Tuesday, March 31, 2009


photo: Paul Kolnik

What one moment of your life would you pick to live in for eternity? That's the question put to a subway car full of the newly dead in this weak, dramatically pat new musical directed by Susan Stroman. One of the show's first segments isn't bad - an elderly woman rises from her wheelchair to replace a vision of her younger self dancing with her first love - but any hopes of Follies-like resonance or thematic complexity are soon dashed by the superficial, often saccharine vignettes that follow. Of course the married couple pick the same moment (awww!) and of course the self-loathing conservative radio host decides to live eternally in her free love hippie past: the show's book traffics in predictable pedantic cliches rather than insight, and isn't helped by an uninteresting pastiche score. The material may be lifeless but the cast, which includes Jenny Powers, Joanna Gleason, and Sebastian Arcules, is to die for. Hunter Foster, playing a kind of civil servant Emcee of the underworld, is especially sensational: he commits so fully to, and throws his considerable know-how and charisma behind, his big song and dance number that he puts a pulse in this dead-on-arrival musical.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Finian's Rainbow

Photo: Joan Marcus

The best Encores! production of the past few years, Finian's Rainbow was two and a half hours of pure delight. Virtually the whole cast shone, and oh! the voices! and oh! the dancing! The show is a well-meaning hodgepodge with some pointed--and funny--things to say about racism and about money, but it is Burton Lane's music and E.Y. Harburg's lyrics that soar. For me, the discovery of the evening was the fabulous Kate Baldwin. Her "How Are Things In Glocca Morra" was clear and sweet and lovely and yearning and beautiful. Beside having that stunning voice, Baldwin can do comedy, drama, and romance and is quite pretty. Speaking of pretty, Cheyenne Jackson was a total charmer, as usual. Their "Old Devil Moon" was a sexy treat. To name a few other standout performances, Terri White did a kickass "Necessity," and Ruben Santiago-Hudson was quite effective as a white racist turned black. It was also a treat to see Encores! regular J.D. Webster play two small but fun parts; I first noticed him as a dancer years ago, and it's nice to see him get speaking roles as well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


photo: Joan Marcus

There's tinkly tasteful piano music in the interminable interludes during scene changes, as either Joan Allen or Jeremy Irons mopes around a desk looking thoughtful: is Jack O'Brien's directorial strategy to put the audience to sleep? The play, cut during previews to an eighty-minute one-act, could be cut even further to its final two scenes since it isn't until those that the play has dramatic interest. The two stars seem listless as art dealers who reveal themselves to each other by talking about the works hung in their gallery: their performances are thoughtful, naturalistic, scaled for intimacy, and as fatally unsurprising as the play. Andre de Shields does best of those in the (overqualified) supporting cast as a kindly stooped-over shopkeep who comes in at the eleventh hour with more plain-spoken, no-nonsense insight into one of the paintings than either of the smartypants in the room. It's a groanworthy role with a cheap purpose, but we care more about him in five minutes than we do about the art dealers all night.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Miss Evers' Boys

Miss Evers' Boys
Photo: Nathan Johnson

David Feldshuh's Miss Evers' Boys, about the infamous Tuskegee Experiment in which a group of African-American men were deliberately denied treatment for syphilis, has been around for 17 years, most notably in its 1997 Emmy-winning TV adaptation. But in the current production by the Red Fern Theatre Company it still feels as fresh as a spring rain. The stars seem to have aligned for this production: excellent actors perfectly cast, with a director who knows just how to seize on the strengths of the script. Feldshuh's central insight was to focus on the character of Eunice Evers, a selfless nurse who, believing she is doing her best for the men, wins their trust and cares for them through their years of illness and suffering. Played with the utmost grace by Nedra McClyde, who was excellent in Victor Woo and TBA and gets a well-deserved central role here, Nurse Evers is so strongly animated by her calling that she never starts a family of her own; the men become her charges, and she comes to love them dearly. But as Nurse Evers loses faith and the anguish of her inner conflict grows, Ms. McClyde makes us feel both utter sorrow and powerful admiration for the character. Meanwhile the men she cares for make a terrific ensemble, and each has beautifully-played individual scenes as well.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Henri Gabler

