Thursday, July 31, 2008

All the Rage

Photo/Benjamin Jaeger-Thomas

All The Rage is really just a character vehicle: ten actors maneuvering a strip of stage that has essentially been stripped of comedy, tragedy, and a real sense of development. I felt it was an empty production, and yet was utterly engaged by the actors.

[Reviewed for Time Out New York]

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


When the war comes home to America, it won't be with a whimper or a bang: it'll be with fries. That's the beauty of Eliza Clark's darkly comic Edgewise, in which three teens find their everyday Saturday morning shift at the local (Mc) Dougal's interrupted by an air strike and a bloodied stranger. The whiff of bombast is bombed away with surgical precision, forcing the characters to grow up rather quickly, their mundane ramblings quickly turned to panicky attempts to restore order to their safe little world. From the convincing mannerisms of the actors to the sharp set design, which contrasts torture in the storeroom with the service with a smile of the cheery dining room, and smart direction, which plays the moment-to-moment shifts in full so that the exaggerated comedy never compromises the integrity of the situation, it's a clever look at what a Civil War on Terror between an indistinguishable Us and Them might look like: an order of paranoia with a side of fear.

[Read on]

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Mary Stewart-David and Clive Chang attempt to revive Phileas Fogg's journey as a musical comedy set in 2011: Eighty-1, or "Around Around the World in 80 Days in 80 Minutes." Phileas Fogg IV (Daniel Lincoln) is forced to validate his great-grandfather's record by recreating the journey (that's by rail and by boat, for you Verne purists). He's joined, of course, by the descendants of that trip, JP Passepartout (Brayden Hade) and journalist "Fixey" Fix (Nicole Weiss), and yes, an Indian princess (Jen Anaya) appears. The show is in extremely good fun, but it speeds through so much that it fails to develop much character, and the songs--all piano-based--suffer from not having the strength of personality behind the words. The haste also sacrifices adventure for a shallow love story: not always a bad thing, but without the exotic danger there's a lack of obstacles and an excess of exposition. Developmentally, though, Eighty-1 is in great shape: when's the last time you saw a show whose only problem was learning how to slow down?


Elisa Abatsis's Daguerreotypes stretches a metaphor about the halation of this ancient photographic technique into a play about transitory relationships and the need to let go of the past.
Instead, it ends up frozen in time: the bookending scenes between Gemma (Storm Garner) and her beloved art teacher, Norman (Doug Rossi), were taken without the flash on, and the lack of chemistry (or even reason for those scenes) muddies the rest of the picture. The play suffers from a lack of circumstances: Cece (Jessica Morris), pregnant with a brain-dead baby, is unable to explain why she's come to a studio that specializes in peaceful photographs of dead babies and Henry (Alfred Gingold), who runs the studio, isn't able to express his passion for this sort of photography or for the love of his life, the country gal Darcy (Lynn Spencer). Consequently, the drama often seems slower than the lengthy (but musical) scene changes. Chase (Jared Morgenstern) is the one character she nails, an angsty employee of Henry's: of all the characters, he speaks without thinking--and that leaves him free to simply be.

The Apocalypse of John, the Rabbit Known as Chicken Little

The modest Freddi Price's The Apocalypse of John, the Rabbit Known As Chicken Little does for shadow puppets what South Park did for cutouts: literally and figuratively crude, his show takes an absurd Terry Gilliam-like glee in blatantly satirizing the book of Revelation. That John has been replaced with a masturbating, alcoholic rabbit who believes the sky is falling is already plenty silly, but he soon encounters "Henny Penny" ("That's the lamb of god, bitch!") and "Goosey Loosey" (the whore of Babylon), and it's only a matter of time before the scrim is overrun with demons, from a dancing, googly-eyed 666 to a snooty Frenchman drunk on absinthe ("Wormwood"). More is more, but the exaggeration of such wild contradictions is hysterical: "How many thirds can you divide the world into?" As a means of moderation, Price also performed his two-person bunraku, Frank, which while just as heavy-handed in the murmuring voiceover, was a valuable reminder of the power of silence, and the transitory power of theater.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Around the World in 80 Days

Photo/Sandy Underwood

Mark Brown's adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days is all about transportation, and not just the physical kind. Exaggerated accents, comic physical action and a briskly narrated pace (with two Foley artists for emphasis) transform Jules Verne's novel into an adventurous bit of theater. In the same vein as The 39 Steps, Brown's script calls for a small ensemble (five actors), with Daniel Stewart as the straight man, Phileas Fogg, and Evan Zes as his indomitable sidekick, the flexibly French Passepartout. They are joined by Lauren Elise McCord as Aouda, who comes across as the loveliest of plot contrivances, while the very talented Jay Russell and John Keating spin around them, filling out the other twenty odd characters. If gas prices are keeping you from traveling much this summer, why not take a trip Around the World? This slapstick adventure is far roomier than coach, not bogged down by any weather delays, and, thanks to the expert acting, there's no chance of you missing anything along the way. As Fogg would say, it's all accounted for: entertainment most certainly included.

