Incidental Moments ****

Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom

By: David Sheward

September 15, 2020: Dr. Anthony Fauci recently predicted we may not be able to sit safely in theaters until the end of 2021. If that is the case, we’ll have to make due with the new hybrid form of theater, the Zoom play of which Richard Nelson has become the main practitioner. His latest piece Incidental Moments of the Day: The Apple Family: Life on Zoom is his deepest and most profound of a Zoom trilogy, examining the impact of national social currents without descending into political propaganda or overt symbolism. We are listening in on the achingly real dialogue of believable people wrestling with the overwhelming polarization of their country, with no concrete solutions, only questions and anxiety.

Read more >

Murder at River Crossing Book Club *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 30, 2020: One of the promising developments in the entertainment industry during the pandemic is the many creative ways companies have met the challenge of not having a live audience in a theater. Not least of these innovations is Live in Theater’s series of interactive Zoom experiences. The series uses Zoom technology to bring interactive theater into the homes of audiences. The first show in the series is Murder at River Crossing Book Club. created by Carlo D’Amore, Collin Blackard, Phoebe Dunn, Natalia Yandyganova; and written and directed by D’Amore.

Read more >

Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noel Coward ***

Steve Ross & KT Sullivan

By: David Sheward

August 13, 2020: The intimate environs of cabaret will probably be the last aspect of the entertainment industry to return to normal in this COVID world. Patrons squeezed shoulder to shoulder at tiny tables, mere inches away from performers projecting potentially infectious air particles is a scary atmosphere these days. Until a reliable vaccine becomes available, we will probably not be enjoying this unique, direct art form. Fortunately, the Irish Repertory Theatre has translated a delightful gem of a cabaret piece to the digital medium for a brief stay. Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noel Coward, devised by Barry Day, assembles a sparkling sampling of the witty correspondence and the 300 songs by the brilliant polymath Coward. One of the great entertainers of the 20th century, Coward wrote some of the most durable light comedies of the repertoire (Blithe Spirit, Private Lives, Hay Fever, Present Laughter), composed heartfelt and fizzy songs, and dazzled audiences as an actor and singer on stage, film, television, and the cabaret and concert stage. Pianist Steve Ross and singer KT Sullivan are the amiable hosts of this marvelous party. Director Charlotte Moore smoothly paces this delightful pastiche of Coward’s martini-dry wit and throbbing sentiment in the elegant Players Club amid the memorabilia of centuries of show business.

Read more >

Liberty or Just Us: a City Park Story ***1/2

TEACH IT RIGHT OR RIGHT TO TEACH — An administrator witnesses the struggle of public school students and a teacher against privatization in “Teach It Right, or, Right to Teach,” Theater for the New City’s 2015 street theater production, which will tour City streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs through September 20. L-R: Libby Del Campo, Lily Fremaux, Michael David Gordon, Justin Rodriguez. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

By: Paulanne Simmons

August 14, 2020: For over four decades New York City summers have been blessed with Theater for the New City’s annual Street Theater tour, which visits all five boroughs and entertains while it raises social awareness. This year, street theater has become virtual theater as Crystal Field and her band of troubadours embrace technology to bring their latest creation into the homes and hearts of New Yorkers.

Read more >

The Weir ****

Amanda Quaid

By: David Sheward

July 24, 2020: Five lonely people swap ghost stories in a secluded Irish country pub in Connor McPherson’s touching play The Weir. This woes of this disheartened quintet are strikingly relevant for the COVID-19 era. They are attempting to make human connection despite the psychological barriers that separate them. Shuttered along with all other Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters because of the pandemic, the Irish Repertory Theater has adapted its 2013 staging of the play for remote streaming, subtitled “A Performance on Screen,” and created a hybrid between theater and video, emphasizing the isolation of the characters. Each of the five actors filmed their roles in different states from Vermont to North Carolina, performing against green screens (set designer Charlie Corcoron created the atmospheric, homey environment). Director Ciaran O’Reilly has seamlessly woven together the bits and pieces into a cohesive whole, creating the illusion they are all together in the same space.

Read more >

The Line ****

Lorraine Toussaint, Santino Fontana, and John Ortiz in “The Line” Credit: The Public Theater

By: David Sheward

July 14, 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closures of theaters and reinforced the feeling of being in suspended animation. With no live dramatic reaction to this national crisis which has brought all of our lives to a near screeching halt, it feels as if there has been scant considered reflection or introspection—just talking heads endlessly pontificating on cable news shows and a disconnected chief executive engaging in magical thinking. We have had Richard Nelson’s Apple Family Zoom plays give us some perspective through an artistic lens, and now the Public Theater has commissioned documentary theater-makers Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen to assemble the heart-breaking real-life stories of first responders in a unique, interwoven series of monologues called The Line, available on the Public’s YouTube channel through Aug. 4.

Read more >

And So We Come Forth****, Les Blancs ***

And So We Come Forth: The Apple Family: A Dinner on Zoom, Les Blancs

By: David Sheward

July 7, 2020: As the hiatus from live theater continues with no respite in sight until at least 2021, we draw what sustenance we can from Zoom plays, archival broadcasts, benefit readings, and Hamilton on Disney Plus. Richard Nelson’s fictional Apple family is experiencing a similar sense of depravation and loss. In And So We Come Forth, the second piece about the middle-class clan in Rhinebeck, NY, since the coronavirus lockdown began, the four adult Apple siblings plus one romantic partner, sit down to a remote dinner and commiserate over the devastating effects of the pandemic. Each expresses a sense of emptiness and futility. Though not much happens and there is a minimum of activities such as game playing or political discussion which propelled action in the previous plays, this hour-long rumination on our fractured state between quarantine and normalcy resonates with sorrow and empathy. 

