Monday, September 15, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Bootycandy

A Sampler Candy Box of What it is Like Growing Up Black and Gay
By Lauren Yarger
Vignettes drawing on playwright Robert O’Hara’s experiences growing up gay and black fuse together in Bootycandy, a sometimes humorous, sometimes raw production getting an Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons in New York.

Sutter (Phillip James Brannon) is on an outrageous odyssey through his childhood home, his church, dive bars, motel rooms and a nursing home (all getting a spin on the revolving set designed by Clint Ramos, who also designs the costumes) The journey results in laughter, pain and a fresh script that holds our attention despite its difficult content.

O’Hara, who won the NAACP Best Director Award for his work on Eclipsed by Danai Gurira, directs a strongly talented ensemble cast -- Jessica Frances Dukes, Jesse Pennington, Benja Kay Thomas and Lance Coadie Williams – who portray numerous characters in Sutter’s life.
Dukes and Thomas shine as Sutter’s mother at different stages of his live. Time doesn’t change their inability to understand his interest in performing in musicals, dressing oddly to honor his idol Michael Jackson, or attracting the attention of men. His mom really isn’t at ease fielding questions about his private parts, which she calls his bootycandy. His stepfather (Williams) seems oblivious, hiding behind his newspaper, barely giving the young man a glance while suggesting that he take up sports.

His church experience also is odd, with a charismatic preacher (Williams in an energy-filled monologue) coming out in the middle of a sermon – literally in a silver, sequined gown and heels. Neighborhood women aren’t exactly great models either (Thomas and Dukes are a hoot in a Jekyl-and-Hyde, stereotypical phone call conversation among four women).

Sutter’s quest for love and belonging leads him to a seedy bar where he and a companion decide to inflict some pain and humiliation on a white guy (Pennington) looking for love in all the wrong places. The detour into rather disturbing, serious drama is quickly offset – and quite dramatically – by a break in the script, complete with voice over from the stage manager (sound design by Lindsay Jones) to forget about playing that scene out to its end.

Don’t consider that a spoiler. There is more to it. I include the information as proof of the playwright’s ability to keep us interested, despite providing moments where we’re at the end of what we feel we can tolerate or when we are growing tired with a theme. He consistently pulls a switch and prevents us from heading to the exit. The language and situations are very explicit, sometimes politically incorrect and often uncomfortable, but the truth of one human spirit, being vulnerable with us, appeals through it all. A scene between Sutter and his nursing-home-bound Granny (the versatile Williams) is especially touching.

Humor helps, like a scene that pairs Dukes and Thomas again, this time as Intifada and Genitalia, two women having a sort of wedding ceremony to un-commit themselves from their long-term union with the help of a "New Agey," “everything-is-cool” Officiant (Pennington). Also very clever is a break-the-fourth-wall moment where a team of playwrights attends a talk back moderated by a very amusing Pennington, to discuss some of what has taken place so far. It breaks things up at just the right time.

Bootycandy is raw, harsh and cutting edge, but delivers an intelligent message with a sharp script and excellent performances – just the type of production I have come to expect at Playwrights, which isn’t afraid to tackle nontraditional plays. Coming up this season: the word premieres of Grand Concourse by Heidi Schreck, Pocatello by Samuel D. Hunter, Placebo by Melissa James Gibson, Iowa, a new musical play by Jenny Schwartz, music and lyrics by Todd Almond, and The New York premiere of The Qualms by Pulitzer-Prize and Tony Award winner Bruce Norris.

Performances through Oct. 12 Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm.  Special Sept. 18 performance for  those age 30 and under  has an early 7 pm curtain. Tickets $75-$95: (212) 279-4200;, box office, 416 West 42nd St. (between Ninth and Tenth avenues).

A special open captioned performance for theatergoers who are deaf and hard of hearing will be held on the Saturday, Sept. 13 matinee at 2:30.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexualy explicit scenes and dialogue
-- Suicide
-- Language
-- Use of the "N" word
-- Scripture is used in one scene and altered
-- Sexual actions
-- Nudity
-- Cross Dressing

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Off Broadway Shows Just $20at20

