Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Bright Star

Carmen Cusack in "Bright Star" at the Kennedy Center. Photo: Joan Marcus

Star Doesn’t Shine as Brightly as We’d Like for This Wholesome Tale
By Lauren Yarger
A Bright Star arrives on Broadway this season – a wholesome tale set to country music written by Steve Martin. Yes, that Steve Martin.

He collaborates with music writer Edie Brickell, with whom he won a Grammy for Best American Roots Song for “Love Has Come for You” who writes the lyrics and created the story with Martin, who writes the book inspired by a true event.

Set in 1920s and 1940s North Carolina, Bright Star follows the story of successful magazine editor Alice Murphy (Carmen Cusack) and a young vet, Billy Cane (A.J. Shively ), who has just returned from the war and wants to get a story published in her Asheville Southern Journal. It won’t be easy – this editor once made Ernest Hemingway cry. But he’s determined, despite interference from Daryl Ames (a very funny Jeff Blumenkrantz) who has his own ambitions of being published. Billy is ready for his life to start – to follow his very own bright star (yup, those are the lyrics).

His father, Daddy Cane (Stephen Bogardus) – yup, Daddy, that’s his name – and book shop clerk Margot Crawford (Hannah Elless) encourage him, but secretly Margot wishes Billy would notice that she’s grown up while he was gone and now is a woman who wants something more from their relationship.

Meanwhile, in flashbacks, we discover that Alice wasn’t always the uptight, hardened woman we have seen. Once she was young, barefoot and free – and in love with Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Paul Alexander Nolan), son of the town’s formidable Mayor, Josiah Dobbs (Michael Mulheren) who has plans for his son to marry money – not this poor girl who finds herself pregnant.

He influences Alice’s father, Daddy (yup…) Murphy (Stephen Lee Anderson), to sign the baby over for adoption, despite Alice’s pleas and the objections of Mama Murphy. OK, I am done “yupping” over these name choices. This role, though not very developed is given some depth by Broadway vet Dee Hoty.

The time transitions are not entirely clear at first. Director Walter Bobbie doesn’t really use the aids of lighting or sound design (by Japhy Weideman and Nevin Steinberg, respectively) here, but Costumer Jane Greenwood does change the period dress to help clue us in. Hair and Wig Design by Tom Watson assists.

Mostly it’s a pretty predictable plot without much happening, though we often find ourselves wondering why the townsfolk are dancing and stomping around while a family is eating at their table. The choreography by Josh Rhodes is incomprehensible throughout. From the opening number, which was so contrived with characters stepping out into spotlight to tell their stories that I wondered whether I had wandered into a high school production by mistake,  to a little toy train that chugs across a truss at the top of the stage (set design is by Eugene Lee), this musical feels like an unpolished early draft that has potential, but needs work.

The main topic of conversation at intermission was whether anyone in the theater really didn’t know how the story would end. The show does have one wonderful moment, however, when the mayor decides the fate of Jimmy Ray and Alice’s baby. It is chilling– with lighting and sound effects to make your blood curdle. I couldn’t help but think that if this level of drama and staging could have been harnessed throughout the story, the musical would have been less ho-hum.

Instead, Brickell’s score, which includes a ballad or two and the plucky and uplifting “Sun’s Gonna Shine” is pleasant, but not very memorable (and the lyrics are too simple). If you are expecting humor because of Martin’s comic background, think again. It’s pretty cut and dried except for a few lines at the climax of the plot, which had me laughing where I didn’t think I should be.

I salute the idea of putting a wholesome musical with a positive message on Broadway. I just wish the packaging on this two-hour, 30 minute offering was wrapped more neatly.

Bright Star plays at the Cort Theater, 138 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.  Tickets are $45 - $145: www.BrightStarMusical.com; 212-239-6200.

Additional credits:
 Musical Supervision by Peter Asher, Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements by Rob Berman, Orchestrations by August Eriksmoen, Dialect Coaching by Kate Wilson.

