Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Coming to the Public

I though this looked fascinating at the Public and thought I would share.


By Mona Mansour
Directed by Hal Brooks
March 25 - April 17

Three weeks only!

Featuring Omid Abtahi, Jacqueline Antaramian, Tala Ashe, Demosthenes Chrysan, Ramsey Faragallah, and Ted Sod

Jamila, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl growing up in a Lebanese refugee camp, is desperate to escape the small and impoverished world she calls home but her greatest source of inspiration, her father, may also prove to be her biggest obstacle. Mona Mansour, a member of The Public's Emerging Writers Group making her major debut with this production, fuses global politics with the intimacy of coming of age in this searing new play.

Playwright Mona Mansour was recently profiled as a "talent to watch" in The New York Times' preview of the Spring Theater Season.
The Public Web Site will direct you to $15 tickets.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Laughing Liberally: Humor without the Hate

The comedic show now playing through May 22 at the Midtown Theater is called Laughing Liberally; This Ain’t No Tea Party certainly has truth in advertising going for it.  It is a often hilarious look at our politics from a decidedly liberal sensibility.  And it gives the current political situation all the respect and deference it is due.

Which is none.

Having watched straight play parodies of the current political situation fall flat, Laughing Liberally benefits from simply pointing out the real world idiocy with our current political system and making jokes.  Our political climate is so caustic and impaired that parodies cannot compete with the grandiose proclamations made daily – apparently devoid of irony.   The observational humor presented by these comics is topical and funny. 

Laughing Liberally uses a rotating series of comics, six on the night I saw the show.  Some are astoundingly funny, some are merely humorous, but none fell flat.  Interspersed between the comics are faux commercials that keep the pace and topicality up.  These aren’t necessarily stock jokes, as many of the comics referenced facts from the day or week immediately proceeding the show.

Laughing Liberally takes primary aim at the Tea Party Republicans, but there is plenty of outrage to share among all politicians, a vocation that appears to have no prerequisites.  Sarah Palin jokes would begin to feel old, but Michelle Bachman breaths new juice into the feminist crazy side of the equation.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is One Just A Number?

A Number, now playing at the Cherry Lane Studio Theater through April 3rd, explores the definition of self, by taking the idea of cloning down to a very intimate level.  It is a counter-intuitive way to look at cloning, but extremely effective in addressing the issues that arise for the individual.  What defines a person as unique? And how unique can a person be when there are exact copies at a DNA level?  In unexpected ways, these questions effect all people - how much of “ourselves” are based on traits we have no control over?

This is no science-fiction exploration of the mechanics or even possibility of cloning; it is an emotional piece dealing with the after effects of the act.

James Saito plays Slater, a father who has cloned his only son, after the loss of his wife and child.  Slater is not forthcoming about the fact of his son’s birth, revealing both the act of cloning and his motivations only when confronted by his son.  Mr. Saito does a great job of opening up only as much as he is forced to, and only when he is forced to.  It is clear that he has no desire to share information with his son.  He is a father required to justify actions he hoped would never be exposed, and Mr. Saito does an excellent job with the role.  He is nervous not because of what he did, but of the rift it may inflict on his relationship.

Joel de la Fuente plays the son, in three different incarnations over the course of the quick play.  The confusion and questions about the manner of his birth both confuse and anger him.  And the fact of cloning, the fact that he isn’t the original frustrates him - even though intellectually he realizes it is no different than having a twin.

Part of the beauty of A Number derives from the quiet moments of the play when trying to understand the motivations of Slater, and so I don’t want to share too much of the plot.  It is enough to say that the father’s motivation is universal and understandable, albeit a little self-serving.

On the other hand, the weakness of the piece is in the hurriedness of much of the dialog.  Executing interrupted dialog is a tricky business.  When it works, it mimics real life in an intense manner.  And in A Number, it works most of the time.  But when it doesn’t work, uninterrupted sentences sit half finished; raising the question if the though was unfinished or if the interruption just didn’t come fast enough on queue.  This manner of speaking is a character trait of the father, and mimicked in the son, so it is pretty constant in the play.  It is obvious when it misfires.

As written by Carly Churchill and directed by Maureen Payne-Hahner, A Number flows quickly at a nice pace.  Even though it is short, plenty of time is given to absorb the material.  A less confident playwright might have stretched this character study out too long, instead this play clocks in less than 90 minutes.  The decision to have Joel de la Fuente make minor wardrobe changes on stage to indicate different characters is a great and effective device to break the scene without breaking the mood.

