Friday, April 30, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: American Idiot by Green Day

A Rocking Voyage with a Redeeming Message
By Lauren Yarger
Partly hit rock album and partly this generation’s answer to Hair, American Idiot bursts onto Broadway with a new musical featuring the music of the band Green Day (with lyrics by lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong) and the story of the search for meaning and purpose as told on their 2004 multi-platinum album by the same name.

Directed by Michael Mayer (also the director of Spring Awakening, another break-through type of rock musical) and starring John Gallagher, Jr., the show offers 90-minutes of loud rock and a surprisingly redeeming message.

Mayer and Armstrong co-wrote the book. Gallagher is Johnny, a.k.a. Jesus of Suburbia.
"I'm the son of rage and love. The Jesus of Suburbia, from the bible of none of the above, on a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin..." he sings.

He is a disillusioned youth opposed to the war in Iraq with an unhappy home life where his stepfather tells him he’ll never amount to anything. Johnny doesn’t want to be just another “American Idiot” who is powerless to do anything but accept the status quo, so he and friend Tunny (the delightful Stark Sands) go to the city to find something more while their other friend, Will (Michael Esper) stays home when his girlfriend, Heather (Mary Faber) discovers she is pregnant.

Tunny joins the military while Johnny finds sex and love with Whatsername (an engaging Rebecca Naomi Jones) and drugs with St, Jimmy (a vocally sharp Tony Vincent), who is a sort of anti-Christ to Johnny’s Jesus. Meanwhile, Will turns to drugs and alcohol too.

While an injured Tunny recovers in a hospital, he fantasizes about The Extraordinary Girl (Christina Sajous) who hovers above him in a burka. She discards the garment to reveal an I-Dream-of-Jeannie-like harem outfit and the two fly off (in some neat aerial theatrics). Meanwhile, Johnny hits bottom, loses Whatsername and believes St. Jimmy’s lies that everyone hates him and will leave him.

“I amounted to nothing,” he says, realizing he has fulfilled his stepfather’s prediction. Turns out life in the city isn’t much more than a "Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” one of Green Day’s most popular songs and one of a few ballads that break up and balance the harder rock sound of the show.

The story takes place through the album’s songs on Christine Jones’ set that houses the sharp musicians (conducted by Music Director Carmel Dean in Punk garb, costumes by Andrea Lauer), multiple video screens ( Darrel Maloney, design) fire-escape-looking stairways and flashing strobe lights (Kevin Adams, design) that make the stage look like a music video come to life. Other set pieces are flown, rolled or lifted in as needed. Brian Ronan designs the super sound which is very loud, but well balanced.

All of the actors give strong performances and the music, though considered in the Punk genre, actually is quite good and memorable (orchestrations and arrangements are by Tom Kitt). Despite the rather heavy and mature nature of the experience, the message that sex and drugs aren’t the answer is redeeming -- and that comes through loud and clear too.

The choreography by Steven Hoggett is crisp, pertinent, exciting and perfectly executed by the large cast.

The show runs at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th St., NYC. Discounted tickets for friends of Masterwork Productions are available here.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language throughout
• Drug use depicted throughout
• US flag displayed upside down
• Sexually suggestive move
• Sexual activity
• Scantily clad actors

Broadway Theater Review: Everyday Rapture with Sherie Rene Scott

A Celebration of Self with a Touch of Sadness
By Lauren Yarger
Everyday Rapture is actress Sherie Rene Scott's autobiographical "psycho-sexual-spiritual journey on the rocky path that separates her mostly Mennonite past from her mostly Manhattan future."

It’s supposed to be a celebration, but it leaves me kind of sad. Both times I have seen it – last year Off-Broadway at Second Stage and this year on Broadway where it is Roundabout Theatre Company’s last-minute replacement for the canceled Lips Together Teeth Apart – the show has left me wanting to give the talented actress a hug and tell her that people apparently have misrepresented God to her along her journey (just as Jesus is misrepresented in the show’s video sequence from designer Darrel Maloney), but that he loves her.

That said, Scott has co-written (with Dick Scanlan) a script chock full of song (Marco Paguia, musical direction), dance (Michele Lynch, choreography) and humor performed on a set designed by Christine Jones that evokes thoughts of a cosmic connect-the-dots (lighting by Kevin Adams). Directed by Michael Mayer (who also helmed Spring Awakening and American Idiot), the production is slick and has moved pretty much as an intact redo of the Off-Broadway show (and hence the following review is much the same as the one written last year).

Backup singers Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe reprise their roles as does Eamon Foley as a young nerdy kids lip synching to a recording of Scott singing “My Strongest Suit” from the role she originated in Aida. This is the show’s most entertaining segment and Foley is a hoot.

A rabbi (or was it a Muslim or a Buddhist, she wonders) tells her to carry two opposing approaches to life written out on sheets of paper in both of her hip pockets so that both choices are available to her. They are "you are a speck of dust" and "the world was created for you." Her goal in life: "to be one with God while a lot of people clapped” so the idea of not having to choose between the two approaches appeals.

Torn between her desire from a very early age to be a star and a "half Mennonite" upbringing that frowns on prideful pursuits (the only cool thing about being Mennonite, she tells us, is that you’re supposed to be non-judgmental), Scott gets her first chance to perform for patients at a mental hospital.

“No matter what God said, I was going to modulate,” she says. A series of photos and mocking depictions of Jesus are projected on a screen while Scott sings “You Made Me Love You, I Didn’t want to Do it…”

Her cousin, Jerome, who shares her adoration of Judy Garland, tells Scott he thinks she has what it takes to make it big in show business. Fueled by his encouragement and disillusioned by hateful anti-gay protests by people from her church at Jerome’s funeral, Scott heads off to New York when it’s time for her Rumpsringa (a Mennonite tradition where those coming of age are allowed to experience life outside of the sheltered community for a year). She struggles to silence the internalized judgmental voices from her childhood that prevent her from “articulating her adult desires.”

