Monday, May 26, 2014

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Under My Skin

Matt Walton and Kerry Butler. Photo:  Joan Marcus

Under My Skin
By Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser
Directed by Kirsten Sanderson
The Little Shubert Theatre

What's It All About?
Love, sex and health insurance. From Robert Sternin and Prudence Fraser, the writing and producing team who gave us TV hits like "The Nanny" and "Who’s The Boss?" comes this farce starring Broadway darling Kerry Butler (Beauty and the Beast) and Matt Walton directed by Kristen Sanderson.

Butler is Melody Dent, trying to support her rebellious daughter Casey (Allison Strong) and her Alzheimer's-inflicted grandfather, Poppa Sam (Edward James Hyland), with a part-time job without benefits at Amalgamated Healthcare. Her co-worker and best friend, Nanette (Megan Sikora), who's a "sexual harassment suit waiting to happen," thinks getting it on with a rich guy is the answer to their problems. She arranges for Melody to end up in the elevator with Amalgamated's CEO Harrison Babish III (Walton), but instead of falling for her, the elevator falls for both of them, plunging them to their deaths. In walks an angel (Dierdre Friel) who admits there might have been some mistake and sends them back to their lives, only Babish ends up in Melody's body and vice versa. 

The two have to figure out how to live each other's lives. Badish soon finds out that taking care of a family, getting answers from a gynecologist appointment -- and walking in heels -- aren't as easy as he thought. Melody realizes that answering to stockholders and being responsible for the running of a huge company isn't all it's stacked up to be either. She does excel, however, at pleasing Babish's girlfriend, Victoria (Kate Loprest) under the covers since she is, after all, skilled in knowing what a woman wants.

Will the angel figure out how to get these two back in their own bodies? Will romance blossom for one or more of these folks?

What Are the Highlights?
Walton has some humorous moments walking around in those heels and in the female garb designed by Lara de Bruijn. A scene where he hits the bars with Nanette is particularly funny. Hyland brings some pathos to the absurd plot with his portrayal of a man ever confused if he doesn't get his dinner at precisely 5:30. His delivery of the line, "I don't know, I got dementia," in response to a question easily was the biggest laugh. Friel is funny as the angel with an attitude.

What Are the Lowlights?
Much of this might have worked in a zany TV setting where we know the characters like Fran Fine or Tony Micelli (in fact, a couple of the lines would have been funnier if delivered by Fran Drescher), but on stage, it falls flat.

"What is it," Melody asks.

"It's Mayan," replies Babibish.

"I know it's yours....."

Oy.

Other Information:
Under My Skin plays through July 6 at The Little Shubert Theatre, 422 West 42nd St. This is not the big Shubert -- it's between 9th and 10th avenues, NYC). http://undermyskintheplay.com/home.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexual Dialogue
-- Sexual activity
-- Sexual situations
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Scenes from the 2014 Drama League Awards





















THE DRAMA LEAGUE
ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF
80th ANNUAL AWARDS

A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER
NAMED DISTINGUISHED MUSICAL

ALL THE WAY
NAMED DISTINGUISHED PLAY

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
NAMED DISTINGUISHED REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

THE GLASS MENAGERIE
NAMED DISTINGUISHED REVIVAL OF A PLAY

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS
RECEIVES DISTINGUISHED PERFORMANCE AWARD

STAR STUDDED CEREMONY HELD MAY 16TH
AT THE MARRIOTT MARQUIS TIMES SQUARE

New York, NY (May 16, 2014) – The Drama League (Executive Director, Gabriel Shanks) announced today the winners for the 80th Annual Drama League Awards:  Distinguished Production of a  MusicalA Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder;  Distinguished Play,All The Way;  Distinguished Revival of a Musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch;  Distinguished Revival of a Play, The Glass Menagerie; and Distinguished Performance, Neil Patrick Harris at a star-studded luncheon ceremony hosted by Jesse Tyler Fergusonat the Marriott Marquis Times Square (1535 Broadway).

In addition to the competitive categories, Kennedy Center Honoree, Tony®, and Grammy® Award nominee, Barbara Cook was honored with the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award in recognition of her contribution to the musical theatre;  Key Brand Entertainment/Broadway Across America: John Gore was honored with the Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award for the continuing efforts in promoting live theatre; and Tony®, Drama Desk and OBIE Award-winner John Tiffany was honored with The Founders Award for Excellence in Directing.

