Theater Review

Bed Wetters, Tormentors of the Helpless, and Other Agreeable Folks

I can't in good conscience write a review for Killers: A NIGHTMARE Haunted House. It was too vile, too disgustingly demented, and I had the unique pleasure of working there for two wonderfully horror-fueled nights. So I'm writing this postmortem instead.

This year's Nightmare Haunted House was without debate my favorite out of the four I've been fortunate enough to witness. It was more fun than one should feel comfortable having in a room full of the likes of Jack the Ripper [Joe Conway, left], Ed Gein, Lizzie Borden [Nana Valtiel, next down], Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy [Scott Kozel, bottom], and Jeffrey Dahmer, striking that wickedly perfect blend of horror and theater that Nightmare does so well.

Dickens of a Show

The Mystery of Edwin Drood
The Roundabout Theatre, NYC

I was a real fan of the 1985 Broadway production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and have been eagerly looking forward to the Roundabout revival. For the most part, it did not disappoint.

Drood, of course, is based on Charles Dickens's final, unfinished novel.

A Musical As Big As Texas

Giant
Public Theater, NYC

Giant, the new musical based on the Edna Ferber novel and now playing at the Public Theater, is a major achievement. No, it is not perfect, and it probably won't please everyone. There are no show-stopping production numbers that we are so used to in most musicals. However, I found its ambitious attempt to tell a sprawling, epic story -- one that encompasses two generations over twenty-five years and deals with themes ranging from family to racism to loving the Texas land to an evolving America -- to be wonderfully fulfilling. 

Agatha Christie's Verdict: Murder Most Bergmanesque

Verdict by Agatha Christie
Directed by Noel MacDuffie
The Heights Players
Weekends through November 18, 2012

Since 1957 the Heights Players in Brooklyn Heights have continually presented quality community theater, and their latest offering maintains the high standard theater-goers have come to expect from this venerable company. Verdict is a curio from British mystery writer Agatha Christie, famous for her whodunit novels, stage adaptations of those novels, and original plays (the most famous of which is Witness for the Prosecution).Verdict, written solely for the stage, is a psychological living room play in which a murder does occur, but regarding the perpetrator's identity there is nothing to figure out: the murderer is revealed bluntly and in no uncertain terms. The meat of the matter comes from the complications that follow that revelation.

This is a Dagger You See Before You

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Booth Theatre, NYC

Like the bloodstained tooth of a feral hound, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? glistens with primal and terrifying beauty. Arguably one of best plays written, from one of America's greatest playwrights, Edward Albee's masterpiece is given its gruesome due in the Steppenwolf revival currently running at The Booth.

Tracy Letts (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County) gives a well-paced performance as George, starting with a ridged, almost stilted quality that gradually loosens with the liquor, yet never completely exposing his inner workings from behind the bulwarks of the impenetrable and calculating war machine that is his nature.

You'd have to be deaf…


Tribes
Barrow Street Theatre
Run extended through January 6, 2013

Something is in the water on Barrow Street and when David Cromer drinks it, phenomenal theater happens. Tribes opened on March 4 this year, but shows no signs of aging. If its presence has escaped your awareness up to this point, as it had for this reviewer, then you have a treat in store for you. This is one of those ever-so-rare, all-around powerful pieces where a stellar cast, brilliant directing, commanding script, and beautiful design all work together to make for a theatrical experience that is likely to stay with you for years to come, continuing to outshine more trivial diversions.

A Real Sausagefest


All About Meat (The Garcias)
Written and Directed by Michelangelo Alasá
Duo Multicultural Arts Center
Through December 15, 2012

All About Meat (The Garcias) is by turns hilarious, over-the-top irreverent, grotesque, and exasperating -- and it has uniformly fine performances by a relentlessly spirited cast. Writer/director/player Michelangelo Alasá might be said to be attempting to meld the style of Pedro Almodovar with that of John Waters (with a good helping of vaudeville slapstick). First and foremost, this is a sex comedy about a family of Cuban origin, the wealthy Garcias, whose chorizo factory in New Jersey is the largest in the world.

At the pork-sausage-making family's helm is matriarch Dolores, who is dramatic, emotional, knifing, and manipulative, and whose thick Spanish accent seems at times to require subtitles when she is emoting (and she hardly ceases her emoting).

Slowly Rotating Towards God

Grace
Cort Theatre, NYC

Ironically titled Grace, the new play at the Cort is more about those fallen and falling from it than experiencing it in the time that we are given to spend with them. Good performances coupled with a passable script and gimmicky directorial choices make for a sufficient theatrical experience that could possibly translate better to film.

Sitting in the theater and looking up at the stage, it is difficult to say if this production’s flaws are in director Dexter Bullard’s interpretation of the script or inherent in the text itself. The argument over the existence or non-existence of God chases its own tail, a quality which is only exhausted by an incessantly rotating set, which moves at a creeping speed in alternating directions. This device is tacked on to the occasional scene overlap and staged rewind of physical action, which begin with a bang at the top of the piece and then peter out as an ill-used contrivance which works more to confuse and complicate an otherwise simple story and concept.

Still Life

Still Life
By Alexander Dinelaris
Directed by Elizabeth Bove
Players Club, Royal Theater
August 2-5, 2012

Elisabeth Bove is a fine actor, as abundantly evident by the three plays in which she was featured and which I have reviewed on this site. Her portrayal of Ms. Venable in Suddenly Last Summer was particularly outstanding. She also appeared in a rollicking production of Larry Shue's venerable farce, The Foreigner, which was ingeniously directed by Noel MacDuffie. In Still Life, the tables have turned: Ms. Bove proves herself an excellent director and Noel MacDuffie, as a featured player, shows himself to be a skillful actor. 

Dusting off the Rusted

Harvey
Studio 54, NY

Anyone of the mindset that Harvey is a creaky, old piece of theater that should be happily left behind in a bygone era when caricatures and stiff, unnatural dialog ruled the American boards need go no further than the current revival at Studio 54 to find irrefutable proof for this argument. Given a push into the theatrical grave that it didn't need by some dreadful directing, this piece was dead on arrival despite the concerted efforts of some good actors.