In the city, she meets a street magician named Ray who gets her pregnant before she returns to Kansas (doing some magic tricks, Scott pops a balloon to much laughter to represent her lost virginity). She comes to a realization that keeping the two slips of paper in her pockets doesn’t allow her to avoid making a choice. “You do have to choose,” she says. “It’s either or. I chose life. My own.” She has an abortion.

Scott goes on to “live in her own song” and to achieve success on Broadway in some “semi-starring” roles. She reaches out to the awkward boy lip synching on You Tube. She becomes increasingly frustrated, however, when her attempts to be nice to the boy result in his refusal to believe that the person contacting him via email really is the Broadway star.

Through the course of her journey, Scott worships Jesus, Judy Garland and Fred Rogers (of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood), then finally her young son’s luck. She discourages his search for a four-leaf clover because she doesn’t believe in luck -- that people make their own luck – until he finds one on his first attempt. She takes this as a sign that her son is lucky and when the family cat eats the clover, she almost strangles the animal in a desperate attempt to save the luck so her son won’t have to be a speck of dust.

She concludes with thoughts about how the Mennonites always taught she should be prepared for the Rapture but she has found, instead, that by embracing a world created for her, she experiences a rapture every day.

“May your Rumspringa last forever,” she says.

It’s her celebratory conclusion, but the show has more of a sad feeling of someone looking for justification and approval to me.
Everyday Rapture plays through July 11 at the American Airlines Theatre , 227 West 42nd St., NYC. For tickets, call (212) 719-1300.

Christians might also like to know:
• Simple magic tricks
• Irreverent photos of videos of Jesus and a mocking description of his death on the cross
• Abortion

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: La Cage Aux Folles


A Nicely Staged, if Not Sensational Revival
By Lauren Yarger
Kelsey Grammer (TV’s Frasier) lends charm, if not a strong singing voice, to Director Terry Johnson’s beautifully staged revival of La Cage Aux Folles where designer Tim Shortall literally sets the stage.

Shortall creatively incorporates the motifs from the beautiful Longacre Theater onto the stage to create La Cage aux Folles, (translated it sort of means Cage of Madwomen) the nightclub owned by Georges (Grammer). Entertainment is provided by the Cagelles (Nick Adams, Logan Keslar, Sean Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Cunningham, Terry Lavell and Sean A Carmon), men dressed in sequined drag by costume designer Matthew Wright.

The Cagelles interact with audience members prior to and during the show and Shortall’s inclusion of cabaret tables for a row of audience in front of the stage completes the ambience.

Starring at the night club is ZaZa, a.k.a. Albin (Douglas Hodge), who is Georges’ long-time partner. Together they have raised Georges’ son, Jean-Michel (a rather stiff A.J. Shively), the product of a one-night stand. When Jean-Michel wants to marry Anne (Elena Shaddow), there’s a slight problem (besides Albin’s initial shock that he would want to marry a woman). It seems Anne’s father, Monsieur Dindon (Fred Applegate) just happens to be leader of the Tradition, Family and Morality Party and has pledged to shut down all of the immoral clubs on the Riviera featuring transvestites (and yes, we’re smart enough to know that dindon means “turkey” in French.)

Jean-Michel begs his father to rid his home of all the trappings of his lifestyle, including Albin, when the wealthy and righteous Dindon and his wife (Veanne Cox) come to inspect their daughter’s prospective in-laws. Helping with the ruse (the book is by Harvey Fierstein) is Georges and Albin’s maid/butler, Jacob (Robin DeJesus) who wants a chance to perform in drag at the club too, and restaurant owner, Jacqueline (Christine Andreas who provides the best singing voice in the cast).

There are awkward moments, dancing (Lynne Page choreographs), tunes (Jerry Herman wrote the music and lyrics) and finally, there is an unmasking of the elaborate charade where everyone decides “I Am Who I Am” and that “The Best of Times” is now (these are two of the show’s signature songs).

None of the performances really stands out. Grammer brings a sweet charm to the man torn between love for his son and love for the love of his life and there are only a few moment when you think Frasier is on stage. (Rumor has it that Grammer may switch and play Albin once Hodge, performing the role that won him an Olivier Award for the production in London before the show transferred here, leaves. Albin’s songs may prove an even greater challenge for Grammer, however.)

Johnson makes nice use of Applegate and Cox in dual roles. La Cage plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St. Discounted tickets for friends of Masterwork Productions are available here.

Christians might also like to know:
• Cross dressing
• Language
• Scantily clad actors
• Sado masochism
• Sexual dialogue
• The two men kiss at the end of the show

Monday, April 26, 2010

'Memphis' and 'The Royal Family' Lead Outer Critics Nominations

Memphis and The Royal Family led the nominations for this year's Outer Critics Awards with seven each. Sutton and Hunter Foster annouced the nominations this morning
in a ceremony I attended at Manhattan’s historic Algonquin Hotel.

The winners of the following categories will be announced on Monday, May 17 and the annual awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 27 at Sardi’s. Below is a full list of the nominations. To read a review of a show, scroll down at left under "2009-2010 Season Reviews." Shows listed under "Next Reviews Up" will have a review posted shortly.
--Lauren Yarger


Outer Critics Circle
2009-2010 Award Nominations

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
Next Fall
Red
Superior Donuts
Time Stands Still

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
American Idiot
Come Fly Away
Fela!
Memphis
Sondheim on Sondheim

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
Clybourne Park
The Orphans’ Home Cycle
The Pride
The Temperamentals

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
The Scottsboro Boys
Tin Pan Alley Rag
Yank!

OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Memphis
The Scottsboro Boys
Yank!

