Glass Menagerie, The
Belasco Theater

Sally Field should be declared a national treasure. Very few frequent theatergoers haven’t seen The Glass Menagerie, many times and in several incarnations. But I doubt anyone has ever seen an Amanda Wingfield like Field. As the matriarch of a family which is barely a step away from poverty, Amanda does what she can to bring in a little money by selling magazine subscriptions over the phone. She is chatty and cheerful during these calls, but underneath, she wants to scream at having to grovel.

Michall Jeffers
Little Foxes, The
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

There is nothing like a crackling family drama and few deliver it with as much crunch and bite as Lillian Hellman delving into her Alabama gene pool. However, what makes the current production of Hellman's 1939, The Little Foxes an especially tempting slice of malevolent enjoyment is the bitch-goddess, Regina, and the actress who portrays her. The Manhattan Theater Club's answer? Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon, two talented stage actors, are alternating those Southern belles, one evil, the other damaged and frail.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Oslo
Lincoln Center - Vivian Beaumont Theater

The widely acclaimed Off-Broadway production of J. T. Rogers’s play, Oslo, >last year in Lincoln Center's Mitzi Newhouse Theater has now moved to the spacious Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater. The story, documented but almost completely unknown, is rich and ambitious. The wide stage illuminates its dramatic depth, presenting its vitality and timeliness with more strength and humor than the previous production. Watching it today, when diplomacy seems frighteningly absent in our current political atmosphere, this behind-the-scenes exploration is especially thrilling.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Anastasia
Broadhurst Theater

Christy Altomare is a shining star; a true beauty with a soaring soprano voice and real acting chops; who wouldn’t believe she’s the late czar’s youngest daughter? At least, that’s the plan, as hatched by the rascally Vlad (John Bolton) and Dmitry (Derek Klena). They’re not really bad, as con men go, but they see a chance for a big score when the outcast orphan Anya comes into their lives. She’s the perfect candidate for them to prep as Princess Anastasia.

Michall Jeffers
Sex with Strangers
Geva Theater - Fielding Studio

Sex with Strangers has been making the rounds. Developed through Steppenwolf Theater Company’s New Play Initiative, its world premiere was at Steppenwolf in Chicago, and its New York premiere was at Second Stage Theater New York in 2014. Geva’s production was originally staged at Kitchen Theatre Company in Ithaca, NY March 12-April 2, 2017.

Herbert M. Simpson
Chicago
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

The city of Milwaukee is a lot closer to Chicago than it is to Washington, D.C., but the musical Chicago is basically a next-door neighbor to the national capital in terms of what it takes to succeed. A solid production of Chicago recently played in Milwaukee as part of its regular Broadway series.

Anne Siegel
Dearly Departed
West Coast Black Theater

Where are both a death and its aftermath funny?  In a play that leads to a funeral of a Dearly Departed but is anything but funereal. It takes a strange path from a play about Southern rustics to a film in which all were also African Americans and to this stage version that mimics the film. Indeed, with its multitude of scenes, it seems overly long and complicated, though perhaps its best feature is The Joy of Life Singers bringing music into the darkness of scene shifts.

Marie J. Kilker
War Paint
Nederlander Theater

It is no surprise that Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole two of Broadway’s most beloved Tony-winning performers, each with her own cadre of diehard followers, are filling the seats at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater. It is equally unsurprising that the audience goes over the moon after each Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics) War Paint song that they sing. And there are some twenty of them.

Edward Rubin
Hello, Dolly!
Shubert Theater

There’s always something so exhilarating about seeing a hit show, and Hello, Dolly! delivers that excitement in spades. This is a lavish production, and it warms my heart to see the money on the stage. Dolly! is a sold out smash, and people begin lining up early in the afternoon just for a chance of being able to buy a ticket, any ticket, for the next performance. And it ain’t cheap.

Michall Jeffers
Conspiracists, The
IRT Theater

“Every time they fire up The Large Hadron Collider, they open up a portal to a parallel universe,” a character in The Conspiracists points out. What’s more, “the collider was fired up 12 hours ago.” Quite promising for the first scene of a play. Or the second or third, for that matter. And indeed, we hear these lines in all three scenes of The Conspiracists, a clever play by Max Baker.

