Behanding in Spokane, A
Venice Theater - Pinkerton

Director Kelly Wynn Woodland and her cast deserve the applauding hands of every Venice Theater audience that visits the rundown motel room of A Behanding in Spokane, where two con artists try to scam one-handed Carmichael. How he lost the hand he has searched for over decades is his story that pushes the couple to craft another they hope will let them escape his murderous revenge.

Marie J. Kilker
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

Shaw called Candida both “The Mother Play” and “A Mystery Play.” As a mystery, it puzzles over whom the heroine -- wife of a minister but romantically pursued by a young poet -- will ultimately choose to love and live with. With its focus on her philosophical role and place in this comedy of realism, she’s a vehicle for Shaw’s social and Nietzsche-influenced philosophical views.

Marie J. Kilker
Talley's Folly
Laura Pels Theater

Lanford Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, Talley's Folly,currently revived by the Roundabout Theater Company at their Laura Pels Theater, is a sensitive two-hander about solitary people, very different and very similar. Even as Matt Friedman (Danny Burstein) and Sally Talley (Sarah Paulson) are obviously attracted to each other, they harbor their own secrets and have resisted falling in love. Until now.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Broadway Theater

Stuart Weitzman made Cinderella’s glass slippers! Talk about product placement!

“The Prince has Beautiful Balls,” enthuses one of the Lavishly Clad Guests at the charmingly choreographed festivity in the current and fabulous production of Cinderella, now at the Broadway Theater. Unfortunately, the enthusiastic standing ovation audience only gets to see one of the Prince’s balls. There is also a princely banquet later on, but that’s offstage, possibly because this lavishly produced musical revival already has too many props to take care of.

Glenn Loney
Next Act Theater

Playwright Craig Wright made his Broadway debut last year with his 2004 drama, Grace. The play starred Paul Rudd and Ed Asner (who played a grumpy exterminator). There are a few other characters, too, all of whom live in Florida.

The play may be small-scale, containing only a handful of characters and a single set, but it tackles issues as big as religion and one’s belief in oneself. It provides the kind of food for thought for which Next Act Theater is known.

Anne Siegel
Kinky Boots
Al Hirschfeld Theater

Does any woman not love shoes? Does any man not love kinky shoes on a woman -- or on the right man? Who could not resist a pair of sparkling red, over-the-knee, sensational boots? Stiletto heels, of course, because as Lola (Billy Porter) says in Kinky Boots, “Sex is in the heel.”

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Cry Old Kingdom
Actors Theater of Louisville - Bingham Theater

The setting is Haiti in 1964, and because the production of ATL’s Cry old Kingdomwas staged in the round and the characters all had heavy accents, I had trouble distinguishing exactly what was said when they were not facing me. But my reading of the script merely clarified some details of dialogue and reinforced my appreciation of Jeff Augustin’s poetic writing. The events of the play are intense, horrifying, exhilarating in spirit and depressing in effect, but all more suggestive in mood than literal in meaning.

Herbert M. Simpson
Revisionist, The
Cherry Lane Theater

The Revisionist which opened at the intimate Cherry Lane Theater on February 28, 2013 for a limited run has been extended, with great good cause, a couple of times.

Edward Rubin
Venus in Fur
Historic Asolo Theater

Usually I enjoy nothing more in a dramatic plot than clever structure, especially if it’s inventive, purposeful and involves real, interesting characters. Venus in Furis clever to a fault, and the fault is repetition. That doesn’t come off as well as intended, maybe because the playwright often tries for a thrill or puzzle-a-moment.

Marie J. Kilker
Whipping Man, The
Indiana Repertory Theater & Geva Theater Center

Maybe The Whipping Man, Matthew Lopez’s disturbing U.S. Civil War/ Passover Seder/ racial discrimination/ miscegenation/ religious controversies/ assassination/ animal mistreatment/ violence/ male bonding/ love-hate story requires a co-production by two first-rate theaters. It certainly has enough thematic elements to furnish a whole theatrical season of plays.