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Fences
Lend Me a Tenor
The Royal Family
A View From the Bridge

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
La Cage aux Folles
Finian’s Rainbow
A Little Night Music
Promises, Promises

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Doug Hughes The Royal Family
Kenny Leon Fences
Stanley Tucci Lend Me a Tenor
Michael Wilson The Orphans’ Home Cycle

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Christopher Ashley Memphis
Terry Johnson La Cage aux Folles
Susan Stroman The Scottsboro Boys
Alex Timbers Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHER
Rob Ashford Promises, Promises
Bill T. Jones Fela!
Susan Stroman The Scottsboro Boys
Sergio Trujillo Memphis

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
John Lee Beatty The Royal Family
Beowulf Boritt Sondheim on Sondheim
Phelim McDermott & Julian Crouch The Addams Family
Donyale Werle Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Jane Greenwood Present Laughter
Martin Pakledinaz Lend Me a Tenor
Matthew Wright La Cage aux Folles
Catherine Zuber The Royal Family

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Kevin Adams American Idiot
Kevin Adams The Scottsboro Boys
Ken Billington Sondheim on Sondheim
Justin Townsend Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Bill Heck The Orphans’ Home Cycle
Jude Law Hamlet
Liev Schreiber A View From the Bridge
Christopher Walken A Behanding in Spokane
Denzel Washington Fences

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Nina Arianda Venus in Fur
Laura Benanti In the Next Room, or the vibrator play
Viola Davis Fences
Laura Linney Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell The Royal Family

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Brandon Victor Dixon The Scottsboro Boys
Sean Hayes Promises, Promises
Douglas Hodge La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball Memphis
Nathan Lane The Addams Family

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Kate Baldwin Finian’s Rainbow
Barbara Cook Sondheim on Sondheim
Montego Glover Memphis
Bebe Neuwirth The Addams Family
Catherine Zeta-Jones A Little Night Music

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
James DeMarse The Orphans’ Home Cycle
Jon Michael Hill Superior Donuts
David Pittu Equivocation
Noah Robbins Brighton Beach Memoirs
Reg Rogers The Royal Family

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Hallie Foote The Orphans’ Home Cycle
Rosemary Harris The Royal Family
Marin Ireland A Lie of the Mind
Jan Maxwell Lend Me a Tenor
Alicia Silverstone Time Stands Still

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Kevin Chamberlin The Addams Family
Christopher Fitzgerald Finian’s Rainbow
Levi Kreis Million Dollar Quartet
Dick Latessa Promises, Promises
Bobby Steggert Ragtime

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Carolee Carmello The Addams Family
Katie Finneran Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury A Little Night Music
Cass Morgan Memphis
Terri White Finian’s Rainbow

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Jim Brochu Zero Hour
Carrie Fisher Wishful Drinking
Judith Ivey The Lady With All the Answers
Anna Deavere Smith Let Me Down Easy

JOHN GASSNER AWARD
(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
John Logan Red
Jon Marans The Temperamentals
Geoffrey Nauffts Next Fall
Bruce Norris Clybourne Park

Celebrating its 60th season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theater, the Outer Critics Circle, is an association with members affiliated with more than 90 newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations and theater publications in America and abroad.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: Million Dollar Quartet

An Incredible Jam Session—Then and Now
By Lauren Yarger
Levi Kreis tickles some unbelievable ivories as Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet, a rockin’ and rollin’ good time at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre.

Kreis received a Jeff Award as best supporting actor for the role he originated in the Chicago run of the show, and once you’ve experienced his gravity-defying keyboarding, you won’t wonder why.

He’s joined by Robert Britton Lyons (Carl Perkins), Lance Guest (Johnny Cash) and Eddie Clendening (Elvis Presley) in the story based on a true legendary 1956 jam session of the four music legends.

They all end up at Sun Records in Memphis. Lewis hopes his will be the next one launched into stardom by owner Sam Phillips (Hunter Foster). Phillips, who already regrets having sold Presley’s contract to another recording company, isn’t focused on Lewis, though, or on Perkins, who has seen Presley replace him at the top of the charts. Phillips goal is to get Cash to sign an extension of his contract.

The musical’s book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux (who provided the concept and original direction), doesn’t try to offer much more plot than that, except to add Dyanne (Elizabeth Stanley), a girlfriend for Presley, who wants a singing career too. The thrust of the show comes instead from the music: 23 gospel, R&B and country hits performed by the quartet (and some by Dyanne).

Kreis, who contributed additional arrangements (Chuck Mead arranged and supervised the music), is sensational, burning up the piano and giving an in-depth portrayal to Lewis as a hammy and egocentric guy. Lyons portrays the jealous Perkins well and Guest, while not exuding a lot of personality, lends a nice sounding voice to Cash’s tunes (making them sound better than the off-key Cash. Clendening is miscast, however, and neither sounds nor looks like Elvis.

Foster, as the sharp legend maker, stumbles around for his lines from time to time, and unfortunately, doesn’t get to sing any songs of his own.

Directed by Eric Schaeffer, the show has some awkward pauses after musical segments when dialogue begins where the audience tries to applaud. Besides Kreis, the show’s other stars are Howell Binkley’s lighting which transforms Derek McLane’s recreation of the recording studio into a rock concert and Kai Harada’s sound design which allows us to hear individual notes as well as full volume rock without popping eardrums.

This fun blast from the past is just 90 minutes long and features a post-curtain-call jam session with the quartet showing off their acumen on their instruments that’s almost worth the price of the ticket itself.

Million Dollar Quartet plays at the Nederlander, 208 W. 41st St., NYC. For tickets call 212-307-4100; Outside NY/NJ/CT: 800-755-4000.

Christians might also like to know:
No content notes. Enjoy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Green Day Does Earth Day on Broadway

I was at American Idiot tonight to review. We received a surprise visit from the real Green Day who took the stage after the performance to do an encore in a special Earth Day celebration. The audience went crazy.

Read about it here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seldes, Ayckbourn Will Receive Lifetime Achievement Tonys

David Hyde Pierce, A.R.T./New York, Tom Viola Also Will Be Honored

The Tony Awards® Administration Committee has announced this year’s recipients for the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Isabelle Stevenson Award and the Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre. These awards will be presented at the 2010 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 13. The 2010 Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and The American Theatre Wing.

The 2010 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre will be presented to two outstanding individuals, playwright and director Sir Alan Ayckbourn, and Tony Award winning actress Marian Seldes.

Sir Alan has written over 74 full length plays, including the Norman Conquests, which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2009; and has directed more than 300 plays. Between 1972 and 2009, he was the artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, where the majority of his work has been and continues to be premiered.

