Thursday, August 22, 2013

Feature: TCM Launches Classic Film Tour in New York

Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne (center) is joined by Jane Powell and Dennis Adamovich, senior vice president digital, affiliate, lifestyle and enterprise commerce for TCM, TBS and TNT, to launch the TCM Classic Film Tour in New York City. Photo courtesy of TCM.
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Visit the homes of Lauren Bacall, Holly Golightly;
Take Your Picture on Marilyn's Subway Grate
By Lauren Yarger
Turner Classic Movies has come up with the perfect combination for movie lovers visiting the Big Apple the New York Classic Film Tour that highlights the city's famous landmarks and the films that feature them.

On the press launch, we were welcomed by TCM's host Robert Osbourne,  (he has a recorded greeting for you to start off the tour which officially opens to the public today). Also on hand was legendary screen actress Jane Powell (not a bad start). As the bus weaves through Manhattan, your tour guide shows clips from movies filmed on location, so you can see King Kong fending off airplanes atop the Empire State Building just as your drive by the iconic skyscraper.

Our tour guide, and native New Yorker, Roseanne Almanzar, was very knowledgeable about the city, often pausing to direct bus driver Harold Jean-Pierre to the best route across town to beat traffic while she was spewing out movie trivia (there's a contest), sharing little known facts about the movie clips she expertly paused and played on video monitors and delivering a great tour of New York in the process.

What makes a film a classic? Well, that's up to you, Rosemarie said, but tons of clips from TCM's vault run during the tour. At Columbus Circle, we saw clips from movies with scenes shot there like "Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town," "Taxi Drive" "Ghostbusters." Footage from "Superman" rolled as we drove by the apartment building where Lois Lane lived. There was a clip featuring an interview with Ann Miller speaking about filming "On the Town," the first MGM musical shot on location.

At the Prasada, a Beaux Arts classic building on Central Park West, we saw clips from "Three Men and a Baby" (this is where the bachelors lived) and "The Out of Towners." In the photo at left, though you can't see it too well, Jack Nicholson and Sandy Dennis are exiting the church that you can see out the bus window to the the left of the screen (video screens are placed throughout the coach bus so everyone has a great view of the movies).

At Lincoln Center, a clip from "West Side Story" played while we heard that two streets of vacant buildings were left up while the filming took place during construction of the current center for the performing arts which houses the Metropolitan Opera, Avery Fisher Hall and the ballet. It also was fun at one point to see a clip with a two-way Fifth Avenue (it's now one way).

Sometimes the movie stars themselves, rather than their clips are the highlights. We saw the beautiful Ansonia on the upper West Side, home to people like Enrico Caruso, conductor Arturo Toscanini, composers Igor Stravinksy and Dmitry Shostakovich, baesball star Babe Ruth and others. The residential hotel, now condos and home to the New York campus of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, used to offer a roof-top farm (complete with chicken that provided eggs for the residents), a basement Turkish bath and a fountain with live seals in its luxurious past. The "Sunshine Boys" lived here too and laughter rang out as the clip of George Burns and Walter Matthau rolled.

Other buildings featured are The Apthorp ("Network," "I Witness"), The Emerald Inn ("The Apartment"), The Ardsley where Barbra Streisand once lived and the Dakota where "Rosemary's Baby" was shot, where Lauren Bacall, Connie Chung and Yoko Ono still live and where John Lennon was killed. There's a stop there for a photo opportunity between the gas lanterns at the entrance, left, if you are interested. I had walked by this building a hundred times, but had no idea it was the famous Dakota (so named because when it was built in 1884 on what is now Central Park West, it was considered so far away from the heart of the city that it might as well have been built in the Dakota Territory....).

The bus takes the transverse through Central Park, the most filmed location in the most filmed city in the world. You have seen in in films like "Barefoot in the Park," Ransom," The Manchurian Candidate" and "Marathon Man." we also saw an early 1896 clip called "Mounted Police Charge."

We drove by the Guggenheim Museum, seen in "Cactus Flower" and "Manhattan" and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a classic scene in "When Harry Met Sally," Also included are numerous clips and sites along Fifth Avenue, including Rockefeller Center, Tiffany's and the New York Public Library. Believe me, I can't begin to list all of the buildings pointed out and clips shown.You'll just have to take the tour and see them for yourself. It's well worth it. A great way to see the city (and the three hours flies by).

There are a few stops included during the tour in addition to the Dakota. About 30 minutes into the tour there is a brief lunch stop near Zabar's, the famous upper west deli. You can grab a sandwich there (I highly recommend their grilled vegetable sandwich) or at a few nearby shops, or you can just get a photo of yourself where Meg Ryan finds herself in the cash-only lane at Zabar's in "You've Got Mail." Other photo ops are available in front of Holly Golightly's brownstone on East 71st Street (above 
right) or on the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe's skirt blew up for "The Seven Year Itch" (Roseanne does the honors, left, with her tour guide umbrella that will help you find her when you get off the bus).













Probably one of the most memorable stops for me was at Sutton Place where you can take your picture on the bench overlooking the 59th Street Bridge (also known as the Queensboro Bridge, or the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge) from the ending scene of Woody Allen's "Manhattan'" It's a beautiful spot (above right) that I and some of my press colleagues had never been to before. It's kind of off the beaten path.

The tour concludes at Grand Central Station ("Spelbound," "The Thin Man Goes Home," "North By Northwest").

Tours, booked through On Location Tours, are offered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11:30 am, leaving from a location near Broadway and 51st Street (exact location given upon purchase). Cost: Adult: $40 pus a $3 ticket fee, Child: $24 plus a $3 fee. To book: 212-913-9780; http://onlocationtours.com/tour/tcm-classic-film/. There is a restroom on the bus.



