Brothers And Sisters - Part I
John Jay College Theater

This is the first time New York audiences have seen Lev Dodin's well-traveled production of Brothers And Sisters, which dates from the precise beginning of perestroika in 1985.  Russians would be in a better position to grasp the irony in this adaptation of Fyodor Abramov's trilogy of novels about vi

David Lipfert
Brothers And Sisters - Part II
John Jay College Theater

Part of Lincoln Center Festival 2000, this stage adaptation of Fyodor Abramov's trilogy of life in Russia's Far North continues over a second evening to show the same village five years after the end of WWII. 

In this more somber Part II, the villagers' mood is temporarily lifted by a film clip of smiling peasants harvesting wheat -- until it is announced that the st

David Lipfert
Bruce Vilanch
Westbeth Theater Center

 moppet-haired guy who usually sits to the left of center square Whoopi Goldberg on "Hollywood Squares" is the latest Hollywood denizen to get his own one-man gig.  While amusing at times, Bruce Vilanch's humorous diatribe exploring his long life as a gag writer, celebrity emergency jokester and sometime actor is seriously under-imagined and never as funny as the awards shows he has made a lucrative career writing for, it's almost like watching the outtakes of material that wasn't quite gut-busting enough to make it into Billy Crystal's oeuvre.

Jason Clark
Brutal Imagination
Vineyard Theater

Here's the concept: the black guy that South Carolina mom Susan Smith conjured up as a scapegoat when she drove her two kids into a lake takes on a life of his own and becomes various metaphorical representations of how America treated black people in the past century. Apart from an impressive lighting design and a host of familiar agit-prop gimmicks, that's the most imaginative idea to be found in Cornelius Eady, Diedre Murray and Diane Paulus' poetic satire. There's no drama here, only lots of narration, free-verse blather, emoting and oh-so-familiar liberal guilt.

David Lefkowitz
Brutal Imagination
Vineyard Theater

The horrifying details of the crime of Union County South Carolina resident Susan Smith are given a pretentiously lyrical but also compelling resonance in Brutal Imagination. Smith was charged and convicted in 1994 of the death of her two young sons, Michael, age 3, and Alexander, age 14 months. Smith had strapped them securely in the back seat of her car that she then pushed into a lake. The incidents surrounding the case are shown through an abstracted fiction laced with factual reportage. That particularized fiction is called Mr.

Simon Saltzman
Barrow Street Theater

Bug by Tracy Letts, now at the Barrow Street Theater, is a naturalistic slice of motel life among working-class Oklahomans performed by actors with a sense of being seldom seen on the stage today. We are looking through the wall where a real life seems to be going on. Shannon Cochran, Michael Shannon, Amy Landecker, Michel Cullen and Reed Birney are a rare acting ensemble, directed with an enthralling sense of timing by Dexter Bullard.

Richmond Shepard
Barrow Street Theater

Agnes White's options are slim and grim from the moment we encounter her in Tracy Letts' apocalyptic thriller, Bug. Just released from prison, there's her hulking ex-husband Jerry Goss, who terrorizes her with silent phone calls before he arrives and punches her out.

Perry Tannenbaum
Burn This
Union Square Theater

Watchable but not especially rewarding revival of Lanford Wilson's tale of a grieving woman finding solace in hot nookie with a vaguely dangerous asshole. I was lucky enough to see the original production, with John Malkovich torching the stage indelibly, albeit to the detriment of the love story's credibility - i.e., what did Joan Allen's Anna see in him? With Edward Norton's funnier, greasier turn, Pale's  tantrums are more childlike and less overtly threatening, though there's still an oil-and-vinaigrette taste to their twosome.

David Lefkowitz
Burn This
Union Square Theater

There's a little deja-vu in Signature Theater's revival of Lanford Wilson's 1987 play, Burn This, for those who have recently seen Broadway's Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune, another romance between two diametrically opposite characters.

Jeannie Lieberman
Burn This
Union Square Theater

This review of the current revival of Lanford Wilson's Burn This comes in two parts: What it is and what it could (and perhaps should) be.

Richmond Shepard
Burn This
Union Square Theater

All four roles in Lanford Wilson's taut chamber piece have fascinating contours. For me, there's a fine spontaneity elevating this drama above the playwright's other fare. But for Burn This to work overwhelmingly, the chemistry between Anna and Pale -- radical opposites who attract -- must convincingly combust. She's a dancer mourning the death of her gay roommate.

Perry Tannenbaum
Bush Is Bad
Triad Theater

Bush is Bad is a first-class political satire that goes far beyond the obvious. The three highly talented performers -- Janet Dickinson, Neal Mayer and Michael McCoy -- are comedians with strong musical voices and actors who can fully realize the many characters each plays.  Janet as Condoleeza Rice is brilliant, including a riff on the piano.

