Marvin’s Room ****

Lili Taylor, Janeane Garofalo, Jack DiFalco

By: David Sheward

Most plays get broader when they move to Broadway, but Marvin’s Room, the 1990 comedy-drama about a family coping with death and disease, has grown more intimate in its first production on the Main Stem. The late Scott McPherson’s touchingly dark piece premiered in regional productions at the Goodman and Hartford Stage and then at Playwrights Horizons in 1991 before a commercial Off-Broadway run (a financial impossibility these days.) Tragically, McPherson died of AIDS at the age of 33 not long after the play opened. That NYC production won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play (a rarity for an Off-Broadway production) and I recall David Petrarca’s polished staging as hitting the comic notes with a professional sharpness.

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On the Town ***1/2

Sean Ewing, Nick Adams, Daniel Switzer

By: Iris Wiener

The Gateway’s production of On the Town is one helluva show, featuring fancy footwork straight from the stages of Broadway. A 2014 Tony nominee for Best New Musical revival, On the Town is an iconic piece of theatre; with director and choreographer Scott Thompson at its helm, and a remarkable 10-piece live orchestra accompanying the piece, it is an especially unique work of art.

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Cost of Living **** – Napoli, Brooklyn **1/2

Katy Sullivan & Victor Williams in ” Cost of Living”

By: David Sheward

Two new Off-Broadway plays exemplify trends in dramas about family and social relations over the past 57 years. Meghan Kennedy’s Napoli, Brooklyn at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels space, echoes theater of the era of its setting—1960—when the stage was dominated by autobiographical memory pieces depicting creative, free-spirited offspring longing to escape dysfunctional parents. Martyna Majok’s Cost of Living reflects 21st century attitudes featuring rootless, lonely protagonists, craving to create family units of their own. Both have credulity-stretching flaws as well as moments of tenderness and honesty, but Majok’s Cost rings the truer of the two.

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Intimate Apparel *****

Julia Motyka, Kelly McCreary

By: Iris Wiener

The layers of discourse are as beautifully intertwined as the fine fabrics running through the hands of seamstress Esther Mills (Kelly McCreary) in Bay Street Theater’s current production of Intimate Apparel. Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and Tony nominee Lynn Nottage, Apparel addresses a litany of complex issues that in less worthy hands might have overcrowded a 130 minute play; however, with director Scott Schwartz at its helm, Apparel is the most breathtaking piece of theatre New Yorkers are likely to find this summer.

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Priscilla Queen of the Desert ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

Priscilla Queen of the Desert began as a 1994 Australian film about two drag queens, Tick and Adam, and a transgender woman, Bernadette, who cross the Australian Outback in a tour bus named Priscilla. Their ultimate goal is to reunite Tick with his son, Benjamin.

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Marvin’s Room *****

Jack DiFalco, Janeane Garofalo

By: Paulanne Simmons

I loved Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Scott McPherson’s Marvin’s Room, directed by Anne Kaufman. Here’s why…

The show is about characters I care about, good people who at times lose their way because, like all of us, they are all too human. 

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Anna on Fire and Uncensored **1/2

Anna Fishbeyn

By: Paulanne Simmons

Playwright, filmmaker and producer Anna Fishbeyn has a new cabaret show. It’s called Anna on Fire and Uncensored and it recounts Fishbeyne’s sexual adventures from her childhood days as a Russian immigrant in the care of her puritanical mother and grandmother to her blossoming as a feminist devotee of casual sex.

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Napoli, Brooklyn ****

Lilli Kay, Shirine Babb, Alyssa Bresnahan, Elise Kibler, Jordyn DiNatale, Erik Lochtefeld, Michael Rispoli

By: Isa Goldberg

In Napoli, Brooklyn, at the Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre, playwright Meghan Kennedy creates the vivid ongoing life of Brooklyn in the1960’s. Cut out from the street of Brooklyn brownstones, the Muscolino’s apartment, designed by Eugene Lee, sits center stage, like a cave. Living in those shadows, in these tight quarters, regardless of its alluringly warm colors, creates the setting for their entrapment.

