Betrayal ***1/2

Charlie Cox as Jerry, Zawe Ashton as Emma and Tom Hiddleston as Robert

By: Isa Goldberg

October 18, 2019: Director James Lloyd’s revival of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal embraces a chilly minimalism.  As the pinnacle of this complex love triangle, Robert (Tom Hiddleston) is an opaque, fully restrained husband; one who’s certainly not into drama.

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The Rose Tattoo ****, Linda Vista ****, The New Englanders **1/2 Heroes of the Fourth Turning ****

Emun Elliott and Marisa Tomei in “The Rose Tattoo”

By: David Sheward

October 17, 2019: “My life is unhappy. I want to change it and I don’t know how.” That’s the subtext of a lot of American drama and four productions currently on and Off-Broadway explore this trope of angst with insight and compassion. One is a neglected classic from Tennessee Williams, the poet of the frustrated and lonely, while the other three offer new perspectives on the search for self-fulfillment from established and rising playwrights. Surprisingly, the Williams play is the most optimistic and life-affirming of this sad quartet.

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Slave Play ****1/2

Annie McNamara and Sullivan Jones

By: Isa Goldberg

October 17, 2019: The raves and buzz surrounding playwright Jeremy O. Harris are well deserved. A surprising young writer, his grasp of dramatic form, from medieval miracle plays to silent movies, is on par with his sociological observations, and psychological insights. His Broadway premiere, Slave Play is equally all over the place, and delightfully so. 

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The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter ****

Lee Roy Reams, Danny Gardner, Diane Phelan, Lauren Molina

By: Paulanne Simmons

October 14, 2019: As the name implies, “The Decline and Fall of the Entire World as Seen Through the Eyes of Cole Porter” is more about the times Porter lived in than the man himself. In fact, the years in question, 1919 to 1945, saw many events that might make anyone think civilization was indeed coming to an end: two world wars, Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression.

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Slave Play **

James Cusati-Moyer and Ato Blankson-Wood

By: Paulanne Simmons

October 13, 2019: Playwright Jeremy O. Harris is making his Broadway debut this season with Slave Play, which premiered last season at New York Theater Workshop. The play, directed by John O’Hara, can be summed up as follows:

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The Great Society ***, Slave Play ****, The Wrong Man ***

Marchant Davis, Brian Cox and Bryce Pynkham “The Great Society”

By: David Sheward

October 10, 2019: Robert Schenkkan provided a brilliant example of political theater with his Tony winning All the Way which played Broadway in 2014 after premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The epic drama’s trajectory concerned President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s efforts to push the Civil Rights Act through Congress and ended with his election in 1964. Now Schenkkan has followed up that laser-focused work with a sprawling sequel, The Great Society at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont, also directed by OSF artistic chief Bill Rauch, and the results are certainly informative and thought-provoking, but not as dramatically effective as its predecessor.

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Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz ***

Paper Mill Playhouse Presents Young Judy Garland Chasing Rainbows: [on] The Road to Oz 

By: Ellis Nassour

October 9, 2019: Judy Garland, maybe along with Streisand, might be the exception to the rule, but bio musicals of great stars/legends from Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age often suffer from the fact that today’s audiences, save for those of a certain age, have no idea who these iconic stars are.

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Sunday **

Maurice Jones, Sadie Scott

By: Paulanne Simmons

October 7, 2019: Jack Thorne’s new play, Sunday, making its premiere at Atlantic Theater Company, is about a group of 20-somethings, members of a book club, who meet one Sunday to discuss Anne Tyler’s novel, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. And so we know right away there’s a problem here. Young people, for the most part don’t read, and even if they do, they don’t join a book club, even if they call it a “post-ironic joke.” Clearly, that’s for their parents, or worse yet, grandparents.

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Round Table **

Sharina Martin, Craig Wesley Divino

“A Less Congenial Spot, In Cramalot”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

October 6, 2019: As I washed my hands in the men’s room after seeing Liba Vaynberg’s Round Table, a senior critic of my acquaintance quietly asked, “What was that?” I was, however, still too deep in its murk to process an appropriate answer. I can now confess that Round Table is a quirky, clunky, confusing, concoction of romantic comedy that seems (I’m hedging here) intent on exploring the clash between reality and the illusions we sometimes take for reality. 