I recommend A Number, is a thought provoking and interesting look at personality and humanity.  The show uses cloning not as a gimmick, but as a tool to investigate our uniqueness and commonality.
Playwright: Carly Churchill
Director: Maureen Payne-Hahner
Cast: James Saito, Joel de la Fuente

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Play Nice: Or Else

Play Nice, premiering now thru March 27th at 59 E 59 Theaters, bills itself as a “gothic fairy tale”, but is set in the modern day.  This confusing definition is indicative of how difficult this absorbing tale is to accurately describe.  Play Nice is the story of three siblings with a vain and evil mother, who is obsessed with appearances and status – Hyacinth Bucket with a disciplinarian streak.

Mother is never seen, but her presence is feared by all the children.  They have found a refuge in the attic, whose stairs are too steep and narrow for the lame and fat mother to traverse.  The oldest child, Matilda, is played by Lauren Roth, a lonely young woman limited to role of housekeeper and surrogate caregiver.  Ms. Roth provides the ground of realism and heartbreak in the home.  She is forever anchored in the reality of trying to keep her siblings from upsetting the mother.

The two younger siblings are Luce, an effeminate high school boy played by Andrew Broussard and the youngest girl, Isabelle, played by Laura Hankin.  Luce and Isabelle use pretending and role playing to escape the drudgery of their home, creating elaborate games and situations for each other. They have created a mental bond which they believe can cross physical space.

Over the course of a Thanksgiving week-end, Luce causes embarrassment to his mother by his involvement in the High School Marching Flag troop, when he performs in the Macy’s Day parade.  She responds by delivering to a mental institution to live until he is “fixed”.  Dinner and tenuous calm for the remainder of the day is interrupted when Mother is poisoned.

What transpires next is the frantic result of trying to avoid Mother’s wrath when she returns from the hospital.  There are two major stories from here.  One concerns Luce and Isabelle.  They communicate telepathically and Isabelle wheedles and begs for Luce to come home.  There is a piece of business with an imagined character, played convincingly by Debby Brand, who embodies Isabelle in Luce’s presence.

More interesting, and truly fascinating, is watching the siblings try to understand what happened on that fateful Thanksgiving Day.  At different times all three role play being “mother”.  Their interpretations of Mother, and her motivations, are starkly reveling both to the audience and the siblings themselves.  A full portrait of their mother emerges from these characterizations, and this motivates them to action.

A healthy imagination and the ability to ignore reality are key to enjoying Play Nice - in the same manner that you have to believe Snow White’s Step-mother can cook up a poison apple.  If you can go with the flow of the story, then Play Nice is intriguing piece of theater.  To see Mother reflected through the eyes of these siblings (and the actors that do so admirably with the characters) is like watching a puzzle piece together.  And the puzzle produces a satisfying picture and resolution.

Director Joan Kane does very good job of introducing this twisted reality and keeping it cohesive.  She supports Robin Lice Lichtig’s writing, which is interesting, but not a normal linear piece.  Play Nice uses this fairy tale structure to tell the moving story of children forced to grow up in a bad situation.
Playwright: Robin Lice Lichtig
Director: Joan Kane
Cast: Debby Brand, Andrew Broussard, Laura Hankin and Lauren Roth

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Noir Festival at The New School

It is technically "Off Broadway", but so much of Off-Broadway has roots in Film Noir - I think this is of interest.

The New School Arts Festival Presents Noir
Friday thru Friday, April 1–8
The New School Arts Festival is a first—a cultural showcase reflecting the artistic and intellectual energy of the entire university. Each festival will explore a single theme by presenting works from genres with an artistic home at The New School, including design, drama, film, literature, music, and critical theory.  Each festival will feature renowned guest artists and theorists, discussion of contemporary criticism, and original work created by New School students and presented at festival events all around campus.
The theme of our first arts festival is Noir, a cinematic style of shadowy expressiveness that had its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s.  Coined by a French critic in 1946, the term film noirrefers to movies depicting a morally ambiguous world of cynical private eyes, lonely gangsters, and femme fatales.  Since then, the influence of noir has been felt in areas ranging from fashion design to fine art, graphic art to fiction, suggesting the alienation and disorientation of modernism through stark silhouettes, sexual frankness, stylized emotion, and the absence of sentimentality.  Join The New School community in an exploration of noir in a festival of iconic films, hard-boiled storytelling, graphic art, and illustration inspired by this uniquely 20th century style. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Clifford Chase’s Winkie: Innocence Lost (check Gitmo)

