Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Theater Review: The Submission

 Jonathan Groff and Rutina Wesley. Photo © Joan Marcus
The Submission
By Jeff Talbott
Directed by Walter Bobbie
MCC Theater

Danny (Jonathan Groff) finally has one of his plays accepted for production in a prestigious play festival, but there's just one problem. The author's name is not his. It's Shaleeha G’ntamobi, a "Black" sounding women's he made up because he was sure that if he used his own name, the play would be rejected. After all, no one would believe that a young, gay, white guy could truly understand the plight of the black woman trying to get out of the projects. He hires actress Emilie (Rutina Wesley, know to TV's "True Blood" fans) to play the part of the author and he coaches her as she attends rehearsals and oversees rewrites as the play is produced.

At first, things seem to go well and Danny's partner, Pete (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and best friend, Trevor (Will Rogers) enjoy adding another friend to their circle. Things get complicated, however, when Emilie and Trevor tangle romantically, and Emilie and Danny start to clash on controlling aspects of the play. After a while, it's not clear who, if anyone, has an exclusive claim on prejudice.

Tight direction and strong performances. Emilie and Danny get in each others' faces about every kind of prejudice. Laugh-out-loud, make-you squirm stuff you have heard or thought, and particularly amusing if you work in theater. Talbott's first play is full of sizzling dialogue, clever turns of phrase and a welcome boldness. Thoroughly enjoyable.

After a brisk pace, the ending seems a little stretched out.

Other information:
The Submission runs Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., NYC through Oct. 22. Tickets:  (212) 352 3101.

Christians might also like to know:
God's name taken in vain
Homosexual activity
Sexual content

Quick Hit Theater Review: Lemon Sky

 Kellie Overbey, Kevin Kilner, Keith Nobbs. Photo Richard Termine © 2011
Lemon Sky
By Lanford Wilson
Directed by Jonathan Silverstein
Keen Company
The Clurman Theatre

In an autobiographical play from the life of Wilson, Alan (Keith Nobbs) moves from Detroit to San Diego in the late 1950s to live with his father, Douglas (Kevin Kilner), a womanizer who abandoned him and his mother years ago to be with his current wife, Ronnie (Kellie Overby). Also living in the home are Alan's two half brothers,  Jerry (Logan Riley Bruner) and Jack (Zachary Mackiewicz) and two foster daughters, uptight Penny (Amie Tedesco) and sexy Carol (Alyssa May Gold).

Alan hits it off with Ronnie, and likes his younger siblings, but the situation goes from awkward to hostile with his father after Douglas demands that Alan get a job and start paying for his keep. Revelations about the past come out and when Doug, enjoying his hobby of soft-porn photography, hits on Penny, he might just have destroyed another marriage.

Performances of the three main characters are good. Nobbs is likable as the young man trying to give this new family the benefit of the doubt. Kilner is right on as the sleasy dad and Overby gives a lot of layers to the woman caught in between. Particularly noteworthy is Tedesco's mousy introvert. Some vintage furniture sets the stage nicely (design by Bill Clarke).

Wilson's technique of having Alan talk to the audience in between seeing action that he just told us about gets old, especially with a lot of repeated dialogue (it feels a little long at two hours and 20 minutes). Alan keeps promising us that a scene is coming, but nothing really happens until the final scene, which explodes. The family chows down on hotdog buns, minus the hotdogs (was the prop budget that tight?)  and Carol appears to have bruises and cuts that never are explained.

Other information:
The Clurman is at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd St., NYC,between 9th and 10th avenues). Discounted tickets are available by clicking here .

Christians might also like to know:
God's name taken in vain
Sexual Dialogue

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sneak Peek of Broadway's Godspell Revival

I was invited to a press preview yesterday of a rehearsal for the upcoming Broadway revival of Godspell (scheduled to open Nov. 7 at Circle in the Square Theatre. Previews begin Oct. 13).

Composer Stephen Schwartz, director Danile Goldstein (who helmed a production of Godspell at the Paper Mill Playhouse), choreographer Christopher Gattelli and the cast (featuring TV actor Hunter Parrish as Jesus) were on hand to present three numbers from the show (Schwartz was hearing them, and arrangements by Michael Holland for the first time).