Hedda Gabler is arguably theatre's most enigmatic classic character, but it's generally agreed that her cruelty and destructiveness are partly a rebellion against the societal constrictions placed on her. In Exigent Theatre's modern-day, gender-changed adaptation the character, now Henri, doesn't seem to have societal constrictions: he's a famous member of the gay cultural elite, a blogger whose popularity rivals The Huffington Post and whose recent gay marriage is entirely state legal. The playwright (Alexander Burns) scores best when he steers the play into baldly political territory - there's an especially provocative speech in which one character vows to live "old school" and avoid marriage entirely - but he's constricted by a faithfulness to the blueprint of Ibsen's play that sometimes obscures the message of his adaptation. Additionally there are some odd choices that one doesn't know how to interpret- one might expect the Lovborg character to be a passionate free thinking modern artist rather than the moeneyed square in a suit that he is here, for instance. Nonetheless, there is a good deal of wicked fun in this "queer" revision and an exceptional performance - by Vince Nappo, playing the role based on Tesman - among some very good ones. Nappo, brilliant last Summer in Other Bodies at The Fringe, is the kind of actor who seems to make nothing but intelligent choices in his approach to a character and who fills up every moment on stage.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

West Side Story

photo: Joan Marcus

You watch the dancing in this revival - skirt hems being lifted, men leaping through the air with one arm up and the other out - and marvel at the brilliance of Jerome Robbins' craft, but you don't feel the tension that the dances used to convey; the choreography of West Side Story has dated in a way that the moves in On The Town have not, perhaps because we've seen so much dance in the intervening years to express urban danger and bravado. Still, aside from hearing the glorious score, the dancing is the best reason to see this mostly unexciting revival in which none in the principal cast - apart from Karen Olivo, very good as Anita - are up to the task. (Josefina Scaglione does well as Maria in the first act - she's remarkably credible at sincerity and innocence - but she lacks the dramatic heft to be effective in the second.) The much-discussed infrequent use of Spanish for select scenes turns out to be nothing more than decorative: sometimes it's contrary to common sense, such as when Anita and Maria don't want the policeman to know what they're planning but speak in English, after having sung all of "A Boy Like That/I Have A Love" in Spanish.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Little Night Music

Photo: Carlos Gustavo Monroy

In a perfect world, there would always be a top-notch production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's A Little Night Music running nearby. This isn't a perfect world, so the production of Night Music at the White Plains Performing Arts Center was a rare and lovely treat. Yes, the production values were nonexistent. Yes, the orchestra was too small. Yes, the cast was uneven. But the production still managed to capture the wistful humor and rueful romance that make Night Music unique among musicals. (The show is in my top five musicals ever.) Stand-out performances by Mark Jacoby, Erin Davie, Eddie Egan, and Sheila Smith certainly helped, and the score and the book remain as wonderful and new as they were in 1972.

I would have enjoyed the show even more if the high school class sitting nearby had ever shut up (they even changed seats during the show so they could talk to different people!). The management of the theatre spoke to them during intermission, and I moved to the other side of the theatre for the second act, but the unruly, unmannered little twerps deprived me of the full enjoyment of a solid production of a gentle masterpiece.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

