Bea's Niece
Off-Broadway Theater

Queen Elizabeth doesn't appear until more than a half hour into the play, but Juliet Mills, with properly pasty-white cheeks and red hair, has a grand time with her three scenes, in one of which she herself is posited as the author of The Taming of the Shrew.

Richard Chambers has come up with nicely changeable sets, and Janine Marie McCabe has furnished the colorful costumes. 

Anne Siegel
Beat For Sparrows
Ivy Substations

Beat For Sparrows brings back the `50s world of the Beats and hipsters in vivid, pungent fashion.  Charlie Leeds, the protagonist of this highly original and moving theatrical piece, was an early exponent of bebop, a bass player who honed his musical chops playing in swing bands before crossing over to avant garde groups led by such jazz pioneers as Al Cohn, Terry Gibbs and Brew Moore.  Many called Leeds the best bass player of his time, but his star shone only briefly before it was dimmed by his dark, self-destructive urges.  Like so many bop musicians, Leeds became strung out on he

Willard Manus
6543 Santa Monica Boulevard

Intended as a post-modern fairy tale, a magically-real fable about the impact of fate on love and sex, Beatrice tries awfully hard to dance on elfin feet.  But thanks to weak, silly dialogue, over-the-top acting and directing, the play keeps taking elephantine pratfalls instead.  Circle X, the company responsible for the production, reveals a possibly fatal weakness for arch, twee material (such previous productions as The Rover and In the Sherman Family Wax Museum suffered from the same ailment).  Set in a lush garden populated by twittering birds and La Figura (Jole H

Willard Manus
Beautiful Thing
Diversionary Theater

In a southeast London housing project, 15-year-old Jamie and his bartender mother, Sandra, live next to expelled high-schooler Leah. Across the courtyard lives his friend, Ste, a high-school athlete. <BR>Jonathan Harvey's <I>Beautiful Thing</I> is a tender love story between these two teenage boys set against a backdrop of conflict. Ste, played by Joseph Panwitz, lives with his abusive father and older brother. While a good soccer player, he cannot please his alcoholic father.

Robert Hitchcox
La Jolla Playhouse - Mandell Weiss Forum

Beauty, by playwright/director Tina Landau, is the latest of many incarnations of the Sleeping Beauty tale. Landau creates a contemporary version blending the past (1,000 years ago) and the present through both creative dialogue and music. Constance, played by Lisa Harrow, is the crone/hag who narrates the story bridging the two time periods. She dominates the stage even as the ensemble members (David Ari, Corey Brill, Simone Vicari Moore, Adam Smith, and Amy Stewart) perform their various roles.

Robert Hitchcox
Cygnet Theater

Unequivocally, Cygnet's production of August Wilson's Fences, under the brilliant direction of Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, is the best production I've seen this season.

Robert Hitchcox
Sweet Charity
Coronado Playhouse

Legs! Legs! Legs! All shapes and sizes, all high stepping
and well-practiced, and all triple threats. They dance, they sing, and they act...
for they are all in Coronado Playhouse's production of the perennially popular
Bob Fosse hit, Sweet Charity. This non-stop dancing-and-singing
show, which turns 41 on January 29, 2008, is a vital middle-ager under Chrissy
Burns' excellent direction.

Robert Hitchcox
Beauty and the Beast
Golden Apple Dinner Theater

Belle means beautiful. The name so aptly describes not only the heroine of Beauty and the Beast but also Heather Beirne, who portrays her and sings so beautifully in Golden Apple's enchanting production. Because the story's so well known, suspense lies in how it will unfold. Director Ben Turoff produces pleasure with every "pleat" -- from the posturing of Belle's unwanted suitor, conceited Gaston (boisterously bragging Stephen John Day), to the Beast learning to be a gentleman toward her and his servants.

Marie J. Kilker
Beauty And The Beast
Weidner Center

Disney has taken over plenty in the entertainment world, so it shouldn't have been a surprise when they moved onto Broadway with adaptations of their animated musicals.  Beauty and the Beast is an uneven experience, full of bright lights and spectacle, but not much meat for me to chew on.  The story is familiar: young woman meets a savage man-beast, is first frightened by him and then learns to love him.  The Disney version gave life to inanimate objects, all of which are featured in the stage play.  It feels like two shows in one; there's the original Disney material, and there are

Ed Huyck
Beauty And The Beast
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

Technical wizardry and scenic design dominate the current production of Beauty and the Beast, which is now making its initial Milwaukee appearance. The Disney musical made its Wisconsin debut in Green Bay about a year ago, and it also has played in nearby Chicago. Of course, the Broadway production is still going strong in its fifth year. That longevity says a lot about the Disney mystique, which has turned a simple fable into a slick, well-paced and dazzling theatrical production.