[Read on]

[title of show]

***** (...out of five stars)

Manifest destiny: realized! From the New York Musical Theater Festival to off-Broadway at the Vineyard to a brilliant and sassy Youtube campaign, this musical about making a musical finally makes its triumphant debut on Broadway. Exclamation point! For those of us out there who fell in love with this show in its earlier incarnation, the [title of show] family remains happily intact as do all of the songs. Add to that some new, stronger choices in terms of plot development, new scenes marking their journey from off-Broadway to Broadway and a blissfully full house of [title of show] fans ("tossers") hooting and hollering every time the cast makes a reference about hoping they make it to Broadway, and we have ourselves one happy night at the theater. For those of you out there who have not seen [title of show] yet, GO, for this unique musical is one of a kind. The actual composer and the book writer are playing themselves 8 times a week in their own show. Would Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse ever do something like that? (The mind boggles). Also playing themselves are Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, friends of Hunter and Jeff's, who round out the show with hysterical observations, kick ass vocals and a warm feminine soul. It's damn near impossible to not fall in love with these kids who collectively throw it all out there in their bid to become "part of it all". This is the most charming Broadway production I have ever seen. And I say that having seen Mamma Mia twice.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kicking A Dead Horse

photo: Joan Marcus

A dead horse, an open grave and a man struggling to put the former into the latter: this is Sam Shepard's Beckett-like eighty minute one-act in which the playwright seems to be moaning about his own work through the metaphor of a disillusioned New York art dealer in search of "authenticity". Essentially a monologue, the play is spiked with dark deadpan humor which only occasionally lands as intended: for too much of the play we're inpatient for the inevitable (and obvious) conclusion and wondering why Shepard wrote the piece for Irish actor Stephen Rea, whose effortful try at an American accent is unconvincing and distracting.

What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends

photo: Martin R. Miller

Larry Kunofsky's snappy semi-absurd comedy seems at first to depict the paranoid fantasy of a wallflower who believes that the friends who barely tolerate her are part of a exclusionary cult. Turns out it isn't a fantasy: the friends have formed a secret and soulless society that gives them access to popularity. The play has a lot of satirical fun with this central idea - as cold and as selfish as the friend system seems, it's only an exaggeration of how most people use each other - and although the play goes slack in the second act as it transitions into a less antic tone, it's nonetheless always clever and wholly enjoyable. It's also ideally served by the five members of the ensemble (Todd D'Amour, Josh Lefkowitz, Susan Louise O'Connor, Amy Staats, and Carrie Keranen) who all seem to be on the playwright's wavelength.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Proposal

Seth Powers's disturbing The Proposal begins with a simple revival of the short Chekhovian farce of the same name. But the actor/director (Daniel Irizarry) isn't quite sure the message is getting across, and doesn't know how to simultaneously reach the older theatergoers looking to relive the peaceful past of passive theater and the younger iPod generation. The question he poses is a bloody difficult one--"Why can't theater be art?"--and it's made all the bloodier by the violence of good doctor Chekhov (Laura Butler) and the well-intentioned puerility of a thick-bearded, cookie-laden Nietzsche (Vic Peterson). Actor's search for truth twists into a dark farce, from an animalistic portrayal of the creation myth to a Gallagher-like climax, with a few breaks to dance the mazurka. Under normal conditions, such dangerous leaps in illogic would simply be dismissed as pretension, but Irizarry wrestles Powers's script to the floor by grounding everything in the intensely physical, and it's near impossible to look away.