Steve Capra
Linda Vista
Steppenwolf Theater

It's been said of the United States that everything not fastened down eventually rolls westward to California, so it's unsurprising that we meet our AARP-aged protagonist adrift in San Diego, where cheap bachelor apartments come with two bedrooms, a swimming pool, cactus-fruit margaritas and a Vietnamese immigrant colony next door.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Groundhog Day
August Wilson Theater

Andy Karl gets a huge hand just for appearing on stage. The applause isn’t only for his reputation as a performer; in large part, the audience is applauding the guts he’s displayed by going on despite a potentially career-ending knee injury.

Michall Jeffers
Little Foxes, The
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

How our perception changes with time and circumstances. In The Little Foxes, Regina Giddens is routinely excoriated for being a cold, heartless woman who’ll do anything to get what she wants. In this day and age, that judgment is far from a foregone conclusion. Maybe in less skilled hands she’s be the female equivalent of the moustache-twirling villain, but Cynthia Nixon lets us see so much more. Regina is intelligent, ambitious, and shrewd; none of these qualities has been rewarded in the atmosphere of the deep South in the spring of 1900.

Michall Jeffers
Exonerated, The
Florida Studio Theater - Keating

A decade ago, I reviewed The Exonerated positively for its power at presenting true cases of people of all kinds wrongly imprisoned. This drama fortunately retains all of its power. Unfortunately, its subject has also retained its currency. Lest we forget, in its strong presentation, we are moved to support efforts to seek justice for those wrongly accused of crimes and punished.

Marie J. Kilker
Room Sings, The
La MaMa

Sitting in the audience of The Room Sings, I thought of Caliban’s marvelous speech in The Tempest:
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.

Steve Capra
Carnival
Tenth Street Theater

Even as the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus is packing its tents for good, one of Milwaukee’s pluckiest theater companies isn’t going to let the sun set on the big top — at least not yet. In Tandem Theatre is presenting the rarely staged musical, Carnival. And the bag of free popcorn you get when entering the performing space is only one of many treats in store.

Anne Siegel
Violet Hour, The
Studio Theater

There’s more than meets the eye in Richard Greenberg’s riveting The Violet Hour, in a production by Milwaukee’s Renaissance Theaterworks. The characters seem quite normal, as they come in and out of a publishing house in New York City in 1919. At the center of things is John Pace Seavering (Neil Brookshire), who’s just starting a publishing career after his recent graduation from Princeton. In his office, almost overrun by paper (mostly unsolicited manuscripts by would-be authors), Seavering has just enough of Daddy’s money to publish one book.

Anne Siegel
Come from Away
Gerald Schoenfeld Theater

The award for best ensemble on the New York stage should be handed out right now; the cast of Come from Away simply can’t be beat. Not coincidentally, this example of the best in theater is also an example of Canada at its best. On 9/11, 200 airplanes landed at the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, diverted and stranded there because American airports were shut down. Typically, the count was about a half dozen. Suddenly, the small town was faced with the challenge of accommodating 6,700 extra people.

Michall Jeffers
King of the Yees
Goodman Theater

Lauren Yee's play is a chronicle of San Francisco's Chinatown that refuses to turn a blind eye to its corrupt politicians and gangster warlords. It's also a tour of the district, with exotic xenophile-pleasing sights cited by names and addresses, in addition to cute parade lions, CGI action-movie violence and silly fortune-cookie games.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Failure: A Love Story
Kirk Douglas Theater

The angel of death hovers over a preternaturally cheerful 1920s Chicago family in Failure: A Love Story, now playing at the Kirk Douglas. The play, which is a remount of Coeurage Theatre Company’s 2015 staging, is being presented by CTG as part of its new Block Party series (and its 50th anniversary season.)

