Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Theater Review: The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Liking The Importance of Being Earnest
By Lauren Yarger
If you’re a fan of The Importance of Being Earnest, you’ll love the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of Oscar Wilde’s1895 farce about mistaken identity and absurd romance. If you’re not a fan, like me, you’ll leave the American Airlines Theatre saying, “Great production, but what is so funny?”

Brian Bedford directs this tale of a country gentleman, John Worthing (David Furr), who invents a troublesome brother named Ernest, whose troubles afford John the opportunity to leave his country life, dominated by his young ward, Cecily (Charlotte Parry) and her tutor, Miss Prism (a scene-stealing Dana Ivey), and go to more exciting London, where he assumes Ernest’s identity.

In town, he hangs out with friend Algernon (a very funny Santino Fontana), Archie’s cousin Gwendolyn (Sarah Topham), with whom John has fallen in love, and her mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell (played by Bedford). Archie, finds spending time with all of them a bore, however, and invents an invalid friend, Bunbury, whom he pretends to visit in the country to avoid the social obligations of town.

There are some other characters -- Lane, the butler (Paul O’Brien), the vicar (Paxton Whitehead) and a couple of servants (Tim MacDonald and Amanda Leigh Cobb) – thrown into the mix of mayhem which ensues and before it’s all over, Algernon impersonates Ernest, Algernon falls in love with Gwendolyn, both Cecily and Gwendolyn think they are engaged to Ernest, both women vow they could ever love a man not named Ernest and secrets about a baby left in a handbag at a train station come to light.

The fans were rolling in the aisle the night I attended, including the guy behind me who laughed loudly while kicking my seat throughout the performance (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was unable to control himself, rather than think he was just a clod). Certainly, there's some humor here, but the guffaws, really puzzle me. A story that depends on not just one, but two women so shallow that they can’t love a man unless his name is Ernest (and there would be no second or third acts without this little plot twist), not to mention some other ridiculous storyline, just doesn’t do it for me when it comes to the rolling-in-the-aisle category of plays.

But to each his own, and this production certainly is one of the best I’ve ever seen of the play. The two hours and 20 minutes with two intermissions did not seem to drag as much as it usually does for me thanks to the engaging performances and bright pace maintained by Bedford’s direction.

Making the show worthwhile in their own right are the lovely sets and costumes by Desmond Heeley. Each of the three sets looks like a beautiful impressionist painting and the elegant dresses and formal wear are beautiful. It’s sumptuous and lavish and looks like everything a late Victorian piece should. The performances also are terrific – all of them across the board, including Bedford as Lady Bracknell, who is especially funny when he uses the lower range of his voice to register dissatisfaction.

While he does a fine job with the role, and simply plays the character rather than call attention to the fact that he’s a man playing a woman, it’s still noticeable and because of that, questionable. Why is it acceptable for a guy to play this role? There aren’t too many good roles on the stage for women over a certain age these days any way. Why should one of the juicier ones be portrayed by a man? There are plenty of gifted actresses out there who could have had a lot of fun with this character.

Well, maybe it’s part of a hook to get people to go see a play and if it works, I guess it’s worth it. Earnest has been extended at American Airlines Theatre, 42nd St., NYC through July 3. For tickets call 212-719-1300.

Christian might also like to know:
• No content notes

They'll Watch the Kids While You Watch the Show

Playwrights Horizons has launched PLAYTIME!, a brand new program offering affordable, professional childcare while you see a show. Playwrights Horizons has teamed up with Sitters Studio, a bonded and insured company made up of sitters who are working artists, which will provide and operate the program at Playwrights Horizons on 42nd Street.

PLAYTIME! will debut during the run of the theater company’s next production, KIN, the world premiere of a new play by Bathsheba Doran, which begins performances on Friday, Feb. 25.

With PLAYTIME!, while patrons enjoy a Playwrights Horizons performance, their children will be upstairs in a rehearsal space having his or her own fun, artistic experience – learning a dance or song, making a craft project or participating in a myriad of other artistic activities provided by Sitters Studio. The program is available for children ages 4-12 (potty-training required). All Studio Sitters undergo background checks and are CPR certified.

PLAYTIME! is free to Playwrights Horizons subscribers and available to non-subscribers for a flat fee of only $15 per child. PLAYTIME! care will be offered during the following three performances of KIN: Feb. 27; March 20 and April 2, all at 2:30 pm. PLAYTIME! is the first program of its kind among New York City theaters.

