Theater Review

Come Fly With Me

Catch Me If You Can
Neil Simon Theatre, NYC

In recent seasons, there have been numerous motion pictures adapted to Broadway musicals. Some have gone on to be big successes on Broadway -- Hairspray and The Producers are just two that come to mind. Others, like High Fidelity and Cry Baby, have been less successful, although I personally was quite fond of the latter show. This season, we have already had Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Sister Act is currently in previews. The latest show to open is Catch Me If You Can, based on the Steven Spielberg hit movie that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. It has been adapted by many of the people who brought Hairspray to Broadway. Read more »

Masterpiece Theater, Stoppard Style!

Arcadia
Barrymore Theatre, NYC
Limited Engagement

Let's cut right to the chase. The Broadway revival of Tony Award winning Tom Stoppard's masterpiece, Arcadia, is a grandly entertaining piece of brilliant theater. It is a wonderful brew, proving to be fascinating, mesmerizing, witty, intellectually rich, challenging, and, ultimately, quite moving. Read more »

Plaster Caster

Renovations by Andrew Gerle
White Plains Performing Arts Center, NY
Through April 3, 2011

Something about the opening night performance of Renovations (based on the memoir Renovations: A Father and Son Rebuild a House and Rediscover Each Other by John Marchese) prompted me seek out a copy of the original book it was based on -- which I found, oddly enough, in the "home improvement" section of the spiraling Strand Bookstore. The book is a memoir and not a "how-to" book. The play alternated between wonderfully tight speeches and merely functional dialogue, and I was curious to find out why.

After the play, I was inadvertently introduced to Mr. Marchese during the reception, and inquired how closely the play mirrored his book. He responded, "50/50." What I gathered is that the artful dialogue was drawn directly from the book, and the balance was the work of the playwright, Andrew Gerle. Mr. Gerle is a composer of musicals, arranger of others' compositions, and winner of multiple awards for his original music. Renovations is his first venture into a non-musical play. Read more »

His Life Was a Cabaret

Proud to Know You: A Cabaret Celebration of Doric Wilson’s Fifty Years as a Playwright
Billy Blackwell-John Wallowitch Musical Theater Project in association with United Stages, presented as a benefit for TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence)
Directed by Mark Finley
Musical Direction by Steve Ross
The Laurie Beechman Theater
March 19, 2011 (one night only)

Proud to Know You is the kind of event that could take place only in Manhattan, and perhaps only be fully appreciated in Manhattan with its proprietary array of local luminaries on stage and in the audience. It was a unique evening honoring playwright Doric Wilson.

The honoree, whose early work at Café Cino in the 1960s, subsequent plays, and his co-founding of The Other Side of Silence (TOSOS: the first professional theater company to address the gay experience openly and authentically) created his well-earned status as one of the pioneers of off-off-Broadway theater. The evening, hosted by Rick Hinkson and seamlessly directed by Mark Finley, included cabaret performances by long-time friends (not just acquaintances) of Mr. Wilson, interspersed with five scenes from Mr. Wilson's plays. Read more »

Low-Cal Desert Bliss

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The Palace Theatre, NYC

The concept of a jukebox musical, featuring, among other things, disco songs from the '70s and '80s, and telling the story of three drag queens traveling across the Australian desert in a bus may not instantly excite you. That is the idea behind Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the new Broadway musical, based on the 1994 cult film of the same name.  Don't let any preconceived reservations stop you from giving this musical a chance -- it is a thoroughly enjoyable, generously entertaining show that looks like a real crowd pleaser. Read more »

Naked Ambitions

Revealed Burlesque
UNDER St. Marks, NYC
 
Alan Watts, British expat writer about Zen, complained about women who said they did not want to be known for their bodies, but rather their minds (even though said "minds" were filled with petty, trivial notions and unexamined streaming and steaming prattle). Revealed Burlesque gives us the female body shorn of any such cerebral distraction. Each of the six strippers was an authentically class act, bearing scant resemblance to the floozy co-workers of Barbara Stanwyck in William Wellman's Lady of Burlesque. Nowadays, with female nudity ubiquitous, these beautifully bodied ladies resurrect a seductive naughtiness that is fresh and -- even yes -- exhilarating to behold.The evening is hosted by Bastard Keith, a young comic/actor/singer/writer, who is charmingly and disarmingly amusing. His contagious bombastic self-delight is evident as he introduces each stripper and keeps the evening moving swiftly.

