Delicate Balance, A
Odyssey Theater

This revival of Albee’s 1966 Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, A Delicate Balance, is noteworthy for many reasons, beginning with its superb cast, who handle the playwright’s tart, literary dialogue with seemingly effortless ease and skill. They also deliver performances that breathe vigorous life into characters that border on caricature.

Willard Manus
City of Conversation, The
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

The title city is Washington, D.C., where schmoozing, not action, is often the order of the day. In this case, more specifically, it’s Georgetown, where the Capitol Hill elite chitchat over drinks, and where outsiders aren’t welcome. Hester Ferris (Jan Maxell) has a favorite story, which she’s happy to repeat at the drop of a hat. One evening, she was at an intimate dinner with, among others, Jack Kennedy. He seemed out of sorts and sought expert advice from another guest on how to deal with the Soviets. And that is how he came to solve the Cuban Missile Crisis. Ah, the good old days.

Michall Jeffers
Unorganized Crime
Elephant Theater

The subtitle of Unorganized Crime could almost be: There will be Italian Blood. The new drama by Kenny D’Aquila about a Mafia family in Dearborn, Michigan, is shot through with violence: three murders in 75 minutes. At the same time, the play is wildly funny in a profane, outrageous way. The resulting mixture is a cross between Grand Guignol and cable-tv sitcom.

Willard Manus
Forbidden Broadway
Davenport Theater

It’s considered an honor for a show or performer to be skewered by Forbidden Broadway, which has been relished by the theater in crowd for the past 30 years. Who else but someone in the know would get the joke, “I live here with my two children and Sutton Foster’s brother” from The Bridges Of Madison County?Each edition features new material about current productions, and a few old favorites as well. The writing, by founder and director Gerard Alessandrini (with additional dialogue by co-director Phillip George) is wry, pointed, and sometimes silly.

Michall Jeffers
Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, A
Walter Kerr Theater

The time is ripe for a good laugh, either for the first time, or for a revisit. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murderis arguably the best musical of the season, and very possibly the best play, period.

Michall Jeffers
Satchmo at the Waldorf
Westside Theater

John Douglas Thompson gives a very strong, quite convincing performance playing two dynamic characters in Satchmo at the Waldorf by Terry Teachout. Thompson plays trumpet player/singer Louis Armstrong, about to perform his last gig at age seventy, and his manager, Joe Glaser, deftly switching voice, physicality and tone from distinct character to distinct character as Armstrong’s life and career are revealed, from poor New Orleans boy to major star to his conflict with Glaser.

Richmond Shepard
Realistic Joneses, The
Lyceum Theater

Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses, directed by Sam Gold, struck me as the lowest level of sophomoric sitcom aimed at an I.Q. of about 60, who might, out of laugh-track habit, laugh when the actors hit a punch line – or don’t.

Richmond Shepard
Act One
Vivian Beaumont Theater

Moss Hart’s autobiographical “Act One” is one of the best books ever written on the intricacies of putting a play together and taking it to Broadway. The play of the same name, written and directed by James Lapine, gives us, in act one, an overblown expansion of the background leading up to the collaboration between Hart and the well-known writer George S. Kaufman. Act two gives us the meat of the book: the process of creating, of taking a show on out-of-town tryouts, the frustrations, steps up the ladder, and the payoff.

Richmond Shepard
Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, A
Walter Kerr Theater

Like a delicious old movie on a rainy afternoon, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a clever and hilarious murder mystery, except that we know who-done-it, and the mystery is how he'll do the next one. It's a page-turner, but on stage and with songs.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Satchmo at the Waldorf
Westside Theater

There is the smiling Louis Armstrong of popular legend, trumpet in hand, ubiquitous hanky, singing "Hello, Dolly!" in his iconic gravelly voice. There is also jazz giant Louis Armstrong, “a walking Smithsonian Institution of jazz.” Both are Louis Armstrong, an open, gregarious man who accepted the role of singer and entertainer and was proud of his jazz chops. He was a man who made compromises in life, an entertainer beloved by the people until the end, but hurt and angered by criticism and disrespect, especially from those of his own race.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Sea Marks
Irish Repertory Theater

From the very first line of Sea Marks, we understand that Colm (Patrick Fitzgerald) is a man of the sea. He and his Irish neighbors live on the island of Cliffhorn Heads, at the very edge of the water; they fish to earn a living and for the food that they eat; and no matter where they may go, or what they may do, the salt water in their veins will always call them home.

