Thursday, March 31, 2011

Theater Review: Kin

Family Tree Branches Shade Many Relationships By Lauren Yarger Our roots give fruit to the relationships with people we call family, but the tree where we’re planted grows and extends its branches to entwine others we come to call kin. These ties that bind, and how they bundle us in kinship during life are the examination of Bathsheba Doran’s delightful, moving new play Kin running Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, directed by Sam Gold. Played out on a Paul Steinberg’s cleverly designed, movable-frame set, Doran tells the story of a couple trying to figure out whether they are destined to become kin --through marriage -- with the help of people in their lives who already are family. Anna (Kristen Bush) and Sean (Patch Darragh) meet on an internet site and start dating. Back in his native Ireland, Sean’s mother, Linda (Suzanne Bertish), confesses to her brother and drinking partner Max (Bill Buell), that she’s not sure she wants her son to get serious because he might never come back home. If he won‘t come there, she might never see him again, because Linda doesn't leave her house. She has been agoraphobic since she was raped and shunned by the church after aborting the child conceived. Meanwhile, Anna’s zany best friend, Helena (an absolutely fabulous Laura Heisler), feels increasingly left out as Anna spends more time with Sean. Anna struggles to impress her father, Adam (Cotter Smith), a military colonel from whom she’s always been estranged who tries to reach out and make amends for not being there for Anna, especially after her mother died. He seems more at ease comforting his one-time mistress, Kay (Kit Flanagan), who is dying of cancer. Adding to the uncertainty of whether Anna and Sean will make it are his unresolved feelings for former girlfriend Rachel (Molly Ward). Rounding out the cast is Matthew Rauch in separate minor roles that cement a couple of very humorous scenes. Doran handles all of the relationships and situations with chuckles and insight. Most thought-provoking is how the characters interact with and learn from each other. Anna provides a new bud of friendship for Linda and helps her think about leaving the house. Adam and Sean develop a respect that’s closer than father/daughter. Flaky, self-centered Helena surprises by providing tough-as-bark friendship and Kay reveals a nest of affection for Anna. And in the middle of everything looms the question of whether Anna and Sean will ever become kin officially. Gold shines in his use of rain and fog in one scene and the placement of the characters in relation to them to paint a picture of the mood of this uncertainty. The sharp dialogue, engaging performances and expert storytelling make for a satisfying family gathering (Playwrights hits another one out of the park with play selection). Kin plays through April 3 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. Tickets visit Christians might also like to know: God’s name taken in vain Sexual dialogue Language Eastern Meditation

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Theater Review: Arcadia

Broadway Debut Performance Highlights Arcadia

By Lauren Yarger

Nothing – and everything – is certain in Arcadia, Tom Stoppard’s smart, intelligent play mixing the past and present, both in the plot and physically with the present-day Broadway revival of the 1995 Tony award winner. As characters from 1809 and 1993 intertwine and blend in the story, this version has the satisfying additional connection between past and present productions with original cast member Billy Crudup returning to play a different role this time around.

Crudup is totally engaging as the present-day Bernard Nightingale, a scholar who arrives at an English country house to explore its connection to Lord Byron. He collaborates with Hanna Jarvis (Lia Williams), an author who has written a best-selling book about Byron’s mistress, who also is at the house to conduct research to discover the identity of the illusive hermit who once lived on the grounds. They are joined there by Chloe Coverly (Grace Gummer). The current daughter of the house, her brother and mathematician Valentine (Raul Esparza), and their younger brother, Gus (Noah Robbins), who doesn’t speak, but who has a crush on Hannah.

Together they research old documents and landscape drawings left by the estate’s architect Richard Noakes (Byron Jennings –such an appropriate-sounding name to be cast in this production….) for clues as to the identity of the hermit and other mysteries about the lives and loves of the 1809 occupants of the house and why Lord Byron might have visited there.

