Thursday, March 28, 2013

Theater Review: Hands on a Hardbody

"Joy". Photo: Chad Batka
Faith Themes Drive This Musical Joyride
By Lauren Yarger
Hands on a what?
The title of Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green's new Broadway musical Hands on a Hardbody has had people thinking the show is about everything from gay sex to a bodybuilding competition to a bunch of singing auto mechanics. What it turns out to be, however, is a surprisingly entertaining, emotion-filled story about a bunch of down-on-their luck Texans who rediscover faith -- in themselves and in God.

Based on a 1997 documentary film of the same name about  a real contest to see who can endure the longest to win a truck, Hands on a Hardbody follows five days of competition among four women and six men who try to be the one to drive home a shiny new truck from a Nissan dealership in Eastern Texas.

Everyone must keep one hand on the truck (a.k.a. a hardbody) without breaking contact during a grueling marathon sponsored as a publicity stunt by a local dealership to fuel sales in a dragging economy (much like the dance marathons of the Great Depression). The contestants are allowed only short breaks from time to time. The last one to take his hand off the truck wins it. Radio DJ Frank Nugent (Scott Wakefield) keeps everyone updated on the competition and who drops out when.

I must admit that even knowing what the story was about, I wasn't expecting much. After all, how far can you take that story line and why was talented Choreographer Sergio Trujillo attached to the show for "musical staging." Just how much dancing can the cast do while stuck to a car, I wondered?

Turns out Trujillo came up with some creative movement after all and even has the car join in via some drive and reverse movement and a revolving stage (set design is by Christine Jones). Some of the action takes place during the rest breaks, so director Neil Pepe makes sure we're not looking at a stagnant scene of 10 people just standing around with their hands on a truck for two and a half hours. Lighting (Kevin Adams, design) dims around the edges where the contestants take their break and spotlights an interaction between two characters downstage, for example.

We learn the stories of the contestants through dialogue in the book from Doug Wright (who won the Pulitzer Prize for I Am My Own Wife) and lyrics by Green. Keith Carradine plays old-timer JD Drew, who worries his wife, Virginia (Mary Gordan Murray) with his participation so soon after a leg injury suffered in a fall from his oil rig. Their marriage is falling apart and Virginia's constant coddling from the sidelines annoys JD.

Benny Perkins (Hunter Foster) won the hardbody contest a couple of years ago and plans to outlast the challengers. He and JD form an alliance to help each other through the ordeal. Rough-and-tough Janis Curtis (Dale Soules) gets support from loving husband Don (William Youmans), who applies reverse psychology by telling his wife that she can't win the truck. Anytime you tell Janis she can't do something, you see, she'll do it just to prove you wrong.

Bombshell Heather Stovall (Kathleen Elizabeth Monteleone) wants the truck so she can drive to her job at the rib joint instead of having to ride her bike 8 miles every day. Sleazy dealership manager Mike Ferris (Jim Newman) offers to help her stay ahead of the competition -- but she is reluctant to accept his compromising terms.

Young Greg Wilhote (Jay Armstrong Johnson) dreams of becoming a Hollywood stuntman. He and Kelli Mangrum (Allison Case) make a pact to use the truck to travel and see some of the places Kelli has only imagined visiting when she sees far-off labels on the packages she processes at her UPS job. Ex Marine Chris Alvaro (David Larsen) hopes to escape the nightmares he is having since returning from his tour overseas and to find the strength to go on living for his wife and son.

Ronald McCowan (Jacob Ming-Trent) doesn't plan well and thinks a constant diet of Snickers bars will sustain him through the competition. He's out of it quickly, but returns to encourage spirit-filled Christian Norma Valverde (Keala Settle), who believes Jesus will give her the truck, which she needs to drive her children to school and her husband to work.

Jesus Pena (Jon Rua) wants to pay the bills and finish veterinarian school -- and is tired of being looked down on because of his Mexican heritage. Dealership PR officer Cindy Barnes (Connie Ray) informs Jesus that if he wins the contest, she'll have to see some proof of citizenship, like a Green Card. Jesus, it turns out, was born right here in the US, proving his point about prejudice.

The book could use some edits. The second act never accelerates. The characters are so numerous, we get only a quick trip around the block with them instead of being able to go on a road trip. Some of the show's 19 musical numbers, which steer more toward the style of Phish band founding member Anastasio than toward the Texas country twang we're expecting, could be cut to give the production more mileage.

Most of the tunes are quite pleasing, however, including a rousing gospel number called "Joy of the Lord" and a humorous "God Answered My Prayers" (he said no). In fact, I very much enjoyed Settle's portrayal of a devout Christian woman, trusting in the Lord. She finds God might not want her at the competition to win the truck -- that she might be there instead to make Him known to the other contestants. It's a realistic moment for any of us who walk with the Lord -- his plans are not always ours.

Her example reignites the faith of Benny, who is bitter following the loss of his family. He recommits his life to the Lord, on his knees, right there on stage. It's real and convincingly done by Foster, who is in one of his best singing vehicles in recent years.

This show manages to proclaim the gospel and portray a believer who isn't an uptight Republican hiding homosexual tendencies (the typical stereotype for a Christian we see on stage these days.) Kudos!

The title could use some total bodywork, though, to avoid all the confusion over what it means. How about "Keep on Trucking"?

Hands on a Hardbody runs at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th St., NYC. Tickets and info:

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

Theater Review: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

David Hyde Pierce, Sigourney Weaver, Kristine Nielsen, and Billy Magnussen. Photo: Carol Rosegg
By Lauren Yarger
Christopher Durang's comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike makes an easy transfer from Off-Broadway to the Great White Way's Golden Theatre, where it is one of the hottest selling tickets on Broadway.