For more information, visit the PLAYTIME! web page at www.playwrightshorizons.org/playtime.asp, or call Casey York at 212-564-1235, ext. 3152. For additional information about Sitters Studio, please visit www.sittersstudio.com.

Commercial, Non-Profit Partnership is Panel's Topic

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) and Back Stage present the industry panel New Models for Success: The Commercial / Not-for-Profit Partnership on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 pm at The Roy Arias Studios, 300 W. 43rd St., OB Theatre, 5th floor, NYC.

The panel will include Doug Aibel, artistic director of the Vineyard Theatre (Avenue Q, [title of show], The Scottsboro Boys); Robyn Goodman, producer (off-Broadway: Bat Boy the Musical, Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM!, Our Lady of 121st Street, Red Light Winter; Broadway: A Class Act, Metamorphoses, In the Heights, Avenue Q, Steel Magnolias, Barefoot in the Park); RK Greene, producer (Room Service, Love Child); Kevin Kennedy, managing director The Peccadillo Theater Co. (Room Service, Another Part of the Forest, Talk of the Town); Randall Wreghitt, producer (Aesop and Company, Lieutenant of Inishmore, Grey Gardens, Little Women).

Doors open at 7 pm for networking and refreshments; panel starts promptly at 7:30. FREE for TRU members; $12 for non-members. Call in advance for reservations: 212/714-7628; or e-mail TRUnltd@aol.com.

Touring Shows Impact Local Economies

The economic impact of Broadway touring shows on the metropolitan areas where they played during the 2008-2009 season is estimated to be be $3.35 billion, according to a report released by The Broadway League.

“Touring Broadway adds to the quality of life in American cities, as well as their economic well being,” notes The Broadway League’s Executive Director, Charlotte St. Martin, “Moreover, we provide the funds that fuel many educational programs offered to the kids in America. Since our last report from the 2004-2005 season, we see that Broadway theatre has increased its impact by almost 17percent and attendance has increased by 7percent. We are happy to see that Broadway is alive and well in our country an that, coupled with New York City’s numbers, we are entertaining over 25 million theatergoers annually and are creating an economic impact to our country of over $13.15 billion.”

In the 2008-2009 season, there were approximately 40 Broadway touring shows traveling across the country, playing at 192 venues. Theatergoers who specifically came to an area to attend a tour spent $687.2 million on ancillary activities, such as dining and transportation, in addition to the $807.2 million spent to produce and run these tours in the places that presented them or in New York City, bringing the total direct spending due to Touring Broadway to $1.49 billion. This money then generated another $1.86 billion in secondary rounds of spending so that the full economic contribution of Touring Broadway totaled $3.35 billion, according to the report. From this money 87 percent($2.9 billion) supported the communities that presented Broadway tours. On average, Broadway tours contributed an economic impact of 3.5 times the gross ticket sales to the local metropolitan area’s economy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Theater Review: Carnival Round the Central Figure

Photos by Deneka Peniston
Ted Caine as the Central Figure
Dancing Around Death
By Lauren Yarger
The wife is in denial, the psychologist channels positive thinking, the nurse keeps drawing blood for tests, the preacher and his choir think they can conquer it and a friend wants to confront it. The only one who doesn’t have any say in how to deal with death is the victim himself in Diana Amsterdam’s Carnival Round the Central Figure playing a limited engagement Off Broadway.

The “central figure,” a.k.a. Paul or Pamela (Ted Caine), painted a ghastly white and looking emaciated, lies on a black hospital bed slab in the middle of the stage while all of the various parties connected with the dying Paul, or already deceased Pamela, dance around death (sometimes, literally, with the choir, accompanied on keyboard, directed by David James Boyd, singing rousing renditions of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Amazing Grace.”). The simple, but effective set design is by Walt Spangler with Jisun Kim and Melissa Shakum, lighted by Eric Southern; costume design is by Katja Andreiev.

Sheila (Christine Rowan), Paul’s wife, is in denial and talking about what new appliances they will buy for their home when he returns there. “Doesn’t he look better than the last time you visited?” she defiantly asks his co-worker Kate (Danni Simon). Kate tires to speak the truth, but is stopped by her boyfriend Richard (Ed Stetz) and by a creepy nurse (Kori Rushton) who sits just to the side of the action in a rocking chair waiting to draw out Paul’s last drops of blood with her super-sized syringe.

