Beauty of the Father
Manhattan Theater Club
Nilo Cruz's Beauty of the Father, now at Manhattan Theatre Club, is about a Spanish painter who converses with the ghost of Federico Garcia Lorca, the young man he is sexually involved with, his long-lost daughter whom he deserted as a child, and the woman friend with whom he shares his house.
Richmond Shepard
Belle Epoque
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

Martha Clarke's Belle Epoque is an impression of an Impressionist, Toulouse-Lautrec, and the costumes, dances, atmosphere of late 19th-Century French Cafe culture. Clarke creates living paintings with four-foot-tall Mark Povinelli as Lautrec. Stories about Lautrec range from the sentimental to the bizarre.

Richmond Shepard
Polly Bergen
Feintein's at the Regency

I know what you're thinking. You thought I was dead, says Polly Bergen, the 70-year-old, still-quite-beautiful-and-svelte singer who greeted the audience that was packed in like sardines at Feinstein's at the Regency. Bergen, who, for whatever reason, chose to leave the professional stage thirty five years ago at the peak of her popularity, has retained the smoky sensual and strong voice that made her the undisputed queen of smoke-filled (the good-old days) cabarets.

Simon Saltzman
Best Sex of the XX Century Sale, The
Theater For The New City
Experimental Theater doyen Lissa Moira's latest version of her creation, The Best Sex of the XX Century Sale, now at the Theater for the New City, is an amusing, absurdist history of sex in the 20th Century, with a lively cast of singers and dancers doing songs, decade by decade, of the progressing century -- movies, pop music and culture. Included are a "Boop-boopy-do" by Betty Boop and writer/director Moira herself as Mae West. Choreography by Mariana Bekerman is delightfully in tune with the proceedings.
Richmond Shepard
Betty Rules
Zipper Theater

Girls with electric guitars - even after Chrissie Hynde, Heart, the Bangles, etc. - it's still a relatively rare and empowering sight. So when Elizabeth Ziff cranks up her Gibson and giraffe-like Alyson Palmer thumps her thumb to the bass, there's a gusto and freedom present that goes beyond just the basic energy you get from hearing rock and roll. BETTY Rules follows the 17- year history of the New York trio, sisters Elizabeth and Amy and their partner in harmony, Alyson.

David Lefkowitz
Beyond the DMZ
Theater For The New City

In Beyond the DMZ, director Eu-Hee Kim and choreographer Natasa Trifan have created a powerful dance drama about Korean history, the separation of North and South, the Korean War, the Demilitarized Zone, and its impact fifty years later on families who were separated. Well-conceived and artistically well executed, DMZ shows off the supple,well-trained bodies of agile dancers in the company, using Modern Dance form to clearly communicate the pain, the joy, the lives of these people.

Richmond Shepard
Bhutan
Cherry Lane Theater

Daisy Foote's Bhutan is a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from past and present jumbled together until, gradually, the picture of a Massachusetts working-class family and its dynamics, its conflicts with each other and with the world, becomes clear. It's a domestic drama with realism underlined by the stylized presentation.

Richmond Shepard
Big Apple Circus
Damrosch Park Tent

With a nod to 1950s music and kitsch and a typical array of acrobatics, animals and clown antics, the latest installment of the Big Apple Circus is, while not especially thrilling, still a guaranteed-good- time family night out. Big Apple veteran clown Barry Lubin (as "Grandma") wins our affection as ever, especially with an amusing bit on a stairmaster.

David Lefkowitz
Pumpgirl
Manhattan Theater Club

Pumpgirls would not be the first play to interweave monologues to tell the same story from different points of view (e.g., Brian Friel's Faith Healer), nor would it be the first play to illustrate the adage that "the wages of sin is death," so Abbie Spallen's new Irish drama, currently at Manhattan Theater Club's second stage, lacks both the thrill of surprise and the kick of heated conflict.

David Lefkowitz
Big Top Machine
Collective Unconscious

Garnering a well-deserved award for Overall Excellence - Solo Show, this tour-de-force by Kevin Augustine was a frequent sell out at the New York International Fringe Festival. Augustine is an inspired creator and performer who moves easily from text to mime to bunraku-style puppetry (with the aid puppetry assistants Josh Cohen and Anna Kramer in black from head to toe). Big Top Machine captures some of the less glamorous aspects of the traditional circus.

