Friday, April 29, 2011

Book of Mormon, Anything Goes Top Drama Desk Nominations

Liev Schreiber and Audra McDonald announce the nominations Friday at the Friar's Club.

DRAMA DESK NOMINATIONS FOR THE 2010-2011 SEASON

The following awards were voted by the nominating committee and will be presented by the Drama Desk at its awards ceremony:

Outstanding Ensemble Performances

This year the nominators chose to bestow special ensemble awards for acting to the casts of two shows. Therefore, individual cast members for these shows were not eligible for acting awards in the competitive categories.

•In Transit
•The Normal Heart
Special Awards

Each year, the Drama Desk votes special awards to recognize excellence and significant contributions to the theater. For 2010-2011, these awards are:


•To A.R. Gurney for his enduring, keenly observed portraits of American life over a prolific four-decade-long career.
•To Reed Birney for his versatile and finely nuanced performances over the past thirty-five years, and for his exceptional work this season in Tigers Be Still, A Small Fire and The Dream of the Burning Boy.
•To The New Group and Artistic Director Scott Elliott for presenting contemporary new voices, and for uncompromisingly raw and powerful productions.
•To The Pearl Theatre Company for notable productions of classic plays and nurturing a stalwart resident company of actors.
•To the creative team of War Horse for thrilling stagecraft: Paule Constable, Marianne Elliott, 59 Productions, Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones for Handspring Puppet Company, Tom Morris, Rae Smith, Christopher Shutt, Toby Sedgwick, Adrian Sutton and John Tams.
The following are the nominations for the competitive categories. Winners will be selected by the voting membership of the Drama Desk:

Note: Eligibility and award category designations for the productions under consideration this season were determined by the Drama Desk board of directors, with recommendations from the nominating committee. Because of the abundance of great work throughout the season, the board also authorized the increase in the number of nominees allowed in select categories. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Brief Encounter and The Scottsboro Boys were considered for their productions Off Broadway in the 2009-2010 season. Under Drama Desk rules, only new elements in their transfers to Broadway were eligible this season.

Outstanding Play

•Jon Robin Baitz, Other Desert Cities
•Adam Bock, A Small Fire
•Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Motherf**ker With the Hat
•Samuel D. Hunter, A Bright New Boise
•Rajiv Joseph, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
•David Lindsay-Abaire, Good People
•Nick Stafford, War Horse

Outstanding Musical

•In Transit
•Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical
•See Rock City & Other Destinations
•Sister Act
•The Book of Mormon
•The Kid

Outstanding Revival of a Play

•Born Yesterday
•The House of Blue Leaves
•The Importance of Being Earnest
•The Merchant of Venice
•The Normal Heart
•Three Sisters

Outstanding Revival of a Musical

•Anything Goes
•Hello Again
•How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Outstanding Actor in a Play

•Charles Busch, The Divine Sister
•Bobby Cannavale, The Motherf**ker With the Hat
•Al Pacino, The Merchant of Venice
•Geoffrey Rush, The Diary of a Madman
•Mark Rylance, Jerusalem
•Michael Shannon, Mistakes Were Made
•Paul Sparks, Dusk Rings a Bell

Outstanding Actress in a Play

•Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday
•Stockard Channing, Other Desert Cities
•Frances McDormand, Good People
•Laurie Metcalf, The Other Place
•Michele Pawk, A Small Fire
•Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

•Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me if You Can
•Colin Donnell, Anything Goes
•Daniel Radcliffe, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
•Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon
•Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert:The Musical
•Christopher Sieber, The Kid

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

•Sutton Foster, Anything Goes
•Beth Leavel, Baby It's You!
•Patina Miller, Sister Act
•Donna Murphy, The People in the Picture
•Sherie Rene Scott, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

•Brian Bedford, The Importance of Being Earnest
•Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
•Boyd Gaines, The Grand Manner
•Logan Marshall-Green, The Hallway Trilogy
•Zachary Quinto, Angels in America
•Tom Riley, Arcadia
•Yul Vazquez, The Motherf**ker With the Hat

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

•Lisa Emery, The Collection & A Kind of Alaska
•Edie Falco, The House of Blue Leaves
•Julie Halston, The Divine Sister
•Sarah Nina Hayon, A Bright New Boise
•Celia Keenan-Bolger, Peter and the Starcatcher
•Linda Lavin, Other Desert Cities
•Judith Light, Lombardi

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

•Adam Godley, Anything Goes
•John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
•Brian Stokes Mitchell, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
•Rory O'Malley, The Book of Mormon
•Bob Stillman, Hello Again
•Tom Wopat, Catch Me if You Can

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

•Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
•Kerry Butler, Catch Me if You Can
•Victoria Clark, Sister Act
•Jill Eikenberry, The Kid
•Nikki M. James, The Book of Mormon
•Patti LuPone, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
•Laura Osnes, Anything Goes

Outstanding Director of a Play

•Trip Cullman, A Small Fire
•Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, The Normal Heart
•Moises Kaufman, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
•Davis McCallum, A Bright New Boise
•Daniel Sullivan,The Merchant of Venice
•Kirjan Waage and Gwendolyn Warnock, Baby Universe

Outstanding Director of a Musical

•Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
•Joe Calarco, In Transit
•Jack Cummings III, Hello Again
•Jack Cummings III, See Rock City & Other Destinations
•Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
•Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon

Outstanding Choreography

•Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
•Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, Beautiful Burnout
•Steven Hoggett, Peter and the Starcatcher
•Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
•Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon
•Siudy, Between Worlds

Outstanding Music

•Brad Alexander, See Rock City & Other Destinations
•Alan Menken, Sister Act
•Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon
•Marc Shaiman, Catch Me if You Can
•Mike Stoller and Artie Butler, The People in the Picture
•David Yazbek, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Outstanding Lyrics

•Rick Crom, Newsical The Musical - Full Spin Ahead
•Jack Lechner, The Kid
•Adam Mathias, See Rock City & Other Destinations
•Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon
•Glenn Slater, Sister Act
•Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, Catch Me if You Can

Outstanding Book of a Musical

•Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth, In Transit
•Iris Rainer Dart, The People in the Picture
•Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical
•Adam Mathias, See Rock City & Other Destinations
•Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, The Book of Mormon
•Michael Zam, The Kid

Outstanding Orchestrations

•Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Hello Again
•Bruce Coughlin, The Burnt Part Boys
•Simon Hale, Jim Abbott and David Yazbek, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
•Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus, The Book of Mormon
•Marc Shaiman and Larry Blank, Catch Me if You Can
•Lynne Shankel, The Extraordinary Ordinary

Outstanding Music in a Play

•Wayne Barker, Peter and the Starcatcher
•Kathryn Bostic, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
•Lars Petter Hagen, Baby Universe
•Alan John, The Diary of a Madman
•Tom Kitt, The Winter's Tale
•Dan Moses Schreier,The Merchant of Venice

Outstanding Revue

•Fyvush Finkel Live!
•Newsical The Musical - Full Spin Ahead
•Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway

Outstanding Set Design

•Rachel Hauck, Orange, Hat & Grace
•David Korins and Zachary Borovay (projection design), Lombardi
•Derek McLane, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
•Derek McLane, Anything Goes
•Tony Straiges, Treasure Island
•Mark Wendland, The Merchant of Venice

Outstanding Costume Design

•Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical
•Desmond Heeley, The Importance of Being Earnest
•Ann Hould-Ward, A Free Man of Color
•Martin Pakledinaz, Anything Goes
•Ann Roth, The Book of Mormon
•Paloma Young, Peter and the Starcatcher

Outstanding Lighting Design

•Jean Kalman, John Gabriel Borkman
•R. Lee Kennedy, See Rock City & Other Destinations
•David Lander, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
•Laura Mroczkowski, Spy Garbo
•Ben Stanton, The Whipping Man
•David Weiner, A Small Fire

Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical

•Lindsay Jones, The Burnt Part Boys
•Michael Rasbury, Hello Again
•Brian Ronan, Anything Goes
•Brian Ronan, The Book of Mormon
•Jon Weston, In Transit

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play

•Acme Sound Partners, The Merchant of Venice
•Acme Sound Partners and Cricket S. Myers, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
•Ian Dickinson, John Gabriel Borkman
•Brett Jarvis, Baby Universe
•Bray Poor, Wings
•Eric Shimelonis, The Hallway Trilogy

Outstanding Solo Performance

•Daniel Beaty, Through the Night
•Mike Birbiglia, Mike Birbiglia's My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
•Juliette Jeffers, Batman and Robin in the Boogie Down
•John Leguizamo, Ghetto Klown
•Colin Quinn, Colin Quinn Long Story Short
•Joanna Tope, The Promise

Unique Theatrical Experience

•Being Harold Pinter
•Circus Incognitus
•Gatz
•Play Dead
•Room 17B
•Sleep No More

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Theater Review: Jerusalem

This City on a Hill Might Just Turn on You
By Lauren Yarger
Mark Rylance is the second coming, in more ways than one. He tore up the stage last season with his delightfully obnoxious turn in La Bete and is back for more, this time playing a hard-living, pleasure grabbing sort of Messiah in the transfer of the Royal Court Theatre’s production of Jez Butterworth’s dark, funny and enigmatic saga Jerusalem.