Harold Jean-Pierre
A Bonus:
You Never Know Who Your Bus Driver Might Be
By Lauren Yarger
In New York's restaurants, there always is a chance that your waiter or waitress might be be the next Russell Crowe or Sandra Bullock -- most wannabe actors start out waiting tables while waiting for their big break. On the TCM Classic Films Tour Bus, a quiet celebrity among us was our bus driver, Harold Jean-Pierre, a professional musician and composer whose specialty is the tenor sax.

Harold played in the pit for orchestras on cruises for 10 years (TCM offers a movie cruise this December where Osbourne and Powell will be joined by Ben Mankiewicz, Robert Wagner and Theodore Bikel among others. More info here: http://www.tcmcruise.com/). 

A native of Haiti, Harold started exploring at age nine, when his father introduced him to the accordion. He mastered the tenor, alto and soprano saxophones, the clarinet and the flute. He studied at Five Towns college and played with the marine band during his four year tour in the military.

Harold has also played and recorded for many musicians and entertainers including Ben Vereen, Charo, David "fathead" Newman, Shirley Jones and Betty Carter, among others He is putting his "bus money" into his CD project to combine the sounds of jazz and Haitian rhythms.

"It's New York," he said. "Anything is possible."

Harold gave me a copy of the CD, "Moving On," which I popped in my player for the drive home. It is a different sound. I enjoyed it very much. Visit him at http://haroldjeanpierre.com/. Here's hoping you make it big, Harold.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Broadway Theater Review: Soul Doctor

Eric Anderson and Amber Iman. Photo: Carol Rosegg
This One is Bit Hard to Diagnose
By Lauren Yarger
The story of real-life Shlomo Carlebach, the singing rabbi who came to fame during the turbulent 1960s, is the focus of the new Broadway musical Soul Doctor, but apart from enjoying a bunch of tunes from  him and his friend and fellow singer, Nina Simone, the "High Priestess of Soul," the on-the-surface story doesn't take us deep enough into the characters for a true healing.

Conceived by Jeremy Chess, created by David Schechter (who writes lyrics)  with a book by Daniel S. Wise (who directs), Soul Doctor faces many of the same problems so many playwrights have when trying to transfer a real person's story to stage. They want to remain true to the real story, so they feel they need to tell as much of it as possible, but that's not the structure of a stage play. The important events have to be told, but the relationships are what make the story sing. Soul Doctor is heavy on events, but the characters and relationships aren't defined enough.

The show starts with Shlomo (Eric Anderson, who was nominated for a Drama Desk last season for creating the role off Broadway) returning to his native Vienna in 1972 to play a concert amidst protests by those who beg him to remember the horrors that occurred there 40 years ago for the Jewish people. It's used as an intro to "let me tell you a story" and a jump back to 1938 Vienna Square where a young Shlomo (Teddy Walsh) witnesses the shooting of a Jewish man simply because he was singing in the street. Apparently this inspires Shlomo to reach out to people in song.

The notion doesn't go over well with his family: Mother (Jaqueline Antaramian), Father (Jaime Jackson), an Orthodox Rabbi, and brother Eli Chaim (Ethan Khusidman pays the younger; Ryan Strand plays the older version). The Rabbi decides to move his family to the United States, away from Hitler's threat.

He establishes a small temple in Brooklyn, where the boys' former teacher, Reb Pinchas (Ron Orbach) joins them as cantor. Eli Chaim's affiliation with some more liberal Chassidic Jews already is too much for the traditional family to accept, so when Shlomo decides to compose "modern" music for the service, there is trouble to pay and the cantor is fired. (He really thought a non-traditional song would go over?)

Shlomo is "called" to try to reach the poor in soul and pocket with his songs. He is drawn by the music in a nightclub where black singer Nina (Amber Iman) is playing. They find they have a lot in common -- both have been discriminated against, both have seen their places of worship burned out of hate -- and a lifelong friendship forms. Apparently they become romantically attached too, but we aren't sure why. Shlomo goes from not being able to touch a woman who isn't his wife, because it is forbidden by his religion, to suddenly being OK with being kissed by her. Again, the whys aren't given much examination.

Eventually, Shlomo attracts the attention of record producer Milt Okun (Michael Paternostro) who goes on to make Shlomo the "King of Kosher Music." Shlomo goes on to California where he establishes the House of Love and Prayer, a temple for his hippie followers known as "holy beggers" who enjoy his music and try to survive the love-flower culture that promotes drugs and free sex. One groupie, Ruth (a vocally struggling Zarah Mahler), follows him around and eventually confesses her love for Shlomo, who apparently has been oblivious to her obvious affection....

Shlomo's life certainly is interesting enough, but this story doesn't give enough details (even with input from his daughter, Esther Nashama Tehora Shucha Carlebach) about him, about why he didn't feel called to be a great rabbi and Torah scholar as was the destiny expected of him. Why did he feel called to ministering to the rock and roll generation when he couldn't even play the guitar at first. What exactly was the relationship between him and Nina and how did he decide to take that leap? The relationship was taboo not only because of his relationship, but because of its inter-racial makeup at the time. Not to mention she also was a Baptist....

We end up not really knowing and our souls aren't healed. Sort of like hearing "take two aspirin and call me in the morning" from a doctor from whom you were hoping to hear some rich advice. Many in the audience the night I attended wore yarmulkes and seemed to know a lot of the songs, clapping along with them. Shlomo, after all, recorded more than 25 albums and is considered one of the biggest influences on Jewish music in the 20th century.