The young cast, selected from more than 700 auditions over six months, according to Goldstein, energetically presented "Bless the Lord," (video below featuring Lindsay Mendez) "All Good Gifts" (video above, featuring Telly Leung) and a new depiction of the telling of the Good Samaritan, (pictured below) which creatively uses a ladder, some newspaper and a drum. (This number actually was written by cast member Celisse Henderson as her audition piece for the musical.)

Producer Ken Davenport was on hand and promised that you haven't seen Godspell until you have seen this production. Discounted tickets are available by cliking here for our Givenik affiliate.
--Lauren Yarger
Hunter Parrish
Daniel Goldstein and Christopher Gattelli
Stephen Schwartz
The Good Samaritan

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Theater Review: Temporal Powers

Aidan Redmond and Rosie Benton
in Temporal Powers
(© Richard Termine)
A Lost Engaging Tale of Greed and Love
By Lauren Yarger
Just what is right and wrong, and who gets to decide? Those questions weigh heavily in the balance of a troubled marriage and poverty in Temporal Powers, the second of Teresa Deevy's plays being resurrected by the fine Mint Theater Company.
Michael and Min Donovan (Aidan Redmond and Rosie Benton) find themselves living in a dilapidated hovel after being evicted from their farm in 1927 Ireland. Dependent on neighbor Moses Barron Eli James) to bring a few scraps of food and a blanket, Min turns on her husband, blaming him for taking away any chance she had at a better life when he was content to be a poor farmer. Mick feels that he has been true to himself by doing the work that was put before him and not seeking wealth.
When Mick finds a sum of money hidden in the dwelling, Min starts making plans for a new life in America. Her husband, wants to do what's right, but even after it appears that no-good Ned Cooney (Con Horgan) hid the money after robbing the post office, Min convinces Mick to consider keeping it. He seeks the advice of their ineffectual priest Father O'Brien (Robertson Carricart).
Convinced that Michael won't heed her wishes, Min plots with Cooney to take the money by force, unaware that Michael might just change what he believes is "right" because of his love for her. Helping and hindering in the process of defining "right" and "wrong" are a group of neighbors: Jim Slattery (Paul Carlin), Ned's long-suffering wife, Maggie (Bairbre Dowling) and Daisy (Fiana Toibin), Moses sharp-tongued mother who disapproves of Lizzie Brennan (Wrenn Schmidt) who has her cap set for Moses. How much has their poverty influenced their morals?
Deevy creates deep and likable characters, despite their flaws, who grapple with some very raw and real issues to which we all can relate, even now,  some nine decades after it was written (the title, after all, refers to the power of wordly situations over spiritual concerns). The Mint's Artistic Director Jonathan Bank, who also directed last year's Wife to James Whelan in the company's Deevy Project, deftly helms Temporal on Vicki R. Davis' simple set on the small stage (a side entrance proves problematic in the scheme of things, but otherwise nicely creates the hovel). There are strong performances across the board here, an we especially can't help but sputter at Toibin's creation of the annoyingly acerbic, smothering mother.
The play runs two and a half hours with two intermissions through Oct. 9 at  311 West 43rd St., NYC. Tickets are available by calling the Mint box office at 212/315-0231 or go to
Christians might also like to know:
Great play about great issues. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Theater Review: Follies

This Revival Isn't a Folly at All
By Lauren Yarger
Thank you Stephen Sondheim. Thank you for a show that provides great roles and great songs for women of a certain age. And thank you to the producers who were smart enough to realize that bringing Follies back to the Broadway stage was no folly of an idea at all.

James Goldman's book offers a very simple plot: people who were involved in a sort of Ziegfeld Follies show return to the theater for one last reunion before it is demolished. Sally Plummer (Bernadette Peters) was one of the "Weismann Girls" in the theater's hey day, before she married Buddy (Danny Burstein). The reunion provides a diversion from their troubled marriage and Sally hopes to spend time with old flame Ben Stone (Ron Raines), who was Buddy's best friend.

Ben and his wife, Phyllis (an enchanting Jan Maxwell), who was Sally's old roommate, also aren't happy together, and Ben considers running off with Sally. The emotional encounters between husbands and wives and between the would-be lovers play out against memories of the past, depicted by shadows of their former selves living the follies of their youth. (Lora Lee Gayer and Christian Delcroix are young Sally and Buddy and Kirsten Scott and Nick Verina are the younger Stones).

