Sunday, October 22, 2017

Women in Theater Get the Spotlight at Upcoming Events

Several upcoming events highlight women in theater.

The Connecticut Chapter presents a design panel on Monday, Oct. 23 to kick off its second season. If you are in Connecticut, or can get to Norwalk (an easy commute on MetroNorth), you won't want to miss this panel/demonstration led by Dawn Chiang:

Find Your Light 
Broadway Lighting Designer and League of Professional Theatre Women member Dawn Chiang will lead an interactive discussion on how visual vocabulary and theatrical crafts contribute to the emotional life of the storytelling art Monday, Oct. 23 in Norwalk.

Joining Chiang for the "Find Your Light!" panel are Elizabeth Williamson, artistic director at Hartford Stage, Costume Designer Tilly Grimes and Scenic Designer Jessica Parks. The event, produced by Co-Founder Marie Reynolds, will kick of the 2017-2018 season for the CT Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women, now in its second year.

A networking time with light refreshments will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 pm followed by the panel discussion/demonstration from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the multi-media gallery at Stepping Stones Museum, Mathews Park, 303 West Ave, Norwalk, CT.

Space is limited and reservations are required via this link:

Chapter members and one guest are free. Non-members are welcome and will be charged $5 (cash only) at the door. Questions:

Oral History
The League of Professional Theatre Women continues its acclaimed Oral History program with producer Daryl Roth (left) being interviewed by theater critic Linda Winer (right)

Monday, Nov. 6
6 pm
Bruno Walter Auditorium, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center
(Corner of 65th Street and Amsterdam Avenue)
Daryl Roth holds the singular distinction of producing seven Pulitzer Prize-Winning plays and currently serves as the Co-Chair of the LPTW's Advisory Council. Join us as she discusses her extensive life and work in the theatre.  She will be interviewed by Linda Winer, a prize-winning theater critic, who wrote for Newsday from 1987 to 2017.

Free admission. First come, first seated.

Betty Corwin Lifetime Achievement Award
Pulitzer-Prize winnining Playwright Paula Vogel will introduce the program honoring Betty Corwin; "The Woman Who Preserved the American Theater."

Betty Corwin, a long-time LPTW member, created and founded  the Theatre on Film and Tape Archives for the Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center (TOFT) in 1970, and thus preserved generations of the American theater. She turns 97 Nov. 18 and continues to be a powerful force, helming the LPTW's Oral History Program, now in it's 25th year.

She will be honored at luncheon
Wednesday, Nov. 8
Sardi's Restaurant, 234 West 44th St., 4th Floor

$95 Member Ticket - Click Here
$125 Non-Member Ticket - Click Here
$1,750 - VIP Table for 10 - Click Here (Includes half-page black and white ad in "BettyBill."
For tickets and more information:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Broadway Theater Review: Time and the Conways

Time and the Conways
By J. B. Priestley
Directed by Rebecca Taichman
Roundabout Theatre Company
Through Nov. 26

By Lauren Yarger
If you could go back 18 years in time, what would you tell yourself?

That's the gist of the evocative play Time and the Conways, which looks at what happens to the members of a family as they journey through two very distinct moments in time.

This play by J.B. Priestley (An Inspector Calls), has sort of been lost in time itself. This is its first revival since it premiered in 1938. Starring as Mrs. Conway is Elizabeth McGovern, a time tripper herself. She first came to attention in 1980 with a role in "Ordinary People" and since has received an Academy Award (for Ragtime) and gone on to cult fandom status as Cora Crawley, the matriarch of the popular British TV series “Downton Abbey.”  The time frame for this drama is similar -- we see the Conways first in 1919 and then again in 1937 -- but except for the period costumes (Paloma Young designs), this is no Downton and McGovern is not sweet Cora.

World War I has just ended and life is full of promise. The family gathers to celebrate the 21st birthday of wanna-be novelist Kay Conway (Charlotte Parry) and the safe homecoming of her soldier brother, Robin (Matthew James Thomas). Mrs. Conway, with her blunt and sometimes inappropriate comments, lets everyone know that she prefers reckless Robin over her other son, Alan (Gabriel Ebert), who has no real ambitions. She's not particularly fond of socialist daughter Madge (Brooke Bloom), either it seems. Daughter Hazel (Anna Camp) is the one with all the right ambition. She has her sights set on marrying a rich society fellow. Younger sister Carol (Anna Baryshnikov -- yes, daughter of the ballet dancer) appears oblivious to any family conflict. She is happy and full of life.