[Note: To clarify a point, when a script tackles complex ideas in a nontraditional way, the casual theatergoer is quick to label it as "pretentious." If I were to have simply read Seth's script , I might have done the same. But this is why theater works best as a collaborative effort: I very much enjoyed The Proposal, and it illustrates the positive ways in which even pretension itself can be used to enrich the very valid critiques being made about art.]


photo: Joan Marcus

It's been over forty years since the birth of the cultural phenomenon of Hair but the wonderful outdoors production currently in Central Park doesn't smell like an antique: it very wisely emphasizes the show's immediate thematic current-day relevance. (Here we are again fighting an unpopular war, after all) Judiciously staged like a rag-tag happening rather than like a traditional musical, this production has been directed with a keen understanding of the show as a snapshot of a community: for the first time I understood the "tribal" aspect of this "American tribal Love-rock musical" and embraced rather than bemoaned the lack of a traditional narrative. I saw an early preview, so I won't comment on specific performances except to say that every one has been pointed in the same direction. Thanks to a sudden drenching downpour, the show had to be stopped with only ten minutes remaining. Before long the cast came back out on stage anyway and sang "Let The Sun Shine In" in the soaking rain, pulling people up from the audience to dance on stage with them. It was one of the most vivid and uplifting communal experiences I've ever had seeing theatre.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Not open to review, and I respect that, so all I'll say is that Bruce DuBose and Katherine Owens of Undermain Theatre are in the process of adapting Neil Young's concept album Greendale (which Young also directed as a film) for the stage. Will this lo-fi album and amateur film find a place on the independent stage? Check it out; it's part of Soho Think Tank's Ice Factory festival.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What To Do When You Hate All Your Friends

I loved the cast, enjoyed the plot, and found the direction to be exactly what was called for, engaging with the pop-up book comedy of the plot and narrative. Weak spots? Sure. But what I won't forget for some time is the anonymous "Bert & Ernie" masturbation scene, in which I more or less shot a load of laughter.

[Reviewed for Show Business Weekly]

Damn Yankees

This year's Summer Encores! show may transfer to Broadway thanks to its two tv-famous stars, but Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski do a lot less for the show than they do for its box office. He gets barely by on charm and on the enormous good will that the audience has for him after years of Will & Grace, but he's lightweight; he's less the Devil brokering deliciously for the soul of an average Joe turned baseball hero than he's a jaded brat. (He gets some of his laughs from camping some of his lines as if he's still on his tv show, but that gives his character's repeated advice to stay away from women an unintended, unpleasant subtext). Krakowski, who is regularly a delightful and engaging performer, has been asked to do the near-impossible: namely, to step into the Bob Fosse dances that were tailored for Gwen Verdon. She's fine in the book scenes, but her dancing is all exertion and no charm: we're aware of all the impressive work she is doing with her body and waiting for it to express what it means to express. The other two leads - Randy Graff and Cheyenne Jackson - are quite wonderful, and the supporting cast are uniformly terrific (with Veanne Cox and Kathy Fitzgerald especially fun and funny).


***** (...out of 5 stars)
The Public at the Delacorte

This production kicks ass! After only ever seeing a couple of well-intentioned/poorly-realized regional community concoctions of this late sixties rock musical, sitting outside in Central Park at the Delacorte and watching this faithful, energetic, thrilling revival, I finally GOT why Hair was such a ground-breaking musical. And that makes me very happy. The sexy cast, led by Jonathan Groff and Will Swenson gyrates and wails and makes the audience feel like they're guests at a real live be-in. Staging this musical in Central Park under the moon at the Delacorte, with intermittent gusts of wind blowing through the fringe and the miles of wavy curls, is a perfect choice. I felt genuinely transported and was literally overcome with emotion by the end of it all. This is one of the best theatrical productions I have seen this year.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

MITF/Writer's Block

In Shaun Gunning's Writer's Block, a playwright trying to meet the expectations (and deadlines) of his latest work struggles to turn his love-hate relationship with his agent into a means of inspiration. Mr. Gunning plays what very well may be himself--Daniel--a playwright tragically blocked by his ex-fiancee's sudden abandonment of him . . . for his brother. It's enough to drive anyone to drink one's deadlines away, even as the repo men take everything but an empty bookcase, and as the bathrobe starts to musk up around you. As he's egged on by his agent, Paula (Kate Dulcich), he stumbles his way through a series of comic failures, from a Shepard-like adaptation of his own life--in which Jack (Jack Marshall) loses his fiancee to his meth-addict brother, Gary (Steve Orlikowski)--to a sequel to a sophomoric gangster comedy, "Chicago, 1923," which playfully packs more fish-related puns into a ten-minute gag than a whole can of sardines (sans the stink). The play also spoofs the "murder mystery" play, but thankfully, the jokes aren't at anyone's expense, for they tie together into a classic showdown between a writer and his own creations, with a little romance thrown in for resolution.