God of Carnage

photo: Joan Marcus

The overarching idea is ripe for comedy - two civilized well-to-do married couples meet to smooth over a playground fight between their children but soon sink to sandbox level themselves - and the quartet of fine actors have a blast throwing mud at each other. Once the play gets up to full swing, there are laughs to be had of the "rage beneath the calm" variety, as well as the considerable pleasure of seeing these performers (James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, and Hope Davis) play such primal emotion and childish behavior. But too much in the set-up of Yasmina Reza's play, translated from French by Christopher Hampton, is woefully contrived: we don't believe that the couples would stay in the same room together after their first insults, and after that we especially don't believe, as written and staged, that each of the couples would in-fight in front of the other. Since the premise of the bitter comedy depends on our belief in and recognition of the civilized social pretenses that the couples first exhibit, the careless set-up costs the play a good deal of its potential impact and keeps it from amounting to anything more than an actors' playground.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Incident At Vichy

photo: Steve Kunken

While not from the playwright's top drawer, this one-act strongly bears his unmistakable stamp: you know you're in Arthur Miller territory when characters turn to each other and say things like "We have learned the price of idealism". The play - in which a line of men await questioning in Nazi-occupied France with the gradual realization of their fate - is wordy and creaky, but its arguments are world sized and timeless, and it can work well enough if there is sufficient gravity and tension on stage. Unfortunately that's exactly what's lacking in this production by The Actors Company: the stakes haven't been raised to life-or-death level, so the actors too often sound like they are making the playwright's speeches rather than struggling to make sense of humanity.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thirst: A Spell For Christabel

Reviewed for Theatermania.

The Cambria


The young Frederick Douglass spent six months in Ireland, finding there the morale boost he needed to continue his abolitionist crusade. I spent an hour and a half at the Irish Arts Center in New York on St. Patrick's day, getting my first taste of Donal O'Kelly's work. The Cambria concerns not Douglass's time in Europe but the ocean voyage itself. Mr. O'Kelly and director Raymond Keane bring it to life as a richly fictionalized tale of colorful figures and high drama at sea. Embodied by Mr. O'Kelly and Sorcha Fox — both superb actors — these people are by turns amusing, inspiring, and a little scary. The language is worthy of the mantle of the great Irish dramatists of the past — warm, poetic, funny, pained, sprightly yet always faintly weighted, but never bitter. The Cambria provides one of those concentrated, magical experiences one hopes for every time one takes one's seat in a theater.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exit the King

Photo: Jason Bell

It's interesting to imagine experiencing Eugene Ionesco's work in the 1950s and ‘60s when it was new and groundbreaking. In the past four or five decades, many of Ionesco’s devices have become, if not commonplace, not unusual, and Ionesco's work simply cannot have the impact it once had. Exit the King, currently previewing on Broadway with Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon, seems a bit like a museum piece, only intermittently brought to life, mostly by Rush’s staggeringly textured, physical, and brilliant performance and Andrea Martin’s comic timing and sheer likeability.

Our Town

photo: Carol Rosegg

You don't walk out of David Cromer's bold, unforgettable production of Our Town talking about its craft, although there would be plenty to say in praise of it. You walk out newly devastated by Thornton Wilder's play even if you went in, as I did, feeling that you already knew it and were at least a little immune. Cromer (who also plays the Stage Manager narrator) makes some daring directorial but they are brilliant and purposeful in their service to the play, culminating in a third act that is almost unbearably powerful and immediate. This is a must-see, as soon as possible.

33 Variations

photo: Joan Marcus

Moises Kaufman's play is the sort that gives "middlebrow" a bad name, a superficial modern-day disease drama which has been given the stink of pretentiousness thanks to its historical scenes of Beethoven. Jane Fonda certainly holds the stage despite being absent from it for four and a half decades, but her magnetism can't hide that she's playing an underwritten character whose primary conflict (with her daughter, played by Samantha Mathis) is dramatically inert.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Little Night Music

Reviewed for Theatermania.


