and Catherine Cox.


Posted on 05/13/13
Photo from Core Values
Photo: Ben Arons

B

Office workers, rejoice! According to critics, those are the only people who will truly relate to Steven Levenson’s new play. They say the production gets office dynamics at a failing travel agency’s annual retreat spot-on, but some critics lament that Levenson’s work is too familiar, reminding them of a second rate version of "The Office." Critics rave about the four actors in the production, especially Reed Birney, as the agency’s loving but desperate CEO, even if some feel the characters lack depth, which leads to an inability to connect with the audience. All critics point to Lauren Halpern’s set, a “perfectly realized copy of a dreary, featureless room” (Lighting & Sound America), as the production’s technical winner. But a perfect reenactment of office life and its tedium has its downside, as the Times' Charles Isherwood puts it: "Time doesn’t whiz by any more quickly, unfortunately, when you’re sitting in a theater, contemplating the spectacle."


Posted on 04/28/13
Photo from I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers
Photo: Richard Termine

B+

Alice Roosevelt Longworth famously said, "If you haven't got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me." Chances are she would have loved Sue Mengers as portrayed by Bette Midler, and many of the critics agree, praising the star of Josh Logan’s one-woman show on her return to Broadway. A few, notably Backstage's Erik Haagenson and WSJ's Terry Teachout, remain uncharmed by the production, while the Times' Charles Isherwood is on the other end of the spectrum, considering the Divine Miss M’s performance “the most lusciously entertaining [one] of the Broadway season.” Generally, even those who find the play flawed consider Midler's portrayal to be “the only reason to see this show,” as Jonathan Mandell puts it.