Friday, February 17, 2012

Shatner's World: We Just Live in It

Visiting with Captain Kirk is Out of This World
By Lauren Yarger
When notices appeared for William Shatner's upcoming one-man Broadway show, I realized that if I had a bucket list, seeing Captain Jim Kirk in person definitely would be on it.

I had fallen for the dashing captain of the Starship Enterprise some time back in college where a bunch of us would gather one night a week in the dorm lounge for reruns of the popular television series. I had missed the original series broadcast, not being a big fan of sci-fi at that time, but I branched out a lot in college and along with consuming new and sometimes unidentifiable foods in the cafeteria, I agreed to watch "Star Trek" with my new dorm mates.

I found the show's bizarre aliens amusing, but it didn't take long to see that there was some real intelligence behind everything, from the interracial/international crew, which was new for its time, to the design of the starship, which ran on computers (with hard floppy disks-- again unheard of at the time) and warp drive. Crew communicated on devices not unlike today's smart phones and soon I was hooked, but more because of the dashing Kirk than the technology or smart story plots.

One episode finds Kirk stranded on a planet while The Enterprise is under attack while orbiting. Using his I-phone-like communicator, Kirk barks out the order, "Don't worry about me. Save my ship!" That did it, I was a follower of Captain Kirk and William Shatner, the dashing, if sometimes overacting guy who played him.

Now, more than 30 years later, he's still a lot of fun to watch in action, this time as he reflects over his 50-year career and a life full of ups and downs in Shatner's World: We Just live in It playing a limited engagement at the Music Box Theatre. It's a fun trip down memory lane by an obviously nice guy, who ended up in the right place at the right time more than once, and who isn't afraid to laugh at himself.

I attended Wednesday, before the official opening last night, and started smiling as the packed crowd began applauding when the house lights went to half. Obviously there were a lot of other Captain Kirk fans in those seats with me too. With such a long-running career, they also might also have been fans of characters Shatner has played on other shows, like "Boston Legal," "T.J. Hooker" or "Rescue 911," which was probably the first reality TV series.
Interestingly, Shatner, directed on stage by Scott Faris, doesn't spend a lot of time talking about "Star Trek," but shares stories about his earlier years growing up in Canada, as "the worst student ever at McGill University," hitchhiking across America and generally failing at everything until finding work as an actor. He understudied Christopher Plummer at the prestigious Stratford Shakespeare Festival and has never looked back.

The one-hour-and-40-minute presentation is really entertaining and fun if you're a Shatner fan. I particularly enjoyed a story he shared about having to kill a rat in his camper. The difference between frightened real person and the unfaltering confidence of fearless, alien-battling Kirk have never been so defined or funny.

At the end, the crowd was satisfied: a standing ovation with more than one hand raised in a Vulcan salute. Live long and prosper, Bill.

Shatner's World plays through March 4 at the Music Box, 239 West 45th St., NYC. A 15-city tour is planned following the Broadway run. For information and tickets, visit

Christians might like to know:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TheaterMania Will Present Drama Desk Awards at Town Hall June 3

Liev Schreiber and Audra McDonald announce the 2011 Drama Desk nominations.
TheaterMania will present the 57th Annual Drama Desk awards this year at Town Hall on Sunday, June 3 at 8 pm.
The collaboration was announced by Gretchen Shugart, CEO of, which will present the awards ceremony with Robert R. Blume and David S. Stone in association with Renee McCurry., which has been involved with the Drama Desk Awards for the past 10 years, has engaged Joey Parnes Productions to produce and general manage the production.
"We are thrilled to take an active role in presenting the 57th Annual Drama Desk Awards ceremony and show,"Shugart said. "TheaterMania's mission has always been to support theater large and small and since New York is our home, it makes sense that we celebrate this sensational theater season with the best talent on and off Broadway. We hope to provide a simple, elegant evening that will be fun and entertaining for the industry at the theater district's legendary Town Hall, while giving the public a peek inside through our various media channels."
Parnes is a veteran Broadway producer and general manager who served as coordinating producer for the TONY Awards from 2001 to 2008 and formed Joey Parnes Productions in November 2011 after being interim executive director of the Public Theater since early 2011.
"The Drama Desk organization is thrilled to have the support of in producing the 57th Annual Drama Desk Awards,” said Isa Goldberg, president of the Drama Desk. “Their generous partnership takes our awards event to a new stage, while propelling the significant role of the Drama Desk Awards in the theater community.”
 The date and venue of the Nominations Announcement News Conference will be announced shortly, as well as the date and venue for the Nominees Cocktail Reception.
The Drama Desk was founded in 1949 to explore key issues in the theater and to bring together critics and writers in an organization to support the ongoing development of theater in New York. The organization began presenting its awards in 1955, and it is the only critics' organization to honor achievement in the theater with competition between Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway shows. is a leading source for theater information and tickets nationwide. Founded in 1999, has connected the theater community to the public as the leading online resource for consumers to find shows, save money, and buy tickets nationwide using its website, iPad magazine and iPhone app. publishes comprehensive show listings, editorial content, and video coverage for over 40 markets and widely distributes free email newsletters and special offers to over 650,000 registered subscribers. In addition, creates online marketing programs for performing arts organizations,

and provides technology to power ticketing, fund raising, and CRM through its proprietary software, OvationTix.

