Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Amazing Grace Musical to Get a Developmental Run in Connecticut

Christopher Smith
The musical Amazing Grace based on the life of John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote the world's most recognized hymn, will get a run at Goodspeed Musical's Norma Terris Theatre this spring.

Composer Christopher Smith also wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book with Arthur Giron. Gabriel Barre is attached to direct. Kimberly Grigsby served as music director for a recent reading in new York. Rehearsals are scheduled to begin in April, according to a casting notice. Details for the run through June 10 on the developmental Norma Terris Stage, 33 North Main St. in Chester, CT have not been released officially yet. Check back here for information when it becomes available.

Amazing Grace tells the love story based on the life and trials of Newton, told from the point of view of his childhood friend Mary Catlett. She never loses faith in him and her love, courage and unshakable conviction help to transform his life. Their journey to find the meaning of their own existence will lead them to love, heartbreak and an epic quest to end the scourge of slavery.

Produced by veteran Broadway producer Carolyn Rossi Copeland (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Smoke on the Mountain, Children's Letters to God), Amazing Grace encompasses everything from triumphant anthems to heart rending ballads all set within a love story which transcends time and distance. Copeland was the founding artistic producing director of the former Lamb’s Theatre Company in Times Square.

To listen to the music, visit http://agmusical.com/concept_recordings.html. For more information about the musical, visit http://agmusical.com/index.html.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Theater Review: Porgy & Bess

The Gershwins’ PORGY AND BESS (2012): Audra McDonald, Norm Lewis
Photo By: Michael J. Lutch
Norm, You is My Porgy NowBy Lauren Yarger
Consider that headline a love letter to Norm Lewis, who brings to life the character of Porgy in The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess, getting a revised and slimmed-down production on Broadway directed by Diane Paulus.
Lewis brings such warmth, strength and humanity to Porgy, that his performance alone is reason to see the production which found itself embroiled in controversy before it even hit the Great White Way (Composer Stephen Sondheim wrote in the New York Times criticizing changes to the original version featuring music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, who wrote the libretto.)

For the revised version, which had a pre-Broadway run in Cambridge, MA, Suzan-Lori Parks (who wrote the Pulitzer-Prize winner TopDog, Underdog) adapted the 1935 book and is credited with additional scenes (though a planned happy ending was scrapped). Deirdre L. Murray, a composer and jazz instrumentalist, adapted the music which is orchestrated by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke.
While I understand Sondheim's and others' well intentioned concerns about altering an artist's work and the dangers of changing classic works to fit in with current culture, I think Porgy & Bess might be one of the best examples of how this can work well. The two-and-a-half hour piece infuses all of the best parts of the original with new vitality that will interest a new generation of theatergoers.

The opera tells the story of African-American life in Catfish Row, a fishing community in South Carolina (depicted here on a minimal set designed by Ricardo Hernandez. The characters are dressed in costumes designed by ESosa). Frankly, except for the wonderful music which includes classics like "Summertime," "Bess, You Is My Woman, Now,"  and "It Ain't Necessarily So," among others, I didn't much care for the story in other versions I have seen. It's a real bummer and tends to get lost in the lengthy production, which can run more than three hours.

Here, though, thanks to Lewis' compelling portrayal, I got to know, and really care about Porgy, a crippled beggar (Lewis' twisted limp seems truly painful) who finds love with Bess (a surprisingly lackluster Audra McDonald the day I attended). Lewis' "I Got Plenty of Nothing" defines Porgy as a strong, confident man, content in life despite his hardships and accepted as a valued member of the community despite his circumstances -- not the wimpy sap who gets taken advantage of whom I had met in other productions. In fact, Lewis' portrayal is the one I will use as a measure for future Porgys.

In the tale, Porgy offers Bess shelter when Crown (Phillip Boykin) the man who is keeping her, murders a man and goes into hiding. He leaves Bess behind knowing that some other man will be happy to have the woman's sexual favors until he can return to claim her. He is amused to discover that the unfortunate Porgy has taken the job.

