Dreams and Other Nightmares
Tron Theater

Edwin Morgan, the subject of Liz Lochhead's biographical play, Dreams and Other Nightmares, was a Glaswegian poet, teacher and translator (“Beowulf”) who lived two separate and contradictory lives, one conventional and cozy, the other secret and stormy. The psychic split stemmed from his closeted life as a homosexual; he didn't come out until he was seventy. That meant having to hide his true nature from his parents and the world, even as he was regularly prowling parks and cinemas for rough, anonymous sex.

Willard Manus
Phantom of the Opera, The
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

This summer marks the Phantom of the Opera’s first appearance since 2009. Better yet, Milwaukee gets an early look at this restaged version of the best-selling and longest-running show in Broadway history (in fact, it’s still running). The “new” version has some strong points, including a tightened script (the show has been shortened by 15 minutes) and a more fluid approach. By this, one means that there is rarely a “static” moment in which the characters are merely standing around, trading dialogue. One sees movement everywhere.

Anne Siegel
Taking Shakespeare
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz

For a considerable amount of time during Taking Shakespeare, I thought John Murrell had titled his play ”Talking Shakespeare” because that‘s mainly what occupies the two characters. Murph, 24, a slacker addicted to video games, can’t “connect” to Shakespeare and thus “make it” in college. His mom, dean of humanities, sends him to her once-inspiring Prof, hoping she can link up boy and bard.

Marie J. Kilker
Marvin Gaye
WBTT Theater

Sheldon Rhoden looks, acts, sings and returns triumphantly to Westcoast Black Theater Troupe like the real Marvin Gaye as “Prince of Soul” music. Nate Jacobs’ revisal of an earlier version of Gaye’s story covers his career from 1950s to mid-1980s, reigning over developments in and of Motown music. The production boasts typical features that have audiences filling the space WBTT newly owns.

Marie J. Kilker
Sharon McNight
Metropolitan Room

Sharon McNight at The Metropolitan Room in Red Hot Mama: The Sophie Tucker Farewell Tour really is hot – a conflagration. Tucker, the blonde, zaftigsinger/comedienne, who was the rare performer doing “blue” material in the 20’s and 30’s, is powerfully portrayed by McNight, who has the vocal power and musicality for the songs, and the pin-point comic timing and the pizzazz for the slightly “off color” comedy delivered with the authority and voice of a master. It’s a marvelous re-creation of a unique legend.

Richmond Shepard
Sty of the Blind Pig, The
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

There are many things going on in The Sty of the Blind Pig but all so s-l-o-w-l-y. This despite the play being altered from three acts to two. With the change come constant blackouts or dimmed lights to the tunes of jazz or, in a jarring switch toward the end, train sounds. Lost in the change is the fundamental structure of exposition, embroilment, resolution that author Phillip Hayes Dean’s text would seem to demand.

Marie J. Kilker
Persuasion
Concordia University - Todd Wehr Auditorium

At first, it’s difficult to see the connection between Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion, and the Christian themes within it. But trust Acacia Theater Company, the area’s only Christian-based theater, to detect them.

Anne Siegel
When We Were Young and Unafraid
Manhattan Theater Club - Stage 1

Manhattan Theater Club's production at City Center Stage 1 is called, When We Were Young and Unafraid,yet a climate of fear shrouds the characters, both young and old. Playwright Sarah Treem sets the time in 1972, when the Women's Movement for equal rights was a controversial buzz through society. It was the tail end of the era when getting and/or performing an abortion in the United States was still a crime.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Sarasota Improv Festival 2014
Florida Studio Theater - Keating, Gompertz & Goldstein Theaters

Florida Studio Theater’s 6th annual Sarasota Improv Festival proved the best yet of its yearly performances of theater made up mostly on-the-spot. In general, the most experienced troupes showed that practice makes more perfect, and those who practiced a variety of short skits and games came off better than long-form practitioners. An exception to the latter was Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company, this year’s featured long-form troupe, cast from Chicago and NYC improv stars.

