Bonnie and Clyde
Theater Wit

"Dying ain't so bad/not if you both go together/a short and loving life/that ain't so bad " croons our heroine. "I won't get to heaven/so why not raise some hell?" declares her paramour. Later they both proclaim, "This world will remember us."

Poets and playwrights nowadays may be wary of saying as much, but these are probably the most romantic words lovers can utter. In history, legend and literature, the most undeniable proof of devotion, allegiance conferring immortality on those professing loyalty thereto, is dying, young, in the arms of your beloved.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Met Theater

Oliver Cotton’s Daytona is a play about three different things: the need for vengeance and justice, the role of memory in people’s lives, and a psychological portrait of some traumatized human beings.

Willard Manus
Night in Alachua County, A
The Den

All fiction begins with the question "What if," but what separates the basement/dorm-room scribblers from the inspired storytellers is that the former abandon their inquiry as the initial excitement wanes, while the latter forge ahead until all possibilities have been addressed.

Not only does playwright Jennifer Rumberger trust her audience to stay the course all the way to a satisfactory conclusion, however, but to apprehend every step in a narrative operating on several different levels.

Mary Shen Barnidge
One Thousand Words
Theater Wit

Michael Braud and Curran Latas have written a musical containing everything a romantic story could want. To start, it's a memory play, with all the hindsight guilt and regret engendered thereby. Its framing device is that of an up-and-coming journalist assigned to write a thousand-word story on the once-prosperous, but now economically depressed, town of Winslow, located deep in the mountains of coal country.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, A
The Den

Halley Feiffer's play, A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City may not hold the record for the longest play title of the last half-century—that honor goes to the German play usually abbreviated Marat/Sade — but it bespeaks a playwright not lacking in chutzpah. When your father is Jules Feiffer, chronicler of button-down malaise in the Eisenhower years, and your play purports to be a romantic comedy, is set in a cancer ward and conducted under the semi-comatose chaperonage of two formid

Mary Shen Barnidge
Iphigenia in Aulis
Getty Villa - Barbara & Lawrence Fleischman Theater

Chicago’s Court Theatre has brought its 2014 production of Euripides’s Iphigenia in Aulis to the Getty Villa, with excellent results. The Villa’s outdoor Fleischman Theater was inspired by ancient prototypes and has been the setting for plays by Aristophanes, Plautus, Sophocles and Aeschylus. Now Iphigenia in Aulis has taken center stage in the amphitheater, in a vigorous production that is also surprisingly relevant, considering that the play was first done in 405 BC (one year after Euripides’s death).

Willard Manus
Somewhere in the Middle
Crown City Theater

In Somewhere in the Middle, Gary Lamb’s new play now premiering at Crown City, a mid-west family’s liberal values are put to the test by their rebellious daughter. Sarah (Julie Lanctot) is a college student who shocks her folks when she comes home with a fiancé in tow. Jamal (Luke King), you see, is not only black but Muslim.

Willard Manus
Dreamer Examines His Pillow, The
The Lounge 2 Theater

Sexual obsession holds in its ferocious grip the three characters in The Dreamer Examines his Pillow, an early work by John Patrick Shanley which has been revived at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood. Director Mark Blanchard has worked wonders with a trio of top-notch actors in bringing this strange, surreal play to life.

Willard Manus
Chorus Line, A
Cardinal Stritch University - Nancy Kendall Theater

More than four decades since it forever changed the tide of Broadway musicals, A Chorus Line remains sharp, witty and poignant. Joining forces to present a unique twist on the show, Milwaukee performing arts companies TheaterRED and Milwaukee Opera Theater brought the magic alive again in a two-performance concert that packed a theater in one of the area’s universities.

Anne Siegel
Crucible, The
The Players Center

At the end of a 2017 hot, steamy Sarasota summer comes the chilling experience of a travesty of justice in Salem, Massachusetts, 1692. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible not only concentrates on its dictionary-defined trial. The play also “means” a great container that can resist heat to contain hard, molten material. Miller’s hard material is a society made of many elements: quick to accuse, even to kill for power and profit over its enemies, to make its insular policies prevail and punish all who do not obey or enforce its severe orthodoxy if only by association.