Ensemble: Maddie Shea Baldwin, Allison Briner-Dardenne, Max Chernin, Patrick Cummings, Sandra DeNise, Richard Gatta, Lizzie Klemperer, Michael X. Martin, William Michals, Tony Roach, Sarah Jane Shanks and William Youmans

-- No specific notes. This is pretty wholesome, but there is some more mature content, so I would say PG13.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Blackbird

A Black, Dark, Uncomfortable Visit to the World of Child Abuse
By Lauren Yarger
Jeff Daniels and Director Joe Mantello resume their roles in the Broadway production of David Harrower’s dark and disturbing play Blackbird, an uncomfortable visit to the world of child abuse and its horrifying effects.

Michelle Williams, known mostly for film and TV roles, who starred in the recent Broadway revival of Cabaret plays Una, a woman who confronts her abuser 15 years later. She sees Ray in a photo and tracks him down.

Ray (Daniels) isn’t happy to find Una at his work place (an office break room designed by Scott Pask provides the setting). He changed his name, has a good job and has been getting along with a normal life following his three years in prison for having sexual relations with Una when she was 12. He’s even got a serious girlfriend now and things couldn't be better. So why has Una shown up to stir things up now? (The play’s title, while certainly a metaphor for any number of bad things associated with black birds, literally also is a term used by the British as we use the word “jailbird.”)

Una, it’s painfully obvious, hasn’t been doing too well in the interim since the trial.. She is wounded, mentally, and has come to confront Ray about what he did. In many ways, she still seems childlike, as though she hasn’t been able to get beyond the experience. She insists that they need to talk about what happened.

As the conversation unfolds, we discover that not all is as it seems and the relationship between the man and the little girl who idolized him is far more complicated than we can imagine. The drama is intense and we become increasingly uncomfortable as they reveal the extent of their feelings about what happened and why it happened. Our sympathies change several times as Harrower drives us over some twists in the plot road – made all the more frightening by the fact that the play is inspired by a true story.

In the end, we’re distressed by being in the same room with these two tortured, destructive souls, but we find ourselves strapped to our seats in this emotional rollercoaster by the gripping psychological dialogue. Daniels' performance is intense and his angst is palpable. We’re never sure we can trust Ray or believe that he has changed. Is he a creepy pedophile or a guy who just made some really poor choices? An unexpected development makes the answer even harder.

Williams seems more awkward wrapping around her role, encountering difficulty in trying to juggle the balance between being a survivor and a willing victim; between being an innocent and a smart manipulator.

The 90-minute trip into darkness premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival before moving on to London’s West End where it won the Olivier Award for Best New Play in a production. Later Daniels starred opposite Allison Pill in an Off-Broadway production of the play helmed by Mantello.

Blackbird circles at the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th St., NYC through June 11. Performance times vary. Tickets are $39-$145: 800-432-7250; blackbirdbroadway.com; (212) 239-6200.

More information:
Additional credits:
Costume Design by Ann Roth, Lighting Design by Brian MacDevitt, Sound Design by Fitz Patton.

-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual activity
-- Explicitly sexual dialogue

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Robber Bridegroom TOP PICK

Wedding of Storytelling Wit, Perfect Bridegroom

Make Sure We Aren’t Robbed with This Revival
By Lauren Yarger
Some things are worth waiting for.

The first-ever New York revival of the 1970s Tony-Award winning The Robber Bridegroom offers up a toe-tappin’, square dance of a production Off-Broadway directed by talented Alex Timbers (Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson) and starring a perfectly cast Steven Pasquale as the two-faced bandit Jamie Lockhart.

Featuring bluegrass music by Robert Walman and book (based on a short story by Eudora Welty) and lyrics by Pulitzer-Prize winner Alfred Uhry (Drving Miss Daisy), the show transports the audience into myth and legend on the Missisippi Natchez Trace where young girls dream of love amidst the boredom of long, hot days and where cut-throat robbers lurk at night.