Read more »

History Relieves Itself

colin-quinn-play

Colin Quinn: Long Story Short
Helen Hayes Theatre, NYC
Through February 5, 2011

It's not terribly original nor is it incredibly insightful but Colin Quinn: Long Story Short offers a fair amount of humorous moments with a relaxed delivery and distinctly American approach. Scratching at history's surface, actor/comedian Colin Quinn works to combine comedy with historical commentary and is halfway successful. It feels like an American version of Eddie Izzard's Dress to Kill, simplified for an audience not as savvy in historical trivia and more inclined to respond to images on an over-sized screen than profundity. Instead of witty allusions to semi-obscure figures and occurrences, Quinn sticks to the basics with a lot of accents and character voices thrown in for good measure. Read more »

Death: The Revival

 

play-dead

Play Dead
The Players Theatre, NYC

The two word review: Fuck yeah! The longer review is that Play Dead, currently enjoying an open-ended run at The Players Theatre on McDougal Street, is a bloody joyride of an evening, calling forth the dead from the afterlife while drawing screams and dark laughter from its audiences.

The show cleverly begins with one freakish, yet real, act and then proceeds with a series of ghoulish illusions which, as our host aptly points out, audience members are more likely to believe to be real. Read more »

Jersey Girls

Bikinis-musicalThe Bikinis
The Queens Theater in the Park
Flushing Meadow Corona Park, NY
Through December 12, 2010

Yes, Manhattanites, there is a shiny, new and lovely 450 seat theater in Queens Park, housed in architect Philip Johnson's 1964 World’s Fair New York State Pavilion, where The Bikinis, a new musical beach party is taking the stage with a relentlessly power-packed show of girl songs (and boy’s as well) from the early sixties and beyond. Read more »

Yep… that's Pee-Wee

pee-wee-herman-showThe Pee Wee Herman Show
Stephen Sondheim Theatre, NYC
Through January 2, 2011

Try to imagine what it would be like if Pee-Wee Herman's Playhouse were converted into a stage production for Broadway and you’d probably come up with something very similar to The Pee-Wee Herman Show, currently playing at the newly re-named Stephen Sondheim Theater. It's not as dirty as the original versions of Pee-Wee that debuted in various Los Angeles venues, and not as clean as the children's television show it later became, but rather somewhere in between, but all Pee-Wee whatever way you look at it. Read more »

A Good Play Closes Early as Mediocrity Keeps Running

elling-playElling
Barrymore Theatre, NYC

If George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men had meet in an insane asylum and formed a relationship of more neurotic complexities with a less tragic ending, then the end result might resemble the latest, original play to close prematurely at the Barrymore Theatre, Elling. In what has been a largely dismal season for the Broadway stage, this quirky comedy proved to be a refreshing break from the boring, unfortunately if you haven't already seen it then you missed out. Read more »

Elf Offers Holiday Cheer

elf-musicalElf
Hirschfeld Theatre, NYC
Through January 2, 2011

I never saw the hit movie Elf starring Will Ferrell. When a musical version was announced for Broadway this holiday season, it did not pique my interest. But when my cousin from Cleveland and her husband planned a trip to New York with their four grandchildren, aged seven to eleven, that included tickets to Elf, I decided to join them. Lo and behold, I found Elf to be funny and totally charming, with just the right amount of sentiment and warmth. It has a big heart along with plenty of holiday spirit and cheer. Read more »

Yawning at Uhry

driving-miss-daisyDriving Miss Daisy
Golden Theatre, NYC
Through January 29, 2011

When a play starring Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones, and Boyd Gaines somehow still manages to be boring, then it seems fairly clear that the actors are not to blame; such is case with this current revival of Driving Miss Daisy.

James Earl Jones gives a vibrant performance, portraying a man with an unflaggingly positive nature and an outward joy that masks the many less-happy conflicts that must be stirring beneath the surface. Read more »

Midday Ticks

noon-divide-playNoon Divide (Partage de Midi) by Paul Claudel
Storm Theater and Blackfriars Repertory Theatre

Noon Divide, an intense morality/passion play by French poet, dramatist, and diplomat Paul Claudel (1868-1955), is excellent serious theater. Like ancient Greek drama, it deals with what makes people tick, what drives them on, and what propels them to undo themselves. And also, like Greek drama, a great deal of the action that motivates the characters is offstage, and the audience observes how they live with (and adapt to) the actions that occur prior to the play’s start and between the acts. Read more »

Mysterious Flowers

venus-flytrap-playVenus Flytrap: a Femme Noir Mystery
Written by Anthony Dodge
Directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge
The Active Theater, NYC
Through November 14, 2010

It is New York in 1943. Most men are in uniform and women are doing many a "man's job." Thus we find "Butch" Diamond (Xanthe Elbrick), called upon to be a private dick for the deviate underclass. This is the world of Venus Flytrap. What ensues is a prime example of hilarious and inventive burlesque, parody, satire, and farce (admixed with a healthy helping of absurdism). At the same time, the play honors the noir idiom, giving the show levels of richness beyond its comedic antics.

This send-up of noir goes where no man has gone before. Butch, as she calls herself, an avowed lesbian who is not really all that butch, draws her clients from the flotsam and jetsam of Manhattan. Her primary client of the evening is Tom Blackmer (Jose Luaces), a dramatically effeminate young man who shows up in uniform shortly after he is dishonorably discharged from the Marines. Read more »

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