With his painful limp, a reminder of his glory days as an Evel Knievel daredevil who jumped double-decker buses, and an uncontainable energy, Johnny “Rooster” Byron (Rylance) plows through life throwing wild booze and drug gatherings for the kids who live in the New Estate development near his trailer in the English countryside.

Those activities, his litter-strewn trailer and grounds (Ultz, scenic and costume design) and his refusal to pay taxes have angered the neighbors who have rallied to have him evicted. Two government officials (Sarah Moyle and Harvey Robinson) arrive to serve notice after a party that quickly is becoming legend. Those who attended slowly emerge out of the woods in preparation for celebrating the annual Flintock St. George’s Fair.

Ian Rickson ably directs a large cast. There’s Davey (Danny Kirrane), who has no desire to travel from his rural environment and who doesn’t understand why Lee Piper (John Gallagher, Jr.) has decided to take off for Australia first thing in the morning. Also on hand are an absent-minded Professor (Alan David) who looks for his dead wife, Wesley (Max Baker), owner of the last pub which hasn’t banned Rooster from its premises, two party girls, Pea and Tanya (Molly Ranson and Charlotte Mills) and Ginger (a spot-on Mackenzie Crook) who is sort of a straight-man, devil’s advocate for the tall tales with which Rooster entertains the group.

Also coming in for the fair are Rooster’s former wife, Dawn (Geraldine Hughes), and the 6-year-old son Marky (Mark Page and Aiden Ayrick) he has neglected. Rooster also receives a less-than-friendly visit from Troy Whitworth (Barry Sloane) looking for his stepdaughter Phaedra (Aimee-Ffion Edwards), the fair queen, who has been missing for days. Jay Sullivan and Richard Short round out the cast.

All of these folks are in emotional pain of some kind and flock to Rooster in the hopes of eliminating it. Every time they look into his dark eyes, however, they see something terrifying they can’t face (and we hear a rumble of thunder, Ian Dickinson for Autograph, sound design).

Butterworth writes a play that is very funny, deep and almost mythical. Though it holds our interest for three hours, it could be shorter, and from my perspective, a little more to the point. Having invested such time and emotion I wanted some sort of conclusion, a solid message to take away. Instead, I felt strangely satisfied by seeing a superior work, but not really sure what it all was about.

Allegorical comparisons between Rooster and Christ abound including:
  • A feeling of impending doom hangs over the piece, not unlike Christ’s waiting to be taken at the Garden of Gethsemane. For Rooster, the garden is the ancient patch of woods his family has handed down through the generations.
  • He claims his mother was a virgin when she bore him (in a truly funny story)
  • Rooster was pronounced dead after one of his jumping accidents, then miraculously revived
  • He hangs out with the undesirables of his time.
  • Jesus’ hostile crowd clamored for crucifixion; Rooster’s calls for eviction.
  • He sheds his blood for others.
  • He is betrayed by his friends and spit upon.
  • He tells “parables” to the crowds who flock around him.
  • He even lists a long line of “begats.”
Rooster hardly is Jesus, however, and with his poor choices, bad advice and reliance on spells and spirit, it’s more likely he could be representing evil. That doesn’t seem to be the point, though, either.

According to the playwright’s program notes, the title comes from the hymn “Jerusalem,” based on a William Blake poem about Jesus visiting England and the idea of a city that is a metaphor for heaven and earth, with people living in peace with each other and with the land.

It’s very funny, brilliantly acted and engrossing. And while I got a lot of the references, I just couldn't decide why they were there. I guess I’m just not British enough.

Jerusalem plays through July 24 at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th Street, NYC. For tickets, visit http://www.telecharge.com.

Christians might also like to know:
Language
Nudity
God’s name taken in vain
Drug use

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Theater Review: Sister Act

The sisters. Photo by Joan Marcus.
They Rock the House -- of God, That is
By Lauren Yarger
When crass wannabe singer Deloris Van Cartier -- like the jewelry, she tells us -- witnesses her boyfriend/promoter commit a murder and finds herself at the top of his hit list, what’s a girl to do?

Well, if this is Sister Act, the hit movie starring Whoopie Goldberg or the new Broadway musical she is producing based on the film, the girl goes undercover in a convent with a bunch of unsuspecting, unworldly, wannabe-singer nuns. Chaos, fun and a lot of good singing ensue.

Police officer Eddie Souther (Chester Gregory) comes up with the plan to protect the girl he had a crush on in high school until she can testify and put Curtis Jackson (Kingsley Leggs) away for good. Mother Superior (played with great comedic flare by the super-talented Victoria Clark) reluctantly agrees after Monsignor O’Hara (Fred Applegate) tells her a hefty donation from the police might postpone having to sell the financially struggling parish and split the nuns up.

Mother is concerned about Deloris’ influence on the cloistered sisters, however, especially the impressionable Mary Patrick (Sarah Bolt) and postulant Mary Robert (Marla Mindelle). She puts the lounge singer where she's sure she can do no harm: in charge of the really pathetic-sounding choir headed by Sister Mary Lazarus (Audrie Neenan), but the plan backfires. Deloris trades in hymns for a more rocking repertoire and suddenly the nuns are bopping, hitting the rafters with notes they didn’t know they had, packing in the crowds and their donation dollars and attracting media attention which might lead Curtis right to Deloris.

Cheri and Bill Steinkellner (with additional material from Douglas Carter Beane) keep the book pretty close to the movie script (written by Joseph Howard) and employ lots of good humor. They overdo the “nun’s are stupid and uninteresting” joke, however, and one scene, where Curtis’ henchmen, Joey (John Treacy Egan), Pablo (Caesar Samoyoa) and TJ (Demond Green) sing about seducing the sisters, really crosses the tasteless line.

Jerry Zaks directs the show at almost break-neck speed.. Perhaps that’s because there are a lot of great songs by Alan Menken to get in around the plot. He writes a really nice score full of different sound styles with a few ballads to show off Miller’s elasticity and high-belt ability. Glen Slater’s lyrics are simple, but are fun and do a nice job tying the emotions and plot.

Anthony Van Laast over choreographs (enough with the arm and hand motions already…) and costume designer Lez Brotherston, obviously frustrated with the black and white habits, invents sparkly additions for the nuns to wear that rival those of Deloris and her lounge backup singers (Kashidra Scott and Alena Watters). There also are some clever break-aways for Eddie. Designer Klara Zieglerova creates a variety of slide-into-place sets, including the colossal stain-glass church with a “Holy Crow!” sized statue of the Virgin Mary that joins in the action.

It’s entertaining, if overdone. Catch it at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, NYC. Discounted tickets are available at
http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/290/individual.

Christians might also like to know:

God’s name taken in vain
Cross dressing (one character, one scene)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Theater Review: Born Yesterday

Nina Arianda Shines in Broadway Debut
By Lauren Yarger
Stepping into shoes once filled by Judy Holliday in both the original stage production and the 1950 film adapted from it might prove daunting for some, but Nina Arianda, making her Broadway debut as Billie Dawn in the revival of Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday leaves any memories in the dust.

Arianda is brilliant as the showgirl lacking in social graces who tries to improve herself to fit in with the swells hobnobbing in the 1946 political scene in Washington DC.

Jim Belushi plays her brash boyfriend, Harry Brock, a crooked junk business operator looking to expand his operations through bribing Sen.Norval Hodges (Terry Beaver) and some legal maneuvering by his morally sold-out attorney, Ed Devery (Frank Wood). His loud and awkward mistress is a contrast to the type of refined woman accepted in Washington society, like the senator’s wife, Mrs. Hodges (Patricia Hodges), however, so Brock hires reporter Paul Verrall (Robert Sean Leonard) to smooth her rough edges and educate her.

The effervescent Billie throws herself into the task, discovering Brock’s true character and his intentions to use her in some shady business dealings. Meanwhile, Verrall finds himself increasingly attracted to the delightful, big-hearted, easy going girl.

Director Doug Hughes coaxes excellent performances from the actors and gives them room to develop really interesting characters: Brock becomes increasingly obnoxious; Billie blossoms in intelligence and confidence and Devery fades into self loathing. It’s funny, savvy and surprisingly contemporary. It’s also easy to look at thanks to Catherine Zuber’s lovely period costumes and John Lee Beatty’s opulent hotel suite. Subtle touches, like having Mrs. Hodges’ mauve suite stand out against the gaudy orangey color of the sofa in Brock’s suite, are a nice collaboration to bring the message home of two worlds clashing.