In opposing scenes, the lives of those past inhabitants are played out and we discover that history isn't always as accurate as we think. Thomasina Coverly (Bel Powley in a dynamite Broadway debut) discusses algebraic and other scientific theories with her tutor, Septimus Hodge (a wonderful Tom Riley in the role originated in the 1995 show by Crudup). Hodge is called out for his affair with the wife of Ezra Chater (David Turner), a talentless poet who quickly forgets the duel when Septimus promises to praise his work in a review. Hodge’s real affections are directed where they can’t be returned: to Lady Croom (Margaret Colin), Thomasina’s mother. Lady Croom’s brother, Captain Brice (Glenn Fleshler), Thomasina’s brother Augustus (also played by Robbins) and the butler, Jellaby (Edward James Hyland) round out the cast form the past.

The scenes play out on Hildegard Bechtler’s simple, but towering set, lighted by Donald Holder, like paintings on a canvas. Gregory Gale’s costumes are perfect and past and present blend on the same set with props used throughout thr two time periods (love the turtle). Particularly delightful is a scene toward the end where all of the characters are in the house at once, waltzing or turning the pages of the same books simultaneously. It’s a lovely play, but the revival is flawed in a few places.

Like the dichotomy he’s directing, Director David Leveaux has cast two groups of actors: one that’s perfect and another that seems miscast. In the past sequences, Powely and Riley shine and make you almost sad to leave them to have to journey to the future. Powley is a powerhouse, expertly portraying Thomasina as a delightful, innocent girl who can cry, “Goodie” at one moment, then let lose the genius able to unmask complicated scientific theories about heat exchange and time. She’s thoroughly delightful and engaging and Riley is the perfect balance as the carefree tutor trying not to get too serious about anything, but increasingly amazed by his pupil’s abilities. The rest of the 1809 group is fine, except for Colin. Though her delivery of humorous lines is good, she is miscast and looks awkward.

In the present, Crudup mops up the stage, leaving the less exciting Esparza and Williams in the dust while the miscast Gummer strikes various poses trying to find some place to fit in. In addition, some of the high-clipped English accents employed by some of the actors are very difficult to understand many lines are lost. It’s a shame, because Arcadia is a lovely play well worth its two-hour-and-45-minute run time.

It plays at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th St., NYC through June 19. Discounted tickets are available at Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• God’s name taken in vain

Theater Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Glitz-tech Musical is Big on Show, but Short on Substance
By Lauren Yarger

A disco ball reflecting a swirl of lights with loud '70s music isn’t only the opening for the show, it’s the theme for the whole production, supervised by Jerry Mitchell and directed by Simon Phillips in a glitzy, bright Broadway stage version of the cult film “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”

The explosion of color and sensory-attacking flashiness travels from the campy bus and set (Brian Thompson, bus concept and production design), to sparkle in the sure-to-be-Tony-nominated ’70s-era transvestite showgirl costumes (Tim Chappell and Lizzy Gardiner, design) -- there’s pink, lots of pink -- and to flash in the lights (Nick Schlieper, design)which never seem to dim. While it’s visually stimulating to say the least, it’s a bit of overkill, probably in an effort to keep us from noticing that there is little else happening in the rather weak book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott.

There are some good elements in the production. The score is comprised of popular songs from the time period played by a wonderfully full sounding orchestra under the supervision of Stephen “Spud” Murphy. His fine arrangements stand out and give new depth and meaning to lyrics when they show up in context to non-traditional action in the show. Choreography by Ross Coleman including good sounding flying divas (Jacqueline B. Arnold, Anastacia McCleskey and Ashley Spencer) are on equal footing with some standout performances in minor roles by Keala Settle as rather “butch” Shirley whom our threesome meet in a bar and Nathan Lee Graham, who does a fun Tina Turner impersonation.

So if watching a bunch of guys dress up and dance around in outrageous female garb (there’s even an opera piece) is your cup of tea, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this show. For the rest of us, however, all of elements combine to make Priscilla an enjoyable romp, but aren’t enough to disguise the weak plot and give us a real reason to spend two and a half hours watching people croon while sitting in large oversized, sequined platform shoe on top of the bus, for example.