During the ceremony, director Michael Mayer introduced the 2014 Fellows of The Drama League Directors Project:  Zi Alikhan, Melissa Crespo, John Michael DiResta, Ellie Heyman, Lavina Jadhwani, Michael Leibenluft, Michael Osinki, Hannah Ryan, Teya Sugareva, Caitlin Sullivan, and Emma Weinstein.

The 80th Annual Drama League Awards Ceremony and Luncheon included a nominees cocktail reception, luncheon, and awards presentation held at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in the Broadway Ballroom (1535 Broadway) on Friday, May 16, 2014.  Drama League Board President Jano Herbosch was joined by Bonnie Comley as Co-Chair.  GenSpring Family Offices, National Life Group, PepsiCoand Financier Patisserie were the 2014 Sponsors of The 80th Annual Drama League Awards.

First awarded in 1922 and formalized in 1935, The Drama League Awards are the oldest theatrical honors in America. They are the only major theatergoer awards chosen by audience members — specifically, by the thousands of Drama League members nationwide who attend Broadway and Off-Broadway productions.

The Drama League Awards honor distinguished productions, performances, and exemplary career achievements in musical theatre and directing. The first Drama League Award was presented to Katharine Cornell in 1935. Since then, the Distinguished Performance Award has been accorded to a roster of theatre legends such as Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, Liam Neeson, Hugh Jackman, Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Liev Schreiber, Sir John Gielgud, Harvey Fierstein, Cherry Jones, Alec Guinness, James Earl Jones, Julie Harris, Helen Hayes, Jeremy Irons, Mary-Louise Parker, Sir Ian McKellen, Bernadette Peters, and Christopher Plummer.

2014 DRAMA LEAGUE AWARDS WINNERS

DISTINGUISHED PRODUCTION OF A MUSICAL

A Gentleman’s Guide To Love And Murder
Walter Kerr Theatre
Book and Lyrics by Robert L.  Freedman, Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Directed by Darko Tresnjak

Joey Parnes, S.D. Wagner, John Johnson, 50 Church Street Productions, Joan Raffe and Jhett Tolentino,
Jay Alix and Una Jackman, Catherine and Fred Adler, Rhoda Herrick, Kathleen K. Johnson, Megan
Savage, Shadowcatcher Entertainment, Ron Simons, True Love Productions, Jamie deRoy, Four Ladies
& One Gent, John Arthur Pinckard, Greg Nobile, Stewart Lane and Bonnie Comley, Exeter Capital/Ted Snowdon, Ryan Hugh Mackey, Cricket-CTM Media/Mano-Horn Productions, Dennis Grimaldi/Margot Astrachan, Hello Entertainment/Jamie Bendell, Michael T. Cohen/Joe Strola, Joseph and Carson Gleberman/William Megevick, Green State Productions, Robert Greenblatt, producers in association
with Hartford Stage and The Old Globe

* * *


DISTINGUISHED PRODUCTION OF A PLAY

All The Way
Neil Simon Theatre
by Robert Schenkkan
Directed by Bill Rauch

Jeffrey Richards, Louise Gund, Jerry Frankel, Stephanie P. McClelland, Double Gemini Productions, Rebecca Gold, Scott M. Delman, Barbara H. Freitag, Harvey Weinstein, Gene Korf, William Berlind, Caiola Productions, Gutterman Chernoff, Jam Theatricals, Gabrielle Palitz, Cheryl Wiesenfeld, Will Trice, producers

* * *

DISTINGUISHED REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Belasco Theatre
Book by John Cameron Mitchell, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Michael Mayer

David Binder, Jayne Baron Sherman, Barbara Whitman, Latitude Link, Patrick Catullo, Raise The Roof,
Paula Marie Black, Colin Callender, Ruth Hendel, Saron Karmazin, Martian Entertainment, Stacey Mindich, Eric Schnall and The Shubert Organization, producers


* * *
DISTINGUISHED REVIVAL OF A PLAY

The Glass Menagerie
Booth Theatre
by Tennessee Williams
Directed by John Tiffany

Jeffrey Richards, John N. Hart Jr., Jerry Frankel, Lou Spisto/Lucky VIII, Infinity Stages,
Scott M. Delman, Jam Theatricals, Mauro Taylor, Rebecca Gold, Michael Palitz, Charles E. Stone,
Will Trice, Gfour Productions, producers

* * *

DISTINGUISHED PERFORMANCE AWARD
Neil Patrick Harris
Hedwig and the Angry Inch

* * *

DISTINGUISHED ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSICAL THEATRE
Barbara Cook

* * *

UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION TO THE THEATRE
Key Brand Entertainment/Broadway Across America: John Gore

* * *

FOUNDERS AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN DIRECTING
John Tiffany

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Casa Valentina

Men Dressing as Women Can Be a Drag, Especially When It's Your Husband Wearing the Skirt
By Lauren Yarger
A group of men from different walks of life gathers together for a weekend of relaxation and entertainment. These guys aren't there to play poker, hunt, watch sports, ponder the Civil Rights Movement, or do anything else you might expect a group of men to do in 1962.

