Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

As Wide As I Can See: It is Wonderful!


As Wide As I Can See @ Here Arts Center
As Wide As I Can See, at the Here Arts Center, is one of those rare shows that force one to move from a critic to an evangelist. Go see it right now; it will not disappoint.
As Wide As I Can See takes place entirely in an Ohio backyard.  Set in suburban Youngstown, the town has been hit by the recession and is slowly contracting; involuntarily downsizing the hopes and aspirations of its citizens.  In a nice little yard, Dean, an out-of-work journalist, is preparing a bar-b-que with his buddy, Tyler.  Tyler is an old high-school friend, now living with his young family in a trailer parked out back.
The bar-b-que is to introduce Dean’s girlfriend, Jessica - who owns the house, to Dean’s friends.  Despite their obvious affection, Jessica and Dean’s relationship is strained by Dean’s recent unemployment and the continuing occupation of the yard by Tyler and his brood.  But for this one evening, everyone is trying hard to get along.
Cast of As Wide As I Can See at Here Arts Center
Conan McCarty, Melisa Breiner-Sanders, Ryan Barry, Julie Leedes, Joshua Levine & Kay Capasso
A wildcard gets thrown into the mix when Jessica invites an old acquaintance, Charlotte, to the party.  Charlotte brings up memories that neither Tyler nor Dean want to revisit.
The beauty of As Wide As I Can See, is that this set-up feels natural.  Writer Mark Snyder brings a realistic voice to these characters, a voice that never feels forced or un-natural.  Dean, an excellent Ryan Barry, is a little lost and bitter, but obviously in love and a very likeable character.  As the more uptight Jessica, Julie Leedes, brings a warmth and insecurity that helps explain Jessica’s desire for order.  Their affection is believable, walking the tightrope between reminding versus nagging while still being supportive.  Ryan Berry’s Dean is confronting the little and big questions of life. And the introduction of Charlotte intensifies the questions.
Julie Leedes and Ryan Barry
As Tyler and Nan, the couple in the trailer our back, Joshua Levine and Kay Capasso are wonderful.  They question life less and enjoy it more than the complex couple in the house.  Tyler and Nan enjoy the simple pleasures of life, but without ever being “simple”.  The final couple is Charlotte and Walt, played Melisa Breiner-Sanders and Conan McCarty.  Both of these actors do a great job of bringing difficult characters to life.  Conan McCarty,in particular, layers his performance as the supportive Walt.
Director Dan Horrigan does a great job with a wonderful script.  He has given the characters the time and space to grow over the course of the show.  There is a point, late in the show, when Jessica is sitting on the stoop, smoking.  The slouch of Ms. Leedes’ carriage, the simple act of smoking – not over-the-top puffing and exhaling, coupled with the time Mr. Horrigan allows for the scene to linger, give rise to a sense of fragility bordering on exhaustion. And it is gone the second someone else enters the scene, as Jessica wouldn’t allow herself to be seen in a moment of self-pity.  It is simple touches like that which makes As Wide As I Can See such a fantastic piece of theater.
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As Wide As I Can See at Here Arts Center
Playwright: Mark Snyder
Director: Dan Horrigan
Cast: Ryan Barry, Melisa Breiner-Sanders, Kay Capasso, Julie Leedes, Joshua Levine, Conan McCarty
Runs Through: March 10th

Monday, February 27, 2012

Carrie: Extended


MCC THEATER PRODUCTION OF
“ C A R R I E ”
ANNOUNCES A FOUR-WEEK EXTENSION
THROUGH APRIL 22, 2012

NEW FRONT ROW RUSH POLICY ADDED FOR EXTENSION
TICKETS TO ALL PERFORMANCES NOW ON SALE


New York, NY – MCC THEATER (Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, William Cantler, Artistic Directors; Blake West, Executive Director) announced today that Carrie, now in previews at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street), has extended its run by popular demand, and will now play performances through April 22, 2012. 



The newly reworked and fully re-imagined production of Carrie features music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford (Academy Award winning composer and lyricist for the original film Fame) and a book by Lawrence D. Cohen(who also adapted the 1974 novel by Stephen King for the 1976 Brian DePalma film).  Directed by Stafford Arima, performances for Carrie began January 31, 2012, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street, NYC).  The official opening night is set for March 1, 2012; the show was originally scheduled to run through March 25, 2012.

