Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Broadway: Revisiting the Phantom of the Opera

Norm Lewis as the Phantom of the Opera. Photo: Matthew Murphy

The Phantom of the Opera
By Gaston Leroux
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe)
Book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Harold Prince

Sometimes It’s Worth Going Back to a Classic Musical
By Lauren Yarger
When you see as many theater productions as I do, there has to be a special reason to see one more than once. One musical that recently got me back again – and I have seen it quite a few times actually – is The Phantom of the Opera.

Phantom is the longest-running show in Broadway history and the most successful stage musical of all time. It has been running over at the Majestic Theatre for almost three decades and is nearing its 11,000 performances. You might also have seen it one of the times the tour has stopped at The Bushnell.

The score has been a favorite of mine since I first heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s haunting tunes (sung by Michael Crawford as Broadway’s first Phantom with Sarah Brightman as Christine.) I loved the swelling organ with a rock beat, the unbelievably high notes hit by Christine and the sad, yet surprisingly sexy Phantom. It brought Gaston Leroux’s tale of a disfigured man who hides underground at the Paris Opera House, haunting its inhabitants and falling in love with ingénue Christine Daae to life for me in a way the novel never did.

The production, directed by Hal Prince, with its opulent opera settings (Production Design by Maria Björnson) and thousands of candles lighting the way as the Phantom brings Christine to his lair via a boat on an underground river changed the face of musical theater on Broadway for years. 

I went back and saw it on a number of occasions, mostly to take out-of-towners to experience a Broadway show. On some occasions, I felt like it lived up to that original production. One production, probably about 10 years ago, was terrible. I thought the entire cast and crew should be fired. It looked like an amateur high school production.

So what prompted me to go see the musical again? The casting of Norm Lewis, one of my favorite singing voices on Broadway, as the Phantom. In 1990, Tony Award nominee Robert Guillaume (another favorite actor and singing voice) played the role when he succeeded Michael Crawford in the Los Angeles production, but Lewis was to be the first African-American to play the role on Broadway. Joining him is Sierra Boggess as Christine. He took over the role in May.

I went with a lot of excitement. Favorite show plus favorite actor equals great experience, right? Well, yes, but maybe night quite as much as I expected. I enjoyed seeing the show again – it is much cleaned up since that awful production 10 years ago. It seemed to me that some little bits had been added to give minor characters something extra to do. The 27-piece orchestra (large by some modern standards) still sounded great on the opening number in particular, but I felt that arrangements (Orchestrations by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber) let me hear individual instruments rather than a blend (Sound Design by Mick Potter).

Vocal arrangements also left me hearing single notes rather than crescendos of individual voices coming together as one (Musical Direction and Supervision by David Caddick). I also was disappointed to hear some of the Phantom’s songs rekeyed, though Lewis sings them well (I still got goosebumps on “Anywhere you go let me go too” from “All I Ask of You.”

Overall I liked Lewis, but he didn’t wow me as the Phantom. He didn’t seduce me like some other Phantoms have (or like Lewis did when he played Porgy a couple of seasons ago in in Porgy and Bess, for which he earned Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards). Lewis is one of Broadway’s solid leading men, however, and is always worth seeing. He also starred as Javert in the 2006 Broadway reimagining of Les Misérables and played the role in the original record-breaking West End production of Les Misérables and the all-star 25th Anniversary Concert at London’s 02 Arena.

Boggess, who returns to the role (she was one of the youngest actresses ever to play Christine Daaé, which she originated in the hit, revised Las Vegas production in 2006) gives a really nice – and different—characterization. Usually the young soprano is portrayed as naïve and unaware of the depth of the Phantom’s feelings toward her, but this Christine is stronger, more aware and truly torn between the Phantom, for whom she obviously has compassion, and Raoul, her true love. Well done.

For me, this time around, the stand-out performance was a bit of a surprise, given my pre-performance assumption that I would be blown away by Lewis. Instead, I loved Jeremy Hays as Raoul. Beautiful voice, charming good looks and a nice take on the childhood friend of Christine’s who falls in love with the grown-up woman. The character can sometimes seem undeveloped and a bit wimpy, but not here. I totally was rooting for him.
If you haven’t seen this staple of the theater, this production might be the one. Certainly, it’s the choice if you find yourself in New York with out-of-town guests.