Seldes is a five-time Tony Award nominee, winning for her first nomination in 1967 for Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. Her career spans from her Broadway debut in Medea in 1947 to her most recent performance in Deuce and includes her record breaking run in Deathtrap. From 1967 to 1991, Ms. Seldes was a faculty member of the Juilliard School of Drama, and in 2002 she began teaching at Fordham University, Lincoln Center.

The recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award will be Tony Award winning actor David Hyde Pierce. The Isabelle Stevenson Award recognizes an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.

Pierce is being honored for his work in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. He began his support for the Alzheimer’s Association in the early 1990s, and after serving a full term on the organization's board, now serves as an honorary national board member. Over the years he has regularly visited Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional leaders to advocate for increased investment in Alzheimer's research. He also participates regularly in local Alzheimer's Association chapter events, including Memory Walk. The Alzheimer Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research.

The Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre were established in 1990 and are awarded annually to institutions, individuals and/or organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary achievement in theatre, but which are not eligible in any of the established Tony Award categories. This year’s Tony Honors will be presented to:

•The Alliance of Resident Theatres New York (A.R.T./New York) – Founded in 1972, A.R.T./New York assists its nearly 300 member theatres in managing their companies effectively so they may realize artistic visions and serve diverse audiences. Over the years, A.R.T./New York has earned a reputation as a leader in providing progressive service to its members, making the organization an expert in the needs of the Off and Off Off Broadway community.

•BH Barry – Barry, having been trained in his native England, pioneered the teaching of stage combat as part of the curriculum in US drama programs at the university and graduate level. His numerous Broadway credits range from the 1981 productions of Frankenstein and Macbeth to the 2008 production of Dividing the Estate.

•Tom Viola – Viola is the executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA), the nation's leading industry-based not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. He was the founding administrative director of Equity Fights AIDS in 1988, saw through its merger with Broadway Cares in 1992 and has been executive director of BC/EFA since 1997. Viola is being honored for his personal commitment to the fight against AIDS. BC/EFA was previously honored with a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre in 1993.

The Tony Award Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 4. The Tony Nominations can be viewed LIVE (8:30am ET) in their entirety at www.TonyAwards.com. Follow the Tony Awards on Twitter for real-time updates on the nominees as they are announced (Twitter.com/TheTonyAwards). The entire announcement will be viewable on TonyAwards.com after the event as well.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast in a live three-hour ceremony from Radio City Music Hall on the CBS television network on Sunday, June 13.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: The Addams Family with Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane

Scary, but Not in the Way You’d Think
By Lauren Yarger
Be afraid. Be very afraid. Not because the Addams are a strange, dark family where torture, the macabre and visits from dead relatives are the norm. Be scared, instead, because if a musical with so much potential -- full of beloved, iconic characters starring stage legends Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane with choreography from the excellent Sergio Trujillo and a book penned by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice -- can fail this badly, then trying to scare up investment dollars for future Broadway musicals might be a frightening proposition indeed.

The Addams Family has been a cult hit for years, starting in the 1930s with the New Yorker magazine cartoons of Charles Addams. He depicted the zany antics of childlike Gomez (Lane) and his wfie, Vampire-like Morticia (Neuwirth), their guillotine-loving daughter Wednesday (Krysta Rodriguez), their son Pugsley (Adam Riegler) who likes to blow things up, the Frankenstein-like butler, Lurch (Zachary James), whacky witch Grandma (Jackie Hoffman) and Uncle Fester (Kevin Chamberlin) whose hobby is illuminating light bulbs in his mouth. If none of that makes any sense to you, you probably weren’t a fan of the hit 1960s TV series or the more recent Hollywood film and its sequel based on the darkly humorous family.

While the TV show was funny and the films were a perfect homage to it with perfect re-casting of all the main characters, the latest incarnation on Broadway is an unworthy successor. The creators’ biggest mistake was to focus on its being a musical rather than on the unique characters and situations available to them to tell the story. The music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, are not bad, they’re just not memorable, so you have to wonder why the two-and-a-half-hour-plus show is chock full of them (20 to be exact, nine of them group numbers), especially when there’s so much ready-made dialogue and humor begging to get some stage time.

Brickman and Elice, whose excellent book kept Jersey Boys from being just another juke-box musical, get to write a few funny lines in between the songs and draft a loose plot around the Addams clan trying to act “normal” when Wednesday’s boyfriend and his parents come to meet them in their eerie mansion, which for some reason, is located in Central Park.

Lane and Hoffman (who gets most of the show’s laughs) make the most of what they have to work with. Lane, in good singing voice, is, well…. Nathan Lane. He’s funny, if not exactly Gomez Addams. He made me laugh out loud as the father lamenting how quickly his little girl had grown up. It seems just like yesterday, he tell us, that she was sealing up her baby brother in the wall or setting Jehovah’s witnesses on fire…. Funny stuff, but there isn’t enough of it before someone starts belting a song.

Is Wednesday in love? Let’s have a song. Does Pugsley feel abandoned by his sister? Belt it out (and little Riegler does have a nice voice). Not sure what to do at this point in the script? Add a tune. Is Morticia having a mid-life crisis? Sing about it, even if there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the music to cue up.

Even when she’s singing or dancing (with dance steps that aren't a match for her potential), Neuwirth, usually a stage-stopping comedian and entertainer, seems subdued, almost like she can’t wait to get off the stage and change out of her shroud (really unattractively designed with cleavage that “Goes down to Venezuela” according to Gomez). There is only one line the whole night that Neuwirth delivers with full vamping gusto, and I felt like I saw a ghost of what could have been.

Some of the trademark Addams running gags are included in the show, but some expected bits are missing (probably because the musical numbers take up too much time to put them all in).