David Lipfert
Billy the Mime
Players Theater
Did you see "The Aristocrats"? The sequence by Billy the Mime was one of the funniest. Billy the Mime is now playing in the NY Fringe, and it's a "Don't Miss!" He's one of the best mimes in the country with clean clear technique, a great sense of humor and perfect timing.
Richmond Shepard
Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
Theater For The New City

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, now at the Theater for the New City, offer the real deal: unabashed, old fashioned vaudeville and sideshow, without embellishments, performed by an accomplished duo with great circus skills: Keith Nelson and Stephanie Monseu. Also on hand in From the Gutter to the Glitter are the fun musical duo, pianist Peter Bufano (who also juggles) and zippy violinist Kathe Hostetter.

Richmond Shepard
Bitterroot
La MaMa ETC

LaMaMa presented, in June, a new music-theater work by the Talking Band company called Bitterroot, which offers a clever play-within-a play. The frame: after Lincoln's assassination closed the theaters, the company that had been performing My American Cousin at Ford's Theatre (Abe was shot during a performance) goes on tour with an historical play about the Lewis and Clark expedition. They never get more than fifty miles from Washington, but we're always rooting for them.

Steve Capra
Blabbermouths, The
Present Company Theatorium

(see Criticopia off-Broadway review of "Habladores")

David Lipfert
Blind Alley
Puerto Rican Traveling Theater

This is a trio of one-acts, each with realistic female characters in a contemporary urban setting. Hopscotch shows teenagers Haydee (Monica Read) and Dee (Mariana Carreno) dickering over how to spend Christmas. With a mother doing time, Haydee has "graduated" from school dropout population to petty crime, so Dee's more stable situation of separated, inimical parents makes her seem a bastion of stability. Add to that Dee's vestigial moral schema, and she is on her way to escape from the squalid life depicted. Maybe.

David Lipfert
Blogging About Cat Stevens
Shetler Studio Theater

Monologues appeal to the voyeur in us. Details of someone else's life - we can't ever get enough of them - especially when they're presented in such a persuasive way as in this collection. A few themes run through the 12 lives on view. Blogging is one. Private thoughts made public; it's as if blogs were invented for exhibitionists. Just like these actors. Another theme is pain, but usually that's told to us only after the character gets us through the more mundane part.

David Lipfert
Bloomer Girl
City Center

A year after the success of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (the pioneering musical that dealt profoundly with box lunch socials), musical theater collaborators Harold Arlen (composer), E.Y. Harburg (lyricist) and Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy (book writers) would opt for more social significance with their 1944 tuner, Bloomer Girl. Bloomer Girl did not achieve the immortality of "Oklahoma," but its quaint charms, enlivened by adapter David Ives, were recently revived for the popular Encores! Series at the City Center.

Simon Saltzman
Blue
Gramercy Theater

Phylicia Rashad makes a triumphant return to the stage in Blue, a breezy, wonderfully pleasing new work by Charles Randolph-Wright. Seeing how effortlessly she commands the stage, you wonder why she isn't on one more often. Best known as Claire Huxtable on the wildly popular "Cosby" shows, Rashad seems born to the stage, with her unmistakable presence and quiet gravity.

Jason Clark
Blue Man Group
Astor Place Theater

Gonzo performance art that may be the most fun you've ever had with your clothes on. Even if the thought of paint-filled marshmallows, cascading waves of toilet paper and fish-as-art doesn't fill you with anticipation, go anyway; maybe they'll let you wear the spurting gorilla suit. A recent look-in saw Blue Man going ever-so-slightly more commercial (including an opening sequence of verbal messages to the audience) and still burdened with one too many musical interludes, but hey, even heaven must have a rusty harp or two.

David Lefkowitz
Blue Surge
Public Theater

I'm not one of the several theater critics quick to hail Rebecca Gilman as the playwright du jour and savior for the social-consciousness play.

Jason Clark
Blue Surge
Public Theater

Blue Surge is a rare bird: a first-rate, working-class drama. It's a hot, very funny, contemporary comedy, perfectly cast: Rachel Miner, Joe Murphy, Colleen Werthmann, Steve Key, Amy Landecker are directed with energy and great timing by Robert Falls. The show's well designed by Walt Spangler, costumed by Birgit Rattenborg Wise and lit by Michael Philippi.