Clifford Chase’s Winkie, now at the 59E59 Theaters, looks at current absurdities in the name of homeland security. It is an area that, at first glance, seems ripe for parody. Winkie is a Teddy Bear come to life, and thrust into the middle of a man hunt for a Unabomber-type terrorist. This set up is given to the audience in the form of a 24 hour news channel’s special report, a medium where the real, the fantastic and the scripted meld into a blob of infotainment.

Elliot Hill plays reporter Dan Abrams, who provides the requisite hushed and serious British tone needed – everything sounds more serious with British intonation. Just as Dan Abrams grounds the show within the play, Mr. Hill grounds the actual play. He constantly brings the tone of the show back to earth when it threatens to dissolve into camp. Nick Paglino plays Clifford Chase, Winkie’s last owner, and provides the voice of Winkie – a twinkling and twee voice that every child has used for their stuffed animals. Mr. Paglino has a very difficult role to manage. He has to provide both the background of Winkie – and voice the mainly reticent Bear. Mr. Paglino does a great job here by playing it perfectly straight.

The rest of the surprisingly large cast is giving huge room to camp up this over the top tale, since the story is kept in check by Elliot Hill and Nick Paglino. The ensemble does a admirable job with the material. In particular, Adam Kee as Winkie’s court appointed attorney is hilarious.

But there isn’t enough story to stretch out this parody for the full 90 minutes. Once the easy targets are mocked (and mocked well) the play has nowhere to go. Sure it’s funny that a Teddy Bear is arrested as a terrorist, but once Joan Rivers has actually been held in Costa Rice as a possible terrorist – reality has actually passed parody into the theater of the absurd.

The playwright understands the limitations of the material, and moves the show into Winkie’s story. Unfortunately it is a mawkish story of lost youth, which is both bizarre and unbelievable. While the audience can buy into the story that the Teddy Bear has come alive, it is a step too far to listen to him rhapsodize about his first bowl movement.

Director Joe Tantalo starts the proceedings strong, but ultimately loses the pace, as the story wanders towards conclusion. The tale of lost innocence in the big wide world just isn’t enough when delivered by a teddy bear.
Clifford Chase’s Winke (website)
Director: Joe Tantalo
Playwright: Matt Pelfrey (from a novel by Clifford Chase)
Cast: Nick Paglino, Elliot Hill, Gregory Konow, Geraldine Johns, Michael, Shimkin, Adam Kee, Sean Phillips, Erin Wheelock, Chris Cipriano

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shakespeare on the Sound: Connecticut Throws a Benefit

“ A   B I G   T O – D O   F O R   M U C H   A D O ”


Rowayton, CT – Shakespeare on the Sound, Connecticut’s premier outdoor summer theater company presenting free Shakespeare in the park today announced that the company will host a gala for its 16th summer production, Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, under the direction of Joanna Settle.  Stew and Heidi Rodewald will again create music and songs for the upcoming production.  A Big To-Do for Much Ado will be held at the Woodway Country Club (540 Hoyt Street, Darien, CT) on April 2, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.  This event will raise funds for the production and the company’s ongoing educational outreach programs.  Much Ado About Nothing will play two beautiful locations on Long Island Sound, Pinkney Park in Rowayton and Baldwin Park in Greenwich.  Performance dates and further details will be announced shortly. 

“We are planning a big, fun party for this summer with one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies and we plan to do-it-up Shakespeare style at the gala,” commented Emily Bryan, the company’s Managing Director.  “Our gala makes it possible for us to put on high quality productions every summer, and to offer programs in schools, community centers and libraries across Fairfield County,” added Leslie Lawrence, the gala chair.  “It’s a wonderful way to support the arts in our community – for so many in our area, Shakespeare on the Sound’s production or educational programs are their first encounter with Shakespeare.  This is a wonderful gift for our supporters to give the community,” added Dulcy Brainard, the gala’s Honorary Chair, “Shakespeare on the Sound is proud to be a cherished institution in the community and this is a great way to kick our season off!”