Starring Sigourney Weaver, David Hyde Pierce and Kristine Nielsen, among others, the comedy tells the story of three very different siblings in their home in Bucks County, PA, where throwing coffee cups at the wall and channelling Maggie Smith (Nielsen is a hoot) are not considered strange.

This is a very funny tongue-in-cheek send up of some of Chekhov's themes (the siblings, Vanya, Sonya and Masha all have been named after the playwright's characters), but doesn't waste time trying to parody the classics. Nicholas Martin directs a fabulous ensemble cast that only seems to have solidified since their run at Lincoln Center (particularly, Shalita Grant and Billy Magnussen seem to have come into their own as the zany, Voodoo practicing housekeeper and Masha's much-younger, self absorbed, sex-crazed boyfriend respectively). The smaller Golden Theatre helps keep the show's intimacy intact (but the line for the small women's bathroom is poorly managed. Don't plan on getting through before the curtain goes up).

Soliloquies by Pierce about his frustration over change and the lack of shared memories in society ( a real tour de force) and Nielsen as Sonia, trying to overcome a poor self image and believe that a man might be interested in her, are not to be missed.

Because I just reviewed the Off-Broadway version, I won't repeat the review, but you can read it by clicing here. The only addition is to add a disclaimer: my friend Pat Flicker Addiss turns out to be one of the producers. She knows that my reviews aren't influenced by the fact that I like her, but you should know it too.

Extended through July 28. For tickets and information visit:

To read the review, visit:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality
-- Sexual actions
-- Voodoo

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shana Farr Sings Julie Andrews for the Episcopal Actors' Guild

Shana Farr joins the Episcopal Actors' Guild for an evening of music inspired by the rich collection of lyrics and melodies that today are synonymous with Julie Andrews.

The concert will include great American standards by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, and the Gershwins, as well as lesser known numbers by Henry Mancini, Noel Coward, Arthur Schwartz, and more.

Farr will be joined by Robert Windeler, author of Julie Andrews: "A Life on Stage and Screen."

When: 7 pm April 11
Where: Guild Hall - 1 E. 29th St. - New York City
Trains: R/N @ 28th St.; 6 @ 28th St.
Suggested Donation: $10 (EAG members) & $15 (non-members)
Reservations: (212) 685-2927 or

Broadway Stars Sing Easter Mysteries

Elisabeth DeRosa (Mary Poppins) and Spencer Plachy (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) have joined the cast of Easter Mysteries, a contemporary oratorio being performed during this year’s holy week celebrations at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in New York City.

They join Broadway veterans Sumayya Ali (Porgy and Bess, Ragtime), Cathryn Basile (The Little Mermaid, The 26th Putnam County Spelling Bee), Kathy Calahan (Mary Poppins), Trista Dollison (The Lion King), Jack Doyle (Young Frankenstein, The Music Man), Jason Veasey (The Lion King), Walter Willison (Grand Hotel, Pippin), and Matt Wolfe (Scandalous). The cast is rounded out with a strong representation of other New York musical theater productions including Diana Rose Becker, Max Chernin, Michael Deleget, Sarah Ellis, Julia Johanos, Katie Keyser, Paul Louis Lessard, Michael Marcotte, Mary Jo Mecca, Danny Rothman, Kyle Scatliffe, and Hansel Tan.

“These are gorgeous voices singing beautiful music,” enthused Musical Director Milton Granger (Mary Poppins). The Music, Book, and Lyrics are by John O’Boyle, who is currently a producer on two shows opening this season, Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike, and Matilda with the RSC.

Easter Mysteries will be directed by OBIE Award winning, Dan Wackerman. Performances will take place at the Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 W. 46th St. March 27 at 7pm, March 29 at 7 pm and March 30 at 2 pm

Tickets are $25 and are available by calling (212) 352-3101 or visiting Proceeds will go to St. Clement’s Food Pantry. For more information, call (212) 633-6533.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Theater Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's

Emilia Clarke and Vito Vincent in a scene from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on Broadway. Photo: Nathan Johnson
Loved the Clothes and the Cat, but the Rest of Breakfast Was Hard to Swallow
By Lauren Yarger
This review will be brief. I hate taking a lot of time to point out all of the shortcomings of a show, and there are many in the world premiere of Richard Greenberg's stage adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's at Broadway Cort Theatre.

If you are a fan of the 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn, you will find this rendition less subtle, less witty, less charming. It casts Holly Golightly as an apparent prostitute, rather than a goldigging sort of girl who dates wealthy men in the hopes of snagging a wedding ring from one of them. If you haven't seen the film or read the novella by Truman Capote, on which it was based, you won't be able to compare, but you will find this version troublesome nonetheless.

Too many scene changes (one set piece got stuck the night I attended) with distracting video projection (Derek McLane should get overtime pay for the set demands; Wendall K. Harrington is the production designer) can't hide a less-than-riveting book and the fact that its young actors, "Game of Thrones"' star and breathtakingly beautiful Emilia Clarke, and Cory Michael Smith, both making their Broadway debuts, are in over their heads.

It's a shame, because both are talented actors. Clarke has created one of the most compelling characters on the wildly popular  HBO series, originating the role of Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons. I often have been impressed with her acting ability while rooting for her to win the Iron Throne. Here, however, she has bitten off more than she can chew stepping into role that is too iconic and better suited for a more mature stage actor. Director Sean Mathias lets her hide behind a strange, unidentifiable and annoying accent. She's trying to be bubbly and flirtatious and confident, but we see her trying, not being.

Smith, who recently turned in a top-notch performances Off-Broadway in The Cockfight Play and The Whale, never finds his beat as Fred, Holly's friend and sort-of love interest. It may be the difficulty in trying to make the dialogue sound plausible. With lines like "I've seen it more times than you have toes," and "I'm going to march you over to the zoo and feed you to the yak," everybody's working hard here. The supporting cast: Tony Torn plays a man Holly is interested in who marries her best friend, Mag (played by Kate Cullen Roberts). Pedro Carmo plays another of Holly's conquests. Suzanne Bertish turns in two memoriable performances as "Stern Lady Boss" who fires Fred from his and "Madame Spanella," an apparent neighbor of Holly and Fred who bursts into their rooms for no apparent reason delivering odd one-liners, the significance of which isn't always clear (along with some parts of the plot).