There's an App for That, Broadway Fans

The Broadway League has launched the IBDBapp for iPhone, iPad, and iPodTouch based on the League's popular Internet Broadway Database website

IBDB provides a comprehensive database of shows produced on Broadway over the last three centuries, including all "title page" information about each production. IBDB also offers historical information about theatres and various statistics and fun factsrelated to Broadway.

The app is IBDB on-the-go for iOS devices including iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.  The app contains most ofthe features found on, such as advanced searches and photos andvideo for current shows. To download, search IBDB at the iTunes stores.The app is free.

The new IBDB app complements the Broadway League’s other online services:
The ILoveNYTheater app where consumers can purchase tickets at all price points to every current and upcoming show, direct from the theatres' official ticketing offices in real time without broker markups. The ILoveNYTheater app also provides up-to-date show and theatre information including theatre locations and show running times,a performance schedule for the current week, a guide to hotel and dining options in Manhattan's Theatre District, social media connections, news from The Broadway Fan Club, and more. The free app is available at the iTunes store by searching "Broadway" under apps to find and download ILoveNYTheater
Both the IBDB app and the ILoveNYTheater app have corresponding mobile sites accessible on the browser of any smart phone, giving theatregoers an important in-hand tool when visiting the Theatre District.  

The Broadway Concierge & Ticket Center® offers customer assistance with show ticket representatives via an onlinechat component. Local and out-of-town theatregoers can visit on their PC to chat with a BC&TC representative and get info about shows, theatres, performance times and more, before purchasing their tickets on line or in person at the Times Square Visitor Center on Seventh avenue between 46th & 47th streets.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cirque de Soleil's Zarkana to Return to Radio City

Hand balancing. Photo: Jeremy Daniel, Richard Termine; costume credit : Alan Hranitelj ©2011 Cirque du Soleil
Zarkana, the surreal acrobatic spectacle by Cirque duSoleil, will return to New York this summer beginning performancesWednesday, June 6, 2012 at the legendary Radio City Music Hall for a limited engagement through Sunday, Sept. 2. Zarkana is written and directed by François Girard.

Starting Monday, Feb. 20, Cirque Club members have exclusive access to purchase online tickets at Club membership is free and benefits includes access to advance tickets,special offers and exclusive behind the scenes information. On Thursday, Feb. 23, tickets will be available to the general public. Tickets range from $59 to $125 with a limited number of prime and premium tickets available. To purchase tickets, visit or or call 1-866-858-0008.

Zarkana Performance Schedule (from June 6, 2012)
·       Tuesdays through Fridays at 8pm
·       Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm
·       Sundays at 2 pm and 7pm
·       Wednesday matinees at 2 pm

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Theater Review: Wit

Moving Portrait of a Woman in the Fight of her Life
By Lauren Yarger
The stark white hospital walls represent the lonely atmosphere and bleak diagnosis for life -- or what's left of it for this woman -- in a hospital. Also the backdrop for memories and her attempts to find wit and dignity through the process, the walls are bolstered by columns -- a reminder of the poetry and intellect that just might see her through cancer.

This deeply moving picture, designed by Santo Loquasto,  is part of Manhattan Theatre Club's excellent Broadway production of Wit, Magaret Edson's Pulitzer-prize winning play about a 50-year-old poetry professor trying to find the rhyme in life after being diagnosed with fourth-stage ovarian cancer. 

Dressed in a hospital gown and booties (Jennifer von Mayrhauser, costume design) and sporting a red baseball hat to cover a bald head, Vivian (a perfect Cynthia Nixon) shares her experiences in the guise of writing a play, which she shares in running outline form with the audience as she is handed off for various treatments or remembers interactions with people from her past (Pun Bandhu, Jessica Dickey, Chike Johnson and Zachary Spicer fill in for the various characters).

One memory evokes an early professor, E.M. Ashford (Suzanne Bertish), who first piqued Vivian's interest in John Donne. Vivian is now an authority on the 17th-century poet, known for his complex wit. She draws upon it and his poem, "Death Be Not Proud," which takes on a more personal meaning.

