I have been writing on theater since 1982. A graduate from Manhattan College B.S. A member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both English and Science. I have produced 12 shows on and off Broadway. I've seen over700 shows
"The Dark Outside"
I have the upmost respect for awards: awards given to athletes, entertainers and especially in my older years, to writers. When I read about a play written by Bernard Kops and stars Austin Pendleton I figured what could go wrong? The good news is that at the start of the show at The Theater for the New City, the person who normally tells us where the fire exits are kept it under 5 minutes long! The bad news is that the show started about 15 minutes late and I am sure many audience members prayed for a fire 20 minutes into the show! If this is a standard writing of Kops, I do not understand how the Queen of England could give him the Civil List pension; after all, that was also awarded to writers like Lord Byron, Wordsworth and Alfred. After seeing "The Dark Outside I can tell you that Kops is no Lord Byron.
"A Turtle on A Fence Post"
The stories title comes from one of Bill Clinton's favorite expressions: "when you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it didn't get there by itself. It doesn't belong there. You wonder who put it there". The show is inspired by fictionalized events of Hank Morris, a democratic strategist for people like: Chuck Schumer and Diane Feinstein; his time in prison at the hands of former Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"War Words". Shit Happens. And Then You Drive On. As the audience listens to Gimme Shelter by "The Rolling Stones" the stage reading actors rise as one and march up and around the platform that each will read from at several points in the evening and to their chairs. Director Justin Reinsilber (who was just made artistic director at NY Rep which put this performance on) tried to make this seem edgy; it seemed to staged and robotic, however. "War Words" which was performed for one night in New York City and will perform this Thursday in Los Angels, is written by award-winning playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks. Brooks won the Susan Glaspell Award for "Hitler's Tasters as well as Festival Fringe Edinburgh for "Hitler's Tasters" Her play, "War Words" takes us through the different lives of different soldiers' of different theaters of the military. Throughout the evening we are given many fact:"0.5% of the entire population here serve in the military; that most soldier's feel the call to serve, rather than being drafted; that IED's kill more soldiers and property than anything else combined.
Inline image "Mrs. Warren's Profession" at Theater 2 (The Kirk Theater) at Theater Row is one of George Bernard Shaw's most controversial works: it was frowned upon at the time of Shaw's play for a woman to own and run a business. One would have thought that it would be more of a stir up that the play's plot was that Mrs. Warren ran a brothel. The Gingold Theatrical Group uses Mr. Shaw's writing to help promote freedom of speech and creates theater to further the cause of supporting human rights. To Gingold, Shaw was a humanitarian and as such they continue to produce works like: "Major Barbara" and "Widower's Houses".
"Lackawanna Blues" at MTC is a one man show written, directed and starring Rueben Santiago-Hudson. The shows nexus is based on his life and the people that he knew in Lackawanna, New York growing up there. The writer is passionate about this play and he gives it his all. Set in the backdrop of a once industrial building (looked like an old textile plant), Michael Carnahan gives his set a feel of a town that was once vibrant as Lackawanna once was. Santiago-Hudson never really tells us just what happened to his town, if anything. He is also not very clear in what years things happen in his life. He paints broad strokes about Jackie Robinson and the 1973 Supreme Court case on segregation. Other than a few mentions, however, he never really paints the picture of what was happening in America as he went along in this ninety minute intermission less play.
"Caroline, Or Change.
"Caroline, Or Change at Studio 54 has many good things going for it: singers with big voices and wide ranges who make the most of the songs that they are given to sing; Ann Yee's choreography is entertaining for the most part, sans the camp, however, the best part about "Caroline" is the sets and costumes which are both by Fly Davis. A close second is the orchestrations by Rich Bassett and Buryl Red. In these two, the evening was enjoyable in how the music flowed as well as how Fly Davis's interpretation of this musical with its gregarious outfits continuously surprised throughout the musicals two and a half hours. Jack Knowles who did the lighting also made the most in keeping the audience entertained... he was at times circus like, at other times we had a sultry feel to the performance. The lighting was often in toto with the action, from the Jazzy feel of Lake Charles, Louisiana in the year 1963. The entire play takes place in just two months of that year, November- December.
"The Lehman Trilogy"
Ominously the first scene is Lehman Brothers being gutted by the U.S. Treasury and The Fed in 2008. In the very next scene, Henry Lehman arrives at Ellis Island from Rimpar, Germany and sets his new course in America. That is the beginning of the exquisite play, "The Lehman Trilogy" at the Nederlander Theatre that opened October 14th. Without Ben Miles, the original Emanuel Lehman when the show played at the Armory, the show thrives still. In three parts, we are taken for a journey in the Lehman's family history. Henry Lehman being the first to come to America, then Emmanuel and later Mayer. Not without argument, the three plod along selling fabrics and suits in Alabama. Steadfast to their German past and their Jewish roots, the three are able to make it through insightfulness and hard work.
"Chicken & Biscuits"
"Chicken & Biscuits" at The Circle In The Square Theater is not fully ready for primetime. With a cast of seven, five actors are making their Broadway debut; not to mention the director who is a newbie to Broadway as well. The show has some really good things going for it: Michael Urie who commands the stage with "the business" he provides, his Jewish kvetch and his funny demeanor. Also able to fill out his role well is Norm Lewis... funny, stately at times and the voice of reason, he too takes charge in this production. Fitting are the well appointed costumes by Dede Ayite and the lighting is excellent under the glam lights of Adam Honore. The night, however, was surely made enjoyable by sound designer TWI McCullum, his choice of themes at times made this ordinary at best play funny and laughable.