Dr. Maryanne stops by each night to channel positive energy and to convince Paul that if he can only say, “I am,” everything will be all right. TV evangelist Bob (Shane LeCocq), however, views death as a punishment for sin and encourages his followers to “Speak Straight to Jesus,” the name of his television program. He tries to lead Becky and John Tupper (Cynthia Silver, David Michael Kirby) through the pain of a daughter, Pamela, who has fallen into sin. How Kate didn’t deal with her friend Pamela’s death then, affects how she wants to deal with Paul’s death now. She dismisses the preacher as hypocritical and annoys Dr. Maryanne during her lectures (complete with Power Point like video enhancements designed by Kaveh Jaerian) by refuting her claim that there is a chance someone might be able to overcome death.

It’s an intriguing play, if a little difficult to follow. There are a lot of people coming and going (direction by Karen Kohihaas) in addition to Amsterdam’s annoying use of repeated scenes. Instead of just repeating a line or two of dialogue to let us know we’ve come back to the present, we get most of the scene repeated again at length. The play would benefit from a good edit with better differentiation between past and present, but it does have a lot to say about how people deal with, or perhaps more to the point, don’t deal with, death and the people going through the process.

It plays at IRT Theater, 154 Christopher St., third floor, NYC through Jan. 30. For tickets, visit www.irttheater.org.

Christians might also like to know:
• Sexual dialogue
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain (by the preacher)
• Theological misspeak by the preacher who says the Lord turns Pamela from a beautiful girl into a beast after she chooses sin. He apparently also teaches Kate that God has hidden death in sex as a means to weed out the world’s sinners.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Theater Review: Blood from a Stone

Ethan Hawke, Ann Dowd. Photo: Monique Carboni

Dysfunction Gets Another Go-Round in Playwright’s Debut
By Lauren Yarger
Tommy Nohilly has reached for an old standby theme for his playwriting debut in Blood from a Stone – dysfunction – and finds it to such an extreme that he makes the folks over at August: Osage County look like the Brady Bunch.

The New Group’s Production of Blood from a Stone Off Broadway is enhanced by some fine performances, tightly directed by Scott Elliott, but because the play never really develops beyond “mother and father hate each other with every fiber of their beings” we never understand why this family is in such bad shape, or end up caring about any of the rather unlikable folks.

Ann Dowd gives a dynamic performance as Margaret, full of hatred and venom for husband, Bill (Gordon Clapp), but with a soft spot for favorite son Travis (Ethan Hawke, in a good, layered performance) who has stopped back home for a visit. His brother, Matt (Thomas Gurley), steels from the family members to support his gambling habit. He sides with Dad in the conflicts. The other sibling, Sarah (Natasha Lyonne) is caught in the middle of the messy household, where mother and father live on separate floors of their New Britain, CT home (designed in all its shabbiness by Derek McLane) and don’t even share contents in the refrigerator, so strong is their dislike for each other.

Meanwhile, Bill tries to manage his violent temper and keeps forcing his “friend,” Deborah, on the children who, with the exception of Sarah, who’s trying to make a go of normalcy with her growing family, have affairs of their own to worry about. Travis, addicted to his mom’s pain pills, has taken up with old girlfriend Yvette (Daphne Rubin-Vega) who lives next door with her unsuspecting husband. Matt is leaving his wife and kids to have an affair with a married woman and even Margaret has a “friend” on the side. Every-day occurrences in this house involve throwing kitchen cabinets, punching out windows and some of the darkest verbal threats family members ever have uttered to one another.

Believe me, no matter how bad you think your family is, there’s a good chance you’ll be glad you’re related to them instead of this clan. I don’t even want to know where Dowd has to reach on an emotional level to maintain such a dark and hopeless character. Margaret’s one outlet for love is her cat, but even the poor animal can’t escape the sadness that surrounds this family.

The dark interactions really are all that happen in this play, however, despite the promise of potential in the playwright’s first effort. Nohilly’s characters are interesting and lend themselves to some great acting, but without any explanation of how these folks got here (why is this venom-filled couple still sharing the same house, and what is the cause of such festering dislike?), the play fails to justify its almost three-hour run time.

It runs through Feb. 19 at the Acorn Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street. For tickets, visit http://www.thenewgroup.org/.
Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain
• Sexual activity
• Partial nudity

Friday, January 14, 2011

Theater Review: A Small Fire

A Small Fire Rages with Emotions
By Lauren Yarger
Just how hard would you fight to stay in a world you no longer could smell, taste, see or hear? And how far would you go to reach out to your wife, mother or friend if she were the one losing her senses?

These questions are the kindling for Adam Bock’s A Small Fire, an inferno of emotions and a blaze of great play writing stoked by riveting performances as directed by Trip Cullman Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons.

