Christmas Carol, A
88 Tremont Street

Upon its first publication in 1843, Dickens' A Christmas Carol became an instant hit.  Since then, it has become the most popular and beloved story in English literature.  In the early years of our century, the allegorical novella spawned a dozen silent films.  The advent of sound brought nearly 150 audiovisual versions.  Starting in 1934, it was a family tradition for two decades to listen to Lionel Barrymore portray Ebenezer Scrooge annually on CBS radio.  The work has been turned into countless straight stage adaptations, musicals, parodies, and animated cartoons - a parade that s

Caldwell Titcomb
Christmas Carol, A
Guthrie Theater

Maybe it's the looming holiday season, but my reaction to the Guthrie Theater's 25th production of A Christmas Carol is a decided bah, humbug.  The adaptation of Charles Dickens' venerable tale has all the hallmarks of a classic, from a sumptuous set to talented actors to a bevy of special effects.  But the whole enterprise has left me empty instead of uplifted.  It isn't the actors' fault.  A talented cast -- led by Philip Goodwin as Scrooge -- wrestle plenty of humanity out of the Christmas tale.  Scrooge is given some extra depth, especially in scenes with the woman he loves -- an

Ed Huyck
Christmas Carol, A
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Pabst Theater

One of America's favorite holiday traditions, A Christmas Carol comes to life each year in Milwaukee's Pabst Theater, a beautifully restored, historic theater in the heart of downtown.  This is the 25th annual production staged by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  Traditions are not to be tinkered with, and the Rep has remained faithful to the spirit and the story of Ebenezer Scrooge.  This recent adaptation by the Rep's artistic director, Joseph Hanreddy, is an audience-pleasing triumph that weaves traditional holiday carols into the timeless tale.  Many of the songs are historic En

Anne Siegel
Christmas Carol, A
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Pabst Theater

As a holiday gift to its hometown, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater has invested more than $1 million in revamping its traditional holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Much of the cash went into hiring a set designer and costumer with Broadway credits, and in the process of translating their vision to the stage. The money was well spent. The New Yorkers (in conjunction with dozens of local and regional theater artisans) have created an enchanting and authentic look for this production.

Anne Siegel
Christmas Carol, A
Pabst Theater

Few regional theaters have capitalized on the public's eagerness to see A Christmas Carol more than the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. This year the company stages its 29th consecutive year of A Christmas Carol in Milwaukee's gloriously renovated Pabst Theater. Over the years, more than a million people have seen the Rep's version of Dickens' timeless fable. Yet it still manages to satisfy as few other holiday shows can. Although small things are constantly changed from year to year, the overall effect remains the same.

Anne Siegel
Christmas Revels, The
Cahn Auditorium

It's not often one hears "Shalom Chaverim" sung in a program purporting to replicate a medieval Christmas Revel in celebration of the winter solstice. But at the Revel on the campus of Evanston's Northwestern University, the Jewish song shares equal time with "Dona Nobis Pacem" under the collective title "Canons Of Peace". Anyway, Sidney Carter's "Lord Of The Dance"' -- set to a traditional Shaker hymn -- leads audiences up the aisles at intermission, so authenticity is no stricter than necessary to give us a feel for our milieu.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Christmas Revels, The
Cahn Auditorium

Revelers expecting a repeat of last year's Medieval Solstice-themed show were in for a surprise -- the program for 2001 was still rooted in Anglo-Celtic heritage, but the setting this time was a pub in Ireland finding itself playing host to a band of Welsh wayfarers. The entertainments engendered by this meeting likewise reflected major improvements over the ingenuousness of the Revel's debut in 2000.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Christmas Schooner, The
Bailiwick Arts Center

The CD of The Christmas Schooner might make the lyrics on the chorus numbers more intelligible, but nothing matches the scope of Bailiwick Rep's thrilling wintry sea-storm, conjured on the Penrods' cinema-sized vessel by a company whose teamwork serves to define ensemble playing, nor the engaging exuberance of its crew rejoicing in their safe arrival on shore.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Christmas Schooner, The
Bailiwick Arts Center

Despite its overwhelming commercial success since premiering in 1995, the question of whether The Christmas Schooner is to be a solemn historical pageant or a razzle-dazzle musical has made for an uneven progression in its development. But Phil Gigante recognizes the fundamental task of a director is to make everything look like it belongs on the same stage and has assembled a meticulously-integrated show, playful without being cloying, with carefully-crafted personalities and stage business rooted therein assigned each last chorus member.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Cigarettes And Chocolate
Olney Theater Center

The cold winter that has gripped Washington is not more biting than the voice of the Potomac Theater Project, back with works designed to illuminate "the nightmares and hoaxes by which we live." These never-say-die radicals have earned a loyal audience, who for nearly a decade followed the peripatetic troupe from space to space. As of 1995, when Co-Producer Jim Petosa was named Artistic Director of the Olney Theater, PTP had a home. The three producers, each of whom directs one play per season, have opted to stage their shows in unconventional locations on Olney's grounds.