All of the performances are first rate, but Arianda’s not-so-dumb blonde, nasal laughs and perfect comedic timing are what propel the play into one of the most enjoyable times at the theater this season. I'm guessing she might just give Frances McDormand (Good People) a run for the Best Actress Tony.
Born Yesterday plays at the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/311/individual.
Christians might also like to know:
Lord’s name taken in vain
Violence

Theater Review: Wonderland

Finding the Way Through the Looking Glass Proves More Difficult than You’d Think
By Lauren Yarger
In a season of musicals that have come up short, Wonderland, featuring composer Frank Wildhorn’s return to Broadway, makes it about halfway to the bullseye before failing to hit its ultimate target.

The music generally is good and the score contains a number of moving, high--belt ballads for which the composer (Scarlet Pimpernel, Jekyll & Hyde, Civil War) is known, ably performed by actors with solid vocal abilities. Where it goes off course, however, is by trying to give the story a modern twist with a weak book with weak characters by Gregory Boyd and Jack Murphy (who also direct and write the lyrics, respectively).

The plot often is confused, but if you don’t know the classic Lewis Carroll story, which is rather confusing itself, you will find yourself as lost as Alice (Janet Dacal) at times, even though the predictable dialogue sounds like it is written for 5 or 6 year olds (minus a more adult political barb thrown at the Tea Party).

And maybe it is. This modern version, though, has an adult. work-weary Alice following a White Rabbit (a grossly miscast Edward Staudenmayer trying to protray a character that just doesn't work) down an elevator to a mysterious Wonderland below her New York apartment building where she has relocated with her daughter, Chloe (Carly Rose Sonneclar) following the breakup of her marriage.

There she meets a variety of odd folks, including the White Rabbit’s cousin, Morris, the March Hare (Danny Stiles), an Hispanic Cheshire Cat named El Gato (Jose Llana) who erroneously thinks he has the power to become invisible , a cool blues-singing caterpillar (E. Clayton Cornelius) and a White Knight hero named Jack (Darren Ritchie).

Ruling over the land is the Queen of Hearts (Karen Mason) who chops off the heads of anyone opposing her. Surreptitiusly attempting to usurp her throne, however, is the Mad Hatter (Kate Shindle) who kidnaps Chloe in an attempt to keep Alice from replacing her in the queen's favor.

El Gato, and Jack with his White Knight backup singers performing corny choreography (by Marguerie Gherricks) are really fun. The fun display of six women playing the caterpillar's legs is clever and visually satusying as well. The large sets (Neil Patel, design) and colorful costumes (Susan Hilferty) are entertaining, and the looking glass effect (Paul Gallo, lighting design) is nicely executed. We are left wondering a few things, however, like why are a bunch of men dressed as child Alice look-alikes? Where did the caterpillar’s legs go?

There isn’t much to wonder about when it comes to the script, however, with dialogue that can be downright laughable at times. When it does veer off the predictable path, it’s not believable at all, like when Alice stops to have a nice chat and a song with Lewis Carroll before resuming her quest to save her kidnapped daughter.

Wonderland leaves us wondering what might have been if the book had been edited and if a few weaker songs had been polished. It could have been a wonder indeed.

Wonderland plays at the Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway, NYC through May 15. Discounted tickets are available at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/288/individual.
Christians might also like to know:
God’s name taken in vain
Reading of tea leaves
Lots of talk and singing about beheadings

Sister Act, Anything Goes Top Outer Critics Nominations

Brian d'Arcy James and Tyne Daly announce the 2010-2011 Outer Critics Circle Awards
nominations this morning in New York.

Outer Critics Circle 2010-2011 Award Nominations

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Good People
The Motherf**ker With the Hat
War Horse

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
The Book of Mormon
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Sister Act
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
Blood From a Stone
Kin
Other Desert Cities
The Other Place

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
Freckleface Strawberry
In Transit
The Kid
Tomorrow Morning

OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
The Book of Mormon
Catch Me If You Can
Sister Act
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Born Yesterday
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Merchant of Venice
The Normal Heart

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Anything Goes
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Hello Again
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
Marianne Elliott & Tom Morris -- War Horse
Emma Rice -- Brief Encounter
Anna D. Shapiro -- The Motherf**cker With the Hat
Daniel Sullivan -- Good People

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Rob Ashford -- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall -- Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw & Trey Parker -- The Book of Mormon
Jerry Zaks -- Sister Act
OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHER
Rob Ashford -- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Ross Coleman -- Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Kathleen Marshall -- Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw -- The Book of Mormon

OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Desmond Heeley The Importance of Being Earnest
Derek McLane Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Neil Murray Brief Encounter
Todd Rosenthal The Motherf**ker With the Hat

OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Lez Brotherston Sister Act
Tim Chappel & Lizzie Gardiner Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Desmond Heeley The Importance of Being Earnest
Lizz Wolf Baby It’s You!

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN
(Play or Musical)
Paule Constable War Horse
Natasha Katz Sister Act
David Lander Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Malcolm Rippeth Brief Encounter

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
Reed Birney The Dream of the Burning Boy
Bobby Cannavale The Motherf**ker With the Hat
Joe Mantello The Normal Heart
Al Pacino The Merchant of Venice
Mark Rylance Jerusalem

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Nina Arianda Born Yesterday
Edie Falco The House of Blue Leaves
Judith Light Lombardi
Frances McDormand Good People
Laurie Metcalf The Other Place

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Norbert Leo Butz Catch Me If You Can
Josh Gad The Book of Mormon
Daniel Radcliffe How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Tony Sheldon Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Aaron Tveit Catch Me If You Can

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Victoria Clark Sister Act
Sutton Foster Anything Goes
Beth Leavel Baby It’s You!
Patina Miller Sister Act
Donna Murphy The People in the Picture

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Brian Bedford The Importance of Being Earnest
Evan Jonigkeit High
Stacy Keach Other Desert Cities
Seth Numrich War Horse
Yul Vázquez The Motherf**ker With the Hat

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Renée Elise Goldsberry Good People
Linda Lavin Other Desert Cities
Estelle Parsons Good People
Alison Pill The House of Blue Leaves
Elizabeth Rodriguez The Motherf**ker With the Hat

OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Colin Donnell Anything Goes
Adam Godley Anything Goes
Chester Gregory Sister Act
John Larroquette How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
John McMartin Anything Goes
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Laura Benanti Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Nikki M. James The Book of Mormon
Patti LuPone Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Marla Mindelle Sister Act
Laura Osnes Anything Goes

OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Daniel Beaty Through the Night
Mike Birbiglia My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend
John Leguizamo Ghetto Klown
Michael Shannon Mistakes Were Made

JOHN GASSNER AWARD
(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Amy Herzog After the Revolution
Matthew Lopez The Whipping Man
David West Read The Dream of the Burning Boy
Kim Rosenstock Tigers Be Still

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
Ellen Barkin for her Outstanding Broadway Debut in The Normal Heart
Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones for Handspring Puppet Company, Puppet Design, Fabrication and Direction for War Horse

Celebrating its 61st 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, websites, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad. The winners will be announced Monday, May 16 and the annual awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 26 at Sardi’s Restaurant.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Feature: High's Matthew Lombardo

Playwright’s Real-Life Drama and Journey of Faith
By Lauren Yarger
When his play closes on Broadway this Easter Sunday, the irony of the timing won’t be lost on author Matthew Lombardo.

After all, High, starring Kathleen Turner as Sister Jamison Connelly, a nun with a faith crisis of her own trying to help a young boy kick his crystal meth habit, was inspired by the real seven-year addiction that almost robbed the playwright of his career, his faith and his life. A last-chance plea to God for help saved all three, so it seems ironic, yet fitting, that the play’s final curtain should come on the day when the resurrection’s triumph over death is celebrated. Without what Lombardo calls his own “miracle,” neither the play, nor he would be here today.

“I never thought I would get this again,” he said, gesturing around the Booth Theatre where we talked the week before the show was scheduled to open Tuesday, April 19. The playwright had seen success very early in his career, having plays produced and writing for the popular television soap opera “Another World.”.

His breakout work in theater came with the production of Tea at Five, his one-woman play about Katharine Hepburn, who made her home in Lombardo’s native Connecticut. The play premiered in 2002 at Hartford Stage starring Kate Mulgrew and enjoyed a successful regional tour. At the same time, however, Lombardo’s addiction to crystal methamphetamines was spiraling out of control.

The worst thing you can do with an addiction is take it on tour, Lombardo said. Suddenly no one wanted to work with him. He lost his career, his home and almost all hope that anything could change. It was a dark place in which he’d never expected to find himself.