Anne Siegel
Beauty And The Beast
Fireside, The

As the show begins, young audience members squeal in recognition as their favorite cartoon film characters come to life. Leah Berry as "Belle" gives us an attractive character with spunk and spice. Her beastly suitor looks sufficiently hideous (but not too hideous to scare the youngsters). As the Beast, Stephen Mitchell Brown displays a wide range of emotions from beneath that furry exterior. Brown has a fine singing voice, too. He soars in the first act finale, "If I Can't Love Her." The supporting cast delivers uniformly polished performances as well.

Anne Siegel
Beauty Queen Of Leenane, The
Steppenwolf Theater

In Mag and Maureen Folan, the protagonists of The Beauty Queen Of Leenane, Martin McDonagh has created what may be the most unpleasant mother and daughter since A Taste Of Honey. These two harridans languish in a Sam-Shepard-With-Brogues family dynamic characterized by a torpid malaise whose only amusement is derived from annoying one another.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Pillowman, The
New World Stage

What you don't want to happen is to be interrogated by a
"good cop/bad cop" routine in a totalitarian country. That's exactly
what happens to Katurian (Jeffrey Jones) in Ion Theatre's current offering of
Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman. Claudio Raygoza is directing.

Robert Hitchcox
No Man's Land
Odyssey Theater

 The terrors of old age permeate the text of Harold Pinter's 1975 play, No Man's Land. First performed at the Old Vic with Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud in the lead roles (directed by Peter Hall), the drama has now been revived at Odyssey Theater Ensemble with Lawrence Pressburger and Alan Mandell doing the honors as Hirst and Spooner, respectively. The director is Michael Peretzian.

Willard Manus
Come Back, Little Sheba
Biltmore Theater

In Come Back, Little
William Inge captures a reality and makes the ordinary engaging and
dramatic as a lonely middle-aged woman, beautifully played by S. Epatha
Merkerson, trapped in a blank, unloved marriage, interacts with her off-center
girl boarder, a quirky Zoe Kazan, and her jock boyfriend. 

Richmond Shepard
Glengarry Glen Ross
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Quadracci Powerhouse Theater

Although most Milwaukee
theatergoers may be more familiar with the 1992 film of Glengarry Glen
, with its star-studded cast including Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon and
Alec Baldwin, it's truly the original Pulitzer Prize-winning play that provides
a more visceral and edge-of-your-seat experience. The play, which premiered at
Chicago's Goodman Theater in 1984, is about the dealings in a

Anne Siegel
Death and Taxes
Sunshine Brooks Theater

A town council meeting can't be much more fun than when the
whole council is suspected in the murder of an out-of-towner. Pat Cook's Death
and Taxes,
the current offering at Oceanside's
, involves the audience in
the search for the murderer.  

Robert Hitchox
Little Mermaid, The
Lunt-Fontanne Theater

You can't win 'em all. Not even Disney. I'd blame much of the failure of The Little Mermaid (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, book by Dour Wright), which seems geared to eight year olds, on the director, Francesca Zambello and choreographer Stephen Mear.

Richmond Shepard
Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland
Ontological-Hysteric Theater - St. Mark's Church

Notes on Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland (A Richard Foreman Theater
Machine), which Foreman wrote, designed, directed (stage and film) and created
the sound for:
Mysteriousness and obscurity as images are projected or

Richmond Shepard
Homecoming, The
Cort Theater

Director Daniel Sullivan does Harold Pinter proud in the current production of The Homecoming. His meticulous direction of this profound but delicate play is impeccable, and his marvelous cast beautifully acts the complex twists of our most obscure yet revealing playwright. The negativity, the viciousness of the father (Ian McShane) holds the play together as his loser brother (Michael McKean) and three sons (Raul Esparza, Gareth Saxe, James Frain) interact in the family manse with a visiting wife (Eve Best, who can be more sexy doing nothing than any wriggler on Broadway).