Marie J. Kilker
Clearly Invisible
Florida Studio Theater - Court Cabaret

Carl Seiger holds his audience in and with his sleight-of-hand via illusions, magic tricks, humor, and storytelling. He also brings his audience into most of his acts with grace and good reasons, not as a cheap way to amuse. No wonder he’s been brought back to Florida Studio Theater after being one of its entertainments in its first cabaret.

Marie J. Kilker
Dixie's Tupperware Party
Geffen Playhouse

Like most men, I’ve never been to a Tupperware Party. After seeing Dixie’s Tupperware Party, nothing will ever change in that regard. That’s not to say, though, that I didn’t enjoy Kris Andersson’s send-up of that venerable American institution (which just celebrated its 65th anniversary).

Willard Manus
Fuerza Bruta
Daryl Roth Theater

Fuerza Bruta: Wayrais the best spectacle/experience in town — maybe in the world. You stand for eighty minutes, and the show takes place over you. Figures fly, gymnastics, romance, swimming, music by Gaby Kerpel, all directed by Diqui James. The music has the rhythmic beat I have heard all over world in all societies and countries, from African tribes to Australian Aborigines, to Scotland — dum dada dum dum, dada dada dum dum; dum dada dum dum, dada dada dum. Our bodies move to its rhythm as the breathtaking action goes on over us.

Richmond Shepard
Just Jim Dale
Steinberg Center - Laura Pels Theater

The amazing Jim Dale has written and performs in his one-man, autobiographical English Musical Hall show, Just Jim Daleat the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theater. As he recounts his show-business life story as a singer, dancer, comedian, actor, impressionist and mime, Dale illustrates with numbers from his Broadway and other shows. He has a vivid physical agility that is very rare today, especially for a man nearing his 79th birthday.

Richmond Shepard
Three Irish Widows vs. The Rest of the World, The
Ryan's Daughter Pub

The Three Irish Widows vs. the Rest of the World, written and nimbly directed by Ed Malone, stars the agile, versatile Fergal Titley. He plays the three women and others in an Irish town and snaps from character to character physically, vocally, emotionally, in a bravura performance.

Richmond Shepard
Village Bike, The
Lucille Lortel Theater

Beautiful, sensuous Greta Gerwig shines in The Village Bikeby Penelope Skinner, directed by Sam Gold, as she turns on everyone in the theater except her non-functioning husband (Jason Butler Harner). It’s a play with very contemporary sexual relationships, including the free use of pornography for a frustrated pregnant woman. I suspect the title relates to a very old negative quip referring to a woman as “The Village Pump,” but we’re with her all the way in this one as she relates to the man she bought her bike from (Max Baker) and the plumber (Scott Shepherd).

Richmond Shepard
Curse of Oedipus, The
Antaeus Theater

First produced at the Williamstown Theater Festival in a two-evening version entitled “The Legend of Oedipus” and then workshopped in an abbreviated version at the Getty Villa in L.A., The Curse of Oedipushas now been sculpted into a 2 1/2-hour-long performance piece by the Antaeus Company.

Willard Manus
Gimplecapped
Theater Asylum

One of the surprise hits of the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival, Gimplecapped showcases the work of an ensemble of handicapped actors who refuse to be defeated by their infirmities. Not only that, they’re not afraid to laugh at themselves in a series of scripted sketches (and songs) that brim over with cheeky, irreverent humor.

Willard Manus
Becoming Dr. Ruth
Florida Studio Theater - Keating Mainstage

Inviting us into the living room of the New York City apartment she’s vacating after her third husband’s death, Dr. Ruth Westheimer revels in the chance to tell her life story onstage. Only a few intermittent calls make her pause as she recalls her past, starting with losing her German family and home as the Kindertransport sends her to a hard childhood in a Swiss orphanage. Only at the end of her tale to date will a conclusion come to her sad wondering about those closest to her whom she left behind.

Marie J. Kilker
Much Ado About Nothing
Delacorte Theater

Before us we see a villa; the green doors, striped awning, and balcony set the scene in Italy, more specifically, Messina. Filling out the stage are a high wall, covered in ivy; an orange tree; a fountain; and a garden, in full flower. Two women enter, sit down, and begin to chat while the outdoor Delacorte audience mills about. Soon the stage is alive with other characters, all speaking Italian; music actually makes the wall move. By the costumes, we can guess that the time is the late 1800’s. The audience quiets, and another magical evening of Shakespeare in the Park begins.