No one had, in fact. His high school friends in Wethersfield, CT might have voted him “Least Likely Not to Have a Drug Problem” he kidded. The clean-cut, good looking man from a loving Italian Catholic family didn’t party much in his youth,

“I was so anti-drugs all my life,” he said. “I never touched a drug until I was 36.”

So what changed the course of his life? While in Los Angeles, he fell in love with a man who was a meth addict.

“He was addicted to meth and I was addicted to him,” Lombardo said.

Ironically, after he was hooked, the other man entered a drug rehab program and as part of the treatment, was prohibited from having any contact with Lombardo.

Only two things had made him feel good, Lombardo said: the man he could no longer have and meth. He drew comfort from the one he still could have. He was tired of being “an all-American boy and doing the right thing,” he decided and began taking the drug every day.

Close with his mother, he would work hard to pull himself together for their daily phone chats. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she sensed something wasn’t right. At one point, in 2004, he thought about getting clean and confessed his addiction to his mother. She couldn’t believe it. It was just so unexpected.

He wasn’t able to quit and the habit got worse over the next three years. Finally, his sponsor told his family that they had to break all contact with Lombardo. His mother would play his voice messages over and over again to hear his voice, but couldn’t call him back.

That put Lombardo over the edge and caused a turning point. He calls it his miracle. He prayed to God and said “If you can get me into a cab and to the hospital, I will fight this.” The emotion from this moment in the playwright’s life shows up in a scene from High where Sister Jamison pleads with God to meet her half way.

He did get to the hospital where he slowly, but surely, started on the road to recovery. It wasn’t easy. Because meth “destroys your mind,” he was unable to tell between reality and fiction. While he was using, he never once connected that the drug was what had destroyed his career and was threatening his life.

As things became clearer, he recognized a pattern of addiction that had been present in his life from the time he was a small boy. Siblings also struggle with addictions, so he discovered he was battling a genetic disposition as well as other factors, he said.

Also coming into focus was a new relationship with God. The god he grew up with had been represented as distant and punishing, he said. During his seven years of drug addiction, he had turned his back on faith.

“The god I grew up with is different from the God I know today,” he said. Now, he’s personal.

Also helping on a personal level are the brothers in recovery he has met through his 12-Step Program, Crystal Meth Anonymous. He splits his time between New York and Ft. Lauderdale, where his sponsor is. These folks have helped him learn how to do everything all over again – sober. Even going to the store to buy a candy bar for the first time can be a daunting task, he said.

The 12-step program includes belief in a “higher power.” Lombardo smiles broadly when relating facts about medical professionals acknowledging that this belief seems to make it possible for someone to be healed.

“There’s nothing I can’t handle now because of my relationship with God,” he said.

Proof of this came yesterday when producers posted an early-closing for High following less-than-favorable reviews and sluggish ticket sales.

"Despite the closing, I remain eternally grateful for this amazing opportunity,” he said. “Audiences have been extremely supportive of this project and I am so proud to have collaborated with this extraordinary groups of artists."

Not a day goes by that he doesn’t receive a message from someone who has been touched personally by High and the struggles of its character, young Cody, driven to prostitution and possibly murder while addicted. Recently, Lombardo related, a man in his early 20s languished at the back of the theater after one of the previews. When Lombardo identified himself as the author, the man thanked him for writing the play, and became emotional, saying that his brother was one of the “ones that didn’t make it.”

The play starts with the addiction, but becomes about faith and how to “get out of our way to let the miracle happen,” Lombardo said.

High plays its final performance 3 pm Sunday (April 24). What’s next for the playwright besides welcoming newcomers to his 12-steap meetings?

He’s working on an adaptation of six Greek plays, a vehicle for his specialty – a dynamite woman's role to be tackled by a powerhouse actress of a certain age, like Hepburn, Turner and Valerie Harper who garnered a 2010 Best Actress Tony nomination for Lombardo’s Looped.

Information about help and treatment for methamphetamine and other addictions are available from the following resources:
• Crystal Meth Anonymous, a 12-step program http://www.crystalmeth.org//
• Find a meeting http://www.crystalmeth.org/find-a-cma-meeting.html
• Connecticut info http://www.ct.gov/dmhas/cwp/view.asp?a=2902&q=376512
• List of state resources http://www.methresources.gov/Index.html
• 12 Step Program http://www.12step.org/
• Celebrate Recovery, a church program http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Theater Review: War Horse



Remarkable Work Brands a Hoofprint on Your Heart and Gallops Away With Your Soul
By Lauren Yarger
Every once in a while, we’re treated to a rare experience on the stage that transports us out of our theater seats and into the action and hearts of the story. Lincoln Center Theatre’s production the National Theatre of Great Britain’s hit War Horse is such a gift.

Amazing puppetry designed by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones for Handspring Puppet Company, Celtic sounding music (Adrian Sutton), perfect set design (Rae Smith), skillful direction (Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris) and dynamic performances combine to create an unforgettable and moving experience. So engaging is the story adapted by Nick Stafford from Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book War Horse, that at intermission I wanted to cry out, “No, don’t stop!” and when it was all over, I wanted to go back and see the two-hour-and-45-minute production all over again.

The War Horse is “Joey,” a Hunter (part draft, part Thoroughbred), won at auction by Ted Narracott (Boris McGiver) who uses his mortgage money to outbid his hated brother, Arthur (T. Ryder Smith), who still enjoys taunting him, along with the rest of their 1912 Devon, England village, for being a coward and refusing to serve in the last war.

He brings the little foal home, but his wife, Rose (Alyssa Bresnahan) isn’t impressed. She’ll have to make things right with the bankers. Their son, Albert (Seth Numrich) is charged with the animal’s care and turning him into an adult horse that the family might be able to sell for a price to recoup some of the exorbitant amount paid for him.

Albert and Joey find soul mates in each other, however, and when the time comes to sell the beautiful, free-spirited horse, the boy can’t bear the thought of being parted from him. They “speak” to each other and Albert calls Joey with a special whistle. Arthur, however, sees another chance to do his brother harm. He bets him that Joey can’t be taught to plow a field in one week, putting up the horse’s original auction price as stakes. If Joey can’t plow, Arthur will win the horse for his own son, Billy (Matt Doyle). Ted accepts the bet.

Albert agrees to try to train the horse with one condition: if Joey plows, the horse will be his and they won’t have to sell him. Ted gives his word and Rose, ever supportive of her son, takes on the boy’s farm chores so he can work nonstop on the seemingly impossible mission. She’s the rock that keeps the family together and she passes love and a resilient spirit on to her son. He, in turn, passes these on to Joey. The terms of the agreement become moot, however, when England enters World War I and Ted sells Joey behind Albert’s back to the Army.

Lt. James Nicholls (Stephen Plunkett) loves the horse too and assures Albert he will care for him as they go off to France to front to fight the Kaiser. There they find that the Calvary is almost obsolete in the face of new inventions like the machine gun and barbed wire. During the years ahead, Joey touches the lives of a number of people on both sides of the war, seemingly sharing with them the love and spirit that Albert had given him. All the while, Albert searches through battle fields and war-torn villages in the hopes of finding the horse he loves.

The battle sequences are amazing, as are the movements of the horses, each controlled by three puppeteers who blend so seamlessly into the action that you’d swear there are live horses prancing on the stage. The foal puppet was so mesmerizing, in fact, that when it first appeared on stage I never even noticed a cast of more than 20 who had joined it on stage (there are 35 in the ensemble).

On one level, the story is a simple children’s tale, but on another it is much more. The relationship between Rose and Albert is endearing and messages about the ravages of war, the common desire of all mankind to live peacefully, and the question of just who the enemy really is all come into play.

War Horse is thoroughly engaging, very human, though it’s about a horse, and before it’s all done, there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Don’t walk, canter or even trot – break into full gallop to get tickets to this one.

War Horse plays at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, 150 West 65th St., NYC. Tickets are available at 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.lct.org/showMain.htm?id=199.

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

Theater Review: Catch Me if You Can

The ensemble. Photo by Joan Marcus
Turning This Film into a Musical Proves Evasive
By Lauren Yarger
Catch Me if You Can refers to the taunt of a master check-forging criminal to the FBI agent trying to catch him, but in the case of the Broadway show, the phrase also could apply to the attempt to find the right formula to turn this popular feature film into a stage musical.

Book writer Terrance McNally keeps the story pretty much to the plot of the Dreamworks film which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as teen con man Frank Abagnale, Jr. who ends up working for the FBI white collar fraud unit after agent Carl Hanratty, played in the movie by Tom Hanks, finally brings him in.

