Friday, December 23, 2011

Theater Review: Lysistrata Jones

The cast of Lysistrata Jones. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Modern Take on a Classic, but View of Women as Sex Objects (and Dumb) Hasn't Changed Much Apparently
By Lauren Yarger
The basketball team at Athens University hasn't won in 33 years, but if they don't start learning how to spell V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, the guys might soon be unable to score in a way that is more important to them.

This is Lysistrata Jones, Douglas Carter Beane's modern Broadway version of Aristophanes' comedic play, Lysistrata, about women in ancient Greece withholding sexual favors until their men until they agree to end the Peloponnesian War.

Here, transfer student Lysisrata Jones (an engaging and vivacious Patti Murin), inspired by goddess Hetaira (vocal power house Liz Mikel) organizes a cheerleader squad to motivate the boys, led in their non-winning efforts by her love interest and team captain, Mick (Josh Segarra). The team and the squad are made up of a bunch of stereotypical characters -- the Latino couple, a Jewish guy who tries to be "gansta," the Asian girl with an attitude, a secret homosexual couple, and a smart girl who you of course think must be a lesbian. (Alexander Aguilar, Ato Blacken-Wood, Katie Boren, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Kat Kejat, Jason Tam, Teddy Toye and Alex Wyse comprise the ensemble.)

The jocks are only interested in the after-game benefits that being on the team brings, like sex and partying, so Lystistrata decides that if the boys give up trying to win, the girls just won't give it up. This starts a competition of the wills with the boys deciding to go get what they want from whores at the Eros Motor Lodge where Hetaira plays the madame. To counter this, the girls visit the Motor Lodge to get some tips from the expert on how to torture their men sexually. Madame Hetaira advises the girls to "be teases" -- to wear skimpy clothes and touch the boys "accidentally" to arouse them, then refuse to have sex. The girls also sext photos of themselves to the boys and flash them in the locker room.

Will the strategy work? Yes and no, sort of like whether this musical does.

What works:
Dan Knechtges' direction and choreography is superb. Expect award nominations at the end of the season for the man who also helmed Xanadu and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He teams cheerleading and basketball moves in some really clever dance numbers to Lewis Flinn's pleasant, if not memorable music, featuring a beat-driven and hip hop sound. Flinn also writes the more-syllables-than-beats-of-music lyrics.

David C. Woolard and Thomas Charles LaGalley team for some fun costumes and an orange-blue-and-white trimmed basketball court set that brings back memories of the show's Off-Broadway incarnation last season at the Judson Memorial gym.

Beane incorporates a lot of humor (and of course an obligatory foul shot at a Republican political candidate, though it's kind of boring that most playwrights today seem to feel they all have to do this -- note: not everyone in the audience is a fellow liberal). Standing out are Chambers as slam-poetry intellectual Robin and Tam as Xander, the liberal blogger who becomes the Spartans' mascot. Also fun is the use of stadium air horns to warn people to return to their seats at intermission.

What doesn't work:
Beane's use of a bunch of unpleasant stereotypes, whether it be the guys as dumb, sex-driven jocks or the girls as dumb bimbos who don't read (Lysistrata only agrees to take at the classic play bearing her name if it is in Spark Notes form), have sex casually and manipulatively and who are OK with prostitutes. 

Capitalizing on people's sexist thoughts about women is not something to cheer about. Modern women who have some self worth won't find this a story in which to invest their entertainment dollars, I'm afraid (and probably evidenced by very poor sales reported -- just an average of $25.14 ticket price according to grosses through last week). It's like Spring Awakening and Hair -- great scores and quality productions, but the stories just aren't anything we are able to embrace from a Christian point of view.
Lysistrata takes the court at the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 West 48th St., NYC. Tickets are available by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Show posts a Mature Advisory
--God's name taken in vain
--Lyric says that God invented porn
--Sexually suggestive moves
--Sexually graphic images and costumes
--Guys in their underwear
--Same sex activity
--Sexual dialogue

Theater Review: Maple & Vine

Just How Far Will People Go to Be Happy? Maybe Back to the Past
By Lauren Yarger
Not happy with your life? Get rid of it and start an ideal one back in 1955 where things are simpler and everyone knows his or her place.

