Einstein!
Lounge 1 Theater

Jack Fry, whose previous solo play, They Call Me Mister Fry, was a hit at the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival, returns to L.A. with his latest monologue, Einstein. Fry, a writer as well as a performer, has created an Albert Einstein we haven’t seen on stage before. Gone is the stereotypical image we have of the renowned physicist––frizzy-haired, wise-cracking, Chaplinesque. In his place, Fry gives us a 35-year-old Einstein––vigorous, driven and tormented.

Willard Manus
Amelia
Broadway Theater Center - Studio Theater

As Wisconsin’s only woman-run theater company, Renaissance Theaterworks has made a name for itself by producing plays featuring strong female characters. Actually, its mission is far broader than that, but one glance at its latest offering, Amelia, tells you that the troupe is still passionate about its initial mission. This tale, by Alex Webb, is equal parts history lesson and love story.

Anne Siegel
Man Who Planted Trees, The
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

The Wallis Theater has once again culled the very best of children’s theater from around the world to present this multi-sensory theatrical adaptation of Jean Giono’s environmental classic, recommended for ages 7+.

The Man Who Planted Trees tells the inspiring story of a shepherd who plants a forest, acorn by acorn, transforming a barren wasteland. As much a touching tale as it is a hilarious puppet show, the piece shows us the difference one man (and his dog!) can make to the world

Mavis Manus
Marjorie Prime
Mark Taper Forum

With the population aging – think baby boomers, as well as their parents and grandparents – Alzheimer, dementia, and loss of memory are among the hottest of hot-button topics around. (Well, if you push aside the daily barrage of updates on Ebola, ISIS, terrorism, as well as older articles on the spread of AIDS, the two Gulf Wars and 9/11.) Everybody that I speak with knows somebody suffering from Alzheimer’s or some sort of dementia. It seems to be an epidemic.

Edward Rubin
Forever
Kirk Douglas Theater

Forever, written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith (on commission from Center Theater Group), is a solo play which deals with life and death in a brave, rawly powerful way. Orlandersmith, a much-feted African-American poet, playwright and actor, centers her monologue on a recent visit she made to Paris’ Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where some of her personal heroes are buried: Apollinaire, Edith Piaf, Richard Wright, Jim Morrison. They represent the family she created for herself after leaving the family she was born into.

Willard Manus
Nice Things
Rogue Machine

Vince Melocchi’s Nice Things, now in a world-premiere run at Rogue Machine, goes deep into post-industrial America for its drama. Set in 2009 Dunsmore, PA, a town turned wasteland by the closure of the factories and mines that once supported it, Nice Things shows just how bleak life is for the working-class folk who are stuck there these days. Because their jobs have been shipped overseas, they must look to the military for a way out of poverty and hopelessness.

Willard Manus
Two Character Play, The
Bath House Cultural Center

WingSpan Theater Company opened Tennessee Williams’s 1967 surreal drama, The Two Character Play, October 9, 2014 at The Bath House Cultural Center. Kevin Scott Keating and Lulu Ward star.

Rita Faye Smith
It's Only a Play
Gerald Schoenfeld Theater

The answer is Nathan Lane. The question is what’s the best reason to see It’s Only A Play.This nearly sold-out smash hit is playing to full houses chocked with appreciative theatergoers. Just as trumpeted, the laughs never stop because director Jack O’Brien has done a masterful job keeping everything moving at breakneck speed. The deck is stacked with performers who know how to deliver a line for maximum effect. Playwright Terrence McNally is in familiar territory, and nary a quip fails to get the desired reaction.

Michall Jeffers
You Can't Take it With You
Longacre Theater

Written in 1936 by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, You Can’t Take it with You brings the Vanderhof extended family of crazies, all colorful semi-artises doing their thing, to Broadway’s Longacre Theater. In the Sycamore family, everyone follows his bliss, but each bliss flies in a different direction. Yet they all end up in a kind of chaotic unity. There is definitely something lovable about this group anchored by Grandpa Martin Vanderhof (James Earl Jones) whose cheery philosophy is, "Life is kind of beautiful if you let it come to you."