Phantom Fun Facts:
  • The Phantom Of The Opera became the longest-running show in Broadway history on January 9, 2006 with its 7,486th performance, surpassing the previous record-holder Cats, also by Andrew Lloyd Webber and also produced by Cameron Mackintosh
  • On Jan. 26, 2013, the New York production reached another historic, unprecedented milestone: becoming the first and only Broadway show ever to celebrate 25 Years. Previously, in February 2012, it became the first and only Broadway show ever to reach milestone performance 10,000. 
  • Since its debut on January 26, 1988, the Broadway production has grossed over $950 million with total attendance nearing 16 million. Even now, it is consistently among Broadway’s highest-grossing shows and remains a box office champ. Earlier this year, the production shattered the house record at The Majestic by having its best weekly gross in its entire 26-year history.
  • With worldwide grosses estimated at more than $5.6 billion, Phantom is the most successful entertainment venture of all time, with revenues higher than any film or stage play in history, including Titanic, Star Wars and far surpassing the world’s highest-grossing film Avatar (at $2.8 billion). Worldwide, more than 65,000 performances have been seen by 130 million people in 29 countries and 150 cities in 13 languages. There are seven productions around the world.\
  • The musical has won more than 70 major theater awards, including seven 1988 Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and three Olivier Awards in the West End. The original cast recording, with over 40 million copies sold worldwide, is the best-selling cast recording of all time. Since September 2010, thousands of high school and college student productions of Phantom have been licensed through R and H Theatricals.
Phantom plays at the Majestic Theatre, 247 West 44th St., NYC. Performances are Monday evenings at 8, Tuesday evenings at 7, Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8, with matinees Thursdays and Saturdays at 2. www.PhantomBroadway.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- No production notes, but I recommend it for older children.

**Note: The press representative for Phantom informs me that even though it sounded like it to me, none of the music has been written in a different key for Lewis. The only musical difference, he said,  (aside from sound design) is the addition of a trio in the Graveyard scene. While on the original London cast recording, it was never performed in its entirety until it was put in for Norm and Sierra’s opening night. (essentially it was a Phantom/Christine duet, with Raoul entering later without singing).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

At the O'Neill Homecoming

This Weekend is Homecoming for alums of the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. I was a Fellow at the National Critic Institute in 2008 and enjoyed spending the day Saturday, highlighted by a tour of Eugene O'Neill's boyhood home, Monte Cristo, and capped off by seeing I'm Gonna Pray for You So Hard by Halley Feiffer, one of the plays being presented as part of the National Playwrights Festival. For a full schedule visit http://www.theoneill.org/.
-- Lauren Yarger
The Whilte House on the grounds of the O'Neill

The beautiful grounds -- there will be a barbecue there tonight.

National Critics Institute Chris Jones interviews NY Post Columnist Michael Riedel, who said the upcoming Broadway show Finding Neverland will probably lend itself to his famous brand of ridicule because of the personalities involved.
The room at Monte Cristo which virtually is the setting for A Long Day's Journey into Night.

With Newsday's Linda Winer and NTI Associate Director Mark Charney.

Broadway Theater Review: Holler If Ya Hear Me

The Boom Box: Rappers Words, Music Lend Themselves to a New Version of Juke Box Musical
By Lauren Yarger
Instead of songs of Abba, Jersey Boys, Carole King or other composers from the Juke Box era forming the foundation for a plot to bring them together (and some do it better than others), Todd Kriedler uses the words and music of a more recent chart topper, the late hiphop/rap star Tupac Shakur, to tell a story of inner-city life in Holler If Ya Hear Me.

He and Director Kenny Leon (who won the Tony for his work on last season’s revival of Raisin in the Sun) bring the Juke Box Musical into a new time zone and create the “Boom Box Musical,” if you will, with tunes more modern than Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys or Carole King. While the two former musicals succeed because of the strength of their books, most in the genre don’t satisfy because the stories so obviously are just a means to presenting 20 to 30 popular tunes.

