Four Thousand Miles
Historic Asolo Theater

That 4000 Milespresents a rare intergenerational story without a conflict between the leads’ generations must be the reason for its popularity. To me, it seems like a Hallmark TV film with added scatology and one woman’s revealing dress.

Marie J. Kilker
4000 Miles

(see reviews/articles under Four Thousand Miles)

I Remember Mama
Gym at Judson

The words of the playwright, frequently lost among flashy costumes, stage lighting, moving mechanical sets, actorly histrionics, and overly reactive audiences, has always been the most important thing about theater to me. Good or bad, I want to both hear and feel everything the playwright has to say. I want to be made to laugh and cry and be turned every which way but loose. I want to be touched by the blessed sacredness of time, be it past, future, or now. I want to leave the theater remembering what life is all about and loving it all the more.

Edward Rubin
Skin Tight
Broadway Theater Center - Studio Theater

As someone who missed this hit production when it was first staged by Renaissance Theaterworks 10 years ago, this reviewer is pleased to have the chance to see Skin Tightthe second time around. The play is being staged with the same two actors who portray the lovers (Leah Dutchin and Braden Moran), also accompanied by actor Eamonn O’Neill. The show’s original director, Laura Gordon, also was tapped for the current production.

Anne Siegel
Tom Jones
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz

If Florida Studio Theater has staged a more riotous romp than Tom Jones, I haven’t seen it.

Author Mark Brown uses his nascent Narrator, the believable Graciany Miranda, in several additional “moving” roles in the action, particularly justifying the plot’s twists and turns. How Brown condenses a long picaresque novel into a two-hour play is a miracle of mirth into motion. (Changers of the sumptuous costumes by Jeni Schaefer should share a final curtain call with a director who’s also become a choreographer.)

Marie J. Kilker
I and You
Geva Theater - Nextstage

A visibly and audibly moved and appreciative audience greeted the opening night of Lauren Gunderson’s I and Youin the intimate NextStage of Rochester’s Geva Theater Center just a week after Ms. Gunderson received the American Theater Critics Association/Steinberg Award for Best New Play of 2013 for this lovely, intimate drama.

Herbert M. Simpson
Boeing Boeing
Texas Repertory Theater

Fans of farce may want to head over to Texas Repertory Theater to take in the latest offering, the Marc Camoletti/Beverly Cross comedy, Boeing Boeing. If the recent audience of which I was a part was any indication, you’ll be in for plenty of laughs.

David Dow Bentley
Rocky
Winter Garden Theater

Even if you haven’t actually seen the 1976 movie “Rocky,” you think you have. You recognize the distinctive music, “Ba ba ba ba ba ba bum da da da”; you’ve heard the catchphrase “Yo, Adrian,” a million times; and you’ve seen the montage of the sweat-suited fighter running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (where the larger-than-life statue now stands, attracting eager tourists). And has anyone on the planet not heard the tale of how a down-and-out Sylvester Stallone penned the story but refused to sell it unless he was the star?

Michall Jeffers
Steel Hammer
Actors Theater of Louisville

At two hours with no intermission, Steel Hammer, the avant-garde deconstruction of the traditional ballad "John Henry," is physically and emotionally demanding. The producing company, Saratoga International Theatre Company (SITI), was co-founded in 1992 by the Japanese master Tadashi Suzuki and Columbia University professor and director Anne Bogart. After the first five years, Suzuki ceased participation but the company continues to follow the Suzuki method which entails cult-like discipline and dedication.

Charles Giuliano
Lend Me a Tenor
Milwaukee Chamber Theater - Cabot Theater

Milwaukee Chamber Theater closes its current season with the madcap mayhem of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor. Every aspect of this production gleams with professional precision, making this a highlight of the company’s current season.

Anne Siegel
All the Way
Neil Simon Theater

Before the curtain went up on “All The Way,” my companion passed on to me a question that was being whispered up and down our aisle. “Who was Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President?” I answered without thinking “Hubert Humphrey.” That’s when a lot of the play came into focus for me. People either hadn’t lived through the era being covered, or they didn’t really remember it very well. For those of us who came of age during the days of the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War, the events and the pivotal people in power are burned into our consciousness.