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Once
Overture Center for the Arts

Wisconsin audiences get their first look at the national tour of Oncein the spectacular Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, the state capitol.

A few words about the center: celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the center was built on a primary donation of $205 million by the creators of American Girl dolls. The donation came after the company was sold to Mattel for zillions of dollars.

Anne Siegel
You Can't Take it With You
Longacre Theater

The year is 1936, deep in the Great Depression. But you’d never know it from the cheery attitude of the multi-generational Sycamore family in the current production of You Can’t Take it With You. Director Scott Ellis has taken this old Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman chestnut and used his alchemy to turn it into spun sugar.

Michall Jeffers
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The
Barrymore Theater

How do you not hate a kid who just graduated from Juilliard and is immediately given the starring role in a Broadway play? When the actor is Alex Sharp, the question becomes how does someone that young and inexperienced give such a brilliant performance? As Christopher, the boy who is a genius, except when he’s dealing with other humans, Sharp is onstage virtually the entirety of The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time. Within that time, he does what seems nearly impossible: he makes a character who is inherently unlikeable into someone we care about deeply.

Michall Jeffers
Country House, The
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

Think Chekhov-lite as you watch the comings and goings of Donald Margulies' elite thespian family led by its formidable matriarch, Anna Patterson. Margulies' new play, The Country House,now at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, has evident Chekhovian influences. However, once the ambiance of John Lee Beatty's casual comfy country escape in the Berkshires, the bright witticisms and the promise of the intriguing, complicated characters wears thin, blandness sets in.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Country House, The
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

Whatever happened to the Straw Hat Circuit, where star vehicles lured in local audiences to bask in the glow of name performers they would otherwise never glimpse in the flesh? The genre is alive and okay, if not really well, in The Country House. The eternally divine Blythe Danner is Anna Patterson, an actress who’s respected, and even famous, but no longer in real demand. She has found it difficult to be comfortable in the Williamstown home where her daughter, the beautiful Kathy, lived and, just last year, died of cancer.

Michall Jeffers
South Pacific
Westchester Broadway Theater

The sun is so huge and bright; the whole sky seems to be “a bright canary yellow.” The ocean is “beautiful and still”; it’s the perfect setting for a couple to fall in love at first glance, “across a crowded room.” In fact, it’s paradise, even if it does get awfully hot, and malaria is endemic.

Michall Jeffers
This is Our Youth
Cort Theater

There is not much plot but a lot of talk in Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth, a character study of disenchanted New York dropouts in a provocative revival directed by Anna D. Shapiro at the Cort Theater. The play, which opened in 1996, still delivers the humanity of the stoned, dissatisfied Dennis and Warren in 1982, portrayed with humor and energy by Kieran Culkin and Michael Cera in memorable Broadway debuts.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
This is Our Youth
Cort Theater

Kenneth Lonergan’s This is Our Youth is billed as a comedy, but the premise is a long way from funny. The plot centers on a trio of alienated young adults in Reagan-era 1982. Warren Straub (Michael Cera) has been thrown out of his house by his father, an abusive lingerie magnate with criminal ties. Before he leaves, Warren steals $15,000 from his father’s bedroom. He then heads over to the Upper West Side studio apartment of his friend, Dennis Ziegler (Kieran Culkin).

Michall Jeffers
Color Purple, The
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse Theater

Hope, faith, redemption and courage, set in rural Georgia in 1911, are themes at the heart of The Color Purple.A Milwaukee Repertory Theater production of this 2005 musical, based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker and the movie that followed it, marks the unofficial opening of the city’s theater season.

Anne Siegel
Cock
Rogue Machine

Cock, by the much-lauded British playwright Mike Bartlett, is a prolonged lovers’ spat, a battle between M (Matthew Elkins) and W (Rebecca Mozo) for the affections of a young stud named John (Patrick Stafford).

Willard Manus
Glass Menagerie, The
Tenth Street Theater

Tennessee Williams’s enduring family drama, The Glass Menagerie, is an older play with new life breathed into it by a sparkling cast for Milwaukee’s In Tandem Theater. Set in St. Louis in the 1930s, Glass Menagerieis, as a narrator tells us, a “memory play.” As such, he tells us, it is not fully illuminated but exists in a twilight world. He cautions that the action may not be naturalistic.

