Category Archives: Broadway Play Review

Indecent Play Review

Morality and art are often subjective.

In 1923, the play God Of Vengeance hit Broadway. It closed in one night. It closed not because of poor reviews, but because it was considered immoral. It is the love story of two women against a backdrop of false piety, false modesty and the worship of the almighty dollar. Written in the first decade of the 20th century by Sholem Asch, it has been compared to Romeo and Juliet for its portrayal of love against all odds.

The Broadway play Indecent, is about not only the production of this play, but the reaction to the play over the years. Written by playwright Paula Vogel and directed by Rebecca Taichman, the play starts in the early 20th century in Warsaw. Sholem Asch (Max Gordon Moore), a newlywed and a budding writer, has written a play called God Of Vengeance. Young and enthusiastic, he is eager to see his play on stage. It becomes a success in Europe, but in America, it is a different story. The years pass, the culture changes and the question of what is art and how morality plays into the question comes into the forefront of the battle to see the play on stage again.

The thing that struck me about this play is how relevant it feels in 2017. It asks questions about politics, immigration, morality, diversity, etc. It also has a love story with two women, which was unheard of in the early 20th century and only now is slowly becoming more acceptable.

I absolutely recommend it. Indecent is only open until this Sunday, August 6th. See it if you can. I guarantee that you will walk out of the theater blown away.

Indecent is at 138 West 48th Street in New York City. You can find more information at http://www.indecentbroadway.com.

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A Dolls House Part II Review

A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, has one of the most famous endings in the world of theater. Nora Helmer walks away from her husband and her children, the door slamming behind her.

The new play, A Dolls House Part 2, is the sequel to the classic play. Nora (Laurie Metcalf) returns to her husband and her home 15 years after the original play ends. She is greeted by her children’s nanny, Anne Marie (Jayne Houdyshell), who is both pleased and displeased to see her. Nora receives similar responses from her husband, Torvald (Chris Cooper) and her now teenage daughter, Emmy (Condola Rashad), who was very young when her mother left.

At first glance, this play appears to be a straight drama. But it turns out to be a very funny comedy. It is also speaks, as it did with the original in 1879, about the difficulty of marriage and how women are still fighting for their own needs vs. the needs that the overall culture says we should strive for.

I absolutely recommend it.

A Dolls House is playing at The John Golden Theater at 252 W 45th Street in New York City. The show runs until January 8th of 2018.

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Capitol Steps Review

Within the world of politics, there is a sliver of absurdity.

For the last 30 odd years, Capitol Steps has had the pleasure of pointing out the absurdity of politics and politicians in particular.

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing a show at The Symphony Space in New York City. A cross between a political SNL parody and a musical revue, the show uses popular music to satirize the truth about politics.

This show is brilliant, funny and the perfect release for the political agita that has become the norm over the last few years. I absolutely recommend it.

Capitol Steps is playing at various theaters around the country. Check the website for location and showtimes.

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Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Review

When we are children, we think that by the time we reach middle age, we will have everything figured out. Then we grow up and learn that some of us never figure everything out.

In Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Vanya (Jim Incorvaia) and Sonia (Sheree Joseph) are a middle-aged brother and sister duo. Sonia is forever going on and on about the fact that she was adopted. Their lazy lifestyle is financed by their sister Masha (Heidi Hecker), a movie star whose career and love life both taking a hit. Reeling from a 5th divorce, Masha returns home with a much younger Spike (Brian Shaw), a himbo who thinks with his lower appendage more than he thinks with his brain. Planning on selling the house, Masha receives protests from Sonia, Vanya and Cassandra (Asami Tsuzuki), the cleaning woman who speaks in a weird prophetic language. The final character in this mix is Nina (Kelly Schmidt), a young woman who is visiting relatives next door who wants to be an actress and fawns over Masha.

I must state two disclaimers before I go further. The first is that I did not see the Broadway production (which is the video above), I saw a local community theater production. The second is that I’m not really familiar with Anton Chekhov, whose work is heavily referenced in this play. Many of the references were well over my head. My problem with this play is that the first act does not really go anywhere narrative wise. By the time narrative becomes more interesting in the second act, I found that I did not care about these characters or their story.

