Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Theater Review: The Night Watcher

Charlayne Woodard

Another Opening, Another (one-person) Show
By Lauren Yarger
For those of us heading to the theater these days, there probably is a good chance what we’re going to see is a one-person show. Granted, the production costs are less (only one salary and a presumed break on fees for the rights if the performer also is the author…), but there are so many of them lately that after a while, they all start to seem like the same show: the performer thinks something about his or her life is so unique it deserves a full 90 minutes or more of our attention, while portraying various characters they have encountered along the way with various accents to help us differentiate.

The Night Watcher, written and performed by Charlayne Woodard Off-Broadway at Primary Stages, is one of the latest. The twist here is direction by respected Daniel Sullivan and a number of reflections about how Woodard has touched the lives of children in her circle.

There’s a baby of mixed race whom actress Alfre Woodard (apparently no relation) wants her and her white husband to adopt. They think about it, but pass. Woodard later becomes godmother to her friend’s daughter, taking seriously her promise to be there for the child. She supports the girl when she becomes pregnant at 14, but when she fails to pass the news along to the girl’s mother, the friendship suffers.

And there a lot of others, some in very difficult situations, with whom the effervescent and engaging Woodard has near-mom experiences. She stops short of suggesting that the parents of these kids are not doing a good job, but it does seem implied at times, as she becomes aunt and “night watcher." It also seems to be a vehicle to justify the actress’s decision not to have her own children or to adopt, but it doesn’t become wholly that either.

In short, it ends up being another one-person performance that seems to be more about the performer coming to terms with parts of his or her life than a performance that justifies a theatrical performance. That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. It is. I wasn’t bored, but I wasn’t sure what she wanted from me: support, sympathy or just a therapists’ couch in the form of a stage.

It is a tad too long in the two-hour format broken by an intermission and enhanced by short bursts of song by Woodard and photos and graphics projected on a screen (Tal Yarden, design).

The Night Watcher runs at Primary Stages, 59 east 59th Street, NYC through Oct. 31. For tickets, call 212.279.4200.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 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 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. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com 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 reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


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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