Designer Donyale Werle creates the fairytale setting in a style reminiscent of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, on which she also teamed with Timbers. A deer head, bits and random props that look like they came from a yard sale decorate the ceiling and rustic wooden cabin-like set with lighting by Jeff Croiter and Jake DeGroot to help create atmosphere.

That atmosphere ranges from silly slapstick to sinister -- which always lies just beneath the fairytale.
Despite warnings from a Raven (Nadia Quinn ) to turn back, Wealthy planter Clement Musgrove (a jovial Lance Roberts) journeys into the Natchex Trace and is waylaid by the Harp gang -- which is really only Little Harp (Andrew Durand) since he murdered his brother Big Harp (Evan Harrington) by chopping off his head, which he now carries around in trunk (and yes, he can talk and sing just fine). Harp’s deadly intentions are thwarted however, by Jamie Lockhart.

Musgrove is so grateful, that he invites Lockhart home to meet his legendarily ugly wife, Salome (Leslie Kritzer) and his beautiful daughter, Rosamund (Ahna O’Reilly). What he doesn’t realize is that mild-manner, who hides his face with berry juice to become The Bandit of the Wood, is still out to rob him, but this robber steals with style. He lets Musgrove go because he isn’t just interested in his purse like the Harps were. Jaime wants to check out what other riches he can steal from the man’s home including, maybe the man’s daughter as a wife so he can lay claim to everything there.

Before he can put his plan in motion, however, Jaime bumps into Rosamund in the woods and the two share an instant physical attachment, though Jamie is unaware of her identity and she hides it from him later when he visits the Musgrove clan because she has fallen for the mysterious bandit she met in the woods….

Meanwhile, bandits can be found at home as well as in the woods. Salome hires Goat (Greg Hildreth), who isn’t exactly known for his sharp wits, to do away with Rosamund, who is a constant reminder to Musgrove of his first, more beautiful wife.  Meanwhile, Little Harp decides he might like to have Rosamund for himself, but Goat manages to swap her for his sister, Aire (Devere Rogers) and it’s Jamie to the rescue once again.

If that all sounds a little odd and not quite the stuff of a happy fairytale, you heard right. It’s silly and fun, but under toned by a sinister touch which never lets us push thoughts about incest, “Deliverance” and humanity’s capacity to justify stupidity far from our minds. Uhry’s lyrics are witty and probing. 

Here’s proof:
The Harps sing amusingly (if not convincingly, as it never really looks like Big Harp’s head is not attached to his body)
“Two heads are better than one brother
When evrything’s said and done.
If there’s a problem to master
Two minds can master it faster.”

Musgrove and Salome sing
“Marriage is riches
It’s batches of riches
It’s patches on britches so lovingly sewn
It’s settin’ on porches
And bitin’ on peaches
And watchin’ the moon rise
Together alone”

Witty and profound, all in 95 humor-filled minutes.

Emily Rebholz designs the whimsical costumes ranging from a bird to the dashing Robber (with Wig and Makeup Design by Leah Loukas). Connor Gallagher provides choreography, which is simple and reminiscent of an informal square dance in a barn. Timbers blends the band (under the direction of Justin Levine) with the action on stage.

Pasquale is a perfect combination of handsome, sexy and silver voice to nail the role of the two-faced robber. And these weren’t easy highway boots to fill: Barry Bostwick took home the 1976 Tony for the role and actors also portraying Jamie include Kevin Kline and Raul Julia. I loved the show with Bostwick and have been singing with him on the soundtrack for almost 40 years, so imagine my delight when Pasquale stepped right into the role and didn't disappoint.

O’Reilly sings her part well (it has a pretty crazy soprano range) but lacks passion. The ensemble seems to have fun (many of them playing multiple parts) and Kritzer enjoys entertaining as the repulsive Salome.