It was also announced today that a new Front Row Rush policy will be in place for all performances March 27 – April 22, 2012.  Two hours prior to each performance, tickets for the front row of the orchestra (11 seats) will be available at the box office for $20, to anyone under the age of 30, by showing a valid photo ID (one ticket per person).  This program is in addition to MCC Theater’s longstanding $20 Under 30 program, which is still available in advance, online and in person at the box office.

Based on Stephen King's bestselling novel, the musical of Carrie hasn't been seen since its legendary 1988 Broadway production. Set today, in the small town of Chamberlain, Maine, Carrie stars Tony Award nominee Marin Mazzie (Next to NormalKiss Me Kate) as Carrie's evangelical mother, Margaret White, and Molly Ranson (JerusalemAugust: Osage County) as the lonely, vengeful, yet fragile girl at the center of it all.  The cast also includes Christy AltomareCarmen CusackJeanna de WaalDerek KlenaBen ThompsonWayne WilcoxCorey BoardmanBlair GoldbergF. Michael HaynieAndy MientusElly Noble, Jen Sese, Mackenzie Bell, Jake Boyd and Anne Tolpegin.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Assistance @ Playwrights Horizons (thru March 11)


Assistance @ Playwrights Horizons
Assistance, now on stage at Playwrights Horizons, opens frenetically with two men sparring at/to each other in a shared language of puns, jokes, expletives, and verbal shorthand.  It races with such a rapid fire pace that the audience is left wondering if they will ever catch up.  Your ear has to attune to the cadence, in much the same way it takes a few minutes of Shakespeare before the viewer settles into it.
Those audience members that do fall into the rhythm and mindset of these men, they are rewarded with play that engenders a sense of camaraderie and fun set in the cut-throat world of entertainment personal assistants. Those audience members that are easily offended, too empathetic or don’t catch on quickly to the slang and speed of the delivery tend to drop out of the proceedings, which is too bad.  Because Assistants is about more than just crazed office workers, it is about the lengths we go to reach our dreams. And how we cling to those dreams, even after they fall short of our expectations.
The boss, a sadistic self-important and border-line psychopath, but powerful entertainment executive, is never seen.  It is his whims, frustrations and rules which drive the people on stage into fits to meet his requirements.  Michael Esper and Virginia Kull bring life to Nick and Nora, the central pair of executive assistants.  These two give voice and reason as to why someone would choose this job.  Nick guides Nora through the Byzantine rule set to please, or at least not anger, the un-seen Mr. Weinberger.
Virginia Kull & Michael Esper as assistants in Assistance

The rest of the cast, including Bobby Steggart and Lucas Near-Vergrugghe, are excellent – they show up for some magical moments, in roles as the assistant de jour.  Amy Rosoff and Sue Jean Kim play female assistants very well, although they are given pretty one dimensional roles to fulfill.
The sets (David Korins) are great, and provide an appropriate claustrophobic environment; big enough to lose something important, but not big enough to provide relief.  And Director Trip Cullman moves the cast very well inside of this new play by Leslye Headland.
But as good as the cast is, the point of the entire show hangs just out reach.  Is this elaborate game an appropriate, or useful, try out for the next job?  Is it a story of power gone mad, and the lengths people will do to achieve it?  Is it a morality tale; be careful what you wish for?  Or it is it the tale of the lifecycle of a relationship, albeit not a romantic one?  The ambiguity of the point can be fascinating, and it was in Assistance.  But an audience member looking for a more black and white experience could find Assistance frustrating.
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Assistance at PlayWrights Horizons
Playwright: Leslye Headland
Director: Trip Cullman
Cast: Michael Esper, Sue Jean Kim, Virginia Kull, Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Amy Rosoff, Bobby Stegger
Runs Through: March 11th

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ali Forney Center Benefit


“ B R O A D W A Y   B E A U T Y   P A G E A N T ”