There will be a silent and live auction with exciting items, including vacations at Exclusive Resorts and the Ocean Reef Club, golf packages, a baseball signed by Mariano Rivera and tickets to a taping of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”  The auction will also offer cultural experiences: tickets to SPIDER-MAN Turn Off The Dark on Broadway, a night at the Metropolitan Opera and a special access to Shakespeare on the Sound rehearsals in New York City. 

Shakespeare on the Sound has established itself as one of the most popular summer theater companies on the East Coast, drawing large audiences to each performance in the unique under-the-stars settings of its waterfront venues.  16,000 people seeShakespeare on the Sound performances and 20% of the audience is children.  Admission is free, though donations are greatly appreciated. For more information about the gala or sponsorships, call Shakespeare on the Sound at 203-299-1300 or visit   

Monday, March 7, 2011

OMG: Lee Pace comes to Broadway

Well, this announcement came out and I am very very excited.  Lee Pace (and Jim Parsons) have joined the cast of The Normal Heart.  Blurb below, but first know that I am the hugest Lee Pace fan.  I loved The Fall, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day and Pushing Daisies.  I am so excited.

“ T H E   N O R M A L   H E A R T ”


New York, NY – Producer Daryl Roth announced today that Emmy Award nominee Lee Pace (“Pushing Daisies”) and Emmy and Golden Globe-winner Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) have joined the cast of Larry Kramer’s ground-breaking play, The Normal Heart.  In their Broadway debuts, Pace will play Bruce Niles and Parsons will play Tommy Boatwright, joining the previously announced Joe Mantello as Ned Weeks, Ellen Barkin as Dr. Emma Brookner and John Benjamin Hickey as Felix Turner.  Joel Grey will direct the production, which begins its limited 12-week engagement on Tuesday, April 19 at the John Golden Theatre (252 West 45th Street), with an official opening night set for Wednesday, April 27.

The story of a city in denial, The Normal Heart unfolds like a real-life political thriller -- as a  tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence. First produced by Joseph Papp at New York’s Public Theater, the play was a critical sensation and a seminal moment in theater history.  So ahead of its time was this play that many of the core issues it addresses – including gay marriage, the healthcare system and, of course, AIDS – are just as relevant today as they were when it first premiered. 

Tickets, priced from $26.50 to $116.50, are available via, by calling (212) 239-6200, or in person at the John Golden Theatre box office (252 West 45th Street).  The weekly performance schedule will be Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday at 8:00 p.m., Thursday at 8:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.   (The first performance, on Tuesday, April 19, will be at 8:00 p.m.  There will be a special 8:00 p.m. performance on Monday, April 25.  There will be no performance on Thursday, April 28.)

The entire company of The Normal Heart is deeply committed to the message of this play, and so a percentage of the production's weekly profits will be donated to a group of dedicated nonprofit organizations, including The Actors Fund andFriends In Deed, among others.   In addition, a special partnership is being created with amfAR.

Mimic: A Hypnotic Story of Longing from Ireland

Mimic, making it’s US Premiere at the Irish Arts Center now through March 20th, is a fascinating melding of character, performance art and the Irish tradition of storytelling.  It is a one man show that is engaging and hypnotic.

Mimic is written, composed and performed by Raymond Scannell.   He accompanies himself on the piano as he tells the story of Mimic, an adopted son of an Irish family.  Mimic is a young man, Julian Neary, who is an adapt impersonator of others, both celebrities and family members.  He uses this talent to entertain friends, family and schoolmates. 
But Julian’s talent to entertain is not welcomed by his family, particularly a strict father who keeps the family stuck in a 1950s mindset and style.  Enjoying the piano and music, he is given the basement (“banished” – as he says), where both he and his sister take advantage of the separate entry.  Julian and his adopted sister have a mutual attraction that can only lead to trouble.
This is the set-up of the show.  Julian’s abilities ultimately lead him out of his family’s spiritual home and into fast friends, parties and drugs.  Eventually Julian physically leaves Ireland to go to England – where he reunites with his sister, and then to the United States.
After a stint in the states, he returns to an Ireland a decade or so in the future.  Societal norms have changed, and Julian struggles to adjust.
Mimic is the story of alienation and loss of grounding in the face of culture change.  As such, it is a perfect metaphor for the changes in Ireland, from basket case to Celtic Tiger to economic bust.  These changes occurred so swiftly and so removed from the Irish people’s actions, that a cultural whiplash was bound to occur.  It is this view of emotion that Mimic mines effectively.
Accompanied by a piano, a raft of impersonations and a gift of story telling, the story of Mimic is engaging.  It is presented quietly, blurring the line between reality and fiction to where one often thinks Mr. Scannell is telling his own story, his gift for voices and his flashes of emotion are woven into the story so well.
Mimic is directed and designed by Tom Creed.  And, although it is a one man show, the lighting and music plays an integral part in the telling of Julian Neary’s story.  Mimic is well worth your time.
Mimic: Through March 20
Irish Arts Center (Web Site)
Director: Tom Creed
Writer / Composer / Cast: Raymond Scannell

