Hangmen **1/2

Billy Carter, Richard Hollis, John Horton, Johnny Flynn, Owen Campbell

By: David Sheward

Martin McDonagh takes the phrase “gallows humor” a bit too literally in his new play Hangmen now at the Atlantic Theater Company after hit London runs at the Royal Court and in the West End. As in his previous stage work such as The Beauty Queen of Leenane and The Lieutenant of Inishmore and his Oscar-nominated film Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, the darkly comic playwright offers grisly scenarios of violence and vengeance replete with ironic and ambiguous twists. Just like his earlier plays and films, Hangmen is entertaining, well-structured and funny, but it follows a familiar template and has little new to say other than McDonagh’s usual refrain of “People are bloodthirsty and given half a chance, they’ll slice your throat open over the pettiest little thing, or worse, for no reason at all.”

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In the Body of the World **** He Brought her Heart Back in a Box ***

Eve Ensler

By: David Sheward

Two short, explosive new Off-Broadway works depict wars of race and gender with women’s bodies as the battlefield. Both are intense and earnest, challenging theatergoers’ expectations and perceptions. In the Body of the World from Manhattan Theater Club at City Center marks Eve Ensler’s return to the solo performance format after her landmark Vagina Monologues and The Good Body. Adrienne Kennedy is premiering He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, her first new work in a decade, at Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn. Like her previous Obie-winning one-acts Funnyhouse of a Negro, June and Jean in Concert, and Sleep Deprivation Chamber, Heart is an abstract American dreamscape examining the devastation caused by racism. Each work has autobiographical elements, runs for less than two hours and leaves us wanting for more.

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In the Body of the World ***1/2

Eve Ensler “In the Body Of The World”

Eve Ensler’s compelling life story is beautifully enhanced by Diane Paulus for MTC.

By: Patrick Christiano

February 8, 2018: Tony Award winner, Eve Ensler, a world-renowned author, playwright and activist, best known for her Obie Award winning play The Vagina Monologues is back on stage at Manhattan Theater Club. Her new monologue, In The Body of The World, based on her acclaimed 2013 memoir of the same name, recounts her experiences surviving uterine cancer. Ensler chronicles in detail the surgeries and medical treatments she endured along with the personal experiences she gleamed from her ordeal with the cancer.

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Fire and Air ** X, or Betty Shabazz vs The Nation ***

James Cusati-Moyer Nijinsky “Fire and Air”

By: Isa Goldberg

A fitting metaphor for our times, Rock, Scissors, Paper is a zero-sum game. One man wins and the other loses, so the outcome is nought. It’s a strictly competitive game.

In Terrence McNally’s new play, Fire and Air, at Classic Stage Company, the elements that connect are equally deadly to one another. Air, the symbol of new life, loses its breath when fire destroys it.

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Fire and Air **

Marsha Mason, John Glover, Douglas Hodge, Marin Mazzie

By: David Sheward

“Does my enthusiasm exhaust you?,” exclaims Douglas Hodges as Serge Diaghilev in Terrence McNally’s new play Fire and Air about the volatile Russian impresario, his relationships with his star dancers Nijinsky and Massine, and his revolutionary company Ballets Russes. Hodges’ virtuoso turn is indeed exhausting. Every intonation, gesture, and movement expresses the fiery temperament of the implacable visionary who set the stage for some of the greatest works in dance history. But the performance and John Doyle’s fast-paced staging aren’t enough to pull together McNally’s unfocused script and provide a clear, dynamic picture of a genius and his explosive impact on 20th century culture.

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The Outsider ****

Paper Mill Playhouse Presents East Coast Premiere of Paul Slade Smith’s The Outsider, Directed by David Esbjornson

By: Ellis Nassour

Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ) scores again – and with a side-splitting comedy of errors (and fun nonsense), The work is the East Coast premiere of Paul Slade Smith’s biting political satire The Outsider (running through February 18).

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The Thing With Feathers ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

“Hope” is the thing with feathers in Emily Dickinson’s poem. It “perches in the soul.” It “sings the tune without words.” It is the little Bird that “kept so many warm.” But in Scott Organ’s new play the thing with feathers, now making its premiere with the The Barrow Group Theatre Company, the characters have little hope, with feathers or without.