Dance at Bataan

So far as dances go, Blake Bradford's Dance at Bataan is more or less a cha-cha: two steps forward, two steps back. On the back step, there are unsteady actors who look like they're being put through the paces, and a plot that covers way too much ground (PTSD may be the subject of Hannah's dissertation, but it's got little to do with the play). This rush of development forces the actors to show actions rather than to act on them: Jim Heaphy twitches his left arm and quivers his voice to show Mr. Edward's reluctance to speak with Hannah, and Christine Vinh gets so bogged down in playing Hannah as "a cold-hearted bitch" that she never shows any emotion. Moving forward, Blake's parallel story, a glimpse at Mr. Edward's experiences at Bataan (where one out of seven US POWs died)--is surprisingly comic, and the acting is sharp, though still too dispassionate for a dance. Blake's direction is often more emotional than the actors: though he stretches the imagery with too much repetition (Claire haunted by her husband, Marvin, and Hannah inexplicably visited by Tokyo Rose), this otherworldly presence (especially the violent Japanese soldiers, who are shown by pantomimed reactions) pulls good performances out of the actors, particularly Sarah Hankins, who doubles as Chris and Claire. Pick up the tempo, watch that posture, and tighten up the routine (by which I mean the steps of the plot), and Dance at Bataan may merit an encore.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh

The clever script often manipulates passion to make a point, but on the whole, the able cast and precise direction make Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh an entertaining play.

[Reviewed for Time Out New York]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yellow Electras

Chuck Mee would be proud of Peter A. Campbell's Yellow Electras, which patches together a series of existing adaptations, from the classic Greek dramas of Sophocles and Euripedes to the melodic Richard Strauss and Kandinsky operas. The buffet of styles buffets the viewer, with Peter Ksander's design stretching the three Electras (Genevieve De Galliande, Laura Heidinger, and Karen Rich) across three computer terminals, video conferenced up on one wall, while on the other, a chorus of sixteen girls look on, Brady Bunch style, through a series of digital boxes. This modernist approach is somewhat tacky, though aesthetically pleasing, but it's no surprise that the strongest segments--Rich's arias and Heidinger's violent breakdown--are grounded in physical presence rather than electronic transference. The collage, in itself, doesn't build up to anything--in fact, some of the snippets, which address acting itself, assert that "fragments, bits, and pieces do not give us a sense of the whole." What Yellow Electras does is illustrate a series of styles, a physical dramaturgy of Electra that will, unfortunately, largely be of service only to those who are readying themselves to adapt a Greek drama, and intermittently cool for the edgy theatergoer.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac

Photo/Lucien Samaha

Taylor Mac comes to us in drag, green-faced and glittery, with a thickly clumped wig, but despite his eccentric act (high energy rants modulated by ukulele), don't mistake him for an alien. He's a wildman, a performance artist born in the crucible of gay nightclub basements. The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac is a messy sampler of his previous solo shows: by the end of the night (after opening "Pandora's suitcase"), he's standing in a sea of old costumes. The overall topic of this self-proclaimed "subversive jukebox musical" is to pierce what "the bubble of preparation," in which America (and, by inclusion, audiences) attempt to shelter themselves from harm by "preparing for the surprise." Two things are made clear by the bubble of light that surrounds him: first, that Taylor Mac cannot be contained by David Drake's direction, and second, that for all his mania--singing breasts and all--there's nothing particularly shocking about Taylor Mac.

[Read on]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Photo/Gary Breckheimer

The postcard for Lenora Champagne's TRACES/fades has the image of a young girl wheeling her grandmother along at a high speed: both are giddy. Unfortunately, the actual production rarely has such glimmers of life. There are hints of humor, crackles of poignancy, and some terrific images from Robert Lyons's co-direction, but Champagne's depiction of Alzheimer's comes across as patronizingly as Nurse Harper's attitude toward her addled patients. A mournful set of images are projected onto the background, starting with snow, which Claire (Champagne) then emphasizes "makes a clean white blanket of forgetting." Soon after, Claire specifies that her mother, Ann (Joanne Jacobson), with her mind bundled in the depths of that blanket, did not expect this. Honestly, who does? Even the second half of the play, which takes place in a senior care center, seems more demonstrative than dramatic, with the dialogue straining to show us the highs and lows. (It doesn't help that Amelie Champagne Lyons, who plays Anne's granddaughter, doesn't really provide much of an energetic contrast.) Still, it's sensitive topic material, and the closeness of it to Champagne's heart is reflected in the quirky songs that her other 'inmates' sing, from Hilda's choked ability to remember those who have died in her life, but not the wars in which they died, to Delores's no-nonsense appreciation of eating, which serves as a reminder that they're living. For me, the strongest image is of the nurse restraining Ann to her wheelchair with a device that she explains as being "just like a cummerbund." It's not, but these little injustices and deprivations are where Champagne most clearly succeeds.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boeing Boeing