Richmond Shepard
Blue Window
MCC space

Julia Gibson's remarkable restaging of Craig Lucas' acclaimed 1984 play Blue Window is further evidence that instead of mounting lackluster new plays by such playwrights, maybe we should just relive their older, great ones. In the wake of David Rabe's horrifying The Dog Problem (a real dog if there ever was one on stage), David Mamet's trite The Old Neighborhood, and even Lucas' own misguided folly Stranger recently, we seem to need to be reminded of why we once thought they were great.

Jason Clark
Blur
Manhattan Theater Club: Stage II

Quite possibly the worst production to grace the usually strong stages of Manhattan Theater Club, Melanie Marnich's <I>Blur</I> couldn't possibly be more like its title. Hazy, plodding and lacking any genuine emotion, this production (helmed by MTC artistic director Lynne Meadow), chronicling the regressive eyesight of a LOA (Leber's Optic Atrophy) patient, shows a lack of eyesight on the part of its makers as well, turning a potentially interesting, loopy play into a "what-are-they-thinking?" spasmodic mess.

Jason Clark
Bobbi Boland
ArcLight Theater

Poor Bobbi Boland. Left behind in the wake of the tumultuous sixties, she just doesn't get it. She's caught in a time warp, and she can't get out. She clings desperately to her past, symbolized by the rhinestone tiara resting on a shelf in her living room etagere.  It represents the high point of her life -- when she was crowned Miss Florida 20 years ago.  As the play opens, we find Bobbi giving lessons on social graces to a young girl who lives down the street.

Anne Siegel
Boise
Rattlestick Theater

David Folwell may be the first playwright to use Boise, Idaho, as anyone's realization of Utopia. In his dark, humorous and kinky comedy, <I>Boise</I> becomes the ostensible paradise for two of the play's characters. For one, a notably dysfunctional, disenchanted and disillusioned New Yorker, it becomes an objective. Stewart (Christopher Burns) is clearly frustrated by the predictability his seven-year marriage to Val (Geneva Carr) and his dull middle-management job. At first, Stewart's itch is placated by internet porn and closeted fantasies of an affair.

Simon Saltzman
Bold Girls
29th Street Repertory

Bold Girls by Rona Munro, now at the 29th St. Rep, is deceiving.  Basically it is a "kitchen sink" drama set in Belfast, Ireland, in 1990, with four women whose men are either dead or in jail (we never find out what they did, but insurrection is implied). While the talk and concerns of these working-class women are quite ordinary, an explosion and shots in the background give the atmosphere some tension.

Richmond Shepard
Bomb-itty Of Errors, The
45 Bleecker

As I noted in mid-1999, Shakespeare is invading off-Broadway theater at an alarming rate.  Over the past few years, we've seen the likes of an all-male <I>Romeo & Juliet</I> set at a boys' parochial school (<I>R&J</I>), a disco-fused, nightlife version of <I>A Midsummer Night's Dream</I> (<I>The Donkey Show</I>) and The Public Theater's recent production of <I>Hamlet</I> starring Liev Schreiber, which made a clear case that this wasn't your grandfather's <I>Hamlet.</I>  What these shows prove most of all is that

Jason Clark
Boobs! The Musical
Triad Theater (moved to Dillon's)

Well, Tom Lehrer she wasn't. Nor Allan Sherman nor Randy Newman, all of whom have written satirical (and some serious) songs that enjoyed successful off-Broadway tributes in years past. But the largely forgotten Ruth Wallis did carve out a niche for herself with moderately raunchy, double-entendre-packed ditties throughout the 50s and 60s, the most famous of which gives Steve Mackes and Michael Whaley's new revue its title. Boobs! takes its cue more from the goofy costumage and fast pacing of Howard Crabtree spoofs and gay camp than from standard song- cycle cabarets.

David Lefkowitz
Book of Days
Signature Theater Company at Peter Norton Space

Lanford Wilson's best play in ages makes you feel like he's picked up a rock in Our Town and looked for what crawleth underneath.

David Lefkowitz
Book Of Liz, The
Greenwich Street

I don't agree with a friend who thinks that Comedy Central's wacked-out sitcom "Strangers With Candy" is the best thing on television, but I can certainly see why he would think so. It is a comic program that is truly, genuinely odd and operates on such gonzo logic, it becomes addicting. You just can't wait to see what weirdo will pop up next and what he'll say, and the show's refreshing bravado is appreciated in this age of sanitized blurs mistaken for ace comedy.