They are at a colony in the Catskills where they can dress as women.  Casa Valentina, Harvey Fierstein's newest play about gender identity, gets a Broadway production for the Manhattan Theatre Club. It is inspired by true events that took place at the Chevalier d'Eon Resort in upstate New York where heterosexual men could escape from the confines of regular society and indulge in their desire to dress as women without fear of being arrested or scandalized. The aren't gay, transgender or drag queens, they tell us. They are "self-made" women who just feel more comfortable letting their feminine side out.

In fact, the owner of the establishment, George (Patrick Page). a.k.a. Valentina, lets anyone who is interested know they can receive assurances about his prowess with the opposite sex any time they want from his loving and  supportive wife, Rita (an excellent Mare Winningham), who helps him run the inn. Not only is this GG (genuine girl) a friend to regulars like Bessie (Tom McGowan), Terry (John Cullum), Gloria (Nick Westrate) and Amy (Larry Pine), her wig shop and lessons about how to be feminine  help the men create their new personas. She's perfectly fine with George's other identity... or so she thinks.

Joining the group is newcomer Jonathan (Gabriel Ebert), a friend of Gloria's, who has never indulged his desire to dress up in front of others, and whose new wife has no clue about his secret desire. His first attempt at making the transformation is unfortunate, but soon the "girls"pitch in to give him a makeover. Valentina performs a sort of marriage ceremony that unites Jonathan and his inner female and voila! Miranda emerges (the transformation is aided by skillful costuming by Rita Ryack.)

Also joining the group this weekend is an important visitor: Charlotte (Reed Birney), who has been advocating for -- and even going to prison to guarantee -- rights for transvestites. She publishes a magazine for those enjoying a transvestite lifestyle, for which George has penned some articles and in which photos of some of the resort's clients have appeared.

George also hopes to hit Charlotte up for a loan to keep the resort operating. Business has been down and he faces additional threats of closure following a postal service investigation into the mail delivery he received of a damaged envelope containing photos of a  homosexual and pornographic nature. They were intended for someone at the resort with secret homosexual tendencies -- a snake in their little garden of Eden. Charlotte has her own agenda, however: to make their sorority a non-profit and legitimize what they are doing.

That idea doesn't go over with the rest of the members, however, especially since non-profit status means the members will have to reveal their names and addresses.  Amy is a judge and is nearing retirement. He doesn't want to risk his benefits or scandal touching his family. Terry, the oldest in attendance, has been exploring dressing as a woman longer than the group has been in existence and doesn't see the need to give it official status. Bessie agrees, saying they already have everything they need: parties, privacy and the magazine.

Terry also bristles over being forced to sign an anti-gay statement to join the non-profit. It's necessary, Charlotte says, to distance what they do from homosexual activity, still looked on with disgust and distrust in 1962. It was the homosexual community, however, that accepted Terry and supported her without conditions or unwelcome advances before she discovered the community of transvestites at the resort, and she refuses to stand against them now. Gloria has her own reasons for questioning George's ability to denounce homosexuals.The friendly atmosphere continues to erode and finally explodes when one of the member's possible homosexual leanings are revealed.

Meanwhile, Rita, who went into her marriage with "eyes wide open" about George's transvestite activity, slowly realizes that she might not be seeing everything as clearly as she thought. Though her marriage appears perfect on the outside -- and we believe the already-married Bessie is half serious when he proposes because Rita really does appear to be a totally accepting partner for a transvestite -- not everything is perfect on the inside and her heart is troubled. A veil lifts as she realizes that Valentina has a closer relationship with her husband than she does.

"What do you want?" she desperately asks her husband?

"I want to be normal," he replies.

But is normal named George or Valentina?

