Describe the Night **** Twelfth Night **

Danny Burstein, Zach Grenier, Tina Benko “Describe the Night”

By: David Sheward

Mixing myth, urban legend, conspiracy theory, and historical fact, Rajiv Joseph creates a weird tapestry of truth and lies in his new drama Describe the Night at the Atlantic Theater Company. Set in various parts of the former Soviet Union and Europe over nearly a century of political turmoil, this overwhelming saga asks hard questions on the relationships between government and media, regular citizens and dictators, and how people manage to live through decades of upheaval. As in his Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and Guards at the Raj, Joseph depicts individuals caught up in the tide of history, swept along by both fanciful and real events.

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An Act of God ***1/2

By: Iris Wiener

An Act of God is a rare one-person(ish) play that allows the director and star to redefine a piece through the choice of the lead actor. The Broadway productions of David Javerbaum’s comedy saw Jim Parsons and Sean Hayes take center stage as the Holy One, as they worked to answer many of the deepest (as well as materialistic) questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. With Academy Award and Tony Award nominee, and multiple Golden Globe winner Kathleen Turner embracing the sarcastic spirit of God in George Street Playhouse’s production, Javerbaum’s work takes on a whole new meaning- and a good one, at that.

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Once on This Island **** SpongeBob SquarePants the Broadway Musical ***1/2  Meteor Shower ***1/2

Mia Williamson, Alex Newell, Hailey Kilgore “Once on This Island”

By: David Sheward

Hurricanes, volcanoes, and meteor showers mark a trio of recent Broadway openings with laughter and delight rather than devastation. Theatergoers entering Circle in the Square for Michael Arden’s life-affirming revival of Once on This Island will think it’s been hit by a hurricane. Before the show starts, cast members dressed in cast-off materials are wading through debris, tending to a live goat and chickens, and giving and receiving vaccinations. Reflective of the recent spate of natural disasters afflicting the play’s Caribbean setting, Arden and set design Dane Laffrey have created an incredibly life-like community struggling to come back from disaster. Against this tragic backdrop, the magnificent company tells book-writer-lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty’s joyous story of survival and spirituality. Music supervisor Chris Fenwick makes the score feel like it’s being played by a really top notch beach band.

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The Parisian Woman ** Junk ** Downtown Race Riot **1/2

Josh Lucas, Uma Thurman “The Parisian Woman”

By: Isa Goldberg

Holding the mirror up to nature – suiting “the word to the action; the action to the word” – as it were, is cause for rather grueling stage imagery of late. In The Parisian Woman, for instance, Beau Willimon (House of Cards) writes dialogue that sounds like the work of an aggressive spear carrier, a hack even, or maybe someone who just writes tweets.

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The Briefly Dead @ 59E59 **1/2

World Premiere from Adjusted Realists, Opines That We’re Not Necessarily Gone for Good

By: Ellis Nassour

The world premiere from Adjusted Realists of Stephen Kaliski’s The Briefly Dead is a quirky mix of classic and contemporary meant as a sequel to Euripides’ Alcestis. She was the fairest daughter of Pellas, king of Iolcus, and wife of King Admetos. In a bedazzled moment, to show her great love of him, when Death calls, she sacrifices herself in order for him to live. But, Kaliski poses, what happens with a Superman returns her from the Underworld?

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The Parisian Woman **

Uma Thurman

By: David Sheward

It seemed like the perfect set-up. A political comedy-drama written by the creator of Netflix’s House of Cards starring the elegant Oscar nominee Uma Thurman in her Broadway debut. That’s why it’s a pity that The Parisian Woman, the first major Broadway show to tackle the Trump administration, is such contrived claptrap. Listed in the program as “inspired by” Henri Becque’s 1885 play La Parisienne, Beau Willimon’s uneven script has the creaky feel of a century-old potboiler.

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Junk **** Illyria **** Actually ****

Matthew Rauch, Steven Pasquale “Junk”

By: David Sheward

“Nobody knows what any of this shit means!,” cries one of the characters in Ayad Akhtar’s gripping play Junk, now at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater after a previous production at the La Jolla Playhouse. The line is spoken by a government agent investigating the monetary tomfoolery of Robert Merkin, a fictional version of junk-bond king Michael Millken. The character is expressing the exasperated view of most of the public who are not in the financial field when the intricacies of big-time investment are discussed. Fortunately, Akhtar, who won the Pulitzer for Disgraced, and his director Doug Hughes makes these complex maneuverings fascinating and exciting, if not entirely understandable.