Bess, however, is more attracted to the disabled man's pure heart and kind, accepting love than she is to the towering, muscular stevedore physique that houses a cruel personality. Crown is outraged when she doesn't want to return to him. Boykin creates such an excellently vivid characterization of Crown's repulsive nature that he is soundly booed at the curtain call.

Standing out among the residents of Catfish Row are three: the wonderful Joshua Henry (his dreamy voice is a pleasure on any stage) as fisherman Jake, who leads beautiful renditions of "A Woman is a Sometime Thing," and "It Takes a Long Pull," David Alan Grier as Sporting Life, a drug dealer who tries to keep Bess hooked on "happy dust," and a delightfully humorous NaTasha Yvette Williams as Mariah, a sort of matriarch of the community.

Also deserving special mention are excellent vocals by Bryonha Marie Parham (who plays Serena, wife of the man killed by Crown), Nikki Renee Daniels (as Clara, Jake's wife) and Andrea Jones-Sojola as the Strawberry woman.

Overall, Paulus deserves Kudos for invigorating the piece, though some choreography by Ronald K. Brown seems awkward and out of place.

The limited engagement of The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 West 46th St., NY C, has been extended through Sept. 30. Tickets: 877-250-2929 or visit www.porgyandbessonbroadway.com.

Student rush tickets, which are subject to availability, can be purchased for $37 each, one ticket per student ID and cash only. If available, tickets can be purchased the day of the performance starting at 5pm for evening performances and noon for matinees.

Christians might also like to know:
--Language
--Lords' name taken in vain
--Sexual activity
--Drug usage

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Theater Review: The Picture Box

Arthur French and Jennifer Van Dyck. Photo: Carmen L. deJesus
A Portrait of Love, Friendship and Changing Times
By Lauren Yarger
When Carrie (Jennifer Van Dyck) wraps her arms around 89-year-old Mackie (Arthur French), his deep, warm, loving smile is the expression of the security she has found in his guidance and caring. Somehow, we also know that without him as her caretaker, she would have ended up a very different, troubled person.

Such is the sweet story that unfolds in Cate Ryan's The Picture Box, being presented Off-Broadway in a limited engagement by the Negro Ensemble Company, Inc.

It's election day, 2008, and Mackie, who worked as a servant for Carrie's mother at her large Florida home, is tickled that he has gotten to see a black man running for president of the United States during his lifetime. The white folks who have arranged to buy the house following the death of Carrie's mother, Bob (Malachy Cleary) and Karen (Marisa Redanty) aren't happy about the prospect of Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office, however. In fact, Bob isn't too pleased that there is a black neighborhood nearby and he makes plans to install an alarm system and ensconce his personal arsenal of weapons in the new house once they renovate by knocking down most the existing structure (set design by Patrice Davidson).

Their fears might be moot, however, as Carrie has been unable to bring herself to sign the purchase agreement, even as Bob and Karen do their walk-through before heading over to the closing (after stopping to vote for the other guy). Carrie's relationship with her absent and oft-married mother wasn't ideal, but she did care about her deeply and she doesn't want to sell the house. Mackie's wife, Josephine (Elain Graham), feels the presence of her best friend still in the house too, and understands Carrie's reluctance. She tells her it is what her mother wanted, however, and urges Carrie to move on with her life in Manhattan.

While cleaning out the house, Carrie finds a box of photos left by her mother for Mackie and as the three reminisce, we discover how Mackie came to look after Carrie, what happened to the man's son and even a secret about the family dog. It's a lovely stroll down memory lane with touching, layered performances, particularly from French, directed by Charles Weldon.

Ryan's script manages to convey a sense of family and how it can provide an anchor during changing times despite some structure flaws. We have to wonder, for example, why Bob, the most unbelievably, horribly stereotypical personification of a white bigot that ever lived, would even consider buying a home near a black neighborhood. It's also unlikely that a real estate closing would be taking place in a couple of hours if the papers hadn't been signed already and with boxes and furniture still in the house at the walk-through. There also are unanswered questions about why Carrie's mother had a box of photos mostly containing snapshots of Mackie's life, or why everyone loved her so much (what we know about her doesn't necessarily indicate that scenario).