Michall Jeffers
Of Mice and Men
Longacre Theater

Life is tough. We don't need John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men,to remind us of that. Still, it's well worth revisiting the days of the Great Depression through Steinbeck's eloquent dialogue and well-drawn characters in the fine production at the Longacre Theater.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Seminar
Theater Three

Theater Three's production of Seminarby Theresa Rebeck opened April 28, 2014. Set in present-day Manhattan in Kate's (Janielle Kastner) large, rent-controlled apartment owned by her family, four young aspiring fiction writers meet regularly under the tutelage of Leonard (Mark Fickert). Each has paid $5,000 for the privilege of having him critique their work.

Rita Faye Smith
Fat Pig
Hudson Mainstage Theater

Deidra Edwards and Jonathan Bray excel as the unlikely lovers in the revival of Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig now running at the Hudson Mainstage Theater in Hollywood. Bray plays Tom, a handsome business executive who falls for Helen, a zaftigyoung woman played by Edwards. In many other societies, large-sized women are much in demand; not so in the USA, where to be considered beautiful and desirable a woman must resemble a store-window mannequin.

Willard Manus
Mercy Seat, The
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cooley Rehearsal Hall

One of the first plays to appear after 9/11, The Mercy Seathones in on a couple in New York City the next day. They’re selfish when most Americans are giving of themselves to help their fellows. Ben should have been in the World Trade Center, but he stopped for a tryst with mistress Abby and escaped. Now he’s thought to be dead.

Marie J. Kilker
Man in a Case
The Eli & Edythe Broad Stage

What’s with these New York experimental theater companies and their disdain for the moral rights of playwrights? Last year it was the Wooster Group trampling all over Eugene O’Neill’s Glencairn plays, crushing the life out of them in stiff, robotic fashion. This year it’s Mikhail Baryshnikov teaming up with Big Dance Theater to turn two of Anton Chekhov’s 19th-century, fragile love stories – “Man In a Case” and “About Love” – into flashy multi-media events replete with film footage, pop songs, radio-theater touches and dance routines.

Willard Manus
Cripple of Inishmaan, The
Cort Theater

Kids in the audience of The Cripple of Inishmaanby Martin McDonagh get what they came for: to see Harry Potter live and in person on the stage. Daniel Radcliffe plays Billy, and there he is. He’s quite a good actor and a pretty fair limper, and is absolutely adorable in this play about an Irish family in hard times.

Richmond Shepard
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Belasco Theater

There’s no doubt about it; Neil Patrick Harris is a rock star. His fans are out in force for his stellar turn as Hedwig, a transplanted “girly boy” from East Berlin who’s had a tough life, including a botched sex-change operation. The angry inch of the title refers not only to his ragtag backup band but also to what’s left of his penis. “It’s what I have to work with,” he explains to a shocked lover. Tommy Gnosis, the young American man who flees when he discovers Hedwig’s deformity, is very much at the center of the story.

Michall Jeffers
Mothers and Sons
Golden Theater

Sometimes it's not so easy to move on. Losing a loved one, a child no less, is losing a part of one's life. Therefore, compassion should be extended to Andre's mother, Katharine (Tyne Daly), even though you might feel like shaking her. How could she not know about the AIDS quilt? How could she state some of the outlandish ideas she still clings to, like never realizing her son was gay when he lived with her? Could she really believe that his partner, Cal, and New York City made him gay?

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Casa Valentina
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

Casa Valentina, written by Harvey Fierstein and directed with energy and scope by Joe Mantello, is quite an intriguing exploration of cross dressing by heterosexual (or possibly bisexual) men who, in the 60’s, vacation at a special resort in the Catskills where these married men, who like to dress in women’s clothes, can express their internal feminine enjoyment of wearing female clothing. The argument goes that they are not gay and should be accepted as they are, differentiated from homosexuals, and left alone to pursue their pleasures without a label.

