Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Theater Review: Once

Once in a While, a Broadway Show is Magic
By Lauren Yarger
The low-budget motion picture "Once," which won a 2007 Academy Award for music-and-lyric team Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for their song "Falling Slowly," has been recreated for the Broadway stage in a wonderfully rich, soul-stirring musical that makes us want to see it more than once.

Enda Walsh writes the book for the stage version of the film written and directed by John Carney that tells the story of a Dublin songwriter and the woman who inspires him. Directed here by John Tiffany with fanciful, tale-propelling choreography by Steven Hoggett and Musical Supervision by Martin Lowe,  the actors/musicians assume roles at various locations (with lighting and sound by Natasha Katz and Clive Goodwin that help define them) or take seats along the perimeter of the set, which resembles an Irish pub (Bob Crowley designs it and the costumes). The pub is decorated with picture frames and mirrors, the largest of which reflects a portion of the audience up into the action on stage (the audience also is invited up on stage pre-show and during intermission for a little party).

The songwriter, defined only as Guy (Steve Kazee), is at the end of hope. His love has left him for America and his song-writing career isn't going anywhere. About to give up, he meets a blunt-talking, no-nonsense Czech Girl (Christin Milioti) who inspires him to take up his guitar again.

The two bond on a very deep level, despite the fact that Guy hopes to pursue his lost love to America and Girl, raising her little daughter Ivanka (Ripley Sobo) with the help of her family, is married to an absentee husband. Inspired by Guy's music, Girl writes some lyrics to unfinished pieces and convinces Guy he must perform it. Over five days, they collaborate and record a demo CD. Assisting them are Billy (Paul Whitty), who, smitten with Girl, allows her to play a piano in his music shop, a banker (Andy Taylor), who is moved by Girl's persuasive plea and funds the recording session, and Guy's Da (David Patrick Kelly), who helps his son get to New York.

The memorable, soul-touching catchy tunes, thoroughly developed characters (even the minor ones) and a heartwarming story dotted with delightful humor all blend to make this a ballet of love and hope that you'll want to enjoy more than once.

The ensemble is top-notch and Kazee and Milioti blend beautifully on duets (though it is very hard to here Milioti on solos). Milioti's delightful, full-of-life character who repeatedly assures everyone she is serious about her big plans and dreams -- "I'm Czech; I am always serious -- is one of the most memorable to grace a Broadway stage.

Once plays at the Bernard B. Jacobs theatre, 242 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets: 212-239-6200 or  800- 432-7250.

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Carrie, the Musical

Molly Ranson in a scene from MCC Theater’s “Carrie” © Joan Marcus
Carrie
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Music by Michael Gore
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Book by Lawrence D. Cohen
Music Direction and arrangements by Mary-Mitchell Campbell
Choreographed by Matt Williams
Directed by Stafford Arima
Lucille Lortel Theatre

Summary:
Known as one of the mightiest flops ever to land on Broadway (1988 with Betty Buckley playing carrie's mother in the whopping $8-million fiasco which closed after just six perfromances), this show became a cult classic and returns in revised form Off-Broadway where it has been playing to sell-out crowds.

This time, the show deserves its fans as an engaging story set to music instead of for being and epic train wreck. Gore's catchy music conveys the emotions of the title character (Molly Ranson) who unleashes her telekinetic powers on mean bullies at school. Carrie's troubles start at home where she lives with an abusive religious zealot of a mother (Marin Mazzie) who thinks being a woman, and the sexual implication thereof, are the highest sin. When Carrie freaks out at the beginning of her menstuation while in the gym shower at school (her mother never told her...), the other kids, especially the mean-spirited Chris (Jeanna De Waal), are relentless in their mocking. Chris' best friend Sue (Christy Altomare) regrest their treatment of the girl and insists that her boyfirend, Tommy (Derek Klena), for whom Carrie seems to have feelings, take Carrie to the prom instead of her. Teacher Lynn Gardner (Carmen Cussak) suspects their is something behind Sue's motivation, but what she doesn't realize is that it is Chris, with the help of her boyfirend, Billy (Ben Thompson), who is planning revenge.