Richmond Shephard
Butter And Egg Man, The
Atlantic Theater

There are entertaining moments in The Butter and Egg Man, but you can see clearly why George S. Kaufman joined with other writers in his subsequent works. There are good gags in this play about a novice going into showbusiness, and clever lines, but it's a creaky antique that doesn't work anymore.

In act two director David Pittu has everybody shouting, but that doesn't engage us as we are asked to identify with a lucky idiot. John Ellison Conlee's acting gives the play a better balance towards the end, but "the play's the thing" -- and this ain't it.

Richmond Shepard
Butterfly Dreams
Bank Street Theater

The best stories of all are the ones that teach us something, still better if they are true.  This Chinese tale is based on the life of Zhuang Zhou, noted philosopher of the Confucian school.  He absented himself from society for long periods to continue his quest for wisdom (Tao).  Even coming closer to his goal did not prevent him from misjudging human nature.  Returning home as a sage after ten years, he pronounced such imponderables as "true feelings are without emotions." He is credited with the speculation as to whether he was re

David Lipfert
Ordinary People
OnStage Playhouse

About two years ago, the Jarrett family suffered the loss of
their oldest son Buck, while sailing with his younger brother, Conrad. A freak
storm dismasted the sailboat. Buck, a sports jock and all round fun guy,
drowned. Judith Guest's book, "Ordinary People," dramatized by Nancy Gilsenan,
explores the effect of this tragedy on the family.

Robert Hitchcox
Thirty Nine Steps, The
American Airlines Theater

Alfred Hitchock''s The 39 Steps, now on Broadway, is a great way to start the new year. Adapted (or rather deconstructed and reconstructed) by Patrick Barlow from the film, brilliantly directed with impeccable timing and grand innovation by Maria Aitken, this is a stylized melodrama played seriously by a team of master farceurs.

Richmond Shepard
39 Steps, The

See all Criticopia reviews under "Thirty Nine Steps, The"

39 Steps, The

see Criticopia review under "Thirty Nine Steps, The" 

Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Mertz Theater

"What do you do when you're not sure, ...lack God's guidance?"

Marie J. Kilker
New Jerusalem
Classic Stage Company

"New Jerusalem - The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656" by David Ives. What a title! What a play! How often do we see a play that expounds ideas, philosophical and practical, that wake up the corners of our minds in fascinating dramatic fashion?

Richmond Shepard
Cemetery Club, The

It has been just over ten years since I last saw The
Cemetery Club
at Scripps Ranch Community Theater, just a piece down
the road from PowPAC. Now it's Poway's turn to house
this charming play. Kate Hewitt is at the helm, directing a fine cast. Her designer,
Raylene J. Wall, has provided a well-lived-in set and a unique and very
personal setting for the cemetery. I got just a touch of déjà vu
remembering that Wall directed that other version ten years ago.

Robert Hitchcox
Anton in Show Business
6th@Penn Theater

Prolific Jane Martin, who has written several plays about
theater, created this wonderful satire, Anton in Show Business,
currently at 6th@Penn Theater.

Robert Hitchcox
Actors Theater of Louisville

The best reason to see Topdog/Underdog in
its limited engagement at Actors Theater of Louisville is the mind-blowing
performances of Stephen Tyrone Williams
as Booth and Don Guillory as Lincoln
in the Pulitzer Price-winning play by
Suzan-Lori Parks. As two African-American brothers whose father gave them those
names "as a joke," they live together in a seedy rooming house and constantly lament their unfortunate

Charles Whaley
String of Pearls
North Coast Repertory Theater

By the numbers: 4...27...24...38. Four Actresses. 27 roles. 24 perfect pearls. 38 years.

This is Michelle Lowe's String of Pearls, currently on the boards at North Coast Repertory Theater, under the direction of Karen Carpenter. There is just a slight touch of Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde as the pearls make their way through 38 years, beginning and ending at the same point.

Robert Hitchcox
Black Nativity
Historic Asolo Theater

When I reviewed Black Nativity two years ago, it seemed to be headed for the annual holiday celebration it has become for the Westcoast Black Theater Troupe. As such, I declined to review it again last year. But publicist Eva Slane assured me that the production is constantly evolving, so I decided to re-review.

Marie J. Kilker
August: Osage County
Imperial Theater

Tracy Letts' powerful new play, August: Osage County, is a shattering three-and-a-half-hour piece of rural drama. But we might have suspected this from his other plays. Letts shatters, and the intricate family melodies in contrapuntal dysfunctional clashings at this family get-together in Oklahoma, is a wonderfully-directed (by Anna D. Shapiro) slice of twisted life with a super ensemble cast.

Richmond Shepard
Faith Healer
Off-Broadway Theater

When Brian Friel's Faith Healer opened in 1979, critics debated whether it was a play at all. Instead of offering the typical dialogue between actors, Faith Healer consists of four long monologues delivered by three characters. All the characters are linked. Their individual speeches conflict, although they cover some of the same ground.