 

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Cost of Living ***1/2

Katy Sullivan, Victor Williams in “Cost of Living”

By: Isa Goldberg

Martyna Majok’s new play, Cost of Living, at The Manhattan Theater Club’s City Center Stage, explores visibly uncomfortable territory. A play about disabilities, cast with people who have disabilities, Living stands out among a few like-minded productions, prominent in recent years. Among them, Sam Gold’s revival of The Glass Menagerie last season, featured 
Madison Ferris, a woman with muscular dystrophy, in the role of Laura. And the prior season’s revival of Spring Awakening, by the Deaf West Theatre, was incredibly innovative, with a cast of deaf actors playing roles that are sung by hearing actors. Off Broadway Samuel D. Hunter’s Good Beer and Neil LaBute’s Call Back, both from 2013, also demonstrate the heroic nature of characters who live beyond the limitations of their physical selves.

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Thank You for Your Love ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

Aside from their obvious vocal and performance skills, what makes Carole Demas and Sarah Rice’s Thank You for Your Love tribute to Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, at the Laurie Beechman Theater, June 27, so special is what Rice called their “deep and personal” connection to the music. Much of that connection is with Jones and Schmidt’s longest running musical, The Fantasticks.

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1984 ****

By: David Sheward

While it is not a direct response to the young Trump administration, the bracing and horrifying stage adaptation of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 arrives on Broadway at a startlingly appropriate time. Though published in 1949, the trends Orwell was spotting in political and social life are just as prevalent nowadays, even more so. The newspeak and shifting truth perpetrated by Big Brother, the tyrannical leader of a repressive future state, are shockingly similar to the “fake news” and “alternative facts” which surround us today. The denizens of Airstrip One, the decimated remains of London after an atomic conflict, are mesmerized by their TV sets just as anyone you see on a New York City subway is locked in an embrace with their smartphone. “They won’t look up from their screens long enough to know what’s happening,” warns Winston Smith, the tragic Everyman hero of the tale.

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The Rivals ***

New York Classical Theater

By: Isa Goldberg

On a summer evening in Central Park, you may fall upon a troupe of actors clad in 18th century garb, the period in which Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals is set.  A production by the all-free New York Classical Theatre, in the style of “panoramic theater,” the actors move the action from one grassy knoll, to a shaded field, on to a nearby pond, and around the park – so verdant it is calming. As is, of course, this fast-paced comedy of manners by the master of the genre, Sheridan.

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Fulfillment Center ****

Deirdre O’Connell, Frederick Weller

By: David Sheward

Abe Koogler gives the interconnected-lives format a quirky spin in his play Fulfillment Center, now at Manhattan Theatre Club’s studio space at City Center. The title is an ironic reference to the giant New Mexico warehouse where two of the characters are employed by an unnamed Amazon-like service. Neither they nor the two other people in the play are finding fulfillment in their work or relationships in an America where jobs and love are temporary and tenuous.

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Float Like a Butterfly *****

Barb Jungr, John McDaniel

Float Like a Butterfly – The Sting Project
By: Paulanne Simmons

After giving the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen the Barb Jungr treatment, the amazing chanteuse has turned her attention to Sting. The fruit of this labor is the world premiere of Float Like a Butterfly – The Sting Project, which reunites Jungr with composer and arranger John McDaniel (Beatles show and CD Come Together) in a four-day gig at Joe’s Pub this June.

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Angels in America **1/2

Andrew Garland, Aaron Blake

New York City Opera at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre

By: David Sheward

New York City Opera closes its 2016-17 season with the bold choice of Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos’ adaptation of Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s two-part epic on the impact of AIDS. Librettist Mari Mezei compresses the seven-hour original into a brisk two-and-a-half hour, single-evening event. Much of Kushner’s complex musings on a myriad of topics from the fall of international communism to Ronald Reagan’s soulless conservatism to the Mormon faith are jettisoned to focus on the interrelationships of the characters, each devastated by the disease and homophobia.

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