Sundial, The
Edgewater Presbyterian Church

In an uncertain world, rarely is there a shortage of free-floating dread (dubbed "anxiety" by the shrinks).

Since putting a name to unseen terrors provides an illusion of control, this inescapable condition has been attributed, at various times, to forces spiritual, natural and industrial. Prominent among the first is the Biblical prophesy of a holocaust destroying all earthly life (excepting its adherents, of course). The invention of the atomic bomb, however, introduced the secular specter of a cataclysm annihilating both good and bad alike.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Her America
The Greenhouse

In theater jargon, the term "vehicle" indicates a play or production designed to showcase the talents of a particular artist, often — but not always — at the expense of other dramatic factors (plot, character, plausibility, etc.). Brett Neveu's conveyance for Chicago icon Kate Buddeke meets this definition, but his efforts to impose a second agenda thereupon encumbers Her America with unnecessary baggage.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Present, The
Barrymore Theater

The Present, Anton Chekhov's unfocused and drawn-out melodrama is enlivened by the Broadway pairing of charismatic Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh. Blanchett entices audiences to Broadway's Barrymore Theater and, with Roxburgh's magnetic energy, she keeps them there. Without them and the stellar Sydney Theatre Company cast of 13, Anton Chekhov's first play might still be in the safe-deposit box where it was hidden until 16 years after his death in 1904.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Great Society, The
Asolo Theater - Mertz Theater

Like hell, The Great Society is paved with good intentions, but it has more layers than Dante imagined. They mesh not in a Miltonian epic but rather in a Cliff Notes summary of what Robert Schenkkan seems to have meant to be a modern Greek-ish tragedy. Structurally, it works as a narrative panorama of problems — mainly a hellish war-- that bring down the presidency and personal status of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Marie J. Kilker
New Ohio Theater

When he murdered John Lennon in 1980, Mark David Chapman was carrying a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye.” When John Hinckley shot President Reagan a year later, he had a copy of that book in his hotel room.

Playwright Anisa George has taken this strange confluence and used it as the basis for her play Holden, presented by George & Co. and The New Ohio Theatre. The piece takes place in J.D. Salinger’s writing retreat. Salinger himself is there, of course. We also find Chapman and Hinckley living there, acting as a sort of pair of muses.

Steve Capra
Tony n' Tina's Wedding
Chicago Theater Works

Here's the premise: Anthony Angelo Nunzio and Valentina Lynne Vitale are getting married. Their families are not happy with the match. The groomsmen and bridesmaids also have mixed feelings toward the impending nuptials. The caterer is anxious to promote his business and the band would rather be playing hard rock than lovey-dovey MOR pop.

We, by the way, are the guests at this guazzabuglio-waiting-to-happen and, as such, are expected to eat, drink, sing, dance, catch bouquets and garters, nosh on wedding cake and carouse in joyful celebration.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Rosenkranz Mysteries, The
Royal George

It's not merely the nimble fingers — the mechanics are the same, whether the perpetrator is a professional illusionist charging hefty admissions in Las Vegas or a bartender short-changing an unwary customer. What makes us eager to be bamboozled by a stranger into mistrusting our own senses is the story attached to the manual dexterity.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Lion, The
Geffen Playhouse - Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater

Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion comes to L.A. two years after it won a Drama Desk Award for (an off-Broadway) solo performance in 2015. Long before that Scheuer honed the show in various coffee-house gigs and then during a residency at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut. Several of his songs have also been turned into animated music videos.

Willard Manus
Stalking the Bogeyman
Florida Studio Theater - Bowen's Lab

Stalking the Bogeyman dramatizes a narrative by a man who seeks to avenge his rape at age seven and some molestation afterward. The “Bogeyman” rapist was about a decade older, son of the boy’s parents’ best friends. The victim has been silent to avoid hurting his parents, while his own hurt and urge for revenge festered through the years, coming to the point where he’s ready to murder. The mystery is: Will he?

