Off-Broadway Review: “Original Sound” at Cherry Lane Studio Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: “Original Sound” at Cherry Lane Studio Theatre

What a pleasant surprise to walk into the Studio space at Cherry Lane Theatre and see a fresh, new look developed for the exciting new production “Original Sound” by Adam Seidel. Scenic designer, Justin Townsend has transformed the space into a multi-purpose set used for several different locations but always having the lingering aura of a contemporary, professional recording studio. Lighting by Kate McGee supports specific locations and has created a multi-colored neon tube installation as a focal point that pulsates during scene changes adding to the highly charged production and sleek design.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “Nantucket Sleigh Ride”

Off-Broadway Review: “Nantucket Sleigh Ride”

In the 18th and 19th centuries, new phrases entered the language of the sailors who took to the sea off the island of Nantucket, one of the whaling capitals of the world during that period. One specific expression “Nantucket Sleigh Ride” describes what happens when a harpooned whale drags the sailors in their long boat across the surface of the water in the wake of waves until it dies. During this treacherous event, which was a fight to the finish, sometimes the sailors also perished. John Guare’s somewhat new play (revised from a previous 2012 production at McCarter Theater) is aptly titled since the audience is only given enough to trawl over the surface of the story and characters without any depth of understanding until the play dies or the audience gives up trying to comprehend it. The switching from reality to the surreal and absurd becomes too confusing and too big a whale of a tale to comprehend the message or purpose of the play. Stopping half way through the farcical memory ride for an intermission seemed unnecessary for a ninety-five-minute play.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s “Fiddler on the Roof”

Off-Broadway Review: National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s “Fiddler on the Roof”

One father longing to be wealthy enough to adequately care for his family – and letting the Creator know he feels overlooked – and three “adult” daughters dodging the craft of the local matchmaker are the grist for an epic challenge to the traditions held dear by the members of Tevye’s Shtetlekh and its “on-the-fence” Der Rov (a confident yet conflicted Adam B. Shapiro) who is often consulted to determine which traditions remain relevant and which might have become obsolete. Tradition. Culture. Politics. Love. Tevye grapples with these four and more in National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s “Fiddler on the Roof” currently running at Stage 42.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: Fiasco Theater’s Production of “Merrily We Roll Along”

Off-Broadway Review: Fiasco Theater’s Production of “Merrily We Roll Along”

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” could prove to become the mantra of the famed Sondheim musical “Merrily We Roll Along” which was a dismal failure when it first opened on Broadway in 1981. There is a new production helmed by the Roundabout’s resident Fiasco Theater Company which falls short of delivering a new efficacious incarnation, becoming yet another casualty in the history of this troublesome and puzzling show. This current endeavor lacks the emotional depth of the characters needed to successfully bring forth the message; additionally, the cast is not vocally capable of delivering most of the brilliant musical numbers. However, the orchestrations and new arrangements for the eight-piece orchestra by Alexander Gemignani allow the audience to wallow in the brilliance of Mr. Sondheim’s captivating score and are the highlight of this production.

Read More

Off-Off-Broadway Review: “The Waiting Game”

Off-Off-Broadway Review: “The Waiting Game”

In the appropriately titled play “The Waiting Game” by Charles Gershman, what quickly becomes apparent to the audience is that everyone in the play is waiting for something. Sam is in a coma from a drug overdose, waiting to wake up, die while in the coma or have someone terminate his life by pulling the plug. His husband Paolo is waiting for Sam to wake up because he thinks he is communicating with him via Gmail chat. Geoff is Sam’s new boyfriend since Sam left Paolo, and he is waiting for Paolo to grant him conservatorship so he can pull the plug and end Sam’s life. Tyler is Paolo’s new tryst and he is waiting for Paolo to give up drugs and commit to a relationship. Everyone knows everyone else and knows each other is waiting for something to happen so life can begin or for that matter end. Add to the plot drugs, sex, AIDS, and four confused, self- loathing homosexuals and the result is evident or at least self- prophesizing.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “Eddie and Dave”

Off-Broadway Review: “Eddie and Dave”

The present-day social climate in the theater world has fervently addressed non-traditional casting, gender identity, and diversity as part of an effort to be inclusive and accepting. When a production exhibits a little gender bending, there should be a valid explanation or reasoning behind the decision, whether it be historical, social, or dramatic persuasion. In the case of “Eddie and Dave” penned by Amy Staats and running at Atlantic Stage 2, it seems to be purely for fun, adding a bit of desperately needed humor to the banal script.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “I’m Not A Comedian . . . I’m Lenny Bruce”