Photo: Aubrey Reuben

Over the years, I've heard wonderful stories about Miscast, the yearly benefit for MCC Theatre in which people perform songs they'd usually never get to sing. Highlights I heard about included Kristin Chenoweth and Harvey Fierstein playing Tevye (her) and Golde (him); Cheyenne Jackson singing "Can't Help Loving That Man of Mine"; and
Kelli O'Hara, Brian d'Arcy James, and Steven Pasquale doing "Totally Fucked." Miscast has become the thing of legend. Unfortunately, this year's version will not add to the mystique, partially due to the painfully unbalanced miking, which was both unclear and too loud--a deadly combination.

Some of the performances: Kelli O'Hara sang a semi-operatic "This Nearly Was Mine" that I can't judge fairly since her high notes were so overamplified as to be hypersonic. Beth Leavel did a version of "I Am What I Am" in which no form of overacting was neglected. Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit competed in a "butt off" to see who looked better in their costume from the part in Wicked they both played, years apart. Alice Ripley sang "Epiphany" from Sweeney Todd. Raul Esparza provided a pretty impressive "Man Who Got Away." Steven Pasquale unleashed his amazing voice on "Free at Last" from Big River and "Maybe" from Annie (which he sang as an adult song of longing). Daniel Breaker was charming and funny doing "So Much Better" from Legally Blonde. Everything would have landed better with decent sound.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Disco Inferno

Photo: Vincent DiSalvio, The Journal News

Disco Inferno is a deeply silly jukebox musical that manages to
thoroughly entertain with its wisecracks, vintage disco ("I Will Survive," "Don't Give Up On Us Baby"), ridiculous fashions (platform shoes!), and energetic dances. At Nyack High School this past weekend, the dozens of wonderful teens on stage gave it their all, and a great time was had by pretty much everyone. (Full disclosure: my nephew has a fairly large role in the show, and when people told me how incredible he was, I saw no reason to argue.)

I love community theatre. To me it's like sherbert to clear my palate of the gossip and stunt casting and overpriced tickets and sometimes tremendous letdown of professional (particularly Broadway) theatre, allowing me a clear, clean enjoyment of the energy and immediacy of live performance. I enjoy watching people on stage working their butts off for the love of it. I appreciate the surprisingly large amount of talent in the world, and I admire the bravery of people who perform without any talent at all. There's a purity to community theatre that is refreshing and touching. I would hate to go a year without seeing at least one amateur (as in, from the Latin to love) show.

Monday, March 09, 2009



Photo: Erica Parise

Tartuffe is a play for our time, wherever and whenever one sets it; judging from his new Great Depression adaptation, Jeff Cohen, Artistic Director of Dog Run Rep and director of this production, understands this. His verse is primarily conversational, but it is elevated where it needs to be -- elevated, however, not into self-conscious poetics, but into the tones and rhythms of high comedy, especially the American line that runs from vaudeville through the great TV sitcoms of the 1950s. To "fund" his vision of the play, Mr. Cohen has at hand an embarrassment of riches in the form of a superb cast, including Christina DeCicco (Glinda in the Wicked national tour), Tom Ford (By Jeeves on Broadway), and a somewhat underused Brian Linden, who was so wickedly foppish in The Country Wife two years ago. It's almost criminal that you only have to pay off-off-Broadway prices for the level of talent on display here. Go quickly, there are too few performances and not many seats at each.

Read the full review.

Sunday, March 08, 2009



(re:) Directions Theatre Company's extended Figar-anza with music is an exercise in extremes and an interesting concept. Unfortunately, half is also an ordeal. In German-language playwright Ödön von Horváth's rather dark sequel to The Marriage of Figaro, Figaro Gets a Divorce, a time-transposed Count and Countess, the steward Figaro, and his wife Susanna have fled a 20th century Communist revolution into an unnamed neighboring country. While the fallen Count enters a downward spiral of gambling and depression, Figaro returns to barbering in a small town. But marital issues and conflicting ideals push the barber and Susanna apart, and she ends up alone, waitressing in a cafe. Exploring what happens to the fallen nobility and examining how the various servant characters at home and abroad might retain or transfer their loyalties is an interesting idea. But either von Horváth's play is very bad, or it has been adapted very badly.

