Monday, July 18, 2016

When Less is More: The 90-Minute Play

My latest essay is up at Art Times:
What accounts for the rise of the intermissionless 90-minute play? A prevalent theory points to the shrinking attention spans of a population inundated 24/7 with news, information, entertainment, and gossip. 

I think this theory relies on knee-jerk conventional wisdom and ignores the huge success of, oh, Hamilton, which runs 2:45; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which also runs 2:45; and 2014’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, The Flick, which runs a quiet and plotless three hours; all three have intermissions.
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Wendy Caster

Sunday, July 17, 2016


It's almost impossible to discuss James Graham's new play Privacy without saying too much. So here's what I will say:

  • Privacy is a frequently entertaining, sometimes horrifying examination of (the lack of) privacy in today's world, as seen from the point of view of someone new to the world of online dating.
  • Daniel Radcliffe's charm and sheer likability carry the play through some dull parts.
  • Privacy would be much improved with 20 minutes or so carved away.
  • The rest of the cast is also pretty wonderful: De'Adre Aziza, Raffi Barsoumian, Michael Countryman, Rachel Dratch, and Reg Rogers.
  • Josie Rourke's direction is well-paced and creative.
All in all, Privacy is a well-disguised lecture that I'm glad I saw.

Wendy Caster
member ticket; 10th row

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Have you ever not completely connected with a show when you first sat through it, only to fall head over heels in love with it in retrospect? It's happened to me on only a few occasions that I can recall. I was amused and entertained by Passing Strange, for example, but not so passionately that I was even remotely prepared to wake up the following morning with the almost physical urge to listen to the cast recording over and over again, thereby cementing my embrace of a show I'd been unsure about in the first place.

I'm back there with Hadestown, a gorgeous, strange theatrical rendering of the 2010 concept album of the same name by Anais Mitchell. The production, running through the end of the month at New York Theatre Workshop, boasts a terrific cast, whose voices are haunting and appropriately weird. The visual aspects of the production are gorgeously rendered, thanks in part to Rachel Chavkin, an innovative director whose current hot status is well-deserved. The backing band is jumping, the music is catchy, and the set and lighting deceptively simple. The numbers alternate between deeply affecting ("Flowers"), amusingly jaunty ("Our Lady of the Underground"), and bone-chillingly prescient ("Why We Built the Wall", which is one of the catchiest songs on the album, and also the ickiest given the current political climate). Still, while I found myself loving the show's many parts, the finished product initially left me cold, since it doesn't try too hard to fill in all the narrative gaps left by the original album.

Joan Marcus