Cost of Living ***1/2

Katy Sullivan, Victor Williams in “Cost of Living”

By: Isa Goldberg

Martyna Majok’s new play, Cost of Living, at The Manhattan Theater Club’s City Center Stage, explores visibly uncomfortable territory. A play about disabilities, cast with people who have disabilities, Living stands out among a few like-minded productions, prominent in recent years. Among them, Sam Gold’s revival of The Glass Menagerie last season, featured 
Madison Ferris, a woman with muscular dystrophy, in the role of Laura. And the prior season’s revival of Spring Awakening, by the Deaf West Theatre, was incredibly innovative, with a cast of deaf actors playing roles that are sung by hearing actors. Off Broadway Samuel D. Hunter’s Good Beer and Neil LaBute’s Call Back, both from 2013, also demonstrate the heroic nature of characters who live beyond the limitations of their physical selves.

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Thank You for Your Love ****

By: Paulanne Simmons

Aside from their obvious vocal and performance skills, what makes Carole Demas and Sarah Rice’s Thank You for Your Love tribute to Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, at the Laurie Beechman Theater, June 27, so special is what Rice called their “deep and personal” connection to the music. Much of that connection is with Jones and Schmidt’s longest running musical, The Fantasticks.

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1984 ****

By: David Sheward

While it is not a direct response to the young Trump administration, the bracing and horrifying stage adaptation of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 arrives on Broadway at a startlingly appropriate time. Though published in 1949, the trends Orwell was spotting in political and social life are just as prevalent nowadays, even more so. The newspeak and shifting truth perpetrated by Big Brother, the tyrannical leader of a repressive future state, are shockingly similar to the “fake news” and “alternative facts” which surround us today. The denizens of Airstrip One, the decimated remains of London after an atomic conflict, are mesmerized by their TV sets just as anyone you see on a New York City subway is locked in an embrace with their smartphone. “They won’t look up from their screens long enough to know what’s happening,” warns Winston Smith, the tragic Everyman hero of the tale.

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The Rivals ***

New York Classical Theater

By: Isa Goldberg

On a summer evening in Central Park, you may fall upon a troupe of actors clad in 18th century garb, the period in which Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals is set.  A production by the all-free New York Classical Theatre, in the style of “panoramic theater,” the actors move the action from one grassy knoll, to a shaded field, on to a nearby pond, and around the park – so verdant it is calming. As is, of course, this fast-paced comedy of manners by the master of the genre, Sheridan.

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Fulfillment Center ****

Deirdre O’Connell, Frederick Weller

By: David Sheward

Abe Koogler gives the interconnected-lives format a quirky spin in his play Fulfillment Center, now at Manhattan Theatre Club’s studio space at City Center. The title is an ironic reference to the giant New Mexico warehouse where two of the characters are employed by an unnamed Amazon-like service. Neither they nor the two other people in the play are finding fulfillment in their work or relationships in an America where jobs and love are temporary and tenuous.

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Float Like a Butterfly *****

Barb Jungr, John McDaniel

Float Like a Butterfly – The Sting Project
By: Paulanne Simmons

After giving the likes of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen the Barb Jungr treatment, the amazing chanteuse has turned her attention to Sting. The fruit of this labor is the world premiere of Float Like a Butterfly – The Sting Project, which reunites Jungr with composer and arranger John McDaniel (Beatles show and CD Come Together) in a four-day gig at Joe’s Pub this June.

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Angels in America **1/2

Andrew Garland, Aaron Blake

New York City Opera at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre

By: David Sheward

New York City Opera closes its 2016-17 season with the bold choice of Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos’ adaptation of Angels in America, Tony Kushner’s two-part epic on the impact of AIDS. Librettist Mari Mezei compresses the seven-hour original into a brisk two-and-a-half hour, single-evening event. Much of Kushner’s complex musings on a myriad of topics from the fall of international communism to Ronald Reagan’s soulless conservatism to the Mormon faith are jettisoned to focus on the interrelationships of the characters, each devastated by the disease and homophobia.