The story follows two transvestites, Tick/Mitzi (Will Swenson), Adam/Felicia (Nick Adams) and a transsexual, recently-widowed Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), who travel in a bus they name Priscilla Queen of the Desert on their way to do a show at the Alice Springs, Australia night club run by Tick’s wife Marion (Jessica Phillips). The gig is more than a much needed job: Tick apparently left his wife years ago to embrace his feminine identity. He hides the marriage from Adam and Bernadette as well as his fears about meeting the son he left behind, 6-year-old Benji (Luke Mannikus and Ashton Woerz), who doesn’t know that his “show business” father impersonates women for a living.

Along the way, they meet various people, most of whom are hostile to the men’s lifestyle choices. An exception is Bob (C. David Johnson) who comes to their aid when Adam is attacked in the "he-man-type" bar where he goes looking for love. Dissatisfied with his mail-order-bride, Cynthia (J. Elaine Marcos), despite the fact that she can perform sexual tricks with ping pong balls, Bob hops aboard Priscilla to join the trio on their journey and eventually enjoys romance with Bernadette.

The plot often seems contrived to serve as a vehicle for a transvestite fest. It is unrealistic at times, with both Marion and Benji perfectly fine (and politically correct) in their total acceptance of Tick and his life choices. Would Adam really go to a homophobe type bar looking for love? It plays like a predictable plot device more than a poignant moment that could be used to promote understanding and give the story some depth.

On the other hand, by treating everything with a lighter touch, the show never takes itself very seriously, which allows us enjoy all of its outrageous glitz, whether that means laughing at the silly costumes and wigs, enjoying a funny rendition of “MacArthur Park” or clapping along at the great “get-’em-back-after-intermission” number of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

Priscilla plays at the Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway, NYC. Discounted tickets are available at

Christians might also like to know:
Show posts a Mature advisory
Sexual dialogue
Sexually suggestive moves (the ping pong sexual trick goes way too far in my opinion)
Scantily-clad actors
Obviously, cross dressing/transgender

Theater Review: Ghetto Klown

John Leguizamo’s Autobiographical Journey to Find Meaning By Lauren Yarger John Leguizamo shares his journey of battling forces that didn’t always work in his favor, and which he doesn’t always understand -- a.k.a. life -- in a autobiographical one-man show playing Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre.

The TV and film actor returns to the stage (previous works include Freak, Sexaholic … a Love Story, Spic-o-rama and Mambo Mouth) for a “soul exchange” in which he shares, among other things, stories about growing up with an abusive father, his failed first marriage, his almost-failed second marriage, and how he got along as a Latino actor in show business, eventually starring with some of Hollywood’s biggest names in films like “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everythng Julie Newmar,” the Leonardo DiCaprio version of “Romeo & Juliet” and “Carlito’s Way.”

The story is recreated for clarity, he tells us, but there is a lot in the two-and-a-half-hour performance, including vulnerability and willingness to share that makes the story interesting and personal. Humor, video projections, music and dance moves enhance the production, directed by Fisher Stevens.

Most of all, there is a feeling of truth in the actor’s discoveries that fame and fortune aren’t all he thought they would be. Friends come and go, he has to come to terms with his father and he finds therapy and what he comes to define as “religion” in writing and performing his plays.

Ghetto Klown runs through July 10 at the Lyceum, 149 West 45th St., NYC. For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250.

Christians might also like to know:
 Show posts a Mature advisory
 Strong Language
 God’s name taken in vain
 Sexual dialogue
 Drug use depicted
Note: Some of the jokes are in Spanish.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick Hit Theater Review: Double Falsehood

Haley Treider and Clayton Apgar. Photo by Joan Marcus

Double Falsehood
Off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street, NYC
Adapted by Lewis Theobald from a work attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
Director: Brian Kulick

Brothers, one good, one bad -- Roderick (Bryce Gill) and Henriquez (Slate Holmgren)-- view for their inheritance from the Duke (Philip Goodwin). Roderick wins favor, especially following Henriquez' behavior, which includes raping Violante (Mackenzie Meehan), forcing Leonora (Hayley Treider) into a marriage by striking a deal with her unfeeling father, Don Bernardo (Jon Devries) and betraying her true love, and his supposed friend, Julio (Clayton Apgar). Vilante goes undercover as a shepherd (you'll onky know this from dialogue) when Henriquez rejects her, but foresooth, all ends that ends well, though we're not exactly sure why (see lowlights).
The play, which I'm surprised has been attribited to the Bard -- it just doesn't have the feel to me, but what do I know? -- seem to be missing pieces and is rather confusing. And the idea of a Violante being OK with being raped didn't endear me to the story.