Do I recommend it? No.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is playing at the The Merrick Theater & Center For Performing Arts until March 19th, 2017. The Merrick Theater & Center For Performing Arts is located at 2222 Hewlett Ave in Merrick, NY.

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The Crucible Review

In the spring of 1692, the small town of Salem Massachusetts was plagued with accusations of witchcraft. By the accusations died down and the trials ended in the fall of that year, some 150 men, women and children were forced to stand trial.  19 people were eventually executed for the crime of witchcraft.

Centuries later, the United States experienced another witch hunt. But it was not for witches in the 1950’s, it was for communists. Led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, lives and careers were ruined.  In 1953, playwright Arthur Miller introduced audiences to The Crucible, a play about the Salem Witch Trials.

The most recent revival of The Crucible opened on Broadway last month. Playing Abigail Williams, the young women who is the catalyst for the hysteria is Saoirse Ronan. Opposite Ms. Ronan as the very conflicted and very flawed hero, John Proctor is Ben Whishaw. John’s loyal and loving wife, Elizabeth, who despite her husband’s mistakes, stays by his side is played by Sophie Okonedo. Rounding out the leads is veteran Irish actor (and one of the main reasons I saw the show, for reasons that are obvious if you know me or my blog) is Ciaran Hinds as Deputy Governor Danforth, the man who takes charge of the trials.

This play is nothing short of extraordinary. It is about a repressed society and how easy it is to join the crowd instead of speaking up for what is right. It is also about young women who rebel to free themselves from a constricting society.

I’ve seen several adaptations of this play, but this revival makes the play feel brand new. The stage has a sparse, industrial feel. The costumes are modern with a muted palate of colors. The cast, is nothing but extraordinary. Saoirse Ronan, fresh off of her Oscar nomination for Brooklyn (a movie that I highly recommend) proves once more that she is one of the finest actresses of her generation. While Ben Whishaw might not have the physical presence of either Liam Neeson or Daniel Day-Lewis (both who have previously played the role, Neeson on Broadway in 2002 and Day-Lewis in the 1996 film adaptation), he makes up for it by his ability to make the audience sympathize with John Proctor, a man who has made a mistake and is trying to make up for that mistake.

As Elizabeth, Sophie Okonedo brings a strength and a resolve to the role. Elizabeth is the calm in the eye of the storm, trying to hold onto her marriage, her husband and stay sane in a community where sanity has been replaced by hysteria. As Deputy Govenor Danforth, Ciaran Hinds (Captain Wentworth in the 1995 Persuasion) believes he is doing the right thing, even if history will prove him wrong.

But the performance that stands out is Tavi Gevinson as Mary Warren. Vacillating between following the crowd and doing what is right, it is Mary who will decide the outcome of the accused.

There is something wrong with the world if the Tony nominating committee passes on this play for a nomination for Best Revival Of A Play and at the very least, Ben Whishaw, Ciaran Hinds and Saoirse Ronan do not receive acting nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress in a play.

Run, don’t want walk to this play.

The Crucible is playing until July 17th, 2016 at the Walter Kerr Theater, 219 West 48th Street in New York City. 

 

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Throwback Thursday-Grease (1978)

The themes of high school, young love and growing up are timeless. Add in a very catchy soundtrack, an iconic movie musical and you’ve got Grease (1978).

The go to musical for school productions and local theater groups for over 40 years, Grease is the story of a high school romance set in the late 1950’s. Sandy (Olivia Newton John) and Danny (John Travolta) had a brief summer romance. But summer is over and school has started. Sandy is now the new good girl and Danny is the leader of the T-Birds, bad boy greasers.

Danny is not the same boy Sandy knew over the summer. Sandy is spending her time with the Pink Ladies, the female equivalent of the T-Birds. Will Sandy and Danny’s romance be nothing more than a summer romance or can they bridge the gap that is keeping them apart?

We all know this movie. We all know the songs. The stage musical premiered in 1971 and has not left the public consciousness since then.

Do I recommend it? Why not?

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The Audience Review

Queen Elizabeth II is an interesting figure in British history. She is one of the most well known public figures in the world, but there are a few who are lucky enough to get beyond the public persona.

The Audience, a new play by Peter Morgan is about a little known meeting that the Queen has had with her Prime Ministers. Every Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister and Queen Elizabeth will meet for twenty minutes to hash out the past week’s events and to speak of what is to come for the next week.  This has been a tradition for sixty years, 12 Prime Ministers have sat opposite the Queen in those six decades.