Michall Jeffers
Most Happy Fella, The
City Center

City Centers Encores!' glowing production of Frank Loesser's semi-operatic The Most Happy Fellais a lush, romantic, festival of song directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw and starring Shuler Hensley and Laura Benanti. Rob Berman's 38-piece orchestra soars, the vocals are sublime and the audience is treated to an outstanding performance for the memory book.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
International, The
the cell

I went to see Tim Ruddy’s play, The International, without knowing or reading anything about it except that I was told it had won awards and had international scope. I thought maybe I was going to hear the Communist song “The International” interpreted by different viewpoints. Nope. It’s a series of monologues by three actors with no interaction about a conflict in a not-clearly defined country.

Richmond Shepard
Antigone
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

The director is right to call Antigonean eternal play. Though an adaptation by a translator of an adaptation by Jean Anouilh of a tragedy by Sophocles, the play is as straightforward as it is colloquial while poetic. That it is as contemporary as classic may also be attributed to its direction and acting at FSU/Asolo Conservatory.

Marie J. Kilker
My Name is Asher Lev
Fountain Theater

The collision of the sacred and secular worlds lies at the heart of My Name is Asher Lev,the play by Aaron Posner (adapted from Chaim Potok’s novel) which is now in a lengthy Los Angeles premiere run at the Fountain Theater.

Willard Manus
Victoria Woodhull
Playhouse at St. Paul's

I would like to share my delight at seeing a play about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female stockbroker and the first woman to run for President. Victoria Woodhull: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Feminist,written by Claude Solnik and directed by Robert Previto, premiered at the Playhouse @ St. Pauls, in Northport, Long Island, New York for a run April 10-20, 2014. It has finished its brief run, but I hope the cast will gather together again, and take the play on tour.

Adam Frost
Raisin in the Sun, A
Ethel Barrymore Theater

Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun, explores through one family, the issues of racism, oppressive poverty, materialism, murmurs of the oncoming Civil Rights upheavals and young women choosing their own path. In an electrifying revival at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, the theater where it premiered 55 years ago, A Raisin in the Sunagain confronts the consequences of a dream deferred.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
If/Then
Richard Rodgers Theater

Idina Menzel enters to enthusiastic applause. The audience knows her and loves her, and the star, best known for her role as green witch Elphaba in the smash hit Wicked and for singing “Let It Go,” the big hit from the movie “Frozen” (and yes, for having her name mangled beyond recognition by John Travolta at the Oscars), needs to cash in on that affection as much as possible. Her character, Elizabeth, is just plain not very likeable. She’s totally self-involved, self-pitying, and pretty much devoid of a sense of humor.

Michall Jeffers
If/Then
Richard Rodgers Theater

I have the strange idea that performers in a musical should be able to sing. If/Then, music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, fulfills that hope in spades. Allmembers of this cast, leads and chorus, are well-trained, strong, talented, fine singers, and lead Idina Menzel is a killer of a vocal acrobat. So all of the quite engaging, bouncy songs are performed well, and, on their own, make for an enjoyable concert by terrific singers, including the adorable LaChanze and the very strong Adam Rapp, James Snyder and Jerry Dixon.

Richmond Shepard
Midsummer Night's Dream, A
The Broad Stage

Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet (the South African company that came to fame with War Horse) have teamed up to give a grungily extravagant quality to Shakespeare’s dreamlike A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The grunginess stems from the ragtag costumes (tattered jeans, oddly matched gowns) and the brown-wood set overhung with an autumnal drape. The extravagance is provided by Handspring’s offbeat but imaginative puppets (a wicker basket becomes a dog, Oberon and Titania become ten-foot-tall, stiffly- moving sculptures by play’s end).

