The latest offering of the Irish Repertory Theatre is the revival of “The Seafearer” by Conor McPherson, which opened on Broadway in 2007 and was nominated for a TONY award for best play that season. It follows the renowned style of the playwright, producing incredible natural dialogue, executed in somewhat ordinary life situations, with a collection of disreputable characters, and always providing a mysterious twist to maintain an interesting plot. In this case it is the story that revolves around the Faustian character “Sharky” who won a card game with the devil while in jail for murder, where the stakes were high: his soul or his freedom with the condition that if he won there could be a rematch at any time.Read More
Mighty Mlima, “Kenya’s most famous elephant,” – the old, large elephant “with extraordinary tusks” – is murdered for those tusks by the Somali poachers Raman and Geedi. The story of that slaughter and how the magnificent tusks become part of the global illegal ivory trade is the subject of Lynn Nottage’s “Mlima’s Tale,” currently running in the Public’s Martinson Hall. This monstrous tale is relayed with exquisite detail and stirring magical realism from the killing of Mlima to the display of his intricately carved tusks in the new flat of nouveau riche Alice Ying in Bejing.Read More
There’s a simple fact about theatre festivals that I try not to mention quite as much, if only out of respect for all the artists who put up their work: Some of the shows that are produced there are truly brilliant; other shows have potential, but need further development; then, there are the ones that are just flat-out terrible. During my most recent visit to the Downtown Urban Arts Festival, I had the chance to see the two extremes on full-display, in the form of two one-acts that couldn’t possibly be more different from one another.Read More
Diets, they're a nightmare, aren't they? We all struggle to lose a few pounds. It's a topic which resonates with millions around the world. But how would it work weaved into the main plot of a musical? Well, Kay Mellor's stage musical adaption of her noughties TV show, Fat Friends has diet and weight loss at the heart of its storyline. But does it work as a piece of theatre? I headed along to the UK's biggest theatre, the Edinburgh Playhouse to find out.Read More
When you combine the infectious beats of The Go-Go’s with the prose romance The Arcadia, you get an interesting mix of pop punk Renaissance flair. Head Over Heels opened Wednesday at The Curran, bringing the beat to San Francisco before heading to Broadway later this summer. The team that brought you unique musicals like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Spring Awakening, and Avenue Q redefines the musical comedy with this funky Elizabethan story.Read More
The current Broadway revival of the groundbreaking play “Children of a Lesser God,” the first since it opened thirty-eight years ago to win the Tony award for best play, does not seem to have the emotional impact as the original. Playwright Mark Medoff has penned the love story of James Leeds, a speech therapist at a school for the deaf, and Sarah Norman, deaf since birth, who is not a student but works as a custodian at the school. The technique used to present the play is intriguing, since the actor portraying James speaks his dialogue and repeats Sarah’s words as she signs her responses, speaking for both characters. This is certainly an enormous task, and although an ingenious concept, it does lend itself to complications in relating emotional content and depth of character.Read More
When I heard that Hartford Stage was putting an Edith Wharton novel on stage, I jumped for joy. Wharton was one of my favorite novelists in my late teens and early twenties. Having started with Ethan Frome in high school, I quickly devoured her other novels and short stories. I found her descriptions of beautiful, rich interiors and high society manners engrossing, mostly due to my interest in historical fiction at the time. I also adored the tragedy that befell on her characters, and the sacrifices made by them (usually for love – because I was a typical swooning young woman at the time). For me, film adaptations vary from excellent (House of Mirth with Gillian Anderson) to mediocre (Age of Innocence with Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder), but lucky for us, Douglas McGrath’s smart, concise adaptation of Age of Innocence definitely leans toward the former: It is a worthy reworking of Wharton’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel with standout performances and stunning staging.Read More
In British theatre, there is currently a very good variety of plays and musicals that are touring, plus an excellent selection within London's west end. One of the longest running productions currently, is Michael Morpurgo's cream of the war genre, War Horse, produced by the National Theatre. I had never seen the play, but luckily there is a new UK and Ireland touring production currently playing at Edinburgh's Festival theatre (18/04/18 - 12/05/18). So I thought I best experience this apparent sensation for myself. But the question is, does it live up to the hype?Read More
After seeing her estranged daughter’s “veiled suicide threat” on her “anonymous” blog, Beatriz (the irrepressible Daphne Rubin-Vega) drives her truck “like a bat out of hell” from California to Philadelphia to take her daughter Olivia (the deeply reflective Gizel Jiménez) on a seven-day road trip. After some mild mid-adolescent protestations, Olivia – sixteen – agrees to the trip hoping, perhaps, for reconciliation with her mother and an end to her deep and debilitating angst and depression.Read More
I must admit that I knew nothing about Fun Home, so I had to do some online research, scan the Mirvish press release, and read the programme. Based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, Fun Home is the recipient of several awards including 5 New York Tony Awards (Best Musical in 2015). In 2006, The New York Times named Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic as one of the best books of the year. It was created from memories of Ms. Bechdel’s childhood and the detailed journals she kept since age 10 growing up in rural Pennsylvania before and after her father’s suicide.