Jason Clark
Boston Marriage
Public Theater

A note on the just-closed Boston Marriage by David Mamet: This attempt at a 19th-Century comedy of manners dotted with deliberate anachronisms is Mamet's shot at Wilde, and it wildly misses.

Richmond Shepard
Boxing 2000
Present Company Theatorium

Leave it to the skewed sensibilities of downtown darling Richard Maxwell to fashion a play around amateur boxing – a sport that is equated with agility and speed – and still bless it with his trademark deadpan dialogue.  In his latest effort, Maxwell turns his attentions to two brothers, seemingly products of the street, Jo-Jo (Gary Wilmes) and Freddie (Robert Torres), who are prepping for a small-time fight.  Freddie is a lackadaisical innocent who has half-hearted dreams of college, and Jo-Jo is a working-class ex-fighter who, with a

Jason Clark
Boy Gets Girl
Manhattan Theater Club - Stage I

Boy Gets Girl, the latest from up-and-coming playwright Rebecca Gilman, represents a 2-for-2 in terms of promise unfulfilled for this new voice in the theater.  Critics have been singing her praises ever since the debut of her racially-charged drama, Spinning into Butter, at Lincoln Center last year, citing her willingness to hit on hot-button issues and bring forth

Jason Clark
Brando
Irish Arts Center

Imagine that someone has written a play entitled Brando, exploring the mystique of Marlon Brando, which features a character named Brando, who is actually supposed to be Marlon Brando, and that this character is rendered as a fat joke, nothing more.

You'd have an idea just how cluelessly awful this play is.

David Steinhardt
Adi Braun
Iridium

I had a surreal experienced at the Sunday Jazz Brunch at Iridium on 51st and Broadway. Here's a fine singer, Adi Braun, with a wide and flexible range of voice and songs, doing a sophisticated performance for an audience of tourists and their kids having lunch. So this brave, talented singer had to stand up there doing her thing, paying no attention to the conversational murmur (with an occasional high-pitched "Daddy, can I have some more?" drifting thru the room). She's a trouper -- did it with a smile and the vocal subtleties of a top-notch jazz singer.

Richmond Shepard
Brave, The
Atlantic Theater

The impetus for Sharman Macdonald's plot is a pleasantly intriguing one.  Straight off the plane, a Scottish woman fends off a would-be Algerian rapist with a fatal karate chop.  After innumerable contretemps and with the aid of three other Scots, the body receives a desert burial.  In this North American premiere production, the scenario unfortunately becomes an awfully short clothesline on which to hang Scottish nationalism, feminism, anti-colonialism, and other worthy progressive causes.  Director David Mowers presented the misadven

David Lipfert
Breaker
Dixon Place

One of the most beautiful, moving theater happenings in NYC is Breaker: An Aerial Fairie Tale, performed by five women trapeze artists and a four-piece jazz group. A circus rises into the air from the sea, and we fly with them.

Richmond Shepard
bridge and tunnel
45 Bleecker

In the extraordinary one woman show, Bridge & Tunnel, written and performed by Sarah Jones and playing at 45 Bleeker Street, Jones gives us a succession of immigrant characters, mostly living in Queens, whose lives and personas are explored with amazing sensitivity and skill as she, with minimal costume changes, switches from male to female, from old to young, and to accents from all over the world.

Richmond Shepard
Broad Channel
Phil Bosakowski Theater

One of my CUNY PhD students lived in a tiny clapboard house in Broad Channel, Queens. Just under the flight-pattern into Idlewild Airport - now JFK. When I first drove there in my old VW, I thought I was driving into a wetlands area. Everyone seemed to have at least a rowboat tethered on canals back of their houses. Most of the good folks I met there were shanty Irish, with scant aspirations of earning midtown Doctorates in Theater.

Glenn Loney
Broadway By The Year: 1933
Town Hall

The brainchild of its genial and informed host and popular critic/author Scott Siegel, Broadway By The Year moves into its second season with a modest but vastly entertaining show that commemorates many forgotten and now fabled songs: "The Broadway Shows of 1933." Without sets and costumes and offering little of what you would call choreography, five charming performers -- Mary Testa, George Dvorsky, Mary Bond Davis, Anne Runolfsson and Mark Coffin -- bring their winning

Simon Saltzman

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