#realjoy ****

Lisa Viggiano

By: Paulanne Simmons

December 4, 2018:  Meg Flather and Lisa Viggiano first conceived of their show, #realjoy (at Don’t Tell Mama Dec. 2 and 30) as a way of getting rid of those pre-Christmas blues. But, inspired by Tracey Thorn’s “Joy,” their show really becomes a search for happiness and meaning in the midst of loss. With music director Tracy Stark at the piano, Flather and Viggiano perform a song list that goes well beyond traditional Christmas carols.

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Hype Man at The Flea ****

Matt Stango, Tay Bass, Shakur Tolliver

Captivating take on race and friendship in the world of hip-hop extended.

By:  Patrick Christiano

December 1, 2018:  Idris Goodwin’s HYPE MAN: a break beat play continues The Flea’s Color Brave season with a captivating look at race and friendship played out against the backdrop of hip-hop. The story, tautly directed by Kristan Seemel with Flea Artistic Director Niegel Smith, is set three years ago in an unnamed American city and follows two hip hop artists on the threshold of success. The two men, Pinnacle, played by Matt Stango, and Verb, played by Shakur Tolliver, were best buddies growing up on the mean streets of the unnamed city. Pinnacle is a white man, who writes and rhymes, while Verb, a black man just out of prison, hypes the crowd and adds authority to Pinnacle’s vision of himself as a hip-hop artist.

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The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui ***1/2

Raul Esparza

By: David Sheward

November 27, 2018:  As audiences enter the Laura F. Angelson Theatre for Classic Stage Company’s revival of Bertolt Brecht’s rarely produced The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, they step into a dangerous world where murder and menace lurk in every corner. This dark kingdom of night, with eerie parallels to America in 2018 as well as Germany in the 1930s, is ruled over by a vicious brute given snarling, malevolent life by Raul Esparza in a powerhouse performance. Esparza has won acclaim in musicals like Company, Taboo, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as well as dark dramas such as The Normal Heart and The Homecoming. But here he totally dominates the proceedings with such ferocity and detail, you cannot take your eyes off him.

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The Prom ****1/2

Josh Lamon, Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmankasas, Angie Schworer

By: Isa Goldberg

November 23, 2018:  Arriving at a weekend matinee of The Prom, I eagerly anticipated seeing one of my favorite musical comedy stars, Beth Leavel in the lead role. The buzz I’d heard was really positive, so I was prepared to sit back, kick up my feet, and have a great time. Only on this occasion Leavel’s understudy was playing the lead.

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The Waverly Gallery *****

Michael Cera, Elaine May, Joan Allen in “The Waverly Gallery”

By: Isa Goldberg

November 23, 2018:  What? Elaine May on Broadway? You bet – in the Broadway debut of Kenneth Lonergan’s The Waverly Gallery, which premiered Off Broadway in 2000.

As we know, May, the ‘50s comedienne, made her mark defying stereotypes of women’s roles, portraying herself through characters that were sophisticated, professional women, such as doctors and psychiatrists.  Here, she portrays Gladys Green, an independent business person, the owner of the titular art gallery, and a woman whose brightest years are behind her.

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The Prom *****

Christopher Sieber and company

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 21, 2018:  The old-fashioned musical has finally met a contemporary theme. Throw in a bit of theater satire and you have The Prom, which has landed on Broadway with a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Beguelin.

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The Prom *****

By: David Sheward

November 19, 2018:  “We’re liberal Democrats from Broadway,” defiantly proclaims the amazing Brooks Ashmanskas as Barry Glickman, an egotistical musical-comedy star, to the astonished and unsuspecting PTA of a tiny Indiana town in the unabashedly left-leaning new musical The Prom. The line draws applause from the theater-loving audience at the Longacre Theater and sets the tone for this joyous celebration of all things fabulous and splashy. The show reeks of show-biz savvy and unapologetically endorses queer culture (“I’m as gay as a bucket of wigs,” Barry states) as well as a love of the musical genre. But it’s also a tender teen love story and an earnest plea not just for tolerance but acceptance. Every element is polished with professionalism and skillfully combines satire and verisimilitude for a slightly twisted perspective on our divided America. If that sounds too serious, don’t be scared off. The Prom is one of the funniest shows to hit Broadway in years.

