Samara

Samara

There’s a neon display over the mezzanine bar in the spanking new A.R.T./New York Theatres on 53rd Street that reads, “Why are you here and not somewhere else?” It’s an apt distillation of Richard Maxwell’s eccentric Samara, which has just opened there. Maxwell’s odyssey, artfully wrangled by Soho Rep Artistic Director Sarah Benson, invokes the ghosts of Shakespeare and Brecht to question the very notion of making and attending theater.

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Luft Gangster

Luft Gangster

Lowell Byers’s play Luft Gangster was inspired by the real-life story of Louis Fowler, a waist gunner during World War II. The play opens on a tender scene between Lou (played by Byers himself with a wonderful mix of stoicism and sincerity), and his mother, who is clearly sick or mentally ill. Louis’s father is long dead, and when his mother dies, he enlists to fight. His plane is shot down and he is captured and interrogated by the Nazis, but they don’t get a word out of him. At first he’s put in a makeshift holding cell where he is joined by another flier,  Joe, played with a wonderful earnestness by Sean Hoagland, who doubts they’ll get out alive. Lou tells him, “I don’t think it’s my time to go.” Joe retorts: “I just hope they know that.”

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Angel and Echoes

Angel and Echoes

The theater has not been kind to the English port city of Ipswich lately. Alecky Blythe’s documentary musical London Road, a huge hit for London’s National Theatre and recently made into a film featuring a singing Tom Hardy (no, really), shows Ipswich’s working class to be petty and vindictive. In the revival of Henry Naylor’s Echoes, part of a double bill with new play Angel at the Brits Off Broadway festival, Ipswich is such a “dungheap” that it drives two women into the arms of religious extremists in Afghanistan and Syria. Compared to the hellscapes in which the women of Naylor’s “Arabian Nightmares” find themselves, though, Ipswich is the Garden of Eden.

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The William Inge Plays

The William Inge Plays

Halfway through Picnic, the 1953 William Inge comedy-drama playing at Judson Gym (in repertory with Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba), a hunky vagabond named Hal fidgets disconsolately while posing for a quick-sketch portrait. When the artist, thwarted by Hal’s restlessness, urges him to relax and be “natural,” Hal laments, “Gee, that’s hard.”

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The Profane

The Profane

Secularism and faith square off in Zayd Dohrn’s The Profane, a play that takes as its focus two American families of Middle Eastern extraction. The premise is that a young couple from different backgrounds have fallen in love: It’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? with a 21st-century spin. Dohrn hasn’t strayed far from the formula, which includes parent-child friction, sibling rivalry and the occasional dollop of comical culture clash.

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Arabic play readings set at CUNY

The Martin Segal Graduate Center at CUNY will host a day of free readings of Arabic plays on April 19. The Wednesday lineup at the Segal Theatre (365 Fifth Ave. at 34th Street) starts with The Adventure of the Head of Mamlouk Jabir (1971) by Sa’dallah Wannous of Syria, followed at 2 p.m. by The Dictator (1969) by Issam Mahfouz of Lebanon. The third reading, at 6:30 p.m., will be The Flipflaps (1964) by Yusuf Idris of Egypt, and it will be followed by a panel discussion. The events are on a first come, first served basis.

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TACT plans May 8 gala

The Actor’s Company Theatre (TACT) will present its spring gala on May 8 at the University Club of New York (1 W. 54th St.). The fundraiser will honor four women: Alice Ripley, Theresa Rebeck, Elizabeth McCann and Nelle Nugent. The event will begin with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner, a live auction, and entertainment by singer Liz Callaway. TACT is a company of theater artists that reveals, reclaims, and reimagines great plays of literary merit, To purchase tickets for the 2017 Spring Gala, call (212) 645-8228 or email info@tactnyc.org.

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Panel on Hungarian dramatist planned

A special panel discussion about Hungarian playwright George Tabori will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place.  The panel on the satirical playwright is a prelude to the presentation of his two works, Mein Kampf and Jubilee, that are scheduled in repertory May 4–21 at Theater for the New City (155 First Ave., between 9th & 10th streets. The panel will include frequent Tabori producer Wynn Handman; critic and author Jonathan Kalb ; Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts Assistant Theatre Curator Annemarie van Roessel;  American composer Stanley Walden (who collaborated on more than 50 Tabori projects), and Lena Tabori, the publisher of Welcome Books. To RSVP to this free event, write to contact@taboriproject.org.

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Roundabout casino fundraiser scheduled

The Roundabout Theatre Company has scheduled its third annual Casino Night fundraiser for Monday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. The gala will be held in the penthouse lobby at the American Airlines Theatre, 227, W 42nd St. The proceeds will benefit Roundabout’s programs, including the Education programs, the Theatrical Workforce Development Program and the Musical Theatre Fund. The casino event will include a Texas Hold ‘em poker tournament featuring celebrity players and Roundabout alumni, including World Series of Poker winner Jennifer Tilly, Sebastian Arcelus, John Behlmann, Stephanie J. Block, Santino Fontana, Byron Jennings, and  Laura Osnes.  There will also be open casino games, such as blackjack, roulette, craps and slot machines. Tickets starting at $500 are available by calling (212) 719-9393, ext. 369, or visiting www.roundabouttheatre.org/casinonight.

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Russian play of 1929 set for reading

The Parts Unknown reading series will present a free reading of the 1929 Russian play The Conspiracy of Feelings, at 7 p.m. on April 20. The play, by Yurii Olesha, is based on his own novel, Envy, and is a satiric look at capitalism and communism. The reading, with a cast of 13, will be held at the New York Public Library at 18 W. 53rd St. For information and reservations, visit voyagetheatercompany.org/parts-unknown-reading-series-2017/

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CasablancaBox

CasablancaBox

Nobody involved in the production of Casablanca expected it to be a hit, let alone win the Best Picture Oscar and go on to be considered one of the quintessentially quotable classic Hollywood films. If CasablancaBox, the new behind-the-scenes ensemble drama at HERE Arts Center, is to be believed, no one really wanted to make the film either. That we’re still watching it and talking about it 75 years later proves William Goldman’s famous dictum that in Hollywood, “nobody knows anything.”

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A Gambler’s Guide to Dying

A Gambler’s Guide to Dying

There’s a famous joke about a man who prays for years to win the lottery. He tries to live a righteous life and promises to use the money for good, but his prayers grow increasingly bitter. One day, as he’s leaving church, having given God an earful, the clouds part and a voice booms, “Hey, moron, you have to buy a ticket!” A Gambler’s Guide to Dying, which launches 59E59’s 13th annual Brits Off Broadway festival this week, is about a man for whom buying the ticket is more than good advice; it’s his life philosophy.

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The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief

Poor, put-upon Percy Jackson. All he wants is to stay at the same school for more than a year. And have more than one friend. And not get in trouble all the time. And not have attention deficit disorder. Or such a rude, acrid stepdad. And if only that minotaur hadn’t killed his mom…

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Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

“This is not a moral place,” proclaims a master of ceremonies at the outset of the Pearl Theatre Company’s energetic Vanity Fair. “Nor is it often a merry one,” he adds, “for all of its pageantry and noise.”

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Perversion

Perversion

There is an immense amount of ambition on stage at 13th Street Repertory Theatre right now, where Judson Blake’s Perversion, directed by the author, recently began performances. The play, an absurdist anti-war jeremiad, embodies that plucky, can-do spirit that has animated downtown theater since the Provincetown Players invaded MacDougal Street 100 years ago. That a group of independent artists have gathered in a 65-seater in the basement of a mid-19th-century Village brownstone to tell an original political story in this Wicked theatrical world is cause for celebration. That the resulting work is so wrong-headed on nearly every level is merely a sobering reminder that ambition without craft is simply hubris. 

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Daniel’s Husband

Daniel’s Husband

Daniel’s Husband is one of those plays where, halfway through, something so unexpected, plot-altering, and tone-shifting happens that it just can’t be revealed. Michael McKeever’s comedy-drama about the still-new era of gay marriage is cleft in two—part one: comedy, part two: drama—and both halves are effective, if you’re willing to accept some questionable behavior on the part of the title character.

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New Stage opens with Mee play

The award-winning New Stage Theatre Company is opening its new permanent home, the New Stage Performance Space, at 36 West 106th St. in Manhattan, with the debut production of Rules, a multimedia theater piece conceived and directed by Ildiko Nemeth. The piece is based on The Rules by Charles L. Mee, a play from his (re)making project. The production runs to April 30. Mee is known for his work with SITI Company, for which he wrote Orestes, bobrauschenbergamerica, Hotel Cassiopeia, Under Construction and soot and spit (the musical). He was Signature Theater’s playwright-in-residence in 2007–08. New Stage productions are known for their elaborate costuming, inventive choreography, and striking visual design. 

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Angry Young Man

Angry Young Man

Antic humor camouflages the deep-seated fury of Ben Woolf's Angry Young Man. Woolf, a youthful English playwright, has created a Swiftian satire, funny on the surface with plenty that's disturbing underneath. The play is filled with surprises and notable for its narrative vigor; and, as performed by four exuberant farceurs, this theatrical romp feels far fleeter than the actual 80-minute running time.

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How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

How to Transcend a Happy Marriage

The two WASPish couples at the center of Sarah Ruhl’s sexy/bonkers magical realist tragicomedy How to Transcend a Happy Marriage could have walked in from any number of other American plays. You know the type: they read The Atlantic, wear Joy Division T-shirts un-ironically, start each new year by reading a play, and fall over themselves to avoid the appearance of political incorrectness. Their living rooms are the familiar battlegrounds of bourgeois drama from Akhtar to Zola. The bloody goat carcass suspended over David Zinn’s set, though, makes it clear that we’re in the Ruhl-iverse, and little about the next two hours will be business-as-usual.

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Pool Play 2.0

Plenty of New Yorkers are familiar with plays performed in parks, bars, or museums. But a play in a pool? This is Not a Theatre Company’s Pool Play 2.0 is just that, taking place in an indoor swimming pool at Waterside Plaza Swim and Health Club (it should be noted that This is Not a Theatre Company is known for its experimental approaches to performance space).  Each audience member receives a poncho upon entering the warm, chlorine-infused pool space, and is invited to pick any bath mat as a seat; at the pool’s edge, the audience's feet dangle into the water. The uniqueness of Pool Play 2.0 does not end with its nontraditional performance space, however. The play's text, its staging, and the committed actors collaborate to provide a fun yet thought-provoking treatment of something nearly everyone has experienced: a day at the pool. 

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