Enough time taken on the negative, except to reiterate that this production doesn't work on a lot of levels (and throwing in a totally unnecessary nude scene for the two leads didn't distract me from the mess either.)

Let me focus instead, on a few things that are positive:
  • Cat. Three felines share the spotlight as Holly's pet, named only Cat: Montie, Moo and Vito Vincent. From their publicity photos (yes, I'm not joking), I believe I saw Vito, picture above. He hit his mark and exited on cue every time. Auditions actually were held for the role of Cat. The casting call included this wording: "Felines with Broadway dreams are encouraged to submit a photo and owner contact information . . . A casting session will be held during the week of February 11, 2013 to groom the candidates for Broadway stardom. " Now that's fun. Even more amusing is Vito's bio in the show's Playbill: Vito "wasn't always in the limelght: When he was just seven months old his owners gave him up to a shelter. Since his re-adoption, Vito has become a real star and a therapy animal rated 'complex.' Credits include, among others, '30 Rock,' 'Colbert Nation,' 'Animal Planet,' 'Meow Mix,' Target stores and"
  • Seeing Norm behind the bar. George Wendt, who starred for years as barstool warmer Norm on TV's Cheers, plays barkeep Joe Bell. I almost expected the audience to greet him with a shouted, "Norm!" at the curtain call just like patrons at Cheers used to do when he walked through the door.
  • The clothes. Every frock Clarke wears (in 1940s style by Costume Designer Colleen Atwood) is more beautiful than the last. From the first dress with decorative buttons down the sleeves to beautiful gowns with diagonal ribbons and sashes, Atwood, a 10-time Oscar nominee and three-time winner ("Chicago," "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Alice in Wonderland") creates beauty with stunning color choices and beautiful lines for her first Broadway production. The combination of the costumes with Clarke's stunning features creates an alluring, glamorous look.
Breakfast at Tiffany's plays at the Cort Theatre, 138 west 48th St., NYC. Tickets and info: 212-239-6200;

Christians also might like to know:
-- Show does not post a MATURE advisory, but should.
-- Nudity
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality
-- Language

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Katie Roche

David Friedlander, Jon Fletcher and Wrenn Schmidt. Photo: Richard Termine
Katie Roche
By Teresa Deevy
Directed by Jonathan Bank
The Mint Theater Company

What's It all About?
Young, ambitious housemaid Katie Roche (Wrenn Schmidt) can't decide what to do. Much older, rigid Stanislaus Gregg (Patrick Fitzgerald), brother of Amelia (Maragret Daly), for whom Katie works, has proposed marriage. She likes him -- especially since he has popped the question -- but her heart is torn by affection she feels for younger, fun-loving Michael Maguire (Jon Fletcher) who never has made a declaration of his feelings.  She seeks the advice of Reuben (Jamie Jackson), a  holy man who has walked to their Ballycar, Ireland village from Dublin. Some information about Katie's mysterious parentage comes to light and might prove that she's higher born than her lower-class language and manner, for which Stan has constant criticism, might indicate.

Katie marries Stan with big dreams of inspiring his career in architecture, but soon feels stifled in the "just-so" household they share with Amelia and in the wake of disapproval from Stan and Amelia's other sibling, the intimidating Margaret (an enjoyable Fiana Toibin). Stan plays matchmaker and suggests that Amelia marry her old flame Frank Lawor (John O'Creagh), but soon discovers that he should be much more concerned about his own marriage when Katie and Michael are found in a compromising position. Reuben warns Katie that she's playing with frie and Stan makes some decisions that will change the course of the relationships forever. David Friedlander rounds out the cast as Jo Mahony, Michael's friend.

What are the Highlights?
A delightful story, skillfully told. We feel as though we have stepped into the 1936 living room of this couple (thanks to the charming cottage design by Vicki R. Davis). The play contains threads of faith, right vs. wrong and fidelity in marriage that make it relevant in modern times. It does not feel dated.

What are the Lowlights?
Two intermissions disrupt the flow.

More information:
Katie Roche is the third production of Mint’s three-year project dedicated to reviving Deevy's work. Previously the company presented Wife To James Whelan in 2010 and Temporal Powers in 2011.

Katie Roche is presented Off-Broadway by the mint Theater Company, 311 West 43rd St., NYC, through March 31. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- No production note. Enjoy.

Theater Review: Ann

Holland Taylor. Photo: Ava Bonar
Holland Taylor's Incarnation of Gov. Ann Richards Probably Will Earn Her a Tony Nod
By Lauren Yarger
Holland Taylor stars in an homage she has written to the feisty former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. Besides writing a good play, which is getting a Broadway run in association with Lincoln Center Theater, Taylor gives a rich performance that probably will earn her a Best Actress Tony nomination.

Taylor doesn't perform the role. She becomes Richards. From the gray hair (wig design by Paul Huntley) and designer suit (Julie Weiss, costume) to the raunchy jokes told with a southern drawl, Taylor captures the memorable woman who was the 45th governor of Texas from 1991-1995.

The scene shifts from a graduation address to memories of her life and her many years in public service (Michael Fagin's set shifts too, creating the gubernatorial office where Ann talks on the phone and shouts to her assistant Nancy Kohler (voiced by Julie White) in the next room and other locations). Under the direction of Benjamin Endsley Klein, the performance s enhanced by the use of video projections (Zachary Borovay, design).

Taylor becomes Ann and as a result, we get to know her. She's a mix of loving mother, hardcore Democrat, tough boss and genuinely nice person. Audience members who don't remember Richards from her exposure in the press can get a very good picture of who she was and what mattered to her through this production.