There's just not enough meat to this story for people in the 21st century who don't know anything about him.

Wise goes for the dramatic with some slow motion and exaggerated facial expression (the little kids are in Nazi Germany and probably shouldn't smile winsomely). Highlights are Anderson's solid performance and  Iman's smooth, dreamy vocals.

Soul Doctor plays at Circle in the Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway, NYC. Tickets and info: www.SoulDoctorBroadway.com.

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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Quick Hit Off Broadway Theater Review: Shakespeare in the Park's Love's Labour's Lost

Maria Thayer, Patti Murin, Audrey Lynn Weston, Daniel Breaker, and Kimiko Glenn. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Love's Labour's Lost
A New Musical Based on the Play by William Shakespeare
Songs by Michael Friedman
Book Adapted and Directed by Alex Timbers
Shakespeare in the Park
Presented by the Public Theater

What's It All About?
It's Alex Timbers' vision for the bard's story turned on its ear and infused with a 21-number, catchy pop score by Michael Friedman, the composer who gave us Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson (also written and directed by Timbers). Shakespeare has never been so delightful, or appealing to a younger generation. It's a lighthearted tale of the King of Navarre (Daniel Breaker) and his college buddies (Bryce Pinkham as Longaville, Colin Donnell as Berowne and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe as Dumaine) who meet at their reunion and decide to swear off women and other distractions to nurture their minds instead.

Those plans run into a glitch, however, when some old flames arrive on the scene in the form of a Princess (a terrifically funny and engaging Patti Murin) and her court: Rosaline (Maria Thayer), Maria (Kimiko Glenn) and Katherine (Audrey Lynn Weston). The gist of the Shakespeare's 16th-century comedy is there, made entertaining for a 21st century audience.

What are the Highlights?
The music is entertaining. The set (by Designer John Lee Beatty), designed to look like a resort with a courtyard anchoring a Stratford-looking lodge and a bar which houses the band, is to die for. Giving guffaw-inducing performances are Caesar Samayoa as full-of-himself Don Armado, in love with country wench Jacuenetta (Rebecca Naomi Jones), and "Saturday Night Live" cast member Rachel Dratch and Jeff Hiller as stuffy scholars. Costume Designer Jennifer Moeller also gets kudos for a variety of costumes that look period and modern at the same time (and for a pair of pajamas that are a riot). Choreographer Danny Mefford adds to the zany romp with dance steps that include tap dancing in sneakers and a kick line (again, this isn't your grandmother's Shakespeare....)

What are the Lowlights?
It runs a little long -- about one hour and 40 minutes --and should end with a joyful song that celebrates youth -- about 10 minutes before the dragged out finish.

The only other complaint -- this show, which officially opened Aug. 12 (after previews) only runs through this Sunday, Aug. 18. Let's hope for a transfer to a Broadway stage.

More Information:
Tickets are free. You can stand in line at the park for distribution beginning at noon or enter an online lottery. Visit www.shakespeareinthepark.org. Performances begin at 8:30 and have no intermission.

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: Shida

Jeannette-Bayardelle. Photo: Walter-McBride
Shida 
Book, music and lyrics by Jeannette Bayardelle
Directed by Andy Sandberg
Ars Nova

What’s It All About? 
Based on the experience of Bayardelle’s childhood friend,  it’s the world premiere of a one-woman operetta featuring 20 musical numbers mixing soulful rock, jazz, R and B and gospel music all written by the performer, who plays all of the parts.

Shida (pronounced Sheeda – short for Rashinda), is a perky, innocent, brilliant 4th grader full of excitement about having the opportunity to go to a Catholic school in the Bronx and to learn so she can be a writer. Forced to work long hours to provide for herself and Shida when the girl’s married father refuses to care for them, Shida’s mother gives her some heirloom bracelets to show her daughter how proud she is of her of her achievement.

Shida loves school. She meets her best friend, Jackie (this was the real Bayardelle), and a teacher who recognizes her talent as a writer. Her world s shattered, however, when her mother’s lover, “Uncle Steve,” rapes her and begins years of sexual abuse. She hides her shameful secret, but starts to have trouble in school and frustrates Jackie with her willingness to entertain boys.

Still driven by her desire to write, Shida makes it to college, but her mother’s death and the guilt she feels after an abortion lead her into a world of drugs to escape. She rages against the god who allowed her to be abused and who allowed her mother to become ill.

What are the highlights?
What a compelling 70 minutes. We live the ups and down’s of Shida’s whole life in that short period with a skilled actress (she played Celie in The Color Purple on Broadway) and really good music. It’s a tour de force for this talented actress and a gut-wrenching, compelling story. I won’t reveal spoilers, but don’t avoid this because of the sad subject matter. Shida’s spirit triumphs in the end.

What are the Lowlights:
It’s hard to sit through because your heart just breaks for this girl (especially if you are a mom), but worth it.

Other Information:
Shida is presented as an Ars Nova Summer Fling at 511 W. 54 St., NYC. It runs through Aug. 28.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Drug Use
-- Sexual content
-- Homosexuality
-- Abortion

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: Me & Jezebel

Terry Moore and Elizabeth Fuller. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Me and Jezebel
By Elizabeth Fuller
Directed by Mark. S. Graham
Snapple Theater Center

What’s it All About?
One day (May 28, 1985), film legend Bette Davis (Kelly Moore) came to stay at the Westport, CT cottage of writer Elizabeth Fuller (the playwright plays herself) when a strike in New York made it impossible for her to stay at her hotel. 