Tony Award winner Michelle Pawk is Emily Bridges, a woman who, in between living a settled-for life with husband, John (an excellent Reed Birney), running her construction contracting business with friend and colleague Billy Fontaine (Victor Williams) and planning a wedding she’s less than enthusiastic about for her estranged daughter, Jenny (Celia Keenan-Bolger), suddenly finds she’s losing her senses. Literally.

First she loses her sense of smell, then taste (a sample of the wedding cake tastes like chalk). She tries to hide the problems from her family and Billy, but as sight and hearing soon fail her as well, she reluctantly becomes dependant on them for every need. The play’s one weakness is that no explanation for the phenomenon is given. We’re left to wonder whether it’s a medical condition or a psycho-somatic withdrawal from her world. In any case, it doesn’t really matter, because the core of the fire comes from the characters’ interaction with each other.

As Emily’s senses fail, John’s become more acute and he assumes the roles of his wife’s eyes and ears as well as her caretaker. Birney is an explosion of talent. In a scene where he’s describing to Emily what’s happening at the wedding, he portrays every kind of emotion. A simple smile he gives his wife early in the play conveys love and devotion – and later – serves as an anchor of truth when he defends his decision not to abandon his marriage to his daughter, who increasingly finds it difficult to be around her mother and wants her father to be released from his existence.

Pawk is riveting as the woman slowly finding herself in a nightmare from which she can’t awake. Williams is excellent as Emily’s one true friend – and also lends some needed comic relief with his enthusiasm for racing “athlete” pigeons. The roles are demanding and require the actors to take the characters further than the mere words that are being said. Here Keenan-Bolger’s Jenny falls a bit short of the others, as we never fully understand why she’s so hostile toward her mother.

The creative team adds snap and crackle to the production as well. Loy Arcenas designs a set that easily changes from construction site to living room (helped by sound and music effects designed by Robert Kaptowitz and lighting design by David Weiner); Ilona Somogyi designs the costumes.

Bock stacks an amazing amount of wood to build a roaring fire in this play – incredible character development and swift movement of story build to a raging conclusion– all in just 80 minutes. It’s one of most engrossed times I’ve spent watching a play in a long time.

A Small Fire has been extended through Jan. 30 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St. For tickets, call (212) 279-4200.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain
• Homosexuality (mentioned, but not central to the themes)
• Sexual Activity
• Nudity

Spiderman Delays Opening Again -- March 15

© Jacob Cohl
SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark has delayed its opening night (previously set for Feb. 7) to Tuesday, March 15 to allow for more time to fine-tune aspects of the show, including the new ending.
Performances scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 18 and Tuesday, Jan. 25 have been cancelled, and all ticketholders for those performances will be offered refunds or exchanges. All other preview performances will go on as scheduled. Directed by Julie Taymor and featuring a book by Julie Taymor and Glen Berger, and new music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark is in previews at Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre, 213 West 42nd St.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Theater Review: Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage!

Eve Plumb and Manual Herrara Photo © 2010 Carol Rosegg

A Little Advice from a Grown Up Jan Brady
By Lauren Yarger
Miss Abigail offers advice on love to a ready-for-fun audience (the bar is open…) downstairs at Sophia’s Restaurant in New York, but it turns out she might need some tips herself, in this tongue-in-cheek, rollicking production from the pen of director and producer Ken Davenport (Sarah Saltzberg co-writes), and starring Eve Plumb (a.k.a. Jan Brady on TV’s The Brady Bunch.

Plumb is the drive behind the show’s charm. She delivers her lines with expert comedic timing and a panache you might not be expecting from the Brady sister who always seemed to get overshadowed by wonderful Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! (a photo of Jan in a black wig in one of the Brady’s Bunch’s well-known shows brings a bunch of laughter). Miss Abigail, surrounded by the hundreds of books she’s read on love, dating and marriage, offers her advice to the audience while fielding hotline calls from high-profile celebrities phoning for advice about their love lives (Hilary Noxon designs the set).

Dressed in a sharp looking suit I’d like in my closet (Abbi Stern, design), she’s assisted by Paco (Manuel Herrera), her Mexican sidekick. Miss Abigail is so busy giving advice and bringing audience members up on stage to discuss things like “How to Flirt,” “How to Kiss” and “Where to go on a Date,” she misses some obvious signs that Paco is interested in more than a working relationship with her.