The play is carefully directed by Joe Mantello. We're given glimpses into the lives of some of the men as we see them putting on their makeup and dresses. A serious tone is set and giggling at men dressing as women isn't part of the equation -- even at Page, whose large, masculine physique looks the least feminine in his costume. The casting of named stars, however, probably was a mistake as it's hard to get past thinking, "That's Patrick Page in a slip," "Oh, there's Reed Birney dressed as a woman," or "There's John Cullum wearing sandals." Birney's character seems most natural, perhaps because we don't see the transition. He enters as Charlotte and we don't know anything about the character's male counter self. He gives a controlled performance of a person dressed like a woman who takes care of business like a man.

The play itself, is flawed, however, with the second act losing direction and Fierstein relying on huge monologues that sound like essays or old radio dramas to drive the tenuous plot inspired by the book "Casa Susanna" by Michel Hurst and Andrew Martin-Weber. It doesn't become propaganda, however, and the playwright deserves a lot of credit for exploring different perspectives. Rita grows increasingly disillusioned and thanks to Winngham's sensitive, moving portrayal, we totally understand her confusion and pain.

Fierstein also includes a brief encounter with the judge's disapproving daughter, Eleanor (Lisa Emery), who is given the freedom to express her unpopular opinions about her father's choices without judgment. Kudos, Harvey.

McGowan provides much needed comic relief as his character delivers Fierstein-esque one liners and quotes Oscar-Wilde.

Casa Valentina runs through June 15 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC.
http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/

Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Homosexual activity
-- Language
-- Sexually suggestive dialogue

Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 Outer Critics Awards Announced: Gentleman's Guide, All the Way Take Broadway Honors

Jefferson Mays as Lord Adalbert in a scene from A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder at the Walter Kerr Theater. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Bryan Cranston as LBJ in All the Way. Photo: Evgenia Eliseeva
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, All the Way, The Explorer's Club and Fun Home Take Top Show Honors.

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY PLAY
Act One
*All The Way
Casa Valentina
Outside Mullingar
The Realistic Joneses

OUTSTANDING NEW BROADWAY MUSICAL
After Midnight
Aladdin
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
*A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
Rocky

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY PLAY
Appropriate
Choir Boy
*The Explorer's Club
The Heir Apparent
Stage Kiss

OUTSTANDING NEW OFF-BROADWAY MUSICAL
Far From Heaven
*Fun Home
Murder For Two
Storyville
What's It All About? Bacharach Reimagined

OUTSTANDING BOOK OF A MUSICAL (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Aladdin
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Fun Home
*Robert L. Freedman - A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Rocky

OUTSTANDING NEW SCORE (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Aladdin
*
Jason Robert Brown - The Bridges of Madison County
Fun Home
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
If/Then

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A PLAY (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
The Cripple of Inishmaan
*The Glass Menagerie
Machinal
Twelfth Night
The Winslow Boy

OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL (Broadway or Off-Broadway)
Cabaret
*Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
Les Misérables
Violet

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A PLAY
*Tim Carroll, Twelfth Night
Michael Grandage, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Lindsay Posner, The Winslow Boy
Bill Rauch, All The Way
Lyndsey Turner, Machinal

OUTSTANDING DIRECTOR OF A MUSICAL
Warren Carlyle, After Midnight
Laurence Connor and James Powell, Les Misérables
Sam Gold, Fun Home
Alex Timbers, Rocky
*Darko Tresnjak, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHER
*Warren Carlyle,  After Midnight
Peggy Hickey,  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Steven Hoggett and Kelly Devine, Rocky
Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin
Susan Stroman, Bullets Over Broadway
 
OUTSTANDING SET DESIGN (Play or Musical)
*Christopher Barreca, Rocky
Beowulf Boritt,  Act One
Bob Crowley,  Aladdin
Es Devlin,  Machinal
Alexander Dodge, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
 
OUTSTANDING COSTUME DESIGN (Play or Musical)
Gregg Barnes, Aladdin
Linda Cho, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
*William Ivey Long, Bullets Over Broadway
Jenny Tiramani, Twelfth Night
Isabel Toledo,  After Midnight
 
OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGN (Play or Musical)
*Kevin Adams,  Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Howell Binkley,  After Midnight
Paule Constable,  Les Misérables
Natasha Katz, Aladdin
Philip S. Rosenberg,  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
 
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A PLAY
*Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Ian McKellen, No Man’s Land
Brían F. O’Byrne, Outside Mullingar
Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night
Tony Shalhoub,  Act One
 
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Tyne Daly, Mothers and Sons
Rebecca Hall, Machinal
Jessica Hecht, Stage Kiss
*Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Estelle Parsons, The Velocity of Autumn
 
OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Michael Cerveris, Fun Home
Neil Patrick Harris, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Andy Karl, Rocky
*Jefferson Mays, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
Bryce Pinkham, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
 
OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Sutton Foster, Violet
*Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill
Jessie Mueller, Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical
Kelli O’Hara, The Bridges of Madison County
Michelle Williams, Cabaret
 
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY
Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night
Michael Cyril Creighton, Stage Kiss
John McMartin, All The Way
Alessandro Nivola, The Winslow Boy
*Brian J. Smith,  The Glass Menagerie
 
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY (Tie Vote)
Barbara Barrie, I Remember Mama
*Andrea Martin, Act One
Sophie Okonedo, A Raisin in the Sun
Anika Noni Rose, A Raisin in the Sun
*Mare Winningham, Casa Valentina
 
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
Danny Burstein, Cabaret
*Nick Cordero, Bullets Over Broadway
Joshua Henry, Violet
James Monroe Iglehart, Aladdin
Jarrod Spector, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
 
OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL
Judy Kuhn, Fun Home
Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Sydney Lucas, Fun Home
*Marin Mazzie,  Bullets Over Broadway  
Lisa O’Hare, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
 
OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE
Jim Brochu,  Character Man
Debra Jo Rupp,  Becoming Dr. Ruth
Ruben Santiago-Hudson,  How I Learned What I Learned
Alexandra Silber,  Arlington
*John Douglas Thompson,  Satchmo at the Waldorf
 
JOHN GASSNER AWARD (Triple Tie Vote)
(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Scott Z. Burns, The Library
*Eric Dufault, Year of the Rooster
*Madeleine George, The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence
*Steven Levenson, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin
Lauren Yee, The Hatmaker’s Wife

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
*William Berloni 
of William Berloni Theatrical Animals in recognition of this season's outstanding performances by his dogs in Annie, The Open House, The Threepenny Opera, Bullets Over Broadway and Lady Day as well as for the 300 dogs he has found in homeless shelters and made into theater stars over his illustrious career.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The City of Conversation with Jan Maxwell

John Aylward, Kristen Bush, Kevin O'Rourke and Jan Maxwell
The City of Conversation. Photos by Stephanie Berger
The City of Conversation
By Anthony Giardina
Directed by Doug Hughes
Lincoln Center
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre

What's It All About?
Politics and how ideologies can sometimes get in the way of what matters, like family relationships. In 1979, Jimmy Carter is president and Colin Ferris (Michael Simpson) brings the girlfriend he met while studying at the London School of Economics home to meet his formidable mother, liberal activist Hester Ferris (a fabulous Jan Maxwell) whose dinner parties are where much of the business of Washington gets conducted in after-dinner talks among the politicos who attend. Turns out Anna (Kristen Bush) isn't intimidated. In fact, she craves political power and wants to know what makes Helen tick. It might even be possible that her attraction to Colin comes from what he can offer in terms of connections.

She contrives for them to arrive at the Georgetown home Helen shares (secretly since he is married) with Chandler Harris (Kevin O'Rourke), senior senator from Virginia, the night she is having Kentucky Sen. George Mallonee (John Aylward) and his wife, Carolyn (Barbara Garrick), over to discuss an important bill. Carolyn and Hester throw sparks, but conservative Anna hits it off with the senator and his wife and lands herself a job.

Flash forward to 1987. Ronald Reagan is president. Republicans Anna and Colin are married and have a son, Ethan (Luke Niehaus), who is the apple of his grandmother's eye. She and her sister, Jean (and excellent Beth Dixon) watch him during the week so his parents can work, -- even  though tension often flair as older and younger generations work on opposite sides of the political fence. Anna doesn't want her son influenced -- especially since he is so fond of Hester. When Anna discovers that Hester is working to block the appointment of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, she issues an ultimatum: stop, or lose the privilege of being a part of Ethan's life.

Later, it is 2009 and Barack Obama has just been elected. Ethan (played by Simpson), now grown up and openly gay, comes to visit with his lover, Donald (Phillip James Brannon), who would love to talk to Hester about the dawn of the liberal age for his graduate thesis.