Off-Broadway Review: “I’m Not A Comedian . . . I’m Lenny Bruce”

The first image after the lights come up on stage is a slumped over, motionless, naked man sitting on a toilet. What follows is a silence that fills the room and becomes a force that provokes processing this scene. There might be the assumption that this is not a comedy. That would be a good guess, since the subject matter of “I’m Not a Comedian . . . I’m Lenny Bruce,” currently enjoying a successful run at The Cutting Room, is the tragic life of the outrageous, groundbreaking comedian. Yes, there are snippets from his more familiar routines to provide a glimpse into what was considered obscene during his heyday in the turbulent decade of the 1960s. His act complimented a society filled with protests and marches, supporting civil rights and denouncing war, proving Lenny Bruce was a performer that took to the stage intentionally to become a fierce advocate for free speech. He was arrested several times and charged with public obscenity for the shocking language he used in his routines that scoffed race, religion, sex, and politics. This one-man show is testament that his stand-up comedy was more abrasive than funny and reinforces the power of words. Mr. Bruce exposed the hypocrisy of humanity in such an unconventional style that his audience was shocked and humored at the same time.

Read More

Broadway Review: “The Ferryman”

Broadway Review: “The Ferryman”

If you are a fan of Irish plays you will most likely recognize the characters and may recall hearing similar stories as you listen and watch the epic family drama “The Ferryman” by Jez Butterworth now playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. That is where the familiarity stops, allowing the brilliant dialogue of Mr. Butterworth and the sagacious, meticulous direction of Sam Mendes to take you on a three hour and fifteen-minute journey through the hearts and minds of the expansive Carney family. The plot is thick with the burdens of politics and religion that are complicated by love, loss and tradition. Except for the prologue, all the action takes place in the expansive kitchen and living area of the Carney family in rural County Armagh, Northern Ireland, late summer in 1981. This punctilious set designed by Rob Howell is authentic, dominated by a soaring staircase that members of this unsettled family might climb, in order to retreat from the agitated activities of everyday life. Mr. Howell’s costumes are never intrusive, only fortifying the ambience of time and place, while also placing another layer on top of the already genuine characters. Punctuate each scene with the atmospheric lighting design of Peter Mumford and you are transported into the suspension of disbelief.

Read More

Broadway Review: "The Cher Show"

Broadway Review: "The Cher Show"

Anyone who is or was a fan of Cher during the past six decades will find it difficult to resist the urge to see the new Broadway musical based on her fascinating life and intriguing career that is now playing at Neil Simon Theatre. It would be wise to follow that urge and see for yourself how the beat still goes on. “The Cher Show” follows the same format as a similar musical currently running on Broadway – that show scheduled to close at the end of the year after its successful nine month run.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “Lewiston/Clarkston” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

Off-Broadway Review: “Lewiston/Clarkston” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater

There is quite an intriguing theatrical event occurring at the Rattlestick Theater, where two ninety-minute plays separated by a thirty-minute communal dinner break takes the stage to engage an audience of fifty, in two compelling dramas. The playhouse is stripped down to its original walls discovering weathered multi paned windows and worn wainscoting, wearing years of neglect, with some sections beyond repair. This is the performance space, perhaps a foreshadowing of a shared theme of discovery, as two brave young people make a journey following the steps of their ancestors only to reveal the ugly past and face the troubled and turbulent present.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “The Hello Girls” at 59E59 Theaters

Off-Broadway Review: “The Hello Girls” at 59E59 Theaters

There is no doubt that the so called “Hello Girls,” the bilingual operators that were sent to the front line to operate secured switchboards, were invaluable to the Signal Corps units in World War I. It is unfortunate that they needed to fight for sixty years to be recognized as veterans of that war in order to receive appropriate benefits. It was just one more example of the historic and ongoing women’s crusade for equal rights. So, it is fitting that there be an acknowledgement of their service in any form, including the documentary and the current stage musical by the same name now running at 59E59 Theaters. This recent tribute is produced by Prospect Theater Company and features a remarkable cast of performers who do triple duty as actors, vocalists and musicians playing multiple instruments.