Set and costume designer Oana Botez-Ban uses multiple oriental rugs for backdrop and on the floor, but what they signify is a mystery. The cast's constant repositioning of the rugs in act one proves very distracting.

There isn't any chemistry between Leonora and Julio.

DeVries gives a robust performance and Holmgren does a nice job of protraying the double falsehood of the reprehensible, spoiled brat who innocently justifies his bad behavior.

• For ticket and other information, visit
Christians might also like to know:
• Rape scene

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tyne Daly, Mercedes Ruehl to Announce Outer Critics Nominations

Tyne Daly, left, and Mercedes Ruehl, right, will announce the nominees for the 2010-11 season Outer Critics Circle Awards Tuesday, April 26

Outer Critics Circle will post award nominations in 23 categories and are the first major Broadway/Off-Broadway award nominees of the New York theater season.

Celebrating its 61st season of bestowing awards of excellence in the field of theater, the Outer Critics Circle is an association with members affiliated with more than 90 newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and theatre publications in America and abroad.

Winners will be announced on Monday, May 16 and the annual awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 26 at Sardi’s Restaurant.

Quick Hit Theater Review: Room

Ellen Lauren
The Women's Project & SITI Company
at the Julia Miles Theatre, 424 West 55th St., NYC
Adapted by Jocelyn Clarke, based on the writings of Virgina Woolf
Director: Anne Bogart

Virgina Woolf (Lauren) shares her thoughts about writing, sex, repression and how to view life.

Lauren gives a deep performance. A window, visible through some lighting and scrim (Neil Patel, scenic design; Christopher Akerlind, original lighting design) highlight the otherwise plain stage to create Woolf's "room of her own." If you like Woolf, you'll enjoy her words.

If you're not a Woolf fan, it's kind of dry. Director Anne Bogart (and "movement dramaturg" Barney O'Hanlon) give Lauren some movements to try to depict the opposing forces pulling and propelling Woolf's dialogue, but the result, with odd and awkward arm movements that jolt her around the stage, is unintentionally comical, making her look as though she has just stepped on a live wire, instead of being torn.

• Tickets are available by calling 212-239-6200 or at Room is performed Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7; Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8; Sundays at 3 and 7:30 pm through March 27.

Christians might also like to know:
• God’s name taken in vain
• Sexual dialogue

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Broadway Remembers Beverly Randolph

The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed tonight at 8 pm in memory of veteran production stage manager Beverley Randolph who passed away yesterday at age 59.

Randolph stage managed more than 20 Broadway productions over the course of a 30-plus year career. At the time of her death and since 2009, she was production supervisor for the musical The Addams Family. Her credits include the Kander & Ebb musical Curtains, the musical Little Women, the 2002 revival of Into the Woods, the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music, Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award®-winning best musical Passion, Kander & Ebb’s The Kiss of the Spider Woman, William Finn’s Falsettos, the Tony Award-winning best musical Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Follies in Concert at Avery Fisher Hall, the 1987 revival of Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret and Neil Simon’s Chapter Two. In the 1980’s, she stage managed eight Broadway productions for legendary producer/director Hal Prince.

Randolph was born in Norristown, PA and attended Ithaca College. She is survived by her husband James Eisner, a theatrical production electrician. She is also survived by her mother, Sarah DaCosta; sister, Carolyn Borlo; brother-in-law Joseph Borlo; and niece, Sarah Randolph Borlo.

A memorial service for family and friends will be held Monday, May 23 at 2 pm at Christ Episcopal Church in Pompton Lakes, NJ. Additionally, a memorial for the Broadway community will be held at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre at a date to be announced. Donations can be made to The Actors’ Fund in the name of Beverley Randolph.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quick Hit Theater Review: Mother of God!

