Friday, July 20, 2018

NY Theater Review: The Peculiar Patriot TOP PICK

Liza Jessie Peterson. Photo: Garlia C. Jones-Ly

The Peculiar Patriot
Written and performed by Liza Jessie Peterson
Directed by Talvin Wilks
National Black Theatre
Through July 29

By Lauren Yarger
We all get a chance to pull up a seat at a table in the visitor's room of a prison in Liza Jessie Peterson's gripping look at incarceration, The Peculiar Patriot, getting a remount at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre.

Hi-Arts co-produces the production, which recently received a $100,000 grant from the Agnes Gund’s Art for Justice Fund, Playwright Peterson stars in the passionate one-woman drama directed with precision by Talvin Wilks.

Peterson is Betsy LaQuanda Ross (her moniker is the inspiration for the play's title), who regularly visits incarcerated friends and family members. Entering the visiting room (starkly designed and lighted by Maruti Evans), Betsy interacts with guards who frisk her down, greets other visitors their seeing loved ones and then focuses on boosting the morale of her best friend who has about two more years to go on her unjust sentence. Betsy brings news of the woman's three children, happenings in their neighborhood and updates about her own relationship with new beau, the good looking, poetic, political philosopher Pablo. Begrudgingly, she also gives updates about her ex, Curtis, whom her BFF seems to feel is somehow in the picture despite her protests that he is old news.

Now, re-read that last paragraph and remember that this is a one-woman play. Peterson is so absorbing in her portrayal, that we could swear we just witnessed a conversation between two characters sitting at the table. All of the people mentioned come to life in our imagination, or by character changes as Peterson, helped by sound effects (Luqman Brown, design) and projections (designed by Katherine Freer) also portrays Pablo and Curtis.

The huge problems of mass incarceration, from African Americans being wrongly convicted or getting stiffer sentences than white offenders to the profit-motivated consequences of outsourcing prisons and their services to private companies is covered in the conversations without becoming preachy (the more politically motivated agenda comes in a forced talk-back session that follows every show). The set up might be different, but message is that slavery is alive and well thanks to today's prison system.

Like her patriotic namesake, Betsy sews. She recently returned to quilting, an interest she picked up from a woman who was a positive interest in her life. The woman helped her through time in detention and juvenile hall and steered the daughter of a black panther toward pursuing an existence outside of prison walls, Betsy's quilt, which she brings with her on the visits, includes squares for those who are incarcerated. Her best friend's has a full moon to show her potential, a shooting star for each of her three beloved children and a yellow ribbon to show that she will be coming home soon, The lives of those incarcerated become woven together with Betsy's as her needle sews s story of monotony, injustice and despair.

Though much of the 90 minutes is intense and deeply moving, Peterson keeps the tale from becoming depressing by including a lot of humor. The story rings true, not only because of the exceptional writing, acting and directing, but because Peterson brings real-life experience to the tale. She worked for nearly two decades at Riker's Island in various capacities. Peterson also was in Ava DuVernay’s documentary "13th" and was a consultant on the Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary "RIKERS."

The production at the National Black Theatre, 2031 Fifth Avenue between 125th and 126th streets in Harlem, runs through July 29 prior to a tour planned this fall.  Performances are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 4 pm. Tickets are $35:

Additional information:

Additional credits:
LaToya Murray-Berry (Costumes); Belynda Hardin (Props)

--Language (and the "N" word is used)
-- God's name used in vain

If You're Feeling Desperate, Be Kind

By Lauren Yarger
Composer David Friedman is part of the Desperate Measures team making people laugh at Shakespeare over at New World Stages. Winner of the Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Off-Broadway  Musical and the Drama desk Awards for Outstanding Music (Friedman) and Lyrics (Peter Kellogg), the wild western take on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure is a silly fun in the midst of desperate times.

Friedman continues his positive message in a book called "We Can Be Kind: Healing Our World One Kindness at a Time" (Mango, 2017). Chapter titles like "So Many Hurts that Happen every Day," "How Do We Make it Better," "The Power to Heal is Right Here in Our Hand" come are taken from Friedman's song "We Can Be Kind."

It's a charming collections of thoughts and hope. Friedman challenges readers to consider what they and others encounter every day and to make something positive come from it. Though the book is diminutive (it is 5 1/2 by 7 inches) it has a big impact. Friedman doesn't preach, he reasons. To quote him:
  • Pain is certainly a big part of our lives, whether we choose to notice it or not.
  • The next time an event occurs which you automatically think of as bad, stop and say to yourself, " do not know what this is for." See if you can hold the idea that good can come out of it in ways you can't imagine."
  • The next time you find yourself in a situation that appears to be hopeless, where there seems to be no solution, try to become aware that you are not alone.
The combination of positive philosophy and lyrical verse is soothing and uplifitng. It's just the kind of thing many people are desperate for in times where many events can appear overwhelming.

