Friday, July 20, 2018

If You're Feeling Desperate, Be Kind

By Lauren Yarger
Composer David Friedman is part of the Desperate Measures team making people laugh at Shakespeare over at New World Stages. Winner of the Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Off-Broadway  Musical and the Drama desk Awards for Outstanding Music (Friedman) and Lyrics (Peter Kellogg), the wild western take on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure is a silly fun in the midst of desperate times.

Friedman continues his positive message in a book called "We Can Be Kind: Healing Our World One Kindness at a Time" (Mango, 2017). Chapter titles like "So Many Hurts that Happen every Day," "How Do We Make it Better," "The Power to Heal is Right Here in Our Hand" come are taken from Friedman's song "We Can Be Kind."

It's a charming collections of thoughts and hope. Friedman challenges readers to consider what they and others encounter every day and to make something positive come from it. Though the book is diminutive (it is 5 1/2 by 7 inches) it has a big impact. Friedman doesn't preach, he reasons. To quote him:
  • Pain is certainly a big part of our lives, whether we choose to notice it or not.
  • The next time an event occurs which you automatically think of as bad, stop and say to yourself, " do not know what this is for." See if you can hold the idea that good can come out of it in ways you can't imagine."
  • The next time you find yourself in a situation that appears to be hopeless, where there seems to be no solution, try to become aware that you are not alone.
The combination of positive philosophy and lyrical verse is soothing and uplifitng. It's just the kind of thing many people are desperate for in times where many events can appear overwhelming.

The book is available for purchase here.

For a fun, feel-good experience at the theater, see Desperate Measures at New World Stages. Desperate Measures, with music by Friedman (Listen To My Heart), book and lyrics by Kellogg (Anna Karenina), and direction by Bill Castellino, is a hilarious new musical inspired by Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Set in the 1890s Wild West,  it is the tale of Johnny Blood (Conor Ryan), a handsome young man whose life is in danger over a saloon brawl. Johnny must put his fate into the hands of a colorful cast of characters including a wily sheriff (Peter Saide), an eccentric priest (Gary Marachek), a authoritarian governor (Nick Wyman ), a saloon girl gone good (Lauren Molina), and a nun out of the habit (Sarah Parnicky) as they all struggle to decide Johnny's fate. Laws are broken and hearts are won as they try to find justice in a world that often doesn' seem just. Sound familiar?

Desperate Measures plays New World Stages, 340 West 50th St., NYC.. Performances are Monday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday at 2 and 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm.Tickets are $59- $89.

The soundtrack has just been released. You can find it here.

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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 "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 in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day 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 writes 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 is 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.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

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- 2018 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 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 and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. 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 review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), 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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