Cast of WAYRA. Photo credit: Jacob Cohl.
The Off Broadway Alliance will again sponsor 20at20, the bi-annual celebration of Off Broadway.  The popular promotion, which runs Sept. 9-28, makes $20 tickets available for 45 Off Broadway plays and musicals 20 minutes prior to curtain.  Now in its eighth year, 20at20 has become one of New York’s most eagerly anticipated promotions for people who want to see exciting shows at amazing price
Show up 20 minutes before curtain to purchase $20 tickets at the box office for participating shows. 
Since Off Broadway has every kind and style of show imaginable and since the tickets are only $20, you can check out any number of shows of every genre: long-running hit musicals like Avenue Q and The Fantasticks, amazing and unique events like Fuerza Bruta WAYRA,STOMP, and iLuminate, new musicals like the outrageously satirical Red Eye of Love, and new historical dramas like Olympics Uber Alles, which uncovers an untold story of the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Berlin. And there is a wide variety of family-friendly shows this year, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Gazillion Bubble Show, Sleepy Hollow the Musical, The Butterfly Girl, and The Berenstain Bears LIVE! With 20at20, you can see six or seven shows for about the average price of one Broadway ticket. 
All 20at20 ticket sales are cash only.  For a complete list of participating shows and venues see below or visit  
20at20 is presented by The Off Broadway Alliance (OBA), a non-profit corporation organized by theater professionals dedicated to supporting, promoting and encouraging the production of Off Broadway theater and to making live theater increasingly accessible to new and diverse audiences.  The Alliance holds monthly meetings and membership is open to everyone in the Off Broadway theater community.   with additional support from Playbill,, and 
Some of the Off Broadway shows participating (for a full list visit
A Walk In the Woods 
Avenue Q 
Black Angels Over Tuskegee 
Boys and Girls
Drunk Shakespeare 
Fabulous! The Queen of New Musical Comedies 
Fuerza Bruta WAYRA
Gazillion Bubble Show
NEWSical The Musical 
Perfect Crime
Piece of My Heart: The Bert Berns Story 
Port Authority
Red Eye of Love
Sleepy Hollow the Musical 
The Awesome 80s Prom
The Berenstain Bears LIVE!
The Fantasticks   
The Fatal Weakness
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
20at20 Terms and Conditions: All tickets subject to availability. Restrictions may apply. Offer valid only at the box office on the day of the performance twenty minutes prior to curtain. Offer may be revoked at any time. Not valid on prior sale. Cannot be combined with other offers. Valid September 9 to September 28, 2014. Cash only at all venues.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On Vacation

Taking advantage of the slower theater schedule to get some much needed rest. Hope you are enjoying the summer!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Broadway Dims Lights Tonight for Robin Williams

Robin Williams, Brad Fleischer and Glenn Davis. Photo: Carol Rosegg.
The Broadway community mourns the loss of beloved actor and comedy legend Robin Williams, who passed away on Monday at age 63. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in his memory tonight, Wednesday, Aug.13 at exactly 7:45 pm for one minute.

After studying theatre at Julliard, Williams rose to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series “Mork and Mindy.” Williams went on to establish a successful career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting, winning an Oscar for his supporting role in Good Will Hunting. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.

His film career included The World According to Garp; Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poets Society; Awakenings; The Fisher King; Good Will Hunting; Popeye; Hook; Aladdin; Mrs. Doubtfire; Jumanji; The Birdcage; Night at the Museum; and Happy Feet.

Williams starred in a number of theatrical productions, including Mike Nichols’s 1988 off-Broadway version of Waiting for Godot, co-starring with Steve Martin; and his own one-man show, Robin Williams: Live on Broadway. In 2011, he made his acting debut on Broadway in the title role of Rajiv Joseph’s drama Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, pictured above.

"Robin Williams was a comedic genius with limitless talent and stunning versatility who left this world far too early. He made an impact on everyone he met or entertained,” said Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League. “Whether on screen or live on stage, his multi-faceted talent always created memorable performances. Robin Williams will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.”

Williams leaves his third wife, Susan Schneider, and three children: a son, Zachary Pym, whom he had with his first wife Valeri Velardi, and two children, Zelda Rae and Cody Alan, whom he had with his second wife Marsha Garces.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Cirque du Soleil's Varekai

  • Russian Swings. Photo: Rick Diamond. Costume credit: Eiko Ishioka
By Lauren Yarger
Cirque du Soleil 's latest tour is Varekai, which recently stopped at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn (where I saw the show on which this review is based.). 

After 11 years of touring the world under the blue and yellow Big Top, Varekai began a new adventure this past December touring the world in arenas worldwide and in some markets never visited before.

What's It All About?
Well, as is the case with so many of Cirque's shows, it is hard to know. I couldn't catch the thread of the story, or understand the lyrics. Here's what the show says it is about:

Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world¾a world where something else is possible.  A world called Varekai. The sky lets go a solitary young man, and the story of Varekai begins.  Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world imbued with fantastical creatures, a young man takes flight in an adventure both absurd and extraordinary.  On this day at the edge of time, in this place of pure and undiluted possibility, begins an inspired incantation to a life rediscovered and to a newly found wonder in the mysteries of the world and the mind.

The word Varekai (pronounced ver·ay·’kie) means “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies¾the universal wanderers.  Directed by Dominic Champagne, this production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai.

What Are the Highlights?
It's Cirque du Soleil, so you are sure to be entertained, even if you aren't following the plot. Colorful costuming (designed by Eiko Ishioka), driving music (composed and musical directed by Violaine Corradi) and choreography by Michael Montanaro and Bill Shannon (with acrobatic performances designed by André Simard) create a vibrant, mystical world where winged men and odd reptilian creatures play and do everything from fly, juggle, balance, and contort. 