Richmond Shepard
Beauty Queen Of Leenane, The
Steppenwolf Theater

Martin McDonagh is a brilliant 28-year-old Irish playwright who has a great future ahead of him.  He was recently represented on Broadway with The Lonesome West, and Northlight Theater in Skokie did an excellent job with his second play, The Cripple of Inishmaan.  His most celebrated work, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, is set in the small impoverished town of Leenane, County Galway.  Maureen, played by Laurie Metcalf, is a 40-year-old virgin who cares for her aging mother.  Mag, played by Aideen O'Kelly, is manipulative and always complaining.  At first she strikes the a

Richard Allen Eisenhardt
Beauty Queen Of Leenane, The
Actors Theater of Louisville

Vicious old Mag Folan is cagily and savagely brought to contemptible life by ATL veteran Adale O'Brien in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's gripping tale of mother-daughter animosity and dependence. Emotionally fragile daughter Maureen, age 40, stuck in their isolated village with the demanding harridan, yearns for escape and comes close to achieving it but for Mag's spiteful scheming that brings doom crashing down on both of them.

Charles Whaley
Beauty Queen Of Leenane, The
Milwaukee Rep - Stiemke Theater

The Milwaukee Repertory Theater has back-to-back hits in January/February, with Of Mice and Men playing on the main stage  and The Beauty Queen of Leenane in the smaller, more intimate Stiemke Theater.  The plays, though separated by more than 60 years, share marked similarities.  Loneliness, isolation, desperation and love of the land weave the plays together, though the circumstances couldn't be further apart.  Beauty Queen takes place in a small house in rural Ireland, where a mother and daughter lead a bleak existence, not much different from the drifters in Of M

Anne Siegel
Becoming Adam
Children's Theater of Charlotte

The futuristic setting of Becoming Adam is a collective where conformity is prized and individuality is outlawed.  People don't even have names  In this synthetic Eden, our heroine finds a book and convinces the man she fancies to read it.  As in the biblical story, his eyes are opened irrevocably, and he becomes human.  For their temerity and turpitude, they are expelled from their commune.  Composer/playwright Jason Rhyne sharpens the topicality by adding a non-musical frame.  Mark Sutton, the only post-collegian in the cast, sits frozen onstage before the story begins, undergoing

Perry Tannenbaum
Bed and Sofa
Cygnet Theater

Immediately dial 619-337-1525 for your reservations to Cygnet's production of Bed and Sofa, a theatrical event you must see.

Robert Hitchcox
Bed And Sofa
Goldman Theater of Morris Cafritz Center

Last season I was privileged to see the production of  this "silent movie opera" at New York's Vineyard Theater. I was so impressed I hesitated to attend the inaugural production at the Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts in Washington's lavishly renovated Jewish Community Center. No need for faint heart. Artistic Director Hoeflich has directed an exquisite show.

Barbara Gross
Theater in Old Town

It's the 60s. You're sitting in your favorite cafe. At the end of your booth is a table-mounted jukebox record selector. You flip through the selections and pick your favorites and drop a nickel into the slot. Now imagine that image ten feet tall up-stage center and you're at The Theater in Old Town's latest offering, Beehive.

Robert Hitchcox
Mary G. Steiner Egyptian Theater

Last summer, the Egyptian Theater Company got a great idea: Why not stage a couple of musicals in repertory throughout the summer? That way short-term visitors would get to enjoy one show, and residents or those who were around longer could see a couple of them. They called the program Summer TheatreFest, and the idea was so popular that this season it returns with two new, quite diverse musicals.

Barbara Bannon
Florida Studio Theater - Keating Mainstage

When white Irish American Thomas Gibbons appropriated black African-American slang to title his play, Bee-Luther-Hatchee, was it presumptive and maybe an attempt to be deceptive? Or artistic and justified? His play poses similar questions as it presents "an absurd or ironic situation," as well as a "last stop after a train to a folkloric Biblical hell" - the title's meanings.

Marie J. Kilker
Off Broadway Theater

Next Act Theater opens its 12th season in Milwaukee with a provocative new work, Bee-Luther-Hatchee. It's clear why this play appealed to Next Act, a company that often delves into issues of gender, race and family relationships. In Bee-Luther-Hatchee, Shelita Burns, a young African-American woman, publishes the memoirs of Libby Price, a 72-year-old first-time author. The book, "Bee-Luther-Hatchee," tells of Libby's life in the South.