Mother of God!
New Perspective Theatre Company
Richard Shepard Theatre
309 East 26th St., NYC
Writer: Michele A. Miller
Director: Melody Brooks

A sort-of vaudeville, three-stooges perspective on what might have been the "real" story behind the Nativity. Miriam (Keona Welch), you'll know her by the name Mary, is betrothed to the much older, righteous-obsessed Joseph (Charles E. Gerber) when she is filled with excitement and fire by a stranger wearing a mask and claiming that he has been sent from heaven. Whether he is Apollo or a Roman soldier masquerading as God isn't clear, but either way, Miriam is sure that the child she has conceived is divine because in her mind, she's never been touched by man. Her guilt-trip-laying mother Hannah (Marisa Petsakos) is less thrilled than the pious Joseph, but Miriam's cousin Elizabeth (Karin de la Penta) cooks up a plan to make people think the child might be the Messiah. Meanwhile, Caspar (Keith Walker), Balthasar (Erwin Falcon) and Melchior (Ray Rodriguez), three bumbling travelers, follow a star in the east.

• The cast tries hard and Welch has a lovely presence on stage
• I liked Walker's British wise man
• Falcon's Ninja-like stance when he argues with Melchior is funny
• Rodriguez' trip over the set and fall in front of Mary as she was giving birth was pretty funny (although I'm not certain it was scripted.)

• It's not funny. I love a good parody, even about religious topics, but this is more than two hours of jokes falling flat.
• Drum rolls, whistles and other kooky sound effects after every joke, although sometimes they are helpful, because you wouldn't have known the line was supposed to be funny otherwise.
• Cardboard scenery that says "traveling show to schools" rather than "farce."

Tickets $18 ($15 students and seniors) available at or by phone at 866-811-4111.

Christians might also like to know:
• Not the Nativity story as you know it....(but it isn't supposed to be, so don't be offended)
• Mary says that Jupiter, Apollo and the Hebrew God are all one in the same.
• Language
• The Lord's name is used in the phrase, "Oh, my god!" when Hannah is exclaiming about Mary's pregnancy, but it could be interpreted that she's truly crying ot to him.

Quick Hit Theater Review: Cactus Flower

Maxwell Caulfield, Jenni Barber, Lois Robbins and Anthony Reimer. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Cactus Flower Off-Broadway

Through April 24 at the Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd St., NYC

Writer: Abe Barrows, based on a play by Barillet and Gredy Director: Michael Bush Summary: Dentist Julian Winston (Maxwell Caufield) pretends he's married so that his girlfriend, Toni (Jenni Barber), won't expect commitment. When she almost takes her life because she can't have Julian, writer-neighbor Igor (Jeremy Borg) saves her and the act forces Julian into action. He'll divorce his wife, he tells Toni. There's just one problem. Toni wants to meet her to make sure there are no hard feelings. Julian turns to his devoted nurse Stephanie (Lois Robbins), who secretly has feelings for the dentist herself, to pose as his wife. As the farce continues, Julian enlists his pal Harvey (Anthony Reimer) to pretend to be his "wife's" new love interest. Meanwhile, patient Senor Sanchez (John Herrara) courts Stephanie, Harvey's girlfriend (Emily Walton) is confused (and we can't blame her) and vampy Mrs. Durant (Robin Skye) flashes her pearly whites at the dentist in the hope that something besides a patient-doctor relationship might develop between them. Highlights: • Tunes from the 1960s are used while sets are being changed. They're fun with audience members singing along -- and wishing they would continue instead of cutting away for the next scene with Toni putting a banana in the oven or being afraid of an electric razor... • Two scenes where the crowd meets at a club are well done. We're treated to some fun dance moves from the era and Robins and Reimer are amusing as a couple trying to show affection definitely not felt by the characters.

Lowlights: • The script is incredibly dated. What might have been considered whimsical and funny back in the pre-women-lib era comes off rather sexist and non-farcical in 2011 (there's a reason why this play hasn't been revived before). Wig designer Edward J. Wilson gives Barber a Goldie Hawn hairdo (Hawn won won an Oscar for the role of Toni in the film version), but we're not fooled. The cast tries hard to put some feeling into their roles, but the Novocaine of the deadened script proves too strong, especially at two and a half hours with an intermission. (Was there really a time when it was accepted that women were this stupid?)

