Monday, November 21, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Dead Poets Society TOP PICK

The cast of Dead Poets Society, Jason Sudeikis, right. Photo: Joan Marcus
Dead Poets Society
By Tom Schulman
Directed by John Doyle
Classic Stage Company
Extended through Dec. 18

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A terrific stage adaptation of the film of the same name which starred Robin Williams (written by Tom Schulman adapted from his Oscar-winning screenplay) directed by the excellent John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, The Color Purple). Starring as inspiring teacher John Keating is Jason Sudeikis (a writer and cast member for TV's "Saturday Night Live"). It's 1959 and Keating arrives at Welton Academy, a traditional all-boys school in New England, where he quickly tells his English students to tear out the pompous introductions in their poetry books and start thinking for themselves. Carpe Diem (seize the day), he tells the boys who decide to revive the secret society to which Keating belonged when he was a student at the school: The Dead Poets Society. 

The boys sneak off to a nearby cave (expertly created by Lighting and Sound Designers Japhy Weideman and Matt Stine, respectively) to read poems, but also find a a safe place to explore their hopes and passions. The society includes:
  • Neil Perry (Thomas Mann), a star student who can't find a way to communicate his desire to pursue a career in the theater with his overbearing father (Stephen Barker Turner)
  • Geeky Steven Meeks (Bubba Weiler)
  • Knox Overstreet (William Hochman), who pines in unrequited love for Chris (Francesca Carpanini)
  • Rebellious Charlie Dalton (Cody Kostro) who pens an unauthorized article in the school paper (and then takes the punishment without giving up the names of his society members)
  • Newcomer Todd Anderson (Zane Pais) who stutters, but who finds the ability to express himself through poetry
  • Richard Cameron, Steven Meeks, Gerard Pitts, 
Keating's untraditional methods soon bring trouble with Headmaster Nolan (David Garrison) for both him and the boys. 

What Are the Highlights?
Doyle's staging is perfection. Set Designer Scott Pask provides a backdrop of looming book cases and a large back board, but has the actors use books to create setting. A pile of books on the floor becomes the desk on which students stand for the famous "Captain My Captain) scenes. The action plays to the audiences on all sides of the thrust-style stage on the floor, pulling us into the classroom. Suddenly dialogue is underscored by humming; songs shift mood. "Words and ideas change the world," and "Try never to think about something the same way twice," Keating tells us. Doyle obviously took both pieces of advice to heart and creates a brilliant work of art.

What Are the Lowlights?
A couple of performances weren't as sure, but I saw a preview, so I am willing to bet that rough edges will be smooth post opening.

More Information:
Dead Poets Society has been extended through Dec. 18 at CSC, 136 East 13th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets:; 212- 352-3101.

Additional Credit: Costume Design by Ann Hould-WardYou might recognizae Sudeikis from his SNL impersoniations of Joe Biden and Mitt Romney. 

-- God's name taken in vain
-- Minor language
-- Suicide

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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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