The show, based on the book by Abigail Grotke, is silly, sometimes borders on crass, and of course has to have an obligatory political statement – this one about illegal immigration and the border fence (why do all shows and films feel it is necessary to throw these statements in scripts these days?), but overall, it’s an enjoyable 90 minutes of entertainment. And Plumb is really good. Eve, Eve, Eve!

Sophia’s is at 221 west 46th St., NYC. For tickets, call 877-964-7722.

Christians might also like to know:
• Sexual dialogue
• A film about how to have sex contains some scantily clad women.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Theater Review: Dracula

l-r: Michel Altieri (as Dracula) and George Hearn (as Van Helsing) in DRACULA
at Little Shubert (422 W 42nd St). Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

This Production of 'Dracula' Lacks Life
By Lauren Yarger
With all of the vampire frenzy lately over the “Twilight” series and other incarnations of the bloodsucking undead like “True Blood” on HBO, I guess it’s no surprise that now would be a good time to resurrect the stage play based on Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula,” playing off-Broadway for a limited run at the Little Shubert.

The play, adapted by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston has had previous success, starting in 1927 with Bela Lugosi in the role of the 500-year-old Transylvanian Count who must suck the blood from humans to exist and to transform himself into creatures of the night like wolves and bats. Broadway best remembers the 1977 production starring a sensational Frank Langella as the sexy vampire. He won the Tony as did the play for best revival and he went on to star in the 1979 film version opposite Sir Laurence Olivier as vampire expert/stalker Abraham Von Helsing.

This current rendition, directed by Paul Alexander and starring Italian stage star Michel Altieri, who makes his American stage debut as Dracula, seems dead, ironically, and tends toward humorous rather than chilling. Altieri, very slim, and brushing back very long black hair locks (Paul Huntley, hair design) brings to mind Fabio romance-novel covers. Or, when the light strikes his full lips in a wide grin standing out against a pale face, he looks like the Joker from Batman. He never convincingly exudes the haunted, sexual masculinity that draws Lucy Seward (Emily Bridges) against her will from the attentions of her devoted fiancé, Jonathan Harker (Jake Silbermann), causes Lucy’s maid Miss Wells (Katharine Luckinbull) to betray her mistress or enslaves the mind of spider and fly-eating Renfield (John Buffalo Mailer) to make him a vampire in training.

To say that there is any sexual tension between Dracula and Lucy here would be like saying vampires crave sunlight. It would be false. Truthfully, if this hair-tossing, cape swirling Dracula appeared in my bed chamber, I’d wake the rest of the house with my laughter. Lucy and Jonathan throw more sparks, and truthfully, Silbermann, who gives one of two believable performances in the production, would have made a better Dracula. The second believable and solid performance comes from Timothy Jerome as Lucy’s father, Dr. Seward.

There also isn’t any tension between the vampire and his nemesis, Van Helsing, played here by the hapless George Hearn who seems to be grasping for lines at times and who on several occasions called Lucy “Mina.” Mina is Lucy’s companion (also played by Luckinbull) who succumbed to Dracula’s charms and deadly bloodsucking to become the Woman in White who preys upon small children in this remote section of England. Hearn, usually a treat, was more fun in his other bloody role: Sweeney Todd.

Funny, though I don’t think he’s supposed to be, is Mailer’s Renfield, who vacillates between playing a courteous southern gentleman and trying to act like a mad man. He spends most of his time escaping from orderly Butterworth (Rob O’Hare) and climbing down the walls of Dr. Seward’s manse like a spider to answer his master’s call. Dare I say at least one New York spiderman’s special effects worked well (Flying by Foy).

Overall, the production has an amateur feel, from the level of performances to obviously fake books in Dana Kenn’s rotating set to overkill on the fog every time Dracula appears (Rick Sorelet and Mike Rossmy, flight choreography and special effects), though I did like their fluttering bat and a scrim effect that has Dracula suddenly appear in a portrait. Canned music in between scenes and the obvious sound effect of wolves howling are annoying (Chris DelVecchio, design). Wila Kim’s costumes are uninspired and Dracula’s cape looks like it has the image of a bat outlined inside – almost like something you’d see in a Halloween shop.

Also generating a few chuckles is the group’s apparent slow wittedness (blame the book along with the staging which has them walking around awkwardly for no reason). What are those two puncture marks on Lucy’s neck? Could they be related to those found on Mina? Hey guys, wouldn’t it make sense to have someone – or everyone—stay with Lucy at night when she is plagued by nightmares and appears to lose a lot of blood just like Mina did or even take Lucy away to somewhere safe (though this really never happens because if it did, there wouldn’t be a play)?