Joining the family are:
-          Gerald Thornton (Alfredo Narciso), the family's solicitor, who has absolutely no influence over the indomitable Mrs. Conway when it comes to talk about managing her wealth or selling their house
-          Hazel's friend, Joan Helford (Cara Ricketts), who is in love with Robin
-          Ernest Beevers (Steven Boyer), a creepy acquaintance of Gerald's from the lower class who has finagled an invitation to the festivities, so he can be near Hazel, on whom he seems to have a crush.

The cross over from the 1919 celebration to the family's future in 1937 is the real star of this show. Neil Patel's set dramatically transforms, and Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind creates the illusion of time travel as Kay appears to have a vision of what is to come.

In 1937, the family is shattered following a tragic loss. Robin, an unsuccessful travelling salesman, and Joan have married, but they're not happy. Madge is a nasty spinster school teacher and Mrs. Conway's fortunes have been lost. A little port loosens her sardonic tongue even more. Most surprisingly, Hazel is married to Beevers, who it turns out isn't mild mannered and eager to please, but quite sadistically opposite the image we first had of him. Even Mrs. Conway's threats seem to have no influence over him. (Boyer’s got creepy down -- he was the possessed puppet in Hand to God.)

For a brief time, Kay returns to the past and it's this transition that prompts the question "What wisdom would you share with your younger self if you had the chance?" As Alan says,

"But the point is, now, at this moment, or any moment, we're only a cross section of our real selves. What we really are is the whole stretch of ourselves, all our time, and when we come to the end of this life, all those selves, all our time, will be us—the real you, the real me. And then perhaps we'll find ourselves in another time, which is only another kind of dream."

The performances are fierce and the direction by Rebecca Taichman, who won a Tony Award for her Broadway debut last season with Indecent, is precise. The play itself could use a good edit, particularly in the first act, but overall, a very satisfying time at the theater.

The Conways glide through time at American Airlines Theatre on Broadway, 227 West 42nd St., NYC, through Nov. 26. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday evening at 8; Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2 pm; Sunday matinees at 3 pm. Tickets are $39-$149:; 212-719-1300

Additional credits:
Matt Hubbs, Sound Design; Leah J. Loukas, Hair and Wig Design; Deborah Hecht, Dialect Consultant; Thomas Schall, Fight Director; Frank Ventura, Etiquette and Period Movement; Kathy Fabian, Production Properties Supervisor

-- God's name taken in vain
-- References to fortune telling

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Theater Review: The Honeymooners -- Paper Mill Playhouse

Michael Mastro, Laura Bell Bundy, Leslie Kritzer, and Michael McGrath Evan Zimmerman
The Honeymooners
Book by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, based on the CBS television series
Music by Stephen Weiner
Lyrics by Peter Mills
Choreography by Joshua Bergasse 
Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements by Remy Kurs
Directed by John Rando
Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, NJ
Through Oct. 19

By Lauren Yarger
If you're a fan of the classic TV series "The Honeymooners," which featured Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph along with the biggest comedian of the era, Jackie Gleason, who uttered catch phrases like, "To the moon, Alice," "Har har, hardee har har" and "I've got a big mouth" among others, you will thoroughly enjoy the new musical version of the sitcom getting its world premiere in New Jersey at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

If you have never heard of the Kramdens and the Nortons (the two couples who are best friends and neighbors in CBS's 1950 series) you might be scratching your head and wondering what the heck is going on.

Though many Baby Boomers enjoyed this show and will list it among their favorites (even though it only ran for 39 episodes following its debut and subsequent revisiting in sketch form on Gleason's variety shows), I never cared for it and there is a good chance that anyone under the age of 45 probably has never seen it.  The series followed the pie-in-the sky antics of Ralph Kramden (Gleason), a bus driver in Brooklyn, who was always trying to find a quick-money scheme to achieve his dream of living on easy street. He usually dragged his best friend, Ed Norton (Carney), along with him, paying no heed to the unenthusiastic, practical advice to the contrary given by his wife, Alice (Meadows). 

When I saw that one of my favorite musical writing teams (Stephen Weiner and Peter Mills) were on the Honeymooners musical, I knew I would want to see it (even thought I don't normally get out to Paper Mill), but realized I was hesitant because I really, really didn't like that show. 

