Other Desert Cities
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Mertz Theatre

On Christmas Eve 2004, the Wyeth home in Palm Springs, one of the “Other Desert Cities” referred to on a California road sign leading to Ino, is the scene of a family reunion. It isn’t pleasant, not just because the family is dysfunctional, but also because the member who ignited the sparks that fly can’t be there.

Marie J. Kilker
An Evening with Sutton Foster
Cafe Carlyle

There is Sutton Foster, theater dazzler (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Little Women, Anything Goes),singing and dancing with unfettered buoyancy and energy. She has "It," the spark to capture an audience and steal the show. But there is also Sutton Foster, the cabaret chanteuse; and while there is the voice, where is the "It"?

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Rehearsal for Murder
Eisemann Center

Pegasus Theater opened its 16th original whodunit in its trademarked, "Living Black and White" mode. Written by Pegasus founder Kurt Kleinmann, these murder mysteries have the look and feel of the black-and-white movies of the 1930s and 40s and are spoofs of that era's genre. All sets, make-up, costumes and props are in shades of gray.

The stock characters are Harry Hunsacker, bumbling detective, always played by Kleinmann; his erstwhile and able paid-by-the-hour assistant, Nigel Grouse (Ben Bryant), and their chief nemesis, police Lt. Foster (Chad Cline).

Rita Faye Smith
I'll Go On
Kirk Douglas Theater

First performed by Barry McGovern at Ireland's Gate Theatre in 1985 followed by productions at various international festivals, including Edinburgh last year, I’ll Go On has now made it to the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. Still performed by McGovern, who also had a hand in adapting for the stage Beckett's three post-war novels, “Molloy,” “Malone Dies” & “The Unnamable,” I’ll Go On is a more-than-worthy addition to the Beckett canon.

Willard Manus
Lyrics and Lyricists: Going Hollywood
92nd Street Y - Kaufman Concert Hall

The 1940s and '50s were considered the Golden Age of Movie Musicals. While 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., RKO and other studios produced popular musicals, the most golden of the classics came from MGM's "Freed Unit." This group, led by producer/lyricist Arthur Freed, took the ordinariness out of everyday lives and made them extraordinary. Directors like Vincente Minnelli (“Meet Me in St.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Abe Lincoln's Piano
Geffen Playhouse

The power of music, time and history is the underlying theme of Hershey Felder's latest one-man show, Abe Lincoln’s Piano,which is now packing them in at the Geffen Playhouse. Felder, whose previous solo shows dealt with the lives of such personalities as Leonard Bernstein, Franz Liszt and George Gershwin, has turned inward this time around. The story he tells, whether on his feet or seated behind a Steinway piano (which becomes a character in the story), is a personal one.

Willard Manus
Last Gas
Geva Theater - Mainstage

I’m not sure what symbolic meaning the title, “Last Gas,”has for the plot and characters of this whimsical romantic comedy, but its literal meaning is the setting of a gas station and convenience store in a little township in northern Maine. Ditto the pun in the Paradis family’s name, so that the place is “Paradis’ Last Convenience Store,” and the sign can warn that it is the last gas and last convenience for 41 miles down the road.

Herbert M. Simpson
Superior Donuts
Venice Theater

A small donut shop calling itself “Superior” has been in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for ages, and it shows -- not just because it’s just been vandalized. The time is end of 2009. The neighborhood is ready for gentrification, and Russian immigrant wheeler-dealer Max wants to buy the place to expand his electronics business. Owner Arthur Przybyszewski doesn’t want to sell.

Marie J. Kilker
War Horse
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

War Horse, the much-anticipated jewel of Milwaukee’s Broadway series, lives up to its expectations. Winner of five Tony Awards and myriad other accolades, the show delivers an incredible theatrical experience that fires one’s imagination as only theater can do.

Anne Siegel
Whipping Man, The
West Coast Black Theater Troupe Theater

April, 1865 -- the end of the Civil War and the start of freedom for African-American slaves. Two who live in a ruined mansion in Richmond, VA, the Confederate capital, became Jews like their master. Simon, head former slave, awaits his return from hiding with Simon’s wife and daughter and cash owed for them to get a start up north. Instead, in drags the owner’s Confederate army son Caleb with a leg full of gangrene, a not-yet-adjusted racial attitude, and a secret.