Mostly the show is about the music, however, (James Moore directs) with terrific numbers showcasing vocal talent (Raines is dreamy; Sondheim's lyrics are haunting) enhanced by choreography by Warren Carlyle. Jane Hoodyshell gets a comedic tour de force as a faded Weismann girl and delivers a showstopping "Broadway Baby." Broadway and London star Elaine Paige shines as Carlotta Campion and Mary Beth Peil gets a good turn as sultry French Solange LaFitte.

If that's not enough to enjoy the revival (and, it is), director Eric Schaeffer creates one of those "forever-etched-in-the memory" moments when Peters sings the beautifully moving "Losing My Mind." Dressed in an elegant royal blue evening dress (Gregg Barnes, costume design) against a backdrop of a red, flower-petal-like arched set (Derek McLane, set design; Natasha Katz, lighting design), Peters delivers the gut-wrenching, tormented thoughts of a woman who is obsessed with her love for the man who got away. It's simply breath taking and is Peters at the top of her game.

This production of Follies, which transferred from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. runs through Dec. 30 at the Marquis Theater, 1535 Broadway, NYC. Discounted tickets are available by clicking here.

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

Theater Review: Completeness

Scientific, Emotional Components of Relationships Crash in a Nice All-in-One Bundle
By Lauren Yarger
A computer geek and a molecular biologist partner on an algorithm and suddenly romance is in bloom, along with yeast populations in a petri dish in Itamra Moses' new play Completeness in its new York premiere at Playwrights Horizons.

Molly (Aubrey Dollar) talks (in very technical and complex language) about mapping DNA through studying bait and prey and Elliot (Karl Miller) shares his passion for one day solving the mathematically unsolvable "salesman problem," involving probabilities for the routes of a traveling salesman. Their circuits meld, thanks to the playwright's skill at creating likable, real characters and putting them into a situation filled with humor and human emotion.

Neither has a good track record with relationships. Molly's ex and the head of her department at the university, Don (Brian Avers), doesn't understand why she suddenly won't take his calls and when he realizes he's been replaced in her affections by Elliott, he might just pull the funding for her research. Meanwhile, Elliott just got out of a serious relationship with Lauren (Meredith Forlenza) and is sure he probably will have a hard time committing to Molly too.

The two find themselves reverting to past behaviors: she uses bait and prey to mask hurt, then is hurt to find that she can't wipe the slate clean of anything to mask; he fails, then fails to understand why he fails in a tribute to the unsolvable salesman problem. All of that is an allegory for the algorithm they write together. The system overloads as they search for a solution and there is a crash, very nicely staged (David Zinn; scenic and costume design; Russell H. Champa; Rocco DiSanti, projection and video design; Bray Poor, original music and sound).

Pam MacKinnon deftly directs and helps  Forlenza and Avers make stunning transformations into other characters who interact with the couple. Moses shows skill at using dialogue that is distinctive for each character and wraps up a neat all-in-one package of interesting topic, real characters and multi-layered plot.

The limited edition of this New York premiere runs Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, (416 West 42nd St., through Sunday, Sept. 25.  For subscription and ticket information to all Playwrights Horizons productions, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, Noon to 8 pm daily, or purchase online at www.playwrighthorizons.orgs.

Quick-Hit Theater Review: The Wood

John Viscardi, Vladimir Versailles & Melanie Charles. (c)Sandra Coudert.
The Wood
By Dan Klores
Directed by David Bar Katz

The life of  NY Daily News columnist Mike McAlary (John Viscardi), who won a Pulitzer for his coverage of the 1997 rape of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima (Vladimir Versailles) by New York City police officers. The popular, and well-paid columnist, shaken by a news story that results in a massive lawsuit being brought against the paper, struggles with his editor (Thomas Kopache), professional jealousy aimed at him by friend and colleague Tommy (David Deblinger, who embodies the old newspaper reporter persona well) and  concern from his wife, Alice (Kim Director), who wants him to focus on his cancer treatments instead of chasing news leads. McAlary's quest for the wood -- a newspaper slang meaning the large banner headline on page one -- prevails, however, and a tip leads him to the hospital where he talks to traumatized Louima and his wife, Micheline (nicely portrayed by Melanie Charles).

McAlary is a good subject for a play -- an old-fashioned newsman who was relentless in his pursuit of the truth. John McDermott's set design incorporates hospital-room-divider curtains to make scene changes that keep us mindful of the cancer that slowly draws a veil over McAlary's life. Steve Channon provides projection design that further expands the curtains (and the use of newspaper clippings is a nice touch).