Holler If You Hear Me lands somewhere in the middle. This music is hardly the sing-along variety. Shakur’s lyrics express real, sometimes harsh emotions. The music is driving, with a loud beat befitting the tough streets of the Midwestern industrial city where the action (and choreography by Wayne Cilento) takes place. Shakur himself was a victim on the violence depicted (he was killed in a drive-by shooting 1996, though this story is not biographical). The plot is fairly predictable here, however, and characters fit neatly into stereotypes so that the action can move quickly from song to song.

A quick synopsis -- much like the plot:
John (Saul Williams, Slam) returns from a stint in prison to find that his girl, Corinne (Saycon Sengbloh) is now with his best friend, Vertus (Christopher Jackson). He tries to start over with a job at the Griffin, the local auto body shop owned by a father and his son, Griffy (Ben Thompson), who hopes one day everyone will be able to get along. There’s a gang taking over, however, and they kill Vertus’ younger brother, Benny (Donald Webber, Jr.) and threaten his mother, Mrs. Weston (Tonya Pinkins, who shines), if he doesn’t meet their demands.

All of the folks in the hood seem unable to resist becoming involved in the violence. Mrs. Weston begs her son to change his life so she can avoid having to bury another son. Also reminding the neighbors about the Good News is a Street Preacher (John Earl Jelks). The neighborhood folks all care for him in his homeless state and their care for him demonstrates what might be possible on the block if everyone can band together and resist the temptation to seek vengeance.

A large ensemble completes the cast which performs 21 musical numbers including “My Block,” “I Ain’t Mad at Cha,” “If I Die 2Nite,” “Thugz Mansion,” “Ghetto Gospel,” “Dear Mama” and the title song. The stage (designed by Edward Pierce based on original concepts by David Gallo) is stark, with minimal props. Projections (by Zachary G. Borovay) help set locations, but most impressive is the lighting designed by Mike Baldassari who expertly creates mood. When characters are down, it’s darker. When they are angry, lights become brash and move with the pounding beat of the music (which puts some of Shukar’s poems to notes and is supervised here by Daryl Waters).

Stadium seating is used to eliminate more than 500 seats on the orchestra level of the gigantic Palace Theatre to move the audience closer to the stage and to create a more intimate atmosphere. The typical Broadway crowd hasn’t yet embraced the hiphop/rap mix, however, so even with fewer seats, tickets aren’t flying out the box office and there were plenty available on all levels the evening I attended.

It’s worth the trip, though, especially if you are fan of the music – the audience members who were in seats were bopping along with the beat. All of them – young, old, black, brown, white, male, female – so  2Pac’s music still has appeal. And a couple of the tunes sound like actual Broadway-type ballads rather than what you might expect to come out of a boom box.


Holler If Ya Hear Me runs at the Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway at 47th St., NYC. http://hollerifyahearme.com/. CLOSING ANNOUNCED FOR JULY 20.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing -- Shakespeare in the Park

The cast of The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing. Photo: Joan Marcus
Much Ado About Nothing
By William Shakespeare
The Public Theater
Shakespeare in the Park
THROUGH JULY 6

Cast:

Lily Rabe…. Beatrice
Hamish Linklater….Benedick
Steel Burkhardt…. Balthasar
Austin Durant…. Friar Francis, Sexton
John Glover…. Leonato
David Manis…. Antonio, Verges
Kathryn Meisle…. Ursula
Ismenia Mendes….Hero
Brian Stokes Mitchell…. Don Pedro
John Pankow…. Dogberry
Pedro Pascal…. Don John
Eric Sheffer Stevens…. Borachio
Zoë Winters…. Margaret
Caudiio.... Jack Cutmore-Scott
Matt Bittner, Alex Breaux, Paco Lozano, and Matthew Russell…. Ensemble

Enjoying the Stars Under the Stars at Central Park
By Lauren Yarger
Lily Rabe is Beatrice and Hamish Linklater is Benedick in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, thei first of two free offerings by the Public Theater at Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre this summer.