Highlights:
"Carrie" is not one of my favorite books (I much prefer King's excellent non-horror works) and also isn't one of my top movie picks, so I wasn't expecting much. Instead I found an engaging, well produced show with nice music that isn't predictable (it changes direction sometimes in mid song) with meaningful lyrics ("once you see, you can't unsee"). The lighting (Kevin Adams, design -- he's one of the best in the field) is fabulous and helps create many of the moods (lighting, shadows) and special effects brought on by Carrie's powers. Vocals are strong with some lovely duets and the ensemble is up for the cool choreography.

Lowlights:
The climactic scene, which everyone knows is coming if you have read the book or seen the movie, disappoints. Granted, it isn't an easy scene to stage, what with blood flying everywhere and the school burning and all. . . The energy of the story, however, fueled by Carrie's emotional state, builds toward the big finish, but what we get here is too controlled, too orchestrated to fit neatly on the stage, to satisfy.

Information:
An extension was announced, but since has been cancelled and Carrie will run at the Lortel, 121 Christopher St., NYC, through April 8. For tickets call 212-352-3101.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Strong language (derogatory terms for women used)
-- Blood
-- The mother isn't what I would call theologically sound. . .

Theater Review: The Big Meal

Savor the Flavors of Life While You Can Until the Plate is Taken Away
By Lauren Yarger
Our family members are the ingredients, the recipe is life. Dan LeFranc's bright and thoughtful new play The Big Meal Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons challenges us to eat what is put before us, before the table is cleared.
The metaphor plays out against the family dynamics of Sam and Nicole, whose courtship, marriage and family life unfold at tables with a talented ensemble of David Wilson Barnes, Griffin Birney, Tom Bloom, Anita Gillette, Jennifer Mudge, Rachel Resheff, Cameron Scoggins, Phoebe Strole and Molly Ward taking on the roles of the couple, their children, their grandchildren, Sam's parents and others through the years. The four-table set is created by David Zinn. Sam Gold effectively uses them and placement of the characters to blend a tale of life to which we all can relate.

One day we are dating with our whole life ahead, the next we're married with kids, the next they have kids. . . it all boils down to how we treat those with whom we make this life before the "big meal" -- our last moment at the table -- is placed before us.

LeFranc's sharp dialogue morphs the actors from one character to another, sometimes in the same sentence. Taut direction by Gold and skilled performances from all of the actors keep us on track and unconfused as transitions between people and times occur. This is a deliciously fresh play that entertainingly engages and makes us think. One of my favorites of the season.

The Big Meal runs through April 8 Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. For tickets call (212) 279-4200.

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

Theater Review: Death of a Salesman

Classic Gets Fresh Treatment, Less Sympathy-Evoking Willy
By Lauren Yarger
Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer-Prize winner Death of a Salesman is resurrected all the time, but the current Broadway revival is a little different. Here, Philip Seymour Hoffman hits one out of the park as the brooding, gloomy Willy Loman who sadly comes to believe that his so-far worthless life might have some value after all – if he takes it and lets his family collect on his life insurance policy.

It’s a sad, haunting realization, played to the depths of a man’s despair by Hoffman. This is a fresh contrast to other productions where we sort of feel sorry for Willy. Directed by Mike Nichols, Hoffman’s Willy doesn’t get much sympathy from us, or from the family he has ill treated. There is some affection from Willy’s long-suffering, gullible wife, Linda (Linda Emond), who keeps the household running on her husband’s diminishing pay while fretting about her discovery that Willy is planning to end it all.

She turns to her sons, Biff (Andrew Garfield) and Hap (Finn Wittrock), but they aren’t much help. Biff, recently returned home, has been in and out of trouble ever since he missed a chance to make something of himself on a college football scholarship. That, it turns out, might just be the fault of the father whom he idolized.
Bragging about Biff’s every move, or making excuses for actions others don’t see as so grand, Willy urges his son to approach his former boss for a bigtime job, or at least for enough cash to make the boy’s dream of owning a ranch out west a reality. Hap, always in the shadow of his more popular, charismatic brother (Willy makes no attempt to hide his preference for Biff), spends his time orchestrating female conquests and trying to win some approval from his father who raised the boys to show prowess on the athletic field and little regard for women.

