Theater Review

Desire Under the Rocks

desire-goodmanIf there was something remotely profound about this current revival of Eugene O'Neil's Desire Under the Elms, it was completely lost on this audience member. After an intermissionless bombardment of non-stop yelling and soulless emoting, there was little more to say other than thank God, it's finally over.

As the curtain slowly rises on a set that looks like a Martian landscape, one will immediately be struck by the disquieting thought that one must have somehow wandered into the wrong theater. But, no, it's the St. James Theatre all right, and unless you act quickly you're about to lose two hours of your life that you'll never get back. Read more »

The Joys of Trashing Jersey

toxiemusicalIf you're in search of a theatrical experience that stands the chance of moving you in a significant way, then go see the current revivals of Our Town or The Norman Conquests. If, on the other hand, you just want to sit back and laugh at the expense of The Garden State, then The Toxic Avenger: The Musical may be what you're looking for.

Falling in the category of "they made a musical out of that?", The Toxic Avenger follows in the footsteps of a long list of odd, musical adaptations seeking to recapture the camp and success of Little Shop of Horrors. While it does not hit that mark, it comes closer than many that have come before it. Read more »

From London, with a Whole Lot of Love

Mangan_128How far can you go with farce? The playwright with the answer to that question is Alan Ayckbourn, and the current Old Vic revival of his 1973 trilogy The Norman Conquests proves him right beyond a shadow of a doubt. Transferring from its successful run in London, it opened last week with a caliber of performance that will undoubtedly conquer Broadway.

Being one of the first revivals in a revival-laden season to breathe the true life of revitalization into a piece, this trilogy is the perfect way to usher in the muse of spring. As with any good farce, it's all about sex and leaves its characters to fall between the camps of those who are getting none and those who are getting far too much, following the six characters through a wild weekend. Read more »

In the End!

artifactsArtifacts of Consequence

Discussing ways to prevent the bleak, global future scientists and environmental activists are currently predicting is an effort of hope; facing the reality of what may be if those efforts fail is the fitting subject of this play. Ashlin Halfnight's Artifacts of Consequence examines the dark side of the coin as we flip for tomorrow. Read more »

Finding the Necessary Song

joe-turner-goneWhen the curtain rises on August Wilson’s brilliant play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone in the new Lincoln Center production, directed by Bartlett Sher, we see a huge sky and two people walking along a road. The man is tall and dark, dressed in a long black coat and a black hat, and holding the hand of a young girl. They press forward, as if driven by the winds and their own need. This stark and powerful image of seeking drives the mythic significance of the whole play. Set in 1911 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joe Turner embodies the great black migration from the South to the North in the early decades of the twentieth century, a journey of hope, but also of confusion and often unsatisfied expectations. Read more »

Thank You, David Cromer!

our-town-theaterThank You, David Cromer

This is the only production of Our Town that you will ever need to see. After close to a century of re-productions taking their shot at America’s most over-produced play, David Cromer is the one who gets it right.

Bypassing the traditional period clothing and unfamiliar New Hampshire accents, Cromer, as the production’s director, helps to make this piece relevant to a contemporary audience. Read more »

reasons to see Pretty

reasons_to_be_pretty_3000Playing out the drama of an unwitting, small comment that opens up major implications, reasons to be pretty takes a look at the kinds of relationships that you are less likely to see on stage and more likely to have lived. The world of this play is a common one; its characters are everyday people and its effect is a resonate one that stands a good chance of following you out of the theater.

This cast of four is a very competent one, embracing the material to its fullest and finding nuance in its simplicity. Steven Pasquale stands out as the self-absorbed, alpha-male Kent, pushing the bounds of unforgivable infidelity while knowing how to maneuver the surface niceties that keep the truly pressing issues at bay. Read more »

Whispering West Side

west-side-storyThe current revival of West Side Story toys with doing something new while clinging to signatures of the original, resulting in what feels like a production of high school-level confidence with good intentions but low returns, failing to find the passion in one of Broadway’s most memorable scores.

