Monday, October 26, 2015

Michael Riedel Talks About His Book at Mark Twain House, Connecticut

BOOK/MARK event at the Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford, CT.

"Razzle Dazzle: The Battle For Broadway" with author Michael Riedel
Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 7 pm.

Broadway's most respected (and feared) commentator pulls back the curtain on its stars, its producers, and its mega-hits to reveal all the shocking drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened off stage. Razzle Dazzle is a provocative, no-holds-barred narrative account of the people and the money and the power that re-invented an iconic quarter of New York City, turning its gritty back alleys and sex-shops into the glitzy, dazzling Great White Way-and bringing a crippled New York from the brink of bankruptcy to its glittering glory. Moderated by Connecticut theater journalist Frank Rizzo.

This is a free BOOK/MARK event and is followed by a book sale and signing. Reservations are recommended. Please call (860) 247-0998 or click here.

Off-Broadway Review Clever Little Lies with Marlo Thomas and Greg Mullavey

Kate Wetherhead, George Merrick and Marlo Thomas. Photo: Matthew Murphy
That Girl Grew Up and is a Meddling Mother Dealing with Clever Little Lies
By Lauren Yarger
It’s been a while, but our favorite “That Girl” actress is back on the boards, just as perky and young-looking as ever (the latter thanks to some plastic surgery) in a delightful new play by one of our favorite and perky playwrights, Joe DiPietro (Memphis).

Marlo Thomas stars as Alice, a mother who knows something isn’t quite right with her son and his wife and when she invites them over to try to get to the bottom of a bunch of Clever Little Lies, family secrets are unleashed in unexpected ways.

Alice is concerned about Billy (George Merrick) and his wife, Jane (Kate Weatherhead), after discerning that something is wrong when her husband, Bill (Greg Mullavey), lets it slip that his son has confessed some confidential matters. Alice and Bill have been married too long for him to hide secrets from her, but when he refuses to divulge details – that Bill is having an affair with a young trainer at his gym – Alice decides to have the kids and their new baby over for a little cheese cake – and interrogation.

Jane has been distracted by being a new mom, but she knows something isn’t quite right. Billy seems angry all the time. What he’s really doing, is coming up with “clever little lies” all the time to get away with deceiving his spouse. When Alice decides to give the kids some much needed advice and honesty, what she shares might save their marriage, but end hers.

DiPietro, the Tony-Award-winner for Memphis who also brought us the fun books for Nice Work if You Can Get It and The Toxic Avenger, among other shows, creates interesting characters here, who have a lot of funny lines. It has been a while since I have laughed all the way through a show. 
Somewhere in between we also discover some serious themes about relationships, marriage and the importance of working at them. It’s funny, tender and satisfying.

David Saint deftly directs the action on Yoshi Tanokura’s set, which takes us from the guys’ tennis club, to a car (very nicely executed) and the parents’ living room. Scene changes are made smooth with original music composed by Scott Killian (who also designs the sound).

Thomas and Mullavey have good chemistry and excellent comedic timing (Mullavey, who has been making us laugh since “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” slays us with facial expressions alone). Thomas conveys deeper emotion, reminding us how much we enjoyed seeing her wide range of ability on TV’s “That Girl” so many years ago.

This show is an enjoyable 90-minute, no-intermission romp. And that’s no clever little lie.

Clever Little Lies played at the Westside Theatre, 407 West 43rd St. NYC. Performances are Mondays at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm; Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: $79-$89; (212) 239-6200;

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

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Fool for Love

Fools Abound, but the Lasso Work is the Most Impressive Part
By Lauren Yarger
Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love is another one of those revivals that has me scratching my head. With all the really great material out there, both new works and plays that deserve a Broadway revival, I have to question why plays like this one get the nod.

This Manhattan Theatre Club production, which was staged last year at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, is dark with unlikable characters in a dark setting (a seedy Mohave Desert motel designed Dane Laffrey) and even when their dark circumstances are revealed, we’re too depressed to feel a lot of sympathy. Did you get the dark theme?  It’s the kind of depressing story that the Pulitzer Prize committee likes: the play was a finalist when it premiered in 1983.