For example, when Thing, the body-less hand, presents him with a little musical instrument, Fester doesn’t respond with the expected, “Thank you, Thing.” When Lurch goes to answer the door to welcome Wednesday’s boyfriend, Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor), and his parents, Mal and Alice (Terrance Mann and Carolee Carmello), he simply opens the door and lets them in. Where is the “You rang?” line Lurch always utters or his forced taking of the visitor’s hat? Then, the show is almost over before Gomez passionately kisses his wife’s arm after hearing her speak French. A few seconds later, when Morticia bids the Beinekes “au revoir,” Gomez doesn’t react at all.

If you’re going to a cult classic, do it right! It's like doing a musical version of "Star Wars" and forgetting to have someone say "May the force be with you." The original directors reportedly were replaced after the show’s negatively reviewed pre-Broadway run in Chicago by veteran Jerry Zaks, who’s officially listed as a creative consultant. My guess, though,
is that by the time he took over, this mess was too far gone for him to make any significant changes before the Broadway run and the cast, unfortunately, seems aware of it.

Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, the original directors, created the very impressive, large sets (the best part of the production along with giant squid, carnivorous Venus fly trap and other delightful puppet creations by Basil Twist and special effects by Gregory Meeh).

The Addams Family plus Bebe Neuwirth plus Nathan Lane had such potential, but this production just doesn’t work. Advanced box office sales were strong, probably based on the Addams Family-Neuwirth-Lane factors, but it will be a little spooky if this show enjoys the long multiple-year run for which producers probably were hoping.

The Addams Family plays at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th St., NYC. For tickets, call 212-307-4100 or 800-755-4000.

Christians might also like to know:
• Addams family ancestors are called forth from their graves and the ghostly characters make up the show’s chorus.
• Torture is depicted.
• God’s name taken in vain
• Language
• Some sexual dialogue and situations

Theater Review: Candida at Irish Repertory Theatre

Photo of Brian Murray and Melissa Errico in Candida. Performances
through April 25 at Irish Repertory Theatre. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

An Oft-Produced Play Where Not Much Happens
By Lauren Yarger
George Bernard Shaw’s oft-produced tale of a preacher’s wife asked to choose between the husband who takes her for granted and a younger man who woos her with poetry and passion gets its latest staging Off-Broadway in a production designed and directed by Tony Walton.

Candida, the 1894 work with its turn-of-the-century dialogue and politics doesn’t offer a whole lot of action in its two hours and 10 minutes, but at least the play by Irish-born Shaw is in a fitting home at Irish Repertory Theatre.

In it, Eugene Marchbanks (Sam Underwood) falls in love with the title character Candida (Melissa Errico), causing her husband, the Rev, James Morrell (Claran O’Reilly) to wonder whether his wife might prefer the shy, poetic youth to him. He contrives to leave Eugene and Candida alone at their London home while he goes off to one of his frequent speaking engagements where his social/religious views are much in demand. Attending the speech and filling out the rest of the cast are Morrell’s saucy typist, Prosperine Garnet (Xanthe Elbrick), who secretly loves her employer, Morrell’s father-in-law, Burgess (Brian Murray), who thinks everyone in the household is mad, and the Rev. Alexander Mill (Josh Grisetti), Morell’s creepy curate.

Will Eugene and Candida take advantage of being left alone to allow their feelings to blossom? Will Candida suprise them both when they force her to choose between them? Not likely. The plot is rather contrived, really. Eugene is supposed to be shy, for example, but apparently has no problem making inappropriate advances toward a married woman or about bragging about them to her husband. Why Candida appears to welcome Eugene’s advances, we’re not exactly sure, except that if she just rebuffed him at the start, there wouldn’t be a play. At the time it was written, perhaps the message that a woman might get to speak her own mind was novel. Today it feels dated.

While the characters are at a loss for what to do to solve their dilemmas, Walton correspondingly has them wander around stage without any purpose, and spend a lot of time primping pillows, straightening an afghan and stoking the fire on his set (Heather Wolensky is the associate designer) lighted by Richard Pilbrow. In fact, the afghan gets a final smoothing during the curtain call as well, just for good measure. Most of the period costumes work, except for an elegant green velvet gown Candida wears at her entrance. The dress seems of the wrong period as well as inappropriate for the travelling she just completed.

If you enjoy tales where not much happens, but all turns out well in the end and where there will be no content notes at the end of this review, then Candida is the play for you. It runs through Sunday at Irish Rep, 132 West 22nd St., NYC. For tickets call 212- 727-2737.

Christians might like to know:
• No content notes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Cirque du Soleil's OVO on Randall's Island

Photo credits : Benoit Fontaine © 2009 Cirque du Soleil Inc.
Oh! OVO
By Lauren Yarger
Various insects, a mysterious egg, clowns, skilled contortionists and flying acts combine to create OVO, the newest Cirque du Soleil show to play under the big top at Randall’s Island, NYC.

The acts aren’t new, and some aren’t as breath taking or death defying as those in other Cirque productions, but these seem more polished and appear to require more skill and endurance from the performers. The costumes from Liz Vandat are some of the best yet, amazingly vibrant and insect-like, even if you can’t quite identify all of the creatures. I love the winged legs on the dragonfly.

This tale, written, choreographed and directed by Deborah Colker, Cirque’s first female to helm a production, is a journey into the land of bugs and features a cast of 54 artists from 16 countries acting out the life of insects as they eat, play and even look for love. The insect world design is by Gringo Cardia, who also handles props, with lighting and sound design by Eric Champoux and Jonathan Deans. Guy Lalliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix are artistic guides.

The aerial silk “Cocoon” number, featuring Marjorie Nantel’s transformation from cocoon into moth, and the sensuous high rope act “Butterflies” with Maxim Kozlov and Inna Mayorova as lovers are like beautiful ballets in air. Fred Gerard designs the acrobatic equipment and rigging while Phillippe Auberlin is acrobatic performance designer.
There are balance-defying ants who twirl and juggle various pieces of food, like large corn cobs and kiwis with their feet, then lob them back and forth while flipping positions with each other. It really is amazing. Dragonfly Vladmir Hrynchenko performs hand balancing and crickets perform tumbling extraordinaire on stage and up and down a large wall surface.