Marie J. Kilker
Veil, The
The Edge

Conor McPherson's earlier plays proposed a news journalist hobnobbing with vampires and a poker game with Satan, so when he proclaims that this one "rests on a fault line between what's real and what isn't," we can't say we weren't warned. His caveat also describes the evolution of English literature in the 19th century, though, and thus may be read as an allegory of the transition from Romantic mysticism to scientific rationalism.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Audience, The
Baird Hall

Elizabeth Windsor was not the first English queen to embark on her reign like a new principal charged with bringing order to a schoolful of unruly children. From Henry Tudor's multiple marriages to the adulterous roistering of Victoria's sire and dame down through Uncle Edward's 1936 abdication, daughters ascending the throne have quickly perceived their role to be that of the adult in the room, a responsibility to be preserved for as long as such supervision should be required.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Prince of Broadway
Samuel J. Friedman Theater

It’s next to impossible to review Prince of Broadway objectively. It quickly becomes clear that the show not only defines the life of iconic theater royalty, Hal Prince, but that our lives are wrapped up in the music, too. I wasn’t the only audience member to tear up hearing the familiar and evocative harmony of “Heart” from Damn Yankees. How many times have we seen “If I Were a Rich Man” performed by Tevyes on stages both mighty and small? Who can even recall when we first heard the dramatic chords of Phantom?

Michall Jeffers
Arsenic and Old Lace
Odyssey Theater

As Walter Kerr said about the 1928 Broadway comedy, The Front Page, the play was like “a watch that laughed.” The same could have been said, two decades later, about Arsenic and Old Lace. Written by Joseph Kesselring as a heavy mystery drama, the play was turned into a slick farce by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, who in addition to writing comedies like Life With Father were skilled play doctors. Their uncredited re-write resulted in a hit; Arsenic ran for three years on Broadway and was later a Hollywood movie starring Cary Grant.

August 2017
Fly Honey Show, The
Den Theater

The souvenir table in the lobby displays earplugs, T-shirts and dainty leather harnesses. A squad of genderfluid greeters dressed in bits of glittery black material and lots of bare tattooed flesh guide you to your seats in the Den's Bookspan space or mingle in the aisles to the music rolling off the spray-lit walls. A strolling photographer offers to record your presence in this carnival milieu. This is all before the actual show starts, by the way.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Greenhouse Theater

Spousal murder has all the elements for successful drama: sex, violence, deception, and conspiracy—all simmering beneath the placid surface of our culture's most intimate contract. Is it any wonder that so many writers have found inspiration in real-life accounts of wives killing husbands? Of the fictional hypotheses arising from the sensational case of Ruth Snyder in 1928 (among them, James M. Cain's “Double Indemnity”), however, only Sophie Treadwell's takes a sympathetic view of a frustrated housewife whose obsession with fleeing a stifling marriage led her to snap one night.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Florida Studio Theater - Court Cabaret

Little lights twinkle in a curtain underneath a red velvet drape in the background. Down center comes twinkling-eyed Carole J. Bufford in a shimmering beaded flapper-style dress, rhinestone head band, and silvery high heels. Brightly smiling, she starts to sing songs of the Roaring 20’s when “hair and hem lines got shorter,” but the list of kinds of jazz got longer.

Marie J. Kilker
Milwaukee Chamber Theater - Cabot Theater

Still considered Broadway’s longest-running comedy/thriller some four decades after its debut, Deathtrap appears to still have some sizzle in a tantalizing production by Milwaukee Chamber Theater.

Thankfully, director Michael Cotey keeps us in the play’s original time frame (mid-1970s). Instead of “modernizing” the play by introducing cell phones and other digital conveniences, we can blissfully return to an earlier time. The ringing telephone was America’s lifeline to the outside world, especially in a remote Connecticut estate.

Anne Siegel
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Off the Wall Theater

Milwaukee’s “Off the Wall” theater troupe certainly lives up to its name (“off the wall”) with its homegrown production of, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? The play is a revival of its first production in 2011.

This Baby Jane is a completely campy rendition of the 1962 film, starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. It’s the work of witty and skillful playwright/Off the Wall’s artistic director Dale Gutzman, and this is a wonderful way to wrap up the summer.

Anne Siegel
Food Show, The
Metropolitan Brewery

The four necessities required by human beings for survival are air, water, food and shelter. On this occasion, the Neo-Futurists have forsaken their Andersonville digs to set up shop in the Metropolitan Brewery's future Avondale facility, where they can cook as they chat with us about the meaning of what we eat.