Here, Frank and Carl are played very well by Aaron Tveit and Norbert Leo Butz in the game of cat-and-mouse during which the young Frank forges checks in the US and in Europe while posing as an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer in the 1960s and ‘70s. The life in crime really is an attempt to win the approval of his divorced parents, down-an-out Frank Sr. (Tom Wopat, who gives a nice performance) and Paula (Rachel de Benedict), a dissatisfied war bride who wants the finer things in life.

Life on the run seems less satisfying, however, when Frank meets up with Brenda Strong (Kerry Butler) and her father offers him a job at his law firm. Linda Hart stands out in a minor comical role as Brenda’s mother, Carol.

The plot, based on the true story, is interesting and the chase, as well as the relationship that develops between the pursuer and the object of his hunt is engaging – hence the hit movie. The problem comes in trying to turn what should have been a play into a musical. It’s almost as though director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell said, “Let’s just go over the top with it.”

First we’re bombarded with the Frank Abagnale, Jr. players, a 19-member chorus featuring the women dressed in busty airline hostess and nurse outfits (William Ivey Long, design) performing overwhelming choreography to never-ending big production tunes (Marc Shaiman, music and lyrics with Scott Wittman which at times are cumbersome). There are many big sets (David Rockwell, design), the most effective of which is a nice transition to the FBI office. Just for good measure, we have a dancing ink bottle, a bottle of glue and a knife to depict Frank’s forgery.

Butz is fun as the uptight, caring FBI agent and Tveit has a lovely voice which we get to enjoy in a couple of nicer ballads, but we don’t get to see the full development of their characters and their relationship – the real heart of the story – amidst all the clutter. Butler seems under used, getting to sing only one solo – she waits around in the wings most of Act One before her character comes into play.

Catch Me if You Can takes off at the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd St., NYC. For discounted tickets, visit http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/282/individual.

Christians might also like to know:

• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain

Quick Hit Theater Review: Go Back to Where You Are

Go Back to Where You Are
Playwrights Horizons
By David Greenspan
Director: Leigh Silverman

Summary: An ancient Greek, Passalus(David Greenspan, is sent back to present-day Long Island with the purpose of helping one particular woman, but finds himself having an effect on her relatives instead. He also finds himself having long-thought-dead feelings for one of them. Will this gathering of theater folk result in an end to a 2,000-year purgatory?

Highlights: Mary Shultz is entertaining as Charlotte, the clumsy, insecure actress who pales in comparison with her "friend" Claire (Lisa Banes), who enjoys putting her down when she's retracted her claws long enough from emotionally wounding her brother, Bernard (Brian Hutchinson), who is the object of Passalus' affection. Greenspan includes a number of funny lines about the theater and the playwrighting process.

Lowlights: The story of gay folks searching for fulfillment (Tim Hopper and Stephen Bogardus play partners who are Claire's friends and Michael Izquierdo is Claire's gay son and complete the ensemble) in the shadow of an uncaring, irrational God (also played by Hopper)with women portrayed as stupid or shrew-like is nothing new. This one plays more like the playwright's desire to share some personal insights while showing himself in an adorably witty light rather than as a story that appeals to a general audience.

Information: Go Back to Where You Are plays at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/.

Christians might also like to know:

•Language
•Sexual dialogue
•Homosexual activity

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Theater Review: Anything Goes with Sutton Foster & Joel Grey

It’s Delightful and Sutton Foster is De-lovely
By Lauren Yarger
A silly plot, even sillier gags, songs by Cole Porter and some powerhouse dance numbers giving Sutton Foster a chance to use some of the tap and belting skills that have been dormant in her latest Broadway roles combine to make Anything Goes a delightful revival that’s just so easy to love.

Foster is Reeno Sweeney, a club entertainer “evangelist” who pursues love interest Billy Crocker (a dreamy Colin Donnell) aboard an ocean liner. He’s pursuing someone else, however, socialite Hope Harcourt (Laura Osnes), who’s sailing with her mother, Evangeline (Jessica Walter – I saw understudy Linda Mugleston) and her fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (a very funny Adam Godley).

Also on board the ship (designed on a grand scale three levels by Derek McLane) are conman Moonface Martin (Joel Grey), posing as a priest, Erma (Jessica Stone), his partner in crime who keeps all the sailors occupied, and Billy’s boss, Elisha Whitney (John McMartin), who pursues Mrs. Harcourt. Billy was supposed to make an important stock transaction before he decided to stow away on the chance he could win Hope’s heart, and Reno, Moonface and Erma help Billy evade his boss with a number of ruses and disguises. A large ensemble completes the cast and performs the rousing production numbers directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.

The original book by P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton with Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse has been updated by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman and gives a storyline to Porter’s music and lyrics, which include familiar tunes like “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Easy to Love,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” among others.

Foster, who burst onto the Broadway stage with a Tony-Award winning performance in Thoroughly Modern Millie hasn’t had a chance to show what she can do in subsequent roles (Little Women, The Drosy Chaperone, Young Frankenstein and Shrek), but finally, in Anything Goes, she gets to excercise her vocal range, belt like Ethel Merman and tap up a storm. She shines, and like the rest of the cast outfitted in lovely 1930s evening and cruise wear by designer Martin Paklidinaz, seems to be having a lot of fun up there. Even the lighting (Peter Kaczorowki, designer) should take a bow -- the “Easy to Love” number on the moonlit deck is particularly lovely.

The only down sides: Foster’s reserve in a few numbers where she could go even more to town, waiting until almost the end of Act One before we get a full-out production number and the arrangements of some of the songs (James Lowe is Musical Director). “Friendship” was particularly disappointing.

People were humming and singing the tunes at intermission and on their way out of the theater. All aboard for a really fun two hours and 45 minutes at the theater.

This Roundabout Theatre Company production of Anything Goes plays at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 West 43rd St., NYC. Tickets are available at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/283/individual.

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

Drama Desk Panel on Casting TV, Film Stars on Broadway

The Drama Desk presented a special Panel Discussion and luncheon at Sardi’s on Friday titled “Movie and TV Stars on Stage,” reflecting the current trend of casting film and TV stars in plays and musicals on the New York stage.

The Panelists were (in alphabetical order): Jim Belushi (Born Yesterday), Maxwell Caulfield (Cactus Flower), Stephen Kunken (High), Dan Lauria (Lombardi), John Larroquette (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), John Leguizamo (Ghetto Klown) and Annabella Sciorra (The MotherF**ker with the Hat).

The panel was moderated by Drama Desk member Robin Milling (Milling About, BlogTalk Radio, World Entertainment News Network).

Panelists shared anecdotes about their time on stage and agreed on general truths about the differences between working on film and on stage:
  • The rehearsal time for a stage production is a lot longer. You get to develop your character and his or her nuances in greater detail than the TV and film media which often have actors receiving dialogue just hours before the final take will be shot.
  • The stage environment is more demanding. More work is required for less pay. There aren't extra "takes" to get something right.
  • Stagework is draining. Once you find a peak, there's no "cut." You have to maintain it eight shows a week.
In addition, the panelists seem to be aware of a special kind of "magic" that's available only with live theater. When the material, the actors and the audience click, it's magic, Belushi said. Leguizamo compared it to an ice sculpture -- a beautiful creation that disappears quickly.

Belushi said he was humbled by the talent of the actors he has seen on Broadway. Larroquette is in awe of the lineage of great talent on the Great White Way and what amazing star might have used the dressing room you're now occupying.

Lauria expressed frustration over theater owners having control over who stars in a play (and apparently he was turned down by some to star as football coach Vince Lombardi. "They'd rather have Julia Roberts play Lombardi," he joked referring to the need for box office draw.

"I'm waiting for Snooki: The Musical," quipped Caufield.

But there is one advantage besides ticket sales to casting qualified TV and Hollywood stars on the stage, they agreed: They bring new audiences. Lauria related the story of a football star who came to see Lombardi. It was the first play he'd ever seen. Larroquette's co-star Dan Radcliffe, who starred as Harry Potter in the big screen, is packing in an audience of teen girls, he said.

The Drama Desk Award nominations for this season will be announced May 2 with the awards gala on May 23.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Theater Review: The Motherf**ker with the Hat with Chris Rock

It’s Dark, but Bleepin’ Funny
By Lauren Yarger
Comedian Chris Rock makes his Broadway debut in The Motherf**ker with the Hat, Stephen Adly Guirgis dark play that will make you laugh – and want to wash your ears out with soap.

Rock plays Ralph D, an AA sponsor helping Jackie (Bobby Cannavale), a recent parolee, try to stay straight while putting his life with longtime girlfriend Veronica (Elizabeth Rodriguez) back together.