Ironically, the script needs a good editor. Events play out of sequence, disrupting the plot. The rape is detailed in dialogue more than once, then we are forced to watch in an end-of-act-one scene that defies the "leave-them-wanting-more" axiom that usually takes us to intermission. The laborious script never is clear about whether our focus should be on McAlary as a journalist, as a husband or as a dying man (at times focus shifts to Louima as the prejudice-encountering immigrant who came here for a better life). There is no pyramid for this story, or even an inverted one, which as a journalist, McAlary would have liked. The actors try, but the pace is slow.

Christians might light to know:
Graphic Violence

More information:
The Wood runs Off-Broadway through Oct. 9 at Rattlestick Theater, 224 Waverly Place, NYC (off 7th Avenue South, between Perry and West 11th streets.) Tickets are available by calling 212-279-6200, or visit

Quick Hit Theater Review: Dally with the Devil

Elizabeth Norment, Elizabeth A. Davis and Erika Rolfsrud . Photo by Jon Kandel
Dally with the Devil
By Victor L Cahn
Directed by Eric Parness

Everything seems so peaceful on oceanfront patio of the Cape Cod home (Jisun Kim, set design). A perfect place for Charlotte (Erika Rolfsrud), a partner in the controversial political blog to relax when she's not taking down the next corrupt politician. Two visitors bring a wave of unrest, however. Charlotte's old professor, Irene (Elizabeth Norment), now a campaign advisor in a Senate race, drops some disparaging information about her man's conservative opponent. It seems he might not be the big war hero everyone thinks. Charlotte, full of journalistic integrity, isn't so quick to bite. She won't run anything without a full investigation. While she is digging, she gets a visit from Megan (Elizabeth A. Davis),  an advisor for the conservative candidate. When her pleas for Charlotte to drop the investigation fail, she fires back with some allegations about Irene. Just how far will Charlotte go in her quest to print the truth, and will she stop when she suddenly finds herself the target of some political ammunition being fired by both sides?

A nice look at the anatomy of the behind-the-scenes in a political race with pretty even-handed treatment for all points of view. The three actresses do a nice job portraying their characters and interacting with each other in a realistic way. Brisk paced 90 minutes.

Some of the dialogue sounds contrived to provide exposition and there's a touch of stereotyping when it comes to the conservative candidate and his spokesperson (Megan is perceived as stupid; there's the inevitable "hiding the true gay self" that seems to be part of many conservative characters portrayed on stage), but neither is  too distracting from the interesting plot.

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

More information:
The show runs through Oct. 8 at Off-Broadway's Beckett Theatre, 410 West 42nd St., NYC. Tickets are available by calling 212-239-6200 or by visiting

Friday, September 16, 2011

Season of Family Friendly Theater Kicks of at The Old Vic

The New Victory Theater, 209 West 42nd St., NYC., will open its season with The Little Prince by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar, a stage adaptation of the beloved French fable by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which will run from October 1 through 16. Produced by Bristol Riverside Theatre, Cummins and Scoullar’s The Little Prince will feature actors alongside life-size puppets built by Monkey Boys Productions of Sesame Street, Avenue Q and Little Shop of Horrors fame and designed by Emmy Award-winner and Muppet Workshop member Michael Schupbach.
Stranded in the desert after crash landing, a pilot awakens to the sound of an inquisitive little voice asking for, please, a picture. A new friendship thus begins and the pilot discovers how the little prince has traveled from planet to planet, exploring the mysteries of grown-ups and the stars, searching for what is most important in life. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's story becomes an enthralling theatrical event with interplanetary projections and personality-packed puppets. Stretching the imagination in endless enchanting directions, The Little Prince reminds us that "it is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."
Cummins & Scoullar’s The Little Prince is directed by Susan D. Atkinson; set is designed by Tom Gleeson and costumes are designed by Millie Hiibel. Lighting and sound is by Ryan O’Gara and William Neal, respectively. The cast features Lenny C. Haas as the Aviator alongside puppeteers and performers Eileen Cella, Carol Anne Raffa, Michael Schupbach and Robert Smythe.