"Life is not fair, but government should be," she tells us.

She shares her struggles with alcohol, her passion for women's rights and a deep love for Texas. If Richards still were alive, she'd be telling Taylor -- probably very bluntly with an off-color joke -- that the next thing she'd better get to writing is a thank you for the Tony nomination.

Ann plays at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, 150 West 65th St., NYC at Lincoln Center. Tickets: (212) 239-6200 or

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

Quick Hit Theater Review: Jesus Hopped the A Train

Jesus Hopped the A Train
By Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Sharone Halevy
Presented by Yellafella Entertainment
16th Street Theater

What's It All About?
Inmates Angel Cruz (Juan Castano) and Lucius Jenkins (Jordan Mahome) cope with life inside Riker's Island prison and sadistic corrections officer Valdez (Jake Hart). Valdez gets kindhearted colleague Charlie D'Amico (John Payne) relieved of duty for being too friendly with Lu (he had provided the prisoner with cigarettes, Oreos and genuine friendship). Valdez makes it known that the fun times are over and seems to have it in for Lu because he freely confesses his faith in God.

Cruz, incarcerated for shooting a cult leader who had brainwashed kids who had to be kidnapped and "reprogrammed" after the experience, also doesn't want to hear "religion" from Lu, but he accepts the man's friendship in the midst of harsh treatment and abuse from other inmates. Cruz's case touches Public Defender Mary Jane Hanrahan (Christy Escobar) who works, at peril to her own career, to have the charges against him dismissed. All hope seems to be lost for Lu, however, who is headed to death row for the eight heinous murders he committed.

What are the Highlights?
The gospel is clearly proclaimed as Lu (in a wonderful performance by Mahome) prays, sings and shares his faith while working out during the one hour of outdoor recreation time he is allowed each day in the prison yard (the minimal set, effectively designed by Clifton Chadick). Sharone Halevy directs an above-average Equity Showcase.

What are the Lowlights?
Only five performances!

More information:
This presentation was a special one-week engagement and has closed. YellaFella Entertainment was founded in 2011 by actor/writer/director Lelund Durond Thompson. Its mission is "to tell universal stories that heal through music, theater, film and photography. YellaFella represents faith and hope. YellaFella represents love for people. YellaFella represents love for people’s creativity, YellaFella represents the steps toward healing and positive change that we all desire." The company is producing a number of diverse projects. Tshidi Manye (currently starring as “Rafiki” in Broadway’s The Lion King) has recently begun the YellaFella Concert Series where she invites her audiences on a journey of self-exploration and emotional healing through song. Also in development is The Doll Confessions, a new play fused with music and dance, which examines the effects of childhood traumas as seen through the eyes of the dolls who have witnessed them. The Doll Confessions is directed by Tony Award winner Trezana Beverly. For more info:

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

Quick Hit Theater Review: Really Really

 Lauren Culpepper and Zosia Mamet in a scene from MCC Theater’s Really Really © Janna Giacoppo
Really Really
By Paul Downs Colaizzo
Directed by David Cromer
MCC Theater

What’s It Really, Really All About?
College athletes Johnson (Kobi Libh), Cooper (David Hull) and Davis (Matt Lauria) cope with the stress of midterms by hosting the campus party of the year. More reserved, and responsible Johnson doesn’t stay, and is surprised to hear the next morning from Cooper, who listened at the keyhole, that Davis got lucky. Even more surprising is the identity of the woman: Leigh (Zosia Mamet, daughter of playwright David Mamet making her debut in a long-form play), the girlfriend of their other teammate, Jimmy (Evan Jonigkeit) who was away during the party.

Cooper wastes no time making sure that Jimmy finds out. Devastated, he confronts Leigh, who tells a different story. She claims that Davis raped her and that she lost their baby as a result. Leigh’s religious roommate, Grace (Lauren Culpepper), returns from a Future Leaders of America conference to discover the developments and tries to help Leigh, but might have ulterior motives. Also lending unwanted assistance is Leigh’s visiting sister, Haley (Aleque Reid), who reminds her of their abusive past. She takes steps to ensure that Leigh will have a future with Jimmy.

The strength and loyalty of all the relationships are tested as Leigh files a complaint with the college and Davis is suspended. He can’t remember anything about the night in question after the keg was delivered, but his attempts to get Leigh to put together the missing pieces of the puzzling night for him backfire with surprising results.

What are the Highlights?
David Cromer directs. His name in the credits is enough to justify a night at the theater – the man is a genius. A bonus here is a revealing, very contemporary well written play by Paul Downs Colaizzo in his New York playwriting debut. Its depiction of the “me” generation is realistic – frighteningly so – with its raw language and situations that unfortunately are too common among the college-age crowd. Pleasing plot and character-development twists keep the audience engrossed and guessing about who is telling the truth in this he-said, she-said. 

Cromer doesn’t get in the way of the material and coaches the ensemble to sobering performances. A nice touch is having Leigh step down into the house and address the audience with her speech to her future fellow future leaders of America. The significance that these rather unpleasant, selfish kids are our next generation of leaders is "really really" chilling.

What are the Lowlights?
Though Grace speaks as though she could be associated with Christianity, her actions don't reflect biblical choices in her lifestyle. That's not to say that Christians don't make poor choices, but let's just say that the stereotype of Christians as being hypocritical or stupid gets played out on stages far more than a depiction of Christians who actually know what they believe and behave accordingly. It's getting old.

Depressing material that's hard to watch, but only because it’s so true.