What are the highlights:

  • Giardina writes a very good play, full of political savvy, fully developed, interesting characters and humor. Maxwell presents a character far from any other I have seen her portray. She does a wonderful job of aging too. In fact, Hughes directs solid, absorbing performances across the board.
  • Dixon is a hoot as the unassuming, succinct Jean. She doesn't waste words, but when she does say something, it counts (and usually brings a laugh). Her love and devotion for her family is evident in every glance and action.
  • The set, a multi-level rambling brownstone by John Lee Beatty is beautiful.
  • Lovely, elegant period costumes by Catherine Zuber.
  • Some of Anna's comments, as a proponent of Reagan's policies, could be sentiments expressed by current-day conservatives. It's alarming in that the country doesn't seem to learn from past mistakes, but reassuring that such comparisons prove that the nation can weather downturns. The play combines past and present seamlessly (commentary about Monica Lewinsky are made even more contemporary by her recent interview with Vanity Fair). An excellent start to the 2014-2015 theater season!
What Are The Lowlights?
The play unfortunately takes a political side. It would be even more effective if it got out of the way of itself and let the audience decide who the good and bad guys are here. Giardina does such a masterful job of creating the characters, that I dare say it would be possible for those on opposite ends of the political spectrum to come away from the same scene with completely different takes on who is right or wrong in the way they think or act. That would have been more fun -- and a better catalyst for conversation, since that's what the play is about -- than having a particular ideology hammered home, particularly in the third act.

More Information:
  • The City of Communication plays through July 6 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center, 150 west 65th St., NYC. http://lct.org/showMain.htm?id=225
  • Runtime: two hours with one intermission
  • This play has received an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.
Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

Broadway Theater Review: The Velocity of Autumn with Estelle Parsons

Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Velocity of Autumn
By Eric Coble
Directed by Molly Smith
The Booth Theatre

What's It all About:
Elderly Alexandra (Estelle Parsons) barricades herself in her Brooklyn apartment and threatens to blow it up with her collection of Molotov cocktails if her children force her to go to a nursing home. Alerted by his frustrated siblings, her estranged son, Chris (Stephen Spinella), climbs a tree and comes through the window to try to reason with his mother. In the course of getting re-acquainted, the two find they are more alike than they'd think. Past differences are sorted out and the relationship takes on new dimensions.

What Are the Highlights?

  • Parsons is brilliant and Spinella is just right as the exasperated, yet amused, son. I teared up several times as Alexandra showed fear and frailty in the face of the old age that has crept into her joints and mind. A notable performance. Parsons is nominated for a Tony.
  • Taught direction by Smith keeps the 90-minute, no intermission paced and engaging.
  • Coble's script is well written, poignant and funny.
What Are the Lowlights?
Christians might also like to know:
-- Homosexuality

Broadway Theater Review: Of Mice & Men with James Franco and Chris O'Dowd

James Franco and Chris O'Dowd. Photo: Richard Phibbs
Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
Longacre Theatre

What's It all About?
Steinbeck's depressing story of two migrant ranch workers, George (James Franco) and his pal, slow-witted Lenny (Chris O'Dowd) in the Great Depression. You know from the get-go that poor Lennie, who likes soft things, but who doesn't know his own strength when he "pets" them. He and George flee their last place of employment where Lennie tried to touch the soft dress worn by a woman there, and take work at a Salinas Valley ranch run by the Boss (Jim Ortlieb) and his son, Curley Alex Morf).

Curley, jealous about where his pretty new wife (Leighton Meester) has disappeared to, looks for her and suspects that she might be meeting up with crew chief Slim (Jim Parrack). Slim and George hit it off, but George warns Lennie to stay away from Curley's wife, whose frequent visits to the bunkhouse can only mean trouble (she even visits the room of black stable hand Crooks (Ron Cephas Jones) because she is lonely....

Meanwhile, George and Lennie share their dream of one day owning their own ranch and being their own bosses with aging hand, Candy (an excellent Jim Norton), who offers financial backing to make the dream come true to keep from being tossed aside like his old faithful dog who outlived her usefulness and was put down.

Lennie has a hard time controlling that urge to pet soft things, however, and tragedies ensue.

What Are the Highlights?

  • Lovely vistas and authentic looking bunkhouse from set designer Todd Rosenthal.
  • O'Dowd (known for his role in the film "Bridesmaids") gives an impressive (if a bit too articulate and polished for Lennie) performance as the hard-working, mentally challenged guy with a big heart who depends on George to help him. He is nominated for the Tony.
What are the Lowlights?
  • Franco (Spider-Man" film; "Milk," "127 Hours") doesn't get very deep into his character and appeared to be awaiting someone to call "cut." Of course by saying this, I realize I have put myself at risk for being called terrible names by Franco on social media, since that is what he did when the NY Times chief theater critic Ben Brantley did not write flattering comments about his performance....
  • Meester can start tweeting too, because she seemed very awkward on stage. She may be one of those actors who finds it hard to transform film magic ("24," "Entourage," Gossip Girl") into stage success. Director Shapiro leaves her out there looking like an amateur at times. 
  • The script has annoying repetition and is, well, a fairly depressing two hours and 40 minutes (with intermission). But if you are into big star names on stage, this is the one for you. If you didn't have to read this in high school and want to study all of the meanings in Steinbeck's plot, check out Cliffnotes.
More Information:
Of Mice and Men plays at the Longacre threatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC through July 27.  http://ofmiceandmenonbroadway.com/.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Derogatory term for women