Anne Siegel
Love Letters
Brooks Atkinson Theater

Can a bare-bones Off-Broadway show, which features only two characters, a table and two chairs, no scenery, no costumes, and no action, make it on The Great White Way? Add to these limitations the fact that the actors are reading their lines from looseleaf notebooks, and they never make direct eye contact. Doesn’t sound promising, but this production of Love Letters keeps the interest of the audience throughout, and with Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow as the authors of the title missives, no other cast is needed to fill the stage.

Michall Jeffers
Grease
Paper Mill Playhouse

Over in New Jersey, it’s still raining on Prom-Night, although the Greasers are not so Greasy. Still, thanks to the Paper Mill Playhouse’s program of musical revivals, it is now possible to open the closet and take a peek into the past. The theater’s recent revival of Oliver! gave its 21,000-Subscribers some time travel back to Dickensian London. Now, the high-powered current revival of Grease gives a Frankensteinian electric jolt to a vision of American high school days that oldsters may have thought were gone forever.

Glenn Loney
Morning's at Seven
Manatee Performing Arts Center - Bradenton Kiwanis Theater

Set in an American town in 1938, Morning’s at Seven, Paul Osborn’s nostalgic story of four mature sisters at a turning point in their lives, seems to strike audiences as either classic or creaky. Strong performances make a big difference to the play’s reception, and director Pam Wiley has elicited a number of them.

Marie J. Kilker
Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter
Next Act Theater

Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre makes its season debut with Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, a play about a female Marine who returns home from duty in Iraq. Not quite ready to reconnect with her mother and two young daughters, Jenny (in a nicely nuanced performance by newcomer Chelsea D. Harrison) interrupts her journey in a rundown bus station. Jenny struggles to find out who she has become in a play aimed at building an understanding of US veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Anne Siegel
This is Our Youth
Cort Theater

The revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 play, This is our Youth, by the Steppenwolf Company, now on Broadway, starts, pre-curtain, with some awful moaning music (a term I use advisedly) as an intro to this exposition of the lives of drug-infested, drop-out losers, supposedly in 1982, but to me it felt more like 70s.

Richmond Shepard
Good Father, The
Broadway Theater Center - Studio Theater

Nicely balanced at about half side-splitting comedy and half heart-breaking tragedy, The Good Father is an impressive effort by playwright Christian O’Reilly. His professional background as a screenwriter no doubt honed his keen gift for dialogue displayed in this two-character play. This production by Milwaukee Chamber Theater is the play’s Midwest premiere.

Anne Siegel
My Mañana Comes
Peter Jay Sharp Theater

In My Mañana Comes,playwright Elizabeth Irwin puts a face on the hidden world of restaurant kitchen workers. During long days of routine tasks and nonstop motion, four busboys at this upscale Madison Avenue eatery face perpetual problems of illegal immigration, poverty, cultural discrimination, and unequal pay scales. Director Chay Yew does an admirable job of keeping the characters vivid, their peppery humor underscored with apprehension even as they dream of something better and collecting small stipends for shift labor.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Wait Until Dark
Geva Theater - Mainstage

As far as I can remember about Frederick Knott’s thriller, Wait Until Dark, in its earlier, exciting play, film and TV versions, Jeffrey Hatcher’s new, 2013 changes to the script seem fairly minimal. The time is now 1944, not 1966; Mike is now a former Marine friend who served in Italy with the husband instead of just a former buddy; the hidden loot everyone is looking for is diamonds, not heroin, etc. But I can’t remember much of the original dialogue, and I’d like to think that the older versions made the characters more involving and entertaining.

Herbert M. Simpson
Queen of New Musical Comedies, The
Times Square Arts Center

In this corny, campy comedy, loose with double-entendres, Laura Lee Handle and Jane Mann, two female impersonators in Paris, spot a diamond necklace heist. Out of work and almost pawning their glitter and boas, the pair receive a a telegram: the once-glamorous cruise ship, "The Queen Ethel May," needs two showgirls for its upcoming crossing to New York. What a break! One catch: the new showgirls have to convince everyone they are really girls.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Animals Out of Paper
David Henry Hwang Theater

Although Rajiv Joseph’s Animals Out of Paper doesn’t have the originality and power of his 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, the play is a worthy addition to his repertoire.