Fortunately, at off-off-Broadway prices, you can get your money's worth just from the first half, a clever, cheery, mostly well-played, compressed telling of Beaumarchais' original late 18th century play, adorned with musical themes from Mozart's famous opera. It's a small tour de force of distilled, manic storytelling, expertly directed and nicely played. Gillian Wiggin's Susanna is especially delightful; in this telling she bears the greatest dramatic weight, along with her share of the comic, and does it wonderfully well. She alone makes the dreadful second half faintly bearable.

Read the full review.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Christine Jorgensen Reveals

Christine Jorgensen, world-famously sex-changed from man to woman in the early 1950's, is painstakingly brought to life before our eyes as Bradford Louryk lip-syncs to the (first?) transgendered celebrity's hourlong audio recorded interview from 1958. The piece is a breathtaking feat of theatre - Louryk's margin of error is nil, since even a cough would break the illusion - and it offers among many other things a fascinating peek at the era's societal attitudes about homosexuality and gender conditioning. Louryk may be limited to what Jorgensen said and how she said it on the recording, but his characterization is hardly limited by it - a full portrait emerges of a woman who met the public's freak-show fascination with grace, class, and candor.


The producers of Impressionism have delayed the opening because they feel that the play needs work. They are right. Since I saw an early preview, and since I didn't stay for the second act, I am not going to review the show as a whole. However, I must mention that the show's depiction of a native of Tanzania is amazingly racist and retrograde, not to mention completely embarrassing. Coincidentally, I was in Tanzania exactly a year ago, and I met smart, dignified, proud, hard-working people. I didn't meet a single person who danced around like some sort of wise native Tinkerbell with a soupçon of Mammy thrown in.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Universal Robots

Sometimes the second a show begins you know you're in good hands. I felt that way at the beginning of Universal Robots, and the rest of the show more than lived up to that initial impression. Using Karel Čapek's classic play R.U.R. as a starting point, playwright Mac Rogers and director Rosemary Andress have created an evening of theatre that makes me wish that the Tony Award people would recognize Off-Off-Broadway shows. Presented as a ritual of remembrance ("The year is 2009. The last human being died in 1971. Each year we gather together to tell the story that we never ever forget."), Universal Robots tells a story of pride, foolishness, love, and the corruption of power and reconsiders the meaning of the words "human" and "humane." It does this in an amazingly entertaining three hours that fly by as poets and scientists try to improve the world, robots are created and "perfected," people fall in love, and the human race manages to commit suicide in a method that is chillingly believable. The brilliant ten-person cast makes you feel like you've seen a cast of hundreds, all excellent. Jason Howard as Radius, a robot who gradually develops a soul, gives as good a performance as I've ever seen. The other wonderful actors are Esther Barlow, David Lamberton, David Ian Lee, Michelle O'Connor, Ridley Parson, Nancy Sirianni, Tarantino Smith, Ben Sulzbach, and Jennifer Gordon Thomas.


wHappiness, currently in previews at the Lincoln Center Theatre, has excellent bloodlines; its book is by John Weidman (Pacific Overtures, Assassins) and its music and lyrics are by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie (Grey Gardens). But it does not live up to its creators' earlier works. The book is illogical (I'm not referring to its overall premise), and the characters thin. While some of the music is nice, there are no standouts at the level of "Will You," "Revolutionary Costume," or "Another Winter in a Summer Town" from Grey Gardens. For all I know, the lyrics may be wonderful, but they were frequently unintelligible due to murky sound and some iffy enunciation.