Photo/Sara Krulwich

Not that Broadway needs more mindless entertainment, but here comes a commercial comedy: yes, I'm talking about Boeing Boeing. I like my comedy to be as crisp as airline peanuts, so I was happily surprised to see understudy Roxanna Hope as the kinky American stewardess (one of the three that bachelor Bernard is juggling on separate timetables), and pleased to see that there was merit to Mark Rylance's Tony win. As Robert, Bernard's straight-laced (soon-to-be unlaced) friend, Rylance is unapologetically apoplectic as he frets his way through one hell of a coverup, and he shows a marvelous range as he goes from mild-mannered to tentitively suave and hesitatingly sexual. (Think Bill Irwin.) But the rest of the cast made me feel as if were riding in coach: Bradley Whitford takes far too long to warm up, and when he does, he never seems as invested as Rylance, and the other two stewardesses, Gina Gershon and Mary McCormack (a jealous, sharp Italian and a booming, obsessive German) are so exaggerated that it's sometimes hard to understand what they're saying. This sex comedy may be about broads, but I'd have liked Matthew Warchus to make all the racing around just a little less broad: as tight, specific, and polished as Christine Baranski's deadpan.

Monday, July 14, 2008

[title of show]

Photo/Carol Rosegg

Jeff and Hunter and Heidi and Susan may be playing exaggerated versions of themselves, but they can't hide that genuine cheer, even in a big Broadway theater. [title of show] isn't ambitious in presentation, but it is impressive all the same, filling the house with honesty, intimacy, and lots of laughs. It's an homage to musical theater, but at the same time, it's a Disney musical in its own right: "Dreams Do Come True," it sings, and that's perhaps the rarest, most worthwhile spectacle of all.

[Read on]

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Perfect Harmony

***1/2 (...out of 5 stars)
The Essentials

Two earnest, high strung High school acapella groups duke it out for the National championship in this darling quirkfest of a musical play currently running at The Clurman on Theater Row. Never mind that perhaps some of the cornball choices undercut the sincerity of the piece (a haz-mat suit as a performance costume?, estrogen injections?) or that a few of the sub-plots are extraneous and/or weakly resolved, there is a gallon of charm in this engaging look at angst-ridden teens throwing their hearts and souls into their extra-curricular activities. Each character has their own pet foible (Tourettes, TMJ, agoraphobia, etc.) and our cast here revels in these foibles giving us rich, hysterical characters that you want to slap and hug. And yes, there is plenty of singing and it's a whole hell of a lot of fun (my fave: an acapella rendition of George Michael's "Freedom 90"). I was all wrapped up in the acapella scene when I was in high school (baritone/tenor 2) and this play nailed the earth shattering impact that this scene can have on a awkward teen looking for something to believe in. Thumbs up. Oh! And HGA!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Do Not Do This Ever Again

Photo/Caleb Hammons

"Dim O," indeed, to quote from Karinne Keithley's new and accurately titled play, Do Not Do This Ever Again. This wholly indulgent work, presumably about loneliness, is broken into four unrelated and abstract pieces, all performed with a heavy-handed seriousness. The only good thing here is Maria Goyanes's use of the deep Ohio Theater; too bad the script isn't nearly as deep. It's just an indecipherable mess, stilted and restrained, particularly in the "operetta," which features Marie Antoinette, Esme (a talking cat), and three deer. The action for this part, incidentally, takes place on transparencies, broken only by a clunky dance set to harsh and broken music. As always, this is just my opinion, but this is the sort of smartsy theater that drives audiences to the safety of Broadway.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bouffon Glass Menajoree