Those are just a few of the highlights in the production, which also offers high flying and slack wire acts as well a funny Lady Bug (Michelle Matlock LeBlanc), a clown, Flipo (Joseph Collard), who toys with members of the audience, a Foreigner bug (Francois-Guillaume), who attracts the attentions of the Lady Bug, and nine on-stage musicians dressed like cockroaches (music is composed and directed by Berna Ceppas).

It’s totally kid friendly and there were lots of them giggling happily the day I attended. The mysterious egg (ovo means egg in Portuguese) takes various shapes throughout the tale and is the star of the closing number, but not in the way you might expect.

Some tips to make OVO more enjoyable:
  1. The seats are VERY tiny. If you are a person of larger size, you might want to look into purchasing an aisle seat.
  2. Leave a little extra time to get out to the island. Options include
    • the New York Water Taxi leaving from East 35th and East 90th streets
    • the x80 express bus with non-stop service to the island from the 125th street Metro North train station
    • taking the RFK Bridge over the East River.
  3. There is a 30-minute intermission

OVO plays a limited engagement at Randall's Island Park through June 6. For tickets and information, click here or call 800-450-1480. Performance schedule: Tuesdays through Thursdays at 8 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 4 and 8 pm and Sundays at 1 and 5 pm.

The show will tour this summer and fall to Hartford, Boston, Washington DC and Atlanta. Find information on the tour here http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/ovo/tickets.aspx.

Christians might also like to know:
No content notes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Next to Normal Receives Pulitzer

Next to Normal with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt won the Pulitzer Prize for best drama, it was announced today. Finalists in the category were The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, by Kristoffer Diaz; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, by Rajiv Joseph and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) by Sarah Ruhl.

Next to Normal tells the story of a woman's journey through bipolar disorder and depression and her family's attempts to deal with her illness. For a review, click here. Discounted group tickets for friends of Masterwork Productions are available by clicking here. To see whether the tour is coming to a theater near you, click here.

For a list of the Pulitzer Prize winners in all the categories, click here.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Broadway Theater Review: Red

Play about Abstract Artist Leaves an Impression
By Lauren Yarger
If you’ve ever gazed at an abstract painting and thought “there must be more to this,” you’re right and in the case of a series of murals commissioned by the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building on New York's Park Avenue from master abstract impressionist Mark Rothko, there’s a whole play more to them.

It’s playwright John Logan’s Red, which stars Alfred Molina as the self-absorbed painter and Eddie Redmayne as his assistant, Ken.

Set in 1958, Rothko receives what was then the world’s largest commission to paint the murals, in part recreated here in a studio set designed by Christopher Oram, terrifically brought to life by Neil Austin’s lighting.

Molina and Redmayne, who created the roles for the show produced by the Donmar Warehouse in London, are directed by Michael Grandage and give solid performances. Rothko is brooding, pondering everything from Nietzsche and classical music to divine guidance as he creates his paintings. In fact, he sits on stage for 20 minutes prior to the curtain just studying one of his creations.

Ken, an aspiring painter himself, at first is thrilled to be working with someone of Rothko’s reputation and is happy mixing paints, stretching canvas and sometimes being given the privilege of helping to apply the undercoat for a painting. Rothko continually challenges him to see more than just red or any other shade on the canvas as just a color. The master is more interested that he "feel" the colors.

One of the most memorable scenes is of the two men applying red primer to a canvas, wielding their brushes and moving alongside, around and over each other almost in a creative ballet while music plays on the phonograph (Adam Cork, composer and sound designer).

The hero worship wears off, however, and after two years, Ken finally sees red, if you will, and unleashes his frustrations on the uncaring mentor, who barely has taken the time to show and interest in anything the assistant does outside of the studio. Is he married? How are his paintings coming along? How has he coped with having witnessed the murder of his parents as a young boy?

These aren’t questions Rothko has asked because he increasingly withdraws into the dark shadows of his studio, away from people, away from the commercialism of the art business and its new and upcoming competitors and away from natural light which he finds so offensive. He doesn’t want to be a mentor or father figure for the young artist. And, he finally realizes, he doesn’t even want his beloved paintings hanging in the posh restaurant where New York’s wealthy wheel and deal.

There’s a lot of interesting history here about Rothko and those paintings (which never do make their way to the Four Seasons) and some fine acting in the interactions between the two characters. Logan’s Red is a lot like an abstract piece of art that you look at for a while only to find its image keeps reappearing in your memory and has made a lasting impression long after you've left.

Red plays at the Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th St., NYC through June 27. Discounted tickets are available to friends of Masterwork productions by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain

Theater Review: Lend Me a Tenor

Stars Lend Themselves to Farcical Silliness
By Lauren Yarger
A star-studded cast directed by Stanley Tucci turns in a solid comedic performance to propel a fun Broadway revival of Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me a Tenor.

Saunders (Tony Shaloub, TV’s famous OCD detective Monk among other stage and screen credits) and his assistant, Max (film star Justin Bartha making his Broadway debut), plan a concert featuring opera great Tito Merelli (Anthony LaPaglia, Broadway veteran and also star of TV’s “Without a Trace”).

There’s just one problem. Saunders and Max think Merelli has died in his opulent Cleveland hotel room (designed by John Lee Beatty, complete with five doors lending themselves to the pop ins and outs and door slamming typical of this type of farce) and they quickly devise a scheme to go on with the concert and fool the waiting audience. Max, a budding opera singer himself, dresses as Othello and goes on as Merelli.

Actually, there’s another slight problem: Merelli isn’t dead and also dressed as Othello, heads to the concert hall. Before you can say the word “farce,” mistaken identities and mayhem abound. Fooled are Sanders' daughter, Maggie (New York stage actress Mary Catherine Garrison), her aunt, Julia (Brooke Adams, screen star and Shaloub’s real-life wife), Merelli’s wife, Maria (very funny Broadway veteran Jan Maxwell), opera diva wannabe Diane (Jennifer Laura Thompson, another delightful Broadway vet), and the bellhop (Jay Klantz, probably the newest kid on the block, but who makes his minor role memorable).