Charley (Bill Camp) tries to help out by giving Willy a weekly loan to take home as “pay” to Linda when his regular New England sales route dries up, but the salesman is too proud to work for his neighbor, whose geeky son Bernard (an engaging Fran Kranz) grew up to be more successful than either of the two Loman boys. Willy’s mental state keeps getting worse as he talks with people, like his long-gone brother Ben (John Glover), who struck gold in Alaska. Nice lighting (Brian McDevitt) and original music by Alex North help make the wonderful transitions from present to flashback.

Salesman definitely is worth seeing, for Hoffman’s performance alone. It’s nice to see an actor so strong in his portrayal of an unsympathetic character that he doesn’t feel the need to ask for sympathy. Scenic designer Jo Meielzner creates a depressing skeletal frame of a house overshadowed by gloomy apartment buildings that smartly depicts Willy’s depression.(Kudos also to the marketing team for releasing productions photos in black and white, further emphasizing the gloom).

The production does have some flaws, however. Emond, though sharing some great emotion, is too robust in personality to come across as a bullied woman constantly silenced by an uncaring husband. She's so strong, I kept expecting her to talk back, or even haul off and let him have it instead of demurring. Also, both sons give good performances, but oddly seem cast in the wrong roles. Garfield is more reserved and doesn’t have a physical build that puts us in mind of a football player; Wittrock is larger in size and in charisma, which we expect from Biff.

Meanwhile, the script itself is male heavy and depicts the women in it as subservient and valued only for their worth as sexual relief for the men. Contrary to Nichols' recent comments in the media that the central relationship in America is between father and son, I would argue that the husband-wife relationship is more important. The breakdown between Willy and Biff can be traced to the poor relationship between Willy and Linda.
Death of a Salesman runs at the Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th St., NYC. For tickets call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250.
Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God’s name taken in vain
-- Suicide

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: The Lady from Dubuque

The Lady from Dubuque
By Edward Albee
Directed by David Esbjornson
Featuring: Jane Alexander, Catherine Curtin, Michael Hayden, Peter Francis James, Tricia Paoluccio, Thomas Jay Ryan, Laila Robins, J. Wilson
Signature Theatre

Summary:
A caustic Jo (Robins) and her husband, Sam (Hayden) have some friends over to their large, modern, rather drab-looking home in the suburbs (John Arnone, set design), ostensibly so Jo can mock them and be mean to them. “Enjoying” this get together are two couples: older Fred (Wilson) and his younger, bimbo-brunette girlfriend, Carol (Paoluccio) who isn’t sure she wants to be wife number three and mousy Edgar (Ryan) and his even less impressive, awkward wife Lucinda (Curtin), who is an old college friend of Jo’s. When the crowd isn’t shouting at each other, talking about sex or cursing, Jo hurls insults (she redefines cruelty, really, and screams in horrific pain from the cancer (we presume) that is killing her. Showing up are Elizabeth (Alexander) and Oscar (James), whom everyone notes is black. Elizabeth claims to be Jo’s mother, but Sam seems to know she is someone else and resists her efforts to give Jo the comfort she needs.

Highlights:
Robins gets a workout skillfully maintaining the emotional wreck that is Jo. Alexander brings a confidence that befits Elizabeth and James adds some much-needed humor as the pompous uppity Oscar. Standing out is Paoluccio as the wiser-than-you-think gold digger. The technique of having characters address the audience directly a times is effective.

Lowlights:
This clan is just not a lot of fun to be around and there isn’t any real reason that folks would endure Jo’s company – and come back for more – except that they need to so Albee can write his play. Dialogue is tedious as characters repeat the line just said to them by another character and in some cases, they simply repeat their own phrases. Sam asks “Who are you?” of Elizabeth ad nauseam. The guy next to me was asleep at the 10-minute mark and stayed happily dozing until intermission.