The book is available for purchase here.

For a fun, feel-good experience at the theater, see Desperate Measures at New World Stages. Desperate Measures, with music by Friedman (Listen To My Heart), book and lyrics by Kellogg (Anna Karenina), and direction by Bill Castellino, is a hilarious new musical inspired by Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Set in the 1890s Wild West,  it is the tale of Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan), a handsome young man whose life is in danger over a saloon brawl. Johnny must put his fate into the hands of a colorful cast of characters including a wily sheriff (Peter Saide), an eccentric priest (Gary Marachek), a authoritarian governor (Nick Wyman ), a saloon girl gone good (Lauren Molina), and a nun out of the habit (Sarah Parnicky) as they all struggle to decide Johnny's fate. Laws are broken and hearts are won as they try to find justice in a world that often doesn' seem just. Sound familiar?

Desperate Measures plays New World Stages, 340 West 50th St., NYC.. Performances are Monday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday at 2 and 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.Tickets are $59- $89.

The soundtrack has just been released. You can find it here.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Harry Potter, Spongebob, Admissions, Desperate Measures Win Top Drama Desk Categories

Photo: Matthew Murray
Outstanding Play
**Admissions, by Joshua Harmon, Lincoln Center Theater
Mary Jane, by Amy Herzog, New York Theatre Workshop
Miles for Mary, by The Mad Ones, Playwrights Horizons
People, Places & Things, by Duncan Macmillan, National Theatre/St. Ann's Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, by Jocelyn Bioh, MCC Theater
Outstanding Musical
Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company
KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theatre Company/Woodshed Collective
Mean Girls
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59
**SpongeBob SquarePants
Outstanding Revival of a Play
**Angels in America
Hindle Wakes, Mint Theater Company
In the Blood, Signature Theatre Company
Three Tall Women
Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory/Roundabout Theatre Company
Outstanding Revival of a Musical
Amerike-The Golden Land, National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene
**My Fair Lady
Once on This Island
Pacific Overtures, Classic Stage Company
Outstanding Actor in a Play
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen, Royal Court Theatre/Atlantic Theater Company
**Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Tom Hollander, Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factor/Roundabout Theatre Company
James McArdle, Angels in America
Paul Sparks, At Home at the Zoo, Signature Theatre Company
Outstanding Actress in a Play
Carrie Coon, Mary Jane, New York Theatre Workshop
Denise Gough, People, Places & Things, National Theatre/St. Ann's Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
**Glenda Jackson, Three Tall Women
Laurie Metcalf, Three Tall Women
Billie Piper, Yerma, Young Vic/Park Avenue Armory
Outstanding Actor in a Musical
Jelani Alladin, Frozen
Harry Hadden-Paton, My Fair Lady
Joshua Henry, Carousel
Evan Ruggiero, Bastard Jones, the cell
**Ethan Slater, SpongeBob SquarePants
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Gizel Jiménez, Miss You Like Hell, The Public Theater
LaChanze, Summer
**Jessie Mueller, Carousel
Ashley Park, KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theater Company/Woodshed Collective
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Miss You Like Hell, The Public Theater