WITH SPECIAL APPEARANCES BY BRENT BARRETT
AND PAST WINNERS FRANKIE JAMES GRANDE
AND MICHAEL CUSUMANO

ONE-NIGHT-ONLY
MONDAY, MARCH 19
AT SYMPHONY SPACE

New York, NY (2/21/12) – The contestants for the sixth annual The Broadway Beauty Pageant have been announced. Participants include Andrew Chappelle (Mamma Mia!), Wilkie Ferguson (Porgy and Bess), Corey Mach(Godspell), Jesse Swimm (Mary Poppins), and Anthony Wayne (Priscilla Queen of the Desert). Brent Barrett(Chicago) and past Pageant winners Frankie James Grande (Mamma Mia!) and Michael Cusumano (Chicago) are set to perform. As previously announced, four-time Tony nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning actress Tovah Feldshuh will host the event which will take place on Monday evening, March 19th, 8p.m., at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th St.). The popular event is the annual benefit of New York’s Ali Forney Center.
The Broadway Beauty Pageant will feature Chappelle, Ferguson, Mach, Swimm, and Wayne as they represent their respective Broadway shows, competing for the title crown through talent, interview and swimsuit competitions.  The contestants will go head to head in front of a panel of celebrity judges, but ultimately, the final vote is in the audience's hands. Past judges have included Bruce Vilanch, Carson Kressley, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Michael Musto, Christine Ebersole, Beth Leavel, Charles Busch, and Seth Rudetsky.
  
The Broadway Beauty Pageant is written and conceived by Jeffery Self and directed by Ryan J. Davis, with musical direction by Christopher Denny. The evening is presented by Time Warner NYC, HBO and The Corcoran Group, and produced by Ryan J. Davis, Wil Fisher and Matthew Oberstein. The casting is by Daryl Eisenberg, and the lighting design is by Brian Tovar. Choreography is by Erin Porvaznika.

The Ali Forney Center (AFC) was started in June 2002 in response to the lack of safe shelter for LGBT youth in New York City.  They have grown quickly to become the nation's largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth.  They are committed to providing LGBT youth with safe, dignified, nurturing environments where their needs can be met and where they can begin to put their lives back together. The center provides short and long term housing in Manhattan and Brooklyn, plus free medical care, HIV testing, mental health services, showers, food, computer access and job training and placement at its drop-in centers in Chelsea and Brooklyn. 

Tickets for The Broadway Beauty Pageant are available at www.SymphonySpace.org or by calling the box office at 212-864-5400, and are $25, $50 and VIP $150. Individual Sponsored tickets range from $250 to $1000 and can be purchased by contacting wfisher@aliforneycenter.org.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It is an Amazing Time for Theater

There is nothing like late Winter and Spring for a Theater Lover in NYC.
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I haven't had a chance to see "Poetic License" at 59E59 Theaters.  But here is a link to an interesting review from the NY Times.
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LINK (review by Anita Gates)
Poetic License Natalie Kuhn and Ari Butler in this unsettling drama about a renowned poet and plagiarism at 59E59 Theaters.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Shatner's World : A Comfortable Place to Visit


Shatner’s World; We Just Live In It… @ The Music Box
William Shatner ambles around the stage - in Shatner’s World; We Just Live In It… now on stage at The Music Box - comfortable, easygoing and fully in possession of the spotlight.  He spends a little over 90 minutes spinning tales and reminiscing about his career.  Watching the show is a bit like spending the evening with an eccentric old uncle.  Mr. Shatner is funny, interesting, endearing and every now and then a little od
The Man, William Shatner, and the alter-ego he can't forget. 
But above all here, in this venue, he is a showman and he knows what the audience wants. His monologues, stories and video bits never stray away from Captain Kirk or Denny Crane for too long.  He elegantly weaves his backstory and upbringing into a narrative that winds through some of our favorite collective memories.  And in Shatner’s World, this William Shatner is a character that cannot believe his good luck.  It is this acknowledgement that makes William Shatner, the person behind the character, likeable.
The show contains a nice mix of history, video clips and observations that keep the evening rolling along well.  It seems more suited to a informal New York Times talkback or a 92 Street Y evening, but that seems to be splitting hairs.  A full house demonstrated that Bill can sell a room.
Part way through the show, Mr. Shatner told the story of a dreadful theater experience, while doing The World of Susie Wong.  I can’t do it justice here, but to hear him tell it is to gain an entirely new appreciation for his style and work ethic.  I left the theater a much bigger fan than I entered.
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Shatner’s World; We Just Live In It… at The Music Box
Playwright: William Shatner
Director: Scott Faris
Cast: William Shatner

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sounds Great for Children

..sounds a little much for me.  But if you have kids it could be great. They seem to have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink (what happened to the good old Peter & The Wolf days, with a flute and scary lights?).
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Cinderella and the Prince
Who Slays the Magic Dragon