There also are a pair of clowns, one male and one female (the act is created by
Cahal McCrystal), who entertain. I am not a huge fan of the clowns, who often target members of the audience for humor, but one number performed to "Ne Me Quitte Pas" was particularly well done and so amusing that I found myself laughing out loud at clowns at the circus (believe me, this is not a normal thing).

The finale, "Russian Swing" (pictured above) is the kind of breath-taking, flying and leaping act that has Cirque audiences on the edge of their seats, a gasp away from amazement.

What Are the Lowlights?
On a scale of 1-10 in the world of Cirque du Soleil Shows, with O in Vegas being a 10 (well, actually more like a 12) and Banana Shpeel being a 1 (and that might be generous), this one ranks in at about a 5.5. It's interesting and entertaining, but doesn't include the amazing acts we've come to expect. And there's just no easy way to figure out what is supposed to be going on. 

I thought a white winged man who fell to earth might be Adam. Then I thought maybe it was Adam's fall from grace, because a little man dressed in black with a light bulb on his head seemed to be devil-like. Press materials later informed me, however, that the man with the wings was Icarus --  "Innocent and vulnerable, he finds himself wounded in an unknown world. His desire to live and overcome his fears will drive him to new heights and an eventual rebrirth." Really, now....

  • Title : The Betrothed
  • Picture credit : Eric Piché
  • Costume credit : Eiko Ishioka
The amphibian-like creature to whom I referred in my notes as "webbed lady," apparently is "The Betrothed" -- " An exotic creature who enraptures Icarus with her sensual beauty. She will be his guiding light and he, in turn, will be the catalyst for her metamorphosis." OK, webbed and sensual beauty don't usually occupy the same sentence in my world....

And the light bulb guy wasn't the devil, but The Guide --  "Weathered by the sun of many centuries, he’s like a kindly, fragile great-grandfather—a wise old man whose mission is to inspire and bring about change."  Totally missed that.

But it's Cirque. You don't need to get it. Just sit back and enjoy.

More information:

Cirque du Soleil
From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is a major Québec-based organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has 5,000 employees, including more than 1,300 artists from more than 50 different countries.

Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 100 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over forty countries on six continents. For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit

Visit to find information about the tour.
Upcoming Stops:
The Walstein Center, Cleveland
Erie, PA Insurance Arena
Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Christians might also like to know:
No content notes.
  • Title : Flight of Icarus (The)
  • Picture credit : Benoit Camirand
  • Costume credit : Eiko Ishioka

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On Vacation

Taking advantage of the slower theater schedule to get some much needed rest. Hope you are enjoying the summer!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Off-Broadway Theater Review: When We Were Young and Unafraid

When We Young and Unafraid
By Sarah Treem
Directed by Pam McKinnon

What's It All About?
It's 1972 and single mom Agnes (Cherry Jones) is trying to get her daughter, Penny (Morgan Saylor), to stop worrying about trying to get into Yale and go to the prom. Penny's idea about the perfect boy might be different, but her mother just doesn't get it.

Or maybe she does. Agnes has been running a safe house for battered women who arrive in the dead of night at the bed and breakfast on coastal Seattle. Mary Anne (Zoe Kazan) is one of the women seeking shelter there, but she might just bring more trouble than she's worth. She doesn't listen to Agnes' rules and contacts her violently abusive husband. She also ha "boy-catching" advice for Penny who has her eye on the school's football star.

Adding to the drama are Paul (Patch Darragh), a guest at the B and B who is interested in Mary Anne and Hannah (Cherise Boothe), a feminist looking for work as a handywoman on her way to a commune of lesbians convinced that men need to be eliminated from the equations.

What Are the Highlights?
Jones gives a moving, deep portrayal of a woman not sure how to do what is best for her daughter or for the women who end up in her care. "If you're going to go back," she challenges Mary Anne, "Tell me in person and to my face." She also isn't sure how to cope with the changing times, or with Hannah's obvious interest in her. McKinnon skillfully coaxes complexity in each role even the minor ones of Paul, who isn't who he seems to be, and Hannah, who surprises us with stability and strength. Kazan simultaneously appeals to our sympathy with Mary Anne's vulnerability and frustrates us with the character's stupid choices. Treems's story is engrossing.

What Are the Lowlights?
None, except that the subject matter is difficult. I enjoyed it. It gives an interesting perspective on women's issues before Roe s. Wade.

More Information:
When We Were Young and Unafraid plays through Aug. 10 at Manhattan Theatre Club at New York City Center Stage I, 131 West 55th St., NYC. The show is recommended for ages 12 and up.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Abortion
-- Explicit dialogue
-- Sexual activity
-- Language
-- Homosexuality
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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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for 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.


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



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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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