(Spoilers ahead!) The characters are dead people choosing a perfect moment in which to spend eternity. But Weidman, Frankel, and Korie seem more interested in being inclusive (which I support!) than in being believable (which I don't). I don't believe that Ken Page's character would choose to spend eternity in a moment when his boyfriend was desperately ill. I also don't buy that Joanna Gleason's character went from being a hippie doing good works to a nasty right-wing homophobe because at a reunion she discovered that her classmates made more money than she did (a twist that manages to insult both hippies and right-wing homophobes!). More importantly, I was not touched by anyone's story, and from the response of the audience (tepid), I was not alone.

Despite all this, I feel that the show has potential. I guess I just can't rule out those bloodlines.

Rock-It Science Festival

First, full disclosure: one of my closest friends produced this one-night event at the Highline Ballroom, in which noted scientists who happen to rock and roll were on the bill with science-friendly musicians. The show was thrillingly eclectic (and at 25 bucks the bargain of the century): there's surely never been an event before where you could see one of the world's most important neuro-scientists stradding a guitar one minute and hear downtown entertainer Anna Cabana play "Enter Sandman" on the xylophone the next. The evening was anchored by a stunning thirty minute set by Rufus Wainwright that opened with "Grey Gardens" and included top-drawer gems like "The Art Teacher" and "Going To A Town". Other science-friendly acts included elegant jazz singer Pamela Luss, a house band featuring Lenny Kaye and Steve Wynn, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, and the three Broadway leads of Rock of Ages on stage together for the first time. First on their feet in the audience to rock out old school for Dee Snider's set, Constantine Maroulis and Amy Spanger soared spectacularly through a hair band ballad before introducing James Carpinello, who tore up Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" like a genuine rock star.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Essentially, Lisa Loomer's dramedy is a topical issue play - as a suburban mom narrator susses out whether she should medicate her ADD-addled son, we're presented with even amounts of argument on either side. (Arguably, the play avoids clearly advocating one or the other, it doesn't pull a Next To Normal and hard-sell some naive easy answer.) What saves the play from dull, well-meaning Lifetime movie status is that the playwright has hyped it up with dynamic meta business - the kid announces the scene changes, the mom tells other actors to take on multiple roles, etc. - as if pitched to an audience that is itself attention disordered. The production design follows suit, with a two leveled sensory overloaded unit set. The show is lucky to have Cynthia Nixon as the mom: she can play the character's earnest concern without making her come off like a drip, and she gives the fourth-wall breaking narration an easy charm. Although it is more topical than deep and doesn't engage much emotion, the play goes down easily as light entertainment.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

God of Carnage

In God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza (Art), two couples get together to discuss, in a civilized manner, an incident between their 11-year-old sons that left one boy without his incisors. I saw an early preview, so some things are likely to change.
  • Here is what will likely get even better: the performances of Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, and James Gandolfini.
  • Here is what will likely remain the same, unfortunately, since this play already had a successful run in London: characters who keep saying they're going to leave when you know they can't because then the play would end; unconvincing revelations of personality that seem like devices to keep the plot moving; echos of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf that only serve to emphasize God of Carnage's weaknesses; and a forced comparison to violence in Africa that attempts to give the play a weight it hasn't earned.
  • And here's why much of this may not matter: the show has some very funny moments; the actors are so good that they frequently rise above the material; and much of the audience gave the show a standing O (unless they were standing for Tony Soprano, which is completely possible).

The Savannah Disputation

Reviewed for Theatermainia.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Expatriates


The Expatriates, playing as part of the Frigid Festival, aims to bring to life the vanished age of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald through a non-chronological sequence of scenes in the author's life among the literati and glitterati with whom he drank, wrote, and fornicated. Unfortunately, a wishy-washy Fitzgerald (Harrison Williams) and a hard-to-understand Zelda (Morgan Lindsey Tachco) left me underwhelmed, while strained staging and poor pacing prevented the script's sometimes evocative repartee from blooming. The versatile Jenny Bennett is amusing as Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, and Dorothy Parker, but the gangly Preston Copley makes a colorless Ernest Hemingway; he'd probably be great in Jimmy Stewart roles, but doesn't make any sense as Papa H. Other small supporting turns score better, but with few sparks in its engine and no sure hand at the tiller the play veers off course before it can ever get a fix on its twinkling stars.