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

--Lauren Yarger

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Theater Review: That Championship Season

Championship Season Turns into Full-Court Press
By Lauren Yarger
Four teammates and their coach reunite to recapture the glory of their high school basketball championship season, but 20 years later, when they meet in 1972, the heady memories turn into a pressurized full-court press as the men face challenges of health, success and loyalty on the other side of their once glorious youth.

George Sikowski (Jim Gaffigan) is now the mayor of the town, somewhere in the Lackawanna Valley, and promises campaign manager and junior high principal James Daley (Kiefer Sutherland) the superintendent of schools job if he’s re-elected. George’s success depends on a big campaign contribution from Phil Romano (Chris Noth), but it seem both he and James might want to tip the ball to George‘s opponent.

Using the influence he still has with his former athletes, Coach (Brian Cox), who isn’t in the best of health these days himself, plies the men with drink -- even James’ alcoholic brother Tom (Jason Patric) -- and tries to rally loyalty and teamwork, but he might get blocked. There are several turnovers in an even match seemed destined for overtime until a foul is called: Phil had an affair with George’s wife complicating the mayor’s decision to accept his help.

That Championship Season by Jason Miller was a "nothing-but-net" winner of the NY Drama Critics Circle, the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize when it premiered on Broadway in 1973, but its dialogue, full of the men’s racial prejudices and degradation of women, makes it seem more a lucky rim shot today.

Gregory Mosher directs a talented cast including two of television’s most popular stars. Sutherland does a good job creating a character not reminiscent of “24’s” Jack Bauer and has great chemistry with Noth of “Law & Order” and “Sex in the City” fame. Patric scores a three-pointer for his portrayal of defeated-in-life Tom, whose funny sarcasm increases with his level of inebriation.

Mosher applies zone, rather than man-to-man direction with the rest of the cast, however. Gaffigan seems miscast and never develops a rhythm with the other players. Cox’s portrayal causes the coach to look more like a bench warmer than the controlling manipulator the dialogue tells us he is.

MVP of this production, however, goes to Michael Yeargan for his functional and visually satisfying design of the elegant stained-glass, wood-trimmed set of the old home the coach inherited from his mother.

The limited engagement runs through May 29 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th St., NYC. For tickets call 212-239-6200 or 800-432-7250.

Christians might also like to know:
Lord’s name taken in vain
Sexual dialogue

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spider-man's Newest Opening Date is June 14

A scene from “SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark” © Jacob Cohl

Spider-man Turn Off The Dark has rescheduled its opening night for Tuesday, June 14. In addition, to allow rehearsal time for the new changes being implemented in the show, performances from Tuesday, April 19 to Wednesday, May 11 have been cancelled with preview performances resuming on Thursday, May 12.

As a result of the new opening night, the performances on June 12, 14 and both performances on June 15 have been cancelled. Additional shows have been added on June 13 at 7:30 pm and June 17 at 2 pm. All ticketholders for the cancelled performances who purchased their tickets through Ticketmaster or at the box office will be offered the option of exchanging or returning their tickets. Ticketholders who purchased through other outlets should contact the point of purchase for further information.

As previously announced, Philip William McKinley (who directed Hugh Jackman in his Tony® Award-winning performance in The Boy From Oz) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa have joined the creative team to help implement new staging and book rewrites, respectively. The expanded creative team also includes musical consultant Paul Bogaev (Tarzan, Bombay Dreams, Aida, Sunset Boulevard) and sound designer Peter Hylenski (Elf, The Scottsboro Boys, Rock of Ages, Shrek), both of whom have already been working on improving the musical arrangements and sound quality (respectively) over the past few weeks. Due to the new schedule, director and co-book writer Julie Taymor will no longer continue in her day-to-day duties with the production.

Featuring direction by Tony- Award winner Taymor (The Tempest, Across The Universe, The Lion King), music and lyrics by 22-time Grammy-Award winners Bono and The Edge (pictured at left are Bono and Taymor © 2009)
and a book co-written by Taymor and Glen Berger (Underneath The Lintel) Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark is the most ambitious production ever undertaken on Broadway at some $65 million.