Marie J. Kilker
Patience
Symphony Space

The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players production of Patiencegives us a great chance to see this rather silly gem about romance sought and spurned, performed by their lively, enthusiastic, company of excellent singer/actors, with lovely (in looks and voice) Sarah Caldwell Smith in the title role. With James Mills as the fey poet Reginald, David Macaluso as Archibald, whom women can’t help loving, Caitlin Burke as the large, sensible Lady Jane, and the ensemble of lovesick maidens and sturdy cadets, all fine singers, it’s a very entertaining trip.

Richmond Shepard
Pirates of Penzance, The
Symphony Space

What a marvelous production of The Pirates of Penzanceby Albert Bergeret's New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players at Symphony Space! The overture alone, by the precise, zippy orchestra, nimbly conducted by Bergeret, was worth the price of admission. The splendid cast of fine singers includes James Mills as the Major General, Daniel Greenwood as Frederic, and Sarah Caldwell Smith as Mabel. For all elements, including imaginative costumes by Gail J.

Richmond Shepard
Glass Menagerie, The
Booth Theater

With a definitive Amanda in a benchmark revival of The Glass Menagerieby Tennessee Williams, Cherry Jones is likely to be nominated for her third Tony Award. We were utterly enthralled by this powerful and poignant production and superb cast which transferred from American Repertory Theater, in Cambridge, MA, to Broadway’s Booth Theater.

Charles Giuliano
Poems, Prayers and Promises
Florida Studio Theater - Goldstein Cabaret

Musicianship of the highest order distinguishes a cabaret revue devoted to songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s, mostly telling stories. Except for grounding by old pro Dom Cicco, the performers of Poems, Prayers and Promisesseem to be from late in the era or have listened to their young parents’ favorites. From soft country to soft rock came music that waded into the mainstream and lyrics that said what this revue title says.

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

The varied dress, the neutral decor embellished with monotonous patterns and faded furnishings all reflect a lower-middle-class home in London, 1967. This one holds the body of the woman of the house in a casket. She’s soon displaced by a stash of cash stolen from a nearby bank next to the funeral room where she was embalmed. What happens to the corpse, the cash, and everyone connected to both make up Joe Orton’s black comedy, Loot.

Marie J. Kilker
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The
Apollo Theater

After a transfer last March to London’s West End, the incredibly original and galvanic production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, based on the book by Mark Haddon as adapted by Simon Stephens, won seven Olivier Awards matching the number for the musical Matilda.One of those awards went to Luke Treadway who was described as inhabiting the complex character Christopher, both challenged with symptoms of Asperger’s as well as remarkably insightful, galvanic and a savant of math, science and technology.

Charles Giulioano
Betrayal
Ethel Barrymore Theater

The revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, playing through January 5, 2014, has been one of the hot tickets of the New York season so far. It went large (and mostly sold out) before opening night and mixed reviews which tossed cold water on a steamy menage a triosof hunky leading man and current James Bond, Daniel Craig (Robert), paired with his real-life wife, the stunning, Oscar winning (“The Constant Gardener”) Rachel Weisz (Emma). A gallerist, she is having an affair with Jerry (Rafe Spall, making his Broadway debut).

Charles Giuliano
La Tragedie d'Hamlet
Sale Richelieu

Director Dan Jemmett looked back on his youth in the 1970s and decided to stage Hamletin episodes as if for a TV series then. So he’s set Shakespeare’s Elsinore mainly in a clubhouse of the Danish Chateau-of-State. Most of the action takes place in the bar, but there are trips across to a juke box, a front area suitable for dancing, private talks, and even staging theater.

Marie J. Kilker
Division Avenue
Contemporary Theater of Dallas

Contemporary Theater of Dallas stages the Southwest premiere of Dallas playwright Miki Bone's new play, Division Avenue. It relates the story of Ephraim, a 27 year-old Hasidic Jew living with his family in the Williamsburg section of New York. Based on true events, the story relates the opposition of these ultra-orthodox Jews to the bicycle lanes built in their city. This encroachment into their way of life invites the outside world, including yuppies and hipsters, into their community. Ephraim is rebelling against the strict tenets of this sect of Judaism.