The Question House


What if there were a house in which only questions could be spoken? Does that sound, well, Jewish? What if I told you that the premise is that Harvey Krytz (Howard Green) had a rabbinical vision some 40 years ago, and has operated out of these mystical quarters ever since? Could it be that this show is pretty much just an extended comedy skit? Then again, if it's fresh, crisply paced, and doesn't overstay its welcome, what's wrong with an extended comedy skit? When you get right down to it, isn't it all about the fun playwright Tara Dairman has with the constant tension (and the humor) engendered by her conceit? Who'll slip up? Who'll escape from the Question House? Will we? Will you? Can you find time to see The Question House before the Frigid Festival ends on March 8?

Read the full review.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mabou Mines DollHouse

Photo: Richard Termine

Mabou Mines DollHouse, adapted by Lee Breuer (who directed) and Maude Mitchell (who plays Nora) from Ibsen’s A Doll House, is a brilliant, thrilling, superb, eye-opening, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, entertaining night in the theatre. The concept of matching unusually short men with unusually tall women is only the starting point of a re-creation of Ibsen’s classic that supports and illuminates the original work by physicalizing the entrapment of late-19th-century women as they distort themselves, inside and out, in desperate attempts to fit into the emotional doll houses in which they must live. It also recognizes the price the men pay in keeping up what Breuer refers to in the program as “a meta-narrative playing out an illusion of male power," a price that he identifies as "the death of love." As this production unfolds, with more coups de theatre per half hour than most directors could be expected to produce in a lifetime, the funniest scenes can be the most chilling, and vice versa. The superb cast includes Maude Mitchell, Mark Povinelli, Janet Giradeau, Ricardo Luis Gil, and Hannah Kritzeck. The brilliant designers include Narelle Sissons (set), Mary Louise Geiger (lighting), Meganne George (costumes), and Jane Catherine Shaw (puppets). The piano accompaniment is beautifully performed by the marvelously deadpan Ning Yu.

La Sonnambula

Photo: Brigitte Lacombe/Metropolitan Opera

The final dress rehearsal of La Sonnambula at the Metropolitan Opera was open to the public and free (people got in line up to four hours early for tickets). It’s not appropriate to review a dress rehearsal, since it’s not an actual performance and criticizing anything would be unfair. Not to worry—there was little to complain about in this delightful, gorgeously sung and produced confection. The plot is dumb (innocent girl sleepwalks into bed of mysterious count; boyfriend freaks out), but Mary Zimmerman’s show-within-a-show structure makes it more interesting. Bellini’s music is glorious, and the amazing cast, led by the wonderful Natalie Dessay as the sleepwalker, sings it gloriously.

This Beautiful City


Photo: Carol Pratt

Like disgraced evangelist Ted Haggard, who is the focal point if not the subject of the show, This Beautiful City rides high on a wave of infectious energy through the climax of its first act, then loses its way. The authors and cast traveled to Colorado Springs to interview some of its Evangelical citizens, both leaders and laypeople, along with members of the broader community. It's not the first time a theatrical piece has been created from collected or found materials. The subject matter here is pretty juicy, and as luck (or Satan) would have it, the story of Haggard's drug abuse and secret gay sex life broke just then, giving the visiting New Yorkers an unexpected dramatic turning point for their creation.

The show shares the high-spirited pop sensibility of Avenue Q, another enjoyable but less-than-great product of the Vineyard Theatre. The characters -- charismatic preachers and gay rights activists, believers and nonbelievers, militants and military, angry folk and scary folk -- are an extremely colorful assortment, and the cast of six has a grand time embodying them all. But interesting characters and a lone dramatic twist can take us only so far. In Act One we get to know and appreciate these people. After that, nothing really happens.

Read the full review.