Davis arrives with a “pot of baked beans in one hand and a cigarette in the other,” and then fasten your seat belts, things get bumpy...

Fuller is thrilled to have her idol come stay for a day or two. She and her grandmother had seen a lot of Bette Davis movies together and having the star in her house is sort of like a sign from her deceased grandmother. Fuller is a little psychic, she confides, and she and David hold a séance of sorts with a Ouija board to contact her and the star’s mother while she’s there.

A couple of days turns into a couple of weeks, much to the chagrin of Fuller’s writer husband, John, who is having trouble working without quiet and dealing with the increase in the cost of living resulting from Davis’ expensive tastes in food and vodka and the many long-distance phone calls she keeps placing.

Their 4-year-old son, Christopher, adores Bette, however, and learns a lot of curse words as he starts imitating her. Davis also is a model for Fuller, who starts smoking and putting Davis’ wishes ahead of her husband’s. Fuller starts to feel that a friendship bond is forming, and that maybe Davis will give her advice about the novel she’s writing, but all that might just be wishful thinking. Davis, after all, is from a different world.

What are the highlights?
Lots of humor. If you have ever had a guest from hell, you will be able to relate. The play doesn’t descend into a caricature of Davis, thankfully. We see some genuine humanity in her, which makes her likable despite the fact that she takes over the Fullers’ home (the stay was for about a month -- she eventually leaves July 2). It is amazing to think that Fuller had the opportunity to watch her favorite movie, Jezebel, with its star. Watching her tell the story in person adds to the show's charm.

What are the Lowlights?
It’s a bit on the long side at just under two hours with an intermission. Sort of like a party story that starts out very funny, but grows old as it wears on. Fuller is not an actress, but we forgive her because she is sharing a personal memory with us.

Moore creates a clipped-speaking, cigarette-smoking Bette, but why use a man in the role? There are plenty of talented character actresses out there who could have created a multidimensional Bette, who would be dynamic, yet feminine – like the star herself.

More information:
Some of Davis’ belongings are used in the play. She left three pieces of poetry in the guest room and these have been enlarged and hang in the lobby of the Orbach Theater. A sapphire and pearl watch worn by Moore actually belonged to Davis. She left it to a friend of Fuller’s who left it to her. The earrings worn by Moore also belonged to Davis and a dress Bette gives to Fuller toward the end of her stay is the actual garment.

Performances: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm and Saturdays at 5 pm at the Snapple Theater Center, 210 West 50th St., NYC. Tickets: and information: www.meandjezebeltheplay.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God’s name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Ouija Board

Review: Summer Shorts New Play Series Series A

Gia Crovatin and Elizabeth Masucci. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Good Luck (in Farsi) by Neil LaBute
About a Woman Named Sarah by Lucas Hnath
Breaking the Spell by Tina Howe

Series A Has the Best Up Front
By Lauren Yarger
Neil LaBute directs his funny look at competition with Good Luck (in Farsi), which pits two actresses on an audition against each other. Paige (Elizabeth Masucci) and Kate (Gia Crovatin) recognize each other from previous auditions when they show up to try out for a role as a CIA agent. They pretend to wish each other the best and to bond over things like people hating them because they are beautiful, but deep down, they are like two panthers circling each other for the kill.

Paige has had some success—a short-lived TV series, but Kate hasn’t, and worse, she is between agents. Paige promises to put her fellow "sister" actress in touch with her agent, but somehow manages never to come up with the number. Kate, who is part Persian, offers to help Paige with pronunciation of some of the audition script's Farsi dialogue, but that help might be as valuable as the agent’s still missing phone number.

“Good luck. You too” is the constant banter between the two, but neither sentiment is meant.

It’s a fun look at competition with sharp dialogue.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language

The second short play up is About a Woman Named Sarah by Lucas Hnath. It depicts four meetings that took place when Sen. John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his running mate in the 2008 presidential election.

Meeting 1: Sarah (Marisa Viola) and McCain (Mark Elliot Wilson) meet. Broken sentences and thoughts are interrupted by some sort of clicking noise (Director Eric Hoff’s choice or written into the script, we’re not sure. What it means, we’re not sure either). Palin obviously is not McCain’s first choice.

Meeting 2: Sarah meets with McCain’s wife, Cindy (Stephanie Cannon), who also doesn’t like Sarah. She urges her not to accept the invitation should it come.

Meeting 3: McCain and his wife meet. Neither like Sarah, but she’s better than that “douche bag” Mitt Romney….

Meeting 4: Sarah and her husband, Todd (Ben Vigus) meet. Todd also is opposed to Sarah’s accepting the nomination, but she is determined.

There doesn’t seem to be much point to this play except to give the playwright lots of opportunities to call Palin stupid and to call Romney a douche bag. If it were a satire, we could laugh along, but it lacks purpose and humor and I kept thinking a funnier meeting would be between Hnath and Palin to see whether he’d be willing to call her stupid to her face.

The series closer is a whimsical tale from Tina Howe, Breaking the Spell. Here, A king (Michael Countryman) and a Poor Wretched Fool, known as PWF (Evan Shinners), watch over the princess Christobel (Crystal Finn), who fell into a deep sleep 100 years ago when an evil spell was cast. Thousands of kisses from princes (and other unpleasant things) have failed to wake her and time is running out for the kingdom. A musician, Antonio Abracci (Jesse Schenin), tries to work his magic with a saxophone, but will Christobel ever wake up? And will PWF ever get to be with his love?

This play, directed by Birgitta Victorson, has some funny moments, but mostly is puzzling. Characters speak in gibberish at times. In the end the most common audience question on the way out the door was, “What was that about?”