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Julius Caesar ****

Nikki M. James, Corey Stoll

Free Shakespeare in the Park/Public Theater

By: David Sheward

Last summer, the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park Series unsuccessfully imposed a modern feminist slant on Taming of the Shrew by employing an all-woman cast. This year, they’ve launched the 2017 season with another contemporary take on one of the Bard’s classics with transgender casting, but this time the updating and non traditional acting assignments largely work out.

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Julius Caesar ***

Gregg Henry (center) and the company in The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, directed by Oskar Eustis, running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park through June 18.

By: Paulanne Simmons

Julius Caesar was a Roman politician, general, and distinguished author. Before becoming leader of the free world, Donald Trump was a television personality and businessman who declared bankruptcy at least four times. One can only conclude that Trump benefits by any comparison with the man who crossed the Rubicon. Except, of course, for the fact that Caesar was assassinated.  

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Miss Julia ****

Tina Mitchell, Jhon Alex Photo: Federico Rios Escobar

By: David Gruber

Miss Julia, by August Strindberg premieres at La Mama

Miss Julia toured Columbia, Spain and Italy for 3 successful seasons before finally making a long-anticipated premiere in New York City. Adapted by Ed Araiza from the classic and probably most best-known play by August Strindberg, it stars an international cast: the   indomitable, very talented and always compelling Australian actress Tina Mitchell (Miss Julia) the well-known Columbian TV and film actor Jhon Alex Toro, (Juan) and the Columbian actress Gina Jaimes (Cristina) and directed by Italian Lorenzo Montanini.

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The Government Inspector **1/2

Kelly Hutchinson, Stephen DeRosa, David Manis, Michael Urie, Tom Alan Robbins, Mary Lou Rosato

By: Iris Wiener

There is farce, and then there is the humorous play that tries too hard to be a farce. Unfortunately, The Government Inspector is mostly the latter. Although the piece is filled with many one-liners that land abundantly well, as a whole, Inspector is lacking in depth and consistency. Characters launch into asides at awkward moments, breaking up the already disjointed plot construction. None of the characters have very strong merits or backstories, making it difficult to root for or against them. On the other hand, the actors themselves are vibrant and on top of their game; audiences will not only root for them, but eat them up as well.

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The Boy Who Danced On Air *** 1/2

Troy Iwata Photo: Maria Baranova

Bold musical at Abingdon Theater sheds light on taboo subject

By Patrick Christiano

Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser’s courageous musical The Boy Who Danced On Air, now playing at the Abingdon Theater through June 11, 2017, tackles an Afghanistan custom know as Bacha Bazi meaning “boy play.” The law in Afghanistan prohibits married men from having extramarital affairs with other women, however destitute parents often sell their young boys to wealthy men, who teach them to dance dressed as women. These boys are not only an amusement to the men and their friends, but are frequently used for sex as well becoming their sex slaves.

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A Doll’s House Part 11 ***1/2

Laurie Metcalf, Condola Rashad

By: Isa Goldberg

A sequel to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House seems, except for a handful of academic feminists, as long awaited as a cold day in hell. In 1879, when Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece exploded on the European stage, they didn’t even have movies, so who would have cared about a sequel, anyway? Lucas, author of A Doll’s House Part II, clearly does! Like Ibsen, Hnath is taken to the task of challenging a theater which idealizes society’s conventions, and its rigid morals regarding family life and propriety. And Nora is a heroine exactly because she refuses to accept the shackles of a conventional marriage, and an abusive husband.

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A Hunger Artist *****

Jonathan Levin

By: Isa Goldberg

A brilliant, bizarre and inventive piece of theater, A Hunger Artist, is brought to us by Sinking Ship Productions, a company which is rightfully stirring up some dust in theater circles. Produced by The Tank, at The Connelly Theater in the East Village, and only through the month, it is truly a satisfying piece of theater, nurtured solely by the imaginations of Sinking Ship’s collaborators, Josh Luxenberg, playwright, and Jon Levin, the show’s solo performer, and aided by Josh William Gelb, director and co-creator. Utilizing the most rudimentary instruments, the production is true to the concept of a poor theater, in which the actors co-create the experience with the spectators.

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