Barbara Gross
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

While parents may have a problem finding magic in this hybrid  Cinderella, which tries to blend classic and contemporary elements, today's kids will probably love it. At least mine did. Although the rags-to-riches story is firmly entrenched in the current production, the show bears little resemblance to what audiences probably remember best: the 1965 TV version starring Lesley Ann Warren, or the most recent TV remake in 1997 featuring an African-American cast, including Brandy and Whitney Houston. Not that the story mattered one whit to the kids.

Anne Siegel
Cirque du Soleil - Mystere
Mystere Theater

Las Vegas seems the perfect venue for this colorful, glitzy extravaganza.  Part circus, part theater, and a whole lot of pizzazz -- "Mystere" is a spectacle of sight, sound, and sensation.  It is essentially a series of astonishing feats of physical strength and agility accompanied by spectacular lighting, costumes, and special effects.  The live music adds another dimension, heightening the aura of excitement.  Each of the acts is unique so that it is almost impossible to single one out above any other.  Among these remarkable performances is the balancing act of "Hand to Hand", the visual

Irene Herman

(see review(s) under Cirque du Soleil: Mystere)

Clarence Darrow's Last Trial
New Theater

Shirley Lauro's Clarence Darrow's Last Trial is getting its world-premiere production in South Florida, and there's reasonable doubt that audiences at New Theater in Coral Gables will go away satisfied. The play is based on a 1930s murder trial notorious for its allegations and clash of cultures -- gang rape, murder, a well-connected family from America's Deep South, white U.S. sailors in a pre-statehood Hawaii. Into this steps Darrow, the legendary defender of otherwise lost causes, whose best days by this time are behind him.

Julie Calsi
Clockwork Orange, A
Storefront Theater - Gallery 37

Being Defiant Theater's swan song, A Clockwork Orange can be seen as a metaphor for the group's 10-year history. With most of Defiant's cast already moved on, this production had some new-comers -- particularly Jarrett Sleeper, who plays Alex, the story's main character. But besides this young exception, Defiant is now like that last part of the play. Where before they were the young, violent and shocking Alex, they are now the reformed and settled-down Alex, who has grown up, married, has kids and holds a job.

Kevin Henely
Mark Taper Forum

Patrick Marber's caustic portrait of love in our time focuses on two
intertwined London couples and their struggles to stay together in the
face of their own failings: infidelity, obsessive behavior and self
destructiveness.  Marber, considered the heir to Pinter and Stoppard,
writes in distinctive, post-modern fashion: staccato dialogue, wise-ass
humor, minimal exposition, extreme sexual frankness, sketchy character
development.  He is also fixated on addiction; his first play, Dealer's Choice, dealt with gambling and booze; Closer

Robert Hitchcox
Game On
Actors Theater of Louisville

Somewhere in deepest Africa, about ten thousand years ago, an ancient man proposed a contest:

 Who the farthest a rock could throw,
 And that auspicious occasion, I am happy
to report  
the end of our animal nature
  For on that day we gave birth to sport.

Charles Whaley
Bluebonnet Court
Diversionary Theater

If you traveled in the States prior to the 60s, you probably stayed at small roadside motel quite similar to the Bluebonnet Court. If it had a neon sign, it wasn't working properly. You could pull your car up next to your cabin. You may have even met a Lila Jean Webb or Roy Glen Webb. Welcome to playwright Zsa Zsa Gershick's Austin, Texas, circa spring of 1944.

Robert Hitchcox
Little Night Music, A
Old Town Theater

Going to the Old Town Theater is like visiting an old friend. Great sight lines, nice stage, tiny lobby, and, well, the restrooms are inadequate. Great news, though: Cygnet Theater is taking over the facility, introducing their audiences to it with the production of Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music. Then, they'll close it down for some serious renovations.

Robert Hitchcox
Let the Eagle Fly
Southwestern Community College

"Viva la causa!" 