Michall Jeffers
Price, The
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

Early fall, 1968, an attic of a decaying NYC brownstone about to succumb to wrecking ball and loaded with dusty, once elegant furnishings, with its fourth wall removed, is the setting for a dramatic experience of classic modern realism.

Marie J. Kilker
Phantom of the Opera, The
Majestic Theater

On May 12, 2014, Norm Lewis made theater history by becoming became the first African-American performer to play the title role in The Phantom of the Operaon Broadway. Sierra Boggess returned to Christine, the role that has won her acclaim in the London and Broadway 25th Anniversaries.

Jeannie Lieberman
Women
Theater Asylum

Working from a smart, snappy script by Chiara Atik, a nine-person ensemble cast turns Womeninto a comic romp that is packing ‘em in at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Willard Manus
Shakespeare's Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace
Venice Theater's Pinkerton

What’s it like for one man to sub for a large troupe from Togo? When visa problems kept the Togo company away from the AACT World Fest 2014 in Florida, Tim Mooney stepped from an exhibit of his adaptations of Moliere and Shakespeare’s works and his other books onto Venice Theater’s second, intimate stage. With barely a bead of sweat, he works his way quickly and notably through the history of England’s kings from John to Henry VIII in actuality and via Shakespeare’s relevant plays.

Marie J. Kilker
Holler if Ya Hear Me
Palace Theater

The hip-hop show Holler if Ya Hear Me, book by Todd Kreidler, lyrics by Tupak Shakur, directed by Kenny Leon, choreographed by Wayne Cilento, is basically kvetching about the problems of being black and the desperation of being trapped in the conflicts of the neighborhood, all performed in rhymed slang verse. Saul Williams plays the ultimately self-destructive protagonist, and he is a vivid performer.

Richmond Shepard
Last Confession, The
Ahmanson Theater

Poirot to the rescue.

Well, not quite. This time around, David Suchet, now in the guise of an enlightened Vatican cardinal, tries but fails to solve the suspicious death of a newly elected pope, John Paul I (Richard O’Callaghan). In Roger Crane’s The Last Confession, Suchet plays a man of the cloth, Giovanni Benelli, who feels guilty for having failed to stand up for the liberal John Paul I when he was under attack by reactionaries in the Vatican.

Willard Manus
Noises Off
Contemporary Theater of Dallas

Noises Off,now playing at Contemporary Theater of Dallas, is British playwright Michael Frayn's funniest play. Originally produced in England in 1982, it is a play-within-a-play that involves a second-rate theatrical troupe producing the play, “Nothing On.”

Rita Faye Smith
Clown Bar
The Box

Clown Bar, a production of the Pipeline Theater Company at The Box on Chrystie Street, is a kind of vaudeville show/Halloween party by Adam Szymkowicz, with music and additional lyrics by Adam Overlett. Directed by Andrew Neisler, the show creates a kind of Clown Mystique which, real or imaginary, is quite entertaining. The cast is red-nosed, white-faced and loud, and they give you a red nose to wear as you enter.

Richmond Shepard
Dixie Swim Club, The
The Players - Mainstage

“The faster we swim, the sooner we win” proclaim former collegiate women’s swimming champs. They’re still in a close social swim with each other, meeting every few decades from 1980 to the present in a rented beach house. But each has a distinctly different personality and leads a different life.

Marie J. Kilker
Country House, The
Geffen Playhouse

The skillful and successful playwright Donald Margulies returns to the Geffen Playhouse for the sixth time with his latest work, The Country House. Commissioned by Manhattan Theater Club, which will mount the play on Broadway this fall, The Country House is a bittersweet take on a theatrical family headed by Anna Patterson (Blythe Danner), a once-famous stage actress whose career was impacted by the sudden death of her 41-year old daughter, Kathy. Grief-stricken, Anna was unable to work for a year.

Willard Manus
Pump Boys and Dinettes
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz

As originally conceived, Pump Boys and Dinettes is a satirical mini-musical with a semblance of a plot. In its latest Florida Studio Theater production, though, it pretty much emulates the cabaret revues for which FST has become famous. And audiences eat it up as with the pie and coffee served at intermission.