Willard Manus
Aladdin
New Amsterdam Theater

If I had a magic lamp with three wishes, I would have many uses for it, but none would include tickets to another Disney musical on Broadway. The lamp, however, is not mine and when I went to see the latest Disney offering, Aladdin,at the New Amsterdam Theater, I must admit there are pretty razzle-dazzle moments, and they aren't all because of the avalanche of sequins.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Aladdin
New Amsterdam Theater

Aladdin has it all; there’s glitz, glamour, and sheer laugh-out-loud fun mixed with moments of lyrical beauty and real warmth. At the heart of the story is the question of who determines our worth in this world. The title character is a street urchin whose poverty has driven him to steal and to lie. He’s told he’s worthless, and he fights hard not to believe that unfair assessment. His heart is pure, and he dreams of living a better existence.

Michall Jeffers
Aladdin
New Amsterdam Theater

Disney’s new musical Aladdin, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin, begins with an overblown song and dance number with the tone and feeling of 1940’s swing music, extravagantly well-costumed by Gregg Barnes, and continues giving us a kitsch-dazzle cartoon.

Richmond Shepard
Heathers
New World Stages

Heathers, with book, music and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Lawrence O’Keefe, based on Daniel Waters’ film and snappily directed by Andy Fickman, is a musical that could bring hordes of young people to live theater. It’s a brash, bold, irreverent take on high school kids and has the flavor of terrible teenage conflict, sprinkled with death, that brings cheers from the audience.

Richmond Shepard
Rite of Seymour
Son of Semele Theater

In Franz Kafka's story, “Metamorphosis,” the hero Gregor wakes up to find he has been turned into a giant cockroach. In Allison Volk's new play, the hero Seymour is turned into a hapless chimpanzee. But where “Metamorphosis” is a tragedy, since Gregor remains trapped by his insect fate, Rite of Seymourgoes for absurdist comedy.

Willard Manus
Ain't Misbehavin'
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Stackner Cabaret

One of the surest ways to chase the winter blues that seem endless in Milwaukee, Ain’t Misbehavin' is a welcome addition to the theater season at Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s intimate Stackner Cabaret. The multi-level venue seems ideal for tunes associated with the Harlem Renaissance. Tables of varying sizes create a nightclub atmosphere, and the theater’s interior conveys a sense of times gone by with its original, pock-marked tiled walls. The music in Ain’t Misbehavin’ is vibrant and swingy, sometimes hilarious and sometimes quiet, sad and lonely.

Anne Siegel
Freud's Last Session
Florida Studio Theater - Keating

Is it a drama or a debate? In conflict regarding the existence of God, Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis engage in both. It’s 1939. Hitler’s planes are flying to bomb London. Freud, facing death from oral cancer and thinking Lewis will succeed him as intellectual giant and influence, invites him to change his mind.

Marie J. Kilker
All the Way
Neil Simon Theater

Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way, now on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theater, tells of Lyndon Johnson’s fight, in his first year in office, to get America’s first civil rights bill through congress. The play boasts a large, excellent cast, many of them familiar on Broadway, including Michael McKean as Hoover, John McMartin as Senator Richard Russell, and Brandon J. Dirden as Martin Luther King, and a flexible cast playing multiple roles (congresspeople, Washington officials, black activists).

Grapes of Wrath, The
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Mertz Theater

As if sounding the Book of Revelation’s warning of the Lord’s wrath to come upon the wicked through their destruction of the earth, Asolo Rep’s version of Frank Galati’s theatrical adaptation of John Steinbeck “The Grapes of Wrath” begins with sounds of crash and destruction. Twenty-eight actors and musicians under faded opening light face us to render life as it involves their characters in 1938.

Marie J. Kilker
Talhotblond
Ruskin Group Theater

Edward Dahlberg's aphorism, "what man's head would do is always defeated by his scrotum," pretty much sums up the theme of Talhotblond, the play by Kathrine (sic) Bates which is now running at the Ruskin Group Theater. A world premiere, the play is based on Barbara Schroder's documentary film about a man whose cyber-sex infatuation not only dominated his life but destroyed it.

Willard Manus
You Made Me Love You
Historic Asolo Theater

Before a shimmering silver curtain, sometimes changing to deep blue or purple or rose colors via lighting, Jennifer Sheehan shines in praising and vocalizing selections from The Great American Songbook. She’s backed in these by the formal, first-rate James Followell, very much at home at the Steinway.