That's the solution for which one couple opts following the loss of their baby and a growing dissatisfaction with life in general in Jordan Harrison's new play, Maple and Vine, getting an Off-Broadway run at Playwrights Horizons.

Katha (Marin Ireland) isn't able to sleep following the loss or plug back into her management job at a publishing company or life in general. Her husband, Ryu (Peter Kim), doesn't seem to be able to help her through her depression -- he's struggling himself with a lack of satisfaction in his career as a plastic surgeon.

Enter Dean and Ellen (Trent Dawson and Jeanine Serralles), spokespersons for the Society of Dynamic Obsolescence, a sort of alter-reality housing development where it's always 1955. Housewives tend to their homes, husbands and children and husbands bring home the bacon. Boundaries are set and provide a vacation from reality and freedom the modern world doesn't offer.

Katha becomes increasingly intrigued and finally convinces Ryu to try living in the SDO for six months. This might be a way for the couple to resume sexual relations and produces a baby -- both things considered wifely duties and which Katha has avoided for the last six months. Transitioning to the Eisenhower era isn't as simple as it might seem, however. Katha needs to become Kathy and learn how to cook. Ryu, a Japanese-American, is given a menial job in a box-making plant. The couple's mixed-race marriage is tolerated because 1955 Americans felt guilty about the forced interment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, but it certainly isn't embraced. Even Kathy, sewing her own '50s frocks (IIlona Somogyl, design) and becoming increasingly involved in the life of the community, asks her neighbors to stop being so tolerant and make their experience of 1955 more realistic by directing some prejudice at them.

Will the couple adapt to the picture-perfect world of the past (depicted nicely by designer Alexander Dodge on movable metallic-framed sets and original music by Bray Poor), especially when reality keeps exposing the negative? Not is all as it seems, especially when Ryu spies Dean in a homosexual relationship with his prejudiced box-plant boss Roger (Redro Pascal).

The play poses some interesting questions, most looming perhaps, are how we choose to cope with unhappiness and why people choose to stay in a situation where they aren't happy, especially when leaving is an option. Folks in 1955, after all, didn't have a lot of freedom to choose whether or not they wanted to be a housewife or to live an openly gay lifestyle.

Director Anne Kauffman smoothly sets up some strong performances, especially from a nicely layered Ireland and from Pascal who does a very different second role as Katha's publishing colleague Omar, but there are a couple of flaws. It's not clear for a while who Dean and Ellen are -- are they Katha's fantasy? Are they a dream induced by sleeping pills? These answers seem more likely than the bizarre reality that they represent a community locked in the 1950s.

In addition, Kauffman takes a sexual encounter between Dean and Roger too far (a mistake made in 95 percent of scenes involving nudity and sex on stage these days). We really just need to know from the dialogue and perhaps a quick fastening of a belt that the characters have just had sex. We don't need to be there during the act itself. Frankly, if we need some sex on stage  here (and we don't), a better choice would have been to let us see how Kathy and Ryu relate in their new circumstances or how gay Dean manages to get intimate with his wife and whether she finds it as satisfying as 1955 housewives are supposed to.

Maple and Vine runs through Dec. 23 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. For information and tickets to tonight's performance, call  212) 279-4200 or visit

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Homosexuality
-- Sexual activity
-- Nudity
-- Sexual dialogue

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Theater Review: On a Clear Day

Harry Connick, Jr. Photo: Palma Kolansky
On a Clear Day, It's Still Hard to See
By Lauren Yarger
Take one musical with a decent score by Burton Lane that made Broadway stars out of John Cullum and Barbara Harris, shake up the original weak book by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, add hearthrob crooner Harry Connick, Jr. in the lead and you have a recipe for: well, a good score by Burton Lane.