Photo credit: Meghan Moore
The Complete World of Sports (abridged)
Reduced Shakespeare Company Sonoma, CA

The New Victory Theater

October 21 – November 6

It's "game on!" when the beloved “Bad Boys of Abridgement” return to the New Vic stage with the newest addition to their playbook. Featuring Reed Martin, Matt Rippy and Austin Tichenor, who presented The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) at The New Victory in 2010, the Reduced Shakespeare Company answers some of life's more daunting questions: Is bowling actually a sport? How about poker or competitive eating? Who invented curling? And perhaps most vexing, can Muggles really play Quidditch? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, no sport—real or imagined—is safe from spoof when the lunacy of sports collides with ludicrous wit in The Complete World of Sports (abridged).

Performance Schedule

*indicates Talk-back following the performance. # indicates signed performances.

Fri 10/21 7pm

Sat 10/22 2pm, 7pm

Sun 10/23 12pm, 5pm

Fri 10/28 7pm*

Sat 10/29 2pm, 7pm

Sun 10/30 12pm, 5pm

Fri 11/4 7pm#

Sat 11/5 2pm, 7pm

Sun 11/6 12pm, 5pm

Ticket Information

Tickets for The Complete World of Sports (abridged) at The New Victory Theater (209 West 42nd Street) cost $25, $18, $12 and $9 for Members and $38, $28, $18 and $14 for Non-members based on seat locations. Theater-goers who buy tickets for three or more New Vic shows qualify for free Membership benefits, including up to 35-percent savings.

On sale now for all shows of the 2011-2012 Season:


BY PHONE at 646-223-3010; Sunday – Wednesday, 11 am-5 pm; Thursday – Saturday, 11 am-7 pm

IN PERSON at The New Victory Theater Box Office (209 West 42nd Street); Sunday & Monday 11 am-5 pm; Tuesday-Saturday 12 pm-7 pm

Broadway Honors Anniversary of 9/11

Bebe Neuwirth and Brian Stokes mitchell leads casts of Broadway shows in a rousing rendition of New York New York.
The Broadway community marked the 10th nniversary of 9/11 by gathering in Duffy Square on Friday, Sept. 9 in an encore of the iconic performance that tookplace one decade ago when Broadway performers helped inspire New Yorkers to return to normalcy with a landmark outdoor performance.

Produced by The Broadway League in support of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, with additional support provided by the Times Square Allianceand Theatre Development Fund (TDF).
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Jersey Boys
Ben Vereen and some of New York's firefighters.
Vereen with Book of Mormon
Daniel Rodrigues, who sang "God Bless America."
The flag flies in Times Square.

Richard Maltby, Jr. Speaks at 15th Annual Broadway Blessing

Richard Maltby, Jr.
By Lauren Yarger
Those who are in the theater business are blessed, because they have an opportunity to discover what they have been put on the earth to do.

That was the message Monday from Broadway director/lyricist Richard Maltby, Jr. who spoke at the 15th annual Broadway Blessing held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He encouraged those in the arts to take risks -- "it's the invention that it's all about," he said. "If you are not taking a chance, you're not doing anything worth doing."
Natalie Toro, Daniel Beckwith conducting the choir.
The award-winning Broadway veteran of Fosse, Miss Saigon and Ain't Misbehavin' among others, defined theater as "the human spirit reacting to life and creating a story," and urged those who are in the business to realize that they are living in a golden age.
The inter-faith service also featured Natalie Toro (most recently of A Tale of Two Cities) singing "Where is it Written?" from Yentl, backed by the Broadway Blessing Choir, which also performed a medley of Broadway songs under the musical direction of Daniel Beckwith, assisting organist at St. John the Divine.
Retta Blaney and Lauren Yarger,
executive director of Masterwork Productions, Inc.
Project Dance performed to "Amazing Grace" by Bel Air Presbyterian Worship Team with choreography by Amanda Brewster and Tony Haris performed "I'll Carry You" by Phil Hall (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Matthew Passion), a song he wrote to commemorate the Blessing's 15th anniversary.
Rabbi Jill Hausman of the Actors' Temple sang "If I Can Stop My Heart from Breaking" (by Richard Hagemen with words by Emily Dickinson). She, the Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, dean of the cathedral, and The Rev. Canon Thomas Miller, canon for liturgy and the arts at the cathedral, officiated at the service.

Retta Blaney, producer of the event, also received a 2011 The Lights are Bright on Broadway Award, presented by Masterwork Productions., Inc. A reception featuring a variety of mouthwatering refreshments provided by the cathedral's Trustees and Society of Regents Members followed.