The dialogue has an unnatural sounds to it, possibly because all of the characters, with the exception of Elizabeth, don’t seem "normal" (they all behave strangely) or "regular guy" so it's a little hard to accept that the theme is for "every man" when not every man seems to be present. All of the men are somewhat less than masculine in nature (Sam sleeps in a night dress and cries) and are either subservient to or dismissive of the women. Jo is a shrew and Lucinda and Carol don’t seem to have any self worth.

Death comes to us all, and in the end, who will be with you? We get it. It's just hard to wrap our arms around this treatment of the subject.

More information:
The Lady from Dubuque plays Off-Broadway at the lovely new Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 4nd St., NYC where it has been extended through April 15. http://www.signaturetheatre.org/

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Lord’s name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Murphy, d'Arcy James Will Announce Drama Desk Noms from Feinstein's

Nominations for the 57th Annual Drama Desk Awards will be announced at a news conference on Friday, April 27 at 9:30 am at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency, 540 Park Ave. at 61st Street, in Manhattan.

A continental breakfast will be available at 8:45. Drama Desk winners Donna Murphy and Brian d’Arcy James will announce the nominations in the various categories. In addition, there will be remarks by Drama Desk President Isa Goldberg, Drama Desk Awards Executive Producer Robert R. Blume and new Drama Desk Awards Executive Producer Gretchen Shugart, Nominating Committee Chairperson Barbara Siegel and Randie Levine-Miller, Drama Desk Director of Special Events, who annually produces this event.

Murphy, a stage, film and television actress and singer, has won three Drama Desk Awards (LoveMusik, Passion and Wonderful Town) and two Tony Awards (Passion and The King and I) in her distinguished career. The only other actresses to win three Drama Desks are Angela Lansbury and Patti Lupone. One of Broadway’s most celebrated actresses, she has also appeared on screens big and small in such feature films as Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Tangled (2010). She has also lent her talents to a host of TV series, among them Law & Order and The Practice.
D’Arcy James, currently co-starring in the NBC/Dreamworks Studio’s hit series Smash, won the Drama Desk Award for Shrek and has been nominated for four other Drama Desks. Most recently he received rave reviews for his performance in the Broadway play, Time Stands Still, opposite Laura Linney, Christina Ricci and Eric Bogosian. He originated the role of Dan Goodman in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Next To Normal Off Broadway and returned to it on Broadway in the summer of 2010.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Theater Review: Hand to God

Steven Boyer. Photo Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
From Demon Possession to Puppet Porn, This isn't Your Typical Church Ministry (Thank God)
By Lauren Yarger
It's Avenue Q meets "The Exorcist" in Robert Askins' dark (very, very dark) comedy Hand to God playing an encore Off-Broadway run at The Ensemble Studio Theatre.

Margery (Geneva Carr) starts a puppet ministry at her church to keep herself busy after her husband's death. What she doesn't count on is that her teen son, Jason (Steven Boyer), possesses some intense puppetry skills. "Tyrone," a wide-eyed, red-haired sock puppet with teeth suddenly takes up permanent residence on Jason's arm and starts speaking for the boy. He sounds a lot like the devil. He tells Jason that his mother doesn't really love him, that trying to be good is a waste of time and that he ought to act on his lustful impulses for Jessica (Megan Hill), a virginal member of the puppet ministry.

Margery seems to hear the puppet's message, if not audibly. She throws good behavior, and the unwanted attentions of her geeky pastor, Greg (Scott Sowers), aside and begins a sado-masochistic sexual relationship with Timothy (Bobby Moreno), a troubled youth and reluctant member of the puppet ministry.

Jason's desire to do what's right is in constant battle with Tyrone's desire to set the boy free. The puppet sinks his teeth in, quite literally, to wreak havoc in the small southern church, especially when Jason discovers his mother's affair with Timothy. (Rebecca Lord-Surrat designs the Sunday school type room).