Other big names joining the cast are John Glover and Brian Stokes Mitchell

I hate re-telling Shakespeare plots in reviews since you either are familiar with them already, or will need Spark notes to follow if you’re not, so let this brief synopsis suffice (there’s also one in the program should you venture to the park):

It’s turn-of-the-century Sicily where Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, (Mitchell) visits his friend and governor of Messina, Leonato (Glover) along with two of his offers, Benedick and Claudio (Jack Cutmore-Scott). Claudio falls in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Ismenia Mendes) while Bendick falls into scathing banter with long-time thorn-in-his-side Beatrice, Leonato’s insulting, quit witted niece.  

While acquaintances scheme to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love, Hero and Claudio’s marriage is threatened when Don Pedro’s treacherous illegitimate brother, Don John (Pedro Pascal), plots to besmirch Hero’s reputation. Betrayal, false death and a helpful Friar (Austiin Durant) -- not unlike the plot of Romeo and Juliet -- ensue, but with more comedic results as everyone makes a big ado about nothing.

This production, directed by Jack O’Brien, who plays up bits for minor characters for humor, is light and fun and takes place on an imposing set designed by John Lee Beatty including sundrenched stucco balconies, vines, vegetables and palm trees blending in with the greenery of Central Park. Jane Greenwood designs the simple costumes that place the production around late 19th century. A four-man band directed by Nathan Koce serenades with accordion, horns, strings and woodwinds as well as vocal solos.

Rabe is entertaining as the feisty Beatrice. While some of the dialogue sounds stilted and doesn’t flow easily for some of the other performers, sitting under the stars listening to the Bard isn’t a bad way to spend three hours in New York (except for those annoying helicopters that kept flying overhead).

Tickets to the Shakespeare in the Park shows are free. Virtual ticketing is done by lottery online at www.publictheater.org on the day of the show. You also can stand in line at the Delacorte the day of the show beginning at noon (but the line starts forming way before that). Supporter tickets also are available. For more information, call (212) 539-8734.


The next production will be King Lear, starring John Lithgow, beginning July 22.

FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK TICKET INFORMATION 
FREE TICKETS to The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park are distributed, two per person (age 
5+), at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park beginning at noon on the day of each performance. In 
order to allow as many different people as possible to attend free Shakespeare in the Park this summer, 
visitors will be limited to receiving free tickets to two performances only of each production. There will 
continue to be a separate line for accessible tickets for senior citizens (65+) and patrons with disabilities.

VIRTUAL TICKETING LOTTERY FOR FREE TICKETS will be available at www.publictheater.org on the day of the show.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Get Up Close with Broadway Theaters, History on Walking Tour

By Lauren Yarger
Summer is almost here and I know many of you are headed into the Big Apple. Every year I get tons of emails from readers asking which shows they should see while they are in New York, where to stay, where to eat and what to do besides see good theater.

One option that combines theater with seeing the sites in the Broadway Up Close Walking Tours. 

I took the The ACT One Tour with affable and knowledgeable owner Tim Dolan, right. Armed with a tablet for photos to enhance the tour, we began at the Nederlander Theatre on 41st street between 7th and 8th avenues and visited a number of theaters between there and 45th Street in Times Square in about two hours (additional tours -- Act Two -- also are available. You can't possibly see all 42 theaters in one trip!).The tour not only gives you a chance to stop at some of New York's beautiful Broadway theaters (we even stopped inside the former Empire Theatre, left, now the lobby of a multi-plex movie theater) and saw photos Tim (an actor when he's not giving tours) took when he was granted a rare visit to the supposedly haunted apartment atop the Belasco Theatre (below, right, my personal favorite -- the Tiffany stained glass and wood trim in there are gorgeous.)


We learned amazing history about rooftop parties on competing theaters on 42nd Street (did you know there once was a farm up there?) The tours are scheduled to last two hours and 45 minutes and cover a half mile of terrain without a break or a chance to sit, so comfortable shoes are recommended.

Broadway Up Close Walking Tours doesn't operate with a set schedule. They customize tours based on  travel needs. Tours are $30 per person.  Private tours and group rates (15 or more)  are available upon request.Contact info@broadwayupclose.com; 917-841-0187; http://www.broadwayupclose.com/

The Lyric, formerly Foxwood.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TOP PICK Off-Broadway Theater Review: Fly By Night

Adam Chanler-Berat and Patti Murin. Photo: Joan Marcus
Fly By Night
Conceived By Kim RosenstockWritten By Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick and Kim Rosenstock
Directed By Carolyn CantorTo Feature


A Stellar Message We Hope Rides on Every Broadway Shooting Star
By Lauren Yarger
In the span of a year between Nov. 9, 1964 and 1965, a lot happens: people fall in and out of love, leave home and return, find jobs and quit, live and die and there are moments of blessings and of curse before a blackout sinks the northeast into darkness.