Herbert M. Simpson
Odyssey Theater Ensemble

Dublin's hard boys take center stage in the American premiere of Rank by the Irish playwright, Robert Masey. Rank,coming off previous productions in Ireland and England, is aptly titled. At the play's core is a struggle for power between two petty criminals, Jackie Farrell (Ron Bottitta) and George Kelley (David Schaal), who once were like brothers. Jackie is a casino kingpin, George a cab-driver with a gambling jones.

Willard Manus
Fabulous Palm Spring Follies, The
Plaza Theater

The California desert’s answer to Las Vegas and New York (more specifically, TV’s “The Ed Sullivan Show”) is the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies . Now in its 22nd season, the current version pays tributes to hits from the past in “Dance to the Music.”

Created and emceed by former TV producer Riff Markowitz, The Follies sticks to the formula it has followed since its opening season. It’s a blend of vaudeville, scantily clad ladies (who are at least 55), production numbers and a patriotic finale. There’s also a “star” entertainer.

Anne Siegel
Game's Afoot, The
Florida State University Center for the Performing Artz - Mertz Theater

With its hero loosely based on actual playwright William Gillette, best known for his lucrative career portraying his creation of Sherlock Holmes, The Game’s Afoottakes place in a stage version of Gillette’s real American castle. With decor of medieval armor and weapons as well as numerous doors and a library-anchored round wall that swings into a fully appointed bar, the setting is perfect for director Greg Leaming’s specialty: farce.

Marie J. Kilker
9 to 5
Bulls & Boards Dinner Theater

After a screened introduction by Dolly Parton, her 9 to 5musical pretty much follows the story of the film. It begins with the catchy, titled number sung by waking, exercising, dressing, teeth-brushing, etc. guys and dolls before they dance off to work at their never-quite-defined-business office.

Marie J. Kilker
Nine to Five

See review(s) under "9 to 5"

Whipping Man, The
Indiana Repertory Theater

On every level, the Indiana Repertory Theater production of The Whipping Manproves spot on. I had seen an intimate version of the Civil War-based drama at Barrington Stage in the Berkshires, but this staging, in a larger theater, a former downtown movie palace, is more enhanced, so there’s an entirely different feeling and context, which is totally absorbing.

Charles Giuliano
Anything Goes
Woodlands College Park Theater

It is no secret that when the Class Act Productions company put on a show, they pull out all the stops. As Director/Founder/Producer Keith Brumfield comments in his opening remarks for the printed program of the group’s latest show:
“Professional costumes, extravagant sets, authentic props, a live professional orchestra . . . these elements – along with some of the most fantastic young performers in our area – are what set Class Act apart from other youth theater groups.”

David Dow Bentley
Michael Feinstein
Houston Symphony

The anticipation is building in Montgomery County as the Houston Symphony prepares to open its new season at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion later this month. But I got a wonderful sample of musical delights to come while attending this week’s opening of the Exxon Mobil Pops with Michael Feinstein. The orchestra has never sounded better, and energetic conductor, Andrews Sill, was every inch the equal of the fine musicians in his charge.

David Dow Bentley
Clybourne Park
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Merz Theater

Clybourne Park begins in 1959 where Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, ended with the decision of an African-American family to move to that white neighborhood. Bruce Norris starts his play at their house in the last days of Bev and Russ, its white sellers, packing to leave.

Their neighbor Karl, much as this character did with Hansberry’s blacks, tries to persuade against both sale and move. He represents an association of neighbors whose socially elitist racism includes fear of their property losing value.

Marie J. Kilker
Raisin in the Sun, A
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse Theater

As Broadway waits for its next revival of the venerable A Raisin in the Sun, which is scheduled to open in 2014 with Denzel Washington in a leading role, one needn’t wait another moment in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Repertory Theater offers a powerful production of this 1959 play, widely considered to be one of the best plays of the 20th century.

Anne Siegel
Geva Theater

I saw the world premiere of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s Bob at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville in 2011. The ubiquitous Sean Daniels directed this same version at the Aurora Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2011 Daniels was Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Associate Artistic Director; now he’s Geva Theatre Center’s Artist At-Large, and also the director of the comedy Geva was playing in its Mainstage at the same time as Bobin the Nextstage. He gets around.