Other information:
Really Really is the first play in Colaizzo’s “Want, Give, Get” trilogy. The play, presented by MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St., NYC, has been extended through March 30. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Strong language (lots of it)
-- Rap
-- Sexual actions an dialogue
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Derogatory terms used in reference to women

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quick Hit Review: Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM

Title : High Bars Picture credit : OSA Images

  • Costume credit : Kym Barrett ©2010 Cirque du Soleil

  • Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM 
    Written and Directed by Robert Lepage
    Director of Creation: Neilson Vignola
    Citi Field

    What's it All About?
    Cirque du Soleil's acrobats and specialty acts converge in a tale that "traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly." The characters evolve from a colossal  turtle shell, which the show's information says is "the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations."

    Characters in shining earth-tone-colored costumes (Kym Barrett, costume design; Nathalie J. Simard, makeup design), reptilian skin and indigenous native tribe garb are joined by apes and modern humans competing for the love of a mate (including to two muscled guys on a beach who compete for the attentions of a woman -- who turns out to b more buff than they are. The story is told with the help of clowns, and balancing, foot juggling, acrobatics, trapeze art, roller skating and other circus acts (choreography by Jeff Hall), overseen by two hard-to-identify characters: a sort of red-clad ringmaster and a silver-sequined being who drops in from time to time and seems to represent the big bang or the inspiration behind all of the evolution taking place.

    What are the highlights?
    As always, Cirque du Soleil is a wonder to behold and experience. This show contains some of the most skilled specialty acts.

    Hands down, the best part of this presentation, is an oval,  raked part of the set which becomes a number of bodies of water thanks to projection and lighting. A raft makes its way over the top of it and navigates some rapids; swimmers make their way to the edge, then step out of the water in the form of real people. It's really fascinating. 

    The story is fairly easy to follow here (not always the case with Cirque) and the music (composed by Bob and Bill) is vibrant, played by a band conducted by Charles Dennard, Jr. just behind the swamp-like set (Carl Fillion, set and props designer) and sung by two soloists.

    The set. Picture credit : OSA Images

  • Costume credit : Kym Barrett ©2010 Cirque du Soleil

  • What are the Lowlights:
    If you're not a fan of Darwin, this won't be for you. God, and Creation as you know it from the bible doesn't seem to fit in the picture anywhere.

    This show isn't big on the flying and tumbling. This isn't really a "lowlight," but will be disappointing if that's what you are hoping to see.

    The seats are very tiny and snug. If you are a person of size, you'll want to make sure you purchase an aisle seat. If it's rainy, wear weatherproof shoes as puddles collect at the entrances to the big top. Outdoor restroom facilities are chilly -- like the winter weather surrounding them at the moment.

    Other Information:
    Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM plays in Lot C at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, through May 21. For transportation information: Tickets:

    Christians might also like to know:
    -- Scantily clad performers
    -- A clown comments on the size of a male performer's private parts
    -- Evolution Theory as described above

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    Quick Hit Theater Review: Women of Will

    Tina Packer. Photo: Matthew Murphy
    Women of Will
    By Tina Packer
    Directed by Eric Tucker
    Starring Tina Packer and Nigel Gore
    Design TeamL Valerie Bart (Scenic and Costume Design), Les Dickert (Lighting Design), Daniel Kluger (Sound Design)
    The Gym at Judson

    What's it All About?
    The women of Shakespeare's plays and the playwright's enlightenment about the roles of women with the passage of time. Tina Packer developed Women of Will, an overview of more extended works: five plays called Women of Will: The Compete Journey during a 15-year period when she was artistic director at Shakespeare and; Company in Lenox, MA.where both works received their world-premiere productions. It's a mix of history lesson, Shakespeare lesson and advanced scene study class as Packer and costar Nigel Gore discuss the text and scenes in between performing them. The "Will" in the title studies the women found in Will Shakespeare's work as well as the "will" that propels the women to and through power structures and the "will" alternately defined in Elizabethan English as sexual desire. Packer shows how Shakespeare moves from portraying women as either shrews or virgins (including The Taming of the Shrew; Henry VI) to merging the sexual and spiritual to create heroines who are people in their own right and who have the power to change the world (like Juliet). Finally, he offers women who are ut for revenge, like Lady Macbeth.

    What are the Highlights?
    Fascinating stuff if you're a Shakespeare fan. Packer suggests several interpretations for one scene and enacts them all, each giving different takes on the action. Her Lady Macbeth is riveting.

    What are the Lowlights?
    If you didn't like that Shakespeare class in college, this one's not for you. Having other actors more appropriate to the roles (a teenage Juliet and an African American Othello, for example) while Packer and Gore comment on the scenes might make the presentation even more interesting.

    More info:
    Following Tuesday evening performances of the Overview of Women of Will, Packer and Gore have been giving post show talk-backs. Beginning March 19 they will welcome some moderators (additional names and dates to be announced).
    , Tuesday, March 19 Carey Purcell a New York based writer, reporter and theatre critic who offers a fresh and feminist perspective from a progressive young woman. Purcell is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post,,,, and WHERE New York Magazine to name a few.
    Tuesday, April 9 Andy Buck, a dramaturg for Lynn M. Thomson’s “America-in-Play” theater company and curator of a series of staged readings at Brooklyn College with director Mary Beth Easley and playwrights Mac Wellman and Erin Courtney. Buck has also been a writer for publications such as Playbill, TheaterMania and TDF Stages.
    Date TBD Carol Gilligan, an American feminist, ethicist and psychologist, who is a Professor at New York University and a Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge. Gilligan is best known for her 1982 work, “In a Different Voice,” her text on gender studies.
    Tuesday, May 7 Deirdre Donovan, a regular contributor to, who has also published articles in The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe to name a few. Donovan is a member of The Shakespeare Society, as well as the English-Speaking Union/New York Brach and has been their Treadwell Scholar at Stratford.
    Tuesday, May 14 Linda Winer, chief theater critic and arts columnist of Newsday, a position she’s held since 1987. Winer has been teaching critical writing at Columbia University since 1992 and has been a jurist for the Pulitzer Prize in theater eight times.
    Women of Will: The Complete Journey – Packer’s five-play series that explores and deconstructs William Shakespeare’s most famous female characters – will begin performances April 5 and will run bi-monthly over alternating weekends.
    The performance schedule is as follows: now through March 28
    “The Overview” is performed Tuesdays at 7 pm, Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm;
    From April 9 through June 2 “The Complete Journey” will be performed as follows on alternating weekends: For the performance schedule, visit Tickets are $75:; 212-352-3101. There will also be a limited number of $25 student rush tickets available for each performance sold at the Box Office.