Jessica tries to help by donning her own puppet, which engages in a prolonged sexual encounter with Tyrone while the two humans chat. This scene borrows from the puppet-sex scene in Avenue Q and can only be classified as puppet porn.

Boyer skillfully creates two unique characters: shy, meek Jason and demonic Tyrone. Carr impressively delivers a wide range of emotions. Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel somehow didn't notice that everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs for no reason throughout, however.

While Askins' script is irreverent and depicts stereotypically repressed, stupid Christians, it doesn't appear to be motivated by a desire to bash Christianity so much as to try to present an alternative to it. Tyrone delivers a prologue and an epilogue to the tale, both of which have the message that we should just give in to natural, sinful desires. He suggests that making rules about what is right and wrong (which is done by man, not God, according to him) is ultimately a recipe for failure and frustration. Let yourself off the hook for everything you have ever done or needed, he tells us, and you might just see Jesus where you saw the devil before.

An anti-Christian sentiment exudes more from the audience than from the misguided show itself. Though there are some funny lines and humorous movements by the puppets, the script isn't witty enough to elicit the wild, raucous laughter generated. That comes from people who are part of a popular culture in the United States which at the moment delights in anything anti-Christian and this show is capitalizing on that. Broadway's commercially successful Book of Mormon changed what is considered decent or taboo when it comes to religion and there probably will be many more irreverent shows to come. You know what they say about the love of money . . .

Hand to God indwells Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd St., through Sunday, April 1. To order tickets call 866-811-4111 or visit www.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/134.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Strong language throughout
-- God's name used in vain
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Sexual activity (puppets and people)
-- Pentagram on the floor for the second act
-- Violence
-- Blood
-- A bible is ripped apart

Friday, March 16, 2012

New Cast Assumes Roles in Freud's Last Session.

George Morfogen and Jim Stanek have joined the cast of Off-Broadway’s award-winning hit FREUD’S LAST SESSION as Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis respectively. Original cast members, Mark H. Dold and Martin Rayner, are taking their show on the road and opening the Chicago production of FREUD’S LAST SESSION, beginning performances March 21st at the Mercury Theatre. This Monday (President’s Day), FREUD’S LAST SESSION will celebrate its 600th New York performance at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street).

FREUD’S LAST SESSIONis currently in its second smash year and is the winner of the 2011 Off Broadway Alliance Award for Best Play. FREUD'S LAST SESSION opened on July 22, 2010 to unanimous rave reviews and immediately became a sellout sensation. Additional productions of Mark St. Germain’s hit play are set to open into 2013 in major markets across the nation and around the world, including London, Madrid, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh.

Under the direction of Tyler Marchant, FREUD'S LAST SESSION centers on legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud, who invites the young, rising academic star C. S. Lewis to his home in London. Lewis, expecting to be called on the carpet for satirizing Freud in a recent book, soon realizes Freud has a much more significant agenda. On the day England enters World War II, Freud and Lewis clash on the existence of God, love, sex, and the meaning of life – only two weeks before Freud chooses to take his own. Not just a powerful debate, this is a profound and deeply touching play about two men who boldly addressed the greatest questions of all time. Mark St. Germain’s celebrated new play was suggested by the bestselling book The Question of God by Harvard’s Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.

George Morfogenstarred on TV’s “Oz” as Bob Rebadow. His Broadway credits include An Inspector Calls, Arms and the Man, Fortune's Fool, and A Man for All Seasons. Off-Broadway credits include Mrs. Warren's Profession, Uncle Bob, The Country Girl, Cyrano, All's Well That Ends Well, Richard II,Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Othello, Cymbeline, Henry V, and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Public). George’s many films include “V,” What’s Up Doc? and Twenty Bucks.

Jim Stanek starred on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Lestat, and Off-Broadway in Jacques Brel…; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Captains Courageous; Saturday Night; Slut; and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Film and TV credits include Bella, Borough of Kings, “Adversaries,” and “Mary and Rhoda.”