Marie J. Kilker
View from the Bridge, A
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

Though known for directing Russian and Near and Far Eastern European drama, Andrei Malaev-Babel has never to my mind been more successful in capturing a dramatic essence than in directing Arthur Miller’s American tragic drama, A View from the Bridge. He has wrung maturity out of comparatively young FSU/Asolo Conservatory actors in a take on ancient myths informing the location and action of the modern play.

Marie J. Kilker
Babylon Line, The
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

Let's start at the very beginning, which is really the end of Richard Greenberg's play, The Babylon Line, when the central character, Aaron Port (Josh Radnor), is 85 years old. However, it is 1967 when he begins the play’s arc, and Aaron is a 38-year-old struggling writer with one published story. Once a week he teaches an adult creative-writing class, taking the Babylon line from New York to Levittown.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth
Water Works

Lookingglass playwright Doug Hara is not the first to observe that what scholars smugly call "history" is rooted in pre-literate parables, recounted by elders instructing future generations in lessons for surviving defeat, achieving triumph, and preserving peace.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Second City, The
Piper's Alley

When the 105th Second City Revue opened a bare four weeks after the presidential election, there was no hiding its hasty response to what appeared a reversal of hitherto-unquestioned assumptions regarding the demographic their satire targeted. Audiences attending the performance on Dec. 27, 2016, however, were privileged to witness proof that nothing fuels the go-for-broke daring demanded of comedy like a challenge.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Weir, The
The Den

Our locale is a tavern in rural Ireland, close enough to seaside Ulster counties to attract summer vacationers, but this is not the nostalgic-mythic Ireland beloved of tourists.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Honky Tonk Angels
No Exit Cafe

There's these three young women hoping to make it in show business, see. Since Angela is from East Texas, Darlene from West Virginia, and Sue Ellen from Houston by way of Los Angeles, "show business" means Nashville, and since they are all church-raised girls, their fortuitous meeting in a Greyhound station is viewed as a Sign From Above, even before their voices are discovered to blend in perfect Appalachian harmony.

Mary Shen Barnidge
The Greenhouse

The musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion was a romantic comedy because that's what musicals do best, but because musicals also require Big Stars to draw audiences, its leading male was old enough to be the leading female's grandfather, setting a perplexing precedent for decades to come. The Remy Bumppo Theater Company, however, returns to the play that Shaw wrote for its text.

Other Cinderella, The
Black Ensemble Theater

Once upon a time, an ambitious young girl living in the projects vowed to escape poverty for a better life, so she wrote a musical about an ambitious young girl living in the Projects who vows to escape to a better life. Is there a theatergoer in Chicago who doesn't recognize in this story Jackie Taylor, founder and artistic director of Black Ensemble Theater (BET), or the show that launched a thriving company still drawing audiences after 40 years?

Christians, The
Steppenwolf Theater

When a church leader undergoes a crisis of faith, the wise course is usually to take some time away from his duties in order to contemplate the source of his conflicts, and if, after a period of self-examination, he feels he can no longer fulfill his responsibilities to his congregation, he is well-advised to resign his office.

Mary Shen Barnidge
New York Theater Workshop

Daniel Craig and David Oyelowo are stand-outs in a galvanizing production of Shakespeare's Othello at the New York Theater Workshop. Under Sam Gold's perceptive direction, David Oyelowo plays Othello, the proud Moorish general, lauded for his heroic war deeds until he collides with the ruthless Iago (Daniel Craig), whose sadistic machinations result in the hero's tragic but inevitable downfall.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Martin Luther on Trial
Pearl Theater

The Fellowship for Performing Arts has just produced a play called Martin Luther on Trial, by Chris Cragin-Day and Max McLean, at The Pearl Theater. It puts Martin Luther in historical, personal and, most importantly, ideological context. It’s a sort of courtroom drama. The Devil himself is prosecuting Luther for “the unforgivable sin.” Luther’s wife, Katie Von Bora (“a runaway nun”), is his defender.