The Little Orchestra Society/Orpheon, Inc.
James Judd, Guest Conductor


Saturday, March 10 at 11:00am and 1:00pm
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center


A larger-than-life production of the classic fairy tale is set to the music of Sergei Prokofiev and brings to the stage dancers, puppets, a fifteen foot-tall Fairy Godmother and a Magic Dragon! Be part of the fantasy as dancers become winged horses and party guests become mice in a fabulous retelling of this story. With choreography by Lisa Rinehart, additional choreography by Roger C. Jeffrey, and character and production design by Manju Shandler, this fully staged production is a magical experience for audiences of all ages.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Early Plays" Starts Tomorrow at St. Ann's Warehouse

I do enjoy St. Ann's Warehouse, and they do great work.  Here is information on their latest offerings.  Feb 15th to march 11th
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Presented by St. Ann's Warehouse

The Wooster Group and Elizabeth LeCompte have invited Richard Maxwell of New York City Players to direct three of Eugene O'Neill's early "Glencairn" plays-Bound East for Cardiff(1914), The Long Voyage Home (1917), and The Moon of the Caribbees (1918)-combining his company with The Wooster Group.

EARLY PLAYS takes O'Neill's tales of sailors on and off the ocean as a point of departure to explore themes of longing and eternity. The production realizes O'Neill's beautifully romantic text in a sparse, modern, yet still mythic place. Dark episodes showing the underside of turn-of-the-century maritime life-brawls, dances, and carousing-are threaded together with original songs composed by Maxwell.

The EARLY PLAYS company includes Wooster Group members and associates Enver Chakartash, Ari Fliakos, Teresa Hartmann, Bozkurt Karasu, Bobby McElver, Kaneza Schaal, Andrew Schneider, and Kate Valk and New York City Players Lakpa Bhutia, Keith Connolly, Alex Delinois, Nicholas Elliott, Jim Fletcher, Kevin Hurley, and Brian Mendes.

St. Ann's Warehouse presents the world premiere of EARLY PLAYS February 15 - March 11, 2012.

Monday, February 13, 2012

GATZ is Coming Back

This got amazing reviews and was the event of the year.  My first thought, 6 hours of The Great Gatsby would make me blow my brains about, but theater is all about different strokes.
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GATZ
Text: THE GREAT GATSBY
by F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
Directed by JOHN COLLINS


March 14 - May 6, 2012

One morning in the office of a mysterious small business, an employee finds a copy of THE GREAT GATSBY in the clutter of his desk. He starts to read it out loud and doesn’t stop. At first his coworkers hardly notice. But after a series of strange coincidences, it’s no longer clear whether he’s reading the book or the book is transforming him. GATZ is a theatrical and literary tour de force, not a retelling of the Gatsby story but an enactment of the novel itself. Over the course of 6 1/2 hours, the cast of 13 delivers Fitzgerald’s American masterpiece word for word, startlingly brought to life by a low-rent office staff in the midst of their inscrutable business operations.

Gatz will be presented as a marathon theatrical event, with two intermissions and a dinner break, four times per week. ERS company members may alternate roles at select performances.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sara Dash at the Laurie Beechman on Feb 18th


SARAH DASH: ONE WOMAN
Saturday, February 18:
Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd Street.
With a career spanning 50 years, legendary "Lady Marmalade" singer SARAH DASH  -- perhaps best known as 1/3 of the iconic pop group Labelle opposite Patti Labelle & Nona Hendryx -- premieres a workshop of her new solo show "One Woman." It includes songs from throughout her career accompanied by reminiscences & anecdotes about some of the people she has worked alongside.7:30pm. Tix are $25 in advance or $30 at the door (+ $15 food/drink minimum -- full dinner menu & bar available). Buy tickets at 212-352-3101 or click HERE.

Friday, February 10, 2012

MY TAWNY VALENTINE starting Feb 17th


Feb. 17 - March 2:
Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd Street.