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Ben Edelman, Admissions, Lincoln Center Theater
Brian Tyree Henry, Lobby Hero, Second Stage
**Nathan Lane, Angels in America
David Morse, The Iceman Cometh
Gregg Mozgala, Cost of Living, Manhattan Theatre Club
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Jocelyn Bioh, In the Blood, Signature Theatre
**Jamie Brewer, Amy and the Orphans, Roundabout Underground
Barbara Marten, People, Places & Things, National Theatre/St. Ann's Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
Deirdre O'Connell, Fulfillment Center, Manhattan Theatre Club
Constance Shulman, Bobbie Clearly, Roundabout Underground
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical
Damon Daunno, The Lucky Ones, Ars Nova
Alexander Gemignani, Carousel
Grey Henson, Mean Girls
**Gavin Lee, SpongeBob SquarePants
Tony Yazbeck, Prince of Broadway, Manhattan Theatre Club
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
**Lindsay Mendez, Carousel
Kenita R. Miller, Once on This Island
Ashley Park, Mean Girls
Diana Rigg, My Fair Lady
Kate Rockwell, Mean Girls
Outstanding Director of a Play
Marianne Elliott, Angels in America
Jeremy Herrin, People, Places & Things, National Theatre/St. Ann's Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
Joe Mantello, Three Tall Women
Lila Neugebauer, Miles for Mary, Playwrights Horizons
Simon Stone, Yerma, Young Vic/Park Avenue Armory
**John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Outstanding Director of a Musical
Christian Barry, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59
Teddy Bergman, KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theater Company/Woodshed Collective
Jack O'Brien, Carousel
**Tina Landau, SpongeBob SquarePants
Bartlett Sher, My Fair Lady
The LaDuca Award for Outstanding Choreography
Camille A. Brown, Once on This Island
Christopher Gattelli, SpongeBob SquarePants
Casey Nicholaw, Mean Girls
**Justin Peck, Carousel
Nejla Yatkin, The Boy Who Danced on Air, Abingdon Theatre Company
Outstanding Music
The Bengsons, The Lucky Ones, Ars Nova/Piece by Piece Productions/Z Space
Ben Caplan, Christian Barry, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59
**David Friedman, Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company
Erin McKeown, Miss You Like Hell, The Public Theater
Helen Park, Max Vernon, KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theater Company/Woodshed Collective
Outstanding Lyrics
Nell Benjamin, Mean Girls
Quiara Alegría Hudes/Erin McKeown, Miss You Like Hell, Public Theatre
**Peter Kellogg, Desperate Measures, The York Theatre Company
Helen Park, Max Vernon, KPOP, Ars Nova/Ma-Yi Theater Company/Woodshed Collective

Outstanding Book of a Musical
**Tina Fey, Mean Girls
Kyle Jarrow, SpongeBob Squarepants
Peter Kellogg, Desperate Measures, York Theatre Company
Hannah Moscovitch, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2B Theatre/59E59
Outstanding Orchestrations
Tom Kitt, SpongeBob SquarePants
Annmarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin (John Bertles and Bash the Trash, found instrument design)Once on This Island
Charlie Rosen, Erin McKeown, Miss You Like Hell, Public Theater
Jonathan Tunick, Pacific Overtures, Classic Stage Company
**Jonathan Tunick, Carousel
Outstanding Music in a Play
**Imogen Heap, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Justin Hicks, Mlima's Tale, Public Theatre
Amatus Karim-Ali, The Homecoming Queen, Atlantic Theater Company
Justin Levine, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Public Theater
Adrian Sutton, Angels in America
The Hudson Scenic Studio Award for Outstanding Set Design of a Play
**Miriam Buether, Three Tall Women
Bunny Christie, People, Places & Things, St. Ann's Warehouse/National Theatre/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
Lizzie Clachan, Yerma, Young Vic/Park Avenue Armory
Maruti Evans, Kill Move Paradise, National Black Theatre
Louisa Thompson, In the Blood, Signature Theatre
Outstanding Set Design for a Musical
Louisa Adamson, Christian Barry, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2b Theatre Company/59E59
Beowulf Boritt, Prince of Broadway, Manhattan Theatre Club
Dane Laffrey, Once on This Island
Santo Loquasto, Carousel
**David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants
Outstanding Costume Design for a Play
Dede M. Ayite, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, MCC Theater
**Jonathan Fensom, Farinelli and the King
Katrina Lindsay, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Ann Roth, Three Tall Women
Emilio Sosa, Venus, Signature Theatre
Outstanding Costume Design for a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Mean Girls
Clint Ramos, Once on This Island
David Zinn, SpongeBob SquarePants
**Catherine Zuber, My Fair Lady
Dede M. Ayite, Bella: An American Tall Tale, Playwrights Horizons
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play
**Neil Austin, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Natasha Chivers, 1984
Alan C. Edwards, Kill Move Paradise, National Black Theatre
Paul Gallo, Three Tall Women
Paul Russell, Farinelli and the King
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical
Louisa Adamson, Christian Barry, Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story, 2B Theatre Company/59E59
Amith ChandrashakerThe Lucky Ones
**Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhauer, Once on This Island
Brian MacDevitt, Carousel
Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, KPOP, Ars Nova, Ma-Yi Theater Company, Woodshed Collective