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Josephine, A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play ****1/2 

Tymisha Harris

By: Paulanne Simmons

Although Josephine Baker was a major celebrity in France, during her lifetime she was never a star in her native land. However, more than 40 years after her death there seems to be a spate of shows and books about this highly original woman who delighted onstage and scandalized offstage.

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Marcus Lovett, Moonlighting ****

Marcus Lovett

By: Paulanne Simmons

Fans who know Marcus Lovett best as the star of musicals such as Phantom of the Opera and Carousel, had a very pleasant surprise at Feinstein’s/54 Below on January 19 and 20. Supported by a six-piece combo, Lovett sang a repertoire that included songs by Lyle Lovett, Billy Joel and Jim Croce, not exactly Broadway fare.

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John Lithgow: Stories by Heart ****

John Lithgow

By: David Sheward 

The funniest moment on Broadway so far this season is not provided by a witticism from a beloved comic or a pointed political observation by an astute social commentator. It’s the incredibly accurate recreation of a parrot’s expression as it asks a roomful of stuffy British types if they would like to share a nut. The priceless simulation of avian inquiry is provided by the incomparable John Lithgow in his solo show Stories By Heart, presented now by the Roundabout Theater Company at the American Airlines Theater after previous versions had a short run at Lincoln Center and a national tour. Lithgow’s eloquent mouth twists and curves into an elongated bill, his eyes bulge and twitch, and he emits a sound between a bark and a squawk.

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Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom ***1/2

Damaras Obi

By: Paulanne Simmons

Hamilton may be offering Broadway audiences a history lesson about the formation of our country. But further uptown Sanctuary Theater at the Center at West Park is presenting a lesson much closer to our own times. This one-woman show is called Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, and it tells the true story of Lynda Blackman, one of the youngest participants in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965.

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Shadowlands ***1/2

Dan Kremer, Sean Gormley, Daryll Heysham, John C. Vennema “Shadowlands.”

For some reason English scholars seem to have a predilection for writing novels for young people. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was a mathematician and Anglican deacon best known as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. J.R.R. Tolkien was a philologist immortalized by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. And his friend, C.S. Lewis, was a medievalist and theologian beloved by children for The Chronicles of Narnia.

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The Children **** Farinelli and the King ***

Ron Cook, Francesca Annis, Deborah Findlay “The Children”

By: David Sheward

The year ends with two emblematic productions for Broadway—The Children presented by Manhattan Theater Club as part of its subscriber season and Farinelli and the King in a commercial limited run at the Belasco. Both are transfers from London complete with British casts. We Yanks are supposed to salivate over these shows because of their snob-appeal pedigree. Both feature exquisite acting, but only The Children connects to its audience on a level deeper than stagecraft. Farinelli stars one of the finest actors in the English-speaking world, Mark Rylance, but his breath-takingly realistic technique is in service of an overly familiar, underwritten play.

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Farinelli and the King ***1/2

Mark Rylance

By: Paulanne Simmons

King Philippe V of Spain has gone mad. Neither his wife, Isabella, nor his doctors can help him. Then Isabella, brings Farinelli, the famed Italian castrato, to the court, and the sound of his divine voice brings the king back to sanity. Such is the slender plot on which musician and academic Claire Van Kampen bases her  first play, Farinelli and the King.

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The Children **1/2 Once on this Island ***

Ron Cook, Deborah Findlay, Francesca Annis “The Children”

By: Isa Goldberg

It seems so quotidian –  the conversation that is – at least as it starts out, in Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children. Having been out of touch for decades, Rose (Francesca Annis) arrives unexpectedly at Hazel (Deborah Findlay) and her husband Robin’s (Ron Cook’s) cottage by the sea. Alone for now, the two women discuss the inevitable – children, grandchildren, aging, and “women looking like stretched eggs – trying to hide it when all it’s doing is shouting it out loud isn’t it, “I’m old and I’m frightened of it!” Hazel insists.

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