Rita Faye Smith
Thurgood
Florida Studio Theater - Keating Theater

Though Thurgood Marshall had a history-making life, I doubt he’d ever have talked about it as author George Stevens, Jr. has an actor so doing. That’s not to take away from the confident impersonation that engaging Montae Russell accomplishes, with Kate Alexander’s directorial guidance. And of course, this being the 50th anniversary of the Modern Civil Rights Movement, a recollection of it by its foremost legal leader supplies a way of honoring both and teaching youth about them.

Marie J. Kilker
Steward of Christendom, The
Mark Taper Forum

Brian Dennehy is one of America's finest actors, but he comes a cropper in The Steward of Christendom, which is part of a series of linked family plays by Irish playwright, Sebastian Barry. Dennehy has a tour de forcerole as the aged ex-Dublin police chief, Thomas Dunne, now living out his last, infirm days in a mental institution (circa 1932). A Catholic, Dunne worked for the British Crown, an act that condemned him as a traitor when the Irish war of independence led to a regime change in 1922.

Willard Manus
Spamalot
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz Theater

Spamalotis both a parody and a send-up of a parody that puts down theatrical versions of the Arthurian legend. Mostly, it comes from Monty Python’s film about the search for the Holy Grail and adds musical trappings that satirize it and musicals per se. From the start, with a historian pointing on a map to medieval England, everything goes wrong. The dancers who come from behind the map are in modern Holland but Disneyish Dutch dress.

Marie J. Kilker
Christmas Carol, A
Milwaukee Repertory Theater

Thanks to a veritable army of cast members, technical production experts and a huge backstage crew of dressers, prop assistants. etc., the Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents its 38th annual production of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

Anne Siegel
Noblesse et Bourgeoisie
La Comedie Italienne

Carlo Goldoni showed struggles for ascendency between members of the old aristocratic, wealthy class and of the newly wealthy and socially privileged class in 18th century Venice by embedding them in domestic quandaries. Strain in the relationship of a couple with origins in both classes get mirrored (to some extent) by their servants with seriously funny romantic goings-on.

Marie J. Kilker
Good Person of Setzuan, The

Also see review(s) under: La Bonne Ame du Se-Tchouan

La Bonne Ame du Se-Tchouan
Odeon - Ateliers Berthier

Against a diagonal back wall of bricks, iron curtains rise to reveal interiors where this drama of the woman of ambiguous virtue plays out. Scenes also pop up across a huge wide stage where realism will meet symbolism and theatricality. A stairway will spiral, as if leading to a circus trapeze or maybe heaven. Rows of seats to one side of the stage will hold actors in waiting, commentators, and often music. A balance of words and music will be stylistically of great import to this staging of The Good Woman of Setzuan.

Marie J. Kilker
Richard III
Belasco Theater

The wonderful news for theater lovers is the chance now to enjoy Shakespeare's plays as he wrote them. London's Shakespeare's Globe company at the Belasco Theater is drawing audiences to a traditional Twelfth Night (or, old-style, “Twelfe Night”) in repertory with Richard III(Richard King the Third). The cast is all-male as it was in the 1600's when female roles were played by men in white makeup and wigs.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Twelfth Night
Belasco Theater

The wonderful news for theater lovers is the chance now to enjoy Shakespeare's plays as he wrote them. London's Shakespeare's Globe company at the Belasco Theater is drawing audiences to a traditional Twelfth Night (or, old-style, “Twelfe Night”) in repertory with Richard III(Richard King the Third). The cast is all-male as it was in the 1600's when female roles were played by men in white makeup and wigs.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Dramuscules
Theatre de Poche - Montparnasse

Finally, my chance to see dramatic work by Thomas Bernhard! I’m not sure that Dramusculeswas originally meant as the three one-acts shown at the Poche-Montparnasse. They may be selected from related playlets and monologues. Though I haven’t found a similar title in a list of Bernhard’s writing, I believe this program does contain typical facets of his work.