Why not, I thought? It admittedly contained some comedy bits that are quite funny (Ed's enthusiastic watching of the "Captain Video" kids' television show is a classic). As I thought about it, I realized that I had been offended, even as a kid, by a husband threatening to hit his wife. Ralph's recurring shout of "bang zoom" promising to send Alice to the moon and the secondary threat of  "one of these days, Alice, pow! right in the kisser" frightened me and I didn't think it was funny. Nor did I like Alice's silent, sad-faced acceptance of these threats, even though Ralph usually came around and apologized, and told her she was the greatest.

Enter book writers Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss who have softened these threats for the musical and have given Alice (played by the multi-talented comedic genius Leslie Kritzer) some backbone. She even gets a solo that lets her belt and scat about how "A Woman's Work" really gets done.  She stopped the show. Director John Rando makes sure there isn't a physical depiction of the violence Ralph threatens which helps tone down these unpleasant, if iconic elements, and Ralph is a bit easier to like here, thanks to a tour-de-force impersonation by Michael McGrath. 

One of the pure joys of this musical is watching McGrath and Michael Mastro channel Gleason and Carney. They look and sound like the recognizable actors into whose shoes they have stepped. They do such a good job bringing the originals to life, that a plot twist later in the musical, where Ralph and Ed meet the real Gleason and Carney, falls short because unfairly, the second set of actors don't stand a chance of appearing more like the original characters (this is one turn that should be eliminated as the story goes off on a tangent; cutting the three-hour run time will help too if this musical is eyeing Broadway).

Otherwise, the book is entertaining and advances what used to be virtually the same plot in every TV episode to a more fully developed story that can hold its own in a full musical production. Even Trixie (Laura Bell Bundy, who sounded like she might be fighting a cold the night I saw the show) gets some development as she resumes her career as a burlesque dancer (apparently this was mentioned in a lost episode, but that career was considered too risqué for 1950s television). This allows for a subplot for a jealous confrontation between Ed and her former club manager.

I savored, as always, Mills' clever lyrics (his and Weiner's collaboration on Iron Curtain, with a book by Susan Di Lallo, is one of my favorite musicals that hasn't made it to Broadway yet.) 

"He's a local who’s going express," the male chorus sings as Ralph thinks he has a future on Madison Avenue after writing a cheesy advertising jingle for the Faciamatta brand of dairy product.

Make-you-laugh lyrics by Mills pepper the score. Weiner writes some of the big-production type numbers he does so well (and Choreographer Joshua Bergasse has fun bringing to life a huge, fantasy tap sequence), but none of the songs stands out. The most moving is a duet between Ralph and Ed called "I'll Miss the Guy," but there aren't any tunes you come away humming.

Set Designer Beowulf Boritt remains true to the original set by recreating the Kramdens' shabby kitchen in which all of the television episodes were filmed. He adds a stunning backdrop of the city skyline with the trademark moon as well.  There is much here that satisfies and I found myself enjoying The Honeymooners for the first time. A heads up to producers, though: with Russia so prominently in the news these days, Iron Curtain might be the one to bring to Broadway first.


Additional casting:
Lewis Cleale as Bryce Bennett, Lewis J. Stadlen as Old Man Faciamatta and David Wohl as Allen Upshaw. 

Holly Ann Butler, Chris Dwan, Hannah Florence, Tessa Grady, Stacey Todd Holt, Ryan Kasprzak, Drew King, Eloise Kropp, Harris Milgrim, Justin Prescott, Lance Roberts, Jeffrey Schecter, Britton Smith, Alison Solomon, Michael Walters and Kevin Worley, Ensemble

The Honeymooners runs through Oct. 19 at the Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ. Performances are Wednesday at 7:30 pm, Thursday at 1:30 and 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 1:30 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1:30 and 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $34:; 973-376-4343.

-- Some scantily-clad show girls

Off-Broadway Theater Review: The Treasurer

Peter Friedman. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Treasurer
By Max Posner
Directed by David Cromer
Playwrights Horizons
Through Nov. 5

By Lauren Yarger
It's every kid's nightmare: who is going to take care of the parents when they get elderly? But for the son (Peter Friedman) in the world premiere of Max Posner's new play The Treasurer at Playwrights Horizons, there is an even more chilling question: How do you keep up a good front for your siblings when you have been tasked with making sure your mother is taken care of within the means she has available when you don't really love her?