Regardless, the play is a lovely slice-of-life piece that focuses on how family -- and the people and love by which we define it -- form the people we become.

The Picture Box runs through Jan. 29 at the Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd, St., NYC. For tickets and information visit http://www.necinc.org/.

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

The mission of the Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC) is to provide African-American, African and Caribbean professional artists with an opportunity to learn, to work, to grow and to be nurtured in the performing arts. The overall mission of the NEC is to present live theatre performances by and about black people to a culturally diverse audience that is often underserved by the theatrical community.

Theater Review: The Road to Mecca


Physical, Emotional Freedoms Can Be Very Different Things
By Lauren Yarger
The stunning pinks, oranges and purples that light up the walls and ceiling of the otherwise small and uninteresting dwelling are a sharp contract to their artist creator: an insecure, grandmotherly loner who just wants to stay in Mecca. But then 1974 South Africa is a world of contradictions.

For Africaner Miss Helen (Rosemary Harris), Mecca is the house where she lived with her late husband in the Karoo village of New Bethesda, South Africa, and where her odd sculptures (unseen) adorn the property. Inside, the colors and light reflected by candles, glitter and mirrors are the magical expression of her true self. (The terrific set is by Michael Yeargan.)

The villagers mostly have put up with her quirks over the years. Sometimes they throw rocks at her statues of owls and other things -- He's pulling up his trousers, not taking them down, she asserts -- but mostly they have ignored her. A series of accidents which have left Helen's hands burned, however, might rob her of her freedom and the sanctuary of her home crammed with the beloved odds and ends she has collected throughout her life.

Minister Marius Byleveld (Jim Dale) and a 17-year-old black woman who visits to avoid the abuse of a drunken husband are the only people Helen sees regularly at her home. Marius pressures Helen to sign papers giving up her home and to relocate to a nice room with space for a few of her possessions that has become available at a retirement home run by the church. Helen's resistance is waning until the unexpected arrival of good friend Elsa Barlow (Carla Gugino).

Elsa isn't afraid of stirring up a little trouble. After all, she has been reprimanded for having her students in an  all-black school in Capetown write essays about racial inequality. She always has been a lifeline to the widowed artist and when she receives an alarming letter from Helen about the turn of events in her life, she drops everything to drive 12 hours down the road to Mecca and help her friend.

After catching up on all the latest village gossip, Elsa privately encourages Helen to stand up to Marius. When he arrives, and almost competes for Helen's loyalty and friendship, Elsa oddly won't take the role of Helen's champion despite the artist's pleas for help. Instead, she urges her friend to sign the papers if she can't take a stand on her own.

It's all a little confusing, perhaps because the script isn't up to par with most of Athold Fugard's other tales of South Africa under Apartheid, despite the fact that this Roundabout Theatre Company production is directed by Gordon Edelstein, who has helmed premieres of the playwright's works (Coming Home and Have You Seen Us?), as well as The Train Driver at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT where he is artistic director. The first act is very slow moving, bogged down with long stretches of monologue. Dale's arrival, and his sharp, subtle humor, is a welcome addition in the second act, though it meanders on with multiple false endings to bring the complete run time to two and a half hours.

Ultimately it is a story of how someone can be in prison, even if he or she is free. The 17-year-old black girl's plight as well as a young black woman and her baby who haunt Elsa are reminders of the oppression that permeated 1974 Sounth Africa. Costumes are by Susan Hilferty and John Gromada provides original music and sound design.

The Road to Mecca runs through March 4 at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. For tickets, call 212-719-1300 or visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Theater Review: How the World Began

Heidi Schreck and Justin Kruger. Photo: Carol Rosegg
A Big Bang in a Small Town Over Faith vs. Science
By Lauren Yarger
Nothing turns into something, both in the Big Bang Theory and in a battle between a teacher and her student over the proper place of science and faith in the classroom in Catherine Trieschmann's intelligently designed play How the World Began Off Broadway at the Women's Project.