Obie Award winner DAVID DRAKE (The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me) stars as Tawny Heatherton, a lovably eccentric showbiz survivor and “one hit wonder” of the disco zeitgeist of the early 1980s. Tawny brings her singular blonde-swept brand of sunny, funny optimism while recalling stories of wandering the globe performing her disco "hit," her short-lived stint as a Hee-Haw Honey, and reuniting with her long-lost aunt Joey Heatherton at the Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino. 7:30pm. Tix are $20 (+ $15 food/drink minimum -- full dinner menu & bar available) at 212-352-3101 or click HERE.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

THE BEST OF JIM CARUSO’S CAST PARTY - benefit for The Actor's Fund


New York: In its ninth star-studded year at Birdland, Jim Caruso will bring his celebrated Cast Party back to the big stage at Town Hall for a second year. The Best of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party will take place on Thursday, February 23 at 8PM and will be presented by the one and only Scott Siegel.  Tickets are $25, $50, and $75 and are available by calling 800-982-2787 or visiting TicketMaster.comA portion of the proceeds will benefit The Actors Fund.

Some of the celebs joining this year’s Cast Party include Golden Globe and Tony Winner Linda Lavin, the uber-talented jazz and adult contemporary vocalist Jane Monheit, Broadway Star and Drama Desk NomineeStephanie J. Block, nine-time Grammy winning solo artist and founding member of The Manhattan Transfer Janis Siegel, David Ippolito AKA “That Guitar Man From Central Park”, Broadway sensation Julia Murney(Wicked), stand-up comedian, Grammy nominee and "Celebrity Apprentice"   Lisa Lampanelli, Tony Winner Paulo Szot (South Pacific),Lysistrata Jones’ Liz Mikel, comic juggler Marcus Monroe, “The Acromedian” Rudi Macaggi, also performing  are Holly Near performing with lyricist/composer John Bucchino (A Catered Affair) and Laura Osneswill join composer Frank Wildhorn, best known for his Broadway musicalJekyll & Hyde. Also joining the party is Terri Klausner, who will be singing “Hit Me With A Hot Note” from Sophisticated Ladies, and Andrew Nemr, whose tap company “Cats Paying Dues” will perform an unforgettable tribute to Gregory Hines. And that’s not all - many more surprise performers and special guest stars will be announced over the next few weeks!

Billy Stritch will hold court at the piano, adding vocals and banter to the proceedings.  Joining the musical fun will be Daniel Glass on drums and Tom Hubbard on bass.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Flea Theater announces 2nd extension of 5-hour epic THESE SEVEN SICKNESSES



The Flea Announces 2nd Extension for 5-Hour Sophocles-Inspired Epic
THESE SEVEN SICKNESSES
Extended thru March 4
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The Flea Theater is proud to announce a second extension of the New York Premiere of THESE SEVEN SICKNESSES, a 5-hour marathon of all seven of Sophocles’ plays re-envisioned by playwright Sean Graney, directed by Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, and starring The Bats. Originally scheduled to close February 12, performances have been extended through March 4. Tribeca dining destination Macao Trading Co. provides a complimentary Asian fusion feast at all performances, with dessert by Billy's Bakery.

In THESE SEVEN SICKNESSES, Sophocles’ seven surviving plays—Oedipus, In Trachis, In Colonus, Philoktetes, Ajax, Elektra & Antigone—combine to create a stunning portrait of the human condition, where the intermingling of chance & fate yields disquieting results. A witty & relevant interpretation of the classics, THESE SEVEN SICKNESSES is an epic examination of the past & a window on the present.
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(website)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tribes starts on Feb 16th

Tribes sounds interesting.  Here is the marketing details.  It starts February 16th if you are interested.
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TRIBES
A New Play by NINA RAINE
Directed by DAVID CROMER

Billy was born deaf into a hearing family, and raised inside the fiercely idiosyncratic and unrepentantly politically incorrect cocoon of his parents' house. He has adapted brilliantly to his family's unconventional ways, but they've never bothered to return the favor. It's not until he meets Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness, that he finally understands what it means to be understood.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Alec Mapa in Baby Daddy


February 9 - 11:
Laurie Beechman Theatre, 407 West 42nd Street.
"America's Gaysian Sweetheart" ALEC MAPA (Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, The View, RuPaul's Drag Race) returns to New York with his acclaimed comedy. Join Mapa as he hilariously recounts his adventures when his life is turned upside down after adopting a five-year old boy. Find out how this flamboyant comic goes from stand up gigs, red carpets, gay cruises, and circuit parties to being a responsible car pool driving, P.T.A. member. A cautionary tale. Thurs. - Sat. at 7:30pm. (NOTE: Saturday is almost sold out!) Tix are $20 - $22 (+ $15 food/drink minimum -- full dinner menu & bar available)Buy tickets at 212-352-3101 or click HERE.