Playing Queen Elizabeth II once more is Helen Mirren. But this is not the just the older Queen Elizabeth that Mirren played in The Queen. The play jumps back and forth in time, going back to her childhood (Sadie Sink & Elizabeth Teeter alternate the part of young Elizabeth).  As an adult, we see Elizabeth with her Prime Ministers, starting with Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews) and ending with the current Prime Minister David Cameron (Rufus Wright).

This play is nothing short of a masterpiece. Helen Mirren has proved once more why she is goddess that she is. Her Elizabeth is more than a ceremonial figurehead. She is witty, intelligent and extremely interested in the day to day running of her country.  We also see her growth as a woman and as a young girl, she chafed that rules placed upon her when her father became King.  Like any manager, her relationships with her Prime Minister vary from professional to warm.

Tonight was the last performance of this show. I’m usually not a fan of revivals, but next time this show comes around to NYC, I would see it again. Especially if Helen Mirren reprises her role.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Something Rotten Review

I’ve been stating recently about the dearth of original ideas on Broadway and in Hollywood.

Something Rotten has proved me wrong.

Nick Bottom (Brian D’arcy James) and Nigel Bottom (John Cariani) are renaissance era playwrights trying to make a name for themselves. Standing in their way is the biggest name in theater of the era: The Bard (Christian Borle).  Desperate for a hit, Nick reaches out to the Soothsayer (Brad Oscar). The Soothsayer tells Nick about a musical (a play that combines acting, singing and dancing at the same time. Completing shocking, I know). Running with the idea, Nick and  Nigel prepare their theater troupe for opening night. But they will learn that being at the top also requires in the words of the Bard “to thine own self be true”.

This show is one of the funniest and most original shows that I have seen on Broadway in a very long time. It speaks to all of us have a dream and see someone who is living that dream while we are watching from afar. While the entire cast are standouts, Borle’s The Bard is amazing. He has a Mick Jagger rock and roll swag in tight leather pants that is unique from any other portrayal of William Shakespeare.

I absolutely recommend this show.

Something Rotten is currently playing on Broadway at the St. James Theater, 246 W 44th Street, New York, NY.

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Filed under Broadway Musical Review, Broadway Play Review, William Shakespeare, Writing

Throwback Thursday-12 Angry Men (1957)

There is something about a jury room that brings out the best or the worst in us. 12 strangers have been randomly chosen to decide if another stranger is innocent or guilty of the charges that they have been accused of.

Based on the play of the same name, 12 Angry Men was adapted for the screen in 1957.

The audience does not know the names of the jurors or the lives they will lead when they leave the courthouse. They are known by their numbers. The accused is a young man who is charged with killing his father.  Now these men must decide if the accused is guilty or innocent. The first round of voting is fairly simple. All but one of the jurors, #8 (Henry Fonda) believes that the accused is guilty.  In the interest of returning to their everyday lives quickly, the rest of jurors try to convince #8 that he is wrong. What seems like an open and shut case turns into a revelation of personal prejudice, hidden scars and our inability to see beyond our own lives.

This play and the adapted film is a masterclass in acting. The drama is heightened from the first page and does let up until the last page. I have seen the movie and subsequent revivals on stage several. No matter how many times I see it, it is still one of the best plays ever written.

I highly recommend both.

 

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A Winters Tale Review

A William Shakespeare play will always draw a crowd.

Earlier today, I attended the final performance of A Winter’s Tale at The Pearl Theatre Company in New York City.

The play is the story of a king who in fit of jealousy, accuses his pregnant wife of cheating on him with his best friend. His wife dies soon after the birth of their daughter. Refusing to believe that the child is his, the king sends the child away with a trusted adviser who is eaten by bears. A shepherd find the baby and raises her as his own.

Sixteen years later, his daughter is now growing up and in love. She is in love with the prince, who happens to be the son of the best friend who her father accused her mother of cheating on him with.  His father does not approve of the match and the young lovers run away to the neighboring kingdom, which happens to be the birthplace of the girl.

I’ve seen many Shakespearean plays, but this afternoon was a first for me.  It was entertaining, but not the best.

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