Susan Pierce (Heidi Schreck) heads from New York City to Plainview, KS as part of a program that provides certification for those teaching in rural areas. Pregnant, and grateful for the health benefits that come with the job, Susan begins teaching high school science to students whose town recently was devastated by a tornado that killed 17 residents  (the school trailer-like set is designed by Clint Ramos.)
Student Micah Staab (Justin Kruger) stops by after class to ask for clarification on something Susan said during a lesson: that the leap from non-life to life is one of the largest gaps in scientific thought, unless you believe in "all that gobbledygook." Just what did she mean by "gobbledygook," he wants to know. First Susan denies having used the term, insisting that he is upset over nothing. When confronted, however, with the fact that other students in the class heard the same thing, and unable to explain away the comment under Micah's skillful scrutiny, she finally admits that she inadvertently was alluding to religious beliefs, like Micah's that God created the world, which she doesn't share.
A debate about science vs. religion ensues. They discuss spontaneous generation, evolution and how old the earth really is, but an increasingly uncomfortable Susan, citing separation of church and state, ends the conversation saying religious beliefs are not appropriate discussion topics for the  classroom. Micah points out, however, that she already expressed her religious beliefs in class by dismissing God with the gobbledygook comment.

Thinking the issue has been resolved, Susan is surprised by a visit from Gene Dinkel (Adam LeFevre) who has been acting as Micah's guardian since he lost his step father in the tornado. He asks her to apologize for offending Micah and the other students as well as a growing number of townspeople who have heard about the incident (news travels fast in a small town, and the local radio personality even mentioned it on the air).

Susan senses judgment from Gene about being pregnant without being married, about thinking the town's residents are stupid and not worth socializing with (she hasn't attended ceremonies commemorating the planting of a new windbreak or honoring those who died in the tornado) and for not believing in God. They vacillate, however, between being annoyed and genuinely impressed with each other. Not everything always is in plain view, they discover (Trieschmann's double entendre for the town's name is not lost).
Trieschmann exhibits brilliant craft as she creates likable characters (regardless of which side you're on) who interact realistically -- as people of deep conviction, but also of great humanity. They work hard to treat the others with respect and to try to be as open minded as they can, and at some points, they realize they actually like each other in spite of their differences. Susan's refusal to apologize amidst growing furor amongst the townspeople and Micah's warped beliefs about God's judgment, however, might prove too great a gap for peacemaker Gene to cross, especially when neither can evolve from the conviction that they are right.

Tightly directed by Daniella Topol, the performances are sharp. Trieschmann takes on a topic that could have been sensationalized or used to further a political or religious agenda, but instead creates a very caring, thought-provoking piece. The characters are very human: flawed and prejudiced, but well intentioned and compassionate. It's timely -- news stories about conflicts over classroom curriculum choices abound. It's also a welcome treatment in a current political climate where too often those with opposing views are dismissed outright and labeled unpatriotic, stupid, elitist, racist or worse.

How the World Began, in association with South Coast Repertory, runs through Jan. 29 at the Women's Project, presenting at the Peter J. Shapr Theater at 416 West 42nd St., NYC (Playwrights Horizons). Performances: Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30 with matinees Sundays at 3 pm.  Tickets are $60 and may be purchased fromTicket Central at 212-279-4200, noon to 8 pm daily or online at www.ticketcentral.com. Post-show discussions will follow performances on Jan. 19 and 26.

Christians might also like to know:
--Language
-- God's name taken in vain (Note: I would suggest you not let this put you off as there is a bit of added irony here -- all of the use of God's name in vain is by atheist Susan. There's a point here, rather than just a blatant misuse of the Lord's name, I think.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Theater Review: Close Up Space

The Irony is that the Play Needs Some Editing . . .
By Lauren Yarger
How ironic would it be for a play with a proofreader's mark for a title about an editor who fine tunes literary works to be sorely in need of writing revision itself? This is the sad story for Molly Smith Metzler's Close Up Space presented Off-Broadway by Manhattan Theatre Club.

