Oresteia ***

Peter Wight and Angus Wright.

By: David Sheward

August 1. 2022: There are some stunning images and moving moments in Robert Icke’s massive modern adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia, paying in repertory with Hamlet at the Park Avenue Armory. But this nearly four-hour marathon indulges in too much extraneous dialogue and lacks the relentless, gripping action of the companion Shakespearean production. 

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The Kite Runner ****

Evan Zes, Eric Sirakian and Amir Arison.

By: Paulanne Simmons

July 31, 2022: Turning a much beloved novel into a stage play is always tricky business. It’s especially difficult when that novel spans several decades and two continents. So adapter Matthew Spangler and director Giles Croft should be given special credit for The Kite Runner, which opened at the Helen Hayes Theater on July 21.

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Cat On A Hot Tin Roof **

Matt de Rogatis

By: Samuel L. Leiter

July 24, 2022: There have been five Broadway revivals, all of them star studded, and one with an all-Black cast, since Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opened in 1955. While not all were of equally high quality, none missed the litter box like the current version, the first to open Off Broadway (at St. Clement’s Theatre). 

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The Kite Runner ****

Amir Arison and Eric Sirakian in “The Kite Runner”.

By: David Sheward

July 22,2022: Novels don’t always work well on stage, especially when there’s a first-person narrator. Plays rely on action rather than narration (“Show, don’t tell” is the rule of thumb) and contained plots over sprawling stories. Fortunately, Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 best-seller about a young man’s harrowing experiences of growing up in Afghanistan and immigrating to the US after the Russian invasion, is sharply focused, conveying an epic and engaging plot without wandering or diffusing. Now at the Helen Hayes Theatre for a limited run after two seasons in London’s West End, Kite runs, soars and introduces American audiences to a culture rarely, if ever, seen on Broadway. 

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Into The Woods *****

The Cast of “Into The Woods”.

By: David Sheward

July 14, 2022: When a show is absolutely perfect, reviewing it becomes more of a challenge than if it were flawed. It’s not difficult to list a production’s shortcomings and how they detract from the experience, but enumerating superlatives makes your writing sound like a gushy, repetitive love letter. Well, here goes. With the possible exception of Hamilton, the new revival of Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s beloved mature twist on traditional fairy tales, is as close to perfection as any production on or Off-Broadway in the past 30 years (the 1992 Guys and Dolls was the last one to come the closest).  

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Into the Woods *****

Cast of “Into The Woods”.

By: Paulanne Simmons

July 15, 2022: First, let me confess; I am not a Sondheim fan. His music leaves me unimpressed. His lyrics leave me confused. His characters often make me want to forsake humanity. And his story lines make me wish the show will end quickly.

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Richard III ***

Ali Stroker, Michael Potts, Danai Gurira, Sanjit De Silva, and Xavier Pacheco .

By: David Sheward

July 11, 2022: There have been female Hamlets (most notably Sarah Bernhardt, Diane Venora, and Ruth Negga), female King Lears (Glenda Jackson on Broadway and the West End), and even a female Richard II (Fiona Shaw). But the new Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Richard III is probably the first to feature an actress in the lead role of the most vile of the Bard’s villains. Danai Gurira, an award-winning playwright (Ecliped) and an actress best known for her bad-ass heroine roles on TV’s The Walking Dead and in Marvel Universe franchise films, brings the requisite snark and unrestrained relish in savoring the character’s bloodthirsty deviousness. Director Robert O’Hara has made some inventive staging and casting choices, but too often sacrifices Shakespeare’s points on unchecked ambition for the sake of laughs and talking down to the audience. (Richard’s brother Clarence is now called Georgie, presumably to make the text easier to understand.) This Richard is an entertaining and highly theatrical evening, but fails to attain the full impact of an indictment of overweening corruption and power. 

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Hamlet ****

Calum Finlay, Alex Lawther, and Tia Bannon.

By: David Sheward

July 4, 2022: Shakespeare’s Hamlet is usually conceded to be the greatest play in world literature, because its essential conflict of the individual with him or herself can be applied to any culture, time period or setting. The most famous line of the text, “To be or not to be,” echoes man’s eternal search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless universe. That journey resonates as much today as it did in the Bard’s time. Hot British director Robert Icke employs video and modern dress to bring the Melancholy Dane into the 21st century, but his thoughtful, passion-packed production at the Park Avenue Armory after a smash run at London’s Almeida Theater, does not rely on gimmicks or technology for its impact. His insightful staging and editing as well as layered performances from a skilled cast led by a intensely emotive Alex Lawther in the title role, keep this version from lapsing into trendiness. The production plays in repertory with Ickes’ adaptation of Oresteia at the Park Avenue Armory after a smash run at London’s Almeida Theater.

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Epiphany ***

The Company of Epiphany.

By: Isa Goldberg

July 4, 2022: It verges on being a little too “Arsenic and Old Lace,” but in the agile hands of Marylouise Burke, “Epiphany” is a deliciously acidic satire about people who poison it. Brian Watkin’s new play at Lincoln Center Theater at The Mitzi E. Newhouse plays on the familiar trope of a dinner party. 

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Hamlet ***

Kirsty Rider, Peter Wight, Jennifer Ehle, Angus Wright, and Luke Treadaway

By: Samuel L. Leiter

July 1, 2022: Another Hamlet. Another chance for a rising conceptual director, in this case Britain’s Robert Ickes, to show what he’s got with a major classic with which most audiences are familiar. Will it be an opportunity to reveal directorial ingenuity? Will it bring the play to convincing emotional, physical, and intellectual life? You can find out by visiting Icke’s well-spoken, somewhat gimmicky, and often tedious Hamlet, now on the huge stage at the Park Avenue Armory, where it’s playing in repertory with Icke’s staging of Oresteia. Both productions premiered at north London’s considerably smaller Almeida Theatre. 

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Corsicana ****, Epiphany ****

Deirdre OConnell, Harold-Surratt in “Corsicana”.

By: David Sheward

June 29, 2022: At a recent Off-Broadway production, the gentleman behind me was complaining vociferously during intermission and occasionally during the show itself that he enjoyed “fun” shows like Company or Funny Girl, not the depressing dreck he was forced to sit through that particular evening. My first impulse was to turn around and tell him if he was so unhappy, he could just leave. But then I realized that plays like Corsicana (Playwrights Horizons) and Epiphany (seen at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse a few nights later) can be challenging, but if one is patient and takes these plays on their own terms, their rewards are great.

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Epiphany ***

Carmen Zilles, C.J. Wilson, Colby Minifie, Marylouise Burke, Omar Metwally and David Ryan Smith

By: Samuel L. Leiter

June 28, 2022: Dinner party plays, like Kaufman and Ferber’s Dinner at Eight and Margulies’s Dinner with Friends,are nearly as common a theatrical trope as barroom plays, where the playwright uses a distinctive gathering spot to present an assortment of contrasting characters, either to explore their reactions to some specific theme or merely to see how they respond to one another. The latest example is Epiphany,Brian Watkins’s shaggy dog play, saved from the pound by director Tyne Rafaeli’s richly atmospheric, expertly acted productionat the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre.

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Epiphany **1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

June 27,2022: I must admit I read James Joyce’s “The Dead” so many years ago that I had no idea what the short story was about when I saw Brian Watkins’ Epiphany.  But even if I had remembered it word-for-word, I don’t think I would have enjoyed the play any the better. This is because, absent the characters’ names and the dinner party setting, it’s doubtful even Joyce would recognize his story.

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The Orchard ****

Darya Denisova, Nael Nacer, Jessica Hecht, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Mark Nelson. Photo: Maria Baranova

By: Bernard Carragher

June 24, 2022: “The Orchard,” based on Anton Chekov’s 1903 play “The Cherry Orchard” is at the Baryshnikov Arts Center on 37th Street and acted by the Arlekin Players Theatre and (zero-G) Virtual Theater Lab. Although “The Cherry Orchard” is accepted as a classic and one of the great dramas written in last twentieth century, this bitter-sweet play is rarely ever acted because of its combination of broad comedy and gentle pathos and requires a stage full of gifted players. The director Igor Golyack, born in Kyiv, Serbia and educated in Moscow, has found a group of nine wonderful actors and fitted them into his own unique staging and Carol Rocamora’s fresh and free translation. They make the play come alive and breathe and laugh and weep as only Chekov can convey.  

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Corsicana ***

Jamie Brewer, Will Dagger in Corsicana.

By: Samuel L. Leiter

June 22, 2022: There was no escaping the buzz of anticipation at Playwrights Horizons as I and the rest of the full house waited for a preview performance of Will Arbery’s disappointing new play, Corsicana. After all, actress Deirdre O’Connell, one of New York theatre’s cherished but, to the general public, not-that-well-known actresses, had, only several nights before, gone from the unsung to the sung by winning a Tony for her exceptional performance in Lucas Hnath’s Dana H., in which her tour-de-force performance was entirely lip-synched.

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