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Annie ****

Annie Revival Makes for a Very Merry and Jolly Tinsel-coated Revival at Paper Mill Playhouse

By: Ellis Nassour

The holiday season has arrived for Paper Mill Playhouse audiences with a gaily-wrapped Christmas present under a tinseled tree. It’s the sumptuous revival of Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, and Thomas Meehan’s Tony-winning Best Musical Annie. Just as they pulled a rabbit out of their collective hat this time last year with the North American premiere of The Bodyguard, producing artistic director Mark Hoebee and managing director Todd Schmidt, have done it again with a sterling production of “the world’s best-loved family musical” – one filled with whopping sentiment, hilarity, and beloved tunes fit for the entire family.

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The Portuguese Kid ****

Jason Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott

By: Paulanne Simmons

John Patrick Shanley’s new play, The Portuguese Kid, is a little like a guilty pleasure. You get the feeling maybe you shouldn’t be enjoying it so much. But somehow you can’t help yourself.

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Red Roses, Green Gold ***

David Park, Natalie Storrs, Michael Viruet, Brian Russell Carey, Michael McCoy Reilly

By: Paulanne Simmons

Deadheads Rejoice. Michael Norman Mann’s Red Roses, Green Gold, featuring the music and lyrics of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter is making its premiere at the Minetta Lane Theatre. The musical, directed by Rachel Klein, has all your favorite songs and even a plot … of sorts.

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The Exterminating Angel ****

Sally Matthews as Silvia de Ávila, Iestyn Davies as Francisco de Ávila, Sophie Bevan as Beatriz, David Portillo as Eduardo, Joseph Kaiser as Edmundo de Nobile, Audrey Luna as Leticia Maynar, Amanda Echalaz as Lucia de Nobile, Frédéric Antoun as Raúl Yebenes, and Sir John Tomlinson as Dr. Carlos Conde in Adès’ “The Exterminating Angel.”

By: David Sheward

Existentialist angst is not your usual fodder for the opera stage, but Thomas Ades’s The Exterminating Angel, based on Luis Bunuel’s classic 1962 film, explores the terrifying territory of lost identity and purpose. Now at the Metropolitan Opera after a world premiere last year at Salzburg and a production in London, this disturbing work challenges notions of traditional musical staging.

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Office Hour **1/2

Sue Jean Kim, Ki Hong Lee

By: Isa Goldberg

To put it bluntly, Office Hour, Julia Cho’s new play at The Public Theater, isn’t at all funny. The central character, a withdrawn Chinese American student, evocative of the lone gunmen of recent days.

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Golden Boy ****

Mia Christo, Fady Kerko

By: Paulanne Simmons

When playwright Clifford Odets wrote Golden Boy in 1937, he was working as a Hollywood scriptwriter, hoping to make money for the Group Theater, which had produced his previous plays, Waiting for Lefty and Awake and Sing! But Odets was conflicted. He was keenly aware of his personal struggle between art and materialism. So it should not be surprising that this conflict become the subject of what may be his best-known work, Golden Boy.

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Torch Song  ***

Mercedes Ruehl, Michael Urie

By: David Sheward

When Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy was nominated for a Best Play Tony Award in 1983, presenter Diahann Carroll wasn’t even allowed to accurately describe the tender, hilarious play. While giving a detailed synopsis of each of the other nominees, her copy for Torch merely summarized it as being “about love and the merciless mayhem loves wreaks.” When the play unexpectedly won, producer John Glines sent shockwaves across America by thanking his male lover. (I remember Johnny Carson made a joke about it on The Tonight Show the following evening.) Even the show’s TV commercial covered up its then-controversial content. Producers were afraid if Straight John and Jane Q. Public knew the show was about an unapologetic gay drag performer’s quest for a long-term relationship and an extended family, they’d shy away.

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The Band’s Visit *****

Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk

By: Isa Goldberg

There is a new lullaby on Broadway, with a fusion of influences from the big bands to traditional Egyptian music, to get lost in – enchantingly lost, that is, and charmed. 

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