Even stars David Hyde Pierce and Rosie Perez, both always fun to watch in action, can't help this incoherent, incredulous tale of an estranged father and daughter from Metzler (Elemeno Pea).  Here, the title involves a play on a proofreading mark that means to remove space between two words to avoid a change in meaning, like "closeup" instead of "close up." Editor's note, when you have to do this much explaining just to understand the title, there's a good chance the play won't make too much sense either.

Hyde Pierce is Paul, an editor at Tandem Books, a small Manhattan publishing house, who coped with the suicide of his wife by shipping their daughter, Harper (Colby Minifie), off to boarding school. The plan to keep her out of sight/out of mind didn't work, though, as evidenced by numerous letters Paul has received from the headmaster recounting Harper's bizarre, destructive behavior and reporting that she has been expelled. With expletive-filled venom and frustration, Paul corrects the grammar in the letters while projecting them on an overhead for nervous new-hire Bailey (Jessica DiGiovanni) who begins to wonder whether this literary internship really is worth the one credit she needs to graduate.

If that's not crazy enough work-place behavior for you, just wait. Inept, freeloading office manager Steve (Michael Chernus) has fallen on hard times and is camping out at the office overnight -- literally -- with a tent and a campfire. Paul isn't too happy to discover this, or that Steve has been feeding his fish (Editor's note: don't you dare stop reading -- no one in the theater could leave either. There's no intermission.)

The editor is even more upset, though, by the guilt he feels over being attracted to his number-one client: foul-mouthed, demanding, best-seller Vanessa Finn Adams (Perez) who has made it clear that she's interested in a romantic relationship even though Paul calls her work "boring chick poo." Some of Perez' dialogue is hard to catch, particularly if she is yelling at the top of her lungs. Other times, Vanessa is quoting classical dialogue for no real reason, convincing us that whatever we missed while she was yelling probably didn't matter any way.

Enter Harper, who screams for a long time at everyone in Russian (why, we're not exactly sure) about how she won't leave her homeland while tossing snowballs from a stash she carries around in a cooler, before eventually condescending to speak English with kindly Steve. Oddly, Paul never seems to wonder, as we do, whether his daughter is suffering from some of the mental issues affecting her mother before she went off meds and took her life, but I suppose that would be too logical a sequence of events for this play.

Instead, Harper launches on a bizarre campaign to get her father's attention by sending him obscure Russian poems and stealing all of the contents of his office, including her  new best-friend-in-less-than-an-hour Vanessa's hot new manuscript. Will the father who always has responded to his daughter with an ellipsis be able to fill in the meaningful words she needs to hear? Editor's note: let's hope they aren't in Russian or we'll never know.

The highlight here is Hyde Pierce. "Don't feed my fish, Steve" isn't a line that guarantees humor, but the skilled Hyde Pierce gets a laugh with it and others. Whenever he leaves the stage, however, the energy level goes with him, though the other actors admirably try to do what they can with their material. DiGiovanni, making her Off-Broadway debut, could have used some extra coaching from director Leigh Silverman to make Bailey's nervous reactions appear more believable, however.

Also not working here is the awkward scene where all the furniture from Paul's office "vanishes." Todd Rosenthall's handsome set simply is moved off into the side wing where it sits plainly visible while everyone on stage exclaims about how it is missing.

Editor's note: send this one back for a rewrite.

Close Up Space  is at New York City Center Stage I, 131 West 55thSt., NYC through Jan. 29. For tickets, call 212-581-1212.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language (fairly strong)
-- God's name taken in vain

Enjoy Off-Broadway Shows with 20at20

Lillias White, Veanne Cox, Eve Plumb, Katie Lee and Nancy Dussault star in the January 2012 cast of "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" (through January 29). © Carol Rosegg
The Off Broadway Alliance will again sponsor 20at20, the bi-annual celebration of Off Broadway Jan. 18 through Feb. 6: $20 tickets for 36 Off Broadway plays and musicals are available to theatre-goers 20 minutes prior to curtain. 

