Barefoot in the Park
Charlotte Rep - Booth Playhouse

Everything about Charlotte Rep's new production of Barefoot in the Park is smartly done. So I enjoyed myself, despite the fact that I never saw a single compelling reason why Rep had revived Simon's lightweight comedy. Milking yuks from a 40-year-old script isn't nearly the same as demonstrating enduring relevance -- or making good on the promise in Rep's season brochure to present a "fresh look" at the 1963 smash. Breach of promise, if you ask me.

Perry Tannenbaum
Barnum
Players

With red and gold predominating and circus paraphenalia on stage and side stages, The Players of Sarasota might be performing under the Big Top.  Problem: guests from Sailor Circus don't appear until the rousing "Follow the Band," so the antics are indeed mild for a town noted for circus.  This does not apply to Steve Dawson as the dauntless Barnum, who leaps onto the central platform to "defend the noble art of humbug."  He takes our vote, and eyes, whether he's performing magic tricks, bouncing on a trampoline or skimming along a high wire.  He persuades us a kid (slick Geoffrey Hefflefin

Marie J. Kilker
Barrymore
Theater Works

With such props as table and throne, swords, a rack of costumes and a full length mirror, scattered in disarray, the stage is aptly set for rehearsal of a revival of Richard III -- one that will never take place.  Ed Dennehy as John Barrymore, a month before his 1942 death, lopes through the house in a raincoat, with raffishly tilted hat, cane in one hand, "medicinal" black bag in the other.  Off-color limericks roll off his tongue, as do snatches of memories of his career and relationships with his illustrious theatrical family and four wives.  What he can't remember are his lines,

Marie J. Kilker
Barrymore
Weiss Arts Center

Barrymore is a tour de force for an accomplished actor, who gets to play John Barrymore at the end of his career and life.  It requires a performer of considerable talents.  Since William Luce's play ran on Broadway with Christopher Plummer (in a Tony-winning performance), Dennis Parlato has a tough act to follow.  Yet he surprises and delights as the dissolute, charming and great thespian. A veteran of the Summerfun Company some years back, Parlato has gone on to several Broadway musicals. 

Donald Collester
Barrymore
Milwaukee Repertory Theater - Stiemke Theater

As a finale to its 50th anniversary season, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater offers Barrymore, staged in the Rep's intimate, black-box performance space. Written by William Luce, the one-man play chronicles the rise and fall of John Barrymore, the famous younger brother of Lionel and Ethel. Today, John Barrymore is little more than a historical footnote, known best as someone related to actress Drew Barrymore. But long before a teenage Drew had her problems with drugs and alcohol, John was wrestling with his own demons.

Anne Siegel
Bartenders
Theatre/Theater

Louis Mustillo, a veteran character actor ("High Incident"), comes from a bartending family and has spent time behind "the stick" himself.  He puts his twin talents to good use in Bartenders, a one hour monologue comprised of five sharply etched portraits of modern-day barkeeps.  Mustillo uses his strong voice and moon-shaped but expressive face to bring these different barmen to life.  One is a colorful, slangy New Yorker who loves working at a businessman's bar where a choice quip and a flattering remark produce regular and generous tips; another is a lonely, drunken oldtimer who w

Willard Manus
Bash
Canon Theater

Neil LaBute's trio of riveting monologues in Bash share a common setup: a seemingly ordinary, innocent person reveals dark, evil secret in banal, deadpan fashion.  In the first monologue, "Medea Redux," Calista ("Ally McBeal") Flockhart turns in a skilled performance as a young woman sitting in a pool of harsh light and recounting for the police how and why she came to kill her small child.  The monologue describes her seduction at 13 by her high school science teacher, an act that contrasts her sweet, trusting humanity against his unctuous, cynical nature.  Pushed to the breaking po

Willard Manus
Bat Boy
Don Powell Theater


Robert Hitchcox
Bat Boy
Actors' Guild of Lexington


Charles Whaley
Bat Boy
Adrienne Theater


Steve Cohen
Bat Boy
Theater Three


Rita Faye Smith
Bat Boy
Broadway Theater Center - Studio Theater


Anne Siegel
Batch
Actors Theater of Louisville

After seeing Batch: An American Bachelor/ette Party Spectacular, the sixth play in the 31st annual Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theater of Louisville, you're likely to have second thoughts about taking part in one of those pre-nuptial rituals. But do, by all means, see Batch, performed in an arena in The Connection nightclub downtown by an incredible Philadelphia group called New Paradise Laboratories, who created it. New Paradise director Whit MacLaughlin conceived the piece with Los Angeles playwright Alice Tuan, who did the text.

Charles Whaley
Beads, Bangles and Baggy Pants
Adams Avenue of the Arts

Burlesque: a humorous and provocative stage show feature slapstick humor, comic skits, bawdy songs, striptease acts, and a scantily clad female chorus. Center Stage Players delivers just that in their new production, Beads, Bangles and Baggy Pants. What they don't deliver is a show ready for an audience. If this type of production interests you, wait a few weeks, closer to the end of the run, which is August 21, 2005.

Robert Hitchcox
Beard Of Avon, The
South Coast Repertory

Amy Freed's contribution to the "who wrote Shakespeare" controversy is a sometimes sharp and witty, sometimes dubious and too-cute comedy that receives an A-level production at its SCR world premiere. Sparkling performances by Mark Harelik (as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford), Douglas Weston (as Shakespeare) and Nike Doukas (as Queen Elizabeth) help lift the text and make it fly, though not without much flapping of wings.

Willard Manus
Beard Of Avon, The
Cape Playhouse

There have long been multiple theories about who wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. In this play (which has understandably received many productions since its 2001 premiere in California), Amy Freed has great fun toying with several possibilities. The result (under Russ Treyz's fast-moving direction) is clever, witty, sexy and unflaggingly entertaining, with nine adept performers taking on fifteen roles.

Caldwell Titcomb
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
Beatrice
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
Beauty
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
Fences
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
Sheba,
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
Ross
, 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
SunshineBrooks
Theater
, 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

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