Beehive
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
Bee-Luther-Hatchee
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
Bee-Luther-Hatchee
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
Berzerkergang
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
Betrayal
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"

Between Men and Cattle
Off-Broadway Theater

Wisconsin-based playwright Richard Kalinoski explores the racial divide between black and white in Between Men and Cattle. The premise of this oddly titled play is an intriguing one, involving an articulate black boy and an eager white reporter who is dazzled by the boy's sensitivity. However, for a number of reasons, the play fails to get off the ground. This does not reflect on the talents of director David Cecsarini nor the excellent cast. The fault is firmly embedded in the script, which talks at the audience instead of compelling us to feel for these two lost characters.

Anne Siegel
Beyond Dorothy Parker
Actors Theater of Louisville - Victor Jory Theater

As Dorothy Parker once said to her boyfriend, 'fare the well,' Ella Fitzgerald croons on the recording played just before the lights come up on the world premiere of Beyond Dorothy Parker, a one-woman play written and directed by Barbara H.

Charles Whaley
Beyond Therapy
Poway Performing Arts Company

Christopher Durang creates very strange, often incisive, plays, but they can also be obscure, with dialogue stylized and motivations fuzzy. Beyond Therapy, currently on the boards at PowPAC Theater under the direction of Marjorie Mae Treger, is a baffler. It's the story of a couple who met through an ad, and now both are going through therapy. Durang further obscures their relationship by the fact that he is bisexual, with a jealous boy friend, and she has gone to bed with her therapist. The author doesn't seem to have much regard for therapists.

Robert Hitchcox
Bible, The
Poway Performing Arts Company

Some subjects are believed to be sacrosanct. To the historian it could be the history of the United States, to the scholar, probably the great works of literature; to the thespian it would be Shakespeare, and to the fervent Christian, it is The Bible. Thus, all these subjects are fodder for the writing and performing skills of The Reduced Shakespeare Company.

Robert Hitchcox
Bible, The
Cabot Theater

One of the creators of The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged) once stated that the purpose of the play was to put the "fun in fundamentalism." What they have achieved is a giddy, sophomoric send-up of the Great Book. Some of the "shtick" in Bible is as lame as a Jack Benny joke, while other moments are more inspired and indeed funny. It is not likely that audiences will leave the theater without finding at least something to tickle their funny bone.

Anne Siegel
Bicycle Country, A
Marilyn Monroe Theater - Strasberg Institute

The son of a political dissident jailed for a time by Castro, Nilo Cruz left Cuba with his parents when he was 10 years old and emigrated to the United States, where he eventually built a reputation as an outstanding young playwright (among his previous works are Graffiti, Dancing On Her Knees and The Museum of Dreams).  Cruz returns to his homeland in A Bicycle Country, which is set in the "Special Period," the years following the rupturing of relations between Cuba and the former Soviet Union in 1991.  Cut off from its subsidies, Cuba went into a severe economic and s

Willard Manus
Biedermann and the Firebugs
Cygnet Theater

Biedermann's physical world is a cartoon house replete with an asymmetrical dining table, a canted second floor, and unparallel everything. Near his house is a hilled, crystalline city rising several feet from the stage. Biedermann also lives in a world of denial, but he is about to be visited by two strangers. The city has been plagued with arsonists. Their MO is to plead homelessness, stay with their victim, and then burn the house to the ground, often causing collateral damage.

Robert Hitchcox
Big
Golden Apple Dinner Theater

If you think this is a resurrection of the perhaps too "Big" musical that failed on Broadway in 1996, you're in for a pleasant surprise. You'll find this a satisfactorily simplified theatrical version of the movie that should bring out the fun-loving child in you.

Marie J. Kilker
Big
Ritz Theater

This is a smaller Big and a delightful one.  It's a new production, using a script that's been adapted by director Art McKenzie.  The story of a kid whose wish to be grown-up is granted, for a while, was a wonderful film with Tom Hanks in 1988.  Then a lavish and costly musical version ran six months on Broadway in 1996.  FAO Schwartz put big bucks into the show, and director Mike Ockrent made it into a virtual commercial for the toy store.  After Big, The Musical closed, author John Weidman, songwriters David Shire and Richard Maltby, Jr.

Steve Cohen
Ten Minute Madness
North Park Vaudeville

Ten Minute Madness is an extension of the
very popular short-play festival held at North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe.
The major difference is that the proprietors, under GB Productions, selected
and directed all of the plays. The result is a higher degree of
professionalism, very good casting, and a more accomplished cast. 

The
downside, of course, is that the opportunity for brand-new, untested talent was
not showcased. The upside, of course, is higher production quality. More later.

Robert Hitchcox
Big Bang, The
Florida Studio Theater - Keating Mainstage

You're invited to a borrowed Manhattan apartment to a prospective backers' preview of the world's most expensive musical: a history of the universe. So get there early and up-front for the cheese and crackers. Soon all the food -- as well as utensils, lampshades, drapes, clock, dishes, plants, pillows, ottoman, chairs -- will become props and costumes for frantic Gary Marachek and smooth Wayne LeGette to act and sing out scenes from "The Big Bang" (in darkness) to a not too enlightened "Twentieth Century."

Marie J. Kilker
Big Bang, The
Theater Three

Put down the paper and read this review later -- after you've called Theater Three to reserve a seat for the funniest frenetic frivolity you're likely to see for a long time. The Big Bang, by Boyd Graham and Jed Feuer, opened in the intimate downstairs space Monday night for a limited run.
 

