Venus in Fur ***

Broadway’s New Goddess ‘Venus in Fur’

Nina Arianda, Hugh Dancy

   By Isa Goldberg/Chief Theater Critic 
Nina Arianda’s New York stage debut was mind blowing. This, I mused, must have been what it was like to see Barbra Streisand when she was just starting out. Since her New York debut Off Broadway in “Venus in Fur,” Arianda’s career has taken off. A Tony nod for her reprisal of the Judy Holliday role in “Born Yesterday,” and a stand out part in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”

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Chinglish **

Stephen Pucci, Gary Wilmes, Angela Lin, Larry Lei Zhang

‘Chinglish,’ An American in China
 By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic

 A masterful piece of investigative reporting, Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” currently at the Public Theater, addresses the exploitation of factory workers in Shenzhen outside of Hong Kong where electronics devices from Apple’s to Dell’s are manufactured. Daisey demonstrates how American consumerism, our need for more and better products, drives the insufferable conditions in China’s factories. An indictment of the economic forces that lead to slave labor, Daisey’s new monologue is well documented, forceful, and humanizing.

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Relatively Speaking **1/2

                   ‘Relatively Speaking,’ A Comedy about Relatives

Marlo Thomas, Lisa Emery in

        By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic
The entertainment value of Broadway seems to have peaked with concert performances by Hugh Jackman, and Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin making the headlines. So far, the season is more style than substance. To that end, “Relatively Speaking,” a group of one-act plays, (the kind of fare that would fit more comfortably off Broadway), now arrives with top guns Woody Allen, Ethan Coen and Elaine May as the authors of three comedy sketches that are just a cut above borsht belt variety acts.

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The Mountaintop ***

              At “The Mountaintop” and Beyond
            By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic

In London where “The Mountaintop” premiered last season, playwright Katori Hall was granted the Olivier Award, making her the first African American woman to receive England’s highest theatrical honor. Now arriving on the Great White Way, the production boasts the prominent marquis names: Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. Fortunately, both actors deliver outstanding performances.

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The Submission *1/2

  The Playwright and His Double
By Isa Goldberg /
Chief Theater Critic
Playwright Jeff Talbott makes his debut with “The Submission,” a play which just happens to be about a playwright’s breakthrough work. It’s an intriguing premise: Written under the pseudonym Shaleeha G’natamobi, Danny’s (Jonathan Groff’s) new play is about a black family that is trying to find a way of the projects.

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Flying Dreams of Falling ***1/2

 A Nightmarish Dinner Party Kicks Off ‘Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling’
 By Isa Goldberg / Chief Theater Critic

 

In the elegant formal dining room of the Cabot’s opulent Connecticut home, the dinner party that unfolds is as savage an affair as one can find, even in an Adam Rapp play. His latest, “Dreams of Flying Dreams of Falling,” transplants scenes of insufferable depravity from his familiar venues – a squalid cabin in the backwoods (“Ghosts in the Cottonwoods”), a roadside motel room where the blood squirts around like ketchup (“Animals and Plants”), or a seedy East Village apartment inhabited by naked men (“Finer Nobler Gases”).

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Billy Elliot *****

Director Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot the Musical, based on his beloved 2000 movie, about a boy in a small mining town, who discovers his love for ballet, is simply sensational. Without a doubt the best musical we have seen in years, a truly inspired work of magic. Every element of Daldry’s meticulously thought out transfer from celluloid to stage has been brought to brilliant musical fruition and the dancing is spectacular. The result is an electrifying big, bold, socially relevant Broadway musical told with real heart and soul.

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Emily Bergl @ The Algonquin


Emily Bergl continues “Kidding on the Square” at Algonquin’s historic Oak Room

                         By: Sandi Durell

After an initial debut in 2010 at the Metropolitan Room, Emily Bergl brings her whimsical, dramatic-comedic self to the Algonquin’s historic Oak Room.