But for me, there just isn’t much in the story with which I can relate. Director Daniel Aukin casts two charismatic stars – Nina Arianda (who brought to life Venus in Fur) and Sam Rockwell (A Behanding in Spokane, The Way Way Back), but despite good performances and some really nifty lasso work by Rockwell -- that for me, was the most interesting part of the play (thank you Movement and Fights Director David S. Leong) -- there isn’t enough to work with here to make this 75-minute, one-act play exciting.

Eddie (Rockwell) and May (Arianda) are lovers reunited at the motel. They have a lot of history, ostensibly connected with “The Old Man” (Gordon Joseph Weiss) who is seated just outside the motel room door and who adds some details to their story from time to time, including the information that he apparently is married to Barbara Mandrell (what that has to with anything? Your guess is as good as mine).

Movie stuntman Eddie has driven for days to find May to convince her to leave her current love interest, Martin (Tom Pelphrey),  and come live with him in a trailer on some land in Wyoming (I kind of could relate when she doesn’t jump at that thrilling offer, but that was about it….) Eddy is almost abusive at her rejection, about the fact that she is seeing someone else and at her reluctance to begin their relationship cycle again. Somehow they can’t seem to stay away from each other, even though they know it would be best.

Naïve Martin seems like he probably isn’t worth getting into a relationship with either, especially when the Old Man reveals some startling information about the former lovers (OK, this is where the ‘fool” part comes in, because if anyone I were dating dropped this little bomb, I would have run very quickly from the seedy motel room, where, you know, I wouldn’t have gone in the first place. So not relating to any of this….)

I don’t mind dark, or even stories I can relate to personally if there is something to be learned. Shepard apparently wants us to think about how we can’t control who we love and issues of identity. I just think about how we can control where spend $150 on a theater ticket.

Fool for Love plays through Dec. 13 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St., NYC. Peformances are Tuesday and Wednesday 7 pm; Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm (check schedule changes Thanksgiving week; no matinee Dec. 9). Tickets $70- $150:; (800) 432-7250.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Theater Named for John Cullum

John Cullum attended opening night of Fracture Theatre Company's production of URINETOWN, the show for which he originated the role of Caldwell B. Cladwell, then had the theater named after him in ceremonies following the performance. Also in attendance were the show's composer, Mark Hollmann, book writer Greg Kotis ( they collaborated on the lyrics) and Jennifer Laura Thompson, the original Hope Cladwell. Cast gathered on stage as Cullum was presented with a plaque. The two-time Tony-Award winner ( SHENANDOAH, ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY) saiid watching the show had transported him right back to Urinetown and that of all the theaters he has performed in, this theater, where the show got its start, would be his choice to bear his name.
Pictured: Thompson, Hollmann, Cullum and Kotis, flanked by brothers Michael Rego (left) and Matthew Rego ( right), two of three members of Araca Group (along with Hank Unger). (Photo by Lauren Yarger)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Old Times with Clive Owen

It’s Just Like Old Times – We Still Don’t Get This Play
By Lauren Yarger
Is she real? Are they both real? Were they both real at one time, but now dead and only in the imagination of the man?

These and other questions can be yours if you take in Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway revival of Harold Pinter’s Old Times. But the lack of comprehension isn’t the fault of this production, featuring film actor Clive Owen in his Broadway debut, Eve Best (from TV’s “Nurse Jackie”) and Kelly Reilly (the TV and film star also making her Broadway debut), all ably directed by Douglas Hodge (a premiere interpreter of Pinter’s plays).

It’s the play’s.

Owen is Deeley, a man looking forward to meeting Anna (Best), an old friend of his wife, Kate (Reilly) who is stopping by after many years. Kate doesn’t seem to remember a lot about Anna, despite the fact that they were roommates and that Anna used to borrow her underwear. When Anna shows up, things get even more confusing. It might have been Kate who instigated that underwear-sharing thing and Deeley might even have seen some of it prior to his marriage to Kate. He remembers meeting Anna one night at a tavern and looking up her skirt. Could that have been the underwear borrowed from his wife whom he later met at a movie?

Does anyone seriously care?

Meanwhile, it doesn’t take this 70-minute, one act play too long before it takes a Pinter-esque turn into cloudy territory. Soon, we’re not sure whose version of events is real, if anyone’s. Is it Anna’s sensual and humorous take? Is it Kate’s submissive and numb account or is it Deeley’s confused, desperate angst?