Read More

Broadway Review: “The New One”

Broadway Review: “The New One”

When he walks onto stage to applause at the Cort Theatre to begin his show “The New One,” It is evident that Mike Birbiglia has a huge following and some dedicated fans. The one-man show recently transferred to Broadway after a successful off-Broadway run at The Cherry Lane Theater. Mike Birbiglia is casual, an everyman, as he proceeds to mic himself as though he is just getting ready for another day at the office. This action sets the audience on par, making them feel comfortable. This is a great introduction to his observational humor that relies mostly on the audience being able to relate to the situations he is about to expound upon. He speaks softly, in an unassuming tone, projecting a demure character, without a mean bone in his body so when his thoughts drift over to a negative perspective, there is absolution. He immediately attempts to win over his audience, to assure smooth sailing for the 90-minute show.

Read More

Second Opinion Broadway Review: "The Prom"

Second Opinion Broadway Review: "The Prom"

If anyone is looking for a fun night out, grab your significant other, or for that matter just pick yourself up, get dressed and go to “The Prom” where everyone is welcomed, and you are almost guaranteed to have a good time. The good old fashioned musical has returned to Broadway and just like those legendary shows from an era gone by, this new musical confection with a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Mr. Beguelin, is big, broad and brassy. It is full of stereotypes, theatre references, production numbers and a lot of laughs from characters you learn to love. What sets this show apart, is that it takes a chance, betting against the odds, that an important subject matter can be addressed and resolved, even if heavily sugar coated with humor, song and dance, as long as real, honest human beings emerge in the process. The ingenuity used here is that the characters are not transformed, they are revealed as their layers of protective armor are shed by the force of integrity.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “Gloria: A Life” at the Daryl Roth Theatre

Off-Broadway Review: “Gloria: A Life” at the Daryl Roth Theatre

It is not such a common occurrence that a playwright attempts to pay tribute to a living legend unless the work of that inspirational personality continues in the present as well as already being a pivotal part of history. That is why it is easy to understand the decision of Emily Mann to bring to the stage the life of the feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Under the astute direction of Diane Paulus, the two-hour multimedia piece fuses docudrama, theatre and talking circle, to review the life of Ms. Steinem but more importantly to remind the audience that in such uncertain times, the work she started is not yet done. It is not meant to preach, but to arouse and stimulate, so we may gather, communicate and understand the need for equality. It is not a resurgence but more like a recharge, taking power from one source and passing it on to another, who may then empower another, until all become enlightened, ready and able to fight until the battle is won. More so, it is steeped in reality.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “Black Light”

Off-Broadway Review: “Black Light”

Jomama is the performer and alter ego of Daniel Alexander Jones who created the production “Black Light” now playing at Greenwich House Theater after a successful run at Joe’s Pub. She is a soul sonic superstar and when she speaks of a supernova the audience better listen up because her presence personifies the definition of that phenomenon perfectly.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: “Midnight at the Never Get”

Off-Broadway Review: “Midnight at the Never Get”

The latest offering at York Theater Company’s Main Stage Series is the new musical “Midnight at the Never Get.” The production history started with a successful short run at New York’s historical “Don’t Tell Mama” cabaret, and then a run at NYMF in 2016. Subsequently it had a six-week 2017 run at Provincetown Inn, Massachusetts and returned to Provincetown for a weekend engagement last month. So, in can be assumed that the book, music and lyrics by Mark Sonnenblick should be solid and the performance by Sam Bolen, who co-conceived the story and has performed in every production, should be cultivated and polished.

Read More

Off-Broadway Review: Primary Stages’ “Final Follies”

Off-Broadway Review: Primary Stages’ “Final Follies”

Given the long-term relationship that existed between A.R. Gurney and Primary Stages, it is befitting that the prolific playwright requested his agent to send his newest one act play “Final Follies” to the theater company for production in 2017. It turned out to be ominously and aptly titled since he passed soon after, leaving this to be the last play of his legacy in the American Theater. Mr. Gurney was heralded as one of the most astute chroniclers of WASP culture, both heralding and ridiculing their traditions, to achieve fresh revelations in the current socio-political atmosphere. The first production of Primary Stages 2018/2019 season is a tryptic of three one acts, the first being “Final Follies,” followed by “The Rape of Bunny Stuntz” which comprises the first act and “The Love Course” which stands alone in act two.

Read More