All in Off-Broadway

REVIEW: “Be More Chill” is Teenage Musical Manna

“Be More Chill” is a new sci-fi, pop-rock, satirical allegory of a musical for tweens and early teens, and probably not anyone else.  Based on a 2004 novel about a high school loser who swallows a pill-sized computer that makes him cool, the show is well-staged and performed, but remains an emotionally disengaging experience.  Willed into production re-existence on the strength of its international, online teenage fanbase, expect to be hearing about it for some time to come.

REVIEW: “This Ain’t No Disco” Ain’t Kidding

“This Ain’t No Disco”, an original rock opera about the art, music, and dance club scenes of 1979 New York, ain’t kidding.  This new musical is bland and soulless, overstuffed, overdone, and under-dramatized, with a cacophony of characters, ideas, and issues offering only a sprawling, shallow story that is neither unique, distinctly tethered to the history of the setting, or frankly, engaging.  This isn’t just a flop, but a belly flop—the likes of which you rarely see on stage in New York anymore. 

REVIEW: Shakespeare in the Park’s Festive and Musical “Twelfth Night”

The Public Theater presents a free, Public Works musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” in Central Park.  Featuring songs by Shaina Taub and a cast in excess of 75 professional and amateur performers of all ages, races, sizes, and abilities, this “radically inclusive” production is magical, festive, and highly accessible.  Infectiously energetic and buoyantly spirited, do not miss this jubilant new musical.

REVIEW: “Fire in Dreamland” Simmers

The convergence of history and art, and the way stories can capture us, are explored impressionistically in “Fire in Dreamland”, a funny, heartfelt, but ultimately emotionally-thin and mysteriously-drawn new play at the Public Theater.  Rebecca Naomi Jones is a standout, but the play contains too many furtive motivations and not enough stakes.

REVIEW: “Mary Page Marlowe”

Tracy Letts’ “Mary Page Marlowe” at Second Stage offers a fascinating, fragmented portrait of one ordinary woman’s journey through life, embodied by six actors in eleven time-hopping scenes.  The tension of what happens to us versus what we control haunts the text as Mary Page traverses decades, surfing waves of feminism amidst the shifting roles of women from mid-century America to the present.  Mr. Letts, director Lila Neugebauer, and an ensemble cast of 18 create a mosaic that is compelling, if ultimately mysterious.