Playwright Mark St. Germain has written the plays Camping with Henry and Tom (Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards), The Best of Enemies, Out of Gas on Lover’s Leap, and Forgiving Typhoid Mary. With Randy Courts, he has written the musicals The Gifts of the Magi, Johnny Pye and the Foolkiller and Jack’s Holiday. TV credits include Writer and Creative Consultant for The Cosby Show. Mark co-wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed film Duma, and he directed and co-produced the documentary My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story featuring Richard Gere, Glenn Close and Edward Albee, among many others.

FREUD'S LAST SESSION is produced Off-Broadway by Carolyn Rossi Copeland, Robert Stillman and Jack Thomas. The performance schedule is Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8pm; with matinees Wednesday at 2:30pm, Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 3pm. There will be a special added holiday performance this Sunday evening, February 19th at 7pm. Running time is 79 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $65 and are available at Telecharge.com 212-239-6200 or through www.FreudsLastSession.com. A limited number of $21.50 Student Rush tickets (cash only, with valid student ID) are available at the box office beginning three hours prior to each performance.

For more information, visit www.FreudsLastSession.com.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Hard Act to Follow: Hunter Parrish, Cynthia Nixon, Blair Underwood Among Drama Desk Panelists

Cynthia Nixon (Wit),  Michael McKean, (Gore Vidal’s The Best Man),  Lynne Meadow (director, Wit), Hunter Parrish (Godspell) and  Blair Underwood  (A Streetcar Named Desire) willl be the panelists for "It's a Hard Act to Follow," a Drama Desk Panel on playing iconic roles Friday, March 30.

The event will be held 11:45 am to 2:30 pm at Sardi's Restaurant in New York with USA Today Arts critic and reporter Elysa Gardner moderating.

The costs for Drama Desk members is $45; Non-members $55 (cash or check) and includes lunch (specify preference for salmon, chicken, pasta, or vegetable basket). RSVP: PJRJS@aol.com.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Theater Review: Rated P for Parenthood

(Clockwise starting with top left) Courtney Balan, Chris Hoch, David Josefsberg, Joanna Young © Carol Rosegg
Rated P for Parenthood
Book and lyrics by Sandy Rustin
Music and Lyrics by Dan Lipton and David Rossmer
Directed by Jeremy Dobrish
Music Director: Meg Zervoulis
Choreography: Rachel Bress
Starring Courtney Balan, Chris Hoch, David Josefsberg and Joanna Young

Summary:
Four very talented actors take one numerous roles as parents and kids in this very entertaining voyage through parenthood. From birth to empty nest, every parent can relate to some or all of the situations depicted through able direction and a tightly written book with lyrics that range from humorous to touching -- just like real parenthood.

The live action takes place on a colorful backdrop made up of rectangles (Steven Capone, set design) and is enhanced by video projections (Chris Kateff and Rochard DiBella, design) that entertain the audience pre-show with trivia questions about parenthood and during the show with text messages sent between a husband and wife.

Highlights:
A really fun show. The tunes are catchy and there are a couple of really moving numbers -- a mother coping with sending her tot off to kindergarten prays and talks with the spirit of her deceased mother whom she wishes could be there to comfort her and a husband, struck with love as he watches his sleeping wife. There's also a riotous number where a couple drives their kids to summer camp. Mom is concerned about leaving the kids, but Dad can only think about what having the house to themselves might mean. . . The show prompts laughter and tears not only because the material is well executed, but because we relate to it. Talking to your daughter about she's sexually active, dad's comparing themselves to each other on the soccer field, a mom coping with the fact that her son is smarter than she, leaving your baby with the inlaws -- these are just a few of the real-life parts of parenthood engagingly brought to life on the stage. Don't shy away if you're not a parent, though. I kept thinking how much my kids would have enjoyed it, because they could have related from the kids' perspectives. One nice bonus the night I attended: a marriage proposal on stage. She said yes -- the first step on the road to starting their own parenthood story...

Lowlights:
None. I enjoyed it.