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The Height of The Storm ***1/2

Eileen Atkins, Jonathan Pryce

By: Isa Goldberg

October 3, 2019: French playwright Florian Zeller, well known in New York theater for his plays, The Father (Frank Langella) and The Mother (Isabelle Huppert), tells stories in a most outré fashion.  Currently, The Height of The Storm translated by Christopher Hampton, at the Manhattan Theatre Club, stars two masters of the British stage, Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins.

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L.O.V.E.R. ***1/2

Lois Robbins

By: Isa Goldberg

October 2, 2019: What woman doesn’t dream of having her own washing machine? Usually, however, it isn’t a momentous issue – at least not in the way Lois Robbins’ claims it to be in her solo show, L.O.V.E.R. 

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Caesar and Cleopatra ***

Robert Cuccioli, Teresa Avia Lim

By: Bernard Carragher

September 26, 2019: The Gingold Theatrical Group is presenting Bernard Shaw’s cool comedy of a very young Cleopatra (Teresa Avia Lim) and an elderly Julius Caesar (Robert Cuccioli) at Theatre Row on West 42nd Street. The wit is slim in this production of “Caesar and Cleopatra,” though the Shavian jokes remain in director David Staller’s new version of a modern classic about ancient characters of another era. Mr. Staller has shaved the cast down to seven actors. The last Broadway incarnation with Rex Harrison and Elizabeth Ashley had a cast of thirty. He also lets Cleopatra’s servant lady, the grim and brutal Ftatateeta played by the statuesque Brenda Braxton also serves as a contemporary guide who ushers us through events in Egypt beginning in October 38 B.C.

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The Height of the Storm ****, Fern Hill ***, Sunday **

Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce in “The Height of the Storm”

By: David Sheward

September 25, 2019: Reality is a slippery proposition in the plays of French dramatist Florian Zeller. In both The Father and The Mother, the title characters are lost in a maze of conflicting and confusing circumstances. So is the audience since everything is seen via the protagonists’ perceptions which are altered by dementia or mental illness. Zeller’s latest work, The Height of the Storm, translated by Christopher Hampton, is now on Broadway at Manhattan Theater Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater, after hit runs in Paris and London. Here the skewed perspective is doubled and perhaps trebled since we seem to be viewing the story through several different lens. Until the very end of its brief but absorbing running time, we’re not entirely sure whose eyes we are looking through and even if it’s the same point of view, since the perspective shifts several times. The result is a disturbing, unsettling portrait of how we deal with—or don’t deal with—death. Director Jonathan Kent is a reliable guide on this labyrinthine journey of the mind. An expert cast lead by acting legends Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins provide the necessary signposts to lead us to the heartbreaking conclusion.

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The Invention of Tragedy **1/2

Drita Kabashi, Susan Ly

“The Bats’ and Cats’ Adventures in Wellman-land

By: Samuel L. Leiter

September 24, 2019: Lewis Carroll, you’ll recall, declared, “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogoves,/And the mome raths outgrabe.” Carroll’s immortal, made-up “Jabberwocky” words—or equally obscure ones attributable to writers like James Joyce—register with crystal clarity in comparison to those of Mac Wellman’s largely incomprehensible verbal carousel, The Invention of Tragedy. This oddly entertaining headscratcher, written in 2004 but only now getting its world premiere, will either intrigue or infuriate you. My own response was a little of both.

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The Coffee Connection ****

Book Review: The Coffee Connection by Paulanne Simmons

By: Lauren Yarger

September 27, 2019: If you are a reader who enjoys sitting back with a cup of coffee and a good mystery, “The Coffee Connection” by Paulanne Simmons (Austin Macauley, April 30, 2019) offers a bonus: a novel about a mystery connected with the history of coffee. What more could you want?

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