In the early '60s, Cesar
Chavez began a drive to organize the farm workers in Delano,
. In 1970, the first-ever
contract between the California
grape farmers and the United Farm Workers was signed. Let the Eagle
is the story of this struggle and a look into the life of Chavez
beginning in 1938 when he was 11 years old and his brother Richard was 9.

Robert Hitchcox
Man Who Lost the River, The
Sunshine Brooks Theater

The Man Who Lost the River is a one-man
show with a cast of 10. We refer to this man who, at 74, couldn't get back to
the Missouri River, as Mark Twain. He is content with
just plain Sam Clemens, a one-time writer, now tired and written out. His two
really big hits, about boys Tom and Huck, were published in 1876 and 1885, 25
and more years back. 

Robert Hitchcox
Broadway Theater Center - Cabot Theater

before there were shows such as TV's "American Idol," there was another disillusioned
woman who thought she could sing. But unlike today's memorable TV contestants
who are criticized by the show's judges, Florence Foster Jenkins had no such
limitations. Instead, Ms. Jenkins went on to fame and fortune and became
somewhat of an oddball celebrity in the 1940s.
How bad was her voice,
anyway? This woman's singing was so awful that to call her "tone deaf" would be

Anne Siegel
Saga of the Falsely Reformed Degenerate, The
North Park Vaudeville

What genre of theater is meant to be bad? What scripts are
designed to cause audiences to boo and hiss? Yes, melodramas! Playwright Summer
Golden's opus, Momsy's Bad Boy or, The Saga of the
Falsely Reformed Degenerate
totally qualifies. Producer Jeff Bushnell's
introductory comments implore the audience to boo and hiss the villain and all
villainy and cheer and rave at the hero and heroine and all acts of goodness.

Robert Hitchcox
Hot Mikado, The
Historic Asolo Theater

In more ways than one, WBTT's Hot Mikado is a mixed bag. The vehicle itself blends a 19th-century operetta with 20th-century swing, jazz, R & B, and gospel. Onstage, a pagoda flanked by bridges and flowery trees denotes Japan. But it's occupied by Black Americans ruled by an Imperial (also imperious) Mikado (Nate Jacobs, like Cab Calloway with muted hi-dee-hoeing). Everyone has Japanese names, and most wear colorful, flowery kimonos, though the "Gentlemen of Japan" jive in multicolored-striped zoot suits. Brass rules!

Marie J. Kilker
Closet Land
Olney Theater Center

The advisory posted in the lobby stated "Absolutely no children will be admitted." Midway through the show, I wished I qualified, so I could be home safely watching the game. Closet Land is hard on spectators and apparently painful for the actors as well, since the curtain call found them with wet eyes and tense faces. Within the intimate space, there was no escaping the intensity of the brutal interrogation withstood by the Woman (a delicately lovely Shannon Parks) from her tormentor, the Man (Paul Morella, malevolently alternating between good and bad cop).

Barbara Gross
Cloud Nine
Diversionary Theater

Cloud 9: Act I: 1880, Plantation in Africa. The height of British imperialism.  Act II: 1980, London. While taking place 100 years later, three continuing characters age a mere 25 years. While technology has taken quantum leaps, human social progress has barely moved. Confused yet?

Robert Hitchcox
Clue: The Musical
Derby Dinner Playhouse

Many a murder mystery in book, play, or TV form has baffled me pleasurably up to the point where the guilty party is finally exposed.

Charles Whaley
Cocktail Hour, The
Bunbury Theater

WASPS -- the derisive acronym pinned on white Anglo-Saxon Protestants in our diverse society -- may, as some contend, be a dying breed, but playwright A. R. Gurney has found them to be fertile ground for canny observations throughout his career. The Cocktail Hour, in Bunbury Theatre's hugely enjoyable production, crisply directed by Juergen K. Tossmann, is classic Gurney, in which he gently kids but also uncovers certain values in the culture that produced him.

Charles Whaley
Cocktail Party, The
Patio Playhouse

Patio Playhouse's current production, T. S. Eliot's Tony-winning play, The Cocktail Party, staged by Richard Gant, opens closes with a cocktail party.  In between, the play ponderously explores relationships, morality, and bad cooking. Why is the hostess missing? What is her husband's relationship with one of the guests? Who is the stranger at the party? Who is deceiving whom?