That’s easier said than done. Veronica is, to put it mildly, a hungry manhood-eating Godzilla on wheels who is using drugs herself. She also might be stepping out on Jackie with another guy – the motherf**ker who left his hat behind while making a fast exit from the couple’s rundown apartment (shabbily designed with towering outdoor and building features by Todd Rosenthal).

Ralph encourages Jackie to drop Veronica – and the gun he has acquired to shoot the guy with the hat. He may not have gotten through, however, since the sponsor is distracted by his own problems. His wife, Victoria (Annabella Sciorra), regrets giving up her successful life to marry Ralph and is threatening to leave him and/or have an affair of her own.

Jackie turns for help to his health-food-cooking cousin Julio (Yul Vazquez) who thinks of himself as a Claude Van Dam clone, but years of Jackie’s treating Julio badly might keep him from getting involved. As the lives of the characters get more entangled, questions about which rules matter and who your real friends are and how well any of us really knows anyone else surface.

Cannavale gives a solid performance as the seemingly poor-choice-making guy who just might have the strongest moral character of the bunch. Rodriguez makes a stunning Broadway debut wielding a full arsenal of emotion sharpened by impeccable comedic timing. Director Anna D. Shapiro fails to coax Rock out of a timid mode, however, and we don’t get the full range of that character.

Guirgis creates interesting characters who are oddly likable, and peppers the script with some really funny dialogue throughout. The overuse of ear-blistering language, however, detracts from the play. While these folks, in their particular lifestyles, might realistically use such language, they probably would not suddenly wax poetic, sound extremely articulate and exude gems of wisdom, which they often do so that Guirgis can make a point. You can’t have it both ways, and toning the language certainly would have enhanced the message, not to mention given this play a title which its stars might actually been able to say when marketing it on television or the radio without getting bleeped. Less is more.

The show runs at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NYC through June 26. For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250.

Christians might also like to know:
• Strong language and sexual dialogue throughout
• Drug usage
• Sexual activity

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Other Place

Aya Cash and Laurie Metcalf. Photo © Joan Marcus

The Other Place
By Sharr White
Director: Joe Mantello
MCC at the Lucille Lortel Theatre

Summary: Juliana (Laurie Metcalf) has been studying the genetic origins of dimentia for years, when ironically, she might just need the new experimental drug treatment she helped develop herself. Her husband, Ian (Dennis Boutsikaris), grows increasingly concerned as his wife grows rage-filled, confused and insists she secretly is in contact with their daughter, Laurel (Aya Cash, who ran away from home years ago, possibly with Juliana's teaching assistant, Richard (John Schiappa), and was never heard from again. What's real and who really knows?

Highlights: Metcalf gives a gripping performance as a woman losing her grip. Cash plays multiple roles and in one, plays kindness to perfection. Love that scene.

Lowlights: I liked the play very much, though it needs edits in a few places, but I was surprised to hear many audience members indicate that they were confused and didn't understand some of it.
 
Information: The Other Place runs through May 1 at the Lortel, 121 Christopher St., NYC. For tickets and information visit http://www.mcctheater.org/currentseason.html.
Christians might also like to know:
•Language
•God's name taken in vain

Quick Hit Theater Review: Tomorrow Morning

Matthew Hydzik, Autumn Hurlbert, D.B. Bond and Mary Mossberg © Carol Rosegg
Tomorrow Morning
York Theatre Company at St. Peter's
By Laurence Mark Wythe
Director: Tom Mullen
Music Director: John Bell
Choreography: Lorin Latarro

Summary: It's hindsight in sight as a couple hears the clock ticking on the eve of their wedding, then again on the eve of their divorce in this musical with a big heart. Jack (D.B. Bonds) and Kat (Autumn Hurlbert) deal with wedding-eve jitters, a lost job and an unplanned pregnancy on the night before their wedding. Years later, John (Matthew Hydzik) and Catherine (Mary Mossberg), no longer using pet names, prepare to split up after John has an affair. They wonder how the divorce will affect their son and how they got from where they started to where they are now. The show reminds of The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown.

Highlights: A tight book by Wythe, proving a good story with nicely developed characters can be told as a musical in 75 minutes. Mullen does some nice storytelling himself with direction that physically places the characters close and at odds when that's where they are emotionally, yet allows them to see each other while not interfering with the two distinct time lines. Dan P. Conley's compact set includes some mirror effects with overlapping entrances that continue the effect of the couples lives intertwining seemlessly. Hydzik is particularly moving as the man looking back on his life with regret.
Lowlights: Most of the story is told through song and with the exception of a couple of nice ballads and a funny game-show sequence, most of the score is same-sounding and can get a tad tedious. Vocals are adequate, but kudos to the actors for doing a show without mikes (and to the four-piece band for not drowning them out).

Information: This one wraps up Saturday, April 23 at St. Peter's, 819 Lexington Ave (entrance is on 54th), NYC. For information and tickets, visit http://www.yorktheatre.org/
Christians might also like to know:
•God's name taken in vain
•Dialogue about drug use and sex outside of marriage

Friday, April 15, 2011

Drama Desk Nominations Event Revised

Tyne Daly and Brian D'Arcy James are set to announce the nominations for Outer Critics Circle Awards Tuesday, April 26 at 11 am at the historic Algonquin Hotel, NYC. Mercedes Ruehl, who was previously announced as co-presenter for the nominations ceremony, had to decline due to personal reasons.

Outer Critics Circle will post award nominations in 23 categories and are the first major Broadway/Off-Broadway award nominees of the New York theater season.

Celebrating its 61st season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theater, the Outer Critics Circle with members affiliated with more than 90 newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad.

The winners will be announced May 16 and the annual awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 26th at 4 pm at Sardi’s Restaurant.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

TV, Hollywood Stars Join Drama Desk Panel Discussion

The Drama Desk will present a special Panel Discussion and Luncheon at Sardi’s on Friday, April 15 titled “Movie and TV Stars on Stage,” reflecting the current trend of casting film and TV stars in plays and musicals on the New York stage.

The Panelists include (in alphabetical order): Jim Belushi (Born Yesterday), Maxwell Caulfield (Cactus Flower), Margaret Colin (Arcadia), Stephen Kunken (High), Dan Lauria (Lombardi), John Larroquette (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), John Leguizamo (Ghetto Klown) and Annabella Sciorra (The MotherF**ker with the Hat).

The Panel Discussion will be moderated by Drama Desk member Robin Milling (Milling About, BlogTalk Radio, World Entertainment News Network).

The program will be held on the fourth floor of Sardi’s, 234 West 44th St., NYC. The luncheon will begin at 11:45 am and the Panel Discussion will start at 1 pm.

Tickets for Drama Desk members are $45 and for non-members, $55 (cash or check). Reservations are requested. RSVP: PJRJS@aol.com. When making your reservation, please specify your preference of salmon, chicken or pasta. Deadline for reservations is Wednesday, April 13.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Theater Review: A Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with Robin Williams

 Photo Caption (l-r): Robin Williams, Brad Fleischer and Glenn Davis. Photo: Carol Rosegg.
What We Have Here, Is a Failure to Communicate
By Lauren Yarger
It’s a beautiful topiary garden, with plants and animals lovingly sculpted by a creator in whom hope springs eternal. Or it is an Eden gone bad, destroyed by man’s greed, lust and stupidity and overseen by a cruel and uncaring creator.

The scene (designed by Derek McLane) is 2003 Baghdad in Rajiv Joseph’s Pulitzer-Prize nominated play A Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo starring Robin Williams in its Broadway premiere, but its message isn’t exactly clear.

Whether we’re witnessing the characters’ lack of ability to understand each other, their futile attempts to talk with God or the playwright’s own inability to get his message across, despite a lot of repetative dialogue, one thing becomes very clear: we have a big failure to communicate here.

Let’s start with the Tiger, played by a burly-bearded Williams. He’s hungry, but the stupid American Marines, Tom (Glenn Davis) and Kev (Brad Fleisher). on patrol in the zoo just taunt him while Tom shares stories of how he looted a toilet seat and a pistol, both made of gold, when he was part of the squad that raided the palace and killed the two sons of Saddam Hussein. He’s going to cash in and live easy when he goes back stateside.

The Tiger finally decides to use a communication technique that will get noticed: he bites off Tom’s hand. Kev shoots the Tiger and for the rest of the play, the animal wanders around the streets in a sort of purgatory pondering the meaning of life and wondering whether he had been wrong to be an atheist. For tigers, heaven and hell simply mean hungry or not hungry, he says.

But what if he was wrong? He had eaten two children, he admits, but he had thought the act was driven by primordial urge rather than cruelty. The regret he now feels brings a need for atonement. He tries to communicate with God by screaming and cursing and demanding to know where he is, but receives no answer. (My guess? God has earplugs in to tune out the bombardment of “F” and other curse words and strong sexual language that dominate the play’s dialogue throughout.)