In the span of the two and a half hours it takes to tell the stories in Fly By Night, getting its New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons, I fell in love with Kim Rosenstock, who conceived the musical, and Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick who wrote it with her.

Rarely are we treated to such a sharply written, enjoyable journey on the stage. It's exciting, like a shooting star on which we wish all Broadway musicals would catch a ride.

And stars do figure prominently in this tale of two sisters, a father and son, a playwright and a shopkeeper all trying to find their way in the dark.

Beautiful Daphne wants to be a star -- on Broadway. She packs her bags, bids her mother and small-town South Dakota goodbye, and heads out the door. In tow is her sister, Miriam (Allison Case), who really is quite content being a waitress in the small town where she can remember nights with her father gazing at the stars. She's a star too -- but because she is made up of particles from the supernova that created everything.

Daphne has a bad feeling about being in New York. It grows stronger when she encounters a gypsy fortune teller (played by Henry Stram, who as narrator, jumps in to play any characters needed to help tell the story) She predicts three signs and a great love for Miriam, followed by tragedy.

Meanwhile, Daphne finds love with Harold McClam (Adam Chanler-Berat) , who hopes to become a musician -- once he learns to play more than one note on the guitar that was his mother's. Her death has caused a chasm between him and his father, (Peter Friedman), who loses himself in her memory by carrying around a recording of La traviata that once meant something to him and his wife. 

Harold does write a song about being a turtle (backed up by Foe Destroyer, a five-member band directed by Vadim Feichtner), but spends most of his time at his day job, making sandwiches for boss Crabble (Michael McCormick), who's got "hum drum" down to a science.

Dahpne's dreams of leaving her mundane job as a coat salesperson and becoming a star just might come true when Joey Storms (Bryce Ryness) falls for her and casts his muse as the lead in the new play he is writing and producing. Constant rehearsals keep her away from Harold, however, and he finds himself gravitating toward a star-crossed relationship with Miriam.

Carolyn Cantor brilliantly directs a luminous cast. The play bursts with creativity as time shifts between past and present (quite effectively). The dialogue and lyrics offer insight and soothing rhythms. The narrator tells us:

Long wide stretches of the ordinary
Spinning circles as this life rolls on 
From the cradle to the cemetery 
Just get through until tomorrow’s dawn 
Then, a burst—a soaring peak, a sudden drop 
Best, or worst—don’t let it end, please make it stop 
Instants, moments— 
One flickering flame of light—

Simply beautiful. Then, at the other end of the spectrum (blunt and crass), his oft-repeated mantra of sandwich making --  "Mayonnaise meat cheese ‘n lettuce" -- creates a Crapple who is simultaneously minstrel, prophetic, humorous and sad. His duet with Harold about the sandwich-making routine is a hoot.

Cantor also assembles an excellent creative team to help propel the story with a lesson about how we all are connected and about how what we do on earth isn't nearly as important as with whom we do it. We love these characters and root for them. At intermission, audience members were discussing what they hoped would happen and humming the tunes. 

A scene between Harold and his father, beautifully acted, is one of them most touching I have witnessed on stage.

The '6os period costumes (designed by Paloma Young) keep us anchored in time without making the show about the era and Lighting Designer Jeff Croiter, turns steps into bedrooms and the entire theater into a galactic wonder.

And if that's not enough, the simple tunes give characters a chance to shine (Sound Designers Ken Travis and Alex Hawthorn create the right mix) with non-intrusive choreography by Sam Pinkleton.

This one is stellar -- so much so that at the final curtain, I thought about buying a ticket to go back and see it again. It gets Top Pick Status.

Fly By Night plays through June 29 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7, Thursdays and Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm. Single tickets are $80-95; www.TicketCentral.com; 212-279-4200 (noon-8 pm daily); Box Office, 416 West 42nd St. (between 9th and 10th avenues).