    Quick Hit Theater Review: The Flick

    The Flick
    By Annie Baker
    Directed by Sam Gold
    Playwrights Horizons

    What's it All About?
    Three workers at The Flick, one of the last 35mm movie theaters in Worcester County, MA, get to know each other a little -- and maybe not very much -- as they interact before and after the films show at the run-down theater. Sam (Matthew Maher) has been a round a while and is a little resentful that Rose (Louisa Krause) got promoted to projectionist, though she hasn't worked there very long. He shows the ropes about how to clean up popcorn, mop the floors, etc. to reserved new employee Avery (Aaron Clifton Moten).

    Sam and Rose convince a reluctant Avery to join them in a ticket-shaving scheme that results in their being able to take home a few extra dollars each shift without the boss knowing about it. The three start to open up with each other a little over the weeks. Sam obviously has romantic feelings for Rose, but she is more interested in old movie buff Avery, who has an amazing ability to link films and their stars in six degrees of separation or less. Alex Hanna plays a couple of other minor characters who end up in the theater.

    Questions are raised about the likelihood of getting close to people with whom we work -- or with anyone at all for that matter. How well do we really know a person, even if we see them every day? What about when someone's sense of right and wrong is totally messed up (like in the case of Rose). Everyone has a hidden side that might reveal surprising insight into motivations.

    What are the Highlights?
    Moten is a character study in privacy and insecurity. His almost smile as he struggles to remain in control, or to politely show appreciation for something he himself doesn't find humorous is brilliant. Lighting design by Jane Cox deserves mention. It really looks like a movie is showing thanks to the movie-seat set by David Zinn (who also designs costumes) and end-of-the-movie sound by Bray Poor.

    What are the Lowlights?
    The script is full of repetition and scenes that come to a virtual standstill as we watch the characters perform prolonged routine tasks. I get it. That's what happens in real life, but this is theater, and an hour easily could be trimmed from Baker's almost three-hour long script (there s one intermission). Director Sam Gold also collaborated on her plays Circle Mirror Transformation (also at Playwrights) The Aliens, as well as Baker's adaptation of Uncle Vanya. He obviously loves her stuff and indulges every word and every pause that every character has. It's kind of like visiting friends who want to show you every baby picture they have taken, assuming that you are just as interested in seeing 200 pictures of their child eating his birthday cake from every possible angle as they are. The first scene is quite possibly the most boring in theater history -- unless, of course, if you happen to be a big fan of every pause written into a script.

    Characters never develop enough for us to decide whether we like them or not. At times, it is difficult to understand Maher's dialogue.

    More Information:
    The Flick runs through March 31 at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd St., NYC. The performance schedule is Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 PM. Single tickets, starting at $70:, 212- 279-4200; Box Office, 416 West 42nd St. (between 9th and 10th avenues. 
    Christians might also like to know:
    Content includes:
    -- Sexual dialogue and activity
    -- Language
    -- Astrology
    -- God's name taken in vain
    -- Suicide
    -- Homosexuality

    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Broadway Bound Testament of Mary Gives a Different Take on the Mother of Jesus

    Fiona Shaw,  Colm Tóibín and Deborah Warner. Photographed at New 42nd Street (R) Studios.
    Fiona Shaw presented rehearsal excerpts from Colm Tóibín's upcoming Broadway play The Testament of Mary based on his novella of the same name. Th show opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre April 22.

    The Testament of Mary is set after the crucifixion of Jesus. Mary is living in Ephesus and reflects on her son's activities leading to his death. Tóibín said he was inspired after viewing a painting of the crucifixion and wondering what it might have been like to be there, after it, and to be able to speak about it. That voice is given to Mary -- and it's not the voice you might expect if you think of her as an innocent, iconic virgin.

    Mary represents all of us, Shaw said, somewhere in between what was made out of her and what is expected of her. It's really the story of a mother and son (which Tóibín, a Mellon professor in the English Deperment at Columbia University, has explored in his other works "A Long Winter" and "Mothers and Sons.") She hopes to reveal Mary as a real person -- a mother whose son was late to leave home, went to the big city, hung out with a bunch of "misfits" and got into trouble. 

    In an excerpt, we saw a cigarette-smoking, bitter Mary, full of rage. Her version of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is a different interpretation of the scripture account and doesn't necessarily hae the happy ending we expect. It's an intense performance. Watch for Shaw to be nominated for a Tony Award,

    This marks a 25-year working partnership between Shaw (known to film for her role in the Harry Potter series among others) and director Deborah Warner. The two last collaborated on a New York Production for the award-winning The Waste Land.

    For tickets and information about The Testament of Mary: 212-239-6200.

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013

    Theater Review: All in the Timing

    LIV ROOTH, MATTHEW SALDIVAR, ERIC CLEM, CARSON ELROD and JENN HARRIS in the PRIMARY STAGES 20th anniversary production of ALL IN THE TIMING. photo © 2013 James Leynse.
    All in the Timing
    By David Ives
    Directed by John Rando
    Primary Stages

    What’s It All About?
    Well, it’s all about the timing, Six one-act comedies are presented by the ensemble cast of Eric Clem, Carson Elrod, Jenn Harris, Liv Rooth and Matthew Saldivar on a sharply raked and angled set decorated with stripes and clocks (Beowulf Boritt, design).

