Raging Skillet ****

Dana Smith-Croll, George Salazar, Marilyn Sokol

By: Iris Wiener

Food plays an integral part in many musicals and plays (Waitress, She Loves Me and Sweeney Todd are only a few); after all, it’s often a metaphor for an overarching theme in the given story. In Jacques Lamarre’s Raging Skillet, food transcends symbolism (and the fourth wall, as delectables are actually distributed to the audience) and it becomes a variety of bookmarks in a delightfully funny piece based on the memoir-with-recipes of Chef Rossi.

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A Parallelogram **

Celia Keenan-Bolger, Anita Gillette

By: David Sheward

Bruce Norris’ A Parallelogram, now at Second Stage Theater after productions at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum, certainly has a flashy gimmick which director Michael Greif employs with just the right touch of subtle spectacle in his crisp staging. Through means of a device resembling a TV remote, the central character Bee is able to rewind or flash-forward through moments of her life, reliving and altering her actions, but she discovers the ultimate outcome remains the same. These adjustments are cleverly accomplished thanks to Rachel Hauck’s flexible set, Kenneth Posner’s suggestive lighting, Matt Tierney’s electronic sound design, and Greif’s smart supervision. But this is not just the stage equivalent of that 2006 Adam Sandla movie Click which features a similar premise.

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1984 ***1/2

Carl Hendrick Louis, Wayne Duvall, Olivia Wilde, Tom Sturridge, Reed Birney, Nick Mills, Cara Seymour, Michael Potts

By: Isa Goldberg

Transferred from London to Broadway, this adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, is vividly staged and convincingly well-acted. Here Reed Birney’s O’Brien, is a totally banal character. He is no more the creator of the evil he perpetuates, than any ordinary man who fails to think for himself would be. Like the other characters in this tale – in which political terror reigns, “He’s just doing his job.” As such, he maintains a front of utmost innocence, even perpetuating violent deeds, as though he were acting out of empathy.

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Pipeline ****

Heather Velazquez, Namir Smallwood

By: Isa Goldberg

While Dominique Morisseau’s new play, Pipeline, at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater has all the trappings of a realistic drama with an overt pedagogic message, Morisseau beats the drum with surprising depth. Carrying her message with immediacy, director Lileana Blain-Cruz, wrangles her team of six actors into full on-stage battle –  all while they stand around talking about violence in the classroom.  That violence, which is not acted out on stage, is suggested in video projections (Hannah Vasileski), set to rumbling drums (Justin Ellington).

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream **** Singing Beach **

Phylicia Rashad and Danny Burstein in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By: David Sheward

An elderly woman in a nightgown slowly walks across the back of the stage like a ghost in a vision or a lonely soul wandering the halls of a nursing home. This is the haunting final image of Lear deBessonet’s unexpectedly fresh production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. Shakespeare’s comedy of mismatched lovers, fairies, and a donkey-headed weaver is such a popular choice that it’s hard to imagine a new approach—in addition to acting in it as a rude mechanical and a sprite, I’ve seen at least seven stage productions. But deBessonet has managed to find an original concept: she makes the tale one of the aged wisdom informing rash, impetuous youth in the ways of love and art.

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Pipeline ***

Heather Velazquez, Namir Smallwood

By: David Sheward

Theatergoers may feel as if they are back in high school when they enter Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse venue for Pipeline, Dominique Morisseau’s searing close-up of the public school system and its failure to serve minority youth. Set designer Matt Saunders has transformed the back wall of the intimate space into a blank white cement canvas not unlike the drab interior of an urban hall of learning. As the play begins, Justin Ellington’s jarring soundscape and Hannah Wasileski’s video projections take us inside a bleak secondary institution where the main character Nya, an African-American English Language Arts teacher, is slowly unravelling as her son Omari struggles to stay afloat at a private school upstate. Though there are moments of melodrama, Morisseau delivers a piercing and powerful indictment of educational breakdown.

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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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Me the People: The Trump America Musical ***1/2

Mia Weinberger, Richard Spitaletta

By: Iris Wiener In an era of watered down jokes and impressions a la The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, it’s a gift to find a show that is as funny as it is unapologetic for its painful impressions and humor. Me the People: The Trump America Musical manages to be entertaining and cringe worthy at its best moments, and only the slightest bit schlocky at its worst. Me the People is not simply a jab at America’s current president; this cabaret is an important call to arms, insisting that we all need to point our … Continue reading “Me the People: The Trump America Musical ***1/2”

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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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