Rita Faye Smith
Big Love
Long Wharf Theater

Is it pretentious or is it fun?  This is the question I must ask about provocative and puzzling Big Love, written by Charles Mee, which was the hit of the 2000 Humana Festival of New American Plays, now on the Main Stage of the Long Wharf Theater.  The playwright, also an historian, has used for the basis of his wildly inventive-Millennium piece, the classic Greek fable, The Suppliant Women; by Aeschylus.  In this drama, thought to be the world's oldest, fifty sisters murder 50 brothers, in actuality, their cousins, rather than marry these young men with whom their families ha

Rosalind Friedman
Big Love
Actors Theater of Louisville

In an isolated villa on the coast of Italy, a most unusual story is developing.  Fifty sisters have fled their native Greece to escape marriage to 50 American brothers.  All they want, the sisterly leaders tell the perplexed residents of the villa, is safety.  But their suitors quickly follow.  That's the set up to Charles Mee's Big Love, which recently had an athletic and entertaining production at the Humana Festival of New American Plays.  Big Love -- from an opening nude scene to an end with bodies strewn on the stage -- pushes plenty of buttons, dealing with gender, relat

Ed Huyck
Big Love
Actors Theater of Louisville

During a critics weekend at the Humana Festival of New American Plays,Big Love was a clear favorite among the offerings.  It's a cleverly designed twist on an ancient Greek tragedy, in which 50 brides conspire to murder their fiances on their wedding night.  In this updated version, playwright Charles Mee uses the framework to wage a modern-day battle of the sexes.  Traces of "Men Are From Mars, Women are from Venus," are evident in the banter between the brides, led by Lydia (Carolyn Baeumler), and the grooms, including Constantine (Mark Zeisler), who is pledged to one of the sister

Anne Siegel
Big Love
Actors Theater of Louisville

Seven brides for seven brothers, as in the old MGM musical, is an idea one has little trouble handling.  Raise the number to 50 brides (all sisters!) for 50 brothers, as Charles L.

Charles Whaley
Big River
Marriott's Lincolnshire Theater

At best, Big River bears the same relationship to Mark Twain as Oliver! to Charles Dickens, but Apple Tree's recent production emphasized the story -- as much out of despair at staging big song-and-dance numbers in a tiny mallfront space as out of literary reverence (though the density of both Roger Miller's score and William Hauptman's text tend to discourage extended spectacles that could stretch the running time to Wagnerian lengths.) Marriott's audiences want Musicals, however; so its staging is focused on showcasing vocal talent, often compromising plot, period and plausi

Mary Shen Barnidge
Big River
Media Theater

The 1985 Tony Award-winning musical, Big River, is rarely revived. This limited-tour mounting by Rockwell Productions shows that it's a viable work and a crowd pleaser for family audiences. The story is the classic Mark Twain tale of Huckleberry Finn, with music and lyrics by the late Roger Miller. Huck narrates his adventures, starting in the Missouri home where he is being raised by his aunts because his mother has died and his alcoholic father has abandoned him.

Steve Cohen
Biloxi Blues
Sunshine Brooks Theater


Robert Hitchcox
Bird Sanctuary, The
Alabama Shakespeare Festival - Carolyn Blount Theater

You wouldn't know it from the way Eleanor Henryson has strewn flowers, paints, papers, table, chairs around the dingy room. Nor from the colored-photo-like portraits of a man against one side of the worn, flowery-papered back wall or the mother with her young children on the other. Eleanor has to tell you that this room overlooks a wonderful Dublin Bird Sanctuary. She's made herself a recluse, painting to memorialize it. So, too, she wants to preserve the house, once so handsome that Queen Victoria stopped to look in.

Marie J. Kilker
Birds, The
Yale Repertory Theater

The Yale School of Drama annually presents its Graduate Acting Class in a separate production from Yale Rep's regular schedule.  It is an event I've looked forward to and attended, with few exceptions, for more than 20 years, for it offers an opportunity to see potential stars of the future.  Many productions have been of Shakespeare plays, the most memorable one featuring Jane Kazmarek and Kate Burton.  This year, the choice is a free-wheeling adaptation of Aristophanes' classic, The Birds.  Written by Len Jenkin, playwright and teacher, and directed by Christopher Bayes, it employs

Rosalind Friedman
Birthday Suite
OnStage Playhouse

Not only does Birthday Suite fit the classical definition of farce, but Robin Hawdon's newest play, direct from the UK and under the talented direction of Bob Christensen, is hilarious. (Hawdon's Don't Dress for Dinner was well received a few years back.)

Robert Hitchcox
Black Comedy
Wilma Theater

When Black Comedy begins, the stage is in total darkness, but we hear actors moving about and talking normally, describing objects in a room - chairs, a piece of sculpture and so on û as if they see them clearly. Suddenly bright stage lights come on, as the characters exclaim: "Oh, a fuse must have blown. I can't see a thing."  This is the brilliant conceit that Peter Shaffer uses in this short comedy from early in his career. It is totally different from his dark, dramatic, best-known plays, Equus and Amadeus, and is a total delight. 

Steve Cohen
Black Nativity
Backlot Theater


Marie J. Kilker
Blackbird
Profiles Theater


Kevin Henely
Blithe Spirit
Legler Benbough Theater at USIU


Robert Hitchcox
Unexpected Man, The
Historic Asolo Theater

Banyan, having put down roots
as
Sarasota's special summer theater company, branches out with a
special brief winter treat for fans and to introduce itself to "season"
playgoers and new residents. Typically, the company chose a literary work. An
off-beat offering by Yasmina Reza, in a translation typically stamped by a Brit
who tends toward adaptation, The

Marie J. Kilker

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