Herbert M. Simpson
Mark Taper Forum

If you like life to be loud, messy and combative, Tribesis the play for you.

First produced at the Royal Court Theatre, then off-Broadway last year, Tribes deals with an ASL vs. Oralism debate in a British family that does not believe in stiff upper lips. On the contrary, the mother, father and three siblings in Nina Raines' play spend their time arguing with each other at peak volume. They also think nothing of using sarcasm, insults and black humor to make their debating points.

Willard Manus
Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth
Pantages Theater

Just when you thought you knew everything about Mike Tyson -- his boxing exploits, his problems with drugs, violence, women and the law -- he explodes onto the showbiz scene with sudden, unexpected force. First there were his comic cameos in “The Hangover I & II,” now comes his one-man show Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. In it, Tyson bares all in a 90-minute spiel in which he talks about his life in blunt, profane, hilarious and charismatic fashion, drawing laughs, gasps and tears from a packed house. The heavyweight champ becomes an entertainment champ!

Willard Manus
Ring of Fire
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Stackner Cabaret

The musical revue Ring of Fire may have played Broadway, but Richard Maltby Jr.’s take on the life of American singer-songwriter Johnny Cash now sounds more like the Grand Ole Opry. At least that was the case as a pared-down version of Ringdebuted at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

Anne Siegel
The Alchemist Theater

On a snowy night, along a dark, ice-covered street, theater patrons enter an unprepossessing space. They have come to see Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Although Milwaukee’s Alchemist Theater is in its sixth season here, it’s still considered by many as one of the Milwaukee area’s fringe theaters. Perhaps its location in remote Bayview, far south of downtown Milwaukee, is part of the reason Alchemist stays in the shadows.

Anne Siegel
Skylight Theater Complex

The thin line between cop and criminal is examined in Sexsting, the cyber drama by Doris Baizley in collaboration with veteran criminal defense lawyer, Susan Raffanti. The latter, a specialist in internet crimes, provided Baizley with transcripts of actual exchanges between FBI agents posing as underaged girls and the potential predators chatting them up online. Baizley then found a way to fictionalize those transcripts and turn them into a workable drama.

Willard Manus
Beast on the Moon
Tenth Street Theater

Twenty years ago, Wisconsin playwright Richard Kalinoski’s Beast on the Moonmade its Milwaukee debut. This fact is important since the play is set in Milwaukee from 1921-1933. It tells the story of two Armenians, a man and a woman, who both lost their families in the Armenian genocide. Together, they try to start a new life in America.

In the 1995 Milwaukee production, Mary MacDonald Kerr played the leading role of Seta, a young Armenian woman. Now, MacDonald Kerr returns to the play – but this time, as its director.

Anne Siegel
City Garage

Cagedis based on a bold and clever conceit: have the two animals sharing an exhibit in an unnamed zoo played by human beings -- naked human beings, at that (Megan Kim and RJ Jones). As they prowl their confines, bored, eating, stretching, yawning, bumping chests, two white-jacketed keepers (Katrina Nelson, Leah Harf) watch them from exalted perches and comment on their behavior in non-stop psychobabble fashion.

Willard Manus
Underneath the Lintel
Broadway Theater Center - Studio Theater

Noted Wisconsin Actor James Ridge takes audiences on a journey around the world – and perhaps through the vagaries of their own souls – in an offbeat, one-person drama, Underneath the Lintel. Ridge, who has performed at American Players Theater in Spring Green, WI, for 16 years, is no stranger to Milwaukee audiences, either. He is remembered for many roles, including his one-man show, Dickens in America.

Anne Siegel
Drunkard, The
Glenridge Performing Arts Center

With the help of the GPAC players under Roberta MacDonald’s knowledgeable direction, The Drunkardisn’t mellow as a drama. It’s a laugh riot spoofing plot, characters, music, lyrics and stage devices.

A cartoonish curtain rises and footlights shine on the storied Widow Wilson and pretty daughter Mary, pitifully poor. On their rockers, they roll out their hopes that “Something Good Will Happen Soon.” But Lawyer Cribbs awaits in the wings to seize their home and Mary.