Marie J. Kilker
Cripple of Inishmaan, The
Cort Theater

Daniel Radcliffe will always be young Harry Potter to millions of fans. But I am here to report that the little boy has grown up, both as a man and as an actor. Now starring in his third Broadway show (following Equus and How to Succeed...), Radcliffe portrays Billy, the title character of Martin McDonagh's wonderful play, The Cripple of Inishmaan. The role is arduous, mentally as well as physically. Unlike, say, in The Elephant Man, the main character really appears to be crippled.

Elyse Trevers
After Midnight
Brooks Atkinson Theater

To celebrate jazz great Duke Ellington and his orchestra, as well as the 1923-heyday of the Cotton Club, Wynton Marsalis has handpicked a 17-piece big band and 25 performers to recreate the era in After Midnightat the Brooks Atkinson Theater.

TV’s Dule Hill (“Psych,” “The West Wing”) serves as emcee and quotes poetry from Langston Hughes. Sometimes he is the transition from one act into the next with his pleasant manner, smiling face and tap dancing.

Elyse Trevers
Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, A
Walter Kerr Theater

It's hard enough playing one role in a play, but this season Jefferson Mays is entertaining audiences by portraying an entire family. And he does it with resounding success.

Elyse Trevers
Aladdin
New Amsterdam Theater

It seems like almost everything Disney touches on Broadway turns to gold when they successfully translate animated movies into lavish family-friendly stage shows. The most recent, Aladdin,based on the extremely successful 1992 movie, is no exception.

Elyse Trevers
Shakespeare in Hollywood
Irving Theater - Mainstage

Irving Community Theater (aka Mainstage Irving) mounted a frenetic production of Shakespeare in Hollywood, but with a Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, Crazy For You)play, what other kind of production could there be? The farce, commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, had its world premiere in 2003 at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and won the Helen Hayes Award as Best New Play of the Year.

Rita Faye Smith
Baritones Unbound
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Mertz Theater

If you go thinking Baritones Unbound will imitate a famous tenors trio in a different key, are you in for a surprise! When Mark Delavan, highest toned of them, promises you “Some Enchanted Evening,” it means magic is ahead. With lowest-down baritone Jeff Mattsey, as well as Marc Kudisch, who musically gives a new meaning to sliding, the three produce a classy lead-up to ever-popular music in their classically American register. When it’s followed by a plea not just for revival but rescue, you’ll want to bind yourself to their cause.

Marie J. Kilker
Death of the Author
Geffen Playhouse

You wouldn’t think a play about such arcane subjects as plagiarism and postmodern literature would be of much interest to non-academics, but Steven Drukman’s Death of the Authorproves that theory wrong Although the play does get bogged down at times in a repetitive argument about the worth of certain contemporary literary disciplines, there is enough satire and humanity in it to satisfy a general audience. Also, a first-rate cast led by Orson Bean as a Falstaffian professor keeps breathing warm life into what could have been a long, chilly evening.

Willard Manus
BenDeLaCreme
Laurie Beechman Theater

The wonderfully intimate, 80-seat, Laurie Beecham Theater, situated across from Theater Row and a few blocks west of Broadway is one of my favorite theatrical venues. It’s located on the lower level at the West Bank Café, itself one of my favorite Pre and Post-theater drink-and-dinner haunts (their drinks are divine, and the menu’s addictive black linguini with shrimp, tomato, and sweet garlic, served at the both restaurant and theater, is to die for).

Edward Rubin
Beautiful
Stephen Sondheim Theater

The near-jubilation emanating from the Stephen Sondheim Theater as its doors open to let the revelers out is the response to the new season’s Beautiful - The Carole King Musical,a spirited jukebox production which offers a feel-good evening of special delight to her fans and all those who just want a slick, nostalgic, music-packed evening of familiar upbeat music unhindered by the hubris of deep insights or messages delivered. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Jeannie Lieberman
Aladdin
New Amsterdam Theater

Disney Does It Again! Delivers the requisite feel-good family show utilizing all the resources at hand.

Jeannie Lieberman

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