Robert Hitchcox
Les Ephemeres
Cartoucherie - Theatre du Soleil

Note: Reviewed in January 2007 but then revised after a return visit in April 2008] 

As the title implies, scenes played by actors
from recollections of their own experiences pass like vignettes set in changing
times. On a runway between two galleries where spectators become like mirroring
Daumier sketches, roll out petits mondes ("little worlds")
from one to three at a time. Actors, crouching, propel and constantly turn the

Marie J. Kilker
By the Bog of Cats
Venice Little Theater - Pinkerton Stage II

With its Medea theme obvious from the start, there's little doubt what will happen in By the Bog of Cats. A gypsy-like bog denizen, Hester Swane (Sara Trembly,powerfully pagan) has been Carthage Kilbride's lover for years. She's killed to make him a success. She's had and raised his child , Josie (restrained, at ease Alexa Ditaranto), 7. Now Carthage (Mike DeSantis, well spoken but not old enough for the part) is about to marry young Caroline (beautiful, sensitive Chelsey Panisch), daughter of rich Xavier Cassidy (imposing Tom Bahring).

Marie J. Kilker
Second Stage Theater

Crowns is an exhilarating evening of music and message. Emblazoned around the edge of the proscenium is the following credo: "OUR CROWNS HAVE BEEN BOUGHT AND PAID FOR: ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS WEAR THEM." The "crowns" are hats that the women in this all-black cast wear with pride, dignity, steely determination and a healthy dose of pure vanity! Through them, an entire culture is revealed, as is the psyche of the women wearing them. "We are queens and these are our crowns" they proudly state.

Jeannie Lieberman
Cry From The City Of Virgins, A
Japan Society

Even though there seem to be many outward differences, experimental theater in Japan coming out of the turbulent 1960s had a trajectory similar to that in the West. "Underground" playwright Juro Kara's seminal Cry of Virgins, in 1969, capped a decade of ferment in society and the arts. Here presented in its US premiere, this drama cum musical has passed through several revisions, the latest in 1993 for the Shinjuku Ryozanpaku Theater Company, which made its American debut with these performances at Japan Society.

David Lipfert
Cuban Operator Please
Teatro 309, Charas/El Bohio

 Adrian Rodriguez paints a very personal picture of the Cuban exile community, a very different one from what filled our TV screens earlier this year. Father (Jose Antonio) has lived in Union City, Cuba's "northernmost province" since leaving his country. Now married with two sons, he has worked long hours in an embroidery factory to support his family. The transition to life in the U.S. has left him taciturn and unable to show emotion except when playing baseball, his passion.

David Lipfert
Current Events
Manhattan Theater Club - Stage II

Jason Clark
Lucille Lortel Theater

 Well-intentioned, occasionally lively mounting ultimately thwarted by an uneven cast and the schematic nature of the play itself. After 3 ½ hours that feel like four, we need the poignance of Winter's Tale or the burlesque joy of Midsummer Night's Dream and not just a pleasantly happy ending.

Best touch: the comic villain's fabricated horse, which rides up and down the aisles and even swishes its tail.

David Lefkowitz
Collected Stories
FSU/Asolo Conservatory in Cook Theater

 Asolo's Producing Artistic Director has saved his company's best-of-season for its end, a play with poetic ambiguity in a crystalline, compelling production. A relationship grows between a writer/teacher who begins as a tough, almost unwilling mentor and a student who mirrors her own talent when younger but is otherwise rapturously enthusiastic and pushy. The two become colleagues and, in mother-to-daughter fashion, share their feelings and experiences. Then, near her professional and physical end, Ruth feels her life and talent usurped by Lisa with a first novel.

Marie J. Kilker
Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Sixth at Penn Theater

I was just taken on the emotional rollercoaster ride of my life. It seems these six lovely ladies, who graduated from high school just two years after me, decided to have a 20-year reunion on September 30, 1975. Those gals really knew how to party. We were all at the five and dime an' Sissy (Leigh Scarritt) brought the Lone Star. I don't know who brought the bourbon, but Stella May (Wendy Waddell) was swigging it like it were water. Man, that woman can drink.

Robert Hitchcox
33 Variations
La Jolla Playhouse

This reviewer will admit to being a lover of Beethoven, which will no doubt color this review. Playwright/Director Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations brings the story of Beethoven's "Diabelli Variations" to stage. Loosely based on music publisher Anton Diabelli's request of Beethoven and others to write variations on his 45-second waltz, Beethoven went on to write 33 variations over a period of several years.

Robert Hitchcox
Thirty-Three Variations

(see all listings under "33 Variations")