Other information:
Rate P for Parenthood plays Off-Broadway upstairs at the Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd St., NYC through April 8. Discounted tickets are available for our readers by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogues, movements and situations
-- Homosexuality (on of the parental units depicted is two guys reflecting on how their triplet boys are all heterosexual.

Quick Hit Theater Review: Painting Churches

John Cunningham, Kathleen Chalfant, and Kate Turnbull. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Painting Churches
By Tina Howe
Directed by Carl Forsman
Keen Company

Summary:
The first New York revival of the play.

Successful artist Mags (Kate Turnbull) returns home to help her aging parents Fanny (Kathleen Chalfant) and Gardner (John Cunningham) pack up their Boston manse in preparation for their move full time to their cottage on the cape. Mags also would like to paint her parents' portrait in the house before they leave, but the picture she sees might not be the one her parents are living. Gardner, who won the Pulitzer for his poetry, now can't always remember where his books of poetry are, thanks to increasing Alzheimer's. Fanny, growing lonelier by the day, takes some amusement in Gardner's frailties, angering her daughter who is in denial about how unhappy things have gotten in the childhood home she remembers with such happiness, but rarely visits. Why is that, her mother wonders. Howe paints a tender, thoughtful portrait of family dynamics with colors that change depending on age and perspective.

Highlights:
Very strong performances.

Lowlights:
Howe relies too often on contrived exposition to get the audience up to speed on things that have taken place in the characters' past. Even Gardner's failing memory can't disguise it.

Other information:
Painting Churches continues at the Clurman Theatre, 410 W 42nd St., NYC through April 8. For tickets call 212-239-6200.
For an interview with Howe, visit Life Upon the Sacred Stage with Retta Blaney at http://uponthesacredstage.blogspot.com/2012/03/tina-howe-still-shimmers.html.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Heathens

Malcolm Madera and Lisa Roberts Gillan. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Heathens
By Heather Hill
Directed by Stefanie Sertich
Theater for the New City 

Summary:
Lulu-Lilly (Lisa Gillan) brings home Sisyphus (Malcolm Madera), a guy she picked up at the watering hole near her small rural home in eastern Kentucky. There’s just one problem: Lulu-Lilly’s grandmother, Mamaw, is dead at the kitchen table. She has been there all day and Sis, sidetracked from his amorous intentions, offers to help bury her. That's OK with Lulu-Lilly, as long as he doesn't insst on calling the preacher. Marmaw, Lulu and her sister Junebug (Lauren Fox) all are heathens. God, and any mention of the girls' mother who abandoned them as a child, are not welcome in the house. Oh, and by the way, wouldn't Sis like to marry her, Lulu asks. (We're pretty sure Lulu is aptly named by this point, by why Sis decides to stay is only explained by the need for him to do so to give the play a plot,) When Junebug arrives, she isn't happy to find her grandmother dead or Sis installed as her sister's beau. She begins an affair with him all while trying to figure out how to get her sister to throw him out. Meanwhile, the new preacher, Jebdiah (Andy Powers) arrives, pulled by his old attraction to Junebug and his new religious calling, passed to him on the death of his father. Oh, and in an attempt to develop characters, Sis is an empath, Junebug is a healer and Lulu wants a singing career.

Highlights:
Gillan gives a fine performance as the very strange Lulu-Lilly. There are some laughs, but I can't be sure they are intentional. My favorite part is where Lulu mentions a history of madness in the family and Junebug shushes her, reminding her sister that this is supposed to be a secret. Newsflash: it's not a secret, ladies. 

Edward Ross's dark and shabby set effectively captures the mood of the play.

Lowlights:
It's kind of a bizarre play and very dark. It leaves us wondering why the work was written. A story about family values -- at least not any that you would want your family to have -- it really is not, because this bunch is just too odd with which to connect. 

Information:
Heathens runs through March 17 at Theatre for a New City, 155 First Avenue, between East 9th and East 10th streets. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8 with matinees Sunday at 3pm. Tickets are $10, and can be purchased by calling 212-254-1109 or online at www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexual activity
-- God's name taken in vain

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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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