This sad, but realistic premise plays out under taut direction by David Cromer (The Band’s Visit, Our Town, Adding Machine), who wrings out the emotions of the story and particularly, those of the "son." the character's only identity, besides that of "the treasurer" caring for the bank accounts of his mother, Ida (Deanna Dunagan). He has to deal with her and absentee brothers, Allen and Jeremy (played by Marinda Anderson and Pun Bandhu, who also take on other roles) as Ida needs more and more interaction. She doesn't grasp the severity of her financial situation or her diminishing entail capability and places unrealistic demands on her children who must come up with the funds to place her n acceptable senior living, While we're moved as the son finds himself between a rock and hard place, we discover that he is more emotionally drained than anyone having come to the conclusion that he will go to hell for not loving his mother.

Most of the conversations between mother and son and siblings (and one other between Ida and a meaningful wrong number) take place via telephone (with quick scene changes designed by Laura Jellinek, but Cromer's genius has a chance to shine in a scene where mother and son get together for a meal. The pain of the relationship is palpable.

Posner packs a punch in 90 minutes in this play, which was commissioned by Playwrights, 416 West 42nd St., NYC, where it has been extended through Nov. 5.

Additional credits:
Costume design by David Hyman, Lighting Design by Bradley King, Sound Design byMikhail Fiksel, Projection Design by Lucy Mackinnon and Wig Design by Leah J. Loukas.

Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2:30 and 8 pm; Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 pm.  Tickets are $49-$89:; 212- 279-4200

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Off-BroadwayReview: As You Like It

Ellen Burstyn. Photo: Lenny Stucker
As You Like It
By William Shakespeare
Original Music by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by John Doyle
Classic Stage Company
Through Oct. 22

By Lauren Yarger

What's It All About?
Shakespeare's comedy with a twist. This one has music by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Godspell) and in the style of director John Doyle, has actors playing multiple parts as well as instruments. Here, As You Like It takes only about an hour and half -- that is about half of what productions of this play usually take,

What are the Highlights?
Well, that abbreviated run time, for starters. This isn't one of my favorites when it comes to Shakespeare. I usually think it is way too long, so cutting it down and adding some different elements, like music by Sondheim, should improve it. Having Ellyn Burstyn play Jaques also is a selling point (loved hearing her rendition of the "all the world's a stage" speech), not to mention a cast that includes Andre De Shields and Cass Morgan among others.

Doyle's set incorporates acorn lights that represent trees -- very cool. There is some fun audience interaction.

What Are the Lowlights?
All of the new twists don't come together to make this as fun and engaging as we would have liked it to be.

More Information:
As You Like It continues through Oct. 22 at Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th St., NYC.

Cast: Ellen Burstyn (Jaques), Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Celia), Noah Brody (Oliver/Corin), Hannah Cabell (Rosalind), André De Shields (Touchstone), Cass Morgan (Old Anna/Audrey), Leenya Rideout (Phoebe), David Samuel (Charles/Silvius), Kyle Scatliffe (Orlando) and Bob Stillman (Duke Frederick/Duke Senior).

Scenic Design by John Doyle, Costume Design by Ann Hould-Ward and Lighting Design by Mike Baldassari.

No content notes.

Off-Broadway Review: On the Shore of the Wide World

On the Shore of the Wide World
By Simon Stephens
Directed by Neil Pepe
Atlantic theater Company
Through Oct. 8

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?Well, a bunch of family interaction and mortality, but none that is particularly engaging. For most of the time I wondered why I was watching their lives. This is the 2006 Olivier Best Play winner from playwright Simon Stephens, who has enjoyed recent Broadway success with The Curious Incident of the dog in the Night Time, Birdland and Heisenberg.

What Are the Highlights?
Atlantic's productions are always well staged.

What Are the Lowlights?
Talented directed Neil Pepe and a strong cast featuring Blair Brown, Odiseas Georgiadis, Mary McCann, LeRoy McClain, Tedra Millan, Ben Rosenfield, Luke Slattery, C.J. Wilson and Amelia Workman aren't able to give these characters enough depth to be interesting. The play almost seems like a forced attempt to turn the last lines of a Keats poem, from which the title is taken, into a play.
A plot twist is not set up properly and brings confusion rather than surprise.

More Information:
On the Shore of the Wide World runs through Oct. 8 at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theate, (336 West 20th St., NYC. Tickets start at $65:

Scenic Design by Scott Pask, Costume Design by Sarah Laux, Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind, Original Music and Sound Design by David Van Tieghem.

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

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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