    "Sure Thing" is a sketch where the outcome of a meeting between a man and woman changes as often as the conversation.
    "Words, Words, Words" follows three chimps with typewriters. The researchers watch as they hope one of them will suddenly type out Hamlet.
    "The Universal Language" offers lessons in Unamunda, a quirky new language designed to bring the nations -- and one particular couple -- together.
    "Philip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread" is a surreal experience in a bakery.
    "The Philadelphia" gives new meaning to having a good or bad day.
    "Variations on the Death of Trotsky" is, well, exactly what it says.

    What are the Highlights?
    Really funny, quirky little sketches that surprise and delight. Direction by John Rando is sharp and the cast shows they really do know about timing. The quick dialogue and witty humor is delivered perfectly and all of the actors get a workout delivering ranges of emotion and character.

    The "Universal Language" vignette particularly was funny with Elrod spewing out dialogue that sounds enough like English so you get the gist, but which includes a variety of accents and rapid-fire plays on words that make it much more difficult to speak, I'm sure.

    What are the Lowlights?
    None. Well done and totally entertaining.

    More information:
    All in the Timing runs at Primary Stages, 59 East 59th St., NYC through April 14. Performances are Performances are Wednesday at 7 pm, Friday at 8 pm, and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm. Tickets: 212-279-4200;

    Christians might also like to know:
    -- God’s name taken in vain
    -- Language
    -- Sexual actions

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    Quick Hit Theater Review: Jackie

    Tina Benko. Photo: Carol Rosegg
    By Elfriede Jelinek
    Translated by Gitta Honegger
    Directed by Tea Alagic
    Starring Tina Benko
    Set Design: Marsha Ginsberg
    Costumes: Susan Hilferty
    Presented by The Women's Project

    What's it About?
    Good question. This isn't the Jackie Kennedy Onassis (Tina Benko)  you know and love. She arrives at a purgatory location that looks a drained swimming pool, or possibly a sewer treatment facility, though the significance never is explained (Marsha Ginsberg, set design), carrying the burdens of her past represented by dummies made of plastic and duct tape of John and Bobby Kennedy, second husband Ari Onassis and some little ones I assumed later to be the children she lost. She looks a little like Jackie (Susan Hilferty, costume design), but this woman explains that what you saw on the outside, the image of a perfectly coiffed and attired princess totally in control of every situation -- even the president's funeral -- wasn't the real woman on the inside.

    "I am not thin, but I can look it because I dress properly," she tells us.

    The inner Jackie isn't perfect. She's not even controlled. She is haunted by the shooting in Dallas, gives new explanations for why it looked like she was trying to crawl out of the vehicle and why she lost so many children, She also reveals jealousy over Marilyn Monroe's intrusion into her marriage with a playboy president. She mutilates a lot of Barbie dolls to make her point and seems deranged and vampire-like at times. What helps her keep it together? Drugs. She recommends we try speed.

    What are the highlights?
    Benko gives a consuming, energetic performance.
    I personally enjoyed the cameo by a Barbie and the look of fright on the face of an elderly man seated house left who almost got taken out by a flying Barbie doll that missed its mark on stage and visited the audience.

    What are the Lowlights?
    The obvious point is to let us know that the "princess" image we have of Jackie was a facade. It's unclear if we're really supposed to replace it with the bizarre character being depicted on stage or whether this is supposed to be a dark comedy. It's like a really long Saturday Night Live sketch that's serious, instead of funny, and we didn't get the joke to begin with. I couldn't help think that Jackie would have been mortified -- especially when this Barbie-throwing princess caught the edge of her Chanel dress and revealed the seat of her pantyhose. This might not have been planned as part of the staging -- who knows in a presentation like this one -- but either way, Jackie wouldn't have liked it.

    More Information:
    This is the North American premiere (and possibly the word premiere of the English translation -- for some reason this isn't known for sure) of Jackie, part of the playwright's "Princess Cycle," a counterpoint to Shakespeare's Kings Plays. Austrian writer Jeinek won the 2004 Nobe Prize for Literature for her novel "The Piano Teacher" which later was turned into a movie.

    Jackie runs through March 31 at the Women's Project's new home at City Center II, 131 West 55th St., NYC.  Tickets: 212-581-1212;

    Christians might also like to know:
    -- Drug use
    -- Material is for adults, not children.

    Monday, March 4, 2013

    Theater Review: Cinderella

    Santino Fontana and Laura Osnes. Photo: Carol Rosegg
    Cinderella Rewritten for a Social-Justice-Minded Generation
    By Lauren Yarger
    If you think you know the tale of Cinderella, think again. The first Broadway production of the musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein has a new book from Douglas Carter Beane (Sister Act, Xanadu, The Little Dog Laughed) that takes the story out of the land of fairytales and into a modern culture concerned about social justice.

    Many of the beloved songs like "A Lovely Night," "In My Own Little Corner," "The Prince is Giving a Ball," "Do I Love You?" and "Ten Minutes Ago" still grace the score adapted by David Chase and orchestrated by Danny Troob, joined by some additions from the Rodgers and Hammerstein "trunk" (songs that didn't make it into their other musicals). The story and Cinderella's character get a makeover, however.

    The book for this musical sorely needed a rewrite. The original, penned by Hammerstein, is one of the worst books of a musical ever written. It starred Julie Andrews in a for-TV production in 1957. Later, the book was rewritten and the musical starred Leslie Ann Warren and Stuart Damon in what became an annual must-watch for girls across the nation during the 1960s and '70s.

    In 1997, Brandy starred in another update, but none of those versions ever made it to Broadway until its opening last night at the Broadway Theatre, where folks have been lining up to buy tickets that top out at $137 each like they're invitations to a ball where the prince will select his bride (the box office reportedly did more than $1 million in sales last week during previews). I attended the Saturday matinee where the house was populated by tons of little girls dressed as princesses wearing tiny tiaras.

