Category Archives: Broadway Play Review

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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Filed under Broadway Play Review, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Persuasion

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.


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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When We Were Young And Unafraid Review

When We Were Young And Unafraid is the best play of 2014.

In the early 1970’s, Agnes (Cherry Jones) runs a bed and breakfast while raising her teenage daughter, Penny (Morgan Saylor) on an island near Seattle, Washington. The bed and breakfast is a cover for an underground battered women’s shelter. Mary Anne  (Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of the legendary director Elia Kazan) is running from her abusive husband.  Paul (Patch Darragh) is one of Agnes’s clients, seeking shelter from his own past.  Hannah (Cherise Boothe) came to the island looking for work and the womyns group she has been following.

This play is beyond magnificent. The topics of feminism, homosexuality, abortion, spousal abuse, teenage angst is written in such a way by playwright Sarah Treem that instead of being preachy or soapboxy, it intertwines with the secrets that we all have.  Put against the backdrop of the early 1970’s, when the world was changing, this play is dynamic, powerful and everything a play should be.

I highly recommend this play.

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The Cripple of Inishmaan Review

Daniel Radcliffe is an exceptional actor. At the the young age of 24, he has starred in one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. In the three years since the release of the final Harry Potter film, Radcliffe has continued to show audiences that he can play characters that are far from the world of his bespectacled wizardly alter ego.

His new play, The Cripple of Inishmaan is about a small island off the coast of Ireland. Among the residents of this island is Billy (Radcliffe), a orphaned young man born with a physical deformity. When Hollywood visits to make a film about their island, the residents hope for a chance for stardom. Vying for this chance of stardom is the very funny and mouthy brother and sister duo of  Helen and Bartley McCormick (Sarah Greene and Conor MacNeill). Billy’s aunts, Kate and Eileen Osbourne (Ingrid Craigie and Gillian Hanna), who have raised Billy since his parent’s death, are equal parts concerned about him and quick to remind him of his deformity.

This play is very good and very funny. While most of the characters have a small town mentality, Billy is eager to leave his small town and find opportunity in Hollywood. The supporting cast is well chosen and very funny.

I recommend this play.


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A Dolls House- A Timeless Masterpeice

It is a truth universally acknowledged that certain stories are meant to live forever, re-visited and introduced again and again to audiences.

Such is Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece, A Doll’s House, presently at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music until March 23rd.

Nora and Torvald Helmer (Hattie Morahan and Dominic Rowan, Elinor Dashwood in the 2008 Sense and Sensibility and Mr. Elton in the 1996 Kate Beckinsale Emma, for my fellow Janeites) have been married for nine years.  The play opens just before Christmas, Torvald is waiting for a promotion to bank manager, which will mean a raise. His wife, Nora, appears to be flighty and somewhat dimwitted.

The arrival of Nora’s childhood friend, Kristine Linde (Caroline Martin) reveals that Nora is much more than she appears.  Early into her marriage, Torvald became sick.  Following doctors orders, they traveled to Italy where the warm weather was recommended to improve Torvald’s health. Unbeknownst to her husband, Nora took out a loan which she is secretly paying off and has not told him. One of her husband’s employees, Nils Krogstad (Nick Fletcher) knows that he will be out for a job very soon and tries to use the unpaid loan to get his job back.

This play is amazing. Morahan is perfect for Nora and Rowan is equally as perfect as Torvald.  The tension is there from the moment that it starts. The audience knows Nora’s secret and we all know that it will only be a matter of time before Torvald finds out. The slamming of the door at the final moments of play reverberated throughout the theater.

I’ve heard of this play, but I’ve never seen it.  I hope to see it next time it comes my way.

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