We didn’t know what the play was about 44 years ago when it premiered on Broadway and we still don’t, but people love to debate the possibilities. They all focus on memory and what parts of it are reliable. This play, in fact, is one of the playwrights series of  “memory plays."
There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened,” Anna says. “There are things I remember which may never have happened but as I recall them, so they take place."

I won’t try to capture the elusive message here. No one has come up with any conclusions for decades and meanwhile, Pinter also was awarded Pulitzer and Nobel prizes for his enigmatic plays, so what do I know?

But I will tell you what I liked about this production. The performances are passionate. And the set! The sharp, looming hypnotic backdrop, designed by Christine Jones and expertly lighted by Japhy Weideman, takes us on a visual tour of the downward spiral these characters enter mentally, and metaphorically referred to as ripples on a pond (though it is hard to see anything at times through the haze of all the cigarette smoke generated by characters smoking through their angst). There’s a symbolic, very cool (no pun intended)  ice cube of a door too. Music by Thom Yorke adds to a haunting atmosphere, even if we don’t know exactly why we feel unsettled.

Old Times plays a limited engagement through Nov. 29 at the American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St. NYC. Performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm; Check for some schedule changes in November. Tickets: $67–$137; (212) 719-1300;

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue
-- Scantily clad actress

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ronny Whyte in Concert at Guild Hall

In Concert: Ronny Whyte & Friends
Thursday, October 15 - 7:00 pm
Guild Hall (1 East 29th Street)
Cabaret Jazz Hall of Famer Ronny Whyte will be joined by renowned bassist Boots Maleson for an evening of swingin' American standards and award-winning originals. Reserve your tickets today!
After the concert, guests are invited to enjoy a wine & cheese reception.
Suggested: $15 (members) // $20 (non-members)
RSVP: (212) 685-2927 //

Richie Ridge Chats with Juliet Binoche

Screen Actors Guild Foundation and
Invites You and A Guest
to a Conversations on Broadway career Q&A with
Juliette Binoche
currently starring in BAM’s “Antigone”

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015
1:00 pm
Check-in at 12:15 pm
NYIT-Auditorium on Broadway
1871 Broadway
Off of Columbus Circle
Panelist Bio
Juliette Binoche is a Parisian-born actress, artist and dancer who received the Academy Award®, BAFTA, European Film Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and the HFPA’s Golden Globe for her turn in the 1996 film The English Patient. Binoche also holds the unique distinction of being the only female to win Best Actress honors in all three main European Film Festivals—the Palme d’Or at Cannes for Certified Copy, (2010), both the Volpi Cup and Pasinetti Award at Venice for Three Colors: Blue(1993), and Berlin’s Silver Bear for The English Patient (1996).

Some of her most prominent film roles include Chocolat with Johnny Depp (earning her second Academy Award®nomination), The Unbearable Lightness of Being alongside Daniel Day-Lewis,Wuthering Heights with Ralph Fiennes,Dan in Real Life with Steve Carell and the 2014 blockbuster Godzilla opposite Clive Owen, which raked in over $500 million worldwide at the box office. She was recently seen in Clouds of Sils Maria(2015) opposite Kristen Stewart, and can next be seen in The 33 (November 2015) with Antonio Banderas, which is based on the real events of the 2010Chilean mining disaster. 

In addition to her film work, Binoche has frequently returned to the theater, with credits that include the 1988 production of Chekov’s The Seagull, directed by Andrei Konchalovsky at the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris; Naked at the Almeida Theatre in London; the 2012 modernized version of August Strindberg’s classic play Miss Julie at London’s Barbican; dancer Akram Khan’s 2008 dance-drama piece called in-i at the Royal National Theatre in London; and her Broadway debut in Harold Pinter’sBetrayal opposite Liev Schreiber and John Slattery, for which she earned a 2001 Tony® nomination as Best Actress. Binoche traveled throughout Europe and continues to tour in the United States in the title role of Sophokles’s Antigone, directed by Ivo van Hove with a new translation by award-winning poet Anne Carson. The production, which premiered at Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, is a co-production with the Barbican London, in association with the Toneelgroep Amsterdam.
No passcode for non-members
You may register for a guest.
Please direct any questions and write “Binoche” in the subject line.

Gracewell Prodiuctions

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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