    But will they recognize their heroine in this new version? She's played with pluck by the lovely voiced Laura Osnes, only this cinder-sitting girl goes by "Ella" and is paired with a naive, but charming -- really, really charming -- Santino Fontana as Prince Topher, short for Christopher Rupert Windemere Vladimir Carl Alexander Francois Reginald Lancelot Herman, who's giving a ball. That announcement, sung by Lord Pinkleton (Phumzile Sojola) is intermixed with "The Time s Now," a call for social action.

    This Cinderella still finds herself waiting hand and foot on a cruel Stepmother (a delightfully wicked Harriet Harris) and two unattractive stepsisters, Gabrielle (Marla Mindelle) and Charlotte (Ann Harada, whose attempts to win the prince for herself provide much comedy). Gabrielle has a softer side, however, and it attracts the attentions of a young revolutionary, Jean-Michel (Greg Hill Dreth), who calls for action against the unjust treatment of the poor by the government. When the king and queen die, a self-serving trustee named Sebastian (a droll Peter Bartlett) is left in charge until Prince Topher, off slaying odd tree monsters, can return home to the throne. (The monster slaying opens the show in a vast forest -- Anna Louizos designs the set -- with Topher wishing he could do something more significant with his life.)

    Meanwhile, Jean-Michel's book about how people in other countries live inspires Ella (it's a really nice tie-in to "In My Own Little Corner" and this more pronounced, thoughtful version as directed by Mark Brokaw, is stronger than it ever has been in previous versions.) Despite the hardship she endures, Ella continues to show kindness to everyone, especially "Crazy Marie," (the always excellent Victoria Clark), a sort of homeless forest dweller who turns out to be her fairy godmother.

    Marie changes Ella's rags into a beautiful white ball gown and a pumpkin and her fox and raccoon friends (puppets handled by Heidi Gilberson and Laura Irion) into a golden coach with footman and driver (Andy Mills and Cody Williams). The special effects use some nifty lighting (designed by Kenneth Posner), but hardly conceal how the magic happens (and Marie's new gown, designed by Costumer William Ivey Long, is rather silly looking to accommodate two large flexible ball frames at er hips that are necessary later for her to look like a giant butterfly while flying around.)

    Ella meets the prince at the ball (a masked one -- now doesn't that make more sense since the prince can't identify Cinderella after she leaves??) where she encourages everyone to play nicely and displays her ballet talent in Choreographer Josh Rhodes's dances until midnight when she flees (I personally didn't hear Marie warn her about that). She pauses to tell Topher that he has to do something about how his government is treating the people. With that, she goes -- remembering to take her glass slipper with her.

    But don't fret. Topher decides to hold a "banquet" which he hopes the mystery girl of his dreams will attend, and she does, this time in a golden gown that makes a much more impressive transition from rags than its predecessor did. Ella arranges for the prince to meet with Jean-Michel, Gabrielle and the villagers. They realize that maybe Topher's not such a bad guy after all and the prince, beginning to understand that Sebastian has been taking advantage of him, focuses on learning how to govern. He nominates Jean-Michel to run against Sebastian for the post of prime minister. Should things continue the way they are or they way they could be? Let the people decide, he decrees!

    While the show is entertaining, with a lot of humor to entertain the adults bringing all those little ones to the theater, the overwhelming political message is annoying. I fully expected to see a Hope and Change or an Occupy banner displayed at the ball. Can't kids just be kids and enjoy a fairytale?

    Overall, however, it's highly entertaining and lavishly done. I did enjoy Beane's decision to have Gabrielle and Cinderella become friends and there is a particularly moving moment when Ella forgives her stepmother. The new songs blend well with the old and there are some beautiful duets for Osnes and Fontana who are perfect in their roles. This is Osnes' breakout role. The show's strength, besides the score, is in its flawless casting across the boards.

    And special kudos go to Music Director/Conductor Andy Einhorn, conducting the large orchestra. I never have seen a conductor smile and so obviously enjoy the music of a show before.

    Cinderella has a lovely night at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway, NYC. Tickets: 212-239-6200; 800-432-7250 outside NYC;

    Christians also might like to know:
    -- No content notes.

    Sunday, March 3, 2013

    Quick Hit Theater Review: The Revisionist

    Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg © Sandra Coudert
    The Revisionist
    By Jesse Eisenberg
    Directed by Kip Fagan
    Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dan Drieskes, Vanessa Redgrave
    Presented by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
    at the Cherry Lane Theatre

    What's it all About?
    David (Eisenberg), struggling with writer's block and feeling newer, fresher authors nipping at his heels, shows up at his distant cousin's apartment in Poland where he hopes to find a quiet place to make edits on the overdue manuscript of his latest novel. Maria (Redgrave) doesn't understand that he just wants to be left alone. She is thrilled to have a visitor -- especially one from the American family she knows only through the many photos displayed throughout her home (John McDermott designs the multi-roomed, cluttered home). She wants to cook for him and spend time talking. The only other person she sees regularly is cab driver Zenon (Drieskes, speaking only in Polish), who takes her on errands once a week, shaves her legs for her and drinks all of her vodka. When David and Maria finally start to bond, secrets are revealed that might revise their family's history as well as their relationship.

    What are the highlights?
    Eisenberg, deftly directed by Fagan, skillfully brings his own overwhelmed, hyperactive, pot-smoking character to life. Redgrave counters him with humorous depths in her character. She gives her best performance on a New York stage since her Tony Award-winning turn in Long Day's Journey into Night.

    There is much, rich humor in the script.

    What are the Lowlights?
    The play loses focus at times.

    More information:
    This is the world premiere. 100 minutes, no intermission.
    The Revisionist has been extended through April 21 at Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St., NYC. Tickets: www.TheRevisionistPlay.com866-811-4111.

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

    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- 2024 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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