Willard Manus
Oslo
Lincoln Center - Vivian Beaumont Theater

Oslo is definitely a thinking person’s play. The subject matter itself is thought provoking; is peace in the Middle East possible? How do you get people who hate and blame each other into the same room to discuss and resolve important issues? Norwegians Terje Rod-Larsen (Jefferson Mays) and his wife, Mona Juul (Jennifer Ehle), think they may have the answer.

Michall Jeffers
Great Expectations
Milwaukee Chamber Theater - Cabot Theater

It’s nice to see another Dickens classic being revived besides A Christmas Carol, arguably his best-known story. Milwaukee Chamber Theater tackles Great Expectations with a vengeance. Like Dickens’s other books, Great Expectations has a large and varied cast of characters. Also, it floats from one location to another in the blink of an eye. And it carries the burden of delivering timeless themes about the nature of humanity. This is what great literature is all about.

Anne Siegel
Punk Rock
Odyssey Theater

Punk Rock, now in a Los Angeles premiere at the Odyssey, is a British play about a Columbine-like campus shooting. It is written by Simon Stephens, one of Britain’s finest and most controversial young playwrights—his Pornography shook up the staid London theater world in 2007.

Willard Manus
Rare Birds
14th Street Y

Adam Szymkowicz’s play, Rare Birds, which has just been produced by The Red Fern Theater Company at the 14th Street Y (off-off-Broadway), is a study of high school bullying. I’m going to tell you the plot, so beware – I include a spoiler! I’m doing it because it needs to be discussed in detail.

Steve Capra
Rep Lab
Milwaukee Repertory - Stiemke Studio

Of all the shows offered this season by Milwaukee’s flagship theater, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the toughest ticket to get may be the Rep Lab. Consider this: the actors are all emerging artists (unfamiliar to audiences), and the names of these short plays aren’t announced before the programs are handed out when audience members walk into the theater.

Anne Siegel
Legend of Georgia McBride, The
Geffen Playhouse - Gil Cates Theater

A drag show with heart, The Legend of Georgia McBride tells the feel-good story of Casey (Andrew Burnap), an Elvis impersonator at Cleo’s, a Florida Panhandle dive, who discovers he can make bigger bucks by impersonating women. The play, first produced by Denver Center Theater in 2015 and now in its West Coast premiere at the Geffen, is a bawdy, raucous hoot, thanks to Matthew Lopez’s outrageously funny script, Mike Donahue’s expert direction, and to the dazzling work by Burnap and his four fellow actors (Matt McGrath, Nija Okoro, Larry Powell, and Nick Searcy).

Willard Manus
Present Laughter
St. James Theater

First reaction upon seeing Kevin Kline: Damn, he’s handsome. Perfect casting for the vain, egocentric actor Garry Essendine, the renowned lover whose greatest love is his own reflection. This is definitely a fine figure of a man; it’s easy to see why silly girls gush over him and mature women lust for him. Even when we first see him, coming down the stairs disheveled and hung over, he’s still dishy. Once again, Garry has had quite a night, and the melodramatic debutante ensconced in the spare bedroom has fallen for his line and reaped the reward.

Michall Jeffers
War Paint
Nederlander Theater

This show should come with a subtitle: Dueling Divas. It’s the story of two giants of the world of makeup, the Polish-Jewish Helena Rubinstein (Patti LuPone) and the cooler Canadian Wasp, Elizabeth Arden (Christine Ebersole). The scene is New York City, and the time shifts from 1935 through 1964. In the beginning of their reign, “nice” women didn’t wear makeup, and they certainly didn’t fixate on it. So, the job of convincing them that they needed as much artifice as possible was a relentless battle.

Michall Jeffers
Play That Goes Wrong, The
Lyceum Theater

Odds are that the Mischief Theatre Company's production of The Play That Goes Wrong at the Lyceum Theater is the most accident-prone production on Broadway — and you'll love every minute of mayhem.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Midsummer Night's Dream, A
Marie Selby Botanical Garden - Outdoors

To thematically unite the four plots of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, director Jonathan Epstein has chosen change. FSU/Asolo Conservatory itself changes its venue to a beautiful outdoor setting with an inlet of water and isle of forest in back of a four-columned square of an inner stage. An expanse of grass between a tree with a bower on one side and bunches of bushes on the other complete the playing area, well lit by moonlight and all sorts of man-made lighting, including neon colors on costumes, even gloves.