Steal a performance of The Robber Bridegroom before this limited engagement, presented by Roundabout Theatre Company, plays its last May 29 at the  Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th St., NYC in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre. Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30 pm; Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday at 2 pm.  Tickets are $99: (212) 719-1300; roundabouttheatre.org,

Additional Information:
Sound Design by Darron L West and Charles Coes, Orchestrations by Justine Levine and Martin Lowe, Fight Direction by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum

-- God's name taken in Vain
-- Language

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Ironbound

Marin Ireland and Moragn Spector. Photo Sandra Coudert

Baggage Bound to Repeat Itself in Relationships
By Lauren Yarger
Three time frames intersect at one location – a bus stop in Elizabeth, NJ -- in Martyna Majok’s study of relationships and their baggage in a run co-produced Off-Broadway by the Women’s Project Theatre and Rattlestick.

Marin Ireland stars as Darja (a Polish-born, New Jersey-bred woman not unlike the playwright) who relives three relationships in three time settings – 1992,  2006,  2014 – that all end up at the bus stop.

First we meet Tommy (Morgan Spector). They have been together for years and the young immigrant has tolerated his multiple infidelities – until now. Now all she wants from him is $1,000 to buy a car and go look for her estranged son, whom Tommy doesn’t much like. Tommy isn’t very helpful to the distraught mother, who finally just claims he owes her. Relationships are all just about money, after all, she decrees.

Tommy is a bit put off to think that Darja is putting a monetary value on the sexual favors she has performed for him over the years as part of their relationship, especially when he realizes she might actually leave him and those benefits might no longer be at his beck and call. He does seem to care about her, however, even while proclaiming his intention to see other women.

Flashback to when Darja first arrived in the US with her first love and fellow immigrant, Maks (Josiah Bania). He and his wife are full of hope for a new life – and a music career for him -- in a new country full of promise and possibility. This relationship also centers around money, we discover – their lack of it – which is a problem since Darja is expecting a child.

Flash forward and Darja finds herself homeless at the bus stop where she meets Vic (Shiloh Fernandez), a kind street hustler.

The factory where Darja once worked looms in the distance (though not depicted on Justin Townsend’s bleak, simple set) as a metaphor for her struggles. Once a bustling example of the hoped-for fruits of honest labor, it has since been shuttered as business dropped off and workers were let go. The young woman also is haunted by the memory of a terrible tragedy at the hands of one of the factory’s slicing machines, all because a worker friend of hers had been distracted by thoughts of being somewhere else, somewhere that felt like home.

The play is a sensitive look at one immigrant’s story over the span of 20-plus years. It’s touching and realistic, with Ireland giving a strong performance (complete with accent – dialect coaching by Charlotte Fleck and Deb Hecht ) under the direction of Daniella Topol. The 90 minutes without intermission is compelling, but a bit of a downer, despite some humor to help temper the story.

The time jumping is confusing at first, but once we get the hang of who’s who and what is happening, we are aboard – even if Darja herself never makes it on a bus out of her grim New Jersey surroundings. Majok’s writing is poetic and full of passion is (she has an MFA  from the Yale School of Drama).

She is a playwright to watch. Ironbound premiered at the Women’s Voices Theater Festival in Washington, DC last fall. Her plays have been performed and developed at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The John F. Kennedy Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Yale Cabaret among others.  She is part of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwright Program at The Juilliard School and has taught playwriting at Williams College, Wesleyan University, SUNY Purchase, and as an assistant to Paula Vogel at Yale.

More information:
Ironbound runs through April 24 at Rattlestick Theatre, 224 Waverly Place, NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $10-$70: rattlestick.org.

Credits: Written by Martyna Majok; Direction by Daniella Topol; Set and Lighting Design by Justin Townsend, Costume Design by Kaye Voyce, Sound Design by Jane Shaw, Dialect Coaching by Charlotte Fleck and Deb Hecht,  Stage Conflict by Uncle Dave’s Fight House, Props by Zach Serafin. 

-- Language
-- Sexual Dialogue
-- God's name taken in vain

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Site Assists Finding Accessible Broadway Productions

Theatre Development Fund and The Broadway League are breaking barriers to Broadway with the launch of Theatre Access NYC, 
a new website designed to assist theatregoers with disabilities in finding accessible performances of Broadway productions.

