Dog Man, The Musical *****

Brian Owen as Dog Man with cast

“No Bones about It”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

July 17, 2019: There’s a new superhero in town and bad cats (the feline variety, not hipsters) had better watch out. His bite may not be as big as his bark but he knows a thing about trailing a kitty’s tail. I’m woofing about Dog Man, the part canine/part human hero of the eponymous musical by Kevin Del Aguila (book and lyrics) and Brad Alexander (music) at the Lortel. Based on a book in Dav Pilkey’s (Captain Underpants) popular Dog Man children’s book series, it’s a perfect kennel at which to board your bored kids for an hour and a half during the dog days of summer. Kibbles to Theater Works USA for offering this fun-filled children’s delight. 

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The Mountains Look Different ***1/2

Jesse Pennington, Brenda Meaney

By: Isa Goldberg

July 5, 2019: Irish playwright, and well-known actor/director of his day, Micheal Mac Liammoir’s 1948 drama is making its New York stage debut at The Mint Theater. Mining theatrical works hitherto unknown to us is the company’s mission. 

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The Secret Lives of Bees ****1/2

LaChanze (left) and Elizabeth Teeter

By: Isa Goldberg

July 4, 2019: With the illustrious team behind The Secret Lives of Bees, Lynn Nottage’s book and Duncan Sheik’s music — we can expect a hit.  Add Susan Birkenhead’s resounding lyrics, and Sam Gold’s seamless direction, and you have a wonderous musical, delivering a sense of revivalism. We join them in keeping the faith. 

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Toni Stone ***1/2, Octet ***, Stonewall ***

April Mathis and cast in “Toni Stone”

By: David Sheward

June 26, 2019: Toni Stone is probably the most famous athlete you never heard of. From 1949 to 1954, she played baseball in the Negro Leagues and was the first woman of any race to play professionally in the sport. She was hired for the San Francisco Sea Lions as a publicity stunt and had her longest stint with the Indianapolis Clowns, the diamond equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters who incorporated comedic antics into their very serious field work. Based on Martha Ackman’s biography, Curveball: The Remarkable Story of Toni Stone, Lydia R. Diamond’s play Toni Stone, now at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels space, relays this unjustly obscure story in boldly theatrical terms, inventively staged by Pam MacKinnon. 

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Little Women ***

Kate Hamill, Carmen Zilles, Ellen Harvey, Paola Sanchez Abreu, Kristolyn Lloyd

By: Isa Goldberg

June 20, 2019: Bearing the stamp of playwright Kate Hamill, this Little Women is a testament of late 20th century feminism. Hamill, who has famously adapted classics, Sense and Sensibility and Vanity Fair to the stage, finds fodder in well-known women’s roles – women of complexity, that is. 

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Fairview *****, A Strange Loop ****, The Secret Life of Bees ***, Much Ado about Nothing ****

Charles Browning, Heather Alicia Simms and Roslyn Ruff in “Fairview”.

By: David Sheward

June 19, 2019: The 2019-20 Off-Broadway theater season begins with a quartet of productions exploring African-American identities through a variety of lenses—out-of-the-box deconstruction, autobiographical satire, traditional musical, and Shakespeare. The most original and frightening is Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Fairview, now at Theater for a New Audience’s Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn following its run last summer at Soho Rep. This refreshingly different examination of how we perceive race begins conventionally enough, almost like a sitcom. In Mimi Lien’s well-appointed, blindingly white living-room set, the Frasers, an upper-middle-class African-American family, prepares for the matriarch’s birthday party. Sisters quarrel over dieting, spouses bicker about grocery shopping, mother and daughter clash concerning college plans. All mildly amusing and somewhat routine, except for the occasional reflection on how the family members see themselves—foreshadowing the play’s main theme of identity.

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Convention ***

”The Conspirators” Sarah Sutliff as Treasurer of the DNC Edwin W. Pauley, Kathleen Littlefield as Convention co-chair Samuel D. Jackson of Indiana, Ashley Alvarez as Chairman of the DNC Robert E. Hannegan, McLean Peterson as Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly and Christina Bottley as Postmaster General Frank Walker

By: Isa Goldberg

June 20, 2019: A wild romp at the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn, Convention takes us back to the 1944 Democratic convention. FDR is running for his fourth term, and the issue on the floor concerns his pick for Vice President, with Harry Truman beating the incumbent, Henry A. Wallace.