We see Alison at three distinct stages in her life throughout this production. In the present she is 43 years of age, a lesbian cartoonist, and struggles to understand the complex relationship she had with her deceased father. Alison grew up in a funeral home while trying to deal with her sexual awakening, and with the secrets her father faced before his death.Read More
When a speaker raises alternate views of a significant problem and seems at one point to take “one side” and then “the other side,” and then advocates for the purity of moral ambiguity – presenting profound rhetorical arguments for each of those points of view – the audience is left bombarded by what seemslike conflicting ethos, pathos, and logos and also is left with their heads spinning, alternately laughing and then feeling guilty for laughing and not laughing and puzzled why they didn’t laugh. And in the end, confused about what kind of catharsis has just released their repressed emotions unawares.Read More
The new Broadway musical “Mean Girls,” based on the 2004 hit movie, is sure to secure a home on the Great White Way for some time to come, as it tickles the fancy of a new generation of young woman who might be liberated by the recent movements of empowerment and anti-bullying. It is certainly a crowd pleaser and whether you are a fan of the movie, you will enjoy the flashy, energetic production which aims to please form start to finish. The book by Tina Fey remains close to the screenplay, repeating some of the same popular quips and smart wit while also adding new material to update and take full advantage of current social and political events.Read More
Playwright Joshua Harmon explores how the dynamics of friendship changes when a significant other is introduced into the clique. It begins with the four lead characters getting liquored up at Kiki’s (Keilly McQuail, a gifted comedian) bachelorette party. McQuail’s lovable vapid, Valley Girl delivery is spot on. We learn Kiki was never looking for love, she just wanted someone to validate her. Kiki’s key in finding a husband was falling in love with herself, as she declares “I treat myself better than any man could treat me.” Splurging one evening at Jean-Georges restaurant, wah-lah she meets her husband-to-be Conrad (John Garet Stoker) and is the first of these college “besties” to get married.Read More
Yes, you read that correctly. The title of the show that I’m reviewed this past weekend is “Gay. Porn. Mafia.” It’s the first of a number of one-night only theatrical events over the next two weeks (in addition to a few short films) that I’ve been invited to review at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival. Immediately after receiving my review invite, I wondered what I would be in for at this show, and exactly what connection the plot itself would have to its amusing and provocative title.Read More
Outside of your local theatre’s seasonal programme, there’s always a plethora of local companies mounting productions that can provide you with a highly varied theatre season. One such company that has been making a real name for itself in this sector is Futurist Theatre Productions, who bring musicals and local talent together to create memorable evenings of entertainment. On that note, I was very much looking forward to reviewing their latest production of the smash Broadway hit Avenue Q at Yeadon Town Hall.Read More
Once in a while, you come across a stage show that, on paper, may not have had the buzz that other high-profile shows may have had initially, but then you see it … and it just completely surprises you in the best possible way.