Read more >

Bleeding Love *****

Cast and Team. Photo: Broadway Podcast Network.

By: Paulanne Simmons

June 4, 2020: Bleeding Love, a musical about romance in catastrophic times, might seem to be the brainchild of someone living in 2020. However, book writer Jason Schafer, composer Arthur Lafrentz Bacon and lyricist Harris Doran (who also directed and edited) began the creative process nine years ago.  What’s more, Bleeding Love is based on “The Nightingale and the Rose,” a fairy tale found in Oscar Wilde’s 1888 collection, The Happy Prince and Other Tales. And“The Nightingale and the Rose”wasWilde’s answer to Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Nightingale,” published in 1843.

Read more >

A Streetcar Named Desire ****, Mad Forest ***

Ben Foster in “A Streetcar Named Desire”

By: David Sheward

May 24, 2020: There is one upside to all the theaters being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through streaming, YouTube, Zoom and other digital platforms, we get a chance to catch up with intriguing productions we may have missed. One such is the Young Vic’s innovative 2014 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire which was shown in cinemas through HD Live and played a limited engagement at Brooklyn’s St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2016 following an extended run in London. NT Live at Home will play the production for free on YouTube through May 28. Though Tennessee Williams’ classic clash between the faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois and her brutish brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski has been interpreted numerous times for stage and screen since its 1947 premiere, director Benedict Andrews has found new insights as well as invigorating the essential conflict and message. 

Read more >

In- Zoom ***, Macbeth (Shakespeare’s Globe) ****, MacBeth (Stratford Festival) **

Bill Irwin

By: David Sheward

May 16, 2020: “We’re heads now. We talk in windows,” cries one of two nameless characters in Bill Irwin’s touching, ten-minute play In-Zoom, presented by the Old Globe Theater of San Diego. The cry of frustration sums up our current lockdown status. This short two-hander addresses our lack of connection and the attempt to reach each other, literally breaking the barrier of cyberspace. The premise is simplicity itself and like a Samuel Beckett playlet, In-Zoom captures the comic and tragic conundrum of daily life. 

Read more >

What Do We Need to Talk About? *****, Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration *****

Jay O. Sanders, Maryann Plunkett, Sally Murphy, Laila Robbins and Stephen Kunken in What Do We Need to Talk About?

By: David Sheward

May 1, 2020: With Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional stages closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, theater artists have adapted to the new normal rather than waiting in limbo for a return to their traditional venues. Playwright Richard Nelson has taken his fictional Apple family into the current world of social distancing and videoconferencing and delivers a poignant and insightful portrait of how we live now. His 70-minute work What Do We Need to Talk About subtitled The Apple Family: Conversations on Zoom, is probably the first play written to be performed on the platform which has become the main means of live communication in a quarantined world. 

Read more >

Pride and Prejudice **1/2, Hamlet ***

Christopher Vettel. Heather Orth in “Pride and Prejudice”

By: David Sheward

April 18, 2020: Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced stages in New York City and around the world to close until further notice and much of the world remains in lockdown, many theater companies are offering productions online through various social media platforms. Many of these events are free or available for a limited time. Streaming Musicals recently presented a “virtual opening night” of Paul Gordon’s musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice, originally produced at TheaterWorks Silicon Valley in Palo Alto, California in December 2019. 

Read more >

72 Miles To Go ****

Jacqueline Guillen, Triney Sandoval, Bobby Moreno, Tyler Alvarez

By: David Sheward

April 1, 2020: Note: This production’s run ended abruptly on March 12 due to Broadway and Off-Broadway’s theaters closing because of the coronavirus crisis. Roundabout Theater Company has announced they will be making the show available digitally to ticket holders. 

Read more >

Scott Siegel’s March Birthday Show ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

March 9, 2020: We all like birthday parties. But Scott Siegel’s idea of a birthday bash is unique. Every month Siegel creates, directs and hosts a concert celebrating famous songs by famous people born in that month. The event takes place at Feinstein’s/54 below, and it features many performers who are well-known in their own right. The superb Ross Patterson is at the piano.

Read more >

Anatomy of a Suicide ***, Cambodian Rock Band ***, The Unsinkable Molly Brown ***

Carla Gugino and Ava Briglia in “Anatomy of a Suicide”

By: David Sheward

March 8, 2020: Fractured narratives are featured in two recent Off-Broadway offerings depicting how families of severe trauma victims cope—or don’t—with their personal tragedies. Three generations of suicidal depression play out simultaneously in Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide at Atlantic Theater Company after a run at London’s Royal Court, while Laureen Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band, at Signature Theater Company following multiple regional stagings, traces the Khmer Rouge’s brutal legacy on a former rock musician and his daughter. In both plays the storyline twists and turns, sometimes even shatters, occasionally resulting in confusion, but mainly inducing the unsettling, disturbing effects of their respective sources of psychological damage. These are not comfortable pieces of theater, but they are affecting and memorable.

Read more >