Summer Shorts 2013 is the seventh annual festival of new American short plays from established and emerging writers at 59E59 Theaters. More information: www.summershortsfestival.com or www.throughlineartists.org .

Monday, August 12, 2013

Quick Hit Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Two-Character Play

Brad Dourif and Amanda Plummer. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Two-Character Play
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Gene David Kirk
New World Stages

What's It All About?
Good question. Most of the reviews or synopses of this play, which Williams wrote 25 years after A Streetcar Named Desire, include phrases like "confusing," "hard to follow," "perhaps autobiographical," "not for everyone"  and that it was too out there for 1967. I concur. With all of the above. For 2013 too.

The play focuses on Felice (Brad Dourif) and Clare (Amanda Plummer), brother and sister actors on tour in a two-character play. Something awful has happened and there is a question of whether the two want to or will be able to continue on with the performance. Then there is a question of whether it really is a performance or whether all of this is taking place in one, or possibly both, of their minds trying to cope with a real tragedy and the possibility of being confined for mental instability. A poster for the show boasts the tag line "Reason and Reality Have Left the Building." Again, I concur.

What are the Highlights?
Dourif and Plummer rise to the occasion with some nice performances. Anytime we get to see Plummer on stage, that's a highlight.

What are the Lowlights?
I felt as though I were losing grips on my own mental faculties by the end of the two acts that run just under two hours with an intermission. Let's just say it's not a good sign when ushers are selling beer in the aisles before the start of the play asking whether they can get anyone drunk..... By the time a gun was introduced into the plot, I was wondering whether I could help put them, or myself out of our misery with it. My brain really becomes unhinged when plays like this get produced while there are so many great ones out there, especially by women, looking for a stage home..... I must confess, however, that I'm not a huge Williams fan. Others are, however. Read on.....

More Information:
After years of withholding rights, Williams’ estate granted permission for Kirk to present the play at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre where he served as Artistic Director. Kirk was introduced to the play by his mentor Corin Redgrave, whose sister Vanessa had long desired it as a personal vehicle. Opening in October 2010, the play earned the critical success that had eluded it years earlier. Kirk dedicates this production to the memory of Mr. Redgrave.
A new block of tickets has just been released through Nov. 17 at New Workd Stages, 340 West 50th St., NYC. Performances are Monday at 8 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2:30 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $72.50 - $126.50: Telecharge.com; 212-239-6200.
Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain

-- Lauren Yarger


Broadway Theater Review: First Date

Photo: Chris Owyoung
Awkwardness of First Date Transforms into Fun Musical
By Lauren Yarger
What should you wear? How much personal information should you share? That awkward pause when you don't know what to day....

All of those awful elements of a First Date are introduced to each other with a lot of humor and a pop musical score to make a match made in heaven -- or at least on a Broadway stage.

First Date, with music by Austin Winsberg (TV's "Gossip Girl" writer making  his Broadway debut) isn't the first attempt to bring the idea of a blind date to the stage, and it probably won't be the last, but maybe it should be. It's pretty funny and doesn't take itself very seriously -- good advice for a first date, after all.

Bill Berry directs this tongue-in-cheek romp as Aaron (Zachary Levi) and Casey (Krysta Rodriguez) test the waters to see whether there is a chance this is "The One." It doesn't seem so when they first arrive at the restaurant (Scenic and Media Design by David Gallo). The waiter (an engaging Blake Hammond) suggests nerdy Aaron loosen up and lose the tie accenting the suit he wore from the office. Good advice, since artsy Casey's get-up could hardly be classified conservative (Costume Designer David C. Woolard outfits the pair.)

Ensemble cast members play the part of casual diners on the fringe of the date in the restaurant, then suddenly and cleverly leap into the roles of people from the couple's lives or even their thoughts as the date progresses.

He's a Jew; she's not. Suddenly the group morphs into Aaron's Jewish grandmother (Sara Chase) and the teachings of years of tradition about the appropriate "Girl for You." They are countered by a a church choir and a Casey's father with their own pieces of advice. (Lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner are sharp and clever.)

Also popping to mind during the date, which often doesn't seem to be going too well, are some of the bad-boy types Casey has dated (Bryce Ryness and Kristopher Cusick), Aaron's "perfect" ex, Allison (Kate Lopresto), Casey's sister, Lauren (Chase), who is tired of her sister's social life failures and there to remind her about her ticking biological clock... and Aaron's best friend, Gabe (Ryness), who tries to share some of his sure-fire tips to win the girl.

Also interrupting the date is Reggie (Cusick), Casey's hyper gay friend who is placing amusing, pre-arranged "bail out" calls about various emergencies and disasters she can use as an excuse to leave if she wants out of there.

Josh Rhodes stages the musical action to the pop score which is perky and edgy, if a little unfocused in style ranging from sentimental to beat box. Unfortunately, the weakest musical number, "I'd Order Love," doesn't give the talented Hammond a chance to really shine.

There's enough chemistry going on here, however, to keep our interest and make us wonder whether First Date and Broadway might have a lasting relationship.

First Date plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC. For information and tickets: http://firstdatethemusical.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexually suggestive lyrics
-- Derogatory term for women used
-- Homosexuality

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Man Vs. Artificial Intelligence Fuels Armory's Production of The Machine


The U.S. premiere of British playwright Matt Charman’s new play The Machine takes over Park Avenue Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall Sept. 4-18. The play, a co-commission of Park Avenue Armory, Donmar Warehouse, and the Manchester International Festival, depicts the headline-grabbing 1997 New York chess tournament between Grandmaster Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue, a super-computer developed by technology giant IBM.