The two Othellos, elegantly costumed by Martin Pakledinaz (all of the 1930-era close are wonderful and there’s one blue evening gown to die for) and humorously made up (Paul Huntly, hair and wig design), confuse everyone. The evening includes rotting shrimp, evading the police, sexual double entendre and objects projected into the audience, among other things.

When Shaloub’s character finally figures out that Merelli isn’t dead, I so wanted him to frame the scenes with his hands à la Monk and say, “Here’s what happened.” My rewrite would have improved a somewhat weak script – it’s not the best farce ever written – but without my edit, the show still is a lot of fun. Watching these stars throw themselves into the physical humor and deliver their lines with impeccable timing is worth seeing.

Lend Me A Tenor also offers one of the most satisfying “into the curtain calls” around. Enjoy it at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th St., NYC. Discounted tickets for friends of Masterwork Productions are available here.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain
• Sex outside of marriage
Note: While there is a lot of sexual innuendo in the double entendre dialogue, it really is in the spirit of farce and is on the lower end of the scale for being offensive in my opinion.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Theater Review: Come Fly Away

Big Band, Big Production, Big Entertainment
By Lauren Yarger
A big band, vibrant dancing to the choreography of Twila Tharp, spectacular lighting by Donald Holder and the singing voice of Old Blue Eyes himself combine to make Broadway’s Come Fly Away an enjoyable evening of entertainment.

Tharp, who brought Billy Joel’s music to life on the Great White Way in Movin’ Out, repeats the formula for Come Fly Away: no spoken dialogue, no real story, but lots of dance with the choreography telling the story for each vignette. Humor abounds in the "stories" involving the romance of two young bumbling sweethearts.

All of the action has four couples falling in and out of love linked by a night club theme on a deco-ish set (James Youmans, design) which houses a 19-member big band orchestra conducted by Russ Kassoff on piano. Holder’s lighting creates spectacular effects, illuminates the large stain-glass-type tray ceiling which unfortunately moves and floats ominously above the action, and creates a larger-than-life portrait of Frank Sinatra, whose own vocals are nicely synced with the instruments and live singing by Hilary Gardner and Rosena M. Hill.

The dancers, also directed by Tharp, perform her choreography well. The starring dancers are Matthew Stockwell Dibble, Holley Farmer, Laura Mead, Charlie Neshyba Hodges, Rita Okamoto, Karine Plantadit, Keith Roberts and John Selya.

A few segments I found rather degrading to women (the dancer is passed from man to man, crawls across the stage like an animal with a piece of costume in her mouth to mention a couple). Unfortunately each segment I found objectionable also was performed by the African American woman dancer.

Otherwise, the show is visually pleasing. Costume Designer Katharine Roth creates shiny, swirly dresses for the women and elegantly slick suits for the men. It’s an enjoyable show, especially if you like the old classics like “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “Witchcraft,” “Pick Yourself Up,” Makin’ Whoopee,” “My Way, “ and tons more.

Come Fly Away plays at the Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway. NYC. Discounted tickets for friends of Masterwork productions can be purchased here.

Christians might also like to know:
• A few sexually suggestive dance moves

Review: When the Rain Stops Falling

The Rain and the Confusion Never Cease
By Lauren Yarger
When viewing Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stop Falling Off-Broadway at Lincoln Center, be sure to open the Playbill to the cast and family-tree pages, study them and keep them open for the duration. You’re going to need them if you want to understand what’s happening on stage.

I did not have the benefit of that friendly advice when I saw the show and as a result spent the entire 90 minutes trying to figure out who was who and mistakenly thinking people were who they were not, only to realize through some dialogue that they couldn’t be who I thought they were. And since there is no intermission, there wasn’t the option of trying to make a quick study before the second act.

In fact, my companion and I discussed who was who at length following the show, and we weren’t alone, as other theater goers lunching at our restaurant also were trying to make some sense out of the all the characters. Even after we thought we had it figured out, I realized when I sat down to write this review that we still hadn’t gotten it right.

So dear readers, I will not attempt to tell you who was who and who did what since I’m not exactly sure. I can tell you that a number of characters (nine, I think) many of whom are named Gabriel or Gabrielle, played by various actors at different ages, are portrayed at various times from 1959 to 2039 and that the play is set in London and in Adelaide, Alice Springs, Ayres Rock and the Coorong, Australia (and most of that I got from the program, not from Bovell’s script).

At one point a fish drops out of the sky and indeed, fish figure prominently in the various vignettes we share with the characters. The folks repeat a lot of the same conversations and are particularly interested in discussing how the incessant rain isn’t so bad when you consider how much it rains in Bangladesh.

What it all means, I honestly am not sure, but there are some highlights (and my companion absolutely loved the play, though I’m not sure he could tell you for sure why). There are some really nifty rain and lighting effects (David Korns, Tyler Micoleau, design). The always excellent Victoria Clark who plays Gabrielle York, older and Mary Beth Hurt (Elizabeth Law, older) are ably directed by David Cromer of Our Town fame and give moving performances as women trapped in lives they didn’t expect trying to do what they think is best.

Cromer’s outstanding moment comes right at the beginning of the play when all of the various characters walk past each other in the rain on a revolving stage that symbolizes the vicious cycle of these people’s lives. It’s terrific theater. Then I got lost in the deluge of characters and time tripping and never got my head above water again.

After the characters share their moments, there is reconciliation between a father and son and the rain finally stops. I’m just not sure which father and son, because even now when I look at the family tree and remember the play, I think it’s one particular father reuniting with his son. The show’s publicity information, however, tells me it’s actually two different characters.

So, instead, I’ll just list the rest of the actors and their characters as listed in the Playbill and say that they all give very good performances: Kate Blumberg (Elizabeth Law, younger), Richard Topol (Henry Law), Will Rogers (Gabriel Law), Susan Pourfar (Gabrielle York, younger), Rod McLachlan (Joe Ryan), Michael Siberry (Gabriel York), Henry Vick (Andrew Price).