This website is a way to help theatregoers with physical disabilities or autism and other sensory sensitivities find Broadway shows with the particular type of accessibility service they require.  Theatre Access NYC is an intuitive, user-friendly show finder that allows users to filter and sort through dozens of Broadway shows based on accessibility, and provides details including dates, times and ticket availability for accessible performances.

TDF and The Broadway League worked with their developer to conform to web accessibility standards, ensuring that all people with all disabilities are able to access the site.

Among the services listed are:

Mobility issues - wheelchair access, info on stairs/elevators in theatres, accessible restrooms, water fountains, etc;

Mild to severe hearing loss - theatres that regularly provide iCaption units (handheld closed caption units) and assistive listening devices (headphone units that amplify the sound onstage), as well as listings of upcoming specially scheduled open captioned and sign language interpreted performances;

Mild to severe vision loss - theatres that always provide D-scriptive audio devices (which provide a detailed account of all onstage activity) as well as listings for upcoming specially scheduled audio described performances); and

Autism friendly performances - upcoming scheduled autism/sensory friendly performances (creating a safe, supportive environment for an audience of families with children and adults on the autism spectrum. The shows are performed with minor adjustments to lighting and sound cues).

Friday, March 18, 2016

Drama Desk Panel Highlights Relationship Between Playwrights and Critics

The Drama Desk hosted a panel discussion at its March Members Mingle on the relationship between playwrights and critics. The insightful, and often humorous discussion, was organized by Sherry Eaker and moderated by Pulitzer-Prize winner Doug Wright. Also on the panel were Pulitzer-Prize winner Robert Schenkkan, Kia Corthron, Matthew Lombardo and Sharr White.  All photos by Barry Gordin.

Sharr White, Matthew Lombardo, Doug Wright, Robert Schenkkan and Kia Corthron.

Drama Desk Members Martha Steketee and Douglas Strassler.

Matthew Lombardo and Kia Corthron

Board members Lauren Yarger, Wiliam Wolf, Lislie (Hoban) Blake and President Charles Wright

Sherry Eaker, right, introduces the event.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Prodigal Son TOP PICK

Biographical Play is One of Shanley’s Finest
By Lauren Yarger
John Patrick Shanley’s latest play, Prodigal Son, getting its world premiere by Manhattan Theatre Club Off-Broadway, might just be his most personal yet – and not just because he is the writer and director.

This story (from the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Doubt) is an autobiographical story of his time in the mid 1960s at Thomas More, a private prep school in New Hampshire. It was a period of time when the direction of his life was being decided, Shanley writes in program notes. Prodigal Son is the journey of a tough, troubled, but gifted young kid from the Bronx, who is given a scholarship to mix in with the nation’s elite (with only a few tweaks to true events for simplicity’s or clarity’s sake, Shanley writes.

Talented newcomer Timothée Chalamet (TV’s “Homeland” and Hollywood’s “Interstellar”) plays Shanley’s younger self, Jim Quinn. Original, haunting music by Paul Simon (yes, of Beatles fame) and exquisite, nomination-worthy lighting by Natasha Katz, help visualize the feelings of a boy out of his element and trying to cope with the “special, beautiful room in hell” that is age 15.

Though suspended from his previous school for saying he didn’t believe in God, Thomas More’s religious instructor and headmaster, Carl Schmitt (Chris McGarry), sees potential in the boy and gives him a chance.

“He’s the most interesting mess we have this year,” Schmitt tells his anti-war head of the English Department Alan Hoffman (Robert Sean Leonard). He’s so unlike the other upper-crust boy,  like roommate Austin (David Potters), at the Catholic school.

Jesus, like Socrates and even the school’s namesake, Thomas More, all were suicides, Quinn, surmises, because they allowed their persecutors to kill them when they could have taken action to stop their deaths.

