Barb Jungr: Bob, Brel and Me *****

Barb Jungr

By: Paulanne Simmons

February 17, 2020: Several times a year, British chanteuse Barb Jungr comes to New York City. On those occasions she lights up the cabaret stage like few other performers. You can fall in love with Jungr because of her tremendous talent as a raconteur, her wicked sense of humor, and her insightful jazz and blues inflected interpretations of familiar and not so familiar songs. Or you can just thrill to her beautifully expressive voice that can be tender, vulnerable or furious.

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Hamlet ****

Ruth Negga, Fiona Bell

Hamlet: Dane in Pain

By: JK Clarke

February 16, 2020: There’s a moment in the Gate Theatre of Dublin’s production of Hamlet (at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn through March 8) when one realizes there are some very different, very unorthodox, things going on in this play.

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Unmasked ****

Unmasked: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber Premieres at Paper Mill Playhouse

By: Ellis Nassour

February 14, 2020 – In Unmasked: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the jukebox revue having its world premiere at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse [22 Brookside Drive, Millburn] through March 1, the composer — one of the most successful of all time, isn’t physically present. However, via video feed in a way that could feel immensely intrusive but isn’t, he chats away in various settings, playing piano, and adding background to his and his lyricist collaborators’ thought process. As Lloyd Webber hovers over his vocally-gifted cast, often denigrating himself, he reveals a rarely-seen charm and sense of humor.  

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Medea ** 1/2, The Confession of Lily Dare ****

Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale in “Medea”

By: David Sheward

February 12, 2020: Euripides’ Medea, the unforgettable story of a scorned woman whose thirst for revenge drives her to slaughter her own children, has reverberated through the ages, transcending time and culture. Along with Hedda Gabbler, it is the great role actresses long to play. Judith Anderson, Zoe Caldwell, Diana Rigg and Fiona Shaw drenched Broadway in blood, with the first three winning Tony Awards. Maria Callas starred in a film edition. Neil LaBute and Michael-John LaChiusa have created modern versions and just this past summer, Luis Alfaro transported the tale from ancient Greece to modern Queens while addressing immigration issues in Mojada.

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Medea ***

Gabriel Amoroso, Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Emeka Guindo

By: Paulanne Simmons

February 12, 2020: In Medea, a tragedy written by Euripides in the 5th century B.C.E., the eponymous princess from Colchis marries Jason, a Greek, who leaves her for a princess from Corinth. Medea takes revenge by killing the children she had with Jason as well as his new wife. Over the following centuries, the play has been interpreted from a psychological, political, cultural and feminist point of view.

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Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories **

Katie Firth, Vinie Burrows

From Russia With Love

By: Samuel L. Leiter

February 10, 2020: The Mint Theater, founded in 1992, discovered its mission in 1995 when, as artistic director Jonathan Banks’s bio notes, it began focusing on “lost or neglected plays” that deserved another hearing. Over the years, it has had noteworthy successes, as with Hindle Wakes and London Wall,but has just as often stumbled, occasionally making one wonder why particular plays were chosen for resuscitation, or why a better job couldn’t have been done to bring them back to life. Often, even when the work was disappointing, however, one was grateful for the chance to see old plays one might never otherwise have seen. Not so with, though, with Chekhov/Tolstoy: Love Stories.

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The Confession of Lily Dare ****

Nancy Anderson, Charles Busch

By: Paulanne Simmons

February 10, 2020: Charles Busch, that master of drag mixed with satire and topped off with a touch of sentimentality, is at it again. The show is called The Confession of Lily Dare and it features Busch as Lily Dare, an innocent orphan who comes to live with her aunt, Rosalie Mackintosh (Jennifer Van Dyck), an infamous San Francisco madame.

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Grand Horizons ***

Jane Alexander, James Cromwell

By: Isa Goldberg

February 6, 2020: The most surprising thing about Grand Horizons, the Second Stage Theater’s premiere at The Helen Hayes, is the timing. A typical bourgeois comedy, it harkens back to the Boulevard Theater of late 18th century Paris. 

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A Soldier’s Play ****, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice **

Rob Demery, J. Alphonse Nicholson and McKinley Belcher III in “A Soldier’s Play”

By: David Sheward

February 5, 2020: The twisted legacy of racism and shifting attitudes on sexuality are the diverse topics of two current New York stage offerings—a revival of A Soldier’s Play presented on Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company and a musical version of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice produced by The New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center Off-Broadway. Both present material from previous eras with stark perspectives on how relevant they may still be. While one is still shockingly immediate, the other seems quaint and laughable. What’s not too surprising is that race remains a hot-button issue while unabashed examinations of carnality have passed into the passe. 

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17 Minutes ****

Larry Mitchell, Shannon Patterson

By: Isa Goldberg

February 5, 2020: If you think the problem of gun violence can be resolved in 17 Minutes you’re probably more of a cynic than an optimist. In Scott Organ’s new play at the Barrow Group that, ostensibly, is the issue posed. 

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Romeo and Bernadette ****

Anna Kostakis, Nikita Burshteyn

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 26, 2020: It may seem a little difficult to imagine Romeo and Juliet as a comedy. But Michael Saltzman’s Romeo and Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona and Brooklyn proves that with creativity and imagination, Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy can be turned into a comic tour de force.

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Grand Horizons ***

James Cromwell, Jane Alexander

By: David Sheward

January 25, 2020: Few performers can endow the simple culinary acts of making a sandwich or ladling gravy with as much meaning as Jane Alexander. The reserved, precise manner she pours out the brown sauce for mashed potatoes or the laser-beam side-eye she gives a non-communicative spouse as she spreads peanut butter speak of every slight and grievance in a 50-year marriage. These seemingly minimal actions reveal volumes about Nancy, a 70-ish woman on the brink of a major transition, in Bess Wohl’s uneven but blisteringly funny new play Grand Horizons, presented by Second Stage on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre. 

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Forbidden Broadway ***1/2

Joshua Turchin, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano, Jenny Lee Stern

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 28, 2019: Now in its 31st year, Forbidden Broadway is again making gentle (and not so gentle) fun of our favorite (and not so favorite) Broadway shows, past and present. This season’s Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! has transferred to The York, where it is getting big laughs from seasoned musical theater lovers. This edition, written and created by Gerard Alessandrini, features Chris Collins-Pisano, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Jenny Lee Stern, Joshua Turchin, and Fred Barton on the piano, presenting their versions of past and present hits, as well as a few flops.

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The Emperor’s Nightingale ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 27, 2020: Pan Asian Repertory’s The Emperor’s Nightingale has everything a small child wants in theater – music, puppets, colorful costumes and audience participation. It also has what parents hold dear – an easily understood moral.

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My Name Is Lucy Barton ****, The Woman In Black **1/2

Laura Linney in “My Name is Lucy Barton”

By: David Sheward

January 23, 2020: Adapting a novel to the stage is a tricky business. A play needs to have a central action  executed within a playing time of a few hours while a novel can be a rumination on multiple themes over hundreds of pages. Even a short novel can dive into a character’s interior in a way a play can not. Theater is action, literature is thought. My Name Is Lucy Barton, Rona Munro’s stage version of Elizabeth Strout’s slim but powerful novel now presented by Manhattan Theater Club after a run in London, manages to combine the two strains in a moving evening featuring the luminous Laura Linney in a stunning solo—yet dual— performance.

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