First and foremost, the cast either needed to speak up or the show’s sound designer, Dan Moses Schreier, needs to re-think his design. Even from the front of the orchestra, much of the singing and dialogue was difficult to hear, which was compounded by performances that were hard to connect with. Read more »

Nothing Shocking

hair-playIf you're looking for a safe and nostalgic trip into an idealized look back at the Sixties, then the current revival of HAIR is the show for you. If, however, you desire the shocking and socially challenging experience that this tribal, love-rock musical was meant to be, then you will be sorely disappointed.

Director Diane Paulus takes no chances, sticking to every hippie cliché and exploring nothing new in the material, a choice counter to the very essence of this groundbreaking piece. Read more »

Full of Not Much, Signifying Less

joan-allen

Reminiscent of a pleasant afternoon spent casually strolling through some quiet wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Impressionism is a light sketch focusing on the relationship of two slightly damaged individuals working together in an art gallery. While the passing is pleasant, this is not one of those museum trips where you sit and deeply scrutinize to the greatest depths but rather just stroll while nonchalantly skimming what is around you.

Director Jack O'Brien and his design team are the driving force behind this production, working together to create movement and flow in a script that threatens to be static. Scenic designer Scott Pask works with frames that effortlessly glide in and out of the scenes crafted by O'Brien. Read more »

Angela Lansbury's Blithe Spirit

blithe-spiritReverence, whether it is of performers or athletes, is something I try not to overdo. But if there is one performer I can honestly say I revere, it is Angela Lansbury. When I was just a freshman in college, I saw her Tony-winning performance in the original production of Mame; over the years since, I've had the pleasure of seeing her other great stage performances, including Tony-winning roles in Dear World, Gypsy, and Sweeney Todd; I even saw her when she played Anna for three weeks in the late '70s revival of The King and I. Her stage work is legendary, and she is one of our true theatrical treasures. Happily, Ms. Lansbury is back on the boards once again, working with a high-quality cast in a revival of Noel Coward's 1941 drawing room comedy Blithe Spirit. I'm happy to report that the 83-year-old Ms. Lansbury continues to amaze and dazzle, turning the new production into another personal triumph.  Read more »

Race to See The Fantasticks

fantasticks_nick_spangler.jpgThe Fantasticks

I can't even begin to guess how many musicals I have seen over the years. I arrived in New York from Cleveland in the late '60s and have pretty much been here since. Yet, somehow, I never got around to seeing The Fantasticks. It's not like there weren't opportunities. The Fantasticks opened off-Broadway in 1960; I was still a kid at the time and, as I said, not yet in New York; but, it ran for almost 42 years, finally closing in early 2002. I had seen at least part of the TV version that aired many years ago, and it didn't appeal to me at the time; that might have played a role in my never quite getting around to seeing this musical. Read more »

SEVEN is and 7 are...

designer-bodyDesigner Body
BALLETlorent at The Lowry Theatre, Manchester, March 13, 2009

The Lowry stage resembles a gaudy swamp. Dimly lit, and soundtracked by an insistent electronic hum, seven circular plinths turn slowly. A suggestion of dry ice rises around this haunting installation, each platform draped in rich fabric, as though seven haughty models have flounced off, leaving in their wake opulent drapes in artistic heaps. As the lights change and the music rises, there are shifts amongst the discarded cloth. Read more »

Burying the Dead in Fire Throws

fire-throws-playOnce upon a time, I was in love with Antigone’s story. You know her, Oedipus’s rebellious daughter, the one who thwarted King Creon and came to a tragic end. But over time, reading it again and again, I grew tired of it, began to see her as too egotistical, too self-serving in her sacrifice. I came to believe that she was the sort of young woman who would always annoy the chief of state, and if Creon had not left one of her brothers unburied, she would have found some other excuse to rebel. In the latest version of her tale, Fire Throws, performed by the Ripe Time company, writer and director Rachel Dickstein works hard to make Antigone a more sympathetic figure. Read more »

Where Have All the Characters Gone?

guys-dollsThe current relic on 41st Street is the kind of production that is killing the Broadway musical, with film and television stars trying their unsteady hands at reviving a classic that would have stood a better chance if it had been left alone. The audience couldn't get out of the theater quickly enough after the curtain came down on this uninspired production of Guys and Dolls, which is about as cheery as yesterday's Wall Street Journal.

Blame goes in no small part to the two "stars" who are theoretically the draws to this punishing collection of humorless yuk-yuks. Read more »

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