Marie J. Kilker
Parfumerie
Bram Goldsmith Theater

For its first theater production, the brand-new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts has made an off-beat but pleasing choice, Parfumerie. Written back in the 1930s by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo, Parfumeriewas not only a success in Europe but spawned several Hollywood film adaptations: "The Shop Around the Corner," "In the Good Old Summertime" and "You've Got Mail." Let's not forget, either, the Broadway musical, "She Loves Me."

Willard Manus
Doctor In Spite of Himself, The

Also see: Le Medecin Malgre Lui Los Angeles 1990 

Le Medecin Malgre Lui Los Angeles 1990
Lucernaire

Although time and place have been moved from 17th century France, this version of The Doctor in Spite of Himselfis claimed to adhere faithfully to Moliere’s classic text. Attending with no text in hand, I reviewed the production without noting any modernisms. Of course, even though I actually directed Moliere’s play decades ago, it was in translation meant originally for radio broadcast and a bit shorter, so Le Pack’s show demanded of me more concentration on the language. Also, I think, on the play’s social message.

Marie J. Kilker
Things Being What They Are
Broadway Theater Center - Studio Theater

Milwaukee Chamber Theater advertises its production of Wendy MacLeod’s Things Being What They Are as “a quirky bromantic comedy.” Although the term “bromantic” may indicate to some a romantic attraction between two men, that’s not the case. These are simply two guys who live on the same floor of the same condo building, and “bromantic” represents the deep friendship that develops between them.

Anne Siegel
Hairspray
Venice Theater - Mainstage

Like the movie on which it’s based, Hairspraybounces through the story of how a stubby, chubby gal, who swoops her hair skyward, finds acceptance and love. Tracy (vivacious Alyssa Goudy) even becomes a “Miss Hairspray” TV star. But the most important part of her role is integrating races in the studio and beyond in 1962.

Marie J. Kilker
White Christmas
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

What could be more perfect for a snowy Thanksgiving week in Milwaukee than a production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas?. Not much. Everything in this musical version of the film classic is sharply produced, from the costumes to the cast to the music and choreography. It’s old-fashioned and G-rated, making it one of the best family entertainment options around.

This is Milwaukee’s first look at a national tour of White Christmas, which opened on Broadway in November 2008. It played through the holidays that year.

Anne Siegel
Waiting for Godot
Cort Theater

The current production of Waiting for Godotis my favorite (and I’ve seen many of them), an imaginative and very enjoyable take on the once-controversial play by Samuel Beckett. Two veteran actors, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, have a great time exercising their tremendous talents as they wait for the expected, never arriving, Godot. They are aided and abetted by Shuler Hensley and Billy Cruddup as Pozzo and his slave, Lucky.

Richmond Shepard
Noises Off
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse Theater

“Every actor’s nightmare” is perhaps one way to describe Michael Frayn’s comedy, Noises Off, which returns to the Milwaukee Repertory Theater for its 60th anniversary season. It has been 15 years since Milwaukee Rep’s last production of this timeless farce. Once again, audiences are roaring over the missed cues, garbled dialogue, forgotten props, misplaced set pieces, and all the other madcap mischief that make this play so much fun to watch.

Anne Siegel
Play Dead
Geffen Playhouse - Kenis Theater

"You're never so alive as when you're scared to death," says Todd Robbins during the course of Play Dead, his macabre entertainment now on tap at the Geffen Playhouse. Robbins, a charismatic magician/emcee who honed his craft in Coney Island carnie shows, sets out to frighten the audience to death -- when it isn't laughing itself silly.

Willard Manus
Andrea Marcovicci
Joe's Pub

How perfect that Andrea Marcovicci's 65th birthday celebrates the sophistication of those years when grownups dressed up and went out on the town, dining and dancing in romantic nightclubs. What show fits her better? Marcovicci may be a millennium gal, but her heart beats to the captivating rhythms and sentiments of the '30's, '40's, and '50's music.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Quet Storm
Metropolitan Room

I saw a good-looking, charming singing duo at The Metropolitan Room: Marcus Simeone and Tanya Holt, in what they call “Quiet Storm.” Each is a fine solo singer, which they demonstrate beautifully, and it’s even more exciting when they cross voices in counterpoint or close harmony in a wide range of songs, nicely arranged by music director Tracy Stark, from older works by Bernstein/Sondheim to more contemporary pieces.

Richmond Shepard

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