Christians might also like to know:
-- fortune telling
--God's name taken in vain

Monday, June 16, 2014

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Ionesco's The Killer

Michael Shannon. Photo: Gerry Goodstein
The Killer
By Eugène Ionesco
Newly Translated: Michael Feingold
Featuring Kristine Nielsen, Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, and Robert Stanton in a company of 20 actors.
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Polonsky Shakespeare Center, Brooklyn

A Puzzling Play, Where Humor Helps Put Together the Pieces
By Lauren Yarger
So what does a director who wins the Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle awards do in his spare time?

If you are Darko Tresnjak, Hartford Stage’s artistic director who just took all of those top directing honors for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, you direct a rarely seen Off-Broadway revival of Eugène Ionesco’s dark, absurdist comedy The Killer, getting a limited run as the season closer at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn.

The Killer was last produced Off-Broadway in 1960, perhaps because it’s not an easy work to produce (Ionesco’s Exit the King saw success on Broadway in 2009 when Geoffrey rush took home Tony for best actor in a play and seems much lighter and funnier to me.) When I ran into Tresnjak at a Drama Desk reception held during the rehearsal period for the play, he admitted that he was finding the process very difficult. The Killer was appropriately named, he joked.

Apparently he solved the puzzle of how to make this play work, because the production, starring Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road,” “Boardwalk Empire”), Kristine Nielsen (Vanya, Sonia, Masha & Spike, Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson) Paul Sparks (also “Boardwalk Empire) and Robert Stanton (a veteran stage actor whom you might know as the dad in the “Dennis the Menace” film), has been packing them in over at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn and whether or not the audience “gets it,” they’re definitely talking about it.

At the center of The Killer is Berenger (Shannon), Ionesco’s “every man” (the character who also gets the starring role in different portrayals in Exit the King, A Stroll in the Air and perhaps the best known of all of Ionesco’s plays, The Rhinoceros.)

Here, a downtrodden Berenger takes the wrong bus one day and discovers a city of light – a virtual paradise—where everything is clean, the gardens are lush and the sun shines perpetually. Lighting Designer Matthew Richards shines as he adds to the storytelling with effects that cast shadow on the less-than-Eden-like features of the paradise, evidenced by sewer grates and a creepy lagoon that appears on the dark set with rotating circles designed by Suttirat Larlarb (who also designs the costumes).

The Architect of this place (a comically adroit Robert Stanton) looks a bit familiar. He omnisciently listens to Berenger while chatting on his cell phone (the updated translation of Ionesco’s play is by Michael Feingold) and running a bureaucratic office with the assistance of Dennie (Stephanie Bunch), with whom Berenger falls in love at first sight.

There is a problem in this paradise – there is a killer on the loose and he is drowning people in that lagoon after showing them a picture of a colonel. Berenger is aided in his search for the killer by a mysterious (and quite funny) friend, Edward (Paul Sparks)

Highlight of the second act (there are three in all for just over three hours at the theater) is the appearance of a whacky (but dark, remember, this is Ionesco) concierge played by Kristine Nielsen, a favorite stage actress of mine who can make pushing a broom around seem like the funniest thing you’ve ever seen. She doesn’t disappoint here. She also plays Ma Piper, a totalitarian dictator dominating a political climate where protestors are rounded up by the police.

Shannon also gets a shining moment in a long monologue climax where he confronts the killer and tries to convince him that his actions are wrong.

Now, if you are looking for some answers about what this play is all about, let me direct you to Spark Notes. This type of theater is called absurd for a reason. Besides telling you there is a metaphor here for Original Sin and the fall of man as well as some references to the Occupy movement thanks to Feingold’s modernization of the text, there is a lot open to interpretation.

Tresnjak doesn’t try to answer the questions about life and death and purpose that are raised here, but instead focuses on the humor that helps us to ponder them. Good choice. Humor provides a way to fit the pieces of the puzzle together and if you run down to New York to see this limited run before it ends on June 29, you just might see the jigsaw come into focus.

The Killer runs through June 29 at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place, between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, Brooklyn. Performances: Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30 with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2. http://www.tfana.org/season-2014/killer/overview.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
Custom Search
Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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