Richmond Shepard
Spunk
Water Tower Theater

George C. Wolfe’s Spunk depicts the stories of the experiences of African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century after they have migrated from the South to Harlem. Alas, Water Tower Theater's current staging of the 1989 piece, which adapts three of Zora Neale Hurston's short stories, is an uneven and totally forgettable production. How bad is it? Let me count the ways.

Rita Faye Smith
Casa Valentina
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

Patrick Page is a ruggedly handsome actor with a deep, commanding voice. John Cullum is a revered theater legend. It’s hard to imagine either of them dressed up in a pretty frock and ready to assume a decidedly female identity. But at the Chevalier d’Eon, anything is possible. For this Catskill Mountain resort, based on an actual hotel, is a refuge for men who yearn to express their feminine side; dressing in women’s clothing is more than a compulsion, it’s a need to connect with a deeper truth.

Michall Jeffers
Porgy and Bess
Ahmanson Theater

The modernized version of Porgy and Bess was much maligned by some theater folk (especially Stephen Sondheim) when it opened back East in 2011. However, the production not only rode out the critical storm but eventually won a Tony for Best Musical Revival.

Willard Manus
Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, The

(see all reviews/articles under "Porgy and Bess")

History of Invulnerability, The
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse Theater

In attempting to close its 60th season on a spectacular note, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater tackles The History of Invulnerability, a large-cast, high-tech play that takes the audience from the Midwest to Nazi prison camps in Europe during World War II.

Anne Siegel
Tallest Tree in the Forest, The
Mark Taper Forum

Los Angeles is enjoying a mini-festival of one-man plays about Paul Robeson. The Nate Holden Performing Arts Center has revived the late Phillip Hayes Dean’s Paul Robeson,which was first performed by James Earl Jones in 1977. Now acted by Keith David (currently featured in Fox TV’s “Enlisted”), this worthy production will run through April 27, 2014

Willard Manus
Bubbling Brown Sugar
West Coast Black Theater Troupe Theater

An African-American almost-couple who need to make it together as they didn’t in the past take a white couple and initiate another young black couple into Harlem musical history. Thus does West Coast Black Theatre Troupe, in Bubbling Brown Sugar, bring Harlem home to the Sunshine Coast.

Marie J. Kilker
Ruth Draper's Monologues
Geffen Playhouse - Gil Cates Theater

Annette Bening’s tribute to Ruth Draper consists of her delivering four of the late actress’s most famous monologues: “A Class in Greek Poise,” “A Debutante at a Dance,” “Doctors and Diets,” and “The Italian Lesson.” Draper (1884-1956), who came from a wealthy New York family, began creating characters and voices at a young age. She entertained mostly at private parties for such admirers as Eleanor Roosevelt and Mrs Waldorf Astoria, before turning professional in 1914, thanks to the encouragement of Henry James and John Singer Sargent.

Willard Manus
Grown-Up, The
Actors Theater of Louisville

It seems that Jordan Harrison is a regular at the Humana Festival and has a loyal following. In his fantasy/ersatz fairy tale, The Grown Up, a magical doorknob salvaged from a sunken pirate’s ship opens to a series of Magic Theater fast forwards to the future. Through a series of vignettes and adventures, the key character starts as a child and ends as an old man.

Charles Giuliano
Partners
Actors Theater of Louisville

Mostly, Partnersis a fun, upbeat, gay-themed comedy about two couples, Clare (Annie Purcell) and her husband Paul (David Ross) entertaining Ezra (Kasey Mahaffy) and Brady (LeRoy McLain). Clare loves to cook and entertain. Ezra wants to partner with her to launch a food truck and make money. What a great idea. Until Clare proves to be an uber-conflicted, self destructive, nutjob who brings down herself and everyone around her. Mostly, in some improbable plot twists, she is never up front about her feelings, phobias, paranoia and misgivings.

Charles Giuliano
brownsville song
Actors Theater o Louisville

This inner city drama starts with a compelling monologue by a strong African American grandmother Lena (Cherene Snow) tasked with raising two children. They were orphaned by a father who took four in the chest and their Asian mother Merrell (Jackie Chung) who, while struggling with addiction, abandoned them.

The kids are Tray (John Clarence Stewart) an amateur boxer aspiring for a scholarship to college and the emotionally traumatized child Devine (Sally Diallo), who is nurtured and protected by her older brother.

Charles Giuliano
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

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