Steve Capra
Last Holiday Punch, The
Off the Wall Theater

In a perfect world, the cast of Holiday Punch would confine itself to the show’s script, foregoing such onstage antics as taking cell phone calls onstage, making snarky remarks to fellow actors, taking selfies, kissing men in the audience and basically disregarding all basic rules of actor conduct. But then, you would be watching some other show than Holiday Punch. All these elements (and many more) are found in this long-running homegrown holiday parody, which mixes comedy skits with political satire and traditional holiday songs.

Anne Siegel
Uncle Philip's Coat
The Greenhouse

There's this coat, you see—a voluminous woolen gentleman's overcoat of mid to late 19th-century Russian vintage with astrakhan cuffs and collar, now worn, tattered, and conspicuously malodorous — bequeathed to our narrator in his mid-50s, by his Uncle Philip. Matty (the character) makes frequent reference to the coat's — um, fragrance, but never describes this feature in detail, leading us to anticipate a later revelation concerning the secret of its singular redolence. We don't get one, but, as Philip himself would say, "is not the point, is not the point."

Mary Shen Barnidge
Front Page, The
Broadhurst Theatert

Long before cell phones and TV, breaking news was the corner newsboy shouting "Extra, extra! Read all about it!" It was an era that director Jack O'Brien celebrates in The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, two ex-newsman who knew the game and how to write about it.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Clever Little Lies
Florida Studio Theater - Keating Theater

What makes Joe DiPietro’s domestic comedies so appreciated at FST? While seeming like sitcoms, those like Clever Little Lies get both closely and funnily on the wavelengths of real people. Those who’ve lived a lot, loved, been married for much of their lives, and belong in now-called-traditional families can especially identify with similar characters who have secrets, tell lies, and avoid self-revelations to keep the peace.

Marie J. Kilker
Ahmanson Theater

You don’t have to have a huge sweet tooth to enjoy Amelie, but it will surely help if you do. Adapted from the 2001 whimsical French film of the same name, Amelie has been turned into an offbeat, cotton-candy musical by its American creative team, all of whom are experienced Broadway practitioners who know how to please large audiences.

Willard Manus
When Jazz had the Blues
Matrix Theater

When Jazz had the Blues looks at the complex relationship between two giants of the jazz world, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. They collaborated for some 28 years, composing and arranging hundreds of songs, symphonies and instrumentals that thrilled people around the world and made them famous and rich.

Willard Manus
Big Uncut Flick, The
Studio Theater

Sometimes we don’t want a massive production, especially when we want a comedy. And so Gracye Productions’s mounting of Todd Michael’s The Big Uncut Flick (at The Studio Theater of Theater Row) fits the bill for a slight 75 minutes of fun.

Steve Capra
In Transit
Circle in the Square

There’s no instrument on Earth that’s more beautiful, more moving, and more versatile than the human voice. In Transit uses no other devise to transmit the music of the show. Fortunately, the singers are all talented, and the beat-box rhythm of the character known as Boxman (Chesny Snow) is perfectly on point. The plot revolves around people facing different issues of change and crisis in their lives. Except for a few office scenes, the entire show takes place at a subway station, on a ¾ thrust stage.

Michall Jeffers
Holiday Inn
Studio 54

The Roundabout Theater Company’s production of Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical, playing at Studio 54 through January 1, 2017, first showed its lyrical face at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House where it had its world premier during the holiday season in 2014. With a book co-written by Chad Hodge and Gordon Greenberg (he is also the director), Holiday Inn, stuffed with 22 Irving Berlin songs, some standards, others resurrected from the dead, is back on the boards again.

Ed Rubin
Christmas Carol, A
Pabst Theater

There was more anticipation than usual as the Milwaukee Repertory Theater unveiled its 41st annual production of A Christmas Carol inside the historic Pabst Theater. If there ever was a Dickens play and a Victorian-themed theater so uniquely suited to each other, this would be it.