Broadway Theater Review: Cabaret with Alan Cumming

Cabaret
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred ebb
Book by Joe Masteroff
Co-direction and Choreography by Rob Marshall
Directed by Sam Mendes
Roundabout Theatre Company
Studio 54

What's It All About?
The 2014 revival of the 1998 revival of the 1987 revival of the 1966 Broadway musical about seedy cabaret life in 1930s Berlin, on the brink of Hitler's rise to power. Alan Cumming, who won the Tony for his performance as the Emcee (a sort of narrator for the show) in the last revival returns to anchor this one, again at studio 54, which is transformed into the Kit Kat Klub, run by Max (Benjamin Eakeley) with cabaret style seating and a German-themed snack and beverage menu for the audience (the house opens an hour early).

Playing cabaret singer Sally Bowles is Michelle Williams (whom film buffs will know from "My Week with Marilyn." Brokeback Mountain," "Oz the Great and Powerful," and "Shutter Island" among others), making her Broadway debut. She becomes the roommate, then lover of repressed homosexual Clifford Bradshaw (Bill Heck), who had hoped to write the great American novel, but who ends up teaching English to Ernst Ludwig (Aaron Krohn) and his friends to make ends meet and to pay the rent on his room in the boarding house run by Fraulein Schneider (an excellent Linda Emond).

Schneider has a secret affair with local grocer, Herr Schultz (a terrific Danny Burstein), much to the delight of boarder Frauelein Kost (Gayle Rankin), who uses the information to keep the landlord from restricting her activities with a long line of sailors who visit her in her room. Sally also keeps company with many men and when she finds out she is pregnant, she isn't sure Cliff is the father and contemplates an abortion -- her solution to the problem many times before, apparently. Cliff thinks the baby will give them some focus in their lives and wants her to come back to America with him, but Max might have a more tempting offer...

Cliff starts to becomes uncomfortable with Ernst's involvement in the Nazi party and things become very awkward when the young German threatens Schneider with unpleasant consequences if she goes through with her plans to marry Herr Schultz -- a Jew.

What Are the Highlights?

  • Any Kander-Ebb score is worth hearing live on stage any time you can. The 20-person band is located on a second level of the set (designed by Robert Brill) and is under the direction of Patrick Vaccariello, who also does the vocal arrangements). Great to hear some classic songs like "Willkommen," "Maybe This Time," "Money," "What Would You Do," "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," and the title song.
  • Great to see Cumming in  his signature role. He really made this his own last time and it's a wonderful opportunity to see a piece of theater history.
  • The cabaret set up really is fun and provides a nice change of pace to the typical theater-going experience.
What Are the Lowlights?
  • Many think Williams was robbed when her name wasn't announced for a Tony award nomination, but she seemed out of place in the role -- almost like everything was dwarfing her and she just wasn't up to filling shoes that had been filled by the likes of Natasha Richardson and Liza Minelli (in the film). Sometimes she wasn't quite on a note and she has a whole lot vibrato going on up there.
  • The feel of the show is sleazy (it's supposed to be, it just isn't a pleasant feeling) from the vulgar costume (by William Ivey Long) for the Emcee to the scanty numbers worn by the show girls. It's a show right at home at Studio 54, which was the capital of decadence and seediness back in the disco club era in the '70s.
  • My Bavarian pretzel looked suspiciously like one you could purchase from a street vendor for a few dollars less...
More information:
Cabaret runs through Jan. 4, 2015 at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St., NYC. http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/
Runtime: two hours, 30 minutes with an intermission

Christians might also like to know:
-- Cross dressing
-- Scantily =-clad actors
-- Nudity
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Sexually suggestive moves
-- Abortion
--Drug usage
-- Language
-- Homosexual activity
-- Sexual activity

Broadway Theater Review: Violet with Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry

Violet
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theater

What's it All About?
It's the revival of a 1997 musical Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts which follows the story of a young Christian woman, Violet (Sutton Foster), whose face is disfigured when her father's ax blade accidentally flies in her direction, and her journey for a miracle to make her beautiful. The story, told somewhat confusingly, shows various scenes, not always in chronological order, with Violet as a young girl (Emerson Steele, who indeed looks like a little Foster) growing up with her father (Alexander Gemiignani) and as a woman on her way to seek the help of a TV evangelist (Ben Davis), movie magazines in hand, for quick reference to what is considered beautiful.