An epic battle between a human genius and a state-of-the-art machine, The Machine will be staged the Armory’s 55,000-square-foot drill hall as a sports event complete with a 4-sided arena; a giant, electronic scoreboard; and video cameras capturing and broadcasting the action on a Jumbotron.

In 1997, Garry Kasparov, the world’s greatest chess player, arrived in New York City for the biggest match of his life. His opponent wasn’t a fellow Grandmaster, but a faceless super-computer, Deep Blue, built by tech-giant IBM and masterminded by Dr. Feng-Hsiung Hsu.

An international celebrity and the undisputed master of his art, Kasparov came to America for freedom and glory. What he didn't expect to confront was the lifelong dedication of another young genius, Deep Blue’s wunderkind inventor Doctor Hsu. What followed was a collision of human brilliance, foibles, greed and artificial intelligence. Under the direction of the Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Josie Rourke, the cast features Hadley Fraser as Garry Kasparov, Francesca Annis as Garry’s mother, Clara, and Kenneth Lee as Dr. Hsu.

The Machine is the first play Park Avenue Armory has co-commissioned for the Wade Thompson Drill Hall as part of the Armory’s 2013 season, which offers a series of commissions, co-commissions, and presentations that blur the distinctions between genres and break new ground for artists and audiences alike within the unconventional platforms of the Armory’s soaring drill hall. The Armory seeks to enable artists to create and audiences to experience immersive and adventurous work that cannot be done elsewhere in New York.

The season also includes Massive Attack V Adam Curtis (Sept. 28-Oct. 4), a new kind of imaginative experience conceived by Adam Curtis and Robert Del Naja, mixing music, film, and politics performed by Massive Attack and special guests; a recital series presented in the Armory’s renovated Board of Officers Room, featuring baritone Christian Gerhaher, violinist Vilde Frang, and pianist Anton Batagov (Sept. 29-Oct. 27); and Robert Wilson’s powerful new staging of The Life and Death of Marina Abramović (Dec.12-21). The season was launched in March with OKTOPHONIE, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s epic electronic masterpiece, ritualized in a lunar environment created by visual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, followed by WS, a monumental installation by Paul McCarthy.

Tickets and information: 212-933-5812; www.armoryonpark.org.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Horse Show Extravaganza Odysseo Extends Boston Run

The Travelers V / Les voyageurs V | Credits: JF Leblanc
Cavalia’s Odysseo, a $30-million horse show imagined by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil, has extended its run under the White Big Top at  201 Assembly Square Drive in Somerville, MA at the intersection of Interstate 93 and Route 28.

Tickets, priced from $34.50-$139.50 are on sale through Aug. 25:  www.cavalia.net or by calling 1-866-999-8111.  VIP tickets (Rendez-Vous package) offer the best seats in the house, buffet-dinning before the show, open bar, deserts during intermission and an exclusive visit of the stable after the show. The Rendez-Vous package prices range from $154.50 to $219.50.

To give life to this extraordinary equestrian adventure, Cavalia created a 17,500-square-foot stage, in the middle of which rise two hills each three storeys tall. Some 10,000 tons of rock, earth and sand are trucked in and then sculpted to create the vast space of freedom where human and horse come to play in complicity.

Above the stage hangs an imposing technical grid capable of supporting 80 tons of equipment including, a full-sized merry-go-round. Odysseo presents a “live 3-D” voyage with extremely high-definition computer graphic images that transport the audience across the world’s most beautiful landscapes. To project these
breathtaking graphic backdrops on an immense cyclorama the size of three IMAX screens, Odysseo uses 18 projectors simultaneously.

The dream begins in a misty, enchanted forest where horses graze and frolic under a sky of rolling clouds and a setting sun. Horses, riders, acrobats and musicians embark on a soulful journey that leads them from the Mongolian steppes to Monument Valley, from the African savannah to Nordic glaciers, from the Sahara to Easter Island.

Among the sites on this grand voyage are urban stilters,  a troupe of African acrobats, horses powering angelic aerialists in a four-person silks act that takes them into the skies, an African harp called a Kora and purebred Arabian horses directed by inaudible vocal commands from their kneeling trainer.

The scenes follow the seasons; at times, the horses and people become too numerous to count. The Odysseo epic wraps up with a fantastic crescendo as the stage is inundated with 80,000 gallons of water in just a few minutes. A virtual waterfall overhangs the resulting lake, in which horses, riders and artists join to frolic, leaving behind them the traces of their splashes and an astonished audience.

Fun Facts:
  • Odysseo features 63 horses of 11 different breeds including the Appaloosa, Arabian, Canadian, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Oldenburg, Paint Horse, Quarter Horse, Spanish Purebred (P.R.E.) and armblood.Headquartered in Montreal.
  • The horses are from Spain, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, Germany, The United States and Canada.
  • There are 47 artists - riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians.
  • The artists are from around the world including the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Belgium, Guinea, Russia, Spain and Ukraine.
  •  There are 350 costumes and 100 pairs of shoes and boots in the show. Artists may have up to seven different costumes.
Cavalia Inc. is an entertainment company that specializes in the creation, production and touring of innovative shows for audiences of all ages. Founded by Latourelle, the company has an expertise in equestrian and performing arts, and is known for cutting-edge technology, multimedia and special effects. Cavalia, seen by some 4million people across North America and Europe since its 2003 debut, celebrates the relationship between humans and horses by loosely recounting the evolution of this bond.

The website for Odysseo says information about tour stops in Washington, DC and Seattle is coming.

