Fruma-Sarah (Waiting in the Wings) **1/2

Jackie Hoffman, Kelly Kinsella

By: David Sheward

July 8, 2021: It’s appropriate that the first indoor production with live actors I’m reviewing since the COVID pandemic shut down all NYC stages over a year ago is a celebration of theater and how it can heal communities and create families. E. Dale Smith’s Fruma-Sarah (Waiting in the Wings) is such a celebration but this backstage comedy is flawed, and somewhat forced. Fortunately, that prickly comedienne Jackie Hoffman makes it fly. 

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Tiny House ***

Sara Bues, Denver Miford, Elizabeth Heflin

By: David Sheward

July 2, 2021: As theaters across the country announce the return of live, post-pandemic performances, the number of Zoom and virtual shows has waned. But there are still companies presenting intriguing and innovative offerings via the Internet. Perhaps this hybrid of theater and technology will become a permanent new media, expanding the possibilities and accessibility of intimate performances. One such computer-broadcast play is Michael Gotch’s pleasant and proficient family comedy Tiny House, presented by the Westport Country Playhouse through July 18. Gotch displays an admirable facility for sharp dialogue, free of gotchas (pardon the pun), and the proceedings are smoothly directed for the small screen by Mark Lamos. 

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Four Chords and a Gun ***

By: Paulanne Simmons

June 30, 2021: Forty years ago, the legendary punk rock group, the Ramones, recorded the album “End of the Century” with the legendary producer Phil Spector. In 2016, John Ross Bowie’s Four Chords and a Gun, a play about the drama and sometimes violent conflicts surrounding this endeavor, premiered at L.A.’s Bootleg Theater. In April 2019 it landed at Toronto’s Fleck Dance Theatre, and in May of that year, the play ran at the Broadway Playhouse, in Chicago. Now it is being streamed at Play-PerView, available on demand through June 30.

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Scott Coulter & Friends From Dolly Parton to David Bowie! *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

June 29, 2021: The very last show Scott Coulter produced and hosted at Feinstein’s/54 Below before the pandemic shut everything down was a tribute to composer Jerry Herman. The house was packed, and the atmosphere was jubilant, as is frequently the case when people know the end is coming.

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Becoming Dr. Ruth ****

Tovah Feldshuh, Director Scott Schwartz, Dr. Ruth Westheimer Photo: Barry Gordin

By: Patrick Christiano

Renowned sex therapist, Dr. Ruth, attended the opening night of Becoming Dr. Ruth at Bay Street theater in Sag Harbor.

June 6, 2021:  The re-opening of Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor drew the renowned sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who attended the opening night of Becoming Dr. Ruth, the theater’s first post-pandemic production. The play, also, re-unites the six-time Tony and Emmy Award-nominee, Tovah Feldshuh, who stars as Dr. Ruth, with her Broadway, Golda’s Balcony’s director, Scott Schwartz, Bay Street Theater Artistic Director. Becoming Dr. Ruth, a one-woman play by renowned playwright, Mark St. Germain, chronicles, the remarkable life of the noted psychologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer and will play at Bay Street Theater through June 27th

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Home Project (excerpts-in-process) *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

May 28, 2021: For the past year, most of us have been taking refuge in our homes. Now that we’re at last venturing out, it seems like a perfect time to explore the many meanings of home. Tiffany Mills Company’s “Home Project (excerpts-in-process)” celebrates the home through video, dance, music and spoken word. The performance is now streaming as part of LaMaMa Moves! Dance Festival on Demand.

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pen/man/ship **1/2

Lynn Nottage Photo: Lynn Savarese

By: Paulanne Simmons

April 22, 2021: Based in Prospect Park, Molière in the Park boasts a mission statement reinforcing the belief that “provocative and high caliber theater performed in public spaces and available to all, has the power to unite communities.”