On the bus trip from North Carolina to Oklahoma, she encounters a variety of characters including two soldiers who alter the course of her life. Monty (Colin Donnell) is the dashing, knows-he's-handsome guy she becomes romantically entangled with and Flick (Joshua Henry), who offers her friendship, and maybe a better future, even if their bi-racial relationship is sure to cause problems in the South of 1964.

What are the highlights?

  • The disfigurement is not depicted, but imagined.
  • Foster, always a delight, is in full voice here, singing some very lovely tunes by Tesori, who also incorporates country and gospel sounds into the score (Fans of Foster's CD "Wish" will recognize "On My Way.") The actress gives a moving, vibrant portrait of a woman looking for her self worth.There's a terrific scene with themes of forgiveness and reconciliations as well.
  • There's a terrific gospel number performed by Lula Buffington (RemaWebb) and company as part of television healing service and quite a lot scripture throughout the musical. 
  • Joshua Henry brings his dreamy voice to the role as well as a layered sensitivity. His rendition of "Let it sing" brought an extended burst of applause that almost qualified as a showstopper.
  • Simple sets (designed by David Zinn) that don't get in the way of the story telling.
  • A very talented cast well directed by Silverman.
What are the Lowlights?
  • The book is very weak, leaving lots of questions unanswered, like why the womanizing Monty would be attracted to the unfortunate Violet, or why she and the two soldiers feel a bond of friendship so strongly and so quickly, except to give the plot its impetus. The disjointed scenes make that plot difficult to stay with at times.
More information:
Violet runs through Aug. 10 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/
Runtime: one hour, 45 minutes, no intermission

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Blood
-- Sexually suggestive lyrics and situations
-- God's name taken in vain

Thursday, May 1, 2014

League of Professional Theatre Women Events This Month; Bebe Neuwirth in Conversation Monday


League of Professional Theatre Women
presents

BEBE NEUWIRTH

interviewed by
PATRICK PACHECO

Monday, May 5, 2014, 6:00pm

Produced by Betty Corwin.

This program was made possible by the generous support of
THE BETTY R. AND RALPH SHEFFER FOUNDATION.

FREE Admission, Seating First Come First Served
RSVP to: Ludovica@TheatreWomen.org

Bruno Walter Auditorium
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center
65th Street & Amsterdam Avenue


ONE NIGHT ONLY! 
A Gift from Dael
to Benefit LPTW


FOREVER
written and performed by
Dael Orlandersmith

Directed by Neel Keller

Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 6:30PM
HERE Arts Center
145 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013

Tickets are $30.

Purchase Tickets Here!



JOIN THE EQUALITY PARADE!

SUPPORT WOMEN THEATRE ARTISTS!

 

MAY 8TH
THEATRE DISTRICT
GATHER: 5:30PM
STEP OFF: 6PM

 

Passageway adjacent to the GERSHWIN AND CIRCLE IN THE SQUARE THEATRES (Between 50th and 51st St, Broadway and Eight Avenue)

RAIN OR SHINE -  ALL ARE WELCOME!

The parade is suffragette-­inspired and features sashes and signs. Dress as your favorite woman in theatre history. Wear white, black and/or purple - or - just come as you are. 

 

Learn more: www.womenstagetheworld.org 



Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Julia's Reading Room (Change of Location!)

an exploration of paranoia, denial and trust

Tuesday, May 20, 2014
7PM at TheaterLab
357 West 36th St., 3rd Floor 
(between 8th & 9th Aves.)
New York NY 10018


Cast
Richarda AbramsKaren Grassle,
Stephen Plunkett, Brian Richardson

Doors open at 6:30PM. Refreshments available before and after the reading. 
Free event. Please RSVP to ludovica@theatrewomen.org

For more information about Julia's Reading Room, click here!



Julia's Reading Room Co-Coordinators are  LPTW Members Laurie James and Wendy Peace.
TheaterLab founder and Artistic Director is LPTW Member Orietta Crispino.

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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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