Michael Urie Portrait is Latest to Hang on Broadway Hall of Fame

By Lauren Yarger

Sometimes work is just fun.
I attended the birthday party for Michael Urie, star of Buyer and Cellar now playing at the Barrow Street Theatre on Wednesday.
Michael Urie
Yes, that's me with Vanessa Williams.
His portrait for the Broadway Wall of Fame at Tony's DiNapoli (where they make the world's best eggplant parmesan) was unveiled.

Shalita Grant, producer Pat Addiss and me.
Lots of stars were on hand. If you are a celebrity photo lover, I refer you to another site I write for, BroadwayWorld for lots of great shots from the event. Just click here.
Cuba Gooding, Jr.







Buyer and Cellar, starring Urie (“Ugly Betty”), written by Jonathan Tolins, and directed by Stephen Brackett, is playing an open-ended run at the Barrow Street Theatre with tickets on sale through Oct. 13. It's a comedy about Alex More (Urie),  a struggling actor in LA who takes a job working in the mall in Barbra Streisand's Malibu basement. One day, the Lady Herself comes downstairs to play. It feels like real bonding in the basement, but will their relationship ever make it upstairs? (kind of appropriate that this party at Tony's was downstairs.....)

Buyer and Cellar plays Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm at the Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St., east of Seventh Avenue South. There will be no performance on Tuesday, Sept. 3, and a special matinee added on Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 2:30 pm. 

Tickets are $75 and may be purchased by phoning 212 868-4444 or by visiting www.smarttix.com. The Barrow Street Theatre box office opens daily at 1pm. For more information visit www.buyerandcellar.com.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Summer Shorts Festival -- Series B at 59E59

Series B:

Pinecone Moment by Alan Zweibel
Falling Short by Marian Fontana
Change by Paul Weitz
Camille Saviola, Caroline Lagerfelt, Brian Reddy, and Jim Murtaugh. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Series B Saves the Best for Last
By Lauren Yarger
This year's Summer Shorts, the seventh annual festival featuring new American short plays presented by Throughline Artists at 59E59 Theatres offers six world one-act premieres including a few from some of the industry's best playwrights. I caught series B for this write-up. I'll review series A later this week.

The highlight of Series B is the final offering, Pinecone Moment, a humorous and touching look at a second chance for love by Alan Zweibel (700 Sundays, Fame Becomes Me).

In their twilight years, Harry (Brian Reddy) and Emma (Caroline Lagerfelt) email each other about their upcoming first weekend getaway together (Director Fred Berner nicely creates the illusion of separate households represented by just two computers on stands and a couple of chairs.) Whether the couple will actually be able to embark on this new phase in their love life depends on how effectively they can silence the voices of their deceased spouses: repulsive and dominating Bunny (a riotous Camille Saviola) and gentle Brian (James Murtaugh), who was Harry's best friend. They keep showing up to give advice, you see. 

Harry fell in love with Emma years ago and is ready to commit, but she isn't sure she's ready to let Brian go just yet. She hasn't experienced that "pinecone moment" -- her term for the exact moment when you realize you have fallen in love with a person. Harry gets some advice from Brian -- and some nifty dance steps from the show's choreographer Deanna Dys -- to try to win her over.

Zweibel nicely develops the characters with a blend of humor and a writing pen sharpened with understanding and plain good writing. Reddy, Lagerfelt and Murtaugh skillfully portray genuinely nice people and Saviola is a hoot as the obnoxious Bunny, who makes every married man in the audience suddenly appreciate his wife.

Christians might like to know:
--No content notes

Leading off the series trio of plays is Falling Short by Marian Fontana (A Woman and Her Bassoon). Here Lee (Kendra Mylnechik) is a wannabee journalist and widow reluctantly trying out internet dating. She connects with Nate (J.J. Kandel), a Renaissance Fair knight, who dreams of making it big as an actor in children's theater. The waiter (Shane Patrick Kearns) steals the show with some of his reactions/interactions with the couple.

Things get complicated when Lee reveals the 9/11 connection with her husband's death. It's a short, sweet look at people being vulnerable, trying to deal with the baggage of past relationships and stepping out of their comfort zones. Alexander Dinelaris directs.

Christians might like to know:
-- Language

In between is a confusing, unsatisfying piece called Change, by Paul Weitz (movie credits include "About a Boy," "American Pie"). Ted (Alex Manette) and Carla (Allison Daugherty) receive a visit from old college drug friend Jordan (Michael D. Dempsey), who is back in town to attend his father's funeral. Ted and Carla have settled into a boring life with kids, no drugs and no sex. Jordan reminds them of their wilder days and he offers to go score some weed for a trip down memory lane. What he returns with, however, is something stronger and the three soon are revealing desires and trying to justify their behavior.

The characters aren't likable. Snorting heroin (and the actors, directed by Billy Hopkins alarmingly appear to be inhaling the lines), toying with the idea of a sexual threesome while their kids sleep down the hallway and a mother being so out of control that she can't respond to child's needs just aren't my cup of tea when it comes to "funny," though to be fair, a number of audience members did laugh. Change doesn't bring home its point or offer any message of redemption or consequences for actions.

Christians might like to know:
-- Language
-- Explicitly sexual language
-- Drug use
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality

Live the Dream, Celebrate History During Harlem Week

Harlem Week celebrates its 39th anniversary this summer with outdoor concerts, film festivals, sporting events, block parties, seminars, expos, job fairs and more  July 28th through Aug. 24.