Photo/Maike Schultz

Screw Tennessee Williams, that hack, and all his illusions that congeal to speak the truth. Instead, take the advice of Ten Directions, and buckle your seat belts for truth in the form of illusion, and their bouffon (anti-clown) adaptation of The Glass Menagerie. Eric Davis starts by throwing out the "memory play" narrative: with the use of a giant spiderweb-like dream catcher, he works in the nightmarish present. To this end, the characters are all played at extremes: Tom (Lynn Berg) is half-Quasimodo, half-quarterback, which reflects both his work habits and his recklessness; Amanda (Aimee Leigh German) is now a grossly obese woman, which makes her fixation on her gentleman-caller days as disturbing as her appetite; and Laura (Audrey Crabtree) isn't just physically crippled, she's mentally off, too: like an infantilized version of one of the villains in a Rob Zombie film. The aggressive, grotesque acting frequently directs them toward the audience, but their barbs are more humorous than hurtful, and often accompanied by free beer. All three of the actors have their distinct strengths, and they blend nicely, a real feat considering how much of the show seems to be improvised (especially with the final scene's "gentleman caller"). At the end of the show, the actors curse the audience with the memory of the show, but that too, is in good fun. From Berg's Robin Williams-like "night at the theater," to Crabtree's oversexed snarls and thrusts for her "unicorn," and German's mouthful of butter, having survived Bouffon Glass Menajoree, you won't really want to forget it.


Is it any surprise that in a show involving whispers that actions speak louder than words? I find the technical craft on display here to be marvelous, with writer/director Peter S. Petralia making exceptional use of Rebecca M.K. Makus's silhouette lighting and Philip Reeder's sound design. But Whisper is a little too much like a Beckett radio play for my tastes: it remains at a distance, emotionally elusive, and the headphone gimmick makes it far too easy to tune this world out.

[Read on]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Perfect Harmony

Photo/Jim Baldassare

The only thing Perfect Harmony is missing is the perfect harmony: unfortunately, that MAJOR problem makes a lot of other MINOR issues into a bigger problem, and ultimately, makes the KEY of the whole show FLAT. (The musical puns, incidentally, are capitalized so as to better emphasize how an inconsistent tone can make something clever into something that's far too obvious.) Getting past all of that, though, I'm glad to see that Andrew Grosso is keeping this play, a favorite of mine at the '06 Fringe, alive: I just wish that it had grown. The original was built through collaboration and improvisation with the actors, and the lack of synergy with the mostly-new cast (square pegs in round holes, save for a few exceptions) shows. Still, the concept itself is clever--and vital: the cheery atmosphere tries to do for a capella what 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee did for spelling bees. If only every section were as polished as Lassiter's doleful medley of pop songs.

[Read on] [Also blogged by: David]

The Marriage Of Bette And Boo

photo: Joan Marcus

Christopher Durang's brilliant, semi-absurd tragicomedy is at least in part a slam against the pre-feminist establishment: it's of the by-gone era when the best middle class homes included a well-stocked bar, the women stayed home to make babies and dinner, and the kids were against the Vietnam War. The production at the Roundabout doesn't really commit to that era, as if doing so would date the material, but the material ages much more visibly when not grounded it in that specific time in American history. The cast is wildly uneven - there are John Glover, Julie Hagerty and Victoria Clark among those who are ably playing something beneath the veneer of comic absurdity, and then there is everyone else just playing.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Neal Medlyn's Unpronounceable Symbol

Photo/Steven Schreiber

One thing's for sure about the Neal Medlyn: dude's got balls. Don't take my word for it: just wait until he's dancing in his underwear on a table that's writhing with dildos and you'll see them. I'm unconvinced that gyrating half-naked while screaming falsetto lyrics makes for good theater, but at least with his Prince spoof, Unpronounceable Symbol, Medlyn's taking on someone who has soul and androgyny to spare. Then again, if you're not a member of the Nerve-loving, gender-curious "experimental" youth demographic and can't identify a downtown "luminary" like Murray Hill, then you've probably got no business at this undefinable show.

[Read on]

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Crave/Somewhere in the Pacific

Photo/Stan Barouh

Sarah Kane's ravenous writing in Crave is a swell match for Potomac Theater Project's other show, Howard Barker's tersely plotted Scenes from an Execution, but it's done a huge injustice by being placed on a double-bill with Neal Bell's dreadful Somewhere in the Pacific.

[Reviewed for Time Out New York]

Scenes from an Execution

Photo/Stan Barouh

Under all his imagery and poetic devices, at heart, Howard Barker is a lot like Galactia, the realist center of
Scenes from an Execution. This painter's calculating logic is matched by the playwright's argumentative tone: just as her paintings are said to sweat, so has it been necessary for companies to wrestle with his plays. It's a pleasure to see Potomac Theatre Project, under Richard Romagnoli's direction, bring such demanding art to life. It's also thrilling to see Jan Maxwell as the harried martyr, David Barlow as a comic actor with depth, and Alex Draper as a charismatic villain: for those who are afraid of Barker's work, this is the best chance you'll have to look, rather than to just see.

[Read on]