Marie J. Kilker
Early Plays
Calarts Theater

Approximately one hundred years ago, a newly formed theater company mounted Eugene O'Neill's first play, Bound East for Cardiff,in a tiny, ramshackle theater in an old fish-house on Lewis' Wharf in Provincetown, Mass. Starring in the play were the founding members of the Provincetown Players, George Cram "Jig" Cook, his poet-wife Susan Glaspell, John Reed and Robert Edmond Jones, among others.

Willard Manus
Sister Act
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

In 1992, “Sister Act” was a film starring Whoopi Goldberg as a lounge singer disguised as a nun-on-the-run. In 2009, Sister Actwas born again as a musical, this time with Whoopi Goldberg as the producer. Basically, if you enjoyed the film, you will probably love the musical. It played on Broadway until last fall and earned five Tony Award nominations.

Anne Siegel
Stop Kiss
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

Stop Kisscombines two themes into a chopped salad of a play. Its main ingredients: 1) a friendship between two women greens into love and the titled manifestion that 2} provokes a gay hate crime with aftermath. With past and present, long-to-brief duration and settings, the play’s 23(!) scenes are spiced with characters related to the principals or the crime.

Marie J. Kilker
All the Rage
Peter Jay Sharp Theater

The great monologist Martin Moran is the most charming entertainer in town in All the Rage,the solo show written and performed by him. He explores the roots of anger, forgiveness, people open, people blocked, in America and as an interpreter in Africa. He’s a masterful story-teller from start to finish, with the agility of a dancer, who, as he gives flesh to people in his encounters, touches the heart and the funny bone as he tells of his adventures with a poignant sense of humor and basic human truthfulness that is rare.

Richmond Shepard
Gift, The
Geffen Playhouse

Credulity is strained mightily in The Gift, Joanna Murray-Smith's 90-minute comedy about two dissimilar couples forming an odd emotional bond. Smith, an Australian playwright whose work has been done before at the Geffen (The Female of the Species),investigates how a single accidental moment -- the sinking of a small boat -- manages to transform all four lives in a twinkling.

Willard Manus
Family Thing, A
Stage 52

"The play's about three brothers raised by wolves," says director Chris Fields about A Family Thing, the blistering new drama by Gary Lennon which has just been mounted by the Echo Theater Company. Both Fields and Lennon happened to grow up in the Hell's Kitchen section of NYC; their matching sensibilities mesh to good effect in the production at Stage 52.

Willard Manus
I Wanna Be Loved
Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center

The great singer Barbara Morrison pays tribute to another great singer, the late Dinah Washington, in her solo show, I Wanna Be Loved, now in its world premiere run at BMPAC, the performing arts center named after the show’s star.

Willard Manus
Heap of Livin', A
Odyssey Theater

The always-stalwart actor Lawrence Pressman plays a once-famous folk singer, Ramblin' Harry, in A Heap of Livin’,a new play by Elliot Shoenman now in its world-premiere run at the Odyssey Theater.

Ramblin' Harry, a kind of poor man's King Lear, may be old, widowed and dying, but he is still raging against the dark in his ramshackle home in the Los Angeles hills, much to the consternation of his two daughters.

Willard Manus
Zelda at the Oasis
St. Luke's Theater

A sparkling performance by Gardner Reed carries the two-hander, Zelda at the Oasis,a sympathetic look at the life and psyche of the woman married to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Living in the shadows of her husband’s acclaim and in the margins of his work schedule, Zelda compensates with drink and flirtation, all the while fearing that the madness that runs in her family – and has led to her occasional institutionalization – will overtake her for good. Reed stresses Zelda’s feistiness, even as her underlying desperation becomes increasingly apparent.

David Lefkowitz
Beyond Words
Historic Asolo

In the eleven episodes comprising Beyond Words,Bill Bowers narrates, mimes, sometimes dances and acts parts of his life. From his sketch, “What Is a Boy?” through “What Makes a Boy a Man?”, he matures to his present self--happy as a performer and as a partner in a gay marriage.

Marie J. Kilker