This year's theme is “Living The Dream: Celebrating History.” Harlem Week will acknowledge the 150th anniversary of the signing of The Emancipation Proclamation, the 50th Anniversary of The Historic March on Washington, the Super Bowl coming to the New York/New Jersey Area for the first time ever and special musical salutes to the music of Motown via Broadway's Motown The Musical.

Highlights:
  • the first public event, A Great Day In Harlem, taking place Sunday, July 28 at Ulysses S. Grant National Memorial (Grant’s Tomb) at 122nd Street and Riverside Drive. The day will feature entertainment from cultural artists, a Gospel Extravaganza paying tribute to the 1250th Anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation, The Fashion Fusion show featuring designs from some of the hottest up and coming urban designers and the Concert Under The Stars – “Songs In The Key of Life”, featuring a special tribute to Stevie Wonder, led by Ray Chew, Music Director of American Idol, BET Awards, etc.
  • Business is Booming in Harlem and Economic Development Day Aug. 8 at Columbia University with an all-day expo featuring local entrepreneurs, medium sized businesses and Fortune 200 companies plus seminars on business and health as well as a jobs and career fair.
  • NYC Children’s Festival Aug. 17 and 18 at 135th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and Malcolm X Blvd. While the smaller kids enjoy the children’s Festival the college bound young adults can visit the Historic Black College Fair & Expo Aug. 17, also on 135th Street, featuring more than 50 historic black colleges providing information on scholarships, financial aid and more.
Harlem Week began 39 years ago with Harlem Day, which takes place this year on Aug. 18 at 135th Street from St. Nicholas Avenue to 5th Avenue featuring four stages of entertainment, a health village, the Upper Manhattan Auto Show, vendors and exhibitors from around the country and much more.
The final public event will be the Percy E. Sutton Harlem 5kRun and Anti-Gun Violence Walk For Peace Saturday, Aug. 24 beginning at 135th Street. The Walk for Peace is being supported by organizations including the NAACP, the NY Urban League and Harlem Mothers S.A.V.E. The walk will conclude with a special event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Historic March on Washington.
For detailed information and to register for selected events visit www.HARLEMWEEK.com or call 877-427-5364.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's a Jungle Out There -- Join Fun with Huntington Theatre at the Zoo

If you are in Boston, here's a great family activity in front of what looks to be a great family show at Huntington Theatre Company.

In advance of its world premiere musical production The Jungle Book, Huntington Theatre Company teams up with Zoo New England in August for Jungle Book Days at the Zoo. Families are invited to visit the Franklin Park Zoo on Aug. 3 and 31 and Stone Zoo on Aug. 24 for Jungle Book-themed fun and activities including zookeeper encounters where visitors can learn more about some of the animals featured in Kipling’s stories, a scavenger hunt through the zoo among the exhibits, interactive storytelling by Huntington teaching artists, face painting, a coloring contest, and more.
Franklin Park Zoo, One Franklin Park Road, Boston
August 3, 11am – 2pm
Story hour: 11:30am and 12:30pm at the Main Greeting
Zookeeper encounter: 1:30pm at the Tiger exhibit
Stone Zoo, 149 Pond Street, Stoneham
August 24, 11:30am – 2:30pm
Story hour: 12pm and 2pm in the Amphitheater
Zookeeper encounter: 1pm at Black Bear exhibit
Franklin Park Zoo, One Franklin Park Road, Boston
August 31, 11am – 2pm
Story hour: 11:30am and 12:30pm at the Main Greeting
Zookeeper encounter: 1:30pm at the Tiger exhibit
The “brilliantly rendered” (Chicago Sun-Times) production of The Jungle Book, wholly reimagined for the stage by Tony Award winner Mary Zimmerman, begins at the Huntington on September 7 plays through October 13, 2013 due to a one week extension by popular demand. Performances are at the Huntington’s Boston University Theatre; Opening Night is Wednesday, September 18.
Tickets to The Jungle Book are available online at huntingtontheatre.org, by phone at 617 266 0800, and in person at the BU Theatre (Avenue of the Arts / 264 Huntington Avenue) and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA (South End / 527 Tremont Street) box offices. Group tickets at up to 20% off are available at 617 273 1525. The most affordable way to see Huntington productions is with a subscription. Seven-play packages including The Jungle Book are the best value and start at just $126. More information is available by phone at 617 266 0800 and online at huntingtontheatre.org/subscribe.
Tickets to The Jungle Book start at $25, with prices ranging to $135 (subject to change). Selected discounts are available. See the complete performance calendar below.
The Jungle Book is produced in association with Chicago’s Goodman Theatre where it is currently playing to 99% capacity and has been extended a record-setting three times.  The Goodman’s complete 19-member cast transfers to the Huntington, and four Boston musicians join eight of the production’s original musicians to comprise the jazz/Indian band of twelve.
A new stage musical, The Jungle Book is a movement-filled adventure chronicling young Mowgli’s coming-of-age in the animal kingdom. Director Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation is based on Nobel Laureate Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 collection of stories set in the Indian jungle and Walt Disney’s 1967 animated film and presents the movie’s best-loved songs in wholly new Indian-inspired arrangements. Legendary Academy Award and Grammy winner Richard M. Sherman — whose numerous songwriting credits with brother Robert B. Sherman include the motion pictures The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Aristocats — collaborates on this production, providing Music Director Doug Peck access and permission to adapt songs that Sherman and his brother wrote for the film, plus never-before-heard material. Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli with Indian dance consultant Hema Rajagopalan combine elements of classical Indian dance forms with jazz, tap, and more to enhance the storytelling.
The Jungle Book is produced by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, which proudly supports Zimmerman's development of this title, providing financial support, creative consultation, and access to song material.

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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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