Hoffman is amused by the boy’s mind and the philosophical discussions they share, but cautions Quinn about expressing his views to Schmitt -- who continues to make a case for Christ’s divinity. He especially discourages Quinn from sharing the thought that he might like to attend the headmaster’s alma mater, Harvard, and encourages him to shoot for NYU instead.

Quinn isn’t quite sure what to do. He continues his rebellious ways breaking rules and testing boundaries, but when he gets in trouble, it is Schmitt’s wife, Louise (Annika Boras) who comes to the rescue. She has been instructing the boy in her advanced English class and also sees something in him – perhaps a glimpse of the son she and Carl lost.

Hoffman is the one who reaches Quinn, whose prolific essays about Hitler are a source of consternation as well as amusement.

Mr. Hoffman, finally SAW me. And more than that. Somebody, a grown person, decided I was good before I was good,” Quinn, who sort of narrates the tale, says.

Over the course of years, the struggle for Quinn’s true calling, as it were, become more intense with both Hoffman and Schmitt trying to influence him. Will his passionate soul find light and be able to soar or will he give into loneliness and the darkness of despair that will crush him? Revelations about Hoffman and his motivations make the question about whom to trust even more intense.

Though story is from Quinn’s viewpoint, and told in the retrospect of adult memory, so the other characters here don’t develop much beyond what he would have known as the young boy. This is a brave piece of writing, as many lesser playwrights might have been tempted to try to round out the characters, to reveal a whole lot more about them, to make them more interesting. In keeping them contained – except for the Schmitts, who briefly reveal some of how their relationship is affected by the death of their son -- Prodigal Son truly becomes a memory of how things were for this one boy and the choices that made him who he is today.

Set Designer Santo Loquasto’s images of interiors of Thomas More as well as the school in the distance assist in the storytelling, into which Shanley paints pictures of faith, forgiveness, free will and choices that can make or break a life. And he does it all in a compelling 95 minutes without intermission.

Prodigal Son plays through March 27 at NY City Center I, 131 W. 55th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday at 7 pm; Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8 pm; select matineesTickets $90manhattantheatreclub.com; (212) 581-1212.

Credits: Written and Directed by John Patrick ShanleyScenic Design by Santo Loquasto, Costume Design by Jennifer Von Mayrhauser, Lighting Design by Natasha Katz, Sound design by Fitz Patton, Original Music by Paul Simon, dialect Coaching by Charlotte Fleck.

Family-Friendly Factors:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Grace is said before meal

Monday, March 7, 2016

Broadway Theater Review: Hughie

Frank Wood, Forest Whitaker Wide Shot - Photo: Marc Brenne
Sometimes a Hollywood Star Isn’t Enough
to Guarantee Broadway Success
By Lauren Yarger
Broadway shows seem to think casting a Hollywood film star is the only sure way to success these days, but with the revival of Eugene ONeill’s difficult Hughie, Forest Whitaker has proved them wrong.

Whitaker, who won an Academy Award for his turn as dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” and who has a long string of successful films, found that acting on a stage is quite different. He doesn’t seem comfortable in the role of Erie Smith, a down-on-his-luck gambler who pays a visit to one of his favorite late-night haunts, a run-down hotel in New York.

Christopher Oram effectively creates the brooding lobby in dark, faded,  copper-dulled hues that are symbolic of the characters’ existences. He also designs costumes to invoke the 1928 setting.

For most of the 65-minute play, Whitaker sounds like he is reading from the script. This is pretty lethal for a work that is mostly long monologues broken only by an occasional contribution from the other actor on stage (in this case a solid Broadway vet Frank Wood who plays the hotel’s night clerk Charlie Hughes) or some inserted pauses with music. It’s all Whitaker, but Director Michael Grandage never gets him beyond one superficial level in a role that demands layers of depth and nuance.