Freud's Last Session Gets New Home

Martin Rayner and Mark H. Dold. Photo: Kevin Sprague
Mark St. Germain’s Off-Broadway play, Freud's Last Session, will move to New World Stages this fall, beginning performances Friday, Oct. 7.
The play, which surrounds a debate about faith between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis, won the 2011 Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Play. It is directed by Tyler Marchant and is produced by Carolyn Rossi Copeland, Robert Stillman and Jack Thomas.

Starring Mark H. Dold as C. S. Lewis and Martin Rayner as Sigmund Freud, the play will run through Oct. 2 at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre, 10 West 64th St. (at Central Park West) before moving.

The performance schedule at New World Stages (340 West 50th St.) will be Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 and 7 pm. Tickets are $65 and are available at New World Stages through 212-239-6200, and until 10/2 at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre by calling 212-352-3101 or through A limited number of $20 Student Rush tickets (cash only, with valid student ID) are available at the box office beginning three hours prior to each performance.

Additional productions of Freud's Last Session are set through 2012 in major markets across the nation and around the world including London, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Stockholm, Mexico City, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Palm Beach.

For a review of the play, click her For more information, visit

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Quick Hit Review: Cirque de Legume

Jamie Carswell and Nancy Trotter Landry. Photo by Mark Fearon.
Cirque de Legume
with Jamie Carswell and Nancy Trotter Landry
Directed by Pablo Ibarluzea
at 59E59 Theaters, NYC

Two clowns use a variety of produce to create little vignettes and gags. A head of lettuce becomes "Dusty," a dog who jumps for his carrot treats; leeks are used as whips to train a Spanish carrot-chomping horse; a clown is hypnotized by a a swinging beet among other scenarios.

--Watching audience members double over in laughter at flying greenery, spit carrots and onion sex "a peel."
--I enjoyed audience remarks like, "He can really take a leek" and "Dusty bites the dust" probably more than watching two clowns assault each other with vegetables, but that's just me, not being a fan of clowns or food messes.
--I also enjoyed watching my friend Vickey laugh at the projectile carrot pieces, but I really am not sure whether she was laughing at them or at the fact that I kept trying to avoid all contact with any of them, (not being a fan of clowns or food messes).
--Landry's maniacal facial expressions. There's something scary -- and funny -- there.

-- "How About That?" as the clowns ask for applause gets repeated just a few too many times in the 50-minute performance.

More information:
Out of Dublin, Cirque de Legume is part of the Irish series at 59E59. It runs through Oct. 2. Tickets and information www.cirquedelegume.

For those of you who DO like clowns and food mess, there is a special 90-minute clown workshop Saturday, Sept. 17 for everyone 16 and older.

Christians might also like to know:
No notes. Enjoy (if you like clowns and food mess).

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

2011 Most Annoying Audience Member Award

Artwork by Brian Yarger
This Year's Winner Will Be Hard to Top (thank goodness)
By Lauren Yarger
Before the new theater season gets rolling, it's time to stop and honor the audience member who stood out the most during the 2010 Broadway season.

Each year I sit through hundreds of shows, usually near audience members who enjoy the theater and who understand etiquette. Every once in a while -- OK, more than once in a while -- I end up next to someone who makes me wonder whether they ever have been taught manners. Every year I offer my "Most Annoying Audience Member" award.

This year there were tons of the usual offenders -- the people who talk during the show, arrive late, text and check email on their phones and who crinkle food wrappers, apparently unable to go more than an hour without consuming junk food. We'll call them the runners up and focus on a few that really stood out -- those who became stars in their own rights when it comes to being rude.

We have a court of four this season, with a queen who will be hard to beat:

#5 The guy seated behind me who gave new meaning to the words "you need a bath." So horrible was the stench from this guy that everyone in the area dug in pockets and bags for tissues and shared them with fellow audience sufferers to be used as air filters over their noses and mouths. I broke out a bottle of hospital-strength sanitizer, applied some liberally to my hands and held them under my nose for the first act. During intermission (one of the few occasions I have been grateful the show wasn't a 90-minute, no-intermission presentation), we all ran for empty seats elsewhere in the theater, where the fresh air was like a garden oasis. So, if you found yourself seated pretty much alone in your section of seats after intermission, you'll know we are talking about you, sir. And please, take a bath. Now.