The attempt to mix things up and "re-imagine" On a Clear Day You Can See Forever pretty much fails to make itself a contender for a long Broadway run because the odd story, involving psychiatrist Mark Bruckner's romance with Melinda Wells (Jessie Mueller), a reincarnated World War II chanteuse brought out through the hypnosis of a patient, still is very weak. The only change is that the patient this time around, David Gamble (David Turner), is a gay guy instead of a woman (Daisy, in the previous version, a role played in the movie by Barbra Stresiand).

So what does this mean? That a doctor having a romance with a woman who lives in the body of a guy is more interesting, hip and modern than a doctor having a romance with a woman living in the body of another woman? The question itself is so bizarre that it gives away the answer -- none of this is an interesting enough plot around which to make a musical. It does pose the question, however, why it is OK for female roles to be played by men? There are plenty of male roles in musicals and plenty of gay guy characters on the stage already. If a black character were "reimagined" as a white one, there probably would be flack. After all, it isn't seen as appropriate to have characters written as black or any particular race played by a white person. Just take a look at the recent flap over Hartford, CT's staging of The Motherf***ker with the Hat at TheaterWorks with white, rather than as-written Latino leads. It didn't go over very well with the playwright and a lot of other folks.

But because Daisy is a woman, like Brian Bedford's turn as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Ernest last season, or the role of Edna Turnblad always being played by a male in Hairspray for some unexplained reason, no one seems to be offended when a role written for a woman is suddenly re-imagined as a man. Voila! Daisy the flower shop girl becomes David, the flower shop boy. Well, let's say that the men making these decisions (we have few women directors or book writers for musicals) don't apparently see anything offensive about this. The many women actors, who outnumber males looking for acting jobs by quite a bit, probably are quite offended especially since Turner has an adequate, but not super singing voice (and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that any ethical psychiatrist probably has some issues with Bruckner's behavior here too, but I digress).

I'd be willing to go along with the change if it greatly improved the story. It doesn't. Director/reconceiver Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, American Idiot, Next to Normal, Hair et al) and Peter Parnell, who penned the new book (enhancing the original the musical with tunes from Barton/Lerner movie scores) are the decision makers here. Lawrence Yurman music directs and orchestrations are by Doug Besterman. Here's what they came up with:

Bruckner (Connick) hypnotizes Gamble to help him quit his five-pack-a-day smoking habit, because his boyfriend, Warren (Drew Gehling) doesn't like it. As the patient regresses, however, he slips into another personality -- that of Melinda in the year 1943. It's been three years since Bruckner lost his wife, Claire, and none of the women her best friend and Bruckner's colleague Sharone Stein (Kerry O'Malley) has set him up with have compared, but the psychaitrist suddenly finds himself very attracted to Melinda. He increases the number of therapy sessions with Gamble to continue getting to know Melinda. Gamble doesn't have any knowledge of his other personality, but does have vague memories of the dates/sessions and passionate embraces and comes to believe the doctor has romantic feelings for him. He might also return them (although why, when he doesn't really know the doctor isn't clear).

Bruckner begins to believe in reincarnation and to teach it at the university, which stirs some controversy. Sarah Stiles stands out as one of the students and Gamble's good friend, Muriel Bunson; Hannah (Alex Ellis) is a the class slut -- oh, I get it. Stereotypical women roles are OK....

When Bruckner discovers that Melinda really did exist, he has to decide whether to try to alter her fate or suffer the pain of losing another woman he loves.

If you can see past the really weak plot (and some pretty lame lyrics and dialogue -- why didn't they change them while they were giving Daisy a sex-change operation?), the unexciting choreography (Joann M. Hunter) (with the exception of a clever number where Bruckner dances simultaneously with Gamble and Melinda), maybe it will become clear why Mayer and Parnell set in the '70's (big upgrade from the 1965 original) for some reason other than to give costume designer Catherine Zuber license to use a bunch of loud colors in styles of the period that clash with Christine Jones' annoying checkerboard/psychedelic set design (and those 1940s microphones look like painted Country Curtains rods). We kind of doubt the same-sex relationships would play so easily in 1974 so why not really re-imagine the story for 2011, where there are a lot of great female singers?