Outstanding Projection Design
David Bengali, Van Gogh's Ear, Ensemble for the Romantic Century
Andrezj Goulding, People, Places & Things, National Theatre/St. Ann's Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
Peter Nigrini, SpongeBob SquarePants
Finn Ross and Adam Young, Mean Girls
**Finn Ross and Ash J. Woodward, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Outstanding Sound Design in a Play
Brendan Aanes, Balls, One Year Lease Theater Company/Stages Repertory Theatre/59E59
**Gareth Fry, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Tom Gibbons, 1984
Tom Gibbons, People, Places & Things, National Theatre/St. Ann's Warehouse/Bryan Singer Productions/Headlong
Stefan Gregory, Yerma, Young Vic/Park Avenue Armory
Palmer Hefferan, Today is My Birthday, Page 73 Productions
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical
**Kai Harada, The Band's Visit
Scott Lehrer, Carousel
Will Pickens, KPOP, Ars Nova, Ma-Yi Theatre Company, Woodshed Collective
Dan Moses Schreier, Pacific Overtures, Classic Stage Company
Outstanding Wig and Hair
Carole Hancock, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Campbell Young Associates, Farinelli and the King
Cookie Jordan, School Girls; or The African Mean Girls Play, MCC Theater
**Charles G. LaPointe, SpongeBob SquarePants
Josh Marquette, Mean Girls
Outstanding Solo Performance
**Billy Crudup, Harry Clarke, Vineyard Theatre
David Greenspan, Strange Interlude, Transport Group
Jonathan Levin, A Hunger Artist, The Tank/Flint & Tinder
Lesli Margherita, Who's Holiday!
Sophie Melville, Iphigenia in Splott, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff/59E59
The Chase Award for Unique Theatrical Experience
**Derren Brown: Secret, Atlantic Theater Company
Master, Foundry Theatre
Say Something Bunny!
Outstanding Fight Choreography
J. David Brimmer, Is God Is, Soho Rep
**Steve Rankin, Carousel
Unkle Dave's Fight House, Oedipus El Rey, The Public Theater/The Sol Project
Outstanding Puppet Design
Finn Caldwell, Nick Barnes, Angels in America
**Michael Curry, Frozen
Charlie Kanev, Sarah Nolen, and Jonathan Levin, A Hunger Artist, The Tank/Flint & Tinder
Vandy Wood, The Artificial Jungle, Theatre Breaking Through Barriers
To Sean Carvajal and Edi Gathegi of Jesus Hopped the A Train ­­whose last-minute entrances into the Signature production of this powerful play ensured it had a happy real-life ending
Ensemble Award: To Nabiyah Be, MaameYaa Boafo, Paige Gilbert, Zainab Jah, Níkẹ Uche Kadri, Abena Mensah-Bonsu, Mirirai Sithole, and Myra Lucretia Taylor of School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play, whose characters learn the facts of life but whose portrayers taught us all a thing or two about the way things are.
Sam Norkin Award: To Juan Castano, whose varied performances this season in Oedipus El ReyA Parallelogram, and Transfers not only make a complex statement about American life but also indicate great things to come for this talented performer.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Harry Potter, Spongebob, Admissions, Desperate Measures Take Top Outer Critics Awards

At the Lyric Theatre. Photo: Lauren Yarger

Desperate Measures at the York. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Jessica Hecht, Andrew Garman, and Ben Edelman Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Broadway stars Jenn Colella, Jim Dale, Christine Ebersole andMartha Plimpton will serve as gala award presenters at the upcoming 68th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards ceremony May 24 at Sardi’s Restaurant.

(Winners names are in bold preceded by an asterisk. *)
Outer Critics Circle
2017-2018 Awards

The Children
Farinelli and the King
*Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Escape to Margaritaville
Mean Girls
Prince of Broadway
*SpongeBob SquarePants

Cost of Living
The Low Road
Mlima’s Tale

Cruel Intentions
*Desperate Measures
Jerry Springer- The Opera
Miss You Like Hell
Woody Sez

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
*Tina Fey     Mean Girls
Quiara Alegría Hudes     Miss You Like Hell
Kyle Jarrow     SpongeBob SquarePants
Peter Kellogg     Desperate Measures

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
* Jonathan Coulton, David Bowie and Brian Eno, Plain White T’s, T.I., Domani Harris, and Darwin Quinn, Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman, Yolanda Adams, The Flaming Lips, Sara Bareilles, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Lady Antebellum, John Legend, They Might Be Giants, Andy Paley and Tom Kenny, Derek Drymon, Mark Harrison, Stephen Hillenburg, and Blaise Smith, and Tom Kitt –  SpongeBob SquarePants
David Friedman and Peter Kellogg          Desperate Measures
Imogen Heap                   Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Erin McKeown and Quiara Alegría Hudes            Miss You Like Hell
Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez              Frozen