Now to be fair, the play isn’t one of O’Neill’s greatest. The one-act is one big monologue by Erie, who talks to the new Night Clerk about his predecessor named, Hughie, who recently died. It seems the two spent a lot of time together, with Erie staking Hughie to some friendly gambling between the two. Erie seems lost without Hughie’s companionship, but his angst may be more about the fact that his own luck has run out since Hughie first went to the hospital, Erie also may be reluctant to have to face the insignificance of his own life.

While Erie describes their relationship as a friendship – Hughie was “one grand little guy,” he tells the new clerk – he confuses the issue by referring to him as “a sucker night after night.” We get the impression he didn’t really like the guy – he sure didn’t get along with Hughie’s wife. It might be that Erie just enjoyed feeling empowered by being able to use and bully Hughie.

Though the clerk tells us he is not related to Hughie, despite the “Hughes” last name, before the night is over we begin to see that he might be more connected to him than he knows, at least with respect to filling the void in Erie’s life.

Despite having only a few lines throughout the play, Wood gets most of the evening’s laughs. Whitaker’s inability to give his character some shape causes the production to fall flat, which must be a disappointment to fans willing to pay $150 a ticket for just over an hour’s entertainment (Box Office sales reportedly have been slow).

Grandage reunites the creative team from his Tony-Award-winning production Red and his recent West End hit Photograph 51 starring Nicole Kidman, but fails to make it three times the charm here (Neil Austin designs the lighting and Adam Cork designs sound and composes music which helps drift some spacing into the monologues.)  The play, originally scheduled for a Broadway run though mid June, will close early on March 27.

Hughie runs at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45 St., NYC, through March 27. Perofromances are Tuesdays: 7:30 pm; Wednesdays 2 and 7:30 pm; Thursdays 7:30 pm; Fridays 8 pm; Saturdays 2 and 8 pm; Sundays 3 pm. Tickets $55-$149: hughiebroadway.com 

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

Friday, March 4, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: That Physics Show

That Physics Show

Created by and Featuring Dave Maiullo
The Elktra Theater

By Lauren Yarger
Who thought physics could be so much fun? That Physics Show is an entertaining demonstration of the laws of physics, all made interesting and fun by performer/teacher Dave Maiullo, who created the show which has moved to the larger Elektra after a sod-out run at New York's 62-seat Playroom Theater, 

Whether he is using a fire extinguisher to propel himself cross the stage, floating Coke cans, making light bubs out of pickles or lying on a bed of nails, among the intriguing demonstrations, Maiullo and his assistants, Jordan Bunshaft, Jack Herholdt and Kelsey Lane Dies (two appear on stage), have the audience's attention. On the day I attended, that meant a bunch of school students who bused in for the show (thank God for teachers who use theater to enhance their curriculum). The kids were fully engaged and practically jumped out of their seats to raise a hand to volunteer to help with some of the demonstrations.

Truth be told, at least one adult in the audience learned a few things too, particularly about how energy is transformed into waves (I didn't pick that up in high school science). Maiullo uses a lot of visual aids (a prop in the shape of the state of New Jersey, for example, is used to show center of mass.) He also uses examples that we are familiar with already to ease the learning curve. We might not know WHY we're going to experience a shock from static electricity in a certain instance, but because we do know to expect a shock, Maiullo easily leads us into the physics laws at play.

Every school kid should get to experience science like this. Not only is it fun, but it's learning that sticks with you and I already have recommended it to school groups. 

That Physics Show features segments on motion, momentum, vacuum, friction, energy, density, fluid motion, sound waves and sound vibration, light waves and temperature -- all in just 80 minutes. It;s magic! No, It's physics, but fun.

Maiullo has been a physics demonstrator at Rutgers University for more than 20 years and most recently became a regular on “The Weather Channel” and a presenter at national physics festivals.

More information:
That Physics Show plays at the Elektra Theater, 300 West 43rd St,. NYC.Performance times vary.

Tickets $39-$49: thatphysicsshow.com

Additional Credits: Lighting Design: Joan Racho-Jansen

Gracewell Prodiuctions

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

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

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

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

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com 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 reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


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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