Case in point is Meueller, making her Broadway debut here, with a lovely voice singing songs like "You're All the World to Me," "On the S.S Bernard Cohn," the haunting "Melinda,"Go to Sleep," and "Too Late Now." She's a pleasure to listen to and a good actress. I would have loved to see her tackle the full part of Daisy/Melinda. OK, enough said. Connick is awfully pleasant on the ears as well, singing the title song, among others, though he seemed to lose steam vocally as the show progressed.

On a Clear Day plays at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th St., NYC. Tickets are available by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
--Song about being born again refers to reincarnation
--Comment made that there are 100 realities and some fall on Mecca
--God's name taken in vain
--homosexual activity

Theater Review: Stick Fly

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Family Relationships on Display Like a Bug on a Stick
By Lauren Yarger
A woman comes to the Martha's Vineyard home of her new fiance to meet his family, and she feels on display -- much like the bugs she likes to study like a fly glued to a stick. She's not the only one, though, as the family's relationships and secrets soon show themselves under observation as well in Lydia R. Diamond's engaging Broadway play Stick Fly.

Taylor (Tracie Thoms) already has some self esteem issues. She is the daughter of a prominent Pulitzer-prize winning author about the plight of African-Americans in a white-dominated nation, but her father rejected her and her mother in favor of his new wife and children. Her fiance, Kent (Dulé Hill), whom she affectionately calls Spoon, tries to reassure her, but events work against her fitting in easily with the family.

First, Taylor isn't sure how to deal with Cheryl (Condola Rashad), the daughter of the family's housekeeper, Miss Ellie, who is on hand to lend a hand in her sick mother's absence. Every time Taylor offers to help with a chore, or asks the girl to do something, she manages to insult her. Then Spoon's brother, Flip (Mekhi Phiffer) shows up with his girlfriend, Kimber (Rosie Benton), who Flip forgot to mention, is white. "She's Italian," he evades.

Kimber, who has written a thesis about inequality in education tangles with Taylor about understanding racial tension. Racial issues might not be the biggest problem at the gathering, however -- Flip and Taylor knew each other before romantically -- a fact they quickly cover up.
Complicating matters is the patriarch of the family, Joe LeVay (Ruben Santiago-Hudson), whose constant put downs of Spoon (especially his newest career choice as an author) and back slaps for Flip who followed in his father's footsteps as a doctor and philanderer, mask a more serious problem he is keeping something from the family: why their mother hasn't shown up yet and why he won't take her phone calls.

Amidst competitive board games like Parcheesi and Trivial Pursuit and discussions about racial issues from all points of view, the truth comes out about relationships and the strength of family ties is tested.

Kenny Leon draws out excellent performances all around. It's fun to see the talented Hill play someone different from Gus on "Psych" or Charlie on "West Wing." Same kudos to Thoms for creating a character different from the one TV fans know from "Cold Case."

Leon does create some awkward moments, however, by whipping too quickly bewteen scenes (with the aid of original music by Alicia Keyes, who is a producer of the show). The audience wants to applaud, or just digest something that took place, but isn't given the chance. Also problematic is the fact that Rashad can't be heard for a lot of her dialogue. Audience members kept turning to each other to learn what they had missed.
The set proves to be somewhat annoying too. The beautifully detailed wood and arched design stage left deteriorates into a partially torn away wall leading to the outdoors and a patio that looks like it's in the middle of the living room, almost giving the impression that designer David Gallo ran out of room.

Overall, it's an interesting play with lots of depth to all the characters.

Stick Fly runs at the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48th St., NYC through Feb. 26. Tickets are available by clicking here.

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Theater Review: Bonnie & Clyde

Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. Photo: Nathan Johnson
They've Got the Lore Down, but Not the Lure
By Lauren Yarger
A musical about Depression-era outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow might not be on everyone's most wanted list, but the Broadway show starring super vocal talents Laura Osnes  and Jeremy Jordan singing one of the best scores to date from Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Civil War, Wonderland) is worth a quick getaway to the box office.