Now in its sixth year, 20at20 has become one of New York’s most eagerly-anticipated promotions for budget-conscious theatre-goers. For a complete list of participating shows and venues see below or visit www.20at20.com.

This year, if you see seven Off-Broadway shows during 20at20 you can receive a voucher for a free dinner for two at an area restaurant.  Just mail your original ticket stubs (no photocopies accepted) to: 20at20 Dinner Special, 250 West 49th St., Suite 301, NY, NY10019. All entries must be postmarked by Feb. 7 to be valid.  Please include your name, phone, email, and mailing address.

Off Broadway shows participating in 20at20: 
(as of Jan. 6)

Black Angels Over Tuskegee
Actors Temple Theatre
www.blackanglesovertuskegee.com

Channeling Kevin Spacey
St. Luke’s Theatre
www.CKStheshow.com

CQ/CX
Atlantic Theatre Company
www.atlantictheatre.org

Dancing at Lughnasa
The Irish Repertory Theatre
www.irishrep.org

DANNY and SYLVIA: The Danny Kaye Musical
St. Luke’s Theatre
www.dannyandsylvia.com

Freckleface Strawberry, The Musical
The MMAC Theatre
www.frecklefacethemusical.com

Freud's Last Session
New World Stages
www.freudslastsession.com

Fuerza Bruta
The Daryl Roth Theatre
www.fuerzabrutanyc.com

How the World Began
The Peter Jay Sharp Theatre
www.howtheworldbegan.net

ICONS
The Snapple Theatre Center
www.iconsnyc.com

Ionescopade
York Theatre Company
www.yorktheatre.org

Love, Loss, and What I Wore
Westside Theatre
www.lovelossonstage.com

Million Dollar Quartet
New World Stages
www.milliondollarquartetlive.com

Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage
Sofia's Downstairs Theatre
www.missabigailsguide.com

My Sinatra
Midtown Theater
www.mysinatra.com

Naked Boys Singing!
New World Stages
www.nakedboyssinging.com

NEWSical
The Kirk, Theatre Row
www.NEWSicalthemusical.com

Perfect Crime
The Snapple Theatre Center
www.perfect-crime.com

Pinkalicious, The Musical
Manhattan Movement and Arts Center
www.pinkaliciousthemusical.com

Psycho Therapy
Cherry Lane Theatre
www.cherrylanetheatre.org

RENT
New World Stages
www.siteforrent.com

Russian Transport
The Acorn Theatre
www.thenewgroup.org

Rutherford and Son
The Mint Theatre
www.minttheatre.org

Sam Eaton's The Quantum Eye - Mentalism and Magic Show
Theatre 80
www.TheQuantumEve.com

Silence! The Musical
9th Space Theatre at PS122
www.silencethemusical.com

Sistas: The Musical
St. Luke’s Theatre
www.sistasthemuscial.com

The Accidental Pervert
13th Street Repertory Company
www.theaccidentalpervert.com

The Amazing Max and The Box of Interesting Things
MMAC Theater
www.theamazingmax.com

The Awesome 80's Prom
Webster Hall
www.awesome80sprom.com

The Berenstain Bears LIVE!
The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre
www.berenstainbearslive.com

The Bully
Vital Theatre Company
www.vitaltheatre.org

The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith
St. Luke’s Theatre
www.thedevilsmusic.biz

The Fantasticks
The Snapple Theatre Center
www.fantasticksonbroadway.com

The Gazillion Bubble Show
New World Stages
www.GazillionBubbleShow.com

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
St. Luke’s Theatre
www.narniaoffbroadway.com

Traces
Union Square Theatre
www.tracesUSA.com

C.S. Lewis' Great Divorce Returns to Philadelphia's Lantern Theater


Anthony Lawton. Photo: Janet Embree
Philadelphia's Lantern Theater Company will present reprise performances of The Great Divorce, Anthony Lawton’s popular adaptation of the C. S. Lewis work Feb. 7-12. 