#4 The teenage girl, seated on my right, who constantly squirmed in her seat while putting her hair up in a pony tail, undoing it, flinging her hair around, then sweeping it back into a pony tail. She changed hair style in that seat more times during that show than I have in my life time. At one point, the decorative elastic she was using snapped from her clutches and landed somewhere between me and my coat. Without so much as an "excuse me," she proceeded to thoroughly grope me, my seat and my coat looking for it. I will be happy to provide her with a letter of recommendation for a position with the TSA.

#3 The woman a few rows away who smacked gum and blew bubbles constantly through the first act. I am sure it was heard on stage. At intermission, she spit the gum out and sat quietly. When act 2 started, she unwrapped another piece and began smacking away again.

#2 This one is a tie --
For one show in Connecticut, the person who was scheduled to come with me had a sudden work-related issue develop and she wasn't sure whether she would be able to attend the show or not. I got to the theater and put my bag and coat on our seats, then stepped outside to call and find out whether she would indeed be able to join me. When I returned, a woman had removed my things from the second seat (put them on the floor) and generously informed me that she would move if I had someone coming, but if I didn't, she would be sitting in my second seat.

The second was a woman in the front row with a very large hat. The woman behind her (no, it wasn't me) asked whether she would be kind enough to remove it once the show began. "I'll think about it," she replied. She didn't. When the woman who couldn't see complained to an usher, she was moved to another row away from the group of friends with whom she had come to enjoy an afternoon of theater. Note to usher: next time, tell the woman to take her stupid-looking hat off, only say it nicer than that. That's your job.

#1 And the winner of this year's Most Annoying Audience Member probably is a contender for the World's Rudest Person Award as well. During a performance of the first revival of Angels in America in New York, a woman in the front row left her cell phone on. It rang numerous times throughout the four-hour play, each time ringing about 10 times before going to voice mail. When a message was left, the phone would then play music to let her know she had a message. Other cell phones also were allowed to ring (not an usher in sight). When the front-row woman's went off again someone in the back yelled, "Turn off that phone." She didn't, it did its ring-to-voice mail noise again. Then, the woman got up to leave (remember, she was in the front row), causing everyone in the row to have to get up and block the view of everyone behind just at the end, when the last moving lines of dialogue are being given. The ending was completely ruined. When the view was unobstructed again, the moment for applause had passed. Kudos to the cast members, however, for managing to stay in character despite the numerous interruptions and for not clubbing the rude woman with her cell phone.

Here's a big thanks to the majority of audience members who AREN'T annoying, especially to those friends who join me for so much wonderful theater. Looking forward to another season (and remember, that aisle seat is mine....)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Quick Hit Theater Review: Hero the Musical

Hero: The Musical
Playing Off-Broadway through Saturday at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Commissioned to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the death of patriotic leader An Chunggun, Hero: The Musical premiered in Seoul in 2009 and won all the major Korean musical awards including Best Musical, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Music. Performed in Korean. the $6 million-dollar production has super titles. Using a mix of fictional and historical figures, it tells the tale of Korea's struggle to become an independent nation around the turn of the 20th century.

  • The large, beautifully lighted sets (Yu Young Koo and Don Woo Park, design respectively) are a triumph and the full-sized train with its interior view of the compartments (enhanced by projections by Sock Yong Ryu, technical director and Chuck Giles, technical supervisor) rivals some of the best effects you'll see on Broadway.
  • The score (music by San Joon Oh, who co-orchestrates with Peter Casey; book and lyrics by A. Reum Han) is quite pleasing and reminds our ear of Broadway classics like Les Mis or something by Andrew Lloyd-Weber. Chung Sunghwa as hero An Chunggun leads a large, enthusiastic ensemble.
  • Ran Young Lee's precise and imaginative choreography is nicely executed.
  • A musical number that is a mix of "Be Our Guest" and "Master of the House" at the dumpling establishment of freedom-fighter supporter Wangwei (Jeong Euiuk) where the group equates their love of the dumplings to a mother's love for her child before chomping down on dumplings the size of softballs made me very, very happy in the same way I enjoy watching implausible, but highly entertaining Johnny Weismuller "Tarzan" movies.
  • Without the subtitles, you might think you were watching a Korean translation of Les Miserables. The opening scene has freedom fighters marching while a flag sweeps behind them and there is a "Little Drop of Rain" number that seemed almost an exact replica.
  • A little on the long side at more than two hours and 40 minutes (34 musical numbers).
Other information:

Christians might like to know:
  • Language
  • Violence
  • Suicide

Gracewell Prodiuctions

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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

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.

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