The Tiger haunts Kev, who loses the gun in a night raid where he is unable to communicate with the Iraqis he’s interrogating (multiple roles are played by Necar Zadegan, Hrach Titizian and Sheila Vand throughout the play). The prolonged scene in which the family screams in Arabic at each other and at Kev is meant to show us how frightening and difficult relations are when we are unable to communicate. What it really does, however, is annoy.

Not much help bridging the communication gap is Musa (Arian Moayed), the creator of the once-beautiful topiary garden at the Husseins' palace, now employed by the US Military as an interpreter. He is haunted by his former boss, Uday Hussein (in a spot-on repulsive portrayal by Titizian), who carries the severed head of his brother.

Uday gloats about raping and torturing Musa’s little sister, whom the gardener had brought to the palace to admire his artistic creations.

Musa, urgently tries to communicate that he’s an artist, not a terrorist, even though he decides to trade the gold pistol for arms and kills Tom, leaving him where, you guessed it, he in purgatory/hell/or whatever this is supposed to be .

At one point the Tiger quips that he knows Dante. Of course he does, I thought not too long after. We’re sitting in one of the rings of hell right now waiting for something – anything positive– to happen in this play. But like those who enter the gate, we are forced to abandon all hope, just like all of these really, totally, unbelievably unlikable characters have.

And I so wanted to like the Tiger. Williams, whose name on the marquis is the primary reason the play has landed on Broadway (though I don’t have a clue how it ended up a Pulitzer finalist), executes the role adequately, but he hardly gets a chance to show what he can do. Director Moises Kaufman keeps him chained. Williams doesn’t sound or move like a tiger. In fact, if the characters didn’t tell us, in between many “F” words, that he was a tiger, we might not know and assume him to be a metaphor for the Iraqi people. Then again, in this play, maybe be is. I'm not sure. While I didn’t expect to see Williams’ trademark humor or improv skills, given the subject matter, allowing this talented actor to imbue the animal with some more personality would have been welcome.

One woman at intermission worriedly asked her companion, “What is this supposed to be? What is he supposed to represent?” She wasn’t alone with her questions. A number of people left either during the show or at intermission (the large number of school children apparently on class trips stayed, however, making me glad that the days of my going to the school and questioning why, of all the wonderful, educational shows on Broadway, they would choose this one, are over since my kids are grown).

Politically correct, the school officials would, no doubt, tell me it’s necessary for children to be broadminded in their approach to different cultures, to question America’s involvement in war, to entertain different thoughts about the afterlife. But is that what this play communicates? I’m not so sure.

The message I came away with was that man is driven by greed, stupidity and lust, that we are in control of our own fate and that eventually we will mess everything up because we’re driven by lust, stupidity and greed. And, by the way, there is no God who can help us out of the cycle whether we’re an innocent child or a vicious tiger.

I just didn't like wallowing around in that depressing message for two hours, however, because I know it’s not completely true. There are many caring people who reach out to and welcome those who are different. There also are a lot of brave – and smart – American soldiers serving in Iraq.

And lastly, there is a way out. The playwright’s story is an old one. It’s found in the fall of man in the bible. Cheer up, though. God does exist and has a plan so we don’t have to stay trapped hopeless in the fallen garden. The happy ending is called the Gospel.

Begal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo plays through July 3 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 West 46th St., NYC. For tickets, call 212-307-4100 or 800-755-4000.

Christians might also like to know:
  • Violence and blood (with some of the coolest special effects for blood I have seen, though)
  • Sexual dialogue
  • Sexual activity
  • Lord's name taken in vain

Monday, April 4, 2011

Theater Review: The Book of Mormon

South Park and Avenue Q Creators Convert Their Attention to the Mormons, and Heaven Help Us, It’s Funny
By Lauren Yarger
The crass humor of TV’s South Park and Broadway’s Avenue Q combine to resurrect a rare thing on the Great White Way lately – a really funny original musical -- with The Book of Mormon.

Reverent it’s not, despite the stained glass and temple-like trim on the proscenium (Scott Pask, set design) and if you are a Mormon, you will be offended, but the show isn’t the total Mormon or religion-bashing fest it could have been, given the kind of really crude humor of which Trey Parker (co-director with Casey Nicholaw, who also chorepgraphs), Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, writers of the book, music and lyrics, are capable. They take some shots, and cross the line of decency a few times, but mostly, they have the audience rolling in the aisles.

The opening number, in which a group of Mormons train in what to say as they ring doorbells to share their message is a hoot. The squeaky-clean, always smiling, shirt-and-tie-attired “elders” excitedly wait to hear where they will be sent on their required two-year mission experience (costume designs are by Ann Roth). Elder Price (Andrew Rannells), a sort of superstar Mormon, prays that God will send him to his favorite place in the world – Orlando -- but instead, finds himself on his way to a village in Uganda.

Worse, he finds himself paired with Elder Cunningham (a riotously funny Josh Gad) who isn’t a superstar Mormon. In fact, he’s a super needy, super nerdy and has a problem with telling lies. With his over-the-top, hyena-sounding chortle that makes you laugh each time he does, you can’t help but guiltily feel Elder Cunningham’s pain if you’re a Christian. You’ve met this guy at some church, Christian camp or youth group. He’s the one you desperately want to avoid because he’s so socially awkward and annoying while wanting to be your best friend, but at some point, since you’re a Christian, you ask, “What would Jesus do?” and you force yourself to be friendly. Come on, admit it. You know him…. Gad plays him to perfection.

The missions partners throw themselves into the work of converting the Africans, but the villagers have heard it all before. Missionaries come and go without really making a difference. What they really need help with, Nabulungi (Nikki M. James) tells them, is resisting the General (Brian Tyree Henry), who rules the village and who has ordered all virgin women to be circumcised (as is practiced in many African/Muslim nations).

Price, discouraged after not being able to influence the General, eventually decides to leave and Cunningham, fueled by Nabulungi’s belief that Mormonism might indeed hold some hope and her promise to make the villagers listen, agrees to stay and tell some of the stories. There’s one problem. He hasn’t actually read the Book of Mormon, so he uses his gift for stretching the truth to enhance it with some help from the "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" sagas he loves so much to give the people what they want to hear.

Soon, baptismal waters are splashing and the Mormon President comes to commend the elders in person. The villagers welcome the respected Mormon leader with a theatrical presentation depicting the history of the founding of the religion as they understand it from Cunningham’s stories. This warped “Small-House-of-Uncle-Thomas-like” number complete with Joseph Smith, the golden plates of the Book of Mormon and Yoda, among other characters, is one of the funniest elements of the show.

Now, before you get the impression that this show is all fun, and appropriate for anyone, let’s talk about where the line may get crossed for you. As I have said, as a Mormon, you will be offended. The religion’s history is featured in a mocking way. In addition, Mormons in general are depicted as being oblivious to needs of others and incapable of facing truth in their own lives when it seems unpleasant. A whole song “Turn it Off” suggests that they turn off any less-than-happy thoughts like a light switch, including those about an abusive parent, a sibling with cancer or homosexual feelings. Elder McKinley (Rory O’Malley) obviously is repressing his gay desires throughout the show.

There’s also a musical number depicting “Spooky Mormon Hell” where they all fear they will go for having bad thoughts, or for committing a sin like stealing a donut.

In addition:
• Jesus is depicted as a blond who calls Cunningham a derogatory name. Never would happen.
• The crucifixion is depicted in a song as an example of “manning up.” It’s difficult to enjoy Christ’s suffering and the meaning behind it categorized this way.
• The villagers have an expression they use (think “Hakuna Matada” from the Lion King) when things don’t go the way they had planned. Translated, however, it means “F*** you, God.” This number goes on for quite a while with the ensemble singing this and gesturing with their middle fingers up to the heavens. Sorry, this isn’t funny in any language.

So while this is a very funny show, with excellent choreography, catchy tunes and two terrific leads (Rannells has a great singing voice and look for Gad to get a Tony nod), it’s not going to be for everyone.

I laughed a lot and before this show, would not have believed I could enjoy someone’s infestation by maggots, which the poor village doctor (Michael James Scott) sings about throughout the show, but then I have a sort-of-out-there sense of humor. I also was offended, particularly during the “F*** You, God” number, but I hardly went expecting this show to be a positive comment on Mormonism or religion. Truthfully, it wasn’t as scathing as I expected, knowing the style of the creators and being aware of an anti-Mormon sentiment in the Broadway community following the Proposition 8 vote in California and given growing anti-Christian/religion sentiment in today’s culture.

Join the flock at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th St., NYC Tickets are available at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/292/individual.