Anne Siegel
Peter Pan
freeFall Theater

A deconstructed version of Peter Pan has freeFall combining narrative with dramatic activity and dialogue (much of it done tongue-in-cheek) with music and lyrics that advance the plot. Though lacking memorable songs, musical elements serve up the play’s episodic structure with both breaks and continuity. Still, the result is more fun to see than to ponder for meaning.

Marie J. Kilker
This Day Forward
Vineyard Theater

The year is 1958; the young couple are in a lovely room in a posh hotel. She’s a gorgeous redhead, still in her lacey, poufy wedding gown, and he’s eager — very eager — to begin their wedding night. Everything is perfect. The only problem is, the bride has just told the groom that she doesn’t love him. In fact, Irene (Holley Fain) has lied to Martin (Michael Crane) about quite a few things.

Michall Jeffers
Man in Snow
La MaMa ETC.

Israel Horovitz’s play Man in Snow began its life as a radio play, and the playwright has adapted it for the stage. The set consists of a single chair and a significant amount of the dialogue consists of phone conversations. It still feels like a radio play.

Steve Capra
Black Nativity
West Coast Black Theater Troupe

Perhaps WBBT Founder Nate Jacobs’s favorite holiday gift to his Sarasota community and to tourists is Langston Hughes’s Black Nativity. For this year’s version Director Jacobs has outdone himself.

The poetic musical begins with a distinctly African American drummer central. He calls forth joyous singers and dancers who bring to the stage a great air of anticipation. No one is disappointed at what follows.

Marie J. Kilker
Bronx Tale, A
Longacre Theater

A Bronx Tale is very much a story for our times. At first glance, it seems to be an absorbing remembrance, well told, about the coming of age of a young New Yorker. But at its heart is a question which takes on the morality of modern-day America. When the Wall Street Journal asked Donald Trump if his rhetoric had gone too far in his campaign, the President Elect answered “No. I won.” So…is it now anything goes when it comes to getting what you want? This is at the crux of the argument between gangster Sonny (Nick Cordero) and blue-collar Lorenzo (Richard H.

Michall Jeffers
Give it All Back
The Biograph

Give it All Back opens backstage, where an unnamed solo musician resembling—but never identified as—Bob Dylan is preparing for a concert. Later, we will meet his traveling companion on this tour, a bearded beat bard eerily reminiscent of the late Allen Ginsberg. Other visitors include his generic recording agent, an African-American singer-songwriter whose memories of their early days together in the protest movement recall those of Joan Baez, and his current consort, whose physical appearance is only a hair color away from fashionista Sara Lownds, the future Mrs. Dylan.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Hedda Gabler, A
Pride Arts Center

This is not your schoolroom Ibsen. Over a hundred years after his tale of an angry housewife's misanthropic machinations shocked audiences, Nigel O'Hearn's translation, titled “A Hedda Gabler,” has winnowed its progress to an efficiency better suiting the small stages of our time. More noticeable, however, are the changes to the locale and presentation rendered this Red Tape Theatre production in pursuit of facilitating accessibility to modern audiences.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts

If the thought that crosses your mind upon initially viewing the parlor of Pemberley is "Did British families have Christmas trees in 1815?" or if the news that the Darcys' Yuletide guests will include an Oxford-educated nerd fascinated by the study of snails makes you think of P.G. Wodehouse's Gussie Fink-Nottle, you may imagine that you've second-guessed the authors of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, but you will only be half right.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Fundamentals, The
Steppenwolf Theater

The speechwriters for the recent election got it wrong. The people of whom we should beware are not those with nothing to lose, but those with just a little to lose—and that little is all they have.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Oh Hello
Lyceum Theater

Gil Faizon (Nick Kroll) and George St. Geegland (John Mulaney), two messy golden-agers from New York's Upper West Side, could be today's Felix and Oscar, more crotchety and disheveled than golden, appearing as stars in a disorganized, screwy Broadway production.

Elizabeth Ahlfors