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

March 24 - 26: Kashu-juku Noh Theater Comes to New York




New York, NY, March 1, 2011 – Japan Society proudly announces a much-anticipated event in its current Performing Arts Season: the New York debut of Kyoto-based Kashu-juku Noh Theater as part of its 2011 North American Tour.  Kashu-juku Noh Theater offers audiences a rare opportunity to experience the 600-year-old tradition of noh and kyogen performed in one exceptional evening.  Presented in conjunction with Carnegie Hall’s JapanNYC Festival, performances are Thursday, March 24 / Friday, March 25 / Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 PM at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street)
Katayama Shingo performs in Kashu-juku Noh Theater
Encounter a renowned art form preserved since the 14th century.  Kashu-juku Noh Theater, founded and led by Katayama Shingo of the prestigious Katayama noh family, is joined by kyogen actors from the prominent Kyoto-based Shigeyama familygiving American audiences the rare opportunity to see noh and kyogen (collectively designated “Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO) performed back-to-back within the same program.

Performed in Japanese with English subtitles along with live music, the program is comprised of:

·       MAI-BAYASHI: Literally translated as "dance & music," mai-bayashi is a form of noh theater in which a principal character appears and performs a solo dance without a mask or costume and is accompanied by a group of chanters and musicians.  A furious dance depicting the climactic battle scene from the famous noh play Yashima will be presented. 

·       KYOGEN: Boshibari (Tied to a Pole) is one of the most popular plays in the kyogen repertoire.  Two servants are tied up by their master in a cunning scheme to keep them from drinking his sake while he is away.  They soon thirst for his wine.  How will the two obtain their beloved beverage again?

·       NOH: Aoi no Ue (Lady Aoi).  One of the most famous noh plays, Lady Aoi is an adaptation of a chapter from the classic Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji.  The story follows Lady Rokujo (the jealous former-mistress of Genji), who sent an evil spirit to possess Genji's wife Lady Aoi, as she is confronted in combat by a Buddhist monk intent on saving her soul.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Cannot Recommend Morgan James Enough – She is Amazing

Last night I saw Morgan James sing at Dominion NYC.  Ms. James is an alumni of numerous Broadway shows and will be part of the upcoming Wonderland,.  She was amazing.
Whatever expectations you might have about a beautiful blond young lady from Broadway singing in a club are bowled over right from the gate.  Ms. James saunters down a circular staircase looking a bit like younger Diana Krall channelling Nancy Sinatra – in the best way.  It is a tough start to the act, because she is going to have to live up to the expectations and this is not a modest entrance.  Then Ms. James sings and the audience erupts in applause.  The small house is packed with people that know her.  You can tell who is new to her concerts because their jaws hit the floor.  After I picked mine up, I sat rapturous.
It is impossible to pin down the sound of Morgan James, it is uniquely hers.  For those of us old enough to remember, she is a torch singer.  To compare, she reminded me of Dusty Springfield and Lena Horne.  She was great.  Occasionally, and always appropriately, the musical theatre training came through.  She can hold a note, or emote with the best of them.  It is easy to imagine her belting out an end-of-Act-One number.
But her strength is more personal.  She pins down the room with her eyes and pulls the listener into the songs.  Her set was made up of songs I wasn’t familiar with – so I can’t call out exceptional pieces.  However, of particular note to me were the songs done with only percussion and her voice – or the piano and her voice.  The blend was unique, not Jazz as we think of it, but a different sort of harmony. 
Ms. James was backed by an excellent 7 piece combo that complimented her well.  Never overpowering nor straining to keep up, the band and Ms. James worked the room like an experienced team.
You can stay on top of upcoming gigs at  If you go, you’ll probably find me sitting there.  Having seen her once, I am a full convert.