Christians might also like to know (in addition to the information already discussed):
• Show posts a Mature advisory
• Language
• We see a villager murdered
• Sexual dialogue
• Sexual moves

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Theater Review: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Daniel Radcliffe and John Larroquette. Photo by Ari Mintz

How Radcliffe Succeeds in This Business with a Little Trying
By Lauren Yarger
Another Hollywood star is packing them in on the Great White Way as Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame takes the stage as J. Pierrepont Finch in the 50th anniversary revival of the Tony and Pulitzer-Prize-Winning How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

“Isn’t he adorable?” and “Look, it’s Harry Potter!” fans in the audience say as Radcliffe shows that he has what it takes to be the leading man in a Broadway musical, even if he can’t rely on the magic in his wand. Instead, he appears to be relying on some hard work to prepare for the show and it has paid off in the form of his skillful execution of Rob Ashford’s (although overkill) choreography moves. The young sorcerer -- I mean actor -- appears to defy gravity with a few physical moves.

I’m happy the fans are cheering. Too often Hollywood stars come to the stage hoping their charm will carry them, and instead, it appears Radcliffe is trying very hard to do his best. His singing voice is adequate, if not as strong as we normally expect on a Broadway stage, but he’s not alone. Ashford, who also directs, has cast weaker vocals across the board. The result is that Radcliffe’s lack of vocal ability doesn’t stand out, but we never hear any of the tunes and lyrics by Frank Loesser given full justice. David Chase provides the musical direction and pleasant arrangements.

The story (book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstick and Willie Gilbert) follows Pierrepont as he climbs his way out of a window-washing job up the corporate ladder at World Wide Widgets with the help of a guide titled “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (voice narration for the book is provided by CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper). He quickly impresses the CEO’s secretary Miss Jones (Ellen Harvey), executive Mr. Gatch (Nick Mayo) and starts getting promoted.

Along the way, he also impresses a couple of secretaries, Smitty (an engaging Mary Faber) and Rosemary Pilkington (Rose Hemingway), who quickly decides that she’d like to be Mrs. J. Pierrepont Finch. “Ponty” doesn’t really notice Rosemary, though, so fixated is he on following his guide and finding just the right bits of information he needs to get ahead. He angers screw-up Bud Frump (a fun Christopher J. Hanke), who is the nephew of their boss, J.B. Biggley (John Larroquette, making a solid Broadway debut), and who doesn’t hesitate to call his mother to complain when Ponty gets the praise instead of him. Bud even tries to sabotage Ponty by placing him in a compromising position with Biggley’s mistress, Heddy LaRue (Tammy Blanchard) and by contributing a bad advertising idea when Ponty is made head of that department. Can Ponty get out of the mess, find true love and avoid the wrath of Board Chairman Wally Womper (Rob Bartlett)? I’ll bet you can succeed in answering that without even trying.

Derek McLane designs a set of varied-colored, multi-level honeycomb panels to create an environment for the worker bees of WWW, lighted by Howell Binkley, who also gives a nice spotlight touch to Ponty's successes up the corporate ladder.

Catherine Zuber creates the 1960s-style clothes, which are a mix of attractive and sometimes disappointing. One suit and hat combination on Radcliffe gives the appearance of a little boy playing dress up rather than a man headed for the board room and in a scene where all of the women show up for a party wearing the same dress, it’s hard to believe that even one would select such an unattractive get-up, never mind all of them.

Also disappointing is a rather sexist undertone to how the women are depicted. Rosemary has little ambition other than to be a devoted wife “Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm.” The guys sing “A Secretary is Not a Toy” and the secretaries sing about wanting to be Cinderella. OK, this is the 1960s, so maybe that’s period, but we have to wonder why this type of show is being revived so often. There’s one dance number that is sexist and distasteful even by today’s standards. And there’s only one person of color – a chorus woman – in the show. Is this supposed to depict the state of corporate America in he ’60s (again is this really something worth reviving) or is this an unfortunate lack of 2011 diversity?

At any rate, the Harry Potter fans are applauding wildly. Radcliffe deserves their admiration for his efforts and Larroquette deserves it for some delightful comedic timing. He looks as though he succeeds at it without even trying.

The show plays at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, 302 West 45th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/273/individual.

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

Quick Hit Theater Review: Wittenberg


From L to R: Scott Greer (Faustus), Sean McNall (Hamlet)and Chris Mixon (Martin Luther. Photo by Sam Hough

Wittenberg
Off-Broadway at Pearl Theatre Company at NY City Center Stage II, 131 West 55th St., NYC
By David Davalos
Director: J.R. Sullivan

Summary: John Faustus (Scott Greer) and Martin Luther (Chris Mixon), professors at Wittenberg University in 1517, differ in their views on philosophy and theology and to prized pupil, young Prince Hamlet of Denmark (Sean McNall), about where to focus his studies (and loyalty). The two friends care for each other, and engage in a delightful exchange of banter. The philosopher reads the bible for its questions; the theologian reads it for its answers. They disagree too, on Faustus' sexual relationship with Helen (Joey Parsons), a former nun. Davalos' script is brilliantly witty with references to Shakespeare's Hamlet and includes touches of modern times (Hamlet carries a logo-bearing sports bag to his tennis match, for example) to emphasize that the arguments being made are just as relevant today.

Highlights: One of the most fun times I have spent at the theater recently. The script really is intelligent, humorous and a masterful piece of work blending all three stories in an imaginative and engaging way. All of the performances are excellent, with McNall showing skill as a physical actor. Greer's portrayal strikes just the right balance between the philosopher who takes things too far and the doctor who truly cares. Sullivan weaves the action and dialogue around images, like the familiar one of Hamlet gazing at a skull, that keep us smiling all the way through.

Lowlights: None. Catch this one if you can.

Information: The play runs through April 17 on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 with matinees Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2:30. For ticket and other information, call 212-581-121 or visit http://www.citycenter.org./


Christians might also like to know:
•Drug usage
•God's name taken in vain
•Minor Language

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cori Thomas Wins Osborn New Play Award

The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) announces that Cori Thomas has won its 2011 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. The award will be presented today at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Ky.

The Osborn Award recognizes Thomas’ play, When January Feels Like Summer, which premiered in March 2010 at City Theatre in Pittsburgh (director Chuck Patterson, artistic director Tracy Brigden), supported in part by the Edgerton Foundation fund for new American plays. It received an initial reading there at the 2007 Momentum Festival, and was developed in part at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in 2008.

Thomas was born in New York to a Liberian diplomat and a Brazilian mother, but lived in seven countries before returning to the United States to attend school. She studied theater at Marymount Manhattan College. A lifetime member of the acting/writing ensemble of the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York City, her plays include: His Daddy; Pa’s Hat: Liberian Legacy and My Secret Language of Wishes.

She has been a finalist for a Juilliard Fellowship and the National Playwrights Conference at the O’Neill Festival, and was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She recently received a commission from South Coast Repertory Theatre and The Sloan Foundation.

Her street-smart When January Feels Like Summer is a comic and touching tale of love, sex, redemption and the survival of the American Dream in the 21st century, amid the struggle with the polar attractions of identity and assimilation. Thomas stirs together a diverse group of urban dwellers on an atypically warm winter month: a middle-aged African American sanitation worker, an East Indian shopkeeper whose husband from a loveless marriage is in a coma, her brother in the midst of a transgender transformation, and two bright homeboys trying to understand everything from global warming to meeting girls. All are on a quest for the healing power of true love, a mythic journey presided over by the Hindu god Ganesh, lord of the removal of obstacles.

The Osborn Award is designed to recognize the work of an author who has not yet achieved national stature. Last year’s Osborn Award went to Jason Wells for Perfect Mendacity. Previous winners included Rebecca Gilman and Keith Glover.

The award was established in 1993 to honor the memory of Theatre Communications Group and American Theatre play editor M. Elizabeth Osborn. It carries a $1,000 prize, funded by the Foundation of the American Theatre Critics Association. Honorees are recognized in The Best Plays Theater Yearbook, edited by Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, the annual chronicle of United States theater. Making the selection from plays nominated by ATCA members is the ATCA New Plays Committee, chaired by Wm. F. Hirschman, which also selects honorees for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award.

ATCA was founded in 1974 and works to raise critical standards and public awareness of critics’ functions and responsibilities. The only national association of professional theater critics, it has several hundred members who work for newspapers, magazines, radi, TV and websites across the United States. ATCA is a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics, a UNESCO-affiliated organization that sponsors seminars and congresses worldwide.

ATCA also presents the Francesca Primus Prize, funded by the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, honoring contributions to the American theater by female artists who have not yet achieved national prominence. It makes recommendations for the Regional Theater Tony Award presented by the American Theatre Wing/Broadway League and votes on inductions into the Theater Hall of Fame.

For more information on ATCA, visit www.americantheatrecritics.org.

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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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