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Mother of the Maid *** King Kong **1/2

Grace Van Patten, Glenn Close “Mother of the Maid”

By: David Sheward

November 13, 2018:  A new play about the mother of an iconic figure (Mother of the Maid) and a musical remake of a Hollywood classic (King Kong) deliver modern feminist perspectives on familiar material from European history and pop culture. The play has some depth and an exquisite lead performance while the tuner is cotton candy. The latter has an exceptional star as well, but it’s from a giant puppet.

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Shake & Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost *****

Joe Ventricelli, Victoria Rae Sook, Mary-Glen-Fredrick

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 11, 2018:  If serving dinner is an art, never was this more true than in Shake & Bake: Love’s Labour’s Lost, in which the actors are both characters in Shakespeare’s comedy and waiters serving an eight course tasting menu (created by executive chef David Goldman). The members of the audience (a.k.a. diners) are seated by low tables, on chairs and sofas on the periphery of the room, while the play is performed in the center space.

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Eve’s Song ***

Karl Green, Ashley D. Kelley, Kadijah Raquel, De’Adre Aziza

By: Samuel L. Leiter

November 11, 2018:  Plays not specifically about significant social or political issues are getting increasingly rare, even when their ultimate aim is entertainment instead of polemics. This past week alone I saw works about Robert F. Kennedy, Gloria Steinem, sexual and racial identity, 1969 radicals, the mentally disabled, and the danger of being a black woman in America.

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Lured **

Brendan Daugherty, John DiMino

By: Sam Affoumado

November 10, 2018: Lured, written by Frank J. Avella and co-directed by Carlotta Brentan, is a drama that outlines the brutalization and dehumanization of gays perpetrated by Russian vigilante groups. Against the backdrop of Russia’s federal law banning distribution of materials promoting LGBTQ relationships among minors (anti-Gay Propaganda Law), hatred and violence carried out against the LGBTQ community is on the rise. Vigilante groups, bolstered by Putin’s position and the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox Church, try to validate the idea that homosexuals corrupt minors thereby equating “homosexuality” and “pedophilia.” And who would not want to punish pedophiles?

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Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade ***

David Arrow

By: Samuel L. Leiter

November 8, 1018:  Seeing David Arrow’s Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade on election eve 2018 was a bit discomfiting. The play is an informative but less-than-enthralling one-man biodrama about the last year in the life of politician Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968), played by Arrow himself. It exposes the vast distance between Kennedy’s idealism and eloquence and the current level of political discourse. And it’s not because politics back then was any cleaner than now.

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Williston ****

Kate Grimes, Robert LuPone.

By: Lauren Yarger

November 8, 2018:  Something’s not quite right in the small town of Williston, North Dakota.

That much is obvious just from the fact that oil company deal closers Barb (Kate Grimes) and Larry (Robert LuPone) are expected to share quarters in a trailer camp setting (drably designed Graham Kindred, who also designs the lighting). And how is it that their parent company didn’t let them know that they were sending a new numbers guy, Tom (Drew Ledbetter) to bring in the lease on one of the largest and possibly most productive tracts of land? After all, the killer team of Barb and Larry has been working for years on “Indian Jim,” the Native American holdout who is reluctant to allow drilling on his land.

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The Waverly Gallery *****

Lucas Hedges and Elaine May in “The Waverly Gallery”

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 2, 2018:  At one point in Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery,” Howard Fine tells his mother-in-law, Gladys, “It’s no fun growing old,” to which she replies, “Why do you always say that to me? Nobody wants to hear that! That’s not a helpful thing to say.”

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The Ferryman *****, India Pale Ale **, Girl From The North Country ***

Niall Wright, Matilda Lawler, Justin Edwards, Mark Lambert, Fra Fee and Willow McCarthy “The Ferryman”

By: David Sheward

November 2. 2018:  Families reacting to crises are the fodder for three current productions, one on Broadway and two Off, two of them are originally from London and one an American original. While all have moments of touching truth, only one has the complete package of gripping theatricality without the excess of melodrama.

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