The Great Divorce tells the satiric and comic tale of hapless professor Clive and the motley band of malcontents who join him on a very curious bus ride. Journeying between Hell and Heaven, Clive crosses a wildly inventive landscape drawn by Lewis' philosophical imagination in a story filled with dazzling language and surprising insight.

Tickets are $35 for general admission or $40 for premium seating and are available online at lanterntheater.org or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. $10 student rush tickets are available 10 minutes before curtain with valid ID; cash only. Additional discounts are available for seniors and groups of 10 or more. Lantern Theater Company is located at St. Stephen's Theater, 10th and Ludlow streets in Center City Philadelphia.

“I first worked with Tony in 1997 on a production of Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, and since that time he has been one of the most important artistic partners for Lantern Theater Company and for me personally,” says the Lantern’s Artistic Director, Charles McMahon. “A big part of what makes theater worthwhile is that we get to discuss very interesting ideas with very interesting people, and then find creative and compelling ways to put those ideas on stage. Tony's whole approach to theater and storytelling is to enliven the mind and heart. His work is sometimes funny and sometimes challenging and it always makes you leave the theater feeling more expansive and alive than you felt when you came in. The Lantern is dedicated to an authentic and intimate exploration of the mysteries of the human spirit, and Tony's work is right in line with that.”

Lawton has acted professionally since 1992 and has appeared on many stages throughout the Philadelphia region, including at the Lantern in The Lonesome West, Othello and The Screwtape Letters, among others. 

In 1998, Lawton founded the Mirror Theatre Company, which performs solo and small-cast plays. The mission of the Mirror is “Spiritual Theatre for a Secular Audience.” Lawton says he sees his plays as “part of an ongoing dialogue with the audience – a dialogue in which we discuss and consider that which is (or isn't!) Eternal in us.”

In discussing his inspiration for this mission, Lawton says, “When I first started studying acting, I realized that the impulse was an entirely selfish one. I was interested in attention and accolades. I wanted to offer something to audiences – to address spiritual concerns, and to foster a dialogue between orthodox and unorthodox audience members.”

New Victory Dutch Treat Theater Offers Premieres from Netherlands

A scene from Wuthering Heights. Photo: Joep Lennarts
To introduce New York audiences to some of Dutch companies, the second half of the  New Victory Theatre season offers Zoem! New Dutch Theater. The series, which includes four U.S. premieres all performed in English, runs through Jan. 29.
The series launched with Rumplestiltskin (run is complete) by Stella Den Haag and will be followed by Miss Ophelia by Het Filiaal, then Hands Up! by Lejo, a regular puppeteer on “Sesamstraat,” and finally, a stage adaptation of Wuthering Heights by Theater Artemis.

“The companies chosen to participate represent some of the best of what the Dutch have to offer in the world of performing arts for youth and family audiences today," said Cora Cahan, President of The New 42nd Street. "We are delighted to bring these highly original works to The New Victory, Duke on 42nd Street and the New 42nd Street® Studios, as they reflect the high artistic standards that our programming embraces.”

As widely reported over the summer, the Dutch government is significantly cutting its arts funding, with the performing arts evidently taking a dramatically hard hit. “As a result of the budget cuts, some of the companies performing at The New Victory may cease to exist after 2013,” said Anja Krans of the Theater Instituut Nederland, an organization funded by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science that documents, supports and promotes Dutch theater in the Netherlands and abroad.
Theater-goers who buy tickets for three or more New Vic shows qualify for free Membership benefits, including up to 35-percent savings with tickets as low as $9. Full-price tickets for individual productions are as low as $14 each. To purchase tickets online, visit NewVictory.org, and to purchase by phone, call 646-223-3010. The New Victory Theater box office (209 West 42nd Street) is open Sunday and Monday from 11am to 5 pm and Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7 pm.

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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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