Ivan Menchell's book sticks close to the facts about the couple who left a trail of bank robberies and murders across the south central US before being gunned down by the law in 1934. He offers a lot of details about who they were and how they ended up choosing an outlaw lifestyle and removes some of the glamour associated with them and enhanced in the popular film about them in the 1960s starring sexy Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. What he can't capture, perhaps because there is no real explanation for it, is why the couple are regarded as heroes of any kind. They weren't very nice or likable people -- and they're not really here either, so it's hard to get on board with them as the leads of a musical. Menchell at least gives us enough insight to make them interesting, though. And it's all worth it, just to hear the music.

The couple (he was 20, she was 19) meet in poverty in West Dallas, TX and fall almost immediately in love (despite the fact that Bonnie has an absentee husband). Clyde has always gotten into trouble with his brother, Buck (Claybourne Elder), but Buck's devoutly religious wife, Blanche (Melissa Van der Shyff) convinces him to make a fresh start and to turn himself in to authorities after he and Clyde break out of jail. The preacher (Michael Lanning) baptizes him (with a terrific ballad/gospel number called "God's Arms Are Always Open") and for years, tries to live a straight life with Blanche.

Clyde resolves to have money, clothes and Bonnie and supports himself by committing small robberies while dreaming of becoming famous like his boyhood hero, Billy the Kid (Talon Ackerman plays a young Clyde, already convinced he can solve any problem with a gun). Bonnie's mother, Emma (Mimi Bessette), urges her daughter to forget about no-good Clyde and encourages the courtship of lawman Ted Hinton (Louis Hobson). Fame and attention also attract Bonnie, however, who once dreamed of being a movie star (dynamic singer Kelsey Fowler plays young Bonnie). She wants out of nowhere Texas.

Abused during his latest time in jail, Clyde turns to murder. Bonnie breaks him out and the two begin a life of crime together.

"We are the heroes that people look up to and that feels great," they sing.

Life on the lam isn't all it's cracked up to be, however, and Bonnie thinks about leaving. Their overwhelming need for each other -- and periodic trips back to visit their families -- help push doubt aside. Eventually Buck and Blanche join them on their robbing and killing rampage.

The harsh story is offset by a paneled, changing set by Tobin Ost (who also does the period costumes) lighted by Michael Gilliam and home for projections of photos and other images by Aaron Rhyne. Jeff Calhoun directs (and also is credited with choreography, though there are no real dance numbers as we expect in a musical) and wisely starts with the couple's ambush in their Ford V8. We know how it all ended -- this is a story of why.

The real star here, however, is Wildhorn's terrific score (with smart lyrics by Don Black). Sounding different from any of his other musicals, it's right up there with Jekyll & Hyde for having some really lovely ballads, belt-challenging climbs for several of the singers and there's a beautiful duet for Blanche and Bonnie  "You Love Who You Love" (think "In His Eyes"). The beauty of the blues-driven music and the excellent vocal quality of the cast make this enjoyable, even if the lure of Bonnie and Clyde proves less so.

Bonnie & Clyde are in the line up at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NYC. Discounted tickets are available by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Minor language
--God's name taken in vain
--Blood, violence

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Theater Review: Seminar

Constructive Criticism without the Constructive Part
By Lauren Yarger
You know all those bad guys Alan Rickman plays so well in  movies like Hans Gruber in "Die Hard," Professor Snape in "Harry Potter," the evil Sheriff of Nottinham in "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves" or Judge Turpin in Tim Burton's dark "Sweeney Todd"? They all look pretty tame compared to Leonard, Rickman's literary teacher/critic who tears apart four wannabe writers enrolled in a Seminar, Theresa Rebeck's play directed on Broadway by Sam Gold.