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Handbagged ****

Beth Hylton, Anita Carey, Kate Fahy, Susan Lynskey

“Two for Tea”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

June 12, 2019: If you enjoyed any of the several film, theatre, and TV examinations of Queen Elizabeth II, in particular the 2013 play The Audience (seen on Broadway in 2015), produced over the past dozen years, or the 2011 movie The Iron Lady, about Britain’s first female prime minister, the late Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), you’ll probably be wholly absorbed by Handbagged, Moira Buffini’s play about these two grand dames of British leadership. (King Charles III, although more fiction than reality, is in the same vein, albeit about Elizabeth’s son.)

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Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune ****, Long Lost ****, Happy Talk **

Michael Shannon and Audra McDonald in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”

 By: David Sheward

June 4, 2019: Breaking the metaphorical walls between disconnected people is the common theme of three new NYC productions. On Broadway, Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune is a tender romance between unlikely lovers, while Off-Broadway Donald Margulies’ Long Lost and Jesse Eisenberg’s Happy Talk are more abrasive accounts of manipulation and dysfunction with self-loathing antagonists seeking support in twisted ways. All three provide absorbing portraits of the quest for love and comfort with the more experienced authors McNally and Margulies succeeding in creating believable and moving evenings.

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Frankie and Johnny In The Clair de Lune ****1/2

Michael Shannon and Audra McDonald in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”

By: Isa Goldberg

June 6, 2019: Among the often repeated clichés that riddle the dialogue between Frankie and Johnny, one  that is unspoken registers clearly. Love makes the world go round. 

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The Plough & the Stars ***1/2

Meg Hennessy and Clare O’Malley

By: Isa Goldberg

June 6, 2019: The Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival of Sean O’Casey’s 1926 play, The Plough and The Stars, the conclusion of his Dublin Trilogy, evokes the madness and absurdity of war. As the play opens, on a darkly realistic drawing room (Charlie Corcoran), we meet the inhabitants of a Dublin tenement, characters drawn of sharply contrasting nature and sensibility.

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Amy Winehouse: Resurrected ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

June 1, 2019: English superstar Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27. In honor of her memory and her own charitable endeavors, her family established the Amy Winehouse Foundations to help organizations that work with at-risk young people and their families. What’s more, the organization works to inform young people of the dangers of drug abuse and help those who are being rehabilitated. On May 29 and 30,  Amy’s Father, Mitch, and Alexis Fishman appeared in a joint program at City Winery to benefit the foundation.

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Enter Laughing *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

May 31, 2019: When Joseph Stein (book) and Stan Daniels’ (score) So Long, 174th Street opened at The Harkness Theatre in 1976,  it ran for only two weeks. The musical was based on Stein’s play Enter Laughing, which had been adapted from Carl Reiner’s semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Reiner also directed a film version of his book that featured such notables as Shelley Winters, Elaine May, Jose Ferrer, Jack Gilford, Don Rickles and Rob Reiner. The cast alone calls for a screening.

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Don’t Tell Mama Comedy ****1/2

Paul Rigano of The Rigano Songbook at the piano with Christina Bianco

By: Paulanne Simmons

May 29, 2019: The May 24th performance of Don’t Tell Mama Comedy was a mixture of music and merriment. The hosts were the Rigano Brothers, who draw their inspiration from the days of Vaudeville.  With Paul at the piano and David cracking the jokes and singing the songs, they’re happily in tune but off-color.

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Proof of Love ***

Brenda Pressley

“Change Partners”

By: Samuel L. Leiter

May 23, 2019: Constance Daley, an elegantly put-together, well-educated, middle-aged African American woman, has a big problem, several in fact. She’s the sole visible character in Chisa Hutchinson’s blandly entertaining, intermittently interesting, well-acted dramedy, Proof of Love

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