Anne Siegel
Price, The
Geva Theater - Mainstage

 I remember how pleased a well-known actor and I were when we saw a pre-opening performance of Arthur Miller's The Price on Broadway 42 years ago. Miller's plays had been disappointing for awhile, and this was undeniably a moving, thought-provoking, rewarding drama. And funny! Moments in Miller's earlier plays had hinted at the comic talent in his remarkable ear for realistic dialogue and behavior, but his 89 year-old Jewish antiques dealer, Gregory Solomon, delighted audiences with wise, insightful, offbeat, and altogether hilarious comments.

Herbert M. Simpson
Cut to the Chase
59E59 Theaters

It's 1898. Vaudeville is at it height, and the winners of
the national contest are here, the best in the country. That's my impression of Cut to the Chase.  The
multi-talented writer/performer Joel Jeske has put together a troupe of real
clowns, tap dancers (led by the zippiest tapper in town, Stan Kasprzak), comedians,
jugglers, a beautiful singer (Juliet Jeske - who also did the madcap period
costumes), drummers, all with meticulous timing. 

Richmond Shepard
Norman Conquests, The
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse Theater

Any time of year would be appropriate for a comedy by renowned British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, but the winter holiday season may be the best. Around the holidays, theatergoers are looking for lighthearted entertainment – something fun and funny – and Ayckbourn can always deliver.

Anne Siegel
Nutcracker, The
Dallas Children's Theater

Kathy Burks Theater of Puppetry Arts opened its month-long run of The Nutcracker November 24, 2007, but make no mistake, this is not your grandmother's Nutcracker. All the characters are puppets and inanimate objects, grown larger than life, embarking on a familiar adventure at a Christmas Eve party at Clara's home.

If you're expecting to see ballet, well, you won't; unless you consider as ballet a large standard poodle executing some fancy pirouettes to the gleeful accompaniment of howling laughter from the moppets in the audience.

Rita Faye Smith
Bronx Tale, A
Walter Kerr Theater

I saw the original production of Chazz Palminteri's spectacular vivid picture of his
old neighborhood in The Bronx and was knocked out by the writing, basically a morality play, and his performance. Then I saw the De Niro movie. Terrific.

Richmond Shepard
Seafarer, The
Booth Theater

The Seafarer, written and directed by Conor McPherson, is about a bunch of Irish drunks talking banalities with not much happening.

Richmond Shepard
Is He Dead?
Lyceum Theater

Mark Twain is very much alive; the rumors of his death are premature. His play, Is He Dead?, adapted by David Ives, has opened on Broadway, and it's hilarious.

Richmond Shepard
Oh, The Humanity
Flea Theater

The Flea Theater's production of Oh, The Humanity and other exclamations, five short plays by Will Eno, directed by Jim Simpson, with Marisa Tomei and Brian Hutchison is now running. Here's my brief rundown:

Richmond Shepard
This Is Our Youth
New Village Arts Theater

In Kenneth Lonergan's This is Our Youth, Dennis Ziegler (Joshua Everett Johnson) is a small-time drug dealer and user. He is a mental mess. As with his two contemporaries, he comes from an affluent family but prefers to live in an unkempt dump. Warren Straub (Tom Zohar) has a hero-worship complex of Dennis. He is emotionally immature and has run away from his wealthy, abusive father, impulsively absconding with $15,000.

Robert Hitchcox
Shadow Box, The
Legler Benbough Theater

 Michael Cristofer's The Shadow Box is not for the faint of heart. It is an intense story of three dramatically different, terminally ill patients and their loved ones. The setting is a hospital campus. The playwright's inspiration was his personal experience with two of his friends with terminal cancer. Still, it is not a depressing play, rather an insightful one with touches of humor.

Robert Hitchcox
Daddy Machine, The
Diversionary Theater

Based on the book by Johnny Valentine, The Daddy Machine has a book by local playwright Patricia Loughrey, with music and lyrics by local composer Rayme Sciaroni. This is a family-friendly musical commissioned by Diversionary Theater. I can assure you that both adults and kids enjoyed the show.

Robert Hitchcox
European Cabaret
Florida Studio Theater - Goldstein Cabaret

Probably the most authentic cabaret FST has
offered in seasons emphasizes
Berlin as a European center of the art. France follows, but at the same time, stars.  

Marie J. Kilker
B.S.: The Completely Improvised Hospital Drama
Ivanhoe Theater

In a city full of improv companies, the Free Associates have to be one of the hardest working.  Not satisfied with Cast On A Hot Tin Roof, The Completely Improvised Play Not By Tennessee Williams, and Pick-A-Dick - The Completely Improvised Select-A-Detective Play, the group have added B.S.: The Completely Improvised Hospital Drama. The facility in question is Benevolent Saints Hospital, "One of Chicago's finest."  Even the program hype is a stitch: "Located somewhere between here and Belmont and eternity, B.S.

Effie Mihopoulos