Leonard redefines the term "thick skinned" for Douglas (Jerry O'Connell), Martin (Hamish Linklater), Kate (Lily Rabe) and Izzy (Hettienne Park) when his barbed tongue whips over their short stories and novels during private seminar sessions at Kate's posh New York apartment (David Zinn provides the scenic and costume design). Kate never quite recovers from Leonard's blistering criticism of just the first sentence of her story, never mind that he was able to discern so much about her from it. She considers quitting and recouping some of the $5,000 she paid for her place in the group.

Douglas, whose story has sparked some interest over at New Yorker magazine gets off a little easier -- or does he? Leonard seems to be able to spew scathing criticism even while complimenting the "whorish perfection" of Douglas' piece. Izzy decides to improve her chances for success by sleeping with the professor, much to the chagrin of Martin who also has the hots for Izzy. He steadfastly refuses to share his work with the class. Kate's rejection at the hands of Leonard is made worse by Martin's -- she has had feelings for him since they were pals in high school.

Rebeck addresses every writer's fear -- that what you have put on paper is a "sucking waste of words." And Rickman is there in delicious wickedness to tell us that they are indeed. Call me a sadist, but I wish Rickman had even more opportunities to stab with his rapier tongue. Those cuts are more fun than some of the sexual relationship drama that unfolds.

Seminar plays at the Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th St., NYC. For tickets, call 800-432-7250.
Christians might also like to know:
-- Show posts a Mature Advisory
--Lord's name taken in vain
--Sexual dialogue

Theater Review: Other Desert Cities

Rachel Griffiths, Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach. Photo: Joan Marcus
Family Looks for an Oasis in Their Barren Desert
By Lauren Yarger
Cracks in the hard desert ground of the emotions of die-hard Republicans Lyman and Polly Wyeth (Stacy Keach, Stockard Channing) might not be able to weather the heat of controversy a tell-all book about them and their terrorist son will bring in Jon Robin Baitz' Other Desert Cities getting a Broadway incarnation after last-season's off-Broadway success for Lincoln Center Theater.

Director Joe Mantello returns, along with Channing and Keach, but some of the intimacy and subtle meaning in Baitz text is lost in the transition from the Mitzi E. Newhouse to the Booth Theatre.

The Wyeths' happiness about a visit from their long-absent, ultra-liberal daughter, Brooke (Rachel Griffiths), fades when she announces that despite her parents' support during her breakdown following her brother's death, she has written a soon-to-be-released memoir about the bombing incident and what it was like growing up as the child of a former Hollywood actor/ambassador and his wife who enjoyed lunches at the club with Ronnie and Nancy.

Playing peacemaker is Brooke's brother, Trip (Thomas Sadoski), who finds it hard to get very serious about anything. He is, after all, the producer of the show "Jury of Your Peers" in which celebrity jurors decide real cases. Finding a way to get his parents to support their daughter's writing gift while convincing his sister to take her parents' feelings into account might just prove to be a mirage, however. The task is made even more difficult by Polly's sister and former writing partner, alcoholic Silda Grauman (Judith Light), who has been feeding Brooke inside dirt for the book while trying to dry out while living with her sister and brother-in-law at their Palm Springs home. There might not be enough sand in the dessert to cover their public lives. (John Lee Beatty designs sets that create the feeling of being in a desert).

Baitz creates interesting characters (regardless of where your political affiliations lie) who care about each other and masterfully uses dialogue to reveal matters going on beneath the surface (David Zinn's costumes also tell us a lot about the characters). There's a good sprinkling of humor (some of it political) throughout to keep the tone from becoming too serious. This is a family which understands the sentiment Trip finally expresses: that in the end, all that will mattered is how you have loved.

Other Desert Cities runs at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th St., NYC. For tickets call 800-432-7250. Note: Sadoski continues in the role through Sunday, Jan.  8 (with the exception of a three-week period from Tuesday, Dec. 8 through Sunday, Dec. 25 when the role of Trip Wyeth will be played by Matthew Risch). After Jan. 8, Justin Kirk steps into the role.

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

Gracewell Prodiuctions

Gracewell Prodiuctions
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

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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