No one ever notices the truly massive amounts of fog portending Dracula’s arrival on the scene. Alexander simply has cast members turn their backs every time Dracula enters so they can be surprised when they turn and see the count in the room. “I have a light footfall,” Dracula tells them (many times – again redundancy), which makes it kind of comical when his footsteps are clearly audible as he walks to his mark.

The group is astonished to find that there’s a secret panel behind those fake books. They also are hunting around the set for Dracula’s resting place, but fail to notice a rather large coffin sitting stage center. The trapped Dracula gleefully informs them they have their facts all wrong about the stake-driving thing and that they might not be able to save Lucy if she dies at night. Gee, you’d think that the wolfbane, crucifix, wooden stake-carrying Von Helsing might have known about that being up on vampire lore and all.

Well, here’s another piece of trivia for Dracula to think about. I’m not a vampire expert, but I do know that the undead aren’t supposed to have reflections (he does tell us this, though I couldn’t see the mirror from my seat, so I don’t know whether he was visible) or shadows. This Dracula casts large shadows on the walls of the sets and on the house right wall all through the performance, however (Brian Nason, lighting). Maybe it’s just the shadow of Langella’s excellent performance haunting the current staging.

Dracula, which was scheduled to run through March 13 at the Little Shubert Theatre, 422 west 42ns St., apparently has closed, though I haven't received an official notice. Tickets suddenly could be purchased only through Jan. 9.

Christians might also like to know:
• Crucifix, holy water and elements of the Lord’s supper used to combat the vampire.

Theater Review: A Free Man of Color

From left, Jeffrey Wright, Mos
(Photo: Charles Erickson)
By Lauren Yarger
Several colorful plots, though I'm not sure I followed them accurately, crash together on the stage at the Vivian Beaumont for John Guare's A Free Man of Color, wrapping up its run for Lincoln Center this Sunday.

JeffreyWright heads the large ensemble cast as Jacques Cornet, a sort of Don Juan map collector in turn-of-the-19th century New Orleans; Mos is his slave sidekick Cupidon Murmur. There's a lot of history connected with the time of the Louisiana Purchase and lots of characters (more than 35 played by some 26 actors) like Napoleon Bonaparte (Triney Sandoval), Thomas Jefferson (John McMartin), Meriwether Lewis (Paul Dano), among others, but despite a few moments of humor, and strong performances by Wright and Moss, there isn't much to engage.

The noncohesive story, at more than two hours and 40 minutes, runs at least an hour too long. At one point I found myself counting the stripes and stars on an American flag and wondering whether it was historically accurate, so my mind obviously had wandered from the story.

George C. Wolfe directs the production which at times seems like it's trying to be La Bete as the characters, clothed in shiny, colorful and elegant costumes (Ann Hould, design) suddenly launch into verse or compete with drumming when delivering their lines. Only here, we're not sure why any of this happens or what all of the stories really have to do with each other.

There are some nice visual images created with stage and lighting design (David Rockwell; Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer) and a chase through the Spanish moss by lantern light is particularly stunning

Discounted tickets are available at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/262/individual.

Christians might also like to know:
  • A Nude is shown in a portrait
  • Suicide
  • Language
  • Sexual Situations
    • Broadway Attendance Up; Week Brings Highest Grosses Ever

      The Broadway League reports robust holiday grosses and a strong start to 2011 with the last two weeks grossing $60 million. The most recent week ending Jan. 2 bringing in $34,997,571 on its own was probably the highest grossing week in recorded history, according to The League.

      For that week, 27 shows averaged more than 80 percent of their seats occupied; more than 32 shows averaged 70 percent of occupied seats and 21 shows averaged 90 percent of capacity. Season-to-date yielded a 3.8-percent increase in attendance and 3.6 percent in grosses year over year.

      Calendar Year Stats
      2010: $1.037 billion / 12.11 million in attendance
      2009: $1.004 billion / 11.88 million in attendance

      Holiday Grosses (Christmas and New Years, weeks 31 and 32 combined)
      2010: $60.0 million (actual $59,991,360)
      2009: $52.4 million

      As of week 32 (week ending Jan. 2), the current 2010-11 season is up 3.6 percent in gross and 3.8 percent in attendance over 2009-10.

      Gracewell Prodiuctions

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      Producing Inspiring Works in the Arts
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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 concept, "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. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other 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 wrote 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 was 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. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

      She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly 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- 2022 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 or people of a certain race 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. 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 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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