Anne Siegel
Being Beautiful
Bailiwick Arts Center

That it's a history play based in documented fact would be enough to distinguish McKinley Johnson's account of female impersonators working in Chicago's Depression-era cabarets. But a serviceable roster of songs composed by Johnson and collaborator Stephanie Newsom, in addition to a variety of dances choreographed by the legendary Joel Hall, lend an air of cheerful fantasy, even as the hard decisions faced by Afton Cousins in pursuit of his destiny keep us firmly grounded in social responsibility.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Belle Of Amherst, The
Playhouse Theater

The Belle Of Amherst is worth seeing under any circumstance, and especially so when we attended on the 75th birthday of its star, Julie Harris.  Miss Harris won a Tony Award for this portrayal 24 years ago -- her unprecedented fifth Tony as Best Actress -- and she told us yesterday that this tour will be the last times she'll do the role.

Steve Cohen
Belle Of Amherst, The
Victoria Theater at Newark Performing Arts Center

What a joy it is that Julie Harris has been touring with The Belle of Amherst. Younger readers may not know that Ms. Harris portrays Emily Dickinson in William Luce's one-woman play, which incorporates her poems into the monologue.  This partnering of actress, director and playwright is a classic and distinctly American landmark.  It gave new life both to the legend of the poetess and to the solo form when it opened in 1977, directed -- as it is now -- by Charles Nelson Reilly.

Steve Capra
Bells Are Ringing
Golden Apple Dinner Theater

In the 1950s, instead of voice mail, there were answering services. Callers gave messages to real people who conveyed them to subscribers. Comden and Green, inspired by such a woman handling their messages from a dingy brownstone basement, replicated her fictionally as Ella working for Susanswerphone. They tailored Ella to fit the talents of old friend Judy Holliday. Both star and situation rang true in the NYC of their day, accounting for a long Broadway success and subsequent transfer to film.

Marie J. Kilker
Below The Belt
Steep Theater

Who really associates Ionesco and his kin with a social context? Isn't it easier -- and safer -- to nowadays look upon those mid-century protests simply as showcases for imaginative technique? But neo-absurdist Richard Dresser's social context is not so comfortably ignored: three "company men" stranded in a foreign country, employed in the manufacture of something they know only by its toxic effect on the local environs, their lives circumscribed by the prison-like bureaucracy their employers impose on them.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Ben Franklin: Unplugged
Saint Cecilla's Playhouse

Do not miss Josh Kornbluth's Red Diaper Trilogy! Kornbluth writes with wit, delivers with gusto. His monologues demand your constant attention. The delivery moves from rapid fire to deliberate, well-placed pauses that allow the audience time to absorb this huge talent's output. The trilogy includes Red Diaper Baby, The Mathematics of Change and Ben Franklin: Unplugged. Red Diaper Baby is a coming-of-age tale of Josh's experiences growing up as a child of Communist parents in New York City.

Robert Hitchcox
Beneath The Necessity Of Talking
National Black Theater Festival

After intermission at Divas of Performance, the high priestess of the choreopoem came with fresh gifts for her true believers -- and with a ceremonial pretension worthy of her high ministry.  Two divine dancers, Mickey Davidson and Imaniye Payne, added sublime movement to her words.  With scant new poetic material, the ethereal choreography was needed to stretch Shange's latest to a full 30 minutes.  Large patches of Spanish, French, and lists of historical figures deepened the mystery but not the meaning of all we saw in Beneath The Necessity of Talking.  Ntozake Shange receives and

Perry Tannenbaum
Sledgehammer Theater at Cecilia's Playhouse

Sledgehammer artistic director Kirsten Brandt takes pen in hand again, this time to create Berzerkergang. Known for her directorial accomplishments, Brandt turned the direction of her latest work over to Michael Severance and Jessa Watson.

Robert Hitchcox
Yale Repertory Theater

Under the discerning direction of Liz Diamond, the Yale Repertory Theater is presenting a meticulous production of Harold Pinter's Betrayal, which proves that the pen can be more cutting than the sword in this lethally-surgical examination of adultery.  Over the past 40 years, this English playwright, whose name is synonymous with modern theater literature, has written 16 plays, all of which are noted for their spare style, intense pauses and somewhat ambiguous plots.

Rosalind Friedman
Bets and Blue Notes

See review in Criticopia Regional under "Fritz Blitz 2007 - week 3"