Dr. Harvey Kelekian (Michael Countryman) orders eight months of aggressive chemotherapy and hands Vivian off to Fellow Jason Posner (Greg Keller), who happens to be Vivian's former student. It soon is apparent that both doctors have very little compassion for Vivian as a person. They see her as a subject from whom to collect data for research that will bring them fame. Decisions about treatment, and even about whether to prolong her life, seem more motivated by that than by concern for the patient. The question, "How are you feeling today?" and Vivian's and the audience's response to it get funnier by the moment as she withstands severe nausea, pain and loneliness throughout the process and it's pretty obvious that she's not feeling very well today.

Comfort comes from an unexpected source, however: nurse Susie Monahan (Cara Patterson). She genuinely cares for her patient, giving her options to think about and running interference with the doctors. Nixon's performance is riveting, whether she's talking about the delights of munching on an ice pop or to invoke the last means of control she has over her life by declaring herself DNR (Do Not Resuscitate).

Edson's script is brilliant. Lynne Meadow provides excellent direction (though the very final scene seems staged rather than a natural progression of the action). Otherwise, Meadows attention to small details enhances the plot and draws out excellent performances across the boards. Definitely one of the highlights of the season -- catch it at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC before it closes March 11. Discounted tickets are available by clicking here.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Lord's name taken in vain
-- Nudity (briefly at the very end of the play)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Drama Desk, St. George's Society Present Program With Grandage, Brokaw

Laurence Olivier Award Winner
Michael Grandage CBE
President of the Central School of Speech and Drama of London University and immediate past Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse who is coming to New York to direct an exciting new production of Evita.

He just completed ten award-winning years as Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse. Notable plays that subsequently came to Broadwayfrom the Donmar are RED with Eddie Redmayne and Alfred Molina and FROST/NIXON with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen. Other credits are: RICHARD III with Kenneth Branagh, EDWARD II with Joseph Fiennes, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER with Diana Rigg, and THE TEMPEST and DON CARLOS with Derek Jacobi. He is in New York to direct the highly-anticipated production of EVITA.
Mark Brokaw
Mark Brokaw will direct the new, first-ever
Broadway production of
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella,
projected to open on Broadway during 2012-2013.
Brokaw is the Artistic Director of the Yale Institute for Music Theatre. Broadway credits include directing the musical 'Cry Baby,' along with the plays 'The Constant Wife,' 'Reckless' and 'After Miss Julie.'
He has directed at London's Donmar Warehouse and Dublin's Gate Theatre and is an artistic associate of Roundabout Theatre

Introductions by
Elysa Gardner
Theatre Critic for USA Today
Gavin Henderson, CBE
Principal, Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London
$20 cover charge includes wine and light fare
Limited space - Reservations and payment required prior to the event
Click here to reserve now
At Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
31 West 52nd Street
New York, New York

Quick Hit Theater Review: Gob Squad's Kitchen

The Gob Squad. Photo David Baltzer
Gob Squad's Kitchen (You've Never Had it So Good)
The Public Theater
through Feb. 5, 2012

Devised and performed by the German/British Collective Gob Squad, this trip back to 1965 and to the underground cinemas of Andy Warhol, brings back to life the creation of his movies Kitchen, Sleep and The Kiss. Before the show, audience members are given a "tour" of the studio on stage behind a large screen on which live videos are shown as scenes from the movies are loosely created by cast members Johanna Freiburg, Sean Patten, Sharon Smith, Berit Stumpf, Sarah Thom, Bastian Trost and Simon Will along with members of the audience who are tapped to come up and take cast members places in the filming. Special guests listed include Erik Pold, Nina Tecklenburg and Laura Tonke.

To quote the publicity materials:
A Film Made Live On Stage With Bad Coffee, Nervous Breakdowns, Wild Parties and Modern Hairstyles.

Technically interesting with video by Miles Chalcraft, sound design by Jeff McGrory and stage design by Chasper Bertschinger.

An audience participation hater's nightmare.
If you are into the drug and sex culture of the 1960s, made famous by Warhol and his cohorts, you will enjoy this. If you don't like seeing images like these, you won't like it:
  • a woman choking off her air supply by placing a plastic bag over her head and a strap around her neck
  • people trying to get high by snorting coffee grinds
  • people getting sexually aroused by smearing peanut butter and corn flakes on each other
  • a woman filmed sleeping until asked to make out with one of the female actresses
When a woman being oppressed by cornflakes said, "I want this to stop," I finally related to something. To quote a critic friend of mine: "There is an hour and 50 minutes of my life I'll never get back."

Other information:
 The show, which was highlighted at the Public's Under the Radar Series, returned for this short engagement which ends Sunday. Single tickets, priced at $60-$70 can be purchased by calling 212-967-7555, by visiting, or in person at The Public Theater box office, 425 Lafayette St., NYC.

Christians might also like to know:
--Sexually graphic activity
--Sexual dialogue throughout
--God's name taken in vain
--Homosexual dialogue
--Homosexual activity

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.

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