Mary Shen Barnidge
St. Bonaventure Oratory

The date is July 2, 1826. Former President Thomas Jefferson lies in poor health at Monticello, his debt-ridden home in Virginia, where his nephew Randolph is pressuring the composer of our country's Declaration of Independence to refute his assertion of equality therein, pursuant to incorporating an endorsement of slavery into his Independence Day speech.

On this fatal night, however, Jefferson's habit of inviting students from the nearby university for evening chats precipitates a visit from a cheerful alcohol-abstinent would-be writer named Edgar Allen Poe.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Double Indemnity
Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts - Cook Theater

In keeping with its dramatic film forerunner, a classic of film noire, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory production of Double Indemnity is scenically and thematically dark. On stage there’s a subplot, as in James M. Cain’s novel, aside a second romantic plot. Additions like these, however, add more time than suspense or cogency to the play. Maybe that’s why it begs to be done entirely, rather than partially, tongue-in-cheek.

Marie J. Kilker
Navigator in Love
Teatro Circulo

Red Lab Productions and Otar Margania have just produced The Georgian-American Theatrical Feast at Teatro Circulo, off-off-Broadway. The festival presented readings and full productions of plays by playwrights from The Republic of Georgia. One of the plays produced was Navigator in Love, by Lasha Bugadze.

Steve Capra
Fair Maid of the West, The
Austin Gardens

Thomas Heywood's sword-and-cloak extravaganza, The Fair Maid of the West, was a blockbuster in 1631, but then faded from popularity until 1986, when Trevor Nunn turned it into a swashbuckling pageant for England's Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1994, Kevin Theis adapted the two-part action-adventure yarn for Chicago's CT20 troupe, where it received one of the first Jeffs for Stage Combat ever awarded. Now, nearly 25 years later, the Fair Maid of the West sails again, not over the bounding main, but through the bosky confines of Austin Gardens.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Last Dancer Standing
Black Ensemble Theater

A competition—whether between warring nations, athletic clubs, or ambitious entertainers—is suspenseful in its very concept, but rarely is the victory quickly determined. Compressing the events to the abbreviated length dictated by modern theater practice can be accomplished by dividing the dramatic focus according to geography (battlefield/headquarters, dugout/arena, dressing room/runway), or rank (soldiers/generals, teammates/coaches, directors/performers). Ah, but what if you want to include representatives from all these demographics?

Mary Shen Barnidge
Jerry's Girls
York Theater at St. Peter's Church

"Strike the band up/ It's today!" -- and through August 13, it's Jerry's Girls at the York Theatre with the outstanding piano accompaniment of Eric Svejcar, a one-man band himself, and Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Christine Pedi, and Stephanie Umoh singing the songs of Jerry Herman.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Florida Studio Theater - Gompertz

There’s currency in this drama about a blue-collar family who live in a doublewide trailer. Big Jim, its head, has always hoped to use this mobile home’s land for an immobile real brick house that will eventually be willed to his daughter. Now the county will claim the land by eminent domain to further growth of a neighboring casino spurring the economy and tax revenues.

Marie J. Kilker
Lili Marlene
St. Luke's Theater

The new musical Lili Marlene owes so much to the old musical Cabaret that its producers should be paying royalties. It’s set in Berlin only two year later than Cabaret. Its songs are sometimes sung on the cabaret stage as part of an act. The singer has a romance with an aristocrat, as in “Cabaret” the movie. There’s a Christian-Jewish romance, and there's a gay element in the script.

Steve Capra
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The
Ahmanson Theater

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time comes to L.A. carrying clutches of theater prizes from London and New York, plus a towering set by Bunnie Christie which must have cost a cool million to put together. Not only does it frame the vast Ahmanson stage, it is tricked out with video projections, computer screens, and sound and lighting effects, all of which are put to swift, dazzling use during the course of the story. We sometimes get the feeling of watching a play take place in a giant pinball machine.

Willard Manus
IRT Theater

Robots are a well-covered subject, and since Karel Čapek wrote R.U.R. in 1920, it has been discussed on the stage—so it’s good to see a playwright address the topic creatively. In Patrick Vermillion’s Jessica (produced Off-off-Broadway by Sanguine Theater Company with IRT Theater at the IRT Theater), the title character has been missing for four years. Her boyfriend, Allister, hires a Lyfe Industries engineer, Rudy, to create a duplicate of her. Life Industries generally makes sex robots, or “companions,” as Rudy prefers to call them.

Steve Capra
Marie Antoinette
freeFall Theater

For a play without much drama, freeFall presents a historical central character without enough dramatization of her historical milieu. Though there are projections aplenty to each side of a long stage and some talk of the world outside Marie Antoinette’s palaces and gardens, author David Adjmi keeps her in a bubble. Director Eric Davis busily floats it up from the marble slab of a center aisle that’s her playing space.

Marie J. Kilker
Octoroon, An
The Biograph

What you need to know about the play called The Octoroon is that it was authored by Dion Boucicault in 1848, and recounted the story of a proud Louisiana family menaced by a neighboring slaveholder bent on seizing their property, along with the young mixed-race woman of the play's title. (Officially, an octoroom is someone who is one-eighth black by descent.)

Mary Shen Barnidge
Fight City
Factory Theater

Violent post-apocalyptic dystopias are hardly rare in fiction today, but what distinguishes Scott OKen's (sic) futuristic action-adventure fable from traditional speculations in this genre is that the dramatic question raised by its pessimism is not "How come I still can't get laid?" but "How do we fix the mess we got ourselves into — again?"

Mary Shen Barnidge
Toy Gun, A
Teatro Circulo

The Georgian-American Theatrical Feast has been taking place Off-off-Broadway, introducing audiences to theater from the country of Georgia through several readings and two full stagings presented by Red Lab Productions. The production I attended was of Tamar Bartaia’s two-character play A Toy Gun, presented by Red Lab and Otar Margania.

Steve Capra
Ball Yards
Zephyr Theater

Playwright Chuck Faerberg pokes fun at the sports world in Ball Yards, his new play which just opened at the Zephyr Theater for a month-long world-premiere run. Faerberg (Zulu Time) and director Richard Kuhlman have put together a seven-person cast of actors each of whom plays multiple roles during the course of the evening. Some of Faerberg’s satirical targets are right on the money: nonsense-spewing sports announcers, smarmy football coaches who quote scripture in their team pep talks, a pretentious star running back who thinks he is the reincarnation of a Mayan god.

Willard Manus
Marvin's Room
American Airlines Theater

When Scott McPherson's Marvin's Room opened off-Broadway in 1990, most theatergoers were thinking of AIDS, the frightening plague that caused the death of McPherson's partner and later his own death. In the 1980's and '90's, New Yorkers saw The Normal Heart, As Is, Angels in America, Love! Valour!, Compassion! — all productions concerning AIDS.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Lincoln Center - Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater

With Karen Pittman's scorching portrayal of Nya Joseph, an exasperated single mother and dedicated inner city high school teacher, playwright Dominique Morisseau (Skeleton Crew) probes a social problem through a personal frame of reference. At Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater, Morisseau's eloquence and Lileana Blain-Cruz’s fine-tuned direction examine, in Pipeline, an all-too familiar headline of school violence.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Athenaeum Theater

Early in his solo show, Michael Washington Brown recounts how, one night, he went to bed Black and awoke to find that he was "African-American"—only he wasn't. Brown is a citizen of the United Kingdom, you see, the son of West Indian immigrants — and thus is neither African nor American. He then proceeds to dispel erroneous assumptions arising from the imposition of overly restrictive categories upon a designation too diverse to support such taxonomic sophistry (after the fashion of the 17th-century French scholars who first codified the concept of "races").

Mary Shen Barnidge

If Kia Corthron weren't writing in 2017 about 2017, it would be easy to imagine her plays ranking alongside the gritty portraits of life among the underprivileged found in the Social Realism movement of the 1930s. Indeed, the tone of this Eclipse Theater world-premiere of Megastasis, with its parable of a fundamentally good man trapped in a cruel faceless universe, reflects a period ambience recalling Sidney Kingsley, Lillian Hellman, and Clifford Odets.

Mary Shen Barnidge
Government Inspector, The
New World Stages

Michael Urie is a comic genius; he must be seen by the theater loving public. If there were no other reason to recommend The Government Inspector,M.UNot surprisingly, Mary Testa stands out as the vain, frivolous Anna Andreyevna, who will do anything to get her daughter Maya (Talene Monahon) married off- providing it doesn’t interfere with her own pleasure. Her husband, the mayor, Anton (Michael McGrath) has learned that a top official is coming to check up on him and his town, which throws Anton into a panic.

Michall Jeffers