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
*Angels in America
Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train
Lobby Hero
Three Tall Women

(Broadway or Off-Broadway)
*My Fair Lady
Once on This Island
Pacific Overtures

Jo Bonney     Cost of Living
Marianne Elliott     Angels in America
Patrick Marber     Travesties
Joe Mantello     Three Tall Women
*John Tiffany     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Michael Arden     Once on This Island
Bill Castellino     Desperate Measures
*Tina Landau     SpongeBob SquarePants  (tie)
Casey Nicholaw     Mean Girls
*Bartlett Sher     My Fair Lady  (tie)

Camille A. Brown     Once on This Island
Christopher Gattelli     My Fair Lady
Christopher Gattelli     SpongeBob SquarePants
Steven Hoggett     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
*Justin Peck     Carousel

(Play or Musical)
Miriam Buether     Three Tall Women
Myung Hee Cho     In the Body of the World
*Christine Jones     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Michael Yeargan     My Fair Lady
David Zinn     SpongeBob SquarePants

(Play or Musical)
Katrina Lindsay     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Clint Ramos     Once on This Island
Paloma Young     Time and the Conways
David Zinn     SpongeBob SquarePants
*Catherine Zuber     My Fair Lady

(Play or Musical)
Kevin Adams     SpongeBob SquarePants
*Neil Austin     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Paule Constable     Angels in America
Paul Russell     Farinelli and the King
Lap Chi Chu     Mlima’s Tale

(Play or Musical)
Tim Reid     1984
Finn Ross     Frozen
Finn Ross     In the Body of the World
Finn Ross and Adam Young     Mean Girls
*Finn Ross and Ash Woodward     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

(Play or Musical)
*Gareth Fry     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Kate Marvin     [Porto]
Fitz Patton     Napoli, Brooklyn
Marc Salzberg     My Fair Lady
Darron L. West     Mlima’s Tale

Jason Robert Brown, Charlie Rosen, Larry Blank, & Sam Davis          Prince of Broadway
Tom Kitt     SpongeBob SquarePants
AnnMarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin     Once on This Island
*Jonathan Tunick     Carousel
Claire van Kampen     Farinelli and the King

Sean Carvajal     Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train
*Andrew Garfield     Angels in America
Tom Hollander     Travesties
Gregg Mozgala     Cost of Living
Michael Urie     The Government Inspector

MaameYaa Boafo     School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play
Jessica Hecht     Admissions
*Glenda Jackson     Three Tall Women
Lauren Ridloff     Children of a Lesser God
Katy Sullivan     Cost of Living

Harry Hadden-Paton     My Fair Lady
Joshua Henry     Carousel
David M. Lutken     Woody Sez
Conor Ryan     Desperate Measures
*Ethan Slater     SpongeBob SquarePants
*Lauren Ambrose     My Fair Lady
Erika Henningsen     Mean Girls
Hailey Kilgore     Once On This Island
Taylor Louderman     Mean Girls
Patti Murin     Frozen

Anthony Boyle     Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Johnny Flynn     Hangmen
*Nathan Lane     Angels in America
David Morse     The Iceman Cometh
Paul Sparks     At Home at the Zoo

Jamie Brewer     Amy and the Orphans
Denise Gough     Angels in America
Harriet Harris     The Low Road
* Laurie Metcalf     Three Tall Women
Mary Testa     The Government Inspector    

*Norbert Leo Butz     My Fair Lady
Alexander Gemignani     Carousel
Gavin Lee     SpongeBob SquarePants
Nick Wyman     Desperate Measures
Tony Yazbeck     Prince of Broadway

Kerry Butler    Mean Girls
*Lindsay Mendez     Carousel
Lauren Molina     Desperate Measures
Ashley Park     Mean Girls  
Emily Skinner     Prince of Broadway

*Billy Crudup     Harry Clarke
Eve Ensler     In the Body of the World
Alison Fraser     Squeamish    
John Lithgow     Stories By Heart
Sharon Washington     Feeding the Dragon

(Presented for an American play, preferably by a new playwright)
Kate Benson     [Porto]
*Jocelyn Bioh     School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play
Lindsey Ferrentino     Amy and the Orphans
Meghan Kennedy     Napoli, Brooklyn
Dominique Morisseau     Pipeline

Celebrating its 68th season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theatre, the Outer Critics Circle, is an association with members affiliated with more than ninety newspapers, magazines, web sites, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad.
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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 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. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

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 Episcopal Actors' Guild.

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.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


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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