Marie J. Kilker
Less Than Kind
Theater Three

Less Than Kind, the 1944 Terence Rattigan play, opened its American premiere on March 10, 2014 at Theater Three in Dallas, Texas. It could as easily have been titled “Hamlet Lite.” The play's title is borrowed from a line in Hamlet,and the plot is derived from that play, as well. However, the back story is actually more interesting than the play itself. While it was a hit in wartime England, the script has gotten waterlogged crossing the pond in 2014.

Rita Faye Smith
Hydrogen Jukebox
Broadway Theater Center - Cabot Theater

Milwaukee’s venerable Skylight Music Theater has taken a bold new direction under the leadership of Skylight artistic director Viswa Subbaraman. It is almost inconceivable that a theater company which broke box-office records two years ago with The Sound of Music is now staging an avant-garde work that is neither a musical nor an opera. Instead, audiences at Hydrogen Jukeboxare ushered into a strange – sometimes bizarre – environment, as conceived by the late poet Allen Ginsberg and composer Phillip Glass.

Anne Siegel
Middle of the Night
Clurman Theater

Paddy Chayefsky was a premier name in live dramas during the Golden Age of Television with "kitchen sink" stories told in urban, colloquial language about everyday New Yorkers. Some became films – “Marty,” “The Bachelor Party,” “The Catered Affair” and “Middle of the Night” and, in the 1970's, turning more satirical, Chayefsky wrote “Network” and “The Hospital.” Middle of the Night and The Tenth Man were also successful Broadway plays, and A Catered Affairbecame a Broadway musical. What made Paddy Chayefsky so popular?

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Harmony
Ahmanson Theater

First produced at the La Jolla Playhouse in 1997, then revived last year at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, the Barry Manilow musical, Harmony has been fighting the good fight in its quest to make it to Broadway. Its latest stop on the showbiz trail is the Ahmanson Theater, whose associate artistic director Neel Keller had worked on Harmonywhen he was with La Jolla Playhouse.

Willard Manus
Slowgirl
Geffen Playhouse - Skirball Kenis Theater

Slowgirl,Greg Pierce's quirky drama about two wounded souls confronting each other -- and their demons -- in the Costa Rican jungle, comes to the Geffen after a successful run at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. Because the director (Randall Arney) and the actors (William Peterson and Rae Gray) worked together on the play in Chicago, the L.A. production is uncommonly polished and assured.

Willard Manus
Red Dress, The
Lincoln Center - David H. Koch Theater

The Red Dress, performed by China Ningbo Performance & Arts Group in their first foray out of China, is a visual feast as the principals and the chorus of graceful, lyrical dancers present a flowing visual panorama in this tale of love found, love lost, and guess what? Surprisingly, the physical techniques performed are mostly ballet and modern-dance based, and the leading man, Zeng Ming reminds me of Baryshnikov with his great leaps and twirls.

Richmond Shepard
Finishing School
Bath House Cultural Center

One-Thirty Productions, Dallas' only all-matinee theater, opened Dallas critic/playwright Elaine Liner's comedy, Finishing School,a very funny satire/spoof on old-age. Set on a park bench in the garden of an assisted-living facility, the play depicts the relationship between Wizzer, an old codger of 92, and 71 year-old Alfred.

Rita Faye Smith
Stranded on Earth
Geva Theater - Nextstage

Probably the chief significance of Stranded on Earth is that Eric Coble says he wrote it to fill in the gap between his somewhat successful play, A Girl’s Guide to Coffee about a bright, lively girl called Alex, and his The Velocity of Autumn, about Alexandra at 80, facing the loss of her home and family and life. Autumn was much praised at its premiere at Arena Stage in D.C. in September, and it will open on Broadway next month with its prestigious original cast of Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella.

Herbert M. Simpson
Lebensraum
Art of Acting Studio

Lebensraumis a what-if play. Written by Israel Horovitz, the drama is built on this hypothesis: what if the present German government, to make amends for that country's Nazi past, invited six million Jews to come live in Germany with a promise of citizenship and full benefits. Moral, historical and emotional upheavals follow. Some Jews are horrified and outraged by the invitation; how dare the Germans think they can make amends for the Holocaust with this obvious public-relations stunt?

Willard Manus

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