Marie J. Kilker
Bloomsday
Next Act Theater

There’s nothing more compelling – or painful – to watch than an unrequited romance. Most of us can recall “the one who got away,” and perhaps even keeps you wondering, “what if?” In Bloomsday, by Steven Dietz, one of these romances plays out in a charming and touching way.

Anne Siegel
Beyond Caring
Water Works

If you think scrubbing out your own bathroom and kitchen is a chore, imagine applying your janitoral skills to the residue of a meat-processing plant. Would you rather be paid less than $50 a day for picking up spilled ramen noodles from the floor of the staff break-room with bare hands, or for swabbing disinfectant on bloody machines littered with scraps of raw animal flesh?

Mary Shen Barnidge
Mother of Smoke
Pride Arts Broadway

When confronted with a multiplicity of sensory stimuli, human beings tend to perceive motion first, then sound and, after that, sight. Further down the list comes verbal recognition and later, literary comprehension. Since most of this "collage" created by the Red Tape and Walkabout Theater companies presents these elements to its audience simultaneously, playgoers are advised to consult their syllabus, uh, playbill notes before the performance of Mother of Smoke commences.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Rich Girl
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz Theater

Henry James started all this with his short novel, “Washington Square.” Ruth and Augustus Goetz make it into a hit play, The Heiress, which was made into a hit movie. It’s back onstage, updated a century, with a similar heroine, a Rich Girl who’s very inhibited and not very attractive. This time it’s her mother (not father) who’s cowed her. Except for the mother’s well made-up looks, she’s not attractive either. Neither is Victoria Stewart’s overlong and under-absorbing melodrama.

Marie J. Kilker
Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, The
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

No ordinary production, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity takes place in an arena surrounded by audience. They’re in turn surrounded by giant moving projections of what happens on center stage, a metaphoric boxing ring that, also in turn, becomes an actual one. With lights flashing and rap and hip-hop blaring throughout actors’ and audience spaces, the show offers a central monologue together with environmental and interactive theater. To what purpose?

Marie J. Kilker
Tao Marayao
La MaMa ETC

Tao Marayao (The Good Person) is a dance/movement piece about the Samal Balangingi, a maritime tribe from an island in the Southern Philippines. It’s part myth, part cultural history, presented through traditional Samal dance and narrative movement. Its story concerns the Spanish Conquest, from the arrival of the conquistadors to a sort of Samal diaspora in America.

Steve Capra
Dreamgirls
Hobby Center

When I first saw the musical, Dreamgirls, back in 1982, the Broadway blockbuster was at the beginning of what would become a four-year run on The Great White Way. With the often-thrilling music of Henry Krieger, complemented by Tom Eyen’s story-telling skill for the book & lyrics, all that was needed was a stellar group of fine actors with powerful voices. That latter requirement was nicely filled with a talented original cast headed up by legendary vocal powerhouse, Jennifer Holliday.

David Dow Bentley
Sweat
Studio 54 Theater

Painfully in-the-moment, playwright Lynn Nottage's new play, Sweat, at Studio 54, takes a sharp scalpel to a working-class town in Berk County, Pennsylvania during the slippery slope of their American Dream and job security. With authority and a solid nine-person ensemble, Nottage finely crafts the disintegration of opportunities, friendships, and families swept up in whirlpools of disappointment and a cycle of drugs, violence and poverty.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Price, The
American Airlines Theater

Decisions, dissembling, consequences and family — this is the meat in Arthur Miller plays. Directed by Terry Kinney, the Roundabout production of The Price has a universality as distinct in the 21st century as it was in 1968 and features a stunning cast of Mark Ruffalo, Tony Shalhoub, Jessica Hecht, and Danny DeVito.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Elevator
The Coast Playhouse

Everybody’s nightmare — being trapped in an elevator with a bunch of strangers — comes true in Michael Leoni’s hilarious play, Elevator, which has returned to L.A. after successful productions elsewhere in the USA.

Willard Manus

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