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Bluebird ****

   Driven by Simon Russell Beale
             By Isa Goldberg

Simon Russell Beale, Charlotte Parry

Famed British actor, Simon Russell Beale, known on our shores as the befuddled philosophy professor in Tom Stoppard’s “Jumpers,” or alternately for his classical roles in productions of Chekhov and Shakespeare, also imported from London, makes a rare appearance Off Broadway in “Bluebird.” As the mini cab driver Jimmy, Beale remains planted in the driver’s seat – a wooden chair – his hand cemented to an imaginary wheel throughout most of the play’s 90-minutes. From the start, his visage reflects the anxious, tense look of a man whose conscience is never clear. Jimmy’s eyes dart about wildly; he is always on the look out.

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Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark

  The Rescue of ‘Spider-Man’ ***
        By Isa Goldberg

The beauty of comic strip characters is that they transcend their idiosyncratic traits and explode into the realm of the universal. In “Spider-Man,” the boy Mary Jane loves, Peter Parker, is more than a rock star: he’s a superhero who jumps skyscrapers, defends good against evil, and carries his girl on his arm as they walk into the horizon. In the new musical that finally opened on Broadway it is precisely the sentimentality of that image that draws a dollop of tears. In its emotional pull, the show, revised by comic book writer and playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, is true to its source.

 

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Pink Knees & Animals & Plants

  ‘HotelMotel’ – A room with a view?
              By Sandi Durell

Yes, a view, up close and personal, into the most intimate details of the fantasies, realities and upheaval of relationships. The Gershwin Hotel is the place, the back room designed as a hotel room providing the highly charged “Pink Knees on Pale Skin,” the first of two plays presented in one evening, with one 20 minute break.  It’s a marathon of theatre close to 4 hours.  The Amoralist theater company is known for their risk-taking, and social and political commentary, no holds barred, in exploring the human condition.

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Death Takes A Holiday ****1/2

The following review sites Julian Overden who was replaced by Kevin Early in the role of Prince Nikloai Sirki/Death. 
Happiness and Death on an Italian Holiday

Julian Overden, Jill Paice

            By Isa Goldberg
Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan’s musical adaptation of Alberto Casella’s play “Death Takes A Holiday” takes us to a remote place – a family holiday with death.  But what sustains our fascination with this well-known and bizarre tale is Maury Yeston’s remarkable music and lyrics. The composer of such classic Broadway musicals as “Titanic” and “Grand Hotel,” Yeston is at his most enchanting here.

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Master Class ****

          By Patrick Christiano

Tyne Daly is a miraculous triumph in Master Class, Terrence McNally’s brilliant depiction of Maria Callas the larger than life opera diva the world knew as La Divinia.  After an acclaimed run at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC last year, Manhattan Theatre Club has brought the entertaining revival of the playwright’s 1995 Tony Award winning play back to Broadway, where Master Class opened on  July 7, 2011 for a limited engagement through August 14.  Tyne Daly directed by Stephen Wadsworth, who put her through her paces as Clytemnestra in Agamemnon three years ago in Los Angeles, obliterates her blue collar image – the stock and trade that has won her six Emmy Awards – by delivering a thrilling performance that becomes the imperious essence of the character at the center of Master Class.

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What The Public Wants ***

A polished production of Arnold Bennett’s 1909 social comedy What the Public Wants opened at the Mint Theater Company in the heart of Times Square on Thursday January 27, 2011. The Mint is renowned for finding neglected works of art and giving them sterling productions. Their latest discovery is a smart satire on tabloid journalism that makes interesting parallels to the current media frenzy for delving into the private aspects of celebrities’ lives, which has only been heightened by the unscrupulousness  of today’s internet, giving the play a timeliness that feels particularly relevant now.

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The Devil’s Music

The Devil’s Music: The Life & Blues of Bessie Smith

                        By: Sandi Durell
“If you value your life . . . I’m in a bad mood today,” says the tough, inebriated Bessie Smith (Miche Braden), known as the “Empress of the Blues.”  It’s 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, in what they called a buffet flat, a private establishment where blacks would gather after hours for food, drink, gambling and entertainment of all kinds; a get-a-way from white segregation. The scene provides the backdrop to Ms. Braden’s musical saga, together with her three musicians, at St. Luke’s Theatre on West 46th Street. Bessie Smith was the most influential blues chanteuse of the 1920s, coming up the hard way from a horrendous childhood, a life of booze and drugs and a turbulent marriage.

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