Willard Manus
Race
Kirk Douglas Theater

Race, David Mamet’s legal drama, flopped on Broadway in 2009, but that hasn’t kept the Center Theater Group from mounting its own production of the play, this one starring Chris Bauer, kingpin of the HBO series “True Blood.”

Willard Manus
Doyle and Debbie Show, The
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Stackner Cabaret

A mainstay in Nashville, Tenn., The Doyle and Debbie Show is now entertaining Milwaukee audiences with its honky-tonk hijinks. Billed in its promotional materials as “a perfect blend of comedy and country music,” the show lives up to its hype with side-splitting lyrics to the songs sung by country-western duo Doyle and Debbie.

Anne Siegel
Wayside Motor Inn
Pershing Square Signature Center - Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater

An empty generic hotel room -- a blank canvas for countless probabilities. Guests register into the hotel with personal dramas, filling the empty room with tears, laughs, fear and joy. However, Signature Theater Company's production of A.R. Gurney's The Wayside Motor Innbrings a creative twist to the hotel. Gradually the room becomes a busy hive with an aggregate of ten characters’ individual stories and conversations, crisscrossing each other as they move around the room to the beds, the balcony or bathroom.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Bauer
59E59 Theaters

Influenced by non-traditionalists Chagall, Miro, and particularly Wassily Kandinsky, German-born Rudolf Bauer (1889-1953) helped pioneer the international avant-garde art world in the first half of the 20th century. He was devoted to free forms and an inspiration to the emerging American abstract artists. A consummate artist, Bauer worked relentlessly even after the Gestapo arrested him in 1938 for his "degenerate" art. In prison, he sketched on bits of paper with pencils.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Antony and Cleopatra
Tom Patterson Theater

Stratford’s latest Antony and Cleopatra is their usual first-rate reading of a Shakespearean classic with a cast of superbly trained classical actors and an elegant-looking production. But I was still less than thrilled by the experience; and, in fact, I’m beginning to think that despite all its great moments and beloved dialogue, I just don’t like the play.

Herbert M. Simpson
Normal Heart, The

There is something obviously historic, but also mythic, about Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart,which recently concluded a noteworthy run at Eastline Productions in Wantagh, New York. The show, one of only a few well-known scripts about the advent of AIDS in America, tells the story of a man’s efforts to attract attention to the disease, even before it had a name.

Claude Solnik
Beaux' Stratagem, The
Stratford Shakespeare Festival - Festival Theater

The only time I had ever seen The Beaux’ Stratagembefore was in a knockout version in London starring a young Maggie Smith way back in January 1970. I suppose I can understand why this long, messy, expensive, early 18th century offbeat comedy is seldom produced in our time and has had very few major productions on this side of the Atlantic. It requires a half-dozen leading actors and a very large supporting cast, an elaborate staging with period costumes and changing sets, music, dancing and sword-fights.

Herbert M. Simpson
Jewish Chronicles
The Wee Coo

Daniel Cainer is the Jewish Tom Lehrer. With his satirical songs and clever story-telling, the British-born, piano-playing entertainer calls to mind Lehrer in his heyday — with one important difference: Lehrer lampooned the politics and social issues of his day (the threat of atomic warfare, the nefarious influence of the Vatican, etc.), while Cainer's targets are smaller and more personal: the Jewish world he grew up in.

Willard Manus
Minetti
Royal Lyceum

Thanks to the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival, English-speaking audiences had a rare chance to see a play by Thomas Bernhard, the celebrated (and controversial) Austrian playwright whose works are, unfortunately, rarely performed in the USA or UK.

Willard Manus
Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show, The
Pleasure Dome

Here's a perfect way to launch your day at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival: make one of the daily 10.30 a.m. Bite-Size Breakfast Showsat the Pleasance Dome. Over fresh strawberries, croissants and coffee, you can enjoy an hours' worth of edgy, scintillating short plays with an international appeal.

Willard Manus

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