That pretty much sums up my recent experience with the oh-so delightful “NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT,” Musical Theatre West's buoyant and sublime new regional production of the 10-time Tony Award-nominated 2012 musical comedy now on stage at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts in Long Beach, CA through April 22. An irresistibly silly and infectiously tuneful stage show that will have you smiling from start to finish, this roaring 20's throwback with modern sensibilities provides lots of zany antics, lots of witty one-liners, and lots of spectacular song-and-dance showstoppers that will have you wondering—where has this show been all my life?Read More
‘True West’ was written by Sam Shepard in 1980, and yet his understanding of family dynamics and the volatility of stage and screen producers, allows this play to burst from the page decades later when his characters are portrayed with boundless energy and charisma. What makes them all the more believable is when passionate, seasoned actors are partnered with a visionary director to present a realistic look at a tumultuous relationship. That is what I have found with Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s production of ‘True West’.Read More
As soon as I walked into the Medicine Show Theatre on Friday night at 7:30pm, I was greeted by a variety of characters from early 20th century Soviet Russia, all of whom were trying to sell me various goods, and please me and the rest of the audience during an interactive portion. I admit, this was quite a pleasant surprise to be welcomed to, and it left me feeling encouraged about the rest of the evening. Indeed, I normally wouldn’t jump right in by offering a performance overview that early on in the review, without a bit of a lead-in, but I think it’s fitting here, considering that this was basically the pace at which the performance of this company’s latest show – The Bedbug – got started, and it set the energetic pace for the rest of the evening.Read More
Anthony J. Piccione
- New York City Critic
“What is a masterpiece?”
This is a question posed – from a janitor to an artist – during one scene of the latest work by playwright Gina Femia. Indeed, as I arrived at the 14th Street Y to see the play We Are a Masterpiece, I found myself wondering how this title could relate to a play with some very heavy subject matter. Yet that question is easily lost on me by the time is answered, as I found myself deeply moved after just the first half of the play was complete.
The core subject matter of the play – dealing with AIDS in the 1980s – is a familiar one in American drama, to be sure. Yet what sets this play apart is the fact that it’s set primarily in the early-80s, back when very little was known about the disease. Even nurses and doctors had hardly a clue; they merely referred to it as “the gay cancer”. More than just that, however, the play tells a story of death, friendship, and coping with life and with loss, as it hones in on its characters in a very human and in-depth manner, as the plot rotates from character to character, weaving together and ultimately building toward a powerful climax.
The production – which is wonderfully directed by DeLisa M. White – is staged in a beautifully lit atmosphere, with a purple lighting background that served the tone of the overall play well. The many set pieces included also perfectly capture the scenery of each scene. Indeed, it’s probably one of the few indie productions I’ve reviewed where I can say that there’s plenty to be appreciated, in terms of set design, which I find often tends to be quite minimalistic for many other shows.
From the beginning of the play, Chad Anthony Miller shows a sober and somber personality in his very fine portrayal of Ryan, who starts the play by reflecting on the past – the play’s present – in 2017. From then onward, Ben Schnickel shines with his particularly poignant performance as John, who during a monologue toward the climax – in particular – delivers one of the finest performances I’ve seen thus far in the year. Heather E. Cunningham gradually becomes more and more emotionally strong over the course of her performance as Joan, while Ric Sechrest displays a warm and friendly presence in the role of Tom. The cast is rounded out by Pilar Gonzalez (Lisa/Annie), Sam Heldt (Charles/Greg/Gerald), Sara Thigpen (Shelly/Linda), and Matthew Trumbull (Father Jerome).
So far in 2018, I’ve reviewed quite a fair amount of excellent indie theatre productions. I feel hard-pressed to find one that’s brought me as close to tears as this one has. While it takes some time for the story to build up, as I’ve said, the last few scenes of the play – which I will not spoil here – are among the most powerful I’ve seen in recent productions, and are ones that still leave me feeling sad for the characters, even as I write the review. If you get the chance to see it during its final performances, be sure to do so, as it’s easily among my top shows of 2018 thus far.
“We Are a Masterpiece” – presented by Retro Productions – runs at the 14th Street Y Theatre from April 7th to 21st. For more information, please visit www.retroproductions.org.
Anna Treusch has created a institutionalized, claustrophobic, wire caged set design highlighted effectively by Gabriel Cropley’s stark, blinding white lighting design. I felt an immediate sense of dreaded foreboding in looking at the set from the intimate ‘theatre in the round’ audience seating. There are two uncomfortable looking cots on stage in opposite corners of the room with a bookcase centre, stool and a wheelchair in the other corner of the room. It appears there are two letter sized children’s drawings adorning the back wall.Read More