When the Rain Stops Falling plays through April 18 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65th St., NYC. For tickets call 212-239-6200; outside NY: 800- 432-7250.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain

Friday, April 2, 2010

Theater Review: A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick

A Refreshing Drink of a Play
By Lauren Yarger
A Cool Dip in the Barren Saharan Crick, Kia Corthron’s new Off-Broadway play is self fulfilling. It’s a refreshing, satisfying drink of a play in a theater world thirsty for new works that offer some hope and solutions for problems instead of focusing on dysfunction in hopes of winning a Pulitzer Prize.

Cool Dip follows the life of Abebe (a delightful William Jackson Harper), one of the most positively portrayed Christian characters you’ll ever see on a stage. At once endearing and exasperating, he’s someone you wish you knew in real life, because your life would be richer for knowing him.

Abebe journeys from his native Ethiopia to rural Maryland to attend college, though he is unable to declare a major since he is torn between his first love: preaching God’s word and becoming a pastor, and his second love: water studies which would offer him a way to help his drought-plagued village. Will he save the planet, or the souls on it? He tries to do both.

His host family is a godsend to orphaned Abebe. Pickle (Myra Lucretia Taylor, in a stand-out performance) and her daughter, H.J. (Kianne Mashcetti), make him feel right at home and play guinea pigs as he practices his sermon-giving and baptism-dunking techniques on them (a large favor on H.J.’s part, since she wants nothing to do with God).
Abebe tries to help Pickle, slowly losing touch with reality, through the grief of losing her father, husband and son in Hurricane Katrina. She hears their voices, inventively brought to life by set, lighting and sounds designers Kris Stone, Ben Stanton and Darron L. West. Abebe also attempts to help H.J. get back with her estranged boyfriend, Tich (Keith Eric Chappelle), and becomes a Big Brother to Tay (an adorable Joshua King), a young boy left mute by the trauma of witnessing his father murder his mother and sister.

Trying to deal with all of these emotional situations causes Abebe to realize that in many ways, he is a missionary, only in reverse. He’s a missionary from Africa, sent to save the souls of Americans. Abebe has his own ghosts to deal with, as well: his family and an adopted stepbrother, all lost because of the lack of safe drinking water in his village and the disastrous corporate attempts to profit by building a dam. He’s also haunted by the dawning truth that wherever he starts a good work, his efforts seem to go barren.

Corthron steers the theme of water as a nourishing and life-threatening force throughout the play, both metaphorically and directly, with many conversations hinging on bottled water vs. tap. Water even enters into Abebe’s no-nonsense, yet humorous preaching. Water is used in the practice of many non-Christian religions, he tells us, but they will have a surprise in the end because there “isn’t much water in hell.” Now some will be offended by that but if you heard Abebe 's conviction while speaking in his innocent, African-accented, endearing way, you'd probably smile.

The plot, though sometimes disjointed in trying to grapple with so many subplots, ripples with engaging characters, realistic, yet supernatural events, lots of God’s word and hope to bring a satisfying, thirst-quenching play to the stage. It's most welcome.

All of the actors, directed by Chay Yew, give exceptional performances. Cool Dip runs in a limited engagement through April 11 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42ns St., NYC. For tickets, call 212- 279-4200.

Christians might also like to know:
• No content notes. Go see it and take your friends.

Theater Review: The Book of Grace

Besides the Character’s Name, There’s Little Grace Here
By Lauren Yarger
The Book of Grace by Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Top Dog/ Underdog) offers some good performances directed by James McDonald, but not much grace or any real incentive to spend time with its three rather unlikable characters.

The night I attended, many folks in the audience snoozed through the 90-minute dysfunction fest and some who stayed awake reacted negatively, both physically and vocally to the depravity on stage.

The action takes place in Texas near the Mexican border as Buddy (Amari Cheatom) visits his estranged father, Vet (John Doman), and his stepmother, Grace (Elizabeth Marvel). The couple’s frumpy home is oddly designed by Eugene Lee with sand instead of a floor, a picture of the exterior of the house displayed behind it, and bags of sand at the rear where Vet has dug a hole for Grace.

Vet had dug one for Buddy’s recently deceased mother also. The exact meaning? We're not sure. Buddy, who apparently suffered terrible sexual abuse by his father, decides for reasons clear only to the playwright to accept Grace’s invitation to visit and attend a ceremony being held to honor Vet, a border crossing guard, for his capture of some illegals.

Buddy arrives and immediately has sex with Grace as though it’s a normal thing for a stepmother and stepson to greet each other after years of separation in this way. Then they sort of forget about it and start chitchatting with Buddy asking whether Grace thinks they’ll be friends.

“We’re more than friends,” she tells him. “We’re family.”

Grace is ever smiling to hide the terror she feels at living with the degrading, unkind Vet, (a stereotype of the bigoted, military type most pro-immigration reform folks imagine those who want to protect the border to be). She hopes that Buddy’s visit will somehow make things better (note to Grace: having sex with the son of your abusive husband is not usually the way to accomplish this, thought the border patrol guard who prides himself on knowing everything that goes on turns out to be rather obtuse….).

Her other hopes and dreams are captured in a book where she writes down things that make her happy: “evidence of good things,” which quench the thirst of her barren life when she revisits them. She keeps the book hidden from Vet, who doesn’t approve of writing things down. He prefers to keep his thoughts in his head where they are safe from theft.

Will Grace get to read her book? Will Buddy successfully bomb the awards ceremony to take revenge on his father? Will Vet get the crease just right on his uniform pants before he attacks someone with the iron? Do we care? The answer is no.

These characters are just too whacked for us to relate or to want to get involved in their lives, despite Parks’ attempt to convince us that the whole mess really is an allegory for the state of our nation. The good performances turned in by the actors are the production's saving grace, but we really don’t want to watch these characters past the first few moments of the play.

The Book of Grace runs through Sunday at the Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette St., NYC. For tickets call 212-967-7555.

Christians might also like to know:
• The show does not post a Mature Rating, but it should.
• Two males kiss
• Sexual activity
• Sounds of pornographic video
• Violence
• Language

TheWritePros.com

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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.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

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- 2017 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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