The musical plays at Broadway’s Foxwoods Theatre, 213 West 42nd St., NYC. For discounted tickets, visit

Note: Because the show still is in previews, I haven't reviewed it. I did take in a recent matinee to get a sense of content. If you are going to one of the previews before the hiatus and retooling, you can contact me at if you are looking for a Christian perspective. For shows after the changes, I'll reserve opinion again until I can review the new version.

--Lauren Yarger

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Theater Review: Good People

A Better-Than-Good Performance and Play
By Lauren Yarger
Frances McDormand gives a fabulous performance as a down-on-her-luck South Boston woman trying to find a job in David Lindsay-Abaire’s new play Good People in its Broadway world premiere presented by Manhattan Theatre Club.

Margaret (McDormand) is fired from her cashier job after showing up late again because Dottie (Estelle Parsons), her landlord who babysits for her mentally-challenged daughter, didn’t show up. She pleads with her boss, Stevie (Patrick Carroll) to keep her on, even at reduced wages, but Stevie, the son of her best friend growing up in the depressed, working class “Southie” neighborhood of Boston, has his own career to think about and refuses.

At their regular bingo session, Dottie says she might have to give Margaret’s apartment to her son if she can’t come up with the rent. Bingo mate Jean (Becky Ann Baker) says that she just ran into old school chum Mike (Tate Donovan), a doctor, who has done well for himself -- he’s lace curtain, as the Southies disdainfully refer to the wealthy-- and suggests Margaret contact her old boyfriend about a job.

She barges into his office, but Mike isn’t hiring and isn’t all too happy to be reminded of his less sophisticated roots. In the course of conversation, he mentions that his wife is throwing him a birthday party and after a verbal game of chicken, Margaret wins an invite. After all, some of the folks attending might be hiring, Mike suggests. When he calls to cancel, she assumes that he just doesn’t want her there and decides to call his bluff and show up any way.

When she arrives on the doorstep of their elegant suburban home (John Lee Beatty designs the sets, which are changed with lightning speed), Mike’s African-American wife, Kate (Renée Elise Goldsberry) thinks the caterer has come to clear tables for the party which really was canceled when their daughter became ill. Mike isn’t too happy to see her, especially since he‘s never told his wife, with whom he has been in marriage counseling, about his past relationship with Margaret. Kate’s excited, however, by the possibility of hearing stories about her husband and his old neighborhood, about which he’s been very silent, and she invites Margaret to stay for an impromptu wine-and-cheese party.

The polite conversation soon turns nasty with hints of blackmail and questions about the paternity of Margaret’s daughter. What becomes the most intriguing question is: just who are the “good people” here? It might not be whom you think.

Daniel Sullivan directs with excellent timing, especially with interrupted dialogue which makes it sound like real conversation rather than lines being said. He guides excellent performances across the board. McDormand is perfect, right down to the Southie accent. Look for a Tony Award nomination, with a probable statue for her. Parsons, in a minor roll, creates a character both comical (selling silly looking bunny crafts) and frightening in her apparent lack of concern about Margaret and her daughter. Baker, as the supportive friend who spars with Dottie, lends just the right balance. Donovan and Carroll also deliver strong performances and Goldsberry is a master of intonation, giving a number of lines multiple dimensions and humor. Top-notch performances are made easier, of course, when the script is good, and with Good People, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Lindsay-Abaire proves once again that he is the master of play structure.

Catch it at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC. extended through May 29.
Discounted tickets are available at

Christians might also like to know:
Lord’s Name taken in vain

Spider-Man Delaying for Overhaul

The NY Times is reporting that Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark until June for an overhaul of the beleaguered show. More details should be released by the producers this week. Here's a link to the Times article:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Discounted Broadway Tickets

Broadway will be hopping in the next few months as shows open to get in under the deadline for Tony Award consideration. The blitz starts today with the opening of David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People starring Tate Donovan, Estelle Parsons and Frances McDormand.

You can follow the reviews here and purchase discounted tickets through Givenik. A portion of the sales benefit Masterwork Productions. Off-Broadway shows offer discounts as well.

Click here to purchase tickets. And enjoy all the wonderful theater New York has to offer.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

New Play Finalists Announced for Steinberg/Theater Critics Award

Compulsion by Rinne Groff
Detroit by Lisa D’Amour

The Good Counselor by Kathryn Grant
The History of Invulnerability by David Bar Katz
Nine Circles by Bill Cain
Splinters by Emily Schwend
The American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) has selected six finalists for the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award recognizing playwrights for the best scripts that premiered professionally outside New York City during 2010.
The top award of $25,000 and two citations of $7,500 each, plus commemorative plaques, will be presented April 2 at Actors Theatre of Louisville during the Humana Festival of New American Plays. At $40,000, Steinberg/ATCA is the largest national new play award of its kind.

The finalists:
Compulsion by Rinne Groff, is a painfully close-up look at the destructive nature of obsession. Loosely based on the life of Meyer Levin, the fictional tale tracks an American writer’s all-consuming crusade to have “The Diary of Anne Frank” printed in the United States and then to have his own theatrical script produced, a script he believes is being rejected because it focuses on Frank’s religion. The co-production premiered Feb. 4, 2010 at Yale Repertory Theatre and then Sept. 16 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

Detroit by Lisa D’Amour, bowed Sept. 9 at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. It depicts a classic suburban family who welcome a quirky couple who have moved into the long-empty house next door. During a series of backyard barbeques, the couples learn each other’s secrets in a serio-comic exposure of middle-class life.

The Good Counselor by Kathryn Grant, questions the definition of a good mother. It centers on an African-American lawyer defending a young white racist charged with murdering her three-week old baby. His own investigation forces him to re-examine his own mother’s choice to favor his development and to abandon his younger brother. The work premiered July 15 at Premiere Stages, based at Kean University in Union, New Jersey.

The History of Invulnerability by David Bar Katz, uses the life of Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of Superman, to explore the roots of art and how it relates to the real world. It contends that the nebbishy Siegel evolved Superman as a fantasy to counteract his guilt and impotence over the horror of the Holocaust half a world away. It premiered April 3 at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

Nine Circles by Bill Cain, follows the harrowing descent into a very recognizable hell by a young American soldier accused of an atrocity in Iraq. His journey through the bureaucratic and social maze mirrors Dante’s vision of an arduous odyssey to find redemptive self-knowledge. The play premiered Oct. 14 at Marin Theatre Company.

Splinters by Emily Schwend, was first produced June 29 as part of the Cultural Development Corporation’s Source Festival in Washington, D.C. The drama portrays a teenager and her parents struggling in disparate dysfunctional ways to cope with the disappearance of a young daughter.
ATCA began in 1977 to honor new plays produced at regional theaters outside New York City, where there are many awards. No play is eligible if it has gone on to a New York production within the award year. These six finalists were selected from 27 eligible scripts submitted by ATCA members.
They were evaluated by a committee of 13 theater critics, led by chairman Wm. F. Hirschman of the South Florida Theater Review. Other committee members are Misha Berson, Seattle Times; Bruce Burgun, Bloomington Herald Times and Back Stage; Michael Elkin, Jewish Exponent (Pa.); Jay Handelman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Pam Harbaugh, Florida Today (Melbourne, Fla.); Leonard Jacobs, The Clyde Fitch Report; Elizabeth Keill, Independent Press (Morristown, N.J.); Elizabeth Maupin, Elizabeth Maupin on Theater (Orlando, Fla.); Wendy Parker, The Village Mill (Midlothian, Va.); David Sheward, Back Stage (New York); Herb Simpson, and, and Tim Treanor, DC Theater Scene (Washington, D.C.)

For more information on ATCA, visit For more information on the Steinberg/ATCA Award, contact Wm. F. Hirschman, chair of the ATCA New Play Committee, at or 954-478-1123, or Christopher Rawson, chair of ATCA’s Executive Committee, at or 412-216-1944.

Gracewell Prodiuctions

Gracewell Prodiuctions
Producing Inspiring Works in the Arts
Custom Search
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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was 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. 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


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.

All Posts on this Blog