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John Cullum: An Accidental Star ****

John Cullum Photo: Carol Rosegg

By: David Sheward

April 17, 2021: Still spry and charismatic at 91, John Cullum offers an enchanting and charming solo turn  in John Cullum: An Accidental Star, a 80-minute career retrospective with songs. This virtual cabaret piece, available online until April 22, was produced by the Irish Repertory Theater, the Vineyard Theater and Goodspeed Opera House, three theaters Cullum has worked with, and is simplicity itself. Cullum relates stories about his seven-decade career with subtle musical accompaniment by pianist and musical director Julie McBride. From his early days in New York with Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park to his Broadway debut in Camelot to recent triumphs such as The Scottsboro Boys, the two-time Tony winning star offers amusing anecdotes and backstage insights as well as memorable performances of songs from his shows.

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Blindness ****

By: David Sheward

April 9, 2021: If a live event has no live actors, stage, sets or costumes, is it really theater? That’s the conundrum posed by Blindness, the unique gathering at the Daryl Roth Theater and the first indoor New York performance presented on or Off-Broadway since all NYC stages were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic over a year ago. The piece was conceived in response to the pandemic and opened at London’s Donmar Warehouse last year. While it lacks the conventional accoutrements of a night at the theater, it does deliver a devastating emotional wallop—and that’s all any piece of entertainment requires to succeed.

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Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec ****

By: David Sheward

April 1, 2020: COVID vaccinations are ramping up and restrictions are beginning to loosen, but variant strains threaten another pandemic surge. Thus the reopening of Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters is still months away, probably the fall of 2021 at the earliest. However, a group of New York theater artists have cleverly circumvented the virus with an innovative event to feed your hunger for live performance while maintaining safety protocols. Voyeur: The Windows of Toulouse-Lautrec has been running since October and touts itself as the longest-running live pandemic performance piece in New York City. 

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Nomadland ****, Pieces of a Woman ***, Supernova ***

Frances McDormand in Nomadland. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. ©

By: David Sheward

March 7, 2021: The COVID pandemic has not only shut down the American theater but it has also transformed the movie business—perhaps permanently. With movie theaters largely shuttered, viewership has shifted to home couches and is only now beginning to move back to the cineplexes. As a result, large-scale comic-book epics (or “teenage boy” pictures) have been postponed until the cinemas reopen and relationship-based flicks (or “adult women” pictures) have come to the fore through streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Also this year’s bizarre awards season has been skewed towards female-driven vehicles.

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One Night in Miami ***1/2, Little Wars ***, Falling Stars ***

One Night in Miami… Malcolm x, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke

By: David Sheward

February 6, 2021: When I was a kid back in the 1970s, PBS used to run a series called Meeting of the Minds. Created, written and hosted by the comedian-writer Steve Allen, the show brought famous figures from history together to exchange ideas. While the series has been largely forgotten, the genre lives on with numerous plays and films throwing prominent personages in a room and seeing what happens. Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls is probably the most effective of this type of amalgam debate play because the discussion between time-tripping characters was a springboard for the protagonist’s conflict. Two new examples of this kind of fly-on-the-wall, what-if drama aren’t as successful or imaginative as Churchill’s fascinating work, but they offer some sharp insights.

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Dog Act ****

By: Isa Goldberg

February 3, 2020: Liz Duffy Adams’ “Dog Act,” published in 2009, currently in revival by The Seeing Place Theater on Zoom, is an absurdist farce couched in classical verse and song. It’s also riddled with malapropisms, laced with obscenities and some alarming made-up words. Visually it’s equally arousing.

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Little Wars *****

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 28, 2020: When a playwright decides to write about a group of literary luminaries, he’d better be able to turn a phrase or two himself. Fortunately, Steven Carl McCasland is the man for the job. His Little Wars, which begins streaming on Broadway On Demand February 1 as a “rehearsed reading,” is set in Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s wartime retreat at the foot of the French Alps. This is not exactly their salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, but soon their guests arrive.

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Falling Stars *****

Peter Polycarpou and Sally Ann Triplett in “Falling Stars”

By: Paulanne Simmons

January 27, 2020: The opening scene of Falling Stars, a musical revue from the UK that will stream on Broadway On Demand beginning February, features the talented singer/actor Peter Polycarpou wandering into an antique shop on the East Finchley High Road and discovering an old